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ORLANDO VISITOR'S DINING GUIDE - A Hound Perspective - I-Drive/Convention Center

I thought we could use the Crowdsourcing method to create a series of threads for the most commonly asked questions for visitors to Orlando. This will hopefully create a more centralized place for visiting Hounds to find recommendations from like-minded folks in the community rather than relying of other travel boards where you never know the "standards" or agendas of the contributors. These threads are meant to be created by locals and frequent visitors as a general guide, but in no way should they preclude individual threads asking specific questions - just trying to create a central repository so that visiting Hounds don't have to wait in vain for answers.

I thought I'd launch a thread a week with a specific topic (usually based on location and travel type) and start with my recommendations. Then Hounds can add to the thread and I will edit the first post adding in the recommendations. If the "crowd" determines that a recommendation is not supported, then it will remain in the thread but come off the summary list in the first post.

A few other guidelines I propose:
- Let's avoid chains that are available in most places across the US. While they may be good recommendations, they are already advantaged by their marketing budgets, brand recognition, and concierge relationships. I do not think we should exclude local or regional chains however as they can be a unique experience to the visitor.
- I hope that visitors who use this board report back on our recommendations - a positive experience can confirm and several negatives may be a cause for re-evaluation of the recommendation
- Hopefully this will be a useful guide for locals as well - we'll eventually get to downtown, Winter Park and beyond as not all visitors are here for theme parks and conventions.

Finally, before the first list: I trust the Chowhound overlords will let me know if this topic violates any rules for the board. I read the guidelines and I believe this is ok and will be useful to the community as a whole (and is not mindless chatter). If there is an issue, please let me know if some version of this could work within your rules.

So, to start, let's make a list for those staying in the area known as:

INTERNATIONAL DRIVE/CONVENTION CENTER - reasonable taxi ride distance

Please add and/or comment below.

Foodie Favs

Wa

Great for Groups

Cafe Tu Tu Tango
Taverna Opa
Urban Flats

Ethnic Hotspots

Amura
Anatolia
Cedar's
Hanamizuki
Memories of India

Romantic & Quiet

Chatham's Place
La Nuova Cucina

Celebrity Chefs Outposts

Emeril's
Norman's
Primo
Tchoup Chop

Oenophiles

Funky Monkey Wine Company

Cheap Eats

Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ
Pio Pio
Press 101

Breakfast

Delish
First Watch

Old Florida

Lee & Rick's Oyster Bar

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Chatham's Place Restaurant
7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819

Cafe Tu Tu Tango
8625 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

Memories of India
7625 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

Cedars Restaurant
7732 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

Pio Pio Restaurant
5752 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

Hanamizuki Japanese Restaurant
8255 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

Press 101
7600 Dr Phillips Blvd Ste 22, Orlando, FL 32819

Amura Windermere Japanese Restaurant
7786 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

Lee & Rick's Half Shell Oyster Bar
5621 Old Winter Garden Rd, Orlando, FL 32811

Taverna Opa-Orlando
9101 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819

Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Q
5818 Conroy Rd, Orlando, FL 32801

Emeril's Orlando
6000 Universal Blvd Ste 702, Orlando, FL 32819

Emeril's Tchoup Chop
The Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando, FL 32819

Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando
4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, FL 32837

Primo
4040 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, FL 32837

Funky Monkey Wine Company @ The Pointe
9101 International Drive Suite 1208, Orlando, FL 32819

Wa
Orlando, Orlando, FL

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  1. This is a great idea and should be a sticky, and we Tampa people should also make one. I agree with everything here too with the exception of Bubbalou's, you should delete that and replace with 4 rivers :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: askdrtodd

      o wait I just saw the I-Drive thing. I guess 4 rivers would be an expensive cab ride haha

      1. re: askdrtodd

        4 Rivers will have it's day on the future Winter Park and Worth the Drive threads :)

        Plus it's Texas BBQ - mostly beef - gotta have a pork BBQ place on there and Bubbalou's is the best one close to I Drive IMO

    2. Memories of India is great. Two other Indian places worth a mention are Passages to India and Tabla Bar and Grill, Passages to India has two locations in the idrive area now with one on westwood by international drive.
      The lunch buffet at passages to india is quite delicious.

      Also it seems that this specific area of town has a concentration of Indian Cuisine so this is the area to get your fix.

      Red Bamboo Kirkman/Idrive area serves up some great thai food, lunch is inexpensive at around 10 dollars.

      Wa is amazing - hard to find but worth it. Eat off the special menu

      I really enjoy Cafe Tu Tu Tango. A friend of mine went for the taping of Food Networks show "Unwrapped" I'm not sure if that has aired or not. Tu Tu Tango is a great place for groups, interesting art on the wall, and some entertainment at night. It can get expensive depending on what tapas you order but it is fun and the food is good. Also to mention some of thier menu items change frequently. So for people that come down once a year you may not get the same thing you had before.

      Anatolia is turkish cuisine and it has a very authentic mediteranean feel to it. The food here is outstanding and they have really good turkish red wine.

      Press 101 is a yummy sandwich spot. I love the concept of taking a sandwich and fancying it up. You order at the front and seat yourself indoors or outdoors. It's a popular lunch spot on Wednesdays and Fridays so if you aren't into crowds try other days of the week.

      and you can't miss Lee & Ricks - Sure it's a bit of a dive but we love it that way.

      I also wanted to mention that Rangetsu recently closed. I never went there but the building itself was prominent to I-Drive.

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      Tabla Bar and Grill
      5827 Caravan Ct, Orlando, FL

      Cafe Tu Tu Tango
      8625 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

      Memories of India
      7625 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

      Red Bamboo
      6803 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

      Press 101
      7600 Dr Phillips Blvd Ste 22, Orlando, FL 32819

      8 Replies
      1. re: Sandwich_Sister

        I love Red Bamboo, but I hadn't heard how others felt, so now that you have mentioned I'll add that one.

        Passages is a good call, I'll add that too - never heard of Tabla, is it more like Memories or Passages (buffet) - want to keep the list tight but if there are enough good options, then we'll include them all

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        Red Bamboo
        6803 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

        1. re: YosemiteSam

          Red Bamboo is great, it doesn't always get a lot of press, its a small place but the food is delicious and where else can you get great thai food for lunch so inexpensive.

          There is a credit card minimum of 10 dollars and if I have a glass of water and an entree I need to get a soup or appetizer to push the amount up above ten bucks for lunch.

          Tabla does have a lunch buffet but I would say Tabla is a little more fine dinning for dinner where as memories and passages are a little bit more small, authentic, mom and pop type places.

          I think this area has several Indian restaurant, and that is one of its strengths because other areas of town don't have any. A friend of mine who lives in winter park always complains that she has to come out to the i drive area to get good Indian food.

          There are more that I still need to try.

          -----
          Red Bamboo
          6803 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

          1. re: YosemiteSam

            I eat at Red Bamboo for lunch often, I would say it is average Thai, it is inexpensive..

            -----
            Red Bamboo
            6803 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

            1. re: herbert1

              Thanks for the reply. I love it for the area and its a great lunch deal. I have a few other favorite thai places in other areas around orlando. Would you say there is a better thai restaurant for this area? Because I happen to love Red Bamboo.

              -----
              Red Bamboo
              6803 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

              1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                Can't think of a better one in the that area. My two favorites in the greater orlando area are Sea Thai on Colonial and Phat Thai Cafe in lake mary. Scott Joeseph recommended Phat Thai on his flog, so I tried it out last week. The curry was the best I have had in central florida. I think Thai Blossom (in winter garden) is average. I like Soong Thai (across the street from west oaks mall on colonial) better if you are on that side of town.

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                Soong Thai
                9448 W Colonial Dr, Ocoee, FL 34761

                Sea Thai Restaurant
                3812 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803

                Thai Blossom Restaurant
                99 W Plant St, Winter Garden, FL 34787

                1. re: herbert1

                  I think it deserves a mention as a cheap eat, there are so many chains in that area so its a good suggestion for someone that may want something that is non chain yet inexpensive but is confined to this area.

            2. re: YosemiteSam

              I'm visiting Orlando and thank you for the dining guides you started. I went to Red Bamboo tonight, my first night here (I'll be here until mid-April). Great food! One thing I'd ask - I'm staying at Marriott's Grande Vista - I plugged Red Bamboo's address into my GPS and it sent me up International Drive, saying it would be about 5 miles and 10 minutes. I left about 6:30 and got to Red Bamboo at about 7:40! I've experienced some nasty traffic in the Philadelphia area, but this was terrible. Not only that, but the GPS had me turn left at Kirkman Road, which put me on I-4! If there are other places hidden the way Red Bamboo is, it would be a good thing to include some general directional info. Anyway, I definitely appreciate your effort with the guides and I definitely enjoyed Red Bamboo - Thanks!

              1. re: RAGHOUND

                That section of International drive is notorious for being slow. There is an alternate route. I just can't remember it because I'm a little directionally challenged. :)

                Glad you liked Red Bamboo. :)

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                Red Bamboo
                6803 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

          2. Turns out you can only edit a post within 2 hours of writing it, so I won't be able to update the list within the original post. What we can do is I'll take my best guess at the initial list and then readers can scroll down for additional feedback and ideas.

            1 Reply
            1. re: YosemiteSam

              that is a bummer but also over time places may close, new ones will open up, so many people just adding in the comments is a good thing.

              1. re: pdpredtide

                Do you have anything to add? Would love to hear more opinions

              2. I know a good category to add would be

                "Great for Corporate Group Outing $$$"

                7 Replies
                1. re: pdpredtide

                  That is a good category. Let's take a shot at it. By nature, some of the other restaurants included above will be in this category too.

                  Remember, we're not looking for big, national chains in this thread as the assumption is that readers are aware of those already, but we'll include regional chains that folks might not have heard of or experienced yet. Here we go:

                  Big Spender, Impress the Client, Expense Account Places

                  Antonio's
                  Charley's (Orange Blossom Trail location)
                  Moon Fish
                  Norman's
                  Ocean Prime
                  Primo
                  Tchoup Chop
                  Vito's Chop House

                  I'm curious to hear what other's think.

                  I did want to call out a few omissions - this is MY OPINION of course - and explain:

                  I do not include Christini's although it has been a staple of business dining for years here in Orlando. I find it wildly overrated and if you want an upscale Italian business meal I much prefer Antonio's right across the street. That said, many swear by it, so you may want to consider it.

                  Secondly, I also left out Emeril's because while it is a fantastic meal, it is in CityWalk so you are sharing the meal with many theme park guests, often in the clothes they wore to the park.

                  Finally, you don't just need to spend big $$$ to impress your client or team, discovering a great local restaurant says more about you than another pricey shellfish tower or NY Strip at a big chain steakhouse, so don't be afraid to try the other choices on the list above.

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                  Ocean Prime
                  7339 W Sand Lake Rd # 400, Orlando, FL

                  Vito's Chop House
                  8633 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

                  Charley's Steak House
                  6107 S Orange Blossom Trl, Orlando, FL 32809

                  Emeril's Tchoup Chop
                  6300 Hollywood Way, Orlando, FL 32819

                  Moon Fish
                  7525 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

                  Antonio's Sand Lake
                  7559 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

                  Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando
                  4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, FL 32837

                  Primo
                  4040 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, FL 32837

                  1. re: YosemiteSam

                    I'd put Christini's on that list too, we typically take clients there during trade shows. Typically impresses.

                    1. re: askdrtodd

                      Have you been to Antonio's across the street?

                    2. re: YosemiteSam

                      why not the Charley's at the International Drive location? Its pretty nice and closer to the convention center jw

                      1. re: pdpredtide

                        It's OK, but I'm a sucker for the original. The waitstaff is better, and I like the atmosphere a little better. But if you want the closest option, the steaks are just as good on I-Drive. By the way, Vito's is owned by the same folks as Charley's, so that's another "more expensive" but quality option on I Drive

                        1. re: YosemiteSam

                          Vito's also has a better than average wine list. If only they didn't charge a couple of bucks for blue cheese crumbles on your salad.