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Orlando area top 10 - February 2012

While I know there's only like 5 people who post here regularly (tangent - where do all the Orlando foodies correspond online? I think they're all bloggers rather than message boarders - though that seems navel-gazing to me), I still thought it might be fun to name each of our current top 10 favs in the Orlando area based on whatever criteria you want to use - food, decor, value, trendy, scene, etc

Just list your 10 with a few comments to support each.
Here's mine:

1) Ravenous Pig - great food, full of flavor without getting pretentious, awesome bar and cocktail program, too damn hard to get into on weekends
2) Tasting Room - hidden gem with great food on an ever-changing menu, also a great cocktail program, worth the drive
3) K - stick to the rotating new menu options and you'll get a meal on par with any in a bigger city - had my best dish of the last year here of gnocchi with pig head ragu
4) Luma on Park - great, fresh seasonal food in a scene-y but beautiful space - chef is the best in town with seafood but great with everything else too
5) La Luce - hard to believe there is something this great in a hotel on Disney property - there will be kids around but with food this good and a great staff you must find a way to try this place
6) Chef's Table - sister restaurant tot he Tasting Room above - prix fixe only place with simply prepared but deceptively complex flavors - great spot for a date night
7) Memories of India - just great traditional Indian food with a range of flavors in a simple strip mall setting - this holds my ethnic slot on the list, but also considered here were Pho 88, Hanamizuki, Cedar's Lebanese, Nile Ethiopian, Beewon Korean and Anatolia
8) Pio Pio - a Colombian chicken joint that's my top value pick in town - the chicken is amazing but the rest of the food is great too - other value choices that almost made the cut were Yellow Dog Eats, Press 101, Kona Dog, and Beefy King
9) Chatham's Place - old school standby tucked away in the sea of glitzy chains on Restaurant Row - the best choice in town for a quiet special occasion meal. Other option is Victoria & Albert's but the WDW location gives me pause
10) Big Wheel Provisions - had to include the best food truck as this trend has really taken off this year - you also won't go wrong with the Crooked Spoon

You see how I managed to get in more than ten? :) That said the main ten I listed are really my best choices for any type of occasion, though I would have loved to find a place for the others I mentioned above as well as some that didn't make the cut but are also wonderful (or pefect for certain situations) like the Rusty Spoon, Nagoya, Dragonfly, Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Le Coq Au Vin, Hollerbach's Willow Tree, Funky Monkey Downtown and Lac Viet

One final thought - there are a few categories of cuisine missing that I wanted to mention and bemoan our state of here in Central Florida - no seafood places (a true tragedy considering our location), no steakhouses (all interchageable) and finally no entries for my personal favorite cuisine: BBQ - we are ok here but I find 4 Rivers a bit overrated by locals (and I prefer southern pork-based BBQ and 4 Rivers is Texas beef-based) and Bubbalou's is OK but ultimately average - if I had to choose I'd go with Harry and Larry's in Winter Garden.

Now what are your lists? I reserve the right to alter mine if one of you jogs my memory of a place I forgot

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  1. You're right -- I think you, me, Sandwich_Sister, and a few others are the only local Chowhounds who don't run our own "flogs," although I enjoy the hell out of Tastychomps' blog, and appreciate it when he still comes in to post. I've never posted on Yelp -- it seems like too many drive-by reviews, rather than a stable community of regulars.

    Anyway, my top ten:

    1. The Ravenous Pig -- my favorite restaurant in town, but still a "special occasion" place. You're right about it being hard to get reservations on weekends, plus it's too expensive for my wife and I to enjoy on a regular basis. But they have the best food around, as far as I'm concerned.
    2. 4 Rivers Smokehouse -- it may be overrated, but I think it deserves all the hype. I'm just relieved the Longwood location is finally open, with parking and indoor seating.
    3. Bosphorous -- absolutely love this Park Avenue Turkish restaurant. The mixed appetizer platter and fluffy, puffy lavash bread make a perfect meal for two, but the meat entrees I've tried are all incredible as well. I mean to order something new every time I go, but that rarely works.
    4. Fiddler's Green -- I've never had anything but an excellent meal at this Irish pub in Winter Park, whether I get burgers, fish and chips, Irish stew, or corned beef and cabbage. They have the best hot tea in town, too.
    5. Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe -- a fun place in quaint downtown Sanford with huge portions of delicious German food, and now they have the Magnolia Square Market right around the corner. Love it!
    6. Naradeva Thai -- a new Thai restaurant near the Millennia-area Super Target, decorated like a beautiful, serene temple with waterfalls and Buddha statues. Just sitting down made me feel relaxed, and the food was wonderful. I have to give it a slight edge over my previous Thai favorite, Thai Singha in Waterford Lakes.
    7. Big Wheel Provisions and The Crooked Spoon (tie) -- my two favorite food trucks. Big Wheel's constantly-changing, locally-sourced gourmet menu can compete with most fancy sit-down restaurants, and the only burger in town that could possibly beat the Crooked Spoon is the aforementioned Ravenous Pig.
    8. Sushi Pop -- a new, creative, funky sushi restaurant nestled in suburban Oviedo, this place impressed the hell out of us on New Year's Eve. I love Bikkuri Sushi on East Colonial (and you can't beat their prices), but Sushi Pop is someplace I'd expect to find in New York or Miami (and I mean that in a good way).
    9. Hawkers Asian Street Fare -- this newish Mills Avenue restaurant serves pan-Asian small plates, perfect for sharing and sampling. The decor reminds me of a Chipotle, but the selection is great and the food has always been top-notch (and quite affordable).
    10. The Boheme -- we got married at the Grand Bohemian Hotel, so this restaurant is close to our hearts, and perfect for anniversaries and special occasions. Definitely the best service we've had in town.

    My runner-ups: Little Saigon, Lac Viet, Del Dee Bistro (my favorite pizza in town), Bikkuri Sushi, Sonny's Real Pit Barbecue (a favorite of mine since college days in Gainesville), Korean BBQ Taco Box (truck), Fuddruckers (still serving great burgers after all these years, and far superior to Five Guys), Enzo's on the Lake, Chilango's, Polonia, Thai Singha, Jersey Mike's (tell me where to find a better Italian sub in Orlando!)

    5 Replies
    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

      Great list and so different from mine - goes to show you the diversity this city has to offer - my guess is you live on the north side of town based on your options.

      Is Naradevo that place shoved into a strip mall by Off Broadway shoes (used to be a crappy sandwich place)? I'm shocked its good - will need to check that out - my fav Thai is Red Bamboo

      Is Sushi Pop worth the drive from Southwest Orlando?

      Have you tried Anatolia on Sand Lake? Curious if you think Bosphorous is better or if they both deliver the same great quality because to me Anatolia is awesome

      As far as flogs go, I just like the back and forth message boards provide, to me blogging seems like broadcasting vs. a conversation

      Yelp is full of complainers :)

      1. re: YosemiteSam

        Yes, I'm on the north side, and I consider anything south of downtown a "schlep" (even though the occasional schlep is worth it). I forgot to mention I love Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, and Texas de Brazil is another great "special occasion" place, but I hardly ever make it to that side of town.

        That's why I've never tried Anatolia -- I'm sure it's great, but Bosphorous is over half an hour closer, and we love it. Greek Flame Taverna, in the same shopping center, is also wonderful, but we used to go all the time when it was in Casselberry, and now we've only been twice since it moved across town to Dr. Phillips.

        As for Naradeva, I'm not sure about an Off Broadway Shoes (I would not have noticed it), but it is in the strip with Coliseum of Comics, a musical instrument store, Gamestop, and Subway.

        And Sushi Pop is definitely worth the drive, at least once, if you like sushi. I keep meaning to take my wife to Dragonfly in Dr. Phillips. It's the same kind of trendy/upscale/non-traditional sushi, probably -- I loved the original Dragonfly as a super-rare splurge when I lived in Gainesville. Take the 417 to Sushi Pop if you can, and it'll drop you off moments away, on Red Bug Lake Road.

        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

          i live in Florida...but not in the Orlando area...but i did used to go there a few times a year to a work related training center...and my family and i visit at least a few times a year with our 4 yo...

          that being said...we did try the Chefs Table a few weeks ago..loved it..we will visit there again...(just avoid the toll road)

          and my wife and i have enjoyed Texas de Brazil a few times...

          we havent tried any of the food trucks yet...

          so with sams and others help here and other sites...i look forward to trying more and more each time we visit Orlando

          (the only problem is we are stuck with some chains when my wifes family visits)(they are nowhere near any kind of adventurous eaters)...

          and i still have a weakness for Golden Corral....

      2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

        Thanks for the kind words Lou!

        here are my top picks

        1. Hanamizuki's - I-drive area - Go during lunch for the shio butter ramen and fried rice and the hanamizuki roll!
        2. Shin Sushi - Downtown - Shin hotate and volcano rolls
        3. The Ravenous Pig - Winter Park - Their Pub Burger is the best in town
        4. Pho Vinh - one of the better Vietnamese places, just a few doors down from another favorite Pho Hoa
        5. The Venetian Room - by Disney area - VERY pricey but their Grand Marnier souffle is so divine, served table side with the creme anglais.
        6. The Crooked Spoon - Food truck - their mac n cheese and burger are some of the best in town.
        7. Big Fin Seafood - Pricey, but check out their happy hour, there are quite a few nice surprises on there
        8. Texas De Brazil - watch out for Fogo De Chao brazillian steakhouse coming on Idrive next month
        9. Croissant Gourmet - their almond croissant and croque madame sandwich are amazing
        10. Luma on Park - fresh, seasonal food and K Restaurant - creative, delicious

        other faves - Banh Mi Nha Trang - best banh mi sub sandwiches in Orlando, Finesse in Lake Mary - try their grouper cheeks and the seafood risotto, Padrino's - best cuban in Orlando, Fortuna Bakery - wonderful colombian bakery on the south side of Orlando, Pom Pom's sandwicheria - seriously good sandwiches you will leave very full! Golden Lotus has a decent line up for authentic chinese noodle dishes and dim sum

        i labeled some other favorites on the ol flog http://tastychomps.com/category/favor...

        1. re: pdpredtide

          Fortuna Bakery is great. The menu is all in spanish but they are good about helping out if you need assistance.

          It would be a nice treat for people visiting that don't have such options where they live.

      3. Yosemite Sam - thanks so much!! I will be coming in from Montreal next week for a few days and wanted some info on great restaurants. Your list will most definitely help in my selection!

        13 Replies
        1. re: FrenchPeach

          Let us know what part of town you're in and we'll provide some specific recommendations - Orlando is very spread out.

          One more thing, mmmmm Montreal - Joe Beef, Au Pied du Cochon, L'Express, bagels, smoked meat - great food city! We can't match that here but you can find some interesting options if you know who t ask - us!

          1. re: YosemiteSam

            Yes, we do have some fabulous restaurants!

            I will be staying on International Drive near Sea World and Universal Studios...I will have a car but would rather not use it since I may plan on having a drink or two...the car will be used for my shopping trips to the Florida Mall. ;-)

            1. re: FrenchPeach

              Nah, skip Florida Mall at hit the Premium outlets at the NORTH end of International Drive and maybe the Mall at Millenia.

              As for food, from my list above you are short taxi distance from Memories of India, Hanamizuki, Cedar's, Nile, Anatolia, Pio Pio, Press 101, Kona Dog, Chatham's Place, Nagoya, Dragonfly and Cafe Tu Tu Tango. Not sure which ethnicities you have good dining options for in Montreal outside of Greek, but if you don't have good Vietnamese then it may be worth one car trip downtown to the ViMi district - stick with a beer and you'll be fine to drive. The other great ethnic option on my list you won't find much of outside of Florida is Pio Pio. Unfortunately the tip top places in town are not in the I Drive area so you'll miss out on our best if you don't drive.

              1. re: YosemiteSam

                Another I-Drive spot to hit: Texas de Brazil, for an all-you-can-eat meat splurge (the best deal is lunch on Friday; only $20-something instead of $45 for dinner every night).

                Cantina Laredo was solid (if overpriced) Mexican in the same fancy shopping center as Dragonfly, Cafe Tu Tu Tango serves tapas in a funky room with artists and entertainers performing, and as Yosemite Sam mentioned, Nile is our only Ethiopian restaurant in town, and it is very good.

                1. re: YosemiteSam

                  Yosemite - just returned last week. Unforttunately it was not the best weather...but took your advice and hit the outlets and the Mall at Millenia.
                  Was planning on hitting Cafe Tu Tu the night I arrived but since my flight was delayed I didn't make it in until after closing.
                  Went to eat at Memories of India which was my first intro with Indian food and must admit it was delish. The service was outstanding as well.
                  Please don't hate me but Idid hit up a Red Lobster...which is no longer existent in the province of Quebec...food was great..service so so since they lost my credit card and then miraculously found it in the garbage bin!
                  In any case, i wish that I had had more time but I will be back. If you have any questions regarding my hometown, feel free!!

              2. re: YosemiteSam

                I'm thankful for this post as well! I'm going to be in Orlando/Winter Park this weekend. I'm staying in Thornton Park and would love some local options there. I'm also going to be at Rollins College and would love some options within walking distance. (I'll have access to a car but not at all times.)

                1. re: dracisk

                  I mentioned the Turkish restaurant Bosphorous and the Irish pub Fiddler's Green in my post earlier in this thread -- two of my favorite restaurants in town, and both a few short blocks away from Rollins College.



                  I hardly ever venture into Thornton Park, but those two Winter Park restaurants wouldn't be terribly far from there either, nor would my favorite restaurant in Orlando, The Ravenous Pig (make a weekend reservation now!), or the pan-Asian Hawkers Asian Street Fare.



                  1. re: dracisk

                    You're less than 5 minutes from the Vietnamese places as well - I like Lac Viet and Pho 88. A little closer than Ravenous Pig is K - just as good too

                    1. re: YosemiteSam

                      Seconding Lac Viet, and I also like the more casual Little Saigon.

                      Sam, I have to try Pho 88 one of these days!

                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                        Thank you both! I'm not a huge fan of Vietnamese (it's OK, just not one of my favorites), so I may try Bosphorous. Maybe Fiddler's Green, too, since my boyfriend's always up for an Irish pub.

                        Sadly, I tried making a reservation at The Ravenous Pig over a week ago (can only do dinner) and came up with nothing. Maybe next time!!

                      2. re: YosemiteSam

                        Sam, there a very few Vietnamese places in the far north & west suburbs of Philadelphia. I'm familiar with Pho and enjoy it. However, other than some of the rolls, I'm not knowledgeable at all about Viet cuisine. What would you suggest to get me started - to help all little, I like Thai, Chinese, Japanese and what little Korean I've tried - I really don't like sweet coconut curries.

                        1. re: RAGHOUND

                          Aside from pho, my favorites are banh mi, which are Vietnamese sub sandwiches. Due to the French influence in Vietnamese cuisine, they are served on great crusty baguettes made partially with rice flour, and contain a variety of thin-sliced cold cuts or hot meatballs, chicken, grilled beef or pork, and other meats. Banh mi are usually dressed with liver pate (think liverwurst), mayonnaise, pickled carrot and daikon radish, cucumber, jalapeno peppers, and handfuls of fresh cilantro. They're cheap and delicious and often cool and refreshing, and I love 'em!

                          This 2010 Orlando Weekly feature rated most of the local banh mi joints:

                          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                            BBVL - I had read some things about banh mi before, but that Orlando Weekly article was really informative. My first thought was "this is the Vietnamese version of the Philly Hoagie", where we look for great bread and a nice balance of meat/cheese to veggies, and good olive oil. I'm gonna have to give Boston Bakery a try for lunch before I head back home at the end of the month. Thanks for the explanation and the link to the article. Very helpful.

                2. That's why I love Chowhound! I'm a flogger (love that) about theme-park food only, but I'm not located in Orlando. So when I'm there, which is pretty often, I usually eat in Disney or Universal properties so that I can gather blog material. The only exceptions are when I go out for business dinners, usually near the convention center or in my hotel near the convention center, and it's almost never my choice.

                  I did get to take a group to Wa (sadly, on closing night), and it was awesome, and another group to Cafe Tu Tu Tango, which was totally fun. Posters like you all are the people who let me know about Wa to begin with. As soon as I get to pick the next business dinner, we're headed to Ravenous Pig.

                  I am a regular 'hound on the Boston board, where I have nothing to flog. I'll refrain from posting top 10 Disney and Universal spots, because seriously, there aren't 10 that are actually chow-worthy.

                  1. I was here last year and took recommendations (primarily) from Sam, BBVL, and Sandwich Sister. I was not disappointed by anything any of them suggested. I'm back to spend Feb. here and I'm definitely heading back to places like the Pig, Anatolia, Cedars, K and Crooked Spoon. I'm ready to try a few others on these lists and will definitely post a trip report in early March.

                    1. I have so much more to try! but here are my top 10 for now. In no particular order

                      1. Anatolia
                      2. Oblivion
                      3. Rusty Spoon
                      4. Ravenous Pig
                      5. Winter Park Fish Company
                      6. Mikado Sushi - Hunters Creek
                      7. Red Bamboo
                      8. Swede dish - food truck
                      9. Pinchomania - food truck
                      10. Memories of India

                      Bonus - Bar environment with awesome Tacos - Sloppy Taco Palace

                      1. Thanks, these are GREAT ideas y'all! Can't wait for our next road trip to !Orlando

                        1. Hello hounds! I've been reading these boards for so long now but it just suddenly dawned on me to join in the fun. Thought the top 10 would be a great place to start. Although I have lived in Orlando my entire life I can strangely say that I really have not checked out many of the hotel restaurants, I usually tend to stick with things in the general vicinity of downtown or restaurant row near where I work. So here's my list of favorites!
                          1. Luma on Park- my hands down favorite for any special occasion. I've never had a dish or cocktail here that I wasn't impressed my. I almost always order from the small plates which of course change frequently, but they usually have some form of steak tartar or carpaccio with a fried soft boiled egg that blows me a way each time.
                          2. 4Rivers Smokehouse- I know this one always gets mentioned but I truly believe it lives up the the hype. Briskett is just perfect with sides and sweets to match. I prefer the winter park location to west 50 but haven't tried longwood yet.
                          3. Nagoya- I could go on and on about this tucked away sushi spot, I frequent the sand lake location but have tried winter springs as well and was pleased. My favorite rolls are the fire mountain, lover and the orgasm but the Mexican bubble and king triton are also great.
                          4. Tako Cheena- new but still noteworthy. Pork belly taco and panko crusted cod taco are my favorites so far. I was a little turned off that they don't have ice, but I guess if you just try and think of it as a food truck with a permanent address it helps.
                          5. Big Wheel Truck- Tots and fois, it's genius I tell you. I've been digging on chef Tony Adam's creations since I found his provisions stand at one of the weeknight markets awhile back. This guy is a locavore and I love it!
                          6. Paco's- I haven't seen any mention of this winter park taco joint yet, maybe it's a nostalgia thing for me but I have yet to find a better enchilada and the guac is top notch.
                          7. The Ravenous Pig- I get what all of the fuss is about and I've enjoyed just about every dish those lovely Petrakis folks have put in front of me. Lunch here can't be beat for the price and service is flawless in my experience.
                          8. Il Pescatore- this is my go to for homespun American style Italian. It may be another case of nostalgia but I can't miss out on their stuffed chicken special (dubbed the chicken ball in my circle).
                          9. Bosphorous- that mixed dip appetizer with the bread is something I dream about, especially the taramasalata in the middle. The entrees are all tasty too but it's just a formality so I don't feel bad for just sharing an app and leaving. I've tried Anatolias version and enjoyed it but for me this place wins the Turkish battle hands down.
                          10. Bombay- this is the little Indian restaurant tucked inside the shady looking plaza with House of Spices on OBT (across from woodlands). The dosas are just perfection and huge! I've tried a handful of other dishes and can't find an Indian restaurant in town that tops it. Also insanely cheap! Vegetarian only so not for the carnivores in the bunch.

                          That was hard to narrow down but it's a pretty good cross section of the places I've been eating lately. A few other favorites are Pom Poms for the weekend grits of the day, Greens and Grill (another Petrakis joint), Thai Thani on the far end of Idrive (soooo far), Fish out of Water sushi truck, Lac Viet, Bauern Strube (though to be fair I haven't tried any other German places in town), Tony's deli on mills, and even Texas de Brazil though I realize it's a chain so it has no place here.
                          Hope you guys enjoy my little list, I'm sure you'll be seeing more of me around these boards although I'll be hooked to the NYC section for a but while I plan my first ever big apple food crawl!

                          Luma on Park
                          290 S. Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

                          Thai Thani
                          11025 International Drive Suite F, Orlando, FL 32821

                          Il Pescatore
                          651 N Primrose Dr, Orlando, FL 32803

                          Thai Thani Restaurant
                          615 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

                          Fish out of Water
                          34 Goldenrod Circle, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

                          26 Replies
                          1. re: CheeksandLeeks

                            Welcome to the board and a great list - so Greens and Grills is by the Ravenous Pig people? Interesting...

                            Since you are often in the Restaurant Row area, just curious if you've tried Anatolia - I'm trying to see if it's worth the drive to Bosphorous since we like Anatolia so much - looking for someone who's been to both

                            As far as NYC, if you can afford it and can get in, I HIGHLY recommend the full tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park - the vey best meal of my life - truly fantastic

                            1. re: YosemiteSam

                              I have tried both and I prefer Bosphorous, it really is a close race but for me it just barely edges out Anatolia. I think it might solely be based on the taramasalata that I mentioned before, it's just creamier at Bosphorous and the bread is a bit lighter, puffier then their's too.
                              Thanks for the NYC advice! I've certainly read quite a bit about EMP on the boards and everyone seems to share your high opinion of it. So if I only intend to do one very pricey meal while I'm their, would that be the one you'd suggest? Have you posted on any of the NYC boards? I'd love to hear more of your suggestions but realize we're not supposed to muck up the Florida boards with other cities!

                              1. re: YosemiteSam

                                I was not impressed with Bosphorous. I lived in Istanbul for 18 months (USAF) and I think Anatolia is more like what I ate there. I can't point to a specific dish because I enjoyed everything I ordered. The other difference-maker for me was, as a lone diner, I was not ignored at Anatolia, as I was at Bosphorous, to the point of having to get up and walk to the host/hostess station to ask for my check!!

                                1. re: RAGHOUND

                                  You know I think this is a hot debate. Among 4 people I know 2 like Anatolia better, the other 2 like Bosphorous better. None of us have been to Turkey, so we can't compare that.

                                  but it always comes up 50/50. I'll have to reserve comment on it until I've tried Bosphorous.

                                  1. re: RAGHOUND

                                    Finally got around to taking my Husband to Anatolia. He has been to Istanbul.

                                    He loved it. He was actually raving a lot about the rice but he also liked his meal as a whole as well.

                                    He enjoyed the menu and wants to take his dad there next time he's in town.

                                    1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                      Sandwich Sis - I'm not surprised that your husband enjoyed Anatolia. Having eaten in Istanbul, I would have been very surprised if he didn't like it. You didn't mention what you thought of the place?

                                      1. re: RAGHOUND

                                        Oh I love Anatolia. A coworker took me there my first time, She loves Mediterranean food. I thank her for showing me this place.

                                        Even though I've never been to Turkey; walking in there it feels pretty authentic to me.

                                        We had walked by Bospherous on a busy Saturday afternoon after visiting the WP Farmers Market and it was very busy but from what I saw it just didn't have the same charm to me. I'd still like to try it and see what I think but I have a feeling I would end up loving Anatolia more.

                                        1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                          I still think you'd like Bosphorous too, as long as you like Turkish food. I'm just glad we're a cosmopolitan enough city to have two well-liked Turkish restaurants!

                                          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                            You are right, I probably will. I will say this I don't think the common public understand the difference.

                                            A person I know all lumps them into greek.
                                            Greek Flame Taverna
                                            Cedars Lebonese
                                            Taverna Opa
                                            Mediterranean Blue

                                            similar but not all are close or equal.

                                            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                              To be fair, I've only ever had Turkish food at Bosphorous, but I love it. To me, it combines everything I love about Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines.

                                          2. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                            Have not been to Bosphorous so I can't contribute to the comparative discussion. But wow - Anatolia is truly one of the best Turkish restaurants I've encountered outside of Turkey. In three meals over the past year I have consistently been impressed. It also happens to be a very appealing spot with good service. Orlando is so fortunate to have a place like this in the area. Despite the multitude of Turkish options in and around New York I have yet to find one at this level. Seriously. Can't wait to return.

                                            1. re: burton

                                              When you combine deserved raves like this, plus how great Cedar's is with Lebanese food (my wife is from Beirut and she raves about it), our extensive great Indian choices, the plethora of Vietnamese food, plus hiddens authentic gems like Hanamizuki and Nile Ethiopian along with Latin places like Pio Pio, I think we all need to realize that what Orlando is as a foodie city is an EXCELLENT place to find affordable ethnic food. Quick, call the city tourism officials - we need an annual Orlando Ethnic Food and Spirits festival.

                                              So, what are we missing to round this out? We need a great Mexican restaurant, our Greek food is bleh, Chinese is kinda embarrassing and we need a signature Puerto Rican place that reps our huge local population.

                                              I've excluded European cuisines as I see them as "mainstream", though I do wish we had a signature authentic Spanish tapas place. I also left out Cuban since Miami owns that for good reason.

                                              Any other holes in our ethnic portfolio? Morrocan? Indonesian rijsttafel? Thai?

                                              1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                One of the best things about going to Amsterdam for the weekend was Nasi Goreng, Bami Goreng, and Indonesian Rijstaffel when I could find some like minded participants. The largest I ever had was a 22 boy with seven friends. I am sure that there is a PC term to replace the above nomenclature.

                                                I would gladly travel for a decent one. Closest seems to be 3 hours south. Not in my budget at $3.75 a gallon for gas.

                                                1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                  I've dined out everywhere in Orlando, and I agree that Chinese is lacking with the exception of Ming's Bistro for dim sum and Tasty Wok for some noodles. I'd die for a real Szechuan place in Orlando.

                                                  I'd also die for a real Jewish Deli in Orlando.

                                                  1. re: Corporate_40

                                                    Wow, not sure how I missed the Jewish deli - you're right on that one for sure, local options are sorely lacking

                                                    As for Chinese, two other places to consider for authenticity are Magic Wok in Dr. Phillips (their American Chinese is ho hum but if you dive deep into the menu thaey have a lot of interesting and otherwise hard to find Shanghai specialties (lots of eel, bean curd and awesome ribs etc)) and Teriyaki House near Pine Hills for Taiwanese cuisine (again order carefully)

                                                    Finally, if you've never been, the 1st Oriental Supermarket on West Colonial is a trip - they have a food counter with all kinds of whole roasted birds, pig's head and other "weird" stuff as well as the most interesting live seafood selection in the area (plus gobs and gobs of hard-to-find Asian produce and dry goods). Kinda a tough neighborhood though so go during the daylight hours (the manager at the counter at the door wears a visible sidearm :) )

                                                    1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                      Been there once. I always go to the Super Oriental Market across from Lac Viet. Just closer, around other things, and always has what I need.

                                                      1. re: Corporate_40

                                                        I never make it to the west side of town, but I agree Super Oriental Market is a great place.

                                                        I also agree that we desperately need a good Jewish deli here!

                                                  2. re: YosemiteSam

                                                    Cedar's is one of my favorites. I really like the Bemieh and the Baked Kibbi. I'm just about to head back to PA after a month here. Didn't make it to the Ravenous Pig, but did take your tip on Pio Pio. You're right about the chicken and I also like the pork chops. Red Bamboo was as good as always and Anatolia never disappoints. I also tried 4 Rivers for the first time and had their amazing brisket. Still looking for a good fresh fish place. It's surprising that there isn't one here considering the proximity to the ocean and the gulf.

                                                    I'm looking forward to coming back next year and checking out the Top 10 of 2013! Thanks for the great info everyone!! Oh, and cheesesteak is correct, if you're going to Philly you have to go to the Reading Terminal Market.

                                                    1. re: RAGHOUND

                                                      I would say Winter Park Fish Company for fish. It's fresh, good, it's a little divey but I like it.

                                                      I recently had the Florida Cobia - Pan Seared and Topped with a Basil Truffle Butter.

                                                    2. re: YosemiteSam

                                                      try out El Bodegon if you are looking for authentic Spanish Tapas! =)

                                                    3. re: burton

                                                      Well, my wife and I finally tried Anatolia for lunch today, and liked it a lot. We got the grilled calamari as an app, lavash bread, she got the doner kebab wrap with a side of taramasalata (the creamy caviar dip), and I got the adana kebab wrap (spicy lamb meatballs) with a side of that eggplant-tomato dip. It was a ton of food, especially since both wraps (weekend lunch specials) came with lentil soup and small salads, as well as the one side. We have dinner taken care of for tonight, and everything was very good.

                                                      In fact, if we didn't have Bosphorous on our side of town, I would have fallen in love with Anatolia right there on the spot. It was great, but we're almost never in that Dr. Phillips area -- we live about 40 minutes away. Between that and liking the food at Bosphorous a little better (fluffier lavash bread, creamier taramasalata, that buttery rice that comes with entrees, etc.), my wife and I both gave the edge to Bosphorous,

                                                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                        very cool. Thank you. With Bosphorous being way out of my way I have yet to try it. Hopefully next time I'm on that side of town I'll get to try it.

                                                        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                          I should also note that the service at Anatolia was just fine, but the service at Bosphorous is always top-notch. We've been there a handful of times (I wish we could afford to go more often), but several servers recognize us and are always friendly and helpful and awesome. It's one of my favorite restaurants in town not only because the food is incredible, but also because I always feel like they're happy to have us there.

                                                          There's a third Turkish restaurant that I have yet to try: Attila's Turkish Cuisine, aka Steak and Salad, on Mills and Virginia. Has anyone been there?


                                                          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                            No I have never been there but I always hated the name glad they changed it.

                                                            Also a note about Bosphorous. I've heard the owner can be rude to customers. Not sure how true that is since you seem to be a regular and don't have any problems with service.

                                                            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                              Never witnessed or heard about any rudeness there, S_S.

                                                              Hey, somewhat off-topic, but are you affiliated with Jersey Mike's in any way? I was just curious, and I would have e-mailed you off-board but I don't know your e-mail. I'm saxman2 AT hotmail.

                                                              1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                No I'm not affiliated with Jersey Mikes. I did work there while in was in college and a little after until I got a job in my career.

                                                                I enjoy their food and we don't have many locally owned deli so I go there often and know someone that still works there.

                                                                The Jersey Mikes in Orlando has new owners, I've heard they are great and I believe they have or are in the process of owning all the Orlando locations.

                                          3. Mucho thanks to Sam, Sandwich sister, VVLB, and Mouse chow. Now that the Space Coast has a couple of non-chain dining establishments, my need to saunter over to Orlando has been drastically reduced. Basically I go for the VA hospital and my addiction to all things Disney. I do use your suggestions when I have time and money left over.

                                            Please keep flogging along.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                              Any non-chain Space Coast places that you can recommend for a weekday lunch? I'm coming down to Orlando/Winter Park for the weekend from DC and am thinking about a day trip to the Space Coast on Monday before flying back.

                                              1. re: dracisk

                                                Our only local product is found at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville. Order nothing but the broiled rock shrimp. Mini lobsters. Took what was trash from the shrimp boats and it is now $10.00 a pound local.

                                                Kennedy Space Center has great tours but lousy food. Any of the waterfront restaurants in Port Canaveral do a decent, if not distinguished, job. Sunset Bar and Grill on the south side of SR 520 in Cocoa Beach has good food and a great view of the sunset over the Banana River. If you return via the 520 to the Beachline, a stop at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for fried gator, froglegs, and fish is always a requirement when my brother-in-law visits. Please don't feed the gators.

                                                I do not recommend Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty.

                                                In Cocoa Village, Cafe Margaux is our high end dining.

                                                Heading south on A1A, DeKine Burritos has great surfer burritos. Melo's Italian, Memaws BBQ, and Charley and Jake's Brew Pub have interesting things On the Eau Gallie Causeway.

                                                On US 192, Skewers in Indialantic does a great Middle Eastern for over 20 years. Down the street, Andiamo is my current high end Italian favorite. In Downtown Melbourne, one street south of 192, you have Meg O'Malley's for good Irish pub grub and Matt's Casbah has, for our area, innovative and daring dishes.

                                                Local chains of Long Doggers and Mustard's Last Stand will scratch your hot dog fix.

                                                Local marine products are nonexistent due to overfishing, pollution of the Indian River lagoon, and the net ban. I do not recommend any of the local crab shacks due to spotty service and product.

                                                In the last 6 months, all three of my favorite $5.95 Chinese buffets have dropped precipitously in flavor and quality. Very bland. Sorry about that.

                                                Hope you have a great time.

                                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                  Thank you so much for your response -- I only wish I'd seen it before I left! I ended up at some touristy place on the beach in Cocoa Beach. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great, either -- I'm sure there are much better vittles to be enjoyed. Oh, well -- I'm going to save your recommendations for the next time I'm in the area. Thanks again!

                                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                      Captain J's or something like that? We ended up being short on time so just picked somewhere nearby and on the beach. We both had grouper and enjoyed sitting in the sun. :-)

                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                    (INDIAMRIVERFL) You hit the nail on the head with your reccomendation to the Lone Cabbage ; )
                                                    I have live in Saint Cloud for over 15 years & it is one of the better places to get Gator. We have been too many times to count!!!

                                              2. Thanks for the great post, Yosemite Sam! I will be in Orlando for a conference in April, and your post is exactly what I have been looking for!

                                                My issue is that I'm at the Hilton in Walt Disney Word without a car. I don't mind doing some short cabbing, but from what I can tell Ravenous Pig and Luma are probably out.

                                                Hanging out at Norman's one night is kind of a tradition - love making a meal out of about five of their appetizers.

                                                I would love to hear what you folks think about a few other options I am considering for my other two nights (I am sadly allergic to ginger, so I usually rule out Thai and Chinese cuisine while traveling): Hemingway's, Johnny's Hideaway (for crab claws), and Cuba Libre.


                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: rp1760

                                                  Hilton Bonnet Creek? Its hotel restaurant La Luce is on my top 10 list above - that's a must do for you. Even if you're in the Hilton in Hotel Plaza, it's like a 3 minute cab ride.

                                                  You should get stone crab at Johnny's - you're almost out of season ofr them but April is still the tail end of that.

                                                  Hemingway's and Cuba Libre are not that exciting

                                                  1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                    It is the Hilton Lake Buena Vista on Hotel Plaza Boulevard. I believe Hilton shuttles its guests free around to all their locations, so that's a great rec. Thanks!

                                                    Sad to hear about the other two. This land-locked frozen Minnesota lady was hoping for some latin influenced, non Disney scenes! The food and flavors at Norman's rock, but the atmosphere is a bit stuffy.

                                                    1. re: rp1760

                                                      OK, take a taxi to Pio Pio on International Drive - it's a less expensive than other options so it will offset the cost of the cab - it's amazing food. Not much ambience though - it's just a simple authentic restaurant. Cuba Libre isn't authentic anything :)

                                                2. I've been meaning to chime in on this topic. Here's my top 10, in no particular order other than the top 2 picks:

                                                  1. Luma on Park
                                                  2. Ravenous Pig
                                                  3. Prato
                                                  4. Lac Viet
                                                  5. Ming's Bistro
                                                  6. Shin Jung
                                                  7. Bosphorus
                                                  8. Primo
                                                  9. K
                                                  10. Pho Hoa

                                                  Other honorable mentions are King Cajun, Tasty Wok, Hawkers, Ba Le Bakery (before it closed), Thai Singha, Ashriwad, Hot N' Juicy, and Pio Pio.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Corporate_40

                                                    Prato was GOOD! My wife and I were walking down Park Avenue right before Christmas on a chilly day, and had wonderful pizza on a sidewalk table. We'd definitely go back again.

                                                    And Yum-Mi Sandwiches (a newer, more modern-looking, probably cleaner banh mi place) has opened in the old Ba Le spot on Mills. I've only been once, but really enjoyed my sandwich.

                                                    Did you know the International Market and Deli on Mills (the Russian grocery store) closed, back in December? I was really bummed!

                                                    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                      Yum-mi was OK for me. just OK. i ordered 3 sandwiches (the VP, miss piggy, dac biet) and the 2 "specialty" ones were mediocre for me. there's nothing wrong with them, just not memorable. also, if the VP didn't have the 2 eggs, it would have totally been a blah sandwich. the dac biet was the winner out of the 3 ordered. also, they could have def. used more daikon/carrot in the sandwich.

                                                    2. re: Corporate_40

                                                      Have you been to New Orleans Cajun seafood on colonial and pine hills? It's got great crawfish if you re willing to brave the hood. cheaper than all the other places too.

                                                    3. This is a great thread. I'm flying into the Orlando/Winter Park area for the weekend from Philly and this is giving me all the info I need. Unfortunately I won't have much free time, but based off of this I think we're gonna try to hit the Ravenous Pig at some point on Saturday.

                                                      Just so I'm not missing anything, is there one place in the Orlando/Winter Park area that I absolutely should not miss? For example, if anyone were traveling to Philly and had limited time, the one place that they should definitely hit would be the Reading Terminal Market. As a matter of fact, Philly should come with an official disclaimer that says "Welcome to Philly, go to the Reading Terminal Market!" Anything that I absolutely shouldn't miss in Orlando/Winter Park?

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: Cheesesteak

                                                        I think you've got it with the Ravenous Pig. But please make reservations if you haven't yet. Saturdays are busy.

                                                        I'd Also say Luma for Dinner.

                                                        4 Rivers smokehouse for delicious BBQ
                                                        Dylan's Deli which is located near the Ravenous Pig is a great place for sandwiches has a little euro charm to it.

                                                        and if you are looking for a beer or wine bar that serves bites and flatbreads Eola Wine Company has great wine and beer and little nibbles and such.

                                                        1. re: Cheesesteak

                                                          Totally agreeing with Sandwich_Sister (as usual) on The Ravenous Pig for Orlando's best restaurant and 4 Rivers for Florida's best barbecue.

                                                          And Cheesesteak, the highlight of my short Philly trip in 2010 was the Reading Terminal Market. I actually went twice, it was so awesome.

                                                          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                            I do have a few gripes with Ravenous Pig and it's not about the food. So I always send people there.

                                                            I bathroom situation - 1 handicapped bathroom. and one female bathroom with one stall and one male bathroom with 1 stall. Come on guys I've seen 7-11s with more bathrooms.

                                                            This also isn't good when you bill yourself as a gastropub. drinking often means a few trips to restroom.

                                                            Reservations are a must and this also means service might not always be great. during peak times.

                                                            but with that said that the food is great and they work very hard in the kitchen.

                                                            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                              I forgot I had another question--what about Rusty Spoon? Menu looks great! Thoughts between that and Ravenous Pig?

                                                              1. re: jinksdc

                                                                Rusty Spoon is supposed to be great, but I haven't had a chance to go yet. I can't imagine it would be better than the Pig, even though I'm sure it is quite good.

                                                                1. re: jinksdc

                                                                  We ate at the Rusty Spoon last month on a visit to Orlando and though it was great. I still would not put it over the Ravenous Pig, but from our one visit Rusty Spoon is pretty damn close.

                                                                  1. re: jinksdc

                                                                    There is much to debate here as there are pros and cons for both places.

                                                                    I think if I was to recommend an out of towner between the two I would say The Ravenous Pig. It has a little more forward thinking to the dishes, were as Rusty Spoon takes a more organic farm approach of great classics and well thought out dishes but isn't quite as creative as RP.

                                                                    However I am not always impressed with The Ravenous Pigs service, or lack of bathrooms for such a busy restaurant. Also the pub part is a bit subdued in terms of beer. But over all very good.

                                                                    I've had some knock out dishes at Rusty spoon. A seasonal Carrot ginger soup I was madly in love with. I enjoy their regular menu but I think some of best things I've had from them have been seasonal specials.

                                                                    If you are going to be in town for more than one day/night you should check out both and let us know what you think.

                                                                    1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                      This is great--I think we will go Ravenous Pig and next time we are in Orlando (there for business a few times a year) hit the Rusty Spoon. And I will just prepare for spotty service--for good food I can live with that. Thanks all!

                                                                      1. re: jinksdc

                                                                        please give us an update. I've heard the service is better at RP on days that don't end in Y. Hah Kidding. - but You might want to avoid Friday/Saturday nights if you can.

                                                                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                            I forgot to update! We went to Ravenous Pig and it was really great, very good pick! We got to sit at the back bar, so could see into the kitchen and see everything as it went out. A little food window shopping. The ceviche was really excellent and unlike other ceviche I have had (sashimi style cuts, thai flavors in the cure.) Service was fine (it was a Monday I think)--they were able to take us a good 45 minutes before our reservation, so I started out there in a good mood! I had the lamb as a main dish and it was really incredible. Thanks to all!

                                                                  2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                    This is great, I am coming down for a night to Orlando/Winter Park area and I think we will have to hit Ravenous Pig for dinner and figure out how to get to 4Rivers for lunch!

                                                                2. Great advice in this thread. Hoping for some specific help. What would be a couple of top picks near UCF, where I'll be working in a couple of days? Looking for a possible late night dinner without a long drive, or more likely a bigger lunch at a place that doesn't just serve up sandwiches for lunch. (Restaurants like Ravenous Pig look more interesting for dinner than lunch, as the intriguing dishes fall off the lunch menu. But if it's THAT good, I can go. Still, looks like a bit of a drive from UCF.)

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: dimsumfan

                                                                      not that many options near UCF i'm afraid. the ravenous pig's pub burger is excellent during lunch, just sit at the bar have a pint and enjoy. i'd check out anmol for their lunch special near by ucf and get the chicken or lamb korma, with naan (best naan in town), basmati rice, and lentil soup for around $7.95 .

                                                                    2. Well, I have a new entry for my top 10 - finally ate at The Table this weekend, and it was first rate food, a wonderful vibe, and something any food lover in Orlando has to experience. They are also opening up an a la carte place with an artisinal cocktail vibe next door soon. If you love hyper-seasonal, local food this is a must stop. And at $100 pp wine pairings and gratuity included it's a steal for five courses of serious gourmet food.

                                                                      1. Posted in a separate thread but thought I'd try here as well to be safe: which of the suggestions above are good for a fast breakfast or lunch, total time including travel to/from the Marriott World Center under 1 hour?

                                                                        1. This thread has been great, I am making a trip back to Orlando in a couple weeks from Boston (used to live in Central Florida for quite a few years) and wanted to know if you had one night to eat would you pick the Chefs Table/Tasting Room or K Restaurant.

                                                                          I have been to Ravenous Pig, Luma on Park and Hue already, so wanted to try something else this trip.

                                                                          1. Yosemite Sam, thanks for this list. Very nice options and good summaries from you and all the others posting here. We're driving up (from Boca Raton) and I'm looking for a couple of places for dinner - and can't make up my mind. The Ravenous Pig is tempting but it's far (we're near Universal) and we also like all the ethnic choices.

                                                                            In the past year we have eaten at Anatolia and Bosphorus. They are both very enjoyable and we would return to either, with a slight preference to Bosphorus, possibly because it is more well appointed and the menu was a bit broader. If we lived near either one we would not drive to the other because they are not that different and neither is clearly superior.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mbpg

                                                                              Near Universal, there are a few places I would recommend checking out in the "ethnic" category - none are fancy but the food is great and consistent and they are things that you don't always find elsewhere.

                                                                              Try Pio Pio for some great Colombian food at a very reasonable price, Hanamizuki is basically open to cater to Japanese visitors and is very authentic, and Memories of India serves up wonderful Indian food. I also send a lot of people to Cedar's for Lebanese, and if you can take a 15 minute drive you should try one of the Vietnamese places (as Lou mentions below) - we all have our favs but my personal ones are Pho 88 and Lac Viet

                                                                              1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                Thanks. We ate at Ravenous Pig (outstanding) and Cedars (good). I'll look for threads on each to post. We get good Colombian here in S Fl. and next time we're up we will try the Vietnamese. I know the area - my daughter used to live nearby.

                                                                            2. Mmm-mmmhhhh! I'll be visiting Orlando and driving about in the surrounding areas of central FL over the course of a few days, beginning Thursday this week. I'll be based on I-drive, have a car and would really appreciate ideas on where to eat. So many opportunities, so little time!

                                                                              I'm primarily looking for authentic asian food: Dimsum - japanese izakaya style & sushi - thai - malaysian - possibly vietnamese.. (if its any help, my faves in FLL are Sharaku, Yoshi and Toa Toa). Seafood too (always wanted to try seafood boil - any chance of that?), and contemporary with a strong asian flair.. my focus is fresh ingredients, fantastic tastes.

                                                                              Also recommendations for an asian market - I need to stock up on primarily south east asian, chinese ingredients.

                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                              1. re: HaveSpoonWillCook

                                                                                I-Drive isn't the area of town I know best, but if you drive 20 minutes east on I-4 toward downtown Orlando, you have our huge Vietnamese neighborhood, the ViMi District, with many great Vietnamese restaurants (my favorites are Little Saigon and Lac Viet, plus Boston Bakery for banh mi sandwiches) and Asian markets (especially the gigantic Phuoc Loc Tho Super Oriental Market). The good news is, all those places are along East Colonial Drive (east of downtown), within a few blocks of each other.




                                                                                If you take Colonial and drive a few blocks north on Mills Avenue (the "Mi" in ViMi), you'll also encounter Hawkers Asian Street Fare, a funky restaurant with an eclectic menu of pan-Asian small plates. It's a great place to go with a group, since everything is perfect for sharing.


                                                                                I've never been to it, but Ming's Bistro in the same neighborhood is known for its authentic dim sum.


                                                                                1. re: HaveSpoonWillCook

                                                                                  First off, yes to Lou's Vietnamese recommendations - my 2 personal favs are Pho 88 and Lac Viet but everyone has their choices.

                                                                                  Hanamizuki has very authentic non-sushi roll Japanese, but it isn't in the izakaya style either. I do recommend it though. The best izakaya option we have is right in that area though - Dragonfly. It's hardly traditional, but they do have small bites of interesting Japanese-style tapas as well as using that special charcol for grilled skewers of meat yakitori-style. Nowhere near as good as Hiro's Yakko-San in Miami but we like it quite a bit.

                                                                                  Seafood stinks here - sorry.

                                                                                  If you are the kind to include Indian in your Asian food category, you will find much better Indian food here than in South Florida - check our Memories of India for a good survey of the the cuisine.

                                                                                  Finally, also echoing Lou above, you might also want to take the drive downtown to check out Hawkers which strives to simulate the Singaporean street vendor experience, I've heard it can be hit-or-miss but the options are plentiful and for the most part very good.

                                                                                  1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                    Sounding good, BBV Lou and Y Sam!
                                                                                    Vietnamese food is new to me - I'm wondering what I should order, to get a great and indelible impression? I love big flavours, lots of greens along with my meat/fish, braised food vs fried... unfortunately small capacity (spirit very willing but the belly is just too small). So I have to be very focused :-)

                                                                                    I'm in Orlando for a seminar but am planning to drive northwards of Orlando and kinda zigzag around and visit the coast as well - never been to the area before and need to do a mini roadtrip on my one free day. Also, heading out via Tampa. Any suggestions for good eating away from Orlando.. maybe regional specialties?

                                                                                    1. re: HaveSpoonWillCook

                                                                                      Vietnamese standards include grilled meats, rice noodle soup called pho (pronounced "fuh") with a variety of meats, and delicious French-inspired sub sandwiches called banh mi, with exotic cold cuts and other unfamiliar meats, served on crusty baguettes with cool, crisp vegetables, herbs, and spicy sliced peppers. I haven't encountered many heavy, fried foods in Vietnamese cuisine.

                                                                                      Honestly, I'd get a bowl of pho somewhere (any of the places we mentioned), possibly with slices of rare beef brisket that you actually cook in the hot soup, and try a "house special" banh mi at a place like Boston Bakery (I'll warn you that Little Saigon and Lac Viet don't serve them), and those are two of the best, and most popular and representative, Vietnamese dishes.

                                                                                      If you head west/south on I-4 toward Florida's west (Gulf) coast, grouper sandwiches are a local specialty along the beaches of St. Petersburg and Clearwater. There's a place in St. Pete Beach I've always wanted to try called Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish, a little dive that specializes in multiple kinds of locally-caught and smoked fish, burgers, and beer.

                                                                                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                                        Lou has some awesome choices!

                                                                                        For Vietnamese, I would head to Pho Vinh in the same area mentioned above. I would start with their spring rolls (egg rolls) - they are the best in the area, the pho as mentioned by Lou, or the bun (rice vermicelli bowl) with various grilled meats etc, or the rice platters (with same grilled pork or beef etc). just get whatever says dac biet meaning special or combo haha

                                                                                        If you are near I-Drive, for lunch, check out Hanamizuki and get their shio butter ramen, and a half order of fried rice. more than enough to fill you up and oh so good.

                                                                                        On Sand Lake Road just west of I-Drive there is a little Indian place called Saffron that is really good as well, they have some decent lunch specials. Dim Sum, on I-drive there is Trey Yuen that has pretty decent dim sum last time I tried a few months ago. The building is old and ornate but its good there. Funny that you mentioned Toa Toa cause I have a video of a recent visit to them here http://youtu.be/gO3W-37TyTU

                                                                                        For Malaysian food check out Hawkers as mentioned above, they have some pretty decent malaysian style curry noodle soups.

                                                                                        For sushi, i'd check out Shin near downtown, Mikado on John Young (an exit or two away from I-drive), or Nagoya on Sand Lake. very fresh

                                                                                        Good luck and let us know how your trip goes!!

                                                                                        Ricky L

                                                                                    2. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                      Hanamizuki has great, authentic, Japanese set lunches (which include pickles, miso soup and rice). Things like tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork cutlet), zaru-soba (cold soba noodles with a soy based dipping sauce), shoga-yaki (kind of like pork chops pan fried with ginger), donburi (a bowl of rice with things like tempura, shredded beef or sashimi on top), and the very best ramen I've had in Florida. The stuff you'd find in a typical restaurant in Japan.

                                                                                      Their lunches are a good deal but dinner is considerably more expensive. I've always been told its the best Japanese place in town, but lately some of my Japanese co-workers have said the quality has slipped a bit. I was there last month and the ramen was as good as ever but I'd be interested in hearing opinions from other chowhounders.

                                                                                      1. re: tginjapan

                                                                                        Is there a place your Japanese co-workers prefer to Hanamizuki now?

                                                                                        As far as best in town, I personally think you need a three-way option as Japanese food is so broad a category: for traditional food as you so ably outline Hanamizuki is the best. For sushi I like Nagoya, not too many fancy rolls but very fresh fish and a nice quiet simple environment. For new-wave style food and robata grill and izakaya-style food I like Dragonfly.

                                                                                        1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                          Yosemite youve got to try Sushi Pop for new wave style

                                                                                          1. re: pdpredtide

                                                                                            Seconded. Sushi Pop is awesome, and a real gem hidden in the 'burbs of Oviedo.

                                                                                            I liked the original Dragonfly as a poor student in Gainesville, so I really need to make my way across town to the Orlando location some time.

                                                                                            1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                                              As for Japanese, they didn't have any specific other/new recommendations. But even if the quality had slipped a bit, Hanamizuki is definitely still a top notch place for washoku. The Japanese (at least the ones I work with!) are perfectionists, so what to them may be a slight drop in quality might hardly be noticeable to you and I.

                                                                                              One place I'd definitely recommend that hasn't appeared yet is Aki Japanese restaurant. Its very mom-and-pop (think white plastic tables and chairs with tile floors) but has good food for a very reasonable price. For dinner its much cheaper than hanamizuki, and with a more laid back atmosphere.

                                                                                              Finally I have not yet been to the relocated Rangetsu in Maitland but I've been told its under the same management as the location that was on I-drive. The decor and atmosphere are 100% different. Now its got more of a trendy, cocktail lounge type vibe. The chirashi-sushi is very good apparently.

                                                                                              As for just sushi, I've heard good things about Sushi-pop and look forward to checking it out.

                                                                                              Also, Shin is hard to beat. I'm not sure if it made it on this thread, but I'd put it near the top of the Orlando sushi hierarchy.

                                                                                        2. re: tginjapan

                                                                                          Awesome suggestions, everyone, am really looking forward to sampling all these delights!

                                                                                          Loved the video too! I visit FL every few months, mostly MIA and FLL. I actually toyed with the idea of arriving in MIA and driving to Orlando from there, just to do some eating in FLL (!!) .. luckily you guys have given me all these good options to explore. *sound of stomach growling in anticipation.
                                                                                          Will do my best to report back!

                                                                                          1. re: HaveSpoonWillCook

                                                                                            Thanks again for those great suggestions! Unfortunately my partner got really ill while we were in Orlando, and we only made it to Trey Yuen.
                                                                                            Being early on sunday evening, there were only two other chinese couples eating and picking up takeaway. The decor is pretty fantastic and the waitress was friendly - we have never ever experienced that at a chinese restaurant before, so that was a big plus from the get-go. For some reason they were playing muzak.. a little strange while sitting in that beautiful room!

                                                                                            Dimsum is served until lunch time.
                                                                                            I react badly when I have too many choices, and the menu at Trey Yuen is very long. In desperation, we ordered potstickers to start off - they tasted pretty good, but the filling was very compact with a thick tough tasteless dough surrounding it. Not a very good choice.
                                                                                            Next was our moo goo gai pan - nice mix of textures and flavours, but overall just a little too bland. Happily, our other choice entree offset this: the beef with cashew nuts was yummy - tender beef, crisp cashews, rich sauce. We got a big teapot of chrysanthemum tea to go with it.
                                                                                            No dessert - not very inspiring choices available.

                                                                                            All in all, a good quick hearty meal, nice surroundings, friendly service - I'd definitely return. Thanks for recommending it!

                                                                                            1. re: HaveSpoonWillCook

                                                                                              i would go for the beef chow fun!! glad to hear your trip was good! hope your partner feels better

                                                                                    3. We're coming down from WI in December, and we're hoping to taste some local brews. Who serves awesome food & brews their own delicious beer? Thanks in advance!

                                                                                      19 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: 4maxwelz

                                                                                        Cask and Larder just opened up and they serve what appears to be delicious food along with their own brew.

                                                                                        Also even though they don't do food. Orlando Brewery is one of only a handful of Organic Breweries in the nation. Good to stop on by and try a few.

                                                                                        1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                                          Back in Orlando next week, hoping to try even more local eating places..........I'm so easily pleased :)

                                                                                          1. re: truckergaz

                                                                                            Long time lurker on these boards but a somewhat new resident to Orlando (1.5 years). Every time I think I've eaten at all the "best" places, I'm always surprised at what else is out there. Here's some of my faves in no particular order.

                                                                                            Rusty Spoon - Locally driven new american food. Somewhat stagnant menu. Always ask what's on the butcher's board. House made charcuterie is great .The Lamb sandwich is a star. Most of the menu is very reasonably priced.

                                                                                            Luma on Park - For my money, the best restaurant in the area. New American food at it's finest. Great service. Could compete in NYC for sure. Lots of small plates which encourage tapas style eating or creating your own tasting menu. Great wine list with a lot of options by the glass.

                                                                                            Prato- Same chef as Luma. Great pasta dishes and small plates. The experience is always better when we sit at the bar. Another great place to order several small pastas, though save room if the pork chop is on the menu. Inexpensive Italian/Spanish driven wine list.

                                                                                            Ravenous Pig - I don't think this restaurant lives up to the hype, but a recent lunch made a believer out of me. Can't wait to try their other restaurant, Cask and Larder.

                                                                                            Emeril's (Kitchen Table) - Say what you want about this celebrity chef outpost, but if you're able to do the chef's tasting in the kitchen, they send out some amazing food. The service is some of the best in the area.

                                                                                            Tchoup Chop - This restaurant has had it's up's and downs, but I still think the duck entree is great. Great Happy Hour as well with $5 drinks/apps.

                                                                                            Mediterranean Blue - Probably the best Gyro I've ever had.

                                                                                            Lac Viet - Toss up as my fave Vietnamese

                                                                                            Jr. Columbia Burger - Best hangover cure. Greasy burgers with everything on it. Garlic sauce, pineapple, ketchup, pink sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, and of course, potato chips!

                                                                                            Border Grill - Just introduced to this hidden gem off Kirkman. Some of the best Mexican the area has to offer. Plenty of offal as well.

                                                                                            Taco Palenque - Best carnitas chimichanga I've ever had.

                                                                                            Cricketer's Arms Pub - Great place to watch a soccer game and eat some damn good fish and chips.

                                                                                            Nagoya - I haven't been to Sushi Pop yet, but this is my hands down fave for nigiri style sushi.

                                                                                            Armando's - I've only had a couple dishes here, but their pizza is where it's at.

                                                                                            4 Rivers - I finally made it to the Winter Park location and it's much better than the one in Winter Garden. I think it deserves the lines out the door.

                                                                                            Harry and Larry's - If I'm out by Winter Garden I'd sooner hit up this BBQ joint than 4 rivers.

                                                                                            Tasting room - Pretty good tapas style food, that will add up quickly. Didn't live up to the expectations.

                                                                                            Chef's Table - For the money, there are better restaurants in Orlando, but Kevin and Laurie are great chef/owners.

                                                                                            Yellow Dog Eats - Still one of my top places for a sandwich, though I think they become overly sweet sometimes.

                                                                                            I have plenty more that are slipping my mind, but these are some stand outs for me.

                                                                                            1. re: mridealism

                                                                                              I agree with all your reviews, it's been years since I've been to luma, and haven't tried Prato yet. Definitely have to put those two on my list.

                                                                                              It amazes me that the rusty spoon menu doesn't change more often, And I've had some pretty bad service issues there as well.

                                                                                              Couple of my favorites these days is la Luce and peperoncino that weren't on your list.

                                                                                              Anybody been to Cress in deland?

                                                                                              1. re: herbert1

                                                                                                I had a bad experience at peperoncino when it first opened and haven't been back. La Luce has been on my list, but every time I think about dropping that much coin, I end up going with Luma or Prato for less.

                                                                                                I live in SW Orlando, so I haven't taken the trek up to Deland, but have heard great thing about Cress. The menu looks great albeit, a bit weird with random curries thrown in there. Sushi Pop is next on our radar as well as Cask and Larder.

                                                                                                1. re: mridealism

                                                                                                  Have you tried Mikado Sushi out in Hunters Creek? If you like Nagoya you'll like Mikado.

                                                                                                  I would try peperoncino again, It got a great review from Scott Joseph pretty recently so maybe some of the kinks have been worked out.

                                                                                                  Also I don't know if I mentioned Saffron. It's a great Indian place on Sandlake. The atmosphere is perfect for those who are new to indian cuisine or for those who are bringing in people who have never had it. The spice seems a bit more dialed down than some of the other places around town. but I really enjoyed it.

                                                                                                  1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                                                    Have you been to Sushi Tomi? Great traditional place with very fresh fish

                                                                                                    1. re: pdpredtide

                                                                                                      I haven't, but based on reviews it looks to be the real deal. I'm not really into rolls, and would rather have amazing nigiri and sashimi. People's opinions vary when it comes to sushi since they lump all of that together.

                                                                                                  2. re: mridealism

                                                                                                    I eat at peperoncino quite a bit (I'm there right now in fact), the food has always been very good, I will say the service could be more attentive.

                                                                                                2. re: mridealism

                                                                                                  Hush on Border Grill - that place is amaze-balls but only has like 4 small tables and I can never get in - don't want a crowd to discover it! Also how awesome is the condiment bar at Taco Palenque?!?! I see you're missing Pio Pio, Memories of India, Cedar's, Hanamizuki and Nile Ethiopian from your list - gotta eat the random ethnics in the I-Drive/Restaurant Row area! Also when you are in the mood to drop some coin make sure to check out the Table. Finally, I love Luma too but think K is its equal - have you tried it for dinner?

                                                                                                  1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                                    I've only been to K once for dinner and it was for magical dining last year. It was OK, though I thought our server was great. I've been plenty of times for lunch however, and find the $5 burger on wed to be a steal. I have no clue how the manager has a job there though. She is one of the most unfriendly people I've ever encountered at a restaurant. I find their menu to be really weird, with italian american staples like lasagna, but then cool stuff like pig head terrine. Next time I will opt to get one of their entrees that normally isn't on the menu.

                                                                                                    I've been to Hanamizuki prior to moving here, and really liked it. Sometimes you just forget about these places. I think next on list for cheap eats is Pio Pio. Everyone seems to rave about it. What is the stand out dish there?

                                                                                                    1. re: mridealism

                                                                                                      The reason for the bi-polar menu at K is that prior to the recession the chef-owner had 2 restaurants - K and Nonna (a family Italian place which was run by his brother) - when the economy fell apart he moved K to the Nonna location and brought his seasonal menu with him but kept a few of the Nonna favs on the menu for fans of that place. So that's why the franken-menu

                                                                                                      Pio Pio is all about the chicken, but I also love the empanadas and the bandeja paisa is an amazing melange of flavors - but whatever you do make sure at least one in your party gets the chicken. I'm personally immune to service issues - doesn't bother me if it's great or terrible I only care about the food, so any recs from me should not indicate anything about service pro or con

                                                                                                      1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                                        I haven't been to Pio Pio in a few years but I agree it's all about the chicken. We did the family style chicken. some sangria, and all was amazing.

                                                                                                        and sometimes I think chicken get a little boring, but here its isn't and you order it just because its that good.

                                                                                                        1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                                          I remember reading about Nonna somewhere. Thanks for refreshing my memory. We'll probably give Pio Pio a try this week, and will opt for the chicken.

                                                                                                          I thought I snagged a ressie for Cask and Larder tonight, but alas it was the wrong day. They're not open for dinner. Anyone been?

                                                                                                          1. re: mridealism

                                                                                                            Been once and I usually go to a place 3 or 4 times before sharing a definitive opinion (unless it's terrible - no reason to waste money). But on my one visit I'd grade it "promising" - I am an unabashed lover of Ravenous Pig so I couldn't help compare - the menu and vibe are much more casual and if you love the swine it has a lot of great option - the local beers are great too - on the "opportunities" side I felt that they need too work a little more on balancing the flavors and finding the subtlety you get from great meals at Ravenous, Luma or K. Right now I'd place it in the 2nd tier with Rusty Spoon, Funky Monkey downtown, etc and a notch below Ravenous, Luma, Tasting Room, K, The Table, Chatham's Place and my favorite ethnic joints. But it's only been open a couple months and its pedigree is amazing, so I have hope for it moving up to the top tier

                                                                                                            1. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                                              Will agree with Sandwich Sister on PioPio! This is one of the few places I will Dine in that area on a budget. And yes the chicken is that good!

                                                                                                              I don't see any lake county posts so i will throw in my top 10. I know its not Orlando but we are mighty close;)

                                                                                                              1. Vics Embers,,,,Old style steak house with consistant quality.
                                                                                                              2. The Goblin Market,,,This is usually no. 1 but lately i have heard a couple of complaints.
                                                                                                              3. Sugarboo's BBQ,,My favorite out of the three top joints in lake county
                                                                                                              4. Thai Jasmine,,, Great authentic thai food and not bad sushi
                                                                                                              5. El paso Meat market for the best mexican.
                                                                                                              6. Coppa Cabbana Cuban Cafe... descent food at a descent price
                                                                                                              7. The Mason Jar ,,,,, down home southern cooking
                                                                                                              8. Little lake Harris Hideaway,,,best burger and fried fish around.
                                                                                                              9.Jeremiah's,,more nightly specials than you can shake a stick at!
                                                                                                              10. KiKu Jappanese Steak House,, it is what it is!

                                                                                                              1. re: mountdorahound

                                                                                                                I'm really glad to here that about Pio Pio! I haven't eaten there recently and I'm so glad to hear that the quality is still there.

                                                                                                                I've heard Sugarboo's rivals 4 rivers. All that have eaten there have said it is better.

                                                                                                                Where is the mason jar? Lake county as well?

                                                                                                                1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                                                                  Sorry it took so long to get back with Sis! The Mason Jar is on hwy 19 north of eustis and south of umatilla.
                                                                                                                  I plan on trying their fried chicken soon!

                                                                                                              2. re: YosemiteSam

                                                                                                                Just had some burgers at Teak in Metrowest. They are worthy of the praise. We had the Brazilian with black forest ham, potato straws, and egg. It was glorious. The California had Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Avocado. Not the BEST burger I've ever had, but one of the best in Orlando and definitely worthy of a visit.

                                                                                              2. Thank you thank you thank you! I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. I am visiting Orlando in a few days and was trying to figure out how to find out about restaurants. Then duh.. it hit me where do I look for recommendations at home! I am thrilled to find this list! Just what I needed, and from people who think like me, good food not expensive pretty restaurants! Now I am really looking forward to my trip!

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: EL7

                                                                                                  I come back to this post annually, a couple of months before I drive away from PA, heading for the warmth of Orlando. Can't wait to see what Sam and the Sister have to recommend that I've never been to before. I also like to know that some of my favorites are still open - Ravenous Pig, Pio Pio, Cedars, K, Anatolia, Red Bamboo, etc. It sounds like I'll be trying to get into Cask & Larder and Border Grill and I DEFINITELY will get to Yellow Dog Eats before I return home in April. Thanks for keeping this post going. I guess I should be looking a new one for 2013???

                                                                                                  1. re: RAGHOUND

                                                                                                    Just a note about Anatolia. It is now Bosphorous, the food should be just as good. You should go and let us know what you think.

                                                                                                    There is an Italian restaurant on Sandlake called Peperoncino http://www.peperoncinocucina.com/

                                                                                                    I haven't been but I've heard great things about it and one of our local critics, Scott Joseph gave it a very good review.

                                                                                                2. Thank you for the great list. Arriving from Montreal the first of 2013 for golf. Staying at omni hotel 1500 Masters Blvd
                                                                                                  ChampionsGate. Wiill have a car. Will this list be convenient for the Idrive area? I am a seafood lover . Trying to cut on meat. Dinner shall be the main meal of the day. Will accept scenic if food not great.