Seeking Orlando advice based on geography and other factors
I'll appreciate help from this knowledgeable Orlando crowd!
I'll be dashing from the airport to Valencia CC's west campus soon, looking for a lunch spot. After that, I'm banished to Disney Resort, but fortunately I'll have a car.
This will be the time I get to Ravenous Pig after missing out previous times, but unless there's something else compelling to recommend, I prefer not to drive as far for other meals. I love offal, small plates, ethnic food, unique flavor combinations, and anything especially interesting. I'll be dining solo, so if a place has counter seating (with food viewing), that's a bonus! But not looking to do anywhere that's fine dining better-suited to a group of two or more.
Also, I'm always looking for any interesting, high-quality sandwiches.
Any recommendations for me based on what I've shared so far?
I haven't been yet, but you may want to try the Ravenous Pig's brand-new sister restaurant, Cask & Larder. It's a classy take on Southern cooking, but there are lots of pork products involved, including a bit of offal. Unfortunately it is also in Winter Park, close to the Pig, but far from you.
For interesting sandwiches, my wife and I love Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria. There is a location not far from downtown Orlando, maybe ten minutes from I-4:
And 4 Rivers Smokehouse has the best barbecue in Orlando (and probably in Florida), including some incredible sandwiches:
Near Valencia West, you might try a small taco place (with no sign) called Border Grill - they have beef tongue tacos and a few other interesting meats - this is not knock your socks off Mexican but good solid street food-style tacos. Great pace to eat alone too if you can get a table. It's like 2 guys running the place. The other two places in the Valencia area I'd recommend are Pio Pio on Kirkman/International Drive for some of the best chicken you've ever tasted or Yellow Dog Eats for the city's best sandwiches and a fun alt vibe.
As for your time when at Disney, I'd recommend a 10-15 drive up the Western Beltway to the Tasting Room in Winter Garden, and feel free to sit in the bar area. They have great cocktails and if you are an offal fan make sure to get the house made charcuterie plate (love the head cheese) and the deep fried chicken livers. A few other unique options that I recommend that are not too far a drive are Hanamizuki, Nile Ethiopian, and Cedar's Lebanese (make sure to get the kibbeh nayeh for some of the best tartare of your life - if you don't mind eating raw ground meat :) )
Finally, looking at your likes I think both Cask & Larder and one of our Vietnamese places are worth the drive. I haven't been to Cask but folks are raving about the lamb hearts and whole animal options, and the tripe and tendon in the pho at Pho 88 is pretty awesome. And there's always our version of weird Chinese food - one possiblity is the Shanghai-style options at Magic Wok - especially if you are an eel fan
As Yosemite Sam said, Orlando specializes in Vietnamese restaurants, with most of them clustered around the ViMi District (Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue, east of downtown). In addition to pho (noodle soup), lots of Vietnamese restaurants serve banh mi, French-inspired sub sandwiches on crusty baguettes, featuring a variety of "mystery meat" cold cuts, pate, and pickled vegetables. They are refreshing, delicious, and cheap, and that would also meet your sandwich quota.
Nile is definitely worth a try, especially if you don't have an Ethiopian restaurant near you. It's our only one in town, but it is awesome.
I also love Bosphorous for Turkish food. Of course it's in Winter Park, but they recently opened a second location (taking over an existing Turkish restaurant, Anatolia), in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood. That's much closer to Disney, if you take I-4 east to exit 74, the Sand Lake Road exit.
Thanks BBVL and YS for the replies so far, and I look forward to hearing from others.
I had Pom Pom's, Yellow Dog, and 4 Rivers on my sandwich list, so glad to hear the affirmations.
I keep hearing about Cask & Larder, but other than a lamb heart, I see less offal than at Ravenous Pig--though I'm sure both places are great. Tasting Room is also on my radar. But note that I'm seeing Winter Park destinations as more than 40 minutes from Disney Resort. I'll probably make the trip once to Winter Park (yikes...I need to choose just one place?!?), but there's nothing like RP/C&L or Tasting Room any closer to Disney?
ETA: I'm a light drinker, so alcohol is not a factor in my decision-making.
Just to note Tasting Room is Winter Garden which is much closer to Disney (not Winter Park like RP and C&L)) about 25-30 minutes on expressways
The thing is that the "average" Disney guest does not support the adventurous dining you are seeking in the numbers to justify the higher rents in the tourist area - so it falls on locals to support and we don't live near Disney not are excited to take the trip out there - that's why the local communities are better bets for the type of dining you are seeking
Although we can dream someday that Darden pilots a nose-to-tail mainstream concept in Orlando some day.... :)
Thanks again, YS.
My mapping shows Tasting Room as close to 40 minutes, but you know the roads better. Besides, I am willing to drive if I'm absolutely stuck for food choices! Still, I was hoping to make only one "longer" trip like that if I could find something comparable even half the distance away.
Not holding my breath on Darden. And that's probably for the best!
First off...I agree with every single recommendation above! I live within walking distance of both Rav Pig and Cask & Larder and I dont think you can make a bad choice between the two.
I just wanted to add this as I haven't been the biggest fan of Disney dinning options through the years. I was stuck out at the Disney Boardwalk area (its in the Epcot Resort area near the Swan & Dolphin hotels) and ended up eating at the Flying Fish when it was the only option with less than an hour wait. I had a very good meal there sitting at the bar. Be warned that there were several kids there though as you will find at all of the Disney area places.
Also...If I was dinning solo I would look for a place just like Cafe Tutu Tango. On I-drive near the convention center. Great atmosphere and small plates. Maybe Taverna Opa (Greek) also in the convention area.
Thanks, everyone. I just realized that we're talking two towns here: Winter Park and Winter Garden. Still, they both show the same driving distance from Disney.
Has anyone been to Tasting Room for happy hour? I'm trying to find out if the whole dinner menu is available, but haven't been able to reach them by phone yet.
I am pretty sure the whole menu is there for happy hour - you might try email instead of phone as they are a small op and really rely on technology instead of headcount
BTW, if you are there after 10 PM on a weekend, they offer a special burger made with all kinds of yummy meat (pork belly, etc) - not sure if that's available on weekdays
I also had another recommendation if you will be here over a weekend - there's a unique experience called The Table that has one seating every Friday and Saturday at a single huge communal table - the chef is a former Food and Wine Best New Chef winner who had a family and moved here to teach with her husband at Le Cordon Bleu but then felt the itch to offer some kind of customer experience too. The menu is written daily based on what's available from local purveyors and is awesome - each course includes a wine pairing and the chef and sommelier explain each course/pairing as its served. The food is adventuous and amazing (e.g., deck egg pasta with foie) and you get to meet a lot of other interesting food obsessed people. It's prix fixe at $120 per person wine and tip inclusive and frankly actually a real deal when you understand all you get.
It's in the Sand Lake Road Restaurant Row area in the Dellagio - not sure when you're here but I do heartily recommend.
My quick list, although I see most have been mentioned before:
Yellow Dog Eats (Creative barbecue, great staff)
4 Rivers (Classic barbecue, good sweets)
Cask and Larder (Good beer, nice twists on food)
Rusty Spoon (Downtown, worth trying after Ravenous Pig)
Ravenous Pig (No need for explanation)
Pho Vinh (Nice alternative to Pho 88)
Big Wheel Provisions (Best food truck in town)
Hanamizuki (Best sushi in town, hidden gem of Orlando)
Thanks again for the advice, all.
Pom Pom's was okay. It's a "young" place with a vibe tattooed Hello Kitty vibe. The Fu Man Chu sandwich was decent, though a little too sweet.
Tasting Room was interesting, especially for the setting in the old hotel. My food was okay. A little salty, and not always well-executed. Strange vibe, as the room feels like an old-fashioned pub, especially when sitting at the bar. Service was so-so. Not especially warm.
Not surprising, I LOVED both Ravenous Pig (dinner #1 that night) and Cask & Larder (dinner #2 that same night). Great flavor combinations and fun dishes at both places. I especially liked the pork belly at pig and the beef tongue at C&L. Lively places (louder than I like, but spirited) that I'd gladly recommend to others.
Thanks for the report back - glad none of your meals were bad - a little surprised by the Tasting Room service comment, but I always get a table - did the owners visit with you at all? The chef and his wife always make several tours through the place, but I wonder if they don't get to the bar. That is one of the things I love most about it. Never found it salty, but I can basically eat salt straight so I may be desensitized to it :) Also, I'm almost always with a group or at least a couple so I don't even consider vibe/design/atmosphere in my recommendations unless I find something overly crowded - sorry if my recs didn't take that into account in a way that led to a less than enjoyable experience
I'm headed to Cask for the 1st time this Thursday so your review makes me even more excited. Again, thanks for the report back