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Best of Orlando - January 2013

Well, the last time we did one of these we were still getting posts 11 months later and have racked up over 120 replies, so I thought that the beginning of a new year was a good time to refresh the topic and allow the varied "experts" on here to provide an overview of the Orlando dining scene as of a point in time - specifically January 2013.

Feel free to either use my categories either to comment or build your own lists or to create your own unique categories. It's been a slow year in the local dining scene so not too much has changed since our last lists, but this should be easier to navigate and see the latest opinions.

Best Fine Dining / Special Occasion Place (>$125 for two with drinks)

1) The Table
2) Chatham's Place
3) Chef's Table
4) Victoria & Albert's
5) Christner's

Best Upscale ($75 - $125 for two with drinks)

1) Ravenous Pig
2) K
3) Luma on Park
4) Tasting Room
5) Cedars
6) Cask & Larder
7) La Luce
8) Rusty Spoon
9) Hanamizuki
10) Dragonfly

Casual (< $75 for two with drinks - with servers)

1) Pio Pio (cheap eat)
2) Memories of India
3) Pho 88 (cheap eat)
4) Nagoya
5) Lac Viet
6) Beewon Korean
7) Nile Ethiopian
8) Cafe Tu Tu Tango
9) Taquitos Jalisco (Winter Garden)
10) Thai Silk (formerly Red Bamboo)

Cheap Eats/Fast Casual (counter service)

1) Yellow Dog Eats
2) Border Grill (Kirkman/Vineland)
3) Taco Palenque
4) Tako Cheena
5) Press 101
6) 4 Rivers
7) Harry and Larry's
8) Greens and Grills
9) Beefy King
10) Burger 21

Best Food Truck

1) Big Wheel Provisions
2) Crooked Spoon
3) Korean BBQ Taco Box
4) Yum Yum Cupcake Truck
5) Monsta Lobsta

Best Opening 2012

1) The Table
2) Cask & Larder
3) Border Grill
4) Tako Cheena
5) Peperoncino (lunch)

Best Place to Take Out of Town Guests

- With Kids - Cafe Tu Tu Tango
- Foodies - Ravenous Pig
- Business meal - Luma on Park

Places I'm Excited to Try in 2013

1) Prato (2012's big opening I missed)
2) New place from The Table's owners (a la carte with a strong cocktail program - opening soon I belive)
3) Raga
4) Sushi Pop (long drive)
5) Cress and Spanish River Grill (longer drives)
6) East End Market
7) Peperoncino (dinner)
8) Hawkers
9) fresh.
10) Hot 'n Juicy Crawfish

Places I Need to Re-visit (been too long)

1) Le Coq Au Vin
2) Norman's
3) Primo
4) California Grill
5) Antonio's La Fiamma

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  1. could you elaborate more on 4rivers bbq--they appear to close rather early, so gather it's primarily lunch or early dinner spot--how long would it take to drive there from sand lake and turkey hill intersection? thanks....is it really great bbq?

    Must try a bbq place on our upcoming trip to disney...been looking on best of lists for orlando...see bubbalou's? Which has the best chicken, turkey, brisket...we don't eat ribs...also, a great salad would be wonderful--I see that 4rivers has fried pickles...there's an amazing bbq place called swingbelly's in long beach that got destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and we love that place..so that's our benchmark for deliciousness....

    2 Replies
    1. re: janie

      4 Rivers is the best barbecue place in Orlando, and probably the best in all of Florida. The brisket is the best of the best, pulled pork is great too, and my friends have liked the pulled chicken. Fried pickles are supposedly good (I don't like pickles), but they also have smoked jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon (incredible!), and Krispy Kreme and/or Bananas Foster bread puddings, depending on the day (as sides, not desserts!). They also have a great selection of rare and "microbrewed" sodas in glass bottles (awesome if you're not drinkers, as we aren't) and Cheerwine (caffeinated cherry soda from North Carolina) on draft.

      Honestly, you won't get better barbecue in town. I like Sonny's more than most people here, Bubbalou's is okay, Cecil's is good but in a slightly dodgy area (and their specialty is big beef ribs), but 4 Rivers is worth the time it'll take to get there. If you get on I-4 (right near the Whole Foods on Sand Lake) and take it east, it should take about 20 minutes to get there in good (non-rush hour) traffic. 4 Rivers is off the Fairbanks exit.

      1. re: janie

        I actually like Bubbalou's too - it just missed my list and it is very close to where you are. Basically, 4 Rivers is Texas style BBQ so it's best is brisket and it has amazing sides. Bubbalou's is pork-centric and it's best options are pulled pork and sliced pork and it's turkey is good but the sides are mostly only ok (though their beans are amazing) If you jump on I-4 at Sand lake Road at the right time you can get up to Fairbanks Avenue where 4 Rivers is in about 10-15 minutes if there's no traffic downtown. I'd say you can have good BBQ here at either place but really we don't have anywhere that's truly amazing like the BBQ in Kansas City or Memphis or the Carolinas or Texas

        If you want a great salad not connected to BBQ consider Greens and Grills - my fav place for salads in Orlando

      2. NJ 'hound here...thanks for this excellent list! I have been doing some research and am glad to see that many of the restaurants I found are on your list(s) as well.

        One question, though--I'll be in Orlando at the Renaissance Sea World without a car for a conference later this month. I could use a rec or two for breakfast meetings outside of the hotel. Are there any decent options in the immediate area? I'm assuming that taxis or the trolley I've read about could get us there, but we need to be within 5 miles so we can dash back to the conference afterwards.

        Thanks in advance for your help!

        7 Replies
        1. re: Curlz

          Near the outer limit of your 5 mile radius is a great breakfast place called First Watch (in the Restaurant Row area on Sand Lake Road) - it's a small Florida chain and while it has everything there what I like is that it also offers some very good healthy options in case you don't want your breakfast like a ton of bricks in your gut all morning. You'll need a cab for First Watch as it's off I-Drive a bit so the trolley won't work.

          http://www.firstwatch.com/menu-breakf...

          Closer to you and if you don't mind hitting a different hotel is the B-Line Diner in the Peabody Hotel - you can take the trolley for that one.

          http://www.peabodyorlando.com/popup/d...

          Everything else in the area is chains or generic hotels

          1. re: YosemiteSam

            THANK YOU! I had seen the B-Line Diner on another thread and that may be the answer for us--it'll all depend upon our client's schedule.

            Btw, if there's a standout CASUAL (but good, because I'M a pain
            :-) )spot where my co-worker and I can go via the trolley, feel free to let me know. He's a beer/wings kind of guy and I can certainly appreciate that if it's done well. We'll definitely have at least one night to go out solo.

            Thanks again!

            1. re: Curlz

              It's not great by any means, but just past Pointe Orlando is a branch of the Orlando Ale House. What's nice about this one is the large amounts of outdoor seating which is usually great this time of year. Food is good but standard sports bar food and they have a full bar and tons of TVs. For better food and also well-priced but without the TVs and full bar, I'd personally recommend going a little further down I-Drive to Pio Pio. The chicken is just amazing and it's something unique to the area

              1. re: YosemiteSam

                I enjoy that Ale house the outside area is very nice.

                agreed on the food but when I just want a snack I get some drinks and some gulf oysters. The oysters are usually pretty large and enjoyable.

                1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                  As a tourist and staying at the JW Marriott/Ritz a couple blocks down from the Miller's Ale House, we found it to be really good for drinks, app's, football watching and cheap too.
                  Those 'zingers' with Thai were off the chart good..soup and oysters were excellent.
                  It was packed at 10:00pm

                  Sandwich sister was awesome in helping me..thank you sista!

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    It's a good no frills sports bar and grill. Great fun and for anyone who's Florida list contains gulf oysters it's great.

                    I'm glad you liked it Beach Chick.

              2. re: Curlz

                Delmonico's is good, nice portion sizes and reasonable priced. Very short cab ride, walkable if you need a little exercise.

                http://www.delmonicositaliansteakhous...

          2. Thanks for the great list. Headed to WDW to run Goofy this weekend and when I'm done I plan to treat myself to one or more places on this list. Have done Ravenous Pig already (really enjoyed the charcuterie)....this time will go for casual and closer to the Mouse.

            1. My List to try this year

              Cask and Larder
              Peperoncino
              Prato
              The Table
              Hanamizuki
              Nile
              Raga

              I saw we have a grilled Cheese truck now and I want to try it
              http://thebigcheesetruck.com/

              Also I want to introduce my husband more to Indian cuisine. He's only had my Lamb Vindaloo I make at home and I thought maybe I'd take him a few places

              Memories of India
              Saffron
              Raga which I haven't tried yet.

              1. So I ate at Prato, and it was really wonderful from a food perspective. If you hate crazy crowded places then avoid it on weekends, it is jammed and very loud. But it reminded me of a NYC style place, and our service was great.

                Therefore, I need to update one of my above charts (drumroll)

                Best Upscale ($75 - $125 for two with drinks)

                1) Ravenous Pig
                2) K
                3) Luma on Park
                4) Prato
                5) Tasting Room
                6) Cedars
                7) Cask & Larder
                8) La Luce
                9) Rusty Spoon
                10) Hanamizuki
                11) Dragonfly

                3 Replies
                1. re: YosemiteSam

                  which location of 4 rivers bbq would be closest to sand lake and turkey intersection...thanks...

                  1. re: janie

                    Almost equidistant to either the Winter Park or Winter Garden locations -- Google Maps reveals 14.1 miles to Winter Park and 14.5 miles to Winter Garden.

                    I think Winter Park would be a much easier drive -- essentially a straight shot east on I-4 for 20-25 minutes, depending on traffic.

                    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                      thank you..and thank you again for this thread..so much helpful info....