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Dec 9, 2013 11:41 AM

Best restaurants in Orlando Disney area (in & out of resort)?

Will be staying in the Lake Buena Vista area of Orlando, contiguous to Disney World but not at the resort. Looking for 3 nights of restaurants - looking for creative, gourmet, regional, fresh/local, cuisine. Or any restaurants that are notable and memorable. Recommendations appreciated!

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  1. Here are some of my favorites, all of which are worth the drive:

    My absolute favorite restaurant in Orlando is The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park. It's not cheap, but not super-expensive either. I treat it as a "special occasion" sort of place, and it has a fantastic, ever-changing menu that focuses on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. It's almost impossible to get in on a Friday or Saturday evening without making reservations weeks in advance, but going on the early side on most other nights (or for lunches) tends to work better. They also have the best burger in Orlando.

    The couple that owns and cooks at The Ravenous Pig also owns The Cask and Larder nearby, which does funky, inspired versions of classic Southern cooking and comfort food, including thin-sliced country hams, locally-caught oysters, and beers brewed in-house by their own brewmaster. I’ve only been once for dinner and once for Sunday brunch, and I prefer the Ravenous Pig, but it’s still worth a visit.

    The best barbecue in all of Florida is at 4 Rivers Smokehouse, with convenient locations in Winter Park (on Fairbanks) and Longwood (on 434), both near I-4. Incredible brisket, pulled pork, and sides, plus both locations now have an in-house bakery and old-fashioned ice cream parlor. I don't drink, but 4 Rivers has an incredible selection of hard-to-find bottled sodas, which I love.

    Park Avenue in Winter Park is a great street to walk around, full of shops and restaurants and wine bars and places like that. Another one of my favorite restaurants in town is on Park Avenue: Bosphorous, which serves the best Turkish food I've ever had. The mostly-vegetarian mixed appetizer platter and puffy lavash bread makes a great meal for two (or one very hungry person), and the meats are top-notch as well. They have another location in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood, further south and west, closer to International Drive and the theme parks (but still very close to I-4).

    My newest discovery is Wolfie's Pizzamia, in the antique district on Orange Avenue between Winter Park and downtown Orlando. They cure all their own meats in house: spicy salami, mortadella with pistachios, prosciutto, speck, bresaola, and soft, spreadable cured lardo, what they call “pig butter,” which they serve with their fluffy garlic knots. They do incredible meatballs, crispy, moist pork belly (often served with crunchy pig ears), and nightly house-made pasta specials.

    One of our recent discoveries was another “special occasion” sort of gastropub with a real farm-to-table theme, the Rusty Spoon, located in the classy 55 West condo building in downtown Orlando (with convenient garage parking right in the building, accessible from Pine Street). Among other things, they have the best onion rings I’ve ever had in my life.

    Nile is our one option in town for Ethiopian food -- way out on International Drive. It’s best when you can go with a group, to share the large meat and vegetarian sampler platters and have fun eating with your hands.

    Orlando has a huge Vietnamese population, most located around the intersection of Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue (also known as 17-92). That neighborhood is full of Vietnamese restaurants, markets, and shops. The two best restaurants around there are Little Saigon (more casual) and Lac Viet (a little more upscale), both heading west on Colonial, easily accessibly via I-4.

    Hawkers Asian Street Fare is a relatively new restaurant on Mills, a few blocks north of Colonial. It specializes in a variety of pan-Asian dishes popularized by street vendors, all in small plates. It's a great place to bring a group and share a lot of things.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

      These restaurants are not close to the Disney area? I'm really looking for the best restaurants around Disney. Doesn't have to be in Disney but in that general area... Thanks!

      1. re: Jen3512

        Most of the restaurants that are near but not on Disney Property are clustered on or just off Rt. 535. I'd estimate that at least 90% of these are a chain of some sort (Outback, Miller's Ale House, etc.)

        On Property, you can go from Victoria & Albert's to Mickey D's. From the link below, I'd suggest you check out the Boardwalk, Dolphin & Swan and Downtown Disney areas.

      2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

        Great list! We visit Disney pretty frequently and I'll definitely check out a few of these next time!

        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

          Thank you very much for the recommendations.

        2. I think what you are looking for will be best served in the better hotels...they have chef driven restaurants that often emphasize local foods.

          1. La Luce. Not in the Lake Buena Vista area but at bonnet creek Hilton. This is an awesome restaurant..very wine oriented with very good food and not ridiculously expensive.

          Restaurants at the Dolphin and Swan would meet your requirements.

          I think virtually all restaurants near Lake Buena Vista fall into the industrial chain category.

          1. You can try http.// Is a travel agent and used to participate frequently here.

            1. We were there last year for a week at Ritz/JWMarriott and friends dined at Victoria & Alberts in the Grand Floridian and Les Chefs De France in Epcot..they enjoyed both meals.

              The Ravenous Pig, Norman's at the Ritz and Miller's Ale House for a chain is quite good.

              Great posters on the FL board..they took good care of me!

              1. Just got back from Orlando - had a medical meeting there.

                Our best dinner was had at Fish Bones. Family owned and they own their own winery and it was the least expensive restaurant also. Very near the Crown Plaza Hotel - pricey but very few people. The Hard Rock Hotel was huge and packed.

                Enjoy Orlando