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Mar 18, 2014 07:02 PM

Foodie Spots in Orlando

Hi guys

I'll be spending a few days in Orlando and I'm looking for some must try foodie spots to keep me busy. Cafes, restaurants, speakeasies, markets, cooking classes, distilleries, etc. I love them all. Any suggestions?

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  1. Where will you be staying? Orlando is extremely spread out. And will you have access to a car?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

      I'll be staying near Orlando International Airport and I will have a car

    2. 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 greatly prefer the Ravenous Pig, but it might still be 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.

      Fiddler's Green is an Irish pub with amazing food: burgers, fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, bangers and mash, Guinness barbecue wings. It is on the corner of Fairbanks and Orange -- in fact, every place I've named so far is within 5-10 minutes of each other! From the airport, you’d just take Semoran north to Aloma, which turns into Fairbanks.

      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 some of 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).

      There’s another option for Turkish food that is arguably even better, and more casual/informal. Turkish Kitchen is on Semoran (436) just north of Colonial. It’s a tiny, family-owned place, but the doner kebab and buttery lavas bread are even better than Bosphorous (and a little cheaper, and a lot closer).

      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.

      The Smiling Bison is a little gastropub that’s very close to Barry, with lots of creative, meat-friendly dishes and a good beer selection (so I’ve been told):

      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. I have three favorites that I bounce back and forth between: Pho 88 (casual; specializing in noodle soups), Little Saigon (casual), and Lac Viet (where I took my wife on our first date in 2006; a little more upscale), both heading west on Colonial, toward downtown.

      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.

      Another Vietnamese-owned restaurant in the same area is King Cajun Crawfish, which serves very fresh and authentic New Orleans boiled seafood (crawfish, shrimp, and crabs), plus awesome po' boy sandwiches on French bread and donut-like beignets for dessert. This is one of my most recent finds -- a real dive, but those are usually the best places.

      If you like Polish food, Polonia in Longwood is excellent, hearty, and relatively cheap for the amount and quality of food you get. My wife and I live pretty close, and we love it for hearty comfort food (that isn’t terribly healthy, but it is always delicious). They recently started doing breakfasts as well, but they’re American-style, not Polish-style.

      If you feel like a bit of a drive (and you like German food), Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe is a wonderful family-owned German restaurant in quaint downtown Sanford, which you can get to by going east on I-4. They also have a German grocery store, Magnolia Square Market, a few doors down, if you're into that sort of thing.

      Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza has my favorite pizza AND ribs in town. It’s a chain, but a really good one. The closest location in is Altamonte Springs on Semoran.

      For Indian food, Kohinoor in Altamonte Springs (right off I-4) is the best I've had in town. Great lunch buffet, great naan, and every entree I've sampled has been very good as well.

      Nile is our one option in town for Ethiopian food -- way out on International Drive, where all the theme park tourists stay (and drive horribly). It's a little further away, but well worth the trip. 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.

      We’re not a great town for seafood, but High Tide Harry’s (on Semoran, very close to the airport) and Boston’s Fish House (on Aloma and Forsythe) are both casual, divey seafood places that are always good and sometimes great.

      I like Bikkuri for sushi, which is on Colonial, in the middle of the Vietnamese neighborhood. They have an upstairs dining room and a little to-go area downstairs, and the sushi is fresh and cheap, sometimes great, but always well above average.

      My favorite Thai restaurant is Thai Singha, which is pretty far east of Barry, in the sprawling Waterford Lakes shopping center near the University of Central Florida. You will find Royal Thai a lot more convenient and almost as good, on Semoran and Old Cheney.

      Believe it or not, good Mexican food is hard to come by around Orlando. Garibaldi's, next door to Turkish Kitchen on the corner of Semoran and Colonial, is a favorite destination for a fast, cheap lunch.

      Even better is the tiny, family-owned Chilango's in Winter Springs (not far from Longwood and Casselberry). Super-authentic Mexican (not Tex-Mex), cheap, big portions, just perfect. It's not terribly close to anything much, though.

      I'm from Miami, so I have high standards for Cuban food. Rolando's in Casselberry is the best around, in my opinion, but not as good as the places back home:

      Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria is a tiny, hipster-friendly dive on Bumby (south of Colonial) with some creative sandwiches and tea blends:

      The same people own Tako Cheena on Mills, which specializes in Asian/Latin fusion. It’s even better than it sounds, and it’s cheap:

      The Mellow Mushroom on Aloma in Winter Park isn't fast, but they also have excellent pizza and sandwiches on fresh-baked hoagie rolls.

      Benjamin French Bakery in beautiful Thornton Park (near downtown Orlando) has the best croissants I’ve ever had, as well as excellent baguettes, and they will make you a damn fine sandwich:

      Se7en Bites is a great new bakery that serves incredible baked goods and some awesome lunch sandwiches, but they go fast:

      Another great new bakery is P Is for Pie in the hipster-filled Audobon Park neighborhood (essentially back behind the Fashion Square Mall area, on the way back to Winter Park). They have lots of delicious mini-pies, including some served in little Mason jars:

      And if you’re around over a weekend, the biggest and best farmer's market in town is on Saturday mornings in Winter Park, off New York Avenue (parallel to Park Avenue).

      We also have several Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian markets all around town (but not necessarily close to the airport).

      This is just a beginning, but let us know in case you have any more specific questions or requests.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

        This is absolutely wonderful, thank you so much! The Turkish and Vietnamese restaurants are especially of interest to me, as well as the charcuterie place you mentioned. I'm from upstate New York, and while we do have some good food, ethnic foods are less than stellar here. I'm a chef, and I'm staying with friends, so I'll have to check out the farmer's market on Saturday. It'll give me a chance to pick up ingredients for a nice farewell dinner.

        I appreciate all the help!

        1. re: robhandel

          We also have a few "fancy" grocery stores:

          Whole Foods and Fresh Market are national chains with some really great stuff, but they are expensive:

          Then we also have:

          Petty's Meats in Longwood (very close to a Fresh Market)

          Cavallari Gourmet in Oviedo

          The Meat House in Winter Park

        2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

          I second Ravenous Pig. Went for lunch 2 weeks ago and the SALAD had me raving. I swooned over the shrimp and grits, the dessert, and the waiter even brought me some gruyere biscuit ends from dinner. I LOVED it, cannot recommend it highly enough.

          Another place I enjoyed was White Wolf Cafe. Here's what I wrote on another site:
          Brunch In downtown Orlando it was about 20 minutes from Sea World (we stayed in that area), just blocks off I-4. While the service wasn't great (didn't get setups until well after our food came )their cinnamon rolls were excellent and the grits, eggs, bacon and pancakes were really good. Plus on Sundays they have $3 mimosas and bloodies, we sat at the bar waiting for a table and the people just never stopped coming.

          Hostess said it is frequented mostly by locals, she was surprised we were from Chicago, and I'd definitely go back if I was in Orlando again.

          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

            Thank you for the info. I just moved to orlando and am loving all my options but don't know where to start. Your list is definitely going to be used as a starting point.

            1. re: Aalonzo84

              You're welcome, and please check back in periodically and let us know what you discovered, and what you thought. Welcome to town!

          2. Major ups and props to Voodoo for his extensive list which I agree with and recommend as well

            Just throwing a few other things in the pot.

            Speak Easy
            The Pharmacy
            8060 VIA DELLAGIO WAY
            ORLANDO, FL 32819

            We have a large Indian Population here and there are two places I like to go for Indian Food
            Saffron and Memories of India

            Craft Beer
            Red Light Red Light
            Oblivion Tap Room - serves good burgers and food too, Urban scene
            Orlando Brewery - Organic Brewery

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