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May 29, 2014 06:22 AM

Looking for ADULT fun in Orlando, food & bars - no kids!


My wife and I are going to Orlando for a family wedding and we'd love to know what places locals or frequent travelers to the area might recommend. We live in New York City and we love restaurants or bars that are private/family owned, not chains! I don't know of any regional cuisine that Orlando is famous for, is there something that we must try while we are there? It's only for a few days, but we'll have some downtime the day we arrive and the day we leave.

We aren't the type of people who want to go to Disney or Universal Studios, at least not to eat. Not looking for anything touristy, even though I understand we are headed to Touristland USA. We are both 30 years old and do not have kids, so "family friendly" is not a requirement. Family un-friendly is probably preferred.

So what have you got? A good roadside taco stand? A bar with a great late-night happy hour? The best cocktails in Downtown Orlando? A great mom&pop Italtian joint run by two Brooklyn transplants?

Also, would really appreciate a few ultra-healthy options. Since we are in Orlando for four days, we don't want to pig out on junk food the whole time we are there. A good place to get a wrap? Fruit smoothie?

Orlando, we are coming for you!!!

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  1. Where are you staying in Orlando? I ask because it is very spread out.

    My recommendations for you:

    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 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, plus a location on University near Alafaya and UCF. 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.

    The founder of 4 Rivers recently opened The Coop in Winter Park, his fried chicken and Southern “comfort food” restaurant, which I love. Great chicken, biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and lightly-fried fruit-filled pies, shaped like empanadas. This is definitely one of my new favorite restaurants in town.

    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).

    Another fantastic new restaurant is Txokos Basque Kitchen, located inside the East End Market in Audobon Park, not far from downtown. Basque is a specific region of Spain, so it’s all Spanish food, but unique and incredible, with a menu comprised of most of my favorite foods. It’s not cheap, but I’m hoping they will start a lunch menu very soon. I absolutely loved it when I first tried it recently.

    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.

    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. We’ll alternate between three restaurants around there: Little Saigon (casual), Pho 88 (casual), and Lac Viet (where I took my wife on our first date in 2006; a little more upscale). Heading west on Colonial to get to Lac Viet and Little Saigon, and Pho 88 is right around the corner on Mills (on the left).

    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 one of my favorites in town is Tako Cheena, which specializes in Latin-Asian fusion: creative takes on tacos, burritos, empanadas, and my favorite, the arepa. It’s a very small place on Mills, a real dive, but always awesome, with constantly-changing daily specials.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou


      I would also add Pom Pom's same owner as Tako Cheena

      I really love when people are open to seeing the other side of Orlando. I hope Fat Kid takes you up on your suggestions.

      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

        Wow! That is a comprehensive list or recommendations! Thanks.

        I have just one other question: all the fatty, greasy stuff looks good, but we could use a few ideas on where to go for a healthy breakfast or lunch to offset some of the non-diet-minded options for dinner...

        Really appreciate the directory above! Cheers.

        1. re: FAT_KID

          You are welcome!

          As for healthy lunches, I think you could definitely find plenty of healthy options at Bosphorous (the mixed apps platter) or the Vietnamese places.

          I'm not really a breakfast eater, so I won't be much help there.

          Also, you're from NYC so it seemed almost pointless to recommend any Italian restaurants to you, but we're wild about Wolfie's PizzaMia:

          On Friday night, we had one of our best meals ever there: housemade charcuterie, eggplant "poppers," fresh spinach fettucine tossed with pancetta and fiddlehead ferns and topped with an egg (incredible!), and a lemon pound cake with lemon custard.

        2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

          Big Bad Voodoo Lou - I just spent some more time going through this comprehensive list, and it looks like you sent us some real winners. Ravenous Pig and Rusty Spoon look just like the kind of places that we enjoy, and we might even spring for Txokos. Thanks!

          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

            Thanks for this BBVL! I saw this list in another thread too...We'll be in town for a week over July 4, some with foodie friends and some with not very foodie family.

            I made reservations for the Ravenous Pig for our dinner out with friends, but we have a dinner with family too. The Rusty Spoon sounds good - but they don't seem to take OpenTable reservations. I will have to call them (how primitive! => ) How is the atmosphere? Other reviews said it was loud - we're probably going to be there for an early dinner on Saturday. The website makes it look trendy too - I'm hoping it's not too intimidating for the fam...

            1. re: gcwebber

              I wouldn't say Rusty Spoon is loud or intimidating. It's sort of earthy with an urban polish--basically woody furniture with giant photos on the walls of animals from local farms. Non-foodies can have a burger or salad (the ever-changing salad called "crudite" on the specials board is always a winner) while the more adventurous have choices of their own. The Dirty South seafood stew is consistently excellent.


              1. re: Rona Gindin

                We've only had wonderful experiences at the Rusty Spoon. Granted, we always strive to get there early, so it's never even crowded, much less loud. Great food, great service, and I can vouch for the always-excellent burger (easily in my Top Five in town, along with the Ravenous Pig). They also have the best onion rings in Orlando, as far as I'm concerned, and I consider myself a connoisseur.

                Make sure you park in the 55 West building parking lot on Pine Street -- it doesn't get any easier getting to the restaurant and back.

                1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                  That's great news. Thanks to you both! DH loves cocktails so The Rusty Spoon will be good for him (and from another thread, I hear the Pig also has great cocktails...) Now, if we were only richer and in town longer! Thanks again guys!

          2. I'm going to think more about this and come back with some more ideas.

            Google - Hanson's Shoe Repair. But don't tell them I sent you.

            Another cocktail bar food idea would be The Pharmacy.

            Ditto on Rusty Spoon Downtown.

            Dandelion Communitea for healthy food and great teas, also serves some craft beer as well.

            Visit the Milk District -

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

              Thanks for the pointers! These look like some really good options. Hanson Shoe Repair looks great.

              Thanks again!

              1. re: FAT_KID

                With Hansons make sure to call ahead of time for a date so they have room, small place. and drinks are not cheap but it's a unique experience.

            2. Healthy type options

              Hot Krust Panini - It's a great location if your near the area.

              Dandelion Communitea as mentioned before -

              Ethos Vegan Kitchen -

              Bikes, Beans & Bourdeaux -

              1. You might want to check out Oblivion. They just got a mention in the 101 best burgers in America.


                Here is Oblivion's website:

                1. Must love dives

         - tiny place but serves up some great food.

                  Lee and Ricks Oysters - Seriously must love dives. sit
                  at the bar.

                  Wally's on Mills - Dive bar - Iconic - not fancy, not nice, stiff drinks