I am counting down the days until I return to Orlando to reunite with friends and family over the Christmas holidays. Ever since we moved to Zurich this summer, I’ve been missing my peeps like whoa! But I must admit that people aren’t the only reason I am looking forward to visiting sunny Florida: I cannot wait to eat at some of my favorite local restaurants!
The food scene in Central Florida is bursting with creativity, innovation, and downright deliciousness. Listed below are many of my favorite Orlando eats – restaurants that are far from the tourist track, where the locals dine, and places I return to time and time again!
WHERE TO EAT WHEN VISITING ORLANDO, FLORIDA
Black Bean Deli – Cuban cool
Serving up tostones and pan con leche in a former gas station on busy Highway 50, the Black Bean Deli delivers all the Cuban classics with retro style. This is a great place to drop by for lunch and savor those satisfying flavors from the Caribbean.
The Briarpatch Restaurant – Park it on Park Ave
Perhaps my favorite lunch spot on Park Avenue, Briarpatch is a great restaurant located in beautiful Winter Park. From light summer salads to decadent brunch entrees, the menu is varied and everything is prepared to perfection. The interior is like a Southern verandah, and the enormous cakes in the glass display invite you to indulge in the sweeter moments of life.
Chef’s Table and The Tasting Room – Winter Garden’s Best
One of the top restaurants in Central Florida, The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater is sure to be an exquisite dining experience for you and your taste buds. The Chef’s Table is located inside The Tasting Room, a relaxed bar and restaurant that also offers superb Southern dishes. This Main Street duo are great examples of Winter Garden’s vibrant culinary culture.
Ceviche – Spanish sounds and flavors
The strum of a Spanish guitar and the hypnotic beat of flamenco dancing draw me into Ceviche like a fly to a candle. I simply adore this establishment on Church Street in the heart of downtown Orlando. With live performances, splendid architecture, and top-quality food, a night at Ceviche is more than memorable…. ¡Es impresionante!
Dexter’s of Thornton Park – Bring your pup and have a drink
A longtime favorite of mine, I love sitting outside on Dexter’s patio – often next to other patrons’ adorable doggies – and enjoying a glass of wine with a friend. Although there are several locations across Central Florida, I prefer dining al fresco in the quirky Thornton Park neighborhood, which is within walking distance from Orlando’s iconic Lake Eola.
Gringos Locos – Crazy for Mexican
If there is one food group I miss most while living in Europe, it has to be Mexican. (That’s a food group, right?) In Orlando, Gringos Locos does it right – piling high the pico & guac and toasting the tortillas to perfection. I can’t wait to jump back into this local dive, which has a couple of locations in the downtown area.
Mediterranean Blue – Greek food fix
A family run business on Michigan Street, Mediterranean Blue never disappoints when I’m craving Greek specialties like gyros. They have a rotating selection of wonderful Mediterranean salads, and I usually buy a block of their fresh feta to take home and include with other meals.
903 Mills Market Cafe – A Neighborhood Gem
It’s hard to beat a beautiful day near Lake Davis in downtown Orlando. When I want to sit under the moss-covered oaks after a stroll or bike ride through the neighborhood, I head to Mills Market and relish in their creations named after local landmarks.
Pom Pom’s Teahouse – Killer sandwiches
Pom Pom’s unassuming exterior hides the treasures of this local Orlando sandwich shop and teahouse. In addition to fresh salads and a variety of teas, unique combinations of Asian flavors with traditional sandwich fixings make for an enticing menu. I’m a sucker for the Fu Man Chu sandwich myself, and I wish they delivered… to Switzerland.
Prato – The Cool Italian of Winter Park
I may live a lot closer to Italy these days, but I still miss Winter Park’s trendy Italian restaurant, Prato. With exposed brick, a wall of potted plants, and chalk board listings, I’m a huge fan of the rustic modern setting. Oh, and truly, the food is exquisite – a contemporary take on classical Italian dishes that is sure to enthrall your senses.
The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder – Southern gastronomy at its finest
Owned by the same gastro geniuses, the Ravenous Pig (aka Rav Pig) and Cask & Larder are critical to Orlando’s food scene. Taking local, seasonal ingredients, both of these restaurants add innovative twists to traditional Southern recipes. Also, Cask & Larder is a microbrewery and has a great late night menu.
Se7en Bites – The best bakery in Orlando
Seven Bites whips up the most decadent brunch dishes that have you happily drowning in gravy. New menu items appear frequently, and the baked goods are simply works of art. Trina, the owner, was born and raised in Orlando; her likeness is painted on the bright green exterior wall with a cheeky speech bubble: “Come on in & let us fill your pie hole!”
Tako Cheena – Asian inspired tacos
What happens when you put Asian flavors in a taco? You always come back for more! I can’t wait to pop into Tako Cheena – squeezed in the line of shops on Mills Avenue, just north of Highway 50 – and devour a curry tofu taco. This little joint is like a food truck with tables, serving tasty food in a no-frills, easygoing environment.
Tomasino’s Pizzeria – New York in Orlando
Hidden amongst retail giants in the Colonial Shopping Plaza, Tomasino’s may not seem very special on the outside. However, the friendly service, old-timey decor, and fresh ingredients won my heart, and Tomasino’s became my favorite pizza restaurant in all of Orlando. The simplicity of their New York style pizza pies just hit the spot.
White Wolf Cafe – An assortment among antiques
The White Wolf Cafe has such a boundless menu that I have difficulty choosing what to order sometimes. However, I’ve always enjoyed my dining decisions at this local cafe. The eclectic antique décor adds a special charm to this restaurant in the Ivanhoe Village on North Orange Avenue.
Yellow Dog Eats – Commute worthy BBQ
Waaaay off the beaten path, Yellow Dog Eats makes some wicked awesome BBQ sandwiches in a historic two-story home in the tiny town of Gotha. The backyard garden is a scenic place to chow down on the saucy mess. Afterwards, a full belly confirms that it was worth the drive.
EVEN MORE ORLANDO EATS
Believe it or not, I haven’t come close to mentioning all of the fantastic dining enterprises in the Orlando area! From food trucks to Little Vietnam, sushi makers and creative bartenders, there is still so much to say about where to eat in Orlando. I can only hope that my list is a good start for those searching for a memorable meal in Central Florida. Enjoy!
Hello fellow foodies! – Were you aware of Central Florida’s awesome food scene? Have you tried any of my favorite Orlando eateries? Do you know that Orlando is much more than Mickey Mouse ears? (No? Then read up on Downtown Orlando & Orlando Neighborhoods.)
Hey Orlando peeps! – What restaurants do you absolutely love? Where you do eat regularly? Add them to the list in the Comment Section below!
1. I am not receiving any benefits for endorsing the restaurants in this article. I made this list out of sheer excitement for my former hometown favorites. However, if any of the above restaurants want to support a Hungry Hailey upon her return to Florida, she will gladly accept and acknowledge the gift with humble gratitude.
2. All images featured in this post originate from the websites linked to the restaurant. The cover image is from Cask & Larder and features my favorite menu item, the Country Ham and Biscuits.