Face it—no one wants to leave a comfy hotel room to dine if there’s already an onsite restaurant inside the hotel. Therefore, restaurants in Orlando are competing against hotels and against theme parks for your food budget. They’re not always convenient but some of the best restaurants make an extra trip out worthwhile. On the other hand, entering resorts like Universal Orlando or Disney World, may give you access to great dining establishments inside the park that you wouldn’t find merely searching throughout the city.
City Walk at Universal Orlando: The resort’s City Walk area hosts a large number of restaurants, such as Margaritaville, Pastamore, and even the NASCAR Cafe. Bear in mind that parking can be just as pricey as a meal, and will cost upwards of $14 in the daytime hours.
Downtown Disney: Downtown Disney hosts Planet Hollywood as well as the acclaimed Wolfgang Puck Cafe. The Rainforest Cafe is a unique spin on the classic cafe with tropical rain scenery and effects.
Epcot: The park’s international theme bodes well for diners who get to sample international foods from all over the world.
The Leaky Cauldron: A Harry Potter themed restaurant in Diagon Alley not only has the franchise tie-in but will be great nourishment for you if you miss cottage pie, fish and chips and other traditional dishes from the homeland.
The Downtown Orlando area is a great place to find a meal beyond that of resort food, though categorising the city by districts might prove easier since Orlando has literally hundreds of dining establishments.
The Central Business District has the great selection, from Japanese restaurants like Amura, to Benjamin’s French Bakery & Cafe, to the pan-Asian Bento Cafe, to even dessert shoppes like Mochi Frozen Dessert and delis like Deli 111 and What’s Your Beef. There is less selection around Eola Heights and Lake Cherokee Historic District, but a few more restaurants on Parramore, like Mama’s Cheesesteak Subs and the Magic Grill. South Eola District has more selection than Eola Heights, with Cityfish, Shari Sushi Lounge, The Pop Parlour and Relax Grill. Thornton Park features some classy joints like Dexter’s Of Thornton Park, Tijuana Flats Burrito Co. and Wildside BBQ & Grill. Lastly, look for some gourmet selections in Uptown North Orange, with Citrus Restaurant, Cafe Trastevere and Virgin Olive Market.
You may find as you begin to narrow down your selection that there is a diverse menu of food from all cultures and world regions. Orlando doesn’t simply serve American food but also French style cuisine, Italian, Chinese, Latin and Japanese food. Some of the more enticing establishments include A Land Remembered Steakhouse, named after the novel of the same name and serving Harris Ranch all Natural Prime Black Angus Beef. Uncle Jones BBQ in Altamonte Springs serves soul-food entrees, including lima beans, potatoes, BBQ pork, corn bread, and fried okra. Hamburger Mary’s is a highly creative burger establishments, putting a gay twist on the burger joint, with drag shows, entertainment and karaoke nights. The K Restaurant Wine Bar is a classy garden restaurant serving wine and local organic foods, such as lobster pasta, K filet, duck breast and Ricotta Gnocchi.
Moving into Latin-inspired restaurants, you will find Cuba Libre, which is a dance club and restaurant, along with Rolando's Cuban Restaurant, serving classic dishes made from favourites of eggplant, guava, rice, plantains, and yucca.
An exotic favourite is Peruvian themed El Inka Grill Ceviche in Town Center Boulevard, specialising in Peruvian seafood delicacies. For real Italian flavour and flare, look to Stefano’s Trattoria a small but Sicilian-style restaurant just five minutes out of ORlando in Winter Springs. Asian food is everywhere, whether you like classic Chinese, Japanese and sushi or a nice mix of wine and sushi, from the creatively named Funky Monkey Wine Company. Khasiyat Indian Cuisine has some wonderful Indian specialties like Thali, Masala Dosa, Guajarati foods, and a lunch buffet. Don’t miss Ming Court, which features dim sum, sushi and even live oriental folk music.
Even Turkish and Middle Eastern food is represented at Anatolia Orlando, with exotic delicacies like Adana Kebab (lamb), Karisik Kebab (chicken) and Dana Sote (sautéed beef). Lastly, Orlando is one of the friendlier American cities for vegetarian and vegan foods, with tasty and unique meals coming from Ethos Vegan Kitchen, Loving Hut and Dandelion CommuniTEA Cafe.
Additional resources we recommend