July 20, 2009
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City Offers Dining Options from Around the Globe
In the coming year, more than 48 million visitors from over 20 countries, including the U.S., will arrive in Orlando. Nearly every one of them will find a restaurant where they can enjoy familiar flavors from home.
Credit this extraordinary influx of international visitors for the significant impact on Orlando dining.
In order to cater to a global range of tastes, Orlando has become an epicurean United Nations, the epicenter of eclectic dining. From this international tapestry comes an unusually appetizing selection of restaurants—ranging from cozy eateries that serve ethnic dishes to five-diamond restaurants providing world-class meals.
As well as globally inspired eateries, the Orlando area has no shortage of restaurants serving more traditional American fare and regional favorites from Southern-style home cookin’ to mouthwatering steaks.
Flagship dining concepts such as themed and celebrity-owned restaurants, as well as trendy tapas restaurants and wine bars, all find success among sophisticated locals and visitors.
Here’s just a taste of what’s cooking right now in Orlando. * indicates a 2009 AAA Four Diamond Award Winner; ** indicates a 2009 AAA Five Diamond Award Winner.
• Boma: A Taste of Africa, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Moderate in price but grand in options, this buffet-style restaurant features such African-influenced foods as Pistachio-Crusted Mahi Mahi and Tamarind Beef Barbecue.
• Jiko, The Cooking Place, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: This sit-down restaurant fuses African flavors such as dried apricots, cardamom, and lemongrass with traditional American items. The restaurant is also known for its comprehensive wine list, featuring South African wines.
• Ming Court, International Drive: Ming Court embodies the art of authentic Asian dining in a spectacular setting based on the centuries-old architecture of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Menus feature authentic dim sum, sushi, and an extensive selection of wok, grill, and fresh seafood items.
• Thai Thani Restaurant, International Drive: Named one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States by the Thai government for its authentic and extensive menu, this family-style restaurant even offers classical Thai dancing on weekends.
• Bahama Breeze, three area locations: With locations at Lake Buena Vista, International Drive, and Altamonte, Bahama Breeze serves up chicken, steak, and seafood dishes inspired by the colorful ingredients of the islands. Signature tropical drinks and steel drum performances add to the tropical ambiance.
• Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Universal CityWalk: A mecca for “Parrotheads,” Jimmy Buffett’s offers a cross between Key West and Caribbean cuisine and, of course, those famous cheeseburgers, all served in a tropical setting.
• California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort: Some visit for the panoramic view of Cinderella’s Castle and the Magic Kingdom fireworks display, others for the California wine list and diverse menu featuring sushi, brick-oven baked flatbreads, and handmade pastas.
• Hue, Thornton Park: A favorite outdoor dining and celebrity-spotting retreat, with specialties including Tuna Tartare Napoleon, Sea Bass, and Tamari-Roasted Duck Breast with Sesame Hoisin Sauce.
• *Manuel’s on the 28th, downtown Orlando: With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, Manuel’s offers breathtaking views of downtown Orlando, complemented by contemporary world cuisine that changes seasonally. Nightly creations often include exotic game and seafood.
• Chez Vincent, Winter Park: Named for its chef, Vincent Gagliano—the top graduating apprentice from the prestigious culinary school in Clermont Ferrand, France—this popular Hannibal Square spot offers award-winning food and formal service in an elegant environment.
• La Coquina, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress: A favorite with visitors and locals alike, La Coquina serves an indulgent brunch. For dinner, the restaurant transforms into a 40-seat “Chef’s Kitchen” serving a prix fixe five-course meal.
• Le Coq au Vin, downtown Orlando: Celebrating its 25th anniversary and 10 years at the top of the Orlando “Foodie Awards” list, this classic French restaurant offers traditional favorites such as Steak Tartare, Foie Gras and, of course, Coq au Vin.
• Gain’s German Restaurant, S. Orange Blossom Trail: Named the best German restaurant in Orlando, Gain’s offers favorite German beers on tap as well as hearty cuisine.
• Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café, Sanford: This family-owned restaurant serves authentic German cuisine and more than 50 different varieties of German beers and wines.
• Greek Flame Taverna, Winter Park: Specializing in traditional Greek favorites such as Kotopoulo (roasted garlic chicken), Lamb Shank, and Chocolate Kok (cream-filled cake), the restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining.
• Taverna Opa, Pointe Orlando: This lively eatery in the midst of the attractions area features a meze, or appetizer, menu and a full dinner menu along with Greek wines, martinis, and desserts.
• Aashirwad Indian Cuisine, International Drive: Named Orlando’s best Indian restaurant by Orlando Magazine, it offers exquisite North Indian/Mughlai dishes and a wide array of vegetarian choices.
• New Punjab Indian Restaurant, International Drive: One of the Orlando Sentinel’s Four-Star Food Award winners, New Punjab offers a broad menu of chicken, beef, lamb, vegetarian, Biryani, Tandoori, Masala, seafood dishes, and more.
• Cricketer’s Arms, Festival Bay Mall at International Drive: Offering “a little piece of England in the heart of Orlando,” this longtime favorite pub in its new location at Festival Bay Mall offers televised European sporting events, live entertainment, and authentic English food.
• *Cala Bella, Rosen Shingle Creek: Named “beautiful creek” for the creek that runs through the hotel property, Cala Bella features Tuscan-inspired Italian specialties with Mediterranean and American influences, such as seafood, steaks, pastas, and salads, as well as an impressive “wine wall.”
• *Christini’s Ristorante Italiano, Sand Lake Road: Just off Orlando’s “Restaurant Row,” Christini offers a special-occasion atmosphere complete with live strolling musicians.
• *The Venetian Room, Caribe Royale Orlando Hotel: The Venetian Room envelops diners in intimate alcoves as they feast on signature dishes like the 24 Karat Bouillabaisse, Lamb Rack, and the Venetian Room Chocolate Sampler for dessert.
• Shin Jung, downtown Orlando: From the grills in the center of the tables to the 10 types of kimchi set out as appetizers, this is an authentic Korean eatery all the way.
• Bongos Cuban Café, Downtown Disney: Enjoy South Beach-style surroundings and Cuban specialties in this stylish restaurant created by music superstar Gloria Estefan and her husband/producer Emilio.
• Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant, downtown Orlando: With more than 100 hot and cold tapas, paellas, and cazuelas, as well as a comprehensive list of Spanish wines and award-winning sangria, the popular restaurant and nightspot also features live Spanish guitar and flamenco dancers.
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern
• Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, Winter Park: Turkish specialties from frothy tarma (whipped caviar) to Pideler, savory stuffed pastries, and a memorable Lamb Ravioli in Garlic-Yogurt Sauce.
• Spoodles, Disney’s Boardwalk Resort: Offering the “cuisine of the sun,” this Disney restaurant features foods from Greece, Italy, Spain, and Morocco with an emphasis on spices, cheeses, and other fresh ingredients.
• Anh Hong Restaurant, downtown Orlando: In the heart of Orlando’s Asian district, known locally as the “ViMi” District, this restaurant is a local favorite known for its outstanding bun dishes and pho. It provides an excellent introduction into the cuisine for first-time Vietnamese diners.
American Fare and Other Concepts
As well as restaurants serving up international cuisines, several other styles of cooking pervade the Orlando marketplace, providing familiar flavors for domestic visitors and a taste of America to those from abroad.
Celebrity Chef Restaurants
• Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando: Chef Emeril Lagasse serves up Asian/Polynesian-style lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch with his characteristic “Bam!” (See also Emeril’s, listed under Southern/Creole.)
• *Norman’s, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes: Chef Norman Van Aken serves his New World cuisine, fusing Latin, Caribbean and Asian recipes with European techniques.
• * Primo by Melissa Kelly, JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes: Featuring Southern Italian cuisine with Mediterranean accents, Primo changes its menu daily to incorporate fresh ingredients, many grown on the premises in Chef Melissa Kelly’s garden.
• Roy’s, Sand Lake Road: Known for creating Hawaiian fusion cuisine, Chef Roy Yamaguchi, Hawaii’s first James Beard winner, specializes in seafood infused with exotic spices and flavors.
• *Todd English’s bluezoo, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel: Combining fresh seafood with coastal cuisines from all over the world, bluezoo has been named one of Orlando’s top three restaurants by Orlando Magazine.
• *The Boheme, Grand Bohemian Hotel: An upscale dining experience at Orlando’s arts hotel, The Boheme features award-winning American cuisine in an atmosphere filled with art and music.
• Dux, Peabody Orlando: One of Orlando’s finest special occasion restaurants, with a menu that changes weekly to incorporate fresh seasonal ingredients.
• ** Victoria & Albert’s, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa: This AAA Five Diamond, Mobil Four-Star and Zagat Triple Crown restaurant features elegant, intimate dining in a romantic Victorian setting.
• *A Land Remembered, Rosen Shingle Creek: Named for the beloved Patrick Smith novel depicting life in the early settlements of Florida, this classic steakhouse specializes in Harris Ranch All Natural Prime Black Angus beef.
• B-Line Diner, Peabody Orlando: Take a seat at the counter and watch the cooks in action at one of the area’s few remaining diner-style restaurants, which features favorites from years gone by and creations for today’s trends, including a late night menu.
• Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbeque, five Orlando locations: Named one of America’s top barbeque restaurants by Zagat’s Restaurant Survey and publications like Southern Living and USA Today, Bubbalou’s specializes in baby back ribs and sliced and pulled pork.
• Sharks Underwater Grill, SeaWorld Orlando: Dine eye-to-eye with more than 50 sharks at SeaWorld’s upscale “Floribbean”-style restaurant, where entrees are prepared on oak-fired grills and in wood-burning ovens. Sharks also features a young adults menu with smaller portions for kids ages 10-15.
• Ocean Prime at the Rialto: One of the newest additions to “Restaurant Row,” this restaurant brings back the classic supper club dining tradition. Developed by restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, Ocean Prime features a large seafood menu, but also serves many other signature dishes from fresh fish and steak to hand-crafted cocktails and world-class wines.
• B.B. King’s Blues Club, Pointe Orlando: Good Southern eats and good Southern blues are always in order at this restaurant and nightclub named for rock ‘n’ rock and blues legend B.B. King, who at 82 still visits and plays to the delight of patrons. Standard fare includes Catfish Bites, the Jumbo Stuffed “Porktato,” an assortment of barbeque dishes, and ribs.
• Crooked Bayou, downtown Orlando: The lively barroom setting makes for an even more authentic New Orleans feel as patrons dine on seafood gumbo, overstuffed po-boys, and other spicy Creole fare.
• Emeril’s Orlando, Universal CityWalk: The TV chef’s legendary energy translates into his cuisine, unleashing bold flavors and unique blends in favorite New Orleans and Creole dishes such as Fried Green Tomatoes with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat.
• House of Blues, Downtown Disney West Side: The food is as edgy as the live entertainment, with dishes like Pan-Seared Voodoo Shrimp and other Southern staples like shrimp po-boys and jambalaya.
• Café Tu Tu Tango, International Drive: Orlando’s original tapas-style eatery, Tu Tu Tango envelopes diners in a cozy Spanish artist’s loft and offers a variety of internationally flavored appetizers “for the left side of your brain.”
Wine Bars and Lounges
• Bösendorfer Lounge, downtown Orlando: Located within downtown’s The Grand Bohemian Hotel, this upscale environment—adjacent to an art gallery—features an Imperial Grand Bösendorfer piano.
• Dessert Lady, downtown Orlando: Serving an assortment of artisanal cheeses, “wonderfully wicked” cakes and cheesecakes, as well as an extensive list of wines, ports, and creative coffee creations.
• Eola Wine Company, downtown Orlando: A popular downtown wine bar, Eola Wine Company features more than 70 wines by the glass and 30 microbrew and boutique beers as well as tapas, appetizers, and desserts.
Natural and Healthy
• Ethos Vegan Kitchen, Downtown Orlando: The restaurant’s daily menu is 100 percent vegan and features hearty, home-style traditional and intercontinental fare and a vegan bakery.