Orlando’s best restaurants, from Cuban sandwich joints to classic steakhouses
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writers visited pre-pandemic.
Orlando once had a reputation as a burgers-and-fries kind of town, mainly for its 1970s theme park grub, but that misconception has been firmly laid to rest as some of the country’s most creative chefs have conspired with passionate foodies to crank the dining scene up to 11. Celebrity chefs are practically on a waiting list to join the fray, but it’s the local culinarians who really set the tone, and have made names for themselves in the process. While luxury restaurants do make their home here, the more humble eateries are truly among the best.
Chef Clay Miller, who honed his skills at California’s famous French Laundry and may just produce the best onion soup in Florida, brings classic French cooking to downtown Orlando in this posh but approachable brasserie. Located inside the high-rise Bank of American building, its towering avante garde painted walls create a gallery-like dining room that sets off the artistic nature of Miller’s plated creations. Go conservative with the juicy DC Burger or take a culinary plunge and order the mild, sweet fish, Florida Mahi Mahi, with white bean and octopus cassoulet, or the tomato-rich braised and stuffed squid.
Contact: 00 1 407 930 1700; dovecoteorlando.com Opening times: Mon-Fri, 11.30am-2.30pm and 5.30-9.30pm; Sat, 10.30am-10pm; Sun, 10.30am-2.30pm Reservations: Recommended Prices: ££ Best table: Cosy window alcoves feature a palm tree view and interesting people-watching
With recipes and techniques handed down through the generations, Southerners know their barbeque, and the crowd around the front door waiting for the ‘Hot Brisket Now’ sign to go on is a testament to 4Rivers’ exceptional mastery of the craft. Wafts of wood-fire surround the windowless, white brick building, with the promise of signature Angus brisket and smoky meats done more than a dozen ways. Dining here is a shared event, from the counter service queue to the long wooden tables, while stacked firewood along the dining room’s brick wall acts as a reminder this is an authentic smokehouse experience.
Contact: 00 1 844 474 8377; 4rsmokehouse.com Opening times: Mon-Thu, 11am-8pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-9pm Reservations: Walk-ins only Prices: £ Best table: Settle in at one of the communal tables and chat with the locals
Among the first chefs to source local, sustainable ingredients, James and Julie Petrakis are undoubtedly Orlando’s best known culinary team for taking simple, Floridian food and elevating it to edible art. Despite the name, this is no barbeque joint. Muted brown walls and white table linens lend a sophisticated note to Rollins College students’ and affluent Winter Park residents’ conversations over good wine and Gruyére biscuits. The menu changes often, but specialities include nutty porcini marinade-infused steak frites with earthy truffle fries, and garlicky pork porterhouse with corn pudding. Order Pig Tails cinnamon-sugar dough twists for dessert. They’re practically compulsory.
Contact: 00 1 407 628 2333; theravenouspig.com Opening times: Mon-Thu, 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5pm-11pm; Sun, 10.30am-3pm, 5pm-9pm Reservations: Recommended Prices: ££ Best table: Raised banquettes along one wall provide a lofty view of the dining room
You don’t have to visit Miami or Tampa to get an authentic Cuban sandwich. Hispanic cuisine is firmly to the fore in Orlando, and this former petrol station turned deli in the up-and-coming Mills 50 District looks humble, but don’t let that fool you. A small dining room with cinderblock walls is fitted out with industrial-style white tile, metal framework and light wood for a bright, Floridian look, but the food is authentically Latin American. Weekly patrons come in just for the garlicky Spanish baked chicken with spicy black beans and rice, and even meat-eaters can’t resist the vegan empanadas.
Contact: 00 1 407 203 0922; blackbeandeli.com Opening times: Mon-Thu, 7am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 7am-10pm; Sun, 9am-4pm Reservations: Walk-ins only Prices: £ Best table: Grab a barstool at the counter, or, if the weather cooperates, join the regulars on the outdoor patio
The Dog’s ultra-casual dining areas, with mismatched furniture covered in patrons’ autographs, looks as if a family-home-turned-grocery-store decided to feed the masses, which is exactly what happened here. Cooks take the least likely combination of ingredients, pile them high on a robust bun, give it a hipster name, and voilá!: a two-handed sandwich masterpiece. Creative assemblages like the popular Kitty Kat, made with Asian marinated albacore tuna, sun-dried cranberries, smoked gouda, caramelised onions, sunflower sprouts and orange Cointreau mayo, plus a good selection of vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, make this the hot-spot the locals try to keep secret.
Contact: 00 1 407 296 0609; yellowdogeats.com Opening times: Sun-Wed, 11am-9pm; Thu-Sat, 11am-10pm Reservations: Walk-ins only Prices: £ Best table: Choose the landscaped outdoor gathering area for a convivial evening, or head upstairs to the quiet first floor if it’s date night
Named after Patrick Smith’s best-selling novel honouring Florida’s pioneer history and ‘cracker’ cowboy culture, this steakhouse is tucked away in the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort’s golf clubhouse. Dark wood, sound-absorbing soft furnishings and subdued lamppost-style lighting create an intimate atmosphere, while the who’s who of the city tuck into perfectly seared Black Angus beef raised on resort owner Harris Rosen’s ranch. An enormous 20-ounce bone-in ribeye steak, practically fork-tender, is a relatively rare offering, even in oversized-portions Orlando. With all accompaniments and steak toppings extra, though, the price point is distinctly splash-out.
Contact: 00 1 407 996 3663; landrememberedrestaurant.com Opening times: Daily, 5.30pm-10pm Reservations: Recommended Prices: £££ Best table: Request banquette seating just inside the entry, to see and be seen
Located in the area known as ‘Little Vietnam’ for the thousands of war refugees who settled here in the 1970s, this is the grandfather of Vietnamese eateries. A pop of blue from the centrepiece aquarium adds a calming glow against the red table linens in the otherwise minimalist dining room, which would seem cavernous if not for the convivial, slurping buzz at peak times. With more than 100 items on the menu, you’re spoilt for choice, but the noodle bowls are really where it’s at. Choose from beef, vegetable, chicken or crab; every one is a guaranteed winner.
If Hollywood’s Rat Pack were still around, their martini-swigging hangout would be this swanky venue in trendy Dr Phillips. Frank Sinatra’s crooning ballads provide the backdrop to this swish neighbourhood eatery, where half-moon booths, subdued lighting and funky, retro fittings harken back to the 1940s. Start with a hand-crafted cocktail and a shared skillet of steaming Northeast Atlantic Coast mussels; move on to briny nouillabaisse Provencal or fall-off-the-bone, slow braised pork shank; then cap the evening off with a Gin Rickey or French 75, in true nostalgic style.
Contact:00 1 407 872 2640; urbain40.com Opening times: Sun-Thu, 11am-3pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-3pm, 5pm-11pm Reservations: Recommended Prices: £££ Best table: Join the in-crowd and request a cushy banquette in the lounge
Catering to just six to 10 tables per night, this exclusive experience is not only prized locally, it is among the best dining experiences in the country. Deep walnut detailing and eclectic stained glass in golds and browns create a luxurious ambiance for diners who score the most sought-after reservation in Winter Garden. Innovative selections such as red wine-rested filet mignon with creamy bone-marrow whipped potatoes ensure Orlando’s food-lovers visit often, as the three-course prix fixe menu changes seasonally. An elegant panelled glass divider affords a view into the kitchen, and the evening’s chef visits each table personally.
Contact: 00 1 407 230 4837; chefstableattheedgewater.com Opening times: Mon-Thu, 5.30pm-9pm; Fri-Sat, 5.30pm-9.30pm; Sun, 4pm-9pm Reservations: Essential Prices: £££ Best table: Request a table near the kitchen and watch the culinary team prepare dinner
Owners Chelsie and Jamie Savage call it “the most badass plant-based restaurant Orlando has ever seen,” and they probably aren’t wrong. Health-conscious is taken to a new level in clean-eating creations prepared as nature intended. Two compact dining rooms combine reclaimed wood and repurposed metal for a stark, industrial setting, but you’re not here for the décor, you’re here for the food. Each dish is a visual delight, fresh from local farms and vendors. While all items are vegetarian and vegan friendly, tempe-walnut non-meat ‘Meetballs’ offer the merest nod toward carnivores. And who says sushi can’t be made with sweet potatoes?
Contact: 00 1 407 757 0346; thesanctumcafe.com Opening times: Mon-Sat, 8am-10pm; Sunday brunch, 9am-4pm Reservations: Only for parties of five or more; otherwise first come, first served Prices: £
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