The Best Restaurants In Orlando guide image


The Best Restaurants In Orlando

Whether you’re a longtime local or just visiting, here’s where to have your next great meal.

If you have a hazy idea that the best Orlando dining happens at theme park restaurants, we need to talk. There are tons of great restaurants in Orlando, including trendy spots in the Milk District and Mills 50, and longtime staples that have fed locals and hoards of rabid conference-goers for years. Definitely check out Ivanhoe Village for nightlife and suburban Winter Park for a lazy afternoon at one of the many cafe tables under an umbrella facing Central Park.

This guide has all that and more, whether you’re looking for burger and barbecue joints that are perfect for the whole family, some excellent Cuban food, or top-notch seafood in a place that screams Old Florida. And if you’re here just for the theme parks, check out our guides to Disney World and Epcot.


Ava Mediterraegean

Ava Mediterraegean, with its arches, columns, and limestone, might remind you of that Mediterranean vacation you’ve been meaning to take, while the tableside preparations add a touch of drama. Beyond the daily fish and grilled halloumi, both served flambé, there's a Greek salad tossed before you and New Zealand lamb unveiled from a smoke-fogged glass dome. It’s all a bit over the top, but if you’re looking for a dinner spot that’s a little extra, this is where you’ll find it.

Kaya, a Filipino spot in Mills 50, is fine dining that’s not stuffy at all—it’s more like being at your friend’s apartment who happens to be a chef rather than a white-tablecloth affair with tuxedo-clad waiters. No one will give you the side eye here for wearing a T-shirt, but it is the type of place you need reservations for. Once you’re in, focus on the chef’s nightly menu: five courses that might include adobo with local mushrooms or fried fish sinigang in a clay pot whose lid, coated with tamarind miso paste, becomes the bowl. If you simply can’t be bothered to book ahead, they do reserve a couple tables for walk-ins where you can order a la carte. 

If you’re looking for a place you, your kids, your mother-in-law, and the entire extended family will like, go to this Winter Park gastropub. While you can get things like dry-aged steaks and lamb ravioli in the restaurant and taproom, we like the beer garden for something more casual and fun. The dog-friendly space usually has a food truck menu (think giant pretzels, smashburgers, and wings), Jenga and shuffleboard that will keep the kids occupied, and a long list of house-brewed beers on tap that can last you well into the afternoon.

There are other restaurants doing great omakase menus in Orlando, but Soseki is much more laid-back and personal than the others. Chefs share the story behind each of the 18 courses in the same way they might talk about their kids or gifted nephews. They also never repeat menu items, so you might eat chawanmushi with Cape Canaveral shrimp one day, and saba with battered kombu another. If you’re looking to try Soseki at a lower price point, their Saturday lunch offers a condensed tasting menu of six courses, plus seasonal Japanese-inspired sides.

Norman’s is the move for celebrating something like a double-digit anniversary. The spacious dining room at the Dellagio Town Center, with its shining brass bar and windows into the 4,000-bottle wine cellar, sends the message that you deeply treasure your SO (and you might even finally propose). The menu has fancy fusion dishes like french toast stuffed with foie gras and blue crab beignets with yuzu aioli, along with a worthwhile wine pairing that’ll get you access to some of the best stuff from their big selection.

Se7en Bites is our pick for the best brunch in the city. They serve both sweet and savory options until they close around 3pm, which means you can fulfill your tuna melt craving at 9am or eat a plate of hot cakes at 2pm. Pair whatever you pick with a peach lavender mimosa, and freshly baked oatmeal cream pie for dessert. If you can’t decide, go for their buttermilk fried chicken biscuit or one of their consistently good Southern specials like pimento cheese poutine. There’s usually a line out the door, but it moves quickly.

You definitely come to Otto’s, a rum bar in the Milk District, for the drinks. They have over 30 cocktails, and we love the liquid guava pastelito complete with mascarpone and a better-than-your-average rum and coke with homemade soda.

But while you’re here, you should also order some Cuban food off their short menu. They do a great ropa vieja that’s particularly cinnamon- and ancho pepper-forward, and a perfectly moist tres leches flecked with orange zest for dessert. You might even see them roast a pig on the patio, which they use in the medianoche, a sandwich that’s essentially the same as the cubano, except the bread is sweeter. It’s basically impossible to have a bad time here, especially if you sit at the bar and watch the energetic bartenders who are just really good at their jobs.

We highly recommend coming to this Japanese pub to unwind after a long day, especially if you spent an afternoon networking or avoiding people at a conference. They have 35 types of sake, plus fizzy highballs and bites that are way better than your typical bar food: delicious salty chicken skin yakitori skewers, scallop crudo, and grilled shoyu quail eggs. The huge space is always full of people chatting and snacking, and perfect for sharing small plates with friends or even a solo meal where you might make a new LinkedIn connection.

If you’ve ever been to a BBQ and thought, “why aren’t people putting pulled pork on other carbs besides buns?,” you’ll love this Mills 50 spot. They do things like pizzas with braised brisket, grape jelly BBQ sauce, and smoked mozzarella and cheddar melted all over. But there’s more to this pizza than just the toppings—the sourdough crust has a subtle tang with a pillowy and softer texture than your average pie. Enjoy each hefty slice with cacio e pepe fries and Pigzza’s riff on a whisky smash with pistachio orgeat, grapefruit, and tarragon. The best seats are by the window-lined garage doors, which open to let in the breeze.

Edoboy isn’t your regular date night spot. There’s a one-hour time limit, you’ll be standing the entire time, and there’s not a lot going on in the space besides the chefs blowtorching and slicing up raw fish. But that’s exactly why we like it, especially for an early in-the-game date where you’re still figuring each other out. You can select up to a dozen pieces—the Faroe Island salmon and butter-smooth bluefin fatty tuna are standouts—and each nigiri is served on a banana leaf. If you’re getting the hint this isn’t going to work out, at least you can finish your meal with the best miso soup you’ll ever have (the broth is made each morning from that day’s fish bones).

Sometimes, a burger is the only thing everyone can agree on for dinner, and that's when you should beeline it to this sports bar. There might be a game on TV, a live Bob Marley cover band, or a round of trivia going on, but it’s the long burger menu that keeps the place busy.

There are nearly unlimited options here, and some of them are quite weird—you can exchange buns for waffles and beignets and layer on toppings like chips, avocado slaw, ghost pepper cheese, and guava barbecue sauce. There’s also an underground menu that requires you to check their Facebook page for the password to give to your server. When you do, you’ll unlock around 10 additional burger options and can pretend you just won the toppings lottery.

The downstairs cafe of Antonio’s sort of reminds us of food halls in Italy. It’s an always-busy market setup where the tables are scattered among the merchandise, so you might end up seated by boxes of risotto or bottles of amarone as you share a spread of pizza and pasta. They’re open all day, so it works if you want a slab of lasagna for lunch, a stromboli for dinner, or a meatball sub at 3pm. Don’t leave their market without picking up some almond cookies from Tuscany or a ball of smoked scamorza from Puglia. They also have a restaurant upstairs that’s more formal, with steaks, martinis, and a full bar. 

This casual Mexican restaurant is an ideal family dinner spot where everyone can get what they want: an excellent spicy jalapeño margarita for you, and a simple quesadilla for your cousin who only eats things with cheese. The menu is overloaded with options, but we like coming here for a dinner of poblano rellenos with tequila bacon and the birria tacos with extra tender slow-braised brisket. Don’t let the strip mall exterior fool you—inside you’ll find a newly renovated dining space and an upscale, almost country club atmosphere. Agave Azul also happens to be 10 minutes away from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in case your colby jack-loving cousin wants to know.

In the morning and afternoon, The Monroe is a coffee shop, where college students study and corporate types grab lunch, and then turns into a cocktail lounge at night. They do excellent, upscale comfort food dishes that go heavy on nostalgia. Go for the pastrami corn dog as an appetizer, then double down on mains like steak frites or the fried chicken thigh sandwich and desserts like the ice-cream-topped brownie. When it’s not too swampy out, snag a spot out on the porch or patio.

If your wealthy but eccentric uncle had an antique store and a speakeasy in his 100-year-old mansion, it might look a bit like Mathers Social Gathering. Bartenders in suspenders whip up creative cocktails, there are sashaying burlesque dancers performing around the space, and everybody is snacking on plates of brie and manchego or pepperoni flatbread. Come here for a gin cocktail with lavender and honey served in a mini bathtub or a smoking oak decanter of bourbon with whiskey barrel bitters and green apple. They even have a general store in the corner of the room for the essentials, like candy cigarettes and absinthe.

This trattoria with candles, white tablecloths, and jazz music playing in the background is a top date night spot in Orlando. But despite all the typical sexy stuff, the real thing that makes this place shine is the freshly made pasta. Try the cannelloni, filled with just the right amount of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmigiano, or a plate of pappardelle allo scoglio that’s loaded with a generous portion of shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, and calamari. Save room for the citrusy panna cotta that’s drizzled with amarena cherry syrup.

This restaurant from Key West makes each night a party with not one but two Happy Hours: the first is from 3-6pm and there’s another for the late-night crowd from 11pm-1am. Bring a date or friends for drinks, cherry-hoisin glazed short ribs, and lemony chicken skewer tapas served in the dining room filled with surreal paintings—one of them is of a horse under a blue crescent moon. They also do a solid brunch that includes complimentary (yes, free) sangria and mimosas.

The fact that there’s often no lunchtime parking at Black Bean Deli is a testament to how good this Cuban food is. Circle a few times to snag a spot, and your reward will be some of the best pan con bistec, empanadas, frita burgers, and cortaditos you can find in town. The cubano is their specialty, but don't overlook the medianoche. This is more of a grab-and-go deli with limited seating indoors, although there are a few picnic tables out front.

When you step inside Lee & Rick’s after parking in front and realizing the facade is shaped like a ship, you’ll know you're in genuine Old Florida. Since opening in 1950, this nautically-themed restaurant has become an Orlando institution, and it’s reliable for a casual weeknight dinner. Find a spot at the 80-foot concrete bar and go to town on peel-and-eat shrimp, raw oysters fresh from the Gulf, and gator bites.

There are classic barbecue joints, and then there’s Pig Floyd’s. It’s probably the only place in town where you can find smoked brisket, ribs, and pulled pork on tostadas and bánh mìs, slathered in tikka masala sauce, piled onto yakisoba noodles, and portioned into bento boxes with spring rolls. And somehow, it all works. Come for a casual lunch or dinner, preferably on the large covered patio. 

Light on the Sugar has two locations in Winter Park, and you should go to the one on Orlando Avenue. It’s a chill space to meet a friend over a sakura latte or tiramisu float, and there’s always an available mini booth or a chair by the window. The pastry case is filled with crepe cakes and European classics like mille-feuille and macarons in flavors like lychee and ube. The best thing here is the crème brûlée cream puff, with a light, almost cheesy cream that somehow isn’t super heavy.

You can find everybody from firefighters and city officials to drag queens and DJs at this tiny, art-plastered teahouse. Go for the fusion sandwiches like Asian pulled pork and cranberry ginger chutney on the Fu Man Chu or brisket and blue cheese on the Billy Chang. Add on one of their mix-and-match loose-leaf teas, like chocolate rose and mint earl grey. If you need something stronger, they also serve sake cocktails—we like the Nigori with Vietnamese espresso, plum wine, and cardamom.

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photo credit: Carlos Amoedo

The Best Restaurants In Orlando guide image

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