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buttermilk waffles with whip cream.
Buttermilk waffles from the Monroe.
The Monroe

The 28 Best Restaurants in Orlando

The tried and true staples of Orlando’s culinary scene

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Buttermilk waffles from the Monroe.
| The Monroe

The Eater 28 presents a curated list of Orlando’s most essential restaurants spanning diverse cuisines and neighborhoods. More importantly, it answers the oft-heard question “Where should I eat in Orlando?” The following restaurants (organized in geographical order) are reflective of all Orlando has to offer – legacy establishments with loyal followings, chef-run boîtes and bistros, and restaurants that lend the city’s dining landscape some distinction.

Every year, this list is re-evaluated by adding and dropping restaurants to ensure the map is current (Eater 28 venues have to be open for at least one year before they merit inclusion). Removal from the Eater 28 doesn’t mean a restaurant isn’t worthy and won’t return in the future.

Added in July 2022: Deli Desires, Camille, The Monroe, and Soseki Modern Omakse. To make room, we say goodbye (for now) to Sushipop, Orlando Meats, Seito Sushi, and Morimoto Asia.

Looking for the fresh faces on our ever-evolving restaurant scene? Find them on the Heatmap.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1921 Mount Dora

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The restaurant has gone through numerous chefs in its five-year lifespan, each exhibiting a fierce commitment to Florida ingredients. But its latest, Chris Edwards, employs them in ways his predecessors never did: quail with a confit of Athena melon and brebis from Blackberry Farms; peach and green tomato pizza with blue crab and bacon lardons; and braised rabbit thigh with Charleston Gold Rice risotto, just to name a few. A studied cocktail program, solid weekend brunch, and stunning modernist interior cement 1921’s cred as the one of the best restaurants in all Central Florida.

Kai Asian Street Fare

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Just one in a string of joints to offer street eats with a pan-Asian bent, Kai has been luring them in with the sticky crunch of Korean-style chicken wings, Vietnamese garlic noodles and other standbys. But it’s their ambitious daily specials that get foodie folk stoked to make the drive out to the Casselberry border – spicy tantanmen ramen, duck shoyu ramen, cumin lamb with hand-pulled noodles, uni pasta with truffles and on it goes. Owners Quan Van and Isra Sunhachawi traveled all over Asia prior to perfecting their recipes, and the adherence to tradition shows.

Luke's Kitchen and Bar

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Executive chef Jason Campbell, one of the city’s brightest talents, has dazzled ever since coming on to lead the kitchen at Brandon McGlamery and Tim Noelke’s inviting Maitland restaurant. There’s a slight seafood bent to the menu with crispy octopus lettuce wraps and redfish with corn puree being popular choices, but there’s plenty of creative seasonal fare for landlubbers as well. Pastry chef Andre Block’s creations, like the chocolate and banana amaranth praline, test the dessert boundaries. An expanded outdoor area is popular during weekend brunch.

Brandon McGlamery’s Park Avenue mainstay spotlights Italy’s dynamic duo of carbs – pizza (fired in imported, wood-burning Acunto ovens) and pasta (rolled and shaped in-house). The menu, naturally, is seasonally directed and combines McGlamery’s love for wood-fired foods and pasta, like oak-roasted duck breast and rustic whole branzino. Pizzas are some of the best in Winter Park, while pasta offerings (think lamb pansotti and sunchose casarecce) change constantly.

Hunger Street Tacos

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As sons of missionaries in Guadalajara, Joe and David Creech appreciated the intricacies and nuances of Mexican cuisine at a very early age, and that appreciation blossomed during the pandemic when they began making tortillas from scratch using imported blue Oaxacan corn. The result: tacos and quesadillas of the highest order, stuffed with items like veal cheeks or chorizo and potato. But their birria “machete” – a giant tortilla rolled in a spicy beef stew – not only speaks to the Creech’s Jaliscan roots but set the town ablaze (in a good way). Douse the fire with prickly pear margaritas and white wine sangrias, both available by the quart or gallon.

The Ravenous Pig

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The restaurant that put the city on the culinary map hasn’t let up one bit. Bringing former Dovecote Brasserie chef Clay Miller into the fold has only bolstered the Pig’s rep as one of the finest dining establishments in the city. The menu impresses with its creatively unpretentious bill of Southern fare incorporating uniquely Floridian ingredients. Owners James and Julie Petrakis used the pandemic as an opportunity to create a beer garden adjacent to the restaurant serving brews from the Ravenous Pig Brewing Co. next door. It’s a family-friendly (and pet-friendly) space to guzzle, play games, or watch a film on the outdoor screen.

Soseki Modern Omakase

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Serving high-end, globally inspired and seasonally driven omakases is what this cozy 10-seater by Taglish chef/owner Mike Collantes is all about. Collantes and his focused group of culinarians show a dedication to local sourcing and a predilection to tweezing in presenting their impeccable and artistically plated dishes. Omakases run $225 and don’t include beverage pairings ($80 extra). 

Kadence

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Kadence became one of the city’s best restaurants the moment it opened back in 2017, and five years on, the eight-seat sushi and sake bar inside an all-black edifice still offers one of the best dining experiences in the city with its intimate omakases. While Lordfer Lalicon, one of the restaurant’s founders, left to focus energies on the soon-to-open Filipino restaurant Kaya in Mills 50, co-founder Mark Berdin and Jennifer Banagale, along with a dedicated team of cooks and servers, continue to serve impeccably presented multicourse meals. The sake program is second to none.

Camille

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Offering one of the best tasting experiences in the city, Camille delivers an astounding seven-course, seasonal menu of modern French-Vietnamese cuisine at an eight-seat bar on the second floor of East End Market for a reasonable $125. Chef Tung Phan will move the concept to a permanent space in Baldwin Park later this year and offer tiered pricing depending on the number of courses. Expect a beverage program in keeping with remarkable fare.

The Osprey

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When the Osprey Tavern, a centerpiece in the city’s restaurant scene, changed concepts mid-pandemic into a seafood restaurant, locals took notice. In fact, a seafood restaurant is precisely what owners Jason and Sue Chin had in mind prior to opening Osprey Tavern in 2015, so better late than never. With ex-Luma luminary Michael Cooper at the helm, the restaurant is now locally focused, with dishes like Pompano Beach swordfish, Florida Bluehouse salmon, or Cedar Key clam chowder. The cocktail program, overseen by the experienced Janet Katz, shines.

Taste of Chengdu

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Through all the pre- and post-pandemic turmoil, chef Xiong “Tiger” Tang, a skilled perfectionist with a commanding kitchen presence, continued to churn out some of the most impeccable and wickedly peppery Sichuan fare anywhere in the Sunshine State: Chongqing-style hotpots, braised fish filet in spicy chili oil, tongue-numbing Laziji chicken, and many more electrifying choices for the capsicum-deprived. While Tang and restaurant partner Paula Ahn tweak the concept of the Baldwin Park location (think tasting menus), the original West Colonial Drive location has reopened to the delight of many.

Black Rooster Taqueria

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John and Juliana Calloway met in L.A. opening restaurants for renowned chef/restaurateur Richard Sandoval, so no surprise that the taqueria they opened here in Juliana’s hometown took on an unmistakable SoCal vibe. BRT has shades of Trejo’s Tacos and Ray Garcia’s B.S. Taqueria, but it’s the made on-site corn tortillas, enveloping everything from smoked lengua to pork fat to Angus brisket, that really impresses. Pozole verde and beef achiote bowls shouldn’t be overlooked either. The Curry Ford West location also serves brunch.

Reyes Mezcaleria

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Chef Wendy Lopez commands the kitchen of this NoDo stalwart by restaurateurs Jason and Sue Chin (The Osprey, Seito Sushi Baldwin Park, The Monroe) giving representation to Mexico’s regional gastronomic riches, including charred octopus with squid ink chimichurri and duck enchiladas from her native Michoacán. Lopez’s tequila-cured arctic char with pineapple aguachile is a mesmerizing (and fun) north-meets-south take. The gorgeous interior design inspired by Tulum and Quintana Roo compels guests to sample one of the 150 agave-based spirits in various cocktails. Enjoy with a bowl of chapulines (tiny fried grasshoppers seasoned with tamarind, chilies, and spices) for an inimitable arthropodic crunch.

The Strand

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The Mills 50 fixture embodies the sort of casual urbanity and close-quartered seating that fosters lingering and getting social. Folks get cozy over chef/owners Joe and Alda Rees’ pretense-free dishes highlighting local ingredients. Think dishes like snapper cakes, saffron-crusted grouper, and poached Gulf shrimp with tomato chow chow. The buttermilk chicken and steak frites are classic standbys begging to be paired with a bottle from their focused, boutique selection.

Tori Tori

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Yes, it’s technically a bar, but it’s a bar that just so happens to serve some of the best Japanese pub grub around. There are bites like whole binchotan-grilled Japanese flying squid and blue crab and corn croquettes that dazzle. But it’s with the yakitori where Tori Tori’s kitchen really struts its stuff. Chicken skin tare and chicken oyster can’t possibly be done any better than it is here, and lamb karubi lollipops offer a red meat alternative to prime-grade beef from Revier Cattle Co. Plus, there’s a killer okonomiyaki for purists and some creative cocktails for the bibulous.

Deli Desires

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Bialys, not bagels, are the focus at this Colonialtown breakfast and lunch spot run by Hannah Jaffe and Nathan Sloan. The pair worked for some big names in L.A. — Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), Michael Voltaggio (ink), and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Son of a Gun) — so no surprise their humble little deli draws major buzz. Bialys come in caramelized onion or smoked jalapeno and muenster varieties with fillings ranging from gravlax to labneh to scrapple (this is not a kosher deli). The corned beef “big mac” layered with lettuce, American cheese, pickles, onions, and special sauce served on a sesame bun explains the lines Deli Desires often draws.

Kabooki Sushi (Multiple locations)

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From humble beginnings helping his parents run two restaurants at the age of 15, to opening Kabooki Sushi at the age of 22 and becoming one of Orlando’s most creative sushi chefs, says a lot about the drive and passion of Henry Moso. His extravagant omakases are legendary and the ingredients he sources from local waters and those in the Pacific are unparalleled. After opening a second Kabooki Sushi in Dr. Phillips, Moso expanded and completely renovated the original restaurant on E. Colonial Drive, including the creation of a swank lounge complete with private dining space.

Z Asian - Vietnamese Kitchen

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Z is a relative newbie in a sea of old Vietnamese standbys, but what husband-and-wife team Hien Pham and Huong Nguyen bring to their Colonial Drive restaurant is a focused menu with dishes amplifying the clean flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. Soups, be it marinated duck noodle, pho with bone marrow, or anchovy-based seafood bun mam, are stellar. The street food menu with such items as banh beo (steamed rice flour cakes), banh khọt (stuffed pancake-like tarts), and bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves) not only made Vietnamese fare trendy once again, but positioned the restaurant at the very top of Vietnamese joints in the city. Bonus: many of these dishes are offered as vegan options.

The Monroe

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The latest by restaurateurs Jason and Sue Chin (Seito Sushi Baldwin Park, The Osprey, Reyes Mezcaleria) may very well be their most fetching, but so is the menu of modern comfort fare. Dishes straddle the line between approachable and sophisticated – pastrami-spiced corn dogs and jerk-spiced chicken hearts served on skewers with grilled pineapple for example. The cocktail program is top-notch and the gorgeous mid-mod space a la Florida practically begs patrons to linger.

Maxine's On Shine

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A neighborhood restaurant in every sense, Maxine’s has been entertaining guests since 2012 thanks to the antics of owner/slam poet Kirt Earhart and his animal-print-loving chanteuse of a wife Maxine. Both gleefully work the room (which looks more like a boudoir) making sure each and every one of their guests are having as much fun as they are. The menu is about as eclectic as the clientele with everything from escargots en croute to cioppino to skillet lasagna offered. The parking lot has been converted to an outdoor seating area featuring private covered cabanas with fans, plants, and mosquito netting.

Nikki's Place Southern Cuisine

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There are restaurant institutions and then there’s Nikki’s Place. The Parramore stalwart has been plating meat-and-threes through 70-plus years of systematic segregation and residential displacement and always doing so with class and dignity. Fronted by 79-year-old Nick Aiken, his wife Inez, and daughter Nikki, the restaurant has established itself as a gathering ground for the community and has hosted a who’s-who of African American icons, politicians and civil rights leaders since 1949. That Aiken’s brand of soul food is incomparable cements Nikki’s as the go-to place for Southern fare, be it smothered anything (oxtails, pigtails) to fried chicken to meatloaf. Best of all, meals can be made from stellar sides alone.

Pizza Bruno

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Bruno Zacchini got this city excited for neo Neapolitan-style pizzas as pie hounds lost their minds over the intriguing topping selection at the cozy Curry Ford West pie house. Zacchini’s starter dough undergoes a 48-hour ferment before being pulled, tossed, topped, and fired at 1000 degrees, resulting in a charred and flavorful crust. And while the pandemic forced Zacchini to place expansion plans on hold, he announced a second Pizza Bruno will open in College Park later this year.

Tabla Indian Restaurant (Multiple locations)

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Tabla has the potential to be Orlando’s very own Gymkhana, Brigadiers, or Junoon thanks to chef Sajan Prem and owner Nora Jain’s focus on elevated Desi fare. But it’s in the specials where Prem’s cooking really shines. Soft-shell crab pakoras, Keralan-style mussels, or luscious paya served with lachha paratha aren’t found in very many Indian restaurants in the city. Plush lamb chops and a redolent palak ghosht have been known to induce head wobbling.

Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

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Ermias Hailab and Abeba Gonetse introduced many in this town to fare from the “Cradle of Humanity” when they opened Nile in 2006. Now, 16 years later, tourists and locals alike come to scoop boldly spiced stews and meats with spongy, tangy injera from communal plates inside Nile’s cozy digs. The post-meal coffee ceremony alone is worth braving the I-Drive traffic for.

Knife & Spoon

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No one ages beef the way chef John Tesar does. His Dallas restaurant, Knife, is widely considered to be one of the best steakhouses in the country and its sister chophouse, situated inside the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, has attracted steak-lovers for the exceptional prime cuts dry-aged inside a $70,000 meat locker. Of note is the 240-day aged bone-in ribeye. It’s as funky as it is life changing. Tapping fellow Top Chef alum Gerald Sombright as chef de cuisine certainly lends the restaurant additional cred.

Ravello

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Executive chef Fabrizio Schenardi oversees all the restaurants at the Four Seasons Resort, but Ravello with its modern Italian flair, is one nearest and dearest to his heart. Dishes veer in the direction of Schenardi’s native Piemonte (he was born in Rivoli), with the veal-stuffed ravioli, duck breast with glazed chestnut, and pan-seared trout with Arneis wine sauce being the restaurant’s most-loved items. Alba white truffles make a customary appearance during the season, while Rabii Saber, the James Beard-nominated pastry chef, ensures a worthy ending will be had.

Manga paraphernalia and a décor steeped in 1950s Japanese nostalgia festoon this “retro-themed izakaya,” but even all the eye candy can’t distract from some of the best yakitori found in the city, the chicken thigh and skin in particular. Binchotan coals are also employed for the grilled hamachi collar, mackerel, and yuzu street corn, but to pass on the takoyaki as well as the rarely found tori paitan, featuring a 24-hour chicken broth reduced to a rich, creamy, tonkotsu-like consistency, could draw the ire of Godzilla. The soon-to-open Susuru Juju will offer much of the same, as well as a kappo bar, to Colonialtown.

Jaleo by José Andrés

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Jose Andres’ paean to traditional and postmodern Spanish gastronomy re-established itself as one of the finest restaurants in Disney Springs post-pandemic, and one that many a local have gladly ventured to despite the location. The restaurant behemoth highlights the regional diversity of Spain with plenty paellas and copious amounts of jamón ibérico de bellota to go around. As a bonus, the first brick-and-mortar location of Pepe, his popular D.C. food truck, is situated next door for those needing a quick bocata on the go.

1921 Mount Dora

The restaurant has gone through numerous chefs in its five-year lifespan, each exhibiting a fierce commitment to Florida ingredients. But its latest, Chris Edwards, employs them in ways his predecessors never did: quail with a confit of Athena melon and brebis from Blackberry Farms; peach and green tomato pizza with blue crab and bacon lardons; and braised rabbit thigh with Charleston Gold Rice risotto, just to name a few. A studied cocktail program, solid weekend brunch, and stunning modernist interior cement 1921’s cred as the one of the best restaurants in all Central Florida.

Kai Asian Street Fare

Just one in a string of joints to offer street eats with a pan-Asian bent, Kai has been luring them in with the sticky crunch of Korean-style chicken wings, Vietnamese garlic noodles and other standbys. But it’s their ambitious daily specials that get foodie folk stoked to make the drive out to the Casselberry border – spicy tantanmen ramen, duck shoyu ramen, cumin lamb with hand-pulled noodles, uni pasta with truffles and on it goes. Owners Quan Van and Isra Sunhachawi traveled all over Asia prior to perfecting their recipes, and the adherence to tradition shows.

Luke's Kitchen and Bar

Executive chef Jason Campbell, one of the city’s brightest talents, has dazzled ever since coming on to lead the kitchen at Brandon McGlamery and Tim Noelke’s inviting Maitland restaurant. There’s a slight seafood bent to the menu with crispy octopus lettuce wraps and redfish with corn puree being popular choices, but there’s plenty of creative seasonal fare for landlubbers as well. Pastry chef Andre Block’s creations, like the chocolate and banana amaranth praline, test the dessert boundaries. An expanded outdoor area is popular during weekend brunch.

Prato

Brandon McGlamery’s Park Avenue mainstay spotlights Italy’s dynamic duo of carbs – pizza (fired in imported, wood-burning Acunto ovens) and pasta (rolled and shaped in-house). The menu, naturally, is seasonally directed and combines McGlamery’s love for wood-fired foods and pasta, like oak-roasted duck breast and rustic whole branzino. Pizzas are some of the best in Winter Park, while pasta offerings (think lamb pansotti and sunchose casarecce) change constantly.

Hunger Street Tacos

As sons of missionaries in Guadalajara, Joe and David Creech appreciated the intricacies and nuances of Mexican cuisine at a very early age, and that appreciation blossomed during the pandemic when they began making tortillas from scratch using imported blue Oaxacan corn. The result: tacos and quesadillas of the highest order, stuffed with items like veal cheeks or chorizo and potato. But their birria “machete” – a giant tortilla rolled in a spicy beef stew – not only speaks to the Creech’s Jaliscan roots but set the town ablaze (in a good way). Douse the fire with prickly pear margaritas and white wine sangrias, both available by the quart or gallon.

The Ravenous Pig

The restaurant that put the city on the culinary map hasn’t let up one bit. Bringing former Dovecote Brasserie chef Clay Miller into the fold has only bolstered the Pig’s rep as one of the finest dining establishments in the city. The menu impresses with its creatively unpretentious bill of Southern fare incorporating uniquely Floridian ingredients. Owners James and Julie Petrakis used the pandemic as an opportunity to create a beer garden adjacent to the restaurant serving brews from the Ravenous Pig Brewing Co. next door. It’s a family-friendly (and pet-friendly) space to guzzle, play games, or watch a film on the outdoor screen.

Soseki Modern Omakase

Serving high-end, globally inspired and seasonally driven omakases is what this cozy 10-seater by Taglish chef/owner Mike Collantes is all about. Collantes and his focused group of culinarians show a dedication to local sourcing and a predilection to tweezing in presenting their impeccable and artistically plated dishes. Omakases run $225 and don’t include beverage pairings ($80 extra). 

Kadence

Kadence became one of the city’s best restaurants the moment it opened back in 2017, and five years on, the eight-seat sushi and sake bar inside an all-black edifice still offers one of the best dining experiences in the city with its intimate omakases. While Lordfer Lalicon, one of the restaurant’s founders, left to focus energies on the soon-to-open Filipino restaurant Kaya in Mills 50, co-founder Mark Berdin and Jennifer Banagale, along with a dedicated team of cooks and servers, continue to serve impeccably presented multicourse meals. The sake program is second to none.

Camille

Offering one of the best tasting experiences in the city, Camille delivers an astounding seven-course, seasonal menu of modern French-Vietnamese cuisine at an eight-seat bar on the second floor of East End Market for a reasonable $125. Chef Tung Phan will move the concept to a permanent space in Baldwin Park later this year and offer tiered pricing depending on the number of courses. Expect a beverage program in keeping with remarkable fare.

The Osprey

When the Osprey Tavern, a centerpiece in the city’s restaurant scene, changed concepts mid-pandemic into a seafood restaurant, locals took notice. In fact, a seafood restaurant is precisely what owners Jason and Sue Chin had in mind prior to opening Osprey Tavern in 2015, so better late than never. With ex-Luma luminary Michael Cooper at the helm, the restaurant is now locally focused, with dishes like Pompano Beach swordfish, Florida Bluehouse salmon, or Cedar Key clam chowder. The cocktail program, overseen by the experienced Janet Katz, shines.

Taste of Chengdu

Through all the pre- and post-pandemic turmoil, chef Xiong “Tiger” Tang, a skilled perfectionist with a commanding kitchen presence, continued to churn out some of the most impeccable and wickedly peppery Sichuan fare anywhere in the Sunshine State: Chongqing-style hotpots, braised fish filet in spicy chili oil, tongue-numbing Laziji chicken, and many more electrifying choices for the capsicum-deprived. While Tang and restaurant partner Paula Ahn tweak the concept of the Baldwin Park location (think tasting menus), the original West Colonial Drive location has reopened to the delight of many.

Black Rooster Taqueria

John and Juliana Calloway met in L.A. opening restaurants for renowned chef/restaurateur Richard Sandoval, so no surprise that the taqueria they opened here in Juliana’s hometown took on an unmistakable SoCal vibe. BRT has shades of Trejo’s Tacos and Ray Garcia’s B.S. Taqueria, but it’s the made on-site corn tortillas, enveloping everything from smoked lengua to pork fat to Angus brisket, that really impresses. Pozole verde and beef achiote bowls shouldn’t be overlooked either. The Curry Ford West location also serves brunch.

Reyes Mezcaleria

Chef Wendy Lopez commands the kitchen of this NoDo stalwart by restaurateurs Jason and Sue Chin (The Osprey, Seito Sushi Baldwin Park, The Monroe) giving representation to Mexico’s regional gastronomic riches, including charred octopus with squid ink chimichurri and duck enchiladas from her native Michoacán. Lopez’s tequila-cured arctic char with pineapple aguachile is a mesmerizing (and fun) north-meets-south take. The gorgeous interior design inspired by Tulum and Quintana Roo compels guests to sample one of the 150 agave-based spirits in various cocktails. Enjoy with a bowl of chapulines (tiny fried grasshoppers seasoned with tamarind, chilies, and spices) for an inimitable arthropodic crunch.

The Strand

The Mills 50 fixture embodies the sort of casual urbanity and close-quartered seating that fosters lingering and getting social. Folks get cozy over chef/owners Joe and Alda Rees’ pretense-free dishes highlighting local ingredients. Think dishes like snapper cakes, saffron-crusted grouper, and poached Gulf shrimp with tomato chow chow. The buttermilk chicken and steak frites are classic standbys begging to be paired with a bottle from their focused, boutique selection.

Tori Tori

Yes, it’s technically a bar, but it’s a bar that just so happens to serve some of the best Japanese pub grub around. There are bites like whole binchotan-grilled Japanese flying squid and blue crab and corn croquettes that dazzle. But it’s with the yakitori where Tori Tori’s kitchen really struts its stuff. Chicken skin tare and chicken oyster can’t possibly be done any better than it is here, and lamb karubi lollipops offer a red meat alternative to prime-grade beef from Revier Cattle Co. Plus, there’s a killer okonomiyaki for purists and some creative cocktails for the bibulous.

Related Maps

Deli Desires

Bialys, not bagels, are the focus at this Colonialtown breakfast and lunch spot run by Hannah Jaffe and Nathan Sloan. The pair worked for some big names in L.A. — Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), Michael Voltaggio (ink), and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Son of a Gun) — so no surprise their humble little deli draws major buzz. Bialys come in caramelized onion or smoked jalapeno and muenster varieties with fillings ranging from gravlax to labneh to scrapple (this is not a kosher deli). The corned beef “big mac” layered with lettuce, American cheese, pickles, onions, and special sauce served on a sesame bun explains the lines Deli Desires often draws.

Kabooki Sushi (Multiple locations)

From humble beginnings helping his parents run two restaurants at the age of 15, to opening Kabooki Sushi at the age of 22 and becoming one of Orlando’s most creative sushi chefs, says a lot about the drive and passion of Henry Moso. His extravagant omakases are legendary and the ingredients he sources from local waters and those in the Pacific are unparalleled. After opening a second Kabooki Sushi in Dr. Phillips, Moso expanded and completely renovated the original restaurant on E. Colonial Drive, including the creation of a swank lounge complete with private dining space.

Z Asian - Vietnamese Kitchen

Z is a relative newbie in a sea of old Vietnamese standbys, but what husband-and-wife team Hien Pham and Huong Nguyen bring to their Colonial Drive restaurant is a focused menu with dishes amplifying the clean flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. Soups, be it marinated duck noodle, pho with bone marrow, or anchovy-based seafood bun mam, are stellar. The street food menu with such items as banh beo (steamed rice flour cakes), banh khọt (stuffed pancake-like tarts), and bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves) not only made Vietnamese fare trendy once again, but positioned the restaurant at the very top of Vietnamese joints in the city. Bonus: many of these dishes are offered as vegan options.

The Monroe

The latest by restaurateurs Jason and Sue Chin (Seito Sushi Baldwin Park, The Osprey, Reyes Mezcaleria) may very well be their most fetching, but so is the menu of modern comfort fare. Dishes straddle the line between approachable and sophisticated – pastrami-spiced corn dogs and jerk-spiced chicken hearts served on skewers with grilled pineapple for example. The cocktail program is top-notch and the gorgeous mid-mod space a la Florida practically begs patrons to linger.

Maxine's On Shine

A neighborhood restaurant in every sense, Maxine’s has been entertaining guests since 2012 thanks to the antics of owner/slam poet Kirt Earhart and his animal-print-loving chanteuse of a wife Maxine. Both gleefully work the room (which looks more like a boudoir) making sure each and every one of their guests are having as much fun as they are. The menu is about as eclectic as the clientele with everything from escargots en croute to cioppino to skillet lasagna offered. The parking lot has been converted to an outdoor seating area featuring private covered cabanas with fans, plants, and mosquito netting.

Nikki's Place Southern Cuisine

There are restaurant institutions and then there’s Nikki’s Place. The Parramore stalwart has been plating meat-and-threes through 70-plus years of systematic segregation and residential displacement and always doing so with class and dignity. Fronted by 79-year-old Nick Aiken, his wife Inez, and daughter Nikki, the restaurant has established itself as a gathering ground for the community and has hosted a who’s-who of African American icons, politicians and civil rights leaders since 1949. That Aiken’s brand of soul food is incomparable cements Nikki’s as the go-to place for Southern fare, be it smothered anything (oxtails, pigtails) to fried chicken to meatloaf. Best of all, meals can be made from stellar sides alone.

Pizza Bruno

Bruno Zacchini got this city excited for neo Neapolitan-style pizzas as pie hounds lost their minds over the intriguing topping selection at the cozy Curry Ford West pie house. Zacchini’s starter dough undergoes a 48-hour ferment before being pulled, tossed, topped, and fired at 1000 degrees, resulting in a charred and flavorful crust. And while the pandemic forced Zacchini to place expansion plans on hold, he announced a second Pizza Bruno will open in College Park later this year.

Tabla Indian Restaurant (Multiple locations)

Tabla has the potential to be Orlando’s very own Gymkhana, Brigadiers, or Junoon thanks to chef Sajan Prem and owner Nora Jain’s focus on elevated Desi fare. But it’s in the specials where Prem’s cooking really shines. Soft-shell crab pakoras, Keralan-style mussels, or luscious paya served with lachha paratha aren’t found in very many Indian restaurants in the city. Plush lamb chops and a redolent palak ghosht have been known to induce head wobbling.

Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

Ermias Hailab and Abeba Gonetse introduced many in this town to fare from the “Cradle of Humanity” when they opened Nile in 2006. Now, 16 years later, tourists and locals alike come to scoop boldly spiced stews and meats with spongy, tangy injera from communal plates inside Nile’s cozy digs. The post-meal coffee ceremony alone is worth braving the I-Drive traffic for.

Knife & Spoon

No one ages beef the way chef John Tesar does. His Dallas restaurant, Knife, is widely considered to be one of the best steakhouses in the country and its sister chophouse, situated inside the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, has attracted steak-lovers for the exceptional prime cuts dry-aged inside a $70,000 meat locker. Of note is the 240-day aged bone-in ribeye. It’s as funky as it is life changing. Tapping fellow Top Chef alum Gerald Sombright as chef de cuisine certainly lends the restaurant additional cred.

Ravello

Executive chef Fabrizio Schenardi oversees all the restaurants at the Four Seasons Resort, but Ravello with its modern Italian flair, is one nearest and dearest to his heart. Dishes veer in the direction of Schenardi’s native Piemonte (he was born in Rivoli), with the veal-stuffed ravioli, duck breast with glazed chestnut, and pan-seared trout with Arneis wine sauce being the restaurant’s most-loved items. Alba white truffles make a customary appearance during the season, while Rabii Saber, the James Beard-nominated pastry chef, ensures a worthy ending will be had.

Susuru

Manga paraphernalia and a décor steeped in 1950s Japanese nostalgia festoon this “retro-themed izakaya,” but even all the eye candy can’t distract from some of the best yakitori found in the city, the chicken thigh and skin in particular. Binchotan coals are also employed for the grilled hamachi collar, mackerel, and yuzu street corn, but to pass on the takoyaki as well as the rarely found tori paitan, featuring a 24-hour chicken broth reduced to a rich, creamy, tonkotsu-like consistency, could draw the ire of Godzilla. The soon-to-open Susuru Juju will offer much of the same, as well as a kappo bar, to Colonialtown.

Jaleo by José Andrés

Jose Andres’ paean to traditional and postmodern Spanish gastronomy re-established itself as one of the finest restaurants in Disney Springs post-pandemic, and one that many a local have gladly ventured to despite the location. The restaurant behemoth highlights the regional diversity of Spain with plenty paellas and copious amounts of jamón ibérico de bellota to go around. As a bonus, the first brick-and-mortar location of Pepe, his popular D.C. food truck, is situated next door for those needing a quick bocata on the go.

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