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The 26 best restaurants in Orlando

Forget the major hotspots and take some time to get to know the best local restaurants in Orlando
By Kelsey Ann Glennon |
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Orlando is about much more than its famous theme parks and the chain restaurants that spill out in their shadows. Orlando is a city of diverse denizens, historic neighborhoods, all-encompassing things to donightlifeparks and them some—especially when it comes to food. When in town, you (or rather, your tastebuds) will be awestruck by food trucks and hole-in-the-wall eateries showcasing international foods; bistros and cafes creating seasonal fusion fare; fishmongers slinging seafood straight from Florida’s shores and chefs crafting with ingredients from their very own gardens. It’s inside Orlando’s kitchens that you’ll start to feel the city’s character, whether dining at a fancy hotel or an anonymous-looking eatery. So get ready to truly get to know the City Beautiful while dining at the best (independent) restaurants in Orlando.

 

Best restaurants in Orlando

1
Domu
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Linda L.

Domu

What is it: An intimate ramen joint with a hip vibe, also serving craft cocktails, sake, wine, beer and Asian small plates.

Why go: Domu serves authentic Japanese style ramen right alongside their very own spins on the classics. Attached to the East End Market—Orlando’s European-style artisan hall of makers—the restaurant feels super hip. In terms of specific orders, we suggest always asking for the kimchi butter chicken wings, an appetizer so good, it will make your head spin.

Price: Average

2
Primo
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kevin L.

Primo

What is it: Chef Melissa Kelly’s Marriott-based Italian restaurant prepares its delicious Mediterranean dishes using ingredients picked from the garden on-site.

Why go: It doesn’t get fresher than this. An organic garden lives on the grounds and is tended to by a dedicated head gardener. The bounty obviously shapes the rotating, seasonal menu, which includes meats from local purveyors. Accompany any meal with a pick from a long wine list.

Price: Blowout

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3
Kadence
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Hieu L.

Kadence

What is it: Kadence is a modern-yet-authentic Japanese restaurant that delivers an incredibly satisfying sushi experience (with sake pairings, of course).

Why go: This Michelin-rated, nine-seat sushi bar is reservation-only for dinner. Sorry, no rainbow rolls here. Kadence is also open select days for a classic Japanese breakfast meal—we won’t ruin it for you. Bonus points: the restaurant is clear in its efforts to reduce waste, asking diners to brings their own chirashi box when ordering to-go.

Price: Blowout

4
Enzo’s on the Lake
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kristin S.

Enzo’s on the Lake

What is it: This historic home is now an upscale Italian restaurant overlooking the lake, ideal for a romantic date or an indulgent meal with friends.

Why go: Everything is prepared from scratch by the Roman purveyors helming the eatery. For over 40 years, Enzo’s has flourished as a result of its commitment to quality and fresh ingredients. Expect views and provisions that are hard to forget.

Price: Blowout

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5
Santiago’s Bodega
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Tiffany H.

Santiago’s Bodega

What is it: Internationally inspired tapas served in an art-filled restaurant with an open-air patio.

Why go: Although originally set up in Key West, Santiago’s now boasts two additional locations in Orlando, each with a particular personality. This communal spot embodies the sharing mentality behind Spanish-style small plates. Come here with a large group to sample the breadth of the menu but make sure not to leave before really delving into the space’s look. The reclaimed wood bar top, stained glass windows, Gaudi-esque furniture and one-of-a-kind artwork all over the restaurant make it that much more special.

Price: Pricey

6
Hamilton’s Kitchen
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ashley E.

Hamilton’s Kitchen

What is it: Upscale southern-inspired Florida fare prepared with local ingredients served in a communal style room.

Why go: Hamilton’s Kitchen, named after the late and beloved Hamilton Holt (8th president of Rollins College), is a nod to the philanthropist's love for hosting guests from all over the world. Appropriately located in the Alfond Inn, Hamilton’s Kitchen donates profits to the Hamilton Holt scholarship foundation for students attending Rollins College.

Price: Pricey

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7
The Osprey Tavern
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/The Osprey Tavern

The Osprey Tavern

What is it: A fancy restaurant serving American food… with a twist.

Why go: The Ospery Tavern is a treat for the tastebuds and the eyes. The design of this modern American spot leaves you feeling luxurious but cozy, with camel colored leather seating, a long marble bar, reclaimed-wood walls and brass detailing characterizing the space. The menu then wows the palate with dishes like pork chops in a whiskey glaze, oak charred shrimp and a very good whole grilled branzino. Come here with a group so you can order even more without feeling too guilty.

Price: Blowout

8
Trevi Pasta
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jen J.

Trevi Pasta

What is it: Trevi Pasta is a market, cafe and small service restaurant located in College Park.

Why go: Angelo, the owner, hails from Rome and began making pasta for his family's trattoria in his early teens. The pasta is so fresh (it’s prepared daily!) that all you need to do for a steaming plate of deliciousness is to choose your cut, sauce and potential protein addition before indulging in the delicacy.

Price: Average

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9
The Ravenous Pig
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/P. Luly W.

The Ravenous Pig

What is it: The Euro-American gastropub, helmed by chefs James and Julie Petrakis, opened back in 2007—right at the forefront of Florida’s seasonally-inspired cuisine movement.

Why go: With a James Beard nomination under their belt, the chefs have truly turned their eatery into a must-visit for both locals and tourists. What to order? For lunch, try the pub burger with black Angus brisket on a brioche bun. For dinner, start with the ever-changing charcuterie board and then move onto their seasonal seafood creations.

Price: Blowout

 

10
Sushi Pop
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Trung N.

Sushi Pop

What is it: This modern sushi spot is more than a restaurant, it’s an experience. Upon entering, notice the white couches illuminated by harajuko-pink lighting and anime artwork and get in the mood for some truly outstanding sushi.

Why go: The omakase. Let the chef exercise his creativity as he prepares a sampling of both traditional nigiri and sashimi (purists will be catered to) and more Western-inspired rolls, like the hot mess—made with yellowtail, flounder, salmon, avocado and bacon.

Price: Average

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11
Pizza Bruno
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Matthew H.

Pizza Bruno

What is it: Expect a family-style food hall bursting with traditional Neapolitan-style pizzas.

Why go: As most Italians will tell you, it all starts with the dough… and Pizza Bruno’s chewy yet crispy, fire-kissed crust is absolutely delicious. Remember: the simpler, the better. Order yourself a pizza margherita and revel in the taste of glory in your mouth.

Price: Average

12
Black Bean Deli
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jade R.

Black Bean Deli

What is it: This is a traditional Cuban deli that serves authentic recipes with both an indoor and outdoor seating option.

Why go: You never knew beans and rice could taste this good. Loved by locals for over 15 years, Black Bean Deli has opened two more locations in Central Florida since its first inception. Stop by when hungry because prices are low, portions are big and the Cuban sandwich will change your life.

Price: Bargain

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13
Cafe de France
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/David G.

Cafe de France

What is it: Cafe de France is a traditional Parisian bistro serving fine French fare and world class wine pairings.

Why go: The experience starts with a stroll down Park Avenue, Orlando’s European-looking, cobblestoned street. The walk sets the scene for a slow-paced Parisian evening. Through the restaurant’s doors is a classic, intimate dining room with white linen tables set for no more than four people. Dishes are prepared in classic French style, paired with fine wine that changes often and perfectly complements the European flavors presented by the chef.

Price: Blowout

14
Bahn Mi Na Trang
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mira B.

Banh Mi Nha Trang

What is it: Bahn Mi Na Trang is nothing to look at—a small, unassuming operation nestled between a string of Vietnamese businesses in the heart of Orlando’s Little Saigon. But step inside and you’ll be greeted by the sweet smell of fresh bread.

Why go: The mini baguettes that make Bahn Mi so recognizable are baked on premise by owners Yen and Truc Nyugen. Subs are filled with any meat you ever craved, finished with pickled vegetables, sprigs of cilantro and a slim green chili pepper. The best part? The price tag: $3.50.

Price: Bargain

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15
Chef’s Table at the Edgewater Hotel
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sara M.

Chef’s Table at the Edgewater Hotel

What is it: Associated to such a long list of awards and commendations, it is hard to believe that Chef’s Table at the Edgewater Hotel isn’t talked about more. In short, expect an intimate dining experience that showcases fresh, local ingredients in a historic atmosphere.

Why go: The Edgewater Hotel is located in historic Winter Garden, surprisingly close to Disney but undeniably opposite in style and cuisine to the buffet dining you’ll find in the theme parks. Disney goers looking for an upscale meal at the end of the day should flock here in droves.

Price: Blowout

16
Thai Blossom
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ratcha W.

Thai Blossom

What is it: A darn good Thai restaurant inside the 1920s Edgewater Hotel.

Why go: You can order to take away from Thai Blossom, which we'd recommend if you don't have the time to sit-in, because the traditional Thai food is not to be missed. But if you can stay, do. The atmosphere is just as homely and pretty as the dishes.

Price: Average

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17
Tako Cheena
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jess H.

Tako Cheena

What is it: A hip and eclectic eatery serving Pan-Asian flavors in a Latin American disguise.

Why go: Take Cheena is for adventurous eaters. Flavors hail from all over Asia but are served in American style. Ever had a Korean beef empanada or an Indian butter chicken burrito? Definitely try the “JapaDog,” featuring Chinese sweet sausage, avocado-wasabi, fumi, cabbage mix and scallion. Just remember that you won’t find any yellow mustard here.

Price: Average

18
Sticky Rice
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Michelle L.

Sticky Rice

What is it: A modern style eatery serving traditional Lao street food in portions ideal for sharing.

Why go: You can order the entire menu—which is small but mighty—for under $70. Laotians, who encourage sharing, recommend approaching the menu like a tapas one: have little bites of everything. Don’t leave without trying the sticky rice, of course, which comes with a trio of freshly made chili dips.

Price: Bargain

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19
Prato Pizza
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sharon G.

Prato Pizza

What is it: Highly stylish industrial chic warehouse vibes, Italian food and craft cocktails.

Why go: Contemporary Italian fare in stunning surrounds. Relax inside or out on the large patio (athough the huge floor to ceiling windows make you feel like you're outdoors anyway) with a menu that changes daily. Expect items like pretzel-crusted calamari, artichoke ravioli and hand-stratched pizzas.

Price: Pricey

20
Black Rooster Taqueria
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Juliana C.

Black Rooster Taqueria

What is it: Tacos, tacos and more tacos.

Why go: If we were to describe Black Rooster in one word, it would be vibrant. The walls are covered in artwork by local artists, the array of tacos, bowls and salads are multicolored with bright pink pickled cabbage, radishes and guac. Even the drinks add flashes of the rainbow, especially if you order a Jarritos soda.

Price: Average

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21
4 Rivers Smokehouse
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Andrew H.

4 Rivers Smokehouse

What is it: 4 Rivers Smokehouse started out in a garage, with a man determined to bring Texas-style BBQ to central Florida. Before it garnered a cult following, those who would drive by the small storefront in the early mornings would wonder about the mouth-watering smell emanating from the space.

Why go: Tender, smokey meat with country sides like baked cheese grits and fried okra will keep you coming back for more… and more… and more.

Price: Average

22
Anh Hong
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/John C.

Anh Hong

What is it: One of many excellent pho joints in Orlando; this one with a more laidback vibe.

Why go: For pho, duh. But seriously, they do it well. They also make a brill bahn mi, stir fry and rice platter. The exterior looks more like a deli than a Vietnamese restaurant and inside is fairly basic, but it's friendly and authentic.

Price: Average

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23
Pom Pom’s
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Raiza C.

Pom Pom’s

What is it: Pom Pom’s is a subtle sandwich shop nestled in an unassuming Florida strip mall, open 24 hours a day. Late night munchies never tasted so good.

Why go: Inside the cozy, pop-art-inspired quarters, you’ll find themed sandwiches made to order with local ingredients. Create your very own with an array of toppings and spreads to choose from or opt for one of the iconic sandwiches that Pom Pom’s is known for. We’re partial to the spicy Elvis, filled with banana, bacon, strawberry jelly and cayenne peanut butter.

Price: Average

24
The Greek Corner
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jenn A.

The Greek Corner

What is it: This is a light-filled and airy taverna serving authentic Greek cuisine in the heart of Orlando.

Why go: Although Orlando is not brimming with the largest cluster of Greek eateries, there is some pretty flaming saganaki to be eaten in Central Florida—courtesy of The Greek Corner. The authentic experience involves overflowing flower pots, white-washed walls and a breezy patio overlooking the water. Make sure to order some grape leaves with a frappe—not on the menu, sure, but still available to those in the know.

Price: Average

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25
King Bao
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lisa W.

King Bao

What is it: That tiny Asian snack that's become highly popular here: the bao.

Why go: These Taiwanese buns are light and fluffy snacks that really pack a punch when it comes to flavor. Fillings come in the shape of braised pork belly, chili lime shrimp, crispy tofu for the vegans and much more. Our advice? Pick three for $9.

Price: Bargain

26
The Sanctum
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/The Sanctum

The Sanctum

What is it: A modern, vegetarian eatery boasting the kind of rusty style that will turn even the staunchest carnivores into vegetarians.

Why go: With a menu of plant-based options, this lunch and dinner spot serves soul food that both nourishes the body and indulges the palate. The menu here rotates with the seasons, so that only fresh produce is in every salad, burrito or breakfast. The best part? Your meal supports local coffee roasters, Florida farmers and kombucha brewers.  

Price: Average

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