Orlando is much more than Theme Parks and touristic chain restaurants that surround them. Orlando is a city of diverse and historic neighborhoods, that are all-encompassing from nightlife, city parks, and much more- especially when it comes to food and one of my favorite things in the world, happy hour!
When in town you may find yourself at one of Orlando’s mouth- watering food trucks, hole- in- the- wall eateries, or ritzy happy hours at the up-scale restaurants on Restaurant Row. It’s inside Orlando’s kitchens, that you (or rather, your taste buds) will experience the city’s true character, whether dining at a Michelin star restaurant, or a cafe inside of an old gas station!
So fasten your seat-belt as I take you on a journey of “The City Beautiful’s” best food spots, that will make your mouth water and leave your wallet happy!
Bar Taco ($$)
Where: Restaurant Row, 7600 Dr Phillips Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
Why I love: it: Island vibes and inventive tacos from $2.50-3.50 a pop, you cannot go wrong. The laid-back decor and style of service allows you to relax sipping your margarita without a care in the world!
What I get: I keep it simple with the fish tacos and beef tacos, the cheaper version of Surf-N-Turf. Also, if I am hungry I get a side of rice. Simple and a relatively healthy meal.
The Whiskey ($$)
Where: Restaurant Row, 7563 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819
Why I love it: After living in Scotland and Ireland I was bound to develop an affinity for whiskey. When I found out this spot opened I could not stay away. There happy hour is to die for if you love the ‘water of life’ that is whiskey. From 4pm- 7pm Monday- Friday head over there for $3-$4 whiskeys, bourbons, and spirits. Also, choose from 12 food selections for under $8 that will be sure to leave your spirits high and your bellies full!
What I get: When it comes to seafood I love it, especially the fresh shrimp we get in Florida. My choice at The Whiskey- hands down- is the Bangin’ Shrimp drizzled with sweet and spicy sriracha aioli.
Where: Restaurant Row, 7525 Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819
Why I love it: SUSHI, SUSHI, SUSHI…. Nuf said. I love sushi ever since I went to Japan in High School. This by far is the best sushi in Orlando. If you are worried about the price, come between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm for Happy Hour! With a variety of meat, vegie, and seafood options for $4-$10, there will be something for everyone. It’s not a true Orlando Happy Hour without a drink in one hand! The unique handcrafted cocktails and hand-picked wines will set you back a mere $4- $6.
What I get: The Cantaloupe Martini for a whopping $4, with the Super Crunch Maki roll ($8) consisting of Shrimp, avocado, fresh salmon, and a drizzle of teriyaki sauce.
Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria ($)
Where: Milk District, 67 N Bumby Ave, Orlando, FL 32803
Why I love it: Serving up an eclectic mix of soups, salads, sandwiches, tea, and not much else Pom Pom’s by far is the best lunch or late-night spot open 24 hours on the weekends. How can sandwiches be so good? I asked the same thing, but after going once I was hooked and will keep coming back to this gem.
What I get: Try the Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving — which pairs mouthwatering turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney and more – and tell me that isn’t the best sandwich in Florida.
Black Bean Deli ($$)
Where: Mills 50, 1835 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, Florida
Why I love it: Central Florida has a wide variety of international cuisine, but the Cuban food here by far is some of the best you can get in the country! If you head there for lunch you will be sure to see a line out door of a vintage gas station, turned Cuban Deli. Also, great for coffee and relaxing in the Florida sun on their patio.
What I get: It is so hard for me to choose because I love their whole menu. But I love their Cuban and Black Bean soup combo for lunch. It fills me up and is mouthwatering.
Dexter’s Orlando ($$)
Where: Winter Park, Windermere, and Lake Mary
Why I love it: Best Bloody Mary I have ever seen! Also, the brunch here is to die for. Have you ever been to a Bottomless Brunch? I have and they are glorious. There happy hour is also not too shabby.
What I get: Get A Hot Mess at Dexter’s after a night out. With a Buttermilk biscuit, crispy fried chicken, smothered in chicken fennel sausage gravy, chive and 2 fried eggs there is no going wrong. Add a Bottomless Brunch for $12 and you are set for the day!
Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine ($$$)
Where: Winter Park or Restaurant Row
Why I love it: Being half Moroccan I love food from all over the Mediterranean. While this is more expensive than my previous picks, it is worth the money. I have tried numerous dishes and I have loved them all. It is great if you have larger groups because not only is there space, but they give you so much food it is hard to finish it by yourself! There is also half price off all drinks weeks including hand crafted cocktails weekdays ‘til 7pm.
What I get: The mixed platter appetizer is a perfect start to the meal with grape leaves, hummus, tabbouleh, and much more it pairs nicely with the Lavash bread that rises like a tour. If you are there with a friend I highly recommend the Mixed Grill for two- a combo of Doner Kebap, Chicken & Lamb Adana Kebap, Chicken & Lamb Sis Kebap, and Chicken & Lamb Köfte served over rice with a side of Cacik-Cucumber yogurt.
Dragonfly Robata ($$)
Where: Restaurant Row, 7972 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, FL 32819
Why I love it: With an outdoor terrace overlooking an Italianesque water fountain, the ambiance of the place when the weather is good (which is almost always) provides for a good night out. Dragon Fly has a daily happy hour 5pm- 7pm for sushi and everything else Japanese from $3-$7, along with an amazing selection of beer specials from $3-$6. Did I mention I love happy hours in Orlando!
What I get: I get the Japanese Sliders- beef burgers on baked buns, fried shallots, cabbage, tomatoes, and a touch of honey washi mayo. Also, if I am feeling extra hungry I get the Robata Grilled Skewers with bacon wrapped asparagus. Don’t forget a cold beer on the side!
The Porch ($$)
Where: Winter Park, 643 N Orange Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
Why I love it: The daily specials at the Porch are great, from half price burgers on Tuesdays, to all you can eat wings on Thursday with drink specials it is hard to say no to. They also have one of the best bottomless brunches in Winter Park.
What I get: I enjoy Southern Cooking and this place does a mean Shrimp N’ Grits, in the case you are not in the mood for all you can eat wings. The grits are in a stone ground pepper jack jalapeño grits with shrimp and a side salad. It tastes like a homecooked meal and is a real treat.
Santiago’s Bodega ($$)
Where: International Drive, 802 Virginia Dr, Orlando, FL 32803
Why I love it: Tapas bar with a romantic ambiance, go there for a date or a girl’s night out to share quality conversations over equally enjoyable food. The daily happy hour is great to get a flavor for tapas bar, from 4-6pm and again late night from 11pm-1am, happy hour at Santiago’s Bodega includes half off sangria (normally $6), wines by the glass, draft beer and single well pours; and a rotating selection of five $5 tapas.
What I get: The beef tenderloin seared and topped with bleu cheese butter, or miniature quesadillas paired with the gazpacho that can be enjoyed all year round in the constant warm weather. That is one thing I have missed since being away for so long, the amazing weather!
Wowza… It was so much harder than I thought narrowing it down to just 10 places because to be honest there are so many more. But, I hope this helps on your foodie quests in Orlando, Florida and helps you avoid some of the tourist bait out there near the theme parks! For now I bet this will keep you busy, who knows I may have to make a part 2!