When Orlando finally received its Michelin stars, it proved to the world what locals like me already knew: The City Beautiful is a culinary bounty for foodies. What I like about the city's dining scene is that fine dining isn’t the only thing on the menu. No matter if I want haute cuisine, innovative international fare, or an eclectic mix of street eats, I can find it in Orlando.
Plan on pizza slices the size of your face at Lazy Moon, cookies the size of your fist at Gideon’s, and a seductively Southern spread at The Coop. Loosen up your waistband and get ready to fall in love with Orlando, a Central Florida city with one delicious love language.
Wear comfortable, light clothing, especially when dining outdoors in the hot climate.
If you only have time for one thing, visit East End Market.
Staying near the theme parks? Ready your bib for a unique taste of Orlando at Disney Springs. Skip the chain restaurants, and chow down on local grub like barbecue at 4 Rivers Cantina Barbacoa, smoked meats at the Polite Pig, and half-pound cookies at Gideon’s Bakehouse. Grab a shuttle from Orlando International Airport to make getting there a breeze.
If you’re still hungry after all that eating, consider having dinner with a former Walt Disney Imagineer or hail a cab to International Drive and sample the flavors of ICON Park on a foodie walking tour.
From Mills 50 and Maitland to SoDo and Ovideo, you could spend weeks eating your way through Orlando’s neighborhoods. Get a mouthful of history and mouth-watering eats on a walking tour of the Milk District. This Main Street District is due east of downtown; your cabbie will know the quickest route.
Make space in your stomach for more local goodies with a food tour of Ivanhoe Village. On weekdays, hop the SunRail from downtown to a station just north of the village where you’ll sniff out lakeside dining, Greek goodies, and some of my favorite watering holes.
Eating at locally owned restaurants is one of the best ways to get acquainted with a destination, but simplicity and familiarity are welcome comforts while on vacation. Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe is an event in itself—if for no other reason than it gives you the chance to stroll Universal City Walk without coughing up the dough to enter the theme parks.
Of course, dinner and a show are just as entertaining, so an evening at Mango’s Tropical Cafe on International Drive is one tasty way to end your three-day Orlando vacay.