Who is ready for the banquet style feast that goes on at Christmas time? Wait, who has to do the cooking? Don’t feel like being the chosen one? Fair non, allow me to clue you in on some of my dining recommendations in Central Florida. Let the pros do what they do best, feed us.
With friends and family visiting this season from out of state, where is their destination? The beaches! There are people from out of state who jump right into the water. Go right ahead my cold blooded friend. I’ll stay on the sand or even better yet, I’ll eat. Ms. Apples Crab Shack on Merritt Island offers the very best of seafood. Fresh caught seafood is sold market style or cooked. The preparation is very simple, a light dusting of spices, a toss in the steamer, laid out on a table, eat, wrap up the table paper and you are done. Make sure there is a designated driver, all of this food may put you to sleep.
Want to step back in time, drive up to St. Augustine. The Gourmet Hut offers a quaint outdoor patio, open air and limited inside seating, but simple great food. Maybe you prefer the West Coast. Ybor City in Tampa has a has a ton of things to do. St. Petersburg and Clearwater beaches offer some fine Florida fun. If you want a piece of TV fame, go check out the doubles at Tara’s Roti Shop. The Cooking Channel filmed an episode of Eden Eats there.
Want to stay around Orlando? The major theme parks, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World, all offer the very best of family entertainment. But your family and friends can find their way around these theme parks. Why not show them what Orlando and it’s surrounds have to offer. We have really grown into a decent foodie scene.
Our food truck scene may not be as sought after as New York, Portland, Austin, Los Angeles or Miami, but we have a Food Truck Bazaar almost every other night. Not so long ago there was just Fashion Square Mall and Maitland Food Truck Pod, now the various locations spread from Sanford to Kissimmee and Titusville to Winter Garden and all over in between. Years ago there was just one food truck, One Love Kitchen, now there are over 70 food trucks vying for your taste buds. There is a new food truck being added to the scene every week. Some are better than others, some miss the point of serving food on the streets, some nail it to the asphalt, wherever your taste buds are take a couple of chairs, a table, your gang, your pet, park yourself at one of these bazaars and just have fun.
Eating from a food truck is not really your thing, check out our many dining destinations. Winter Park offers up Park Av, Hannibal Square, and Fairbanks Ave. Hillstone has a sophisticated interior, outdoor patio, lawn and boat dock dining options. The food is fabulous without being stuffy. Prato, Burger Fi, and Galopin are new comers to fabled Park Av. For a sweet fix check out Le Macarons. Park Av too high society for you? Meet the people who are really making waves in the Orlando food scene, B & B Junction, The Ravenous Pig, Cask and Larder. Healthy farm to table concepts are being taken to a whole new level at these establishments. The food will make your head spin. If there is such a thing as honest locally sourced food, here it is. There are some indigenous micro brews at B & B and Cask Larder. None of these places will satisfy your out of state guest? Who does not like BBQ? Four Rivers Smokehouse with locations in Winter Park, Longwood, and Winter Garden will definitely cater to even the most discerning palate. This is Texas style smokehouse at its very best. The flavors are big, bold and succulent. The Sweet Shop in Longwood is a delight.
College Park is the home of K Restaurant which features a herb garden out back with a very quaint almost living room like dining room and an open airy front porch.
Mills 50 is the area around what was known no so long ago as Little Saigon. It blossoms on Mills Av with Yum-mi Sandwiches, which is a delicious cross between an older generation banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) and a modern generation with many “Americanized” fillings. Hawkers Asian Street Fare serves small plates of food from many parts of Asia. It is a journey in itself. Tako Cheena by Pom Pom is a whimsical take on Asian Fusion done right. Nobu meets Orlando. Funky Money Company captivates with Wine Vault, Bananas Diner and Funky Monkey. On Colonial Dr. Hwy 50. the newest spot is Ha Long Bistro a Vietnamese restaurant that brings big flavors in a nice space. There is more to Vietnamese cuisine than Pho. For a Dim Sum experience try Chan’s or Lam’s Garden. Both very good. Tasty Wok is the king of Chinese BBQ.
Although the area surrounding Universal Studios is not really a dining destination, it has some really good hidden gems. NaraDeva Thai takes the true authenticity of Thai cuisine to a Royal level. Magic Wok surprises with Shanghainese delicacies. Teriyaki House serves up Taiwanese Street Food. Zorbas has a magical Greek sense that may have you smoking a hookah at the end. Achilles a little café that hides from everyone. Want a quiet time away from the family, go here. Gotta have Chinese take out, China Lee is the place. There is always a crowd. Junior Colombian Burger offers an alternative to the regular fast food joint. Hands down Mikado takes sushi to a whole different continent.
Maybe Pine Hills has a reputation for it’s crime, but the West Indian community is staying strong with it’s influences. Timehri, a Guyanese restaurant, serves the best Chinese West Indian Mixed Fried Rice anywhere. Singh’s Roti Shop has the largest spread of Trinidadian Cuisine. Their rotis are humongous. One Love Kitchen Food Truck corners the Jamaican Jerk Chicken scene anywhere up and down the East Coast, Indra’s Kitchen takes the Duck Curry title. Island Fuzion in Ocoee is a very nice sit down dining option for West Indian food. Conch is alive and jumping at Bahamian Caribbean Grill and Grocery.
If you happen to venture onto the 192 strip or looking for a good a place in Kissimmee, go to 3 Sisters Speakeasy. It is in a reviving part of Downtown Kissimmee. The food is decent.
This is by no means an exclusive list. Far from it. This is just a few of the places I was lucky to try and wanted to put in one place. Christmas and New Year is about family and friends. What better way to spend that time than by dining together. Just by writing this makes me want to go out and dine. Where are you going to dine the festive season?