Orlando is known for its tourist attractions, theme parks and shopping centers. But if you really want to get to know the city, try exploring the local eats all the natives are crazy about. Over the past decade, the city has embraced the farm-to-table movement and new blossoming independent restaurants are serving delicious eats with a side of spunk, according to USA Today. Here are 10 restaurants to try the next time you’re in the City Beautiful.
Yellow Dog Eats Bistro and Wine Store
With chickens roaming outside and a vintage cash register inside, the two-story abode has as much personality as the chef who owns it. The restaurant, which according to its sign, dates back to 1879, serves The Rufus; pulled pork topped with Brie and cherry pepper rings, then drizzled with raspberry melba. Don’t forget to add a “Scooby Snack,” avocado hummus on the side. Happy hour is every afternoon where the pineapple mimosas shine.
K Restaurant & Wine Bar
Owned by Kevin Fonzo, a past James Beard award nominee, this American and Italian restaurant’s menu changes daily. Located in the walkable College Park area, the restaurant offers appetizers such as fried green tomatoes and entrées such as the mac and cheese with homemade sausage or the Golden Tile; a succotash of sweet corn, Maine lobster and fava beans. Local’s tip: If the weather is nice, sit outside. The backyard was converted into a fresh herb and veggie garden.
Dandelion Communitea Café
Painted neon green with an herb garden, patio and nearby yoga studio, this café also offers hand-painted chairs, a piano and eclectic-people-galore inside. This popular spot is a part of Co-Op America, which means everything is organic and much of it is local. You can spend nights sitting under the Bodhi tree and jamming away on drum circle nights while enjoying the Fluffer Nutter Sandwich, Henry’s Hearty Chili, or the Giddy Up Wrap.
Maxine’s on Shine
Husband-and-wife team Maxine and Kirt Earhart own this eatery, which is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood that is surrounded by 100-year-old oak trees and Craftsman-style houses. Very popular for its brunch, but even more so for the live music, Maxine’s on Shine hosts everything from cellists to karaoke singers. Enjoy skillet lasagna, contemporary marsala and brisket burgers.
Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria
Located in the Milk District (named for its proximity to the TG Lee factory), this spot offers inventive salads and sandwiches. Try Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving, which includes turkey, gouda, stuffing, ginger cranberry chutney, mashed potato and cream cheese. Or try the Fu Man Chu; a combo of Asian-spiced pulled pork, goat cheese and ginger cranberry chutney.
New to the scene, Scratch offers American-style tapas in a bohemian-bistro setting. Enjoy the pork belly adobo, shrimp and grits, pan-roasted duck breast or thick-cut Scratch fries. But the real star is the loup de mer, citrus-thyme marinated sea bass with a potato-fennel hash.
Owned by husband-and-wife duo James and Julie Petrakis, finalists in the 2014 James Beard awards, this Winter Park gastropub features lobster tacos, house-made soft pretzels and gruyere biscuits with Prohibition-era cocktails like the bacon-infused bourbon. Try entrées like the pork porterhouse, Canaveral Cobia or striped bass. And make sure to try an order of the Pig Tails; curlicue doughnuts with chocolate-espresso dipping sauce.
Cask & Lander
Also owned by the Petrakis team, Cask & Lander offers the best of comfort food. What got its start in 1927 as a speakeasy, is now a “Southern public house” where fried chicken, funnel cake, crispy Brussels and ribeye hot dogs are just some of the menu highlights. Or to satisfy that sweet tooth, try the pumpkin-spiced beignets with rum-caramel sauce. The restaurant also includes its own brewmaster and hand-crafted cocktails.
Focused on down-home Southern cooking with influences from Carolina Low County to where Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana meet the Gulf, this restaurant includes fried chicken, shrimp and grits and Mississippi mud pies. Add something from the “Nibbles” portion of the menu, such as pimento cheese with a buttery baguette or deviled eggs. Don’t forget to grab a bottle of Cheerwine from the ice chest!