While most of the restaurants here might eat into your vacation budget, they’re all well worth it if you're looking for anextra special dining experience. From fine diners located in the city’s most famous theme park resorts, to authentic smoke houses in the suburbs where you might have to queue outside on the weekend to get a seat, check out our full list of Orlando’s best restaurants below.
With its gorgeous, luxurious decor, marble features and portfolio of culinary accomplishment, Victoria & Albert’s is nothing short of magical – its location in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa only confirming this status as a fairytale destination. Modern American cuisine combined with the highest quality ingredients from around the world – including Italian truffles and Japanese beef – gives rise to mouthwatering specials. These include the Colorado bison served with caraway seed vinaigrette, or the Alaskan king crab ‘jar’ with Siberian caviar. It’s no wonder that Chef Hunnel and his team have received nothing but rave reviews and top awards, including the AAA’s prestigious Five Diamond Award. Jackets are required, so dress up rather than down for a dinner at this classy establishment.
To illustrate how important the olfactory sense is, Marchese earlier asked me to hold my nose and gave me something granular to put on my tongue. At first, it just felt grainy and sweet. Yet once I unplugged my nose, I experienced a rush of cinnamon flavor. As further practice, we sniffed little vials of typical honey aromas, similar to a kit other sensory experts use. I was proud of myself for identifying scents of mint, peach and lily. But others stumped me. Nutmeg? Wrong, hazelnut. Tea? No, hay. Truffle? Sorry, mushroom.
BBQ lovers should look no further than 4Rivers Steakhouse, located a short drive north from Downtown at Winter Park. There’s nothing flashy about the non-descript restaurant façade, nor the canteen-like seating arrangements inside (you have the choice between high stools lined up in a row or college-style benches if you don’t want to sit next to strangers), but what 4Rivers lacks in style it more than makes up for in flavor. Items ‘from the smoker’ include wings, racks of beef and pork ribs, whole smoked chickens, while the signature Angus brisket and range of pulled pork sandwiches also prove hugely popular. Watch out for the lengthy queues that can stretch outside into the parking lot on weekends.
This beautiful venue �" which bills itself as an American brasserie �" was new on the scene at the close of 2015 and has been delighting guests with its 1940s panache and versatile continental menu. Groups here are well taken care of and larger parties are welcome to book separate spaces that allow for as much privacy or visibility as is desired. In fact you may want to leave the doors open to hear the live music, which plays nightly and pulls material from a host of beloved genres, from instrumental jazz to Sinatra favorites. Buyouts are available here, as well, and your guests will no doubt be wowed by the place, from the gorgeous fountain out front where they can set up for outside service to the inviting warm interiors.
The Sanctum really does feel a little sacred in the way they do things; its beautiful plant-based plates are colorful and fresh and alluring. And while there are loads of options for the vegan members of the populace, this place isn't that strict � you'll also find eggs and cheese on the menu in places. Grain bowls and salads, sammies and pasta populate a menu that holistic practitioners would likely tout. Delicious juices and smoothies tempt those looking for goodness by the glass. Breakfast/brunch is exceptional, whether you like your avocado toast animal-free or feel like topping it off with a couple of organic eggs.
Mythos Restaurant is an award-winning restaurant built into what appears to be a cave. Located in The Jurassic Park: The Lost Continent® section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the interior evokes the prehistoric setting well, although the menu takes a sharp detour from the caveman theme. Greek and pan-Mediterranean dishes are the specialty here, including risotto, mezze platter, and lamb skewers. What we love about this restaurant is that you can have high-level contemporary cuisine with excellent service and all the trimmings without having to leave all the fun of the fair.
Once you hit day three of a convention or a conference, you’re going to want to eat something that doesn’t weigh you down as you sit through four more hours of back to back powerpoint presentations. During your next break, head to Da Kine Poke. This former food truck now has food stalls at both downtown’s Market on Magnolia and at The Local Butcher and Market in Winter Park. There are a few signature bowls on the menu, or you can make your own, with a variety of fresh fish, vegetables, sauces, condiments, and bases to choose from.
There are a lot of different situations that call for a boozy brunch, like celebrating a birthday, or just surviving a weekend with your future in-laws, and the Stubborn Mule works for just about all of them. This spot in Thornton Park serves a wide range of morning cocktails, like peach sangria and a spicy Bloody Mary, along with $12 bottomless mimosas if you want to make an afternoon out of it. Besides the drinks, the food here is actually really good and includes brunch staples like steak and eggs and a cheese fondue-topped veggie hash. They also have a few things that will sound better after a few drinks, like the “Who Woke Up First,” a combination of fried chicken, eggs, cheese, and bacon pressed between two cinnamon cronies.
After lunch, there is a tour of Murray’s caves, where the cheese ages. Then we’re led through the tasting of eight more cheeses by Tyler Frankenberg, the company’s customer experience manager, also a Certified Cheese Professional. This tasting is about comparing variations in cheesemaking: the differences between cheese near the rind vs. the tip, washed rind vs. ash, unaged vs. aged (“older doesn’t necessarily mean better,” we’re told). At one point we compare two versions of a funky pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese called Hollander with an aroma that people describe as earthy, mineral, “like mom’s basement” and even redolent of ammonia. “With this one, the bark is worse than its bite,” Frankenberg says.
These programs prepare you to be a taste authority, a sensory expert, an arbiter and evangelist in the field, but you’re likely not producing anything. Even so, they’re in demand. What is it about this epoch that values such mastery over taste? Were we all truly so clueless and naive about these matters once upon a time? Has life become so fraught and complicated that even decisions over our smallest pleasures now require expert intervention?