Where I Take My Visitors: An Orlando Food Guide You Can’t Miss

13 min read by  •  Time Visited: Updated as of August 2021

To truly know where someone’s favorite local spots are, ask where they take their visitors. After all, your favorite places ultimately reflect upon you and your taste. I’ve tried and tested these local spots many times, some even dating back to when I went to UCF! This is my perfect Orlando Food Guide – the ultimate list of my favorite, reliable restaurants and cafes that not only I love going to, but my friends and family always enjoy too! Plus, I’ve included some of my favorite things to order at these restaurants, tips on where to sit, and what places are on my wishlist to try next. I’ll keep this guide updated if I discover any new local gems, and update you on my Instagram @adventuresingourmet if I do! I also recommend checking out my Orlando City Guide: My Favorite Bars to Drink Wine, Beer and Cocktails.

Breakfast/Brunch

For a quick breakfast take-out that hits the spot: We were finally were able to try out Deli Desires, a new Jewish deli in Colonialtown, recently and have already gone again to try something else from the menu. It is DELIcious! I was obsessed with the classic gravlax on caramelized onion bialy, my sister and brother-in-law loved the bacon sandwich, and Spencer raved about the scrapple and white fish. I’d skip the latke one next time but it was a fun one to try. The homemade bialy bread is incredible and blows bagels out of the water. We also tried their egg salad, which was definitely a more chunky version than what I’m used to, but the flavors were delicious. We can’t wait to go back to try out even more from the menu, and it certainly will remain a place we’ll be excited to take our visitors to. For inspiration on what to order, check out their drool-worthy pictures on their Instagram @delidesires!

For a trendy coffee shop meets cafe menu and vibe: While these two places have a similar appeal, they do have a few key differences that can help guide your decision of where to take your visitors. Foxtail Coffee Co. is an Orlando staple that has been successful for years. They have multiple locations but their Winter Park one specifically offers a great atmosphere both indoors and out, and a fair amount of seating. On the other hand, New General is a bit smaller with less seating, but it has the benefits of slightly more creative menu, a general store with unique home goods, and it’s steps away from Park Avenue.

For the classic Winter Park brunch experience: Briarpatch on Park Avenue is probably the most popular brunch spot in the area, evident by the fact that there’s almost always a long wait on the weekends. They don’t take reservations, which makes this plan a little tricky, but it can be worth a try if you go early and have a back-up plan. For back-ups, I would recommend Boca or The Coop nearby. When I went to UCF, the only time I’d come to Winter Park was for Briarpatch, which goes to show how long it’s been a staple.

For a laidback brunch that’s a great deal: We continue to be impressed by the brunch offerings at Bulla Gastrobar. They have a 3-course brunch pre-fixe menu for $28 that offers you a lot of food, plus it can be shared with someone. Or, you can pick any one item from that menu. The Blueberry & Ricotta pancakes are a third course menu option, but it’s plenty for one person’s meal on its own and is only $10. Even the Bulla Benedict I ordered was $12. What’s interesting is the portions are exactly the same for each dish whether you order it alone or as part of the 3-course meal. If you want to go the boozy route, they also have unlimited mimosas and sangria for $18, which is a good deal because they charge $11 each, making it worth it if you drink at least two.

For an extravagant boozy brunch: For a memorable, extravagant brunch, look no further than Santiago’s Bodega on Virginia Drive. They have a buffet with a mix of brunch classics and Spanish dishes, but what makes it stand apart from any other brunch I’ve had is their Prime Rib carving station and king crab legs. It also offers the lively, fast-paced brunch vibe some groups might be looking for. We love sitting outside if we can get a table there, or the bar area as the second best spot.

Other places to consider: Eola General, Olde Hearth Bread Company in East End Market, White Wolf Cafe, Peter’s Kitchen (for authentic dim sum), The Ravenous Pig, Russell’s

On my wishlist to try: Bagel Bruno, The Robinson Coffee Room, Winter Park Biscuit Company in East End Market

Lunch & Dinner

For a damn good sandwich: These three places are all very different, but they have one thing in common – a damn good sandwich. Paris Banh Mi Cafe & Bakery makes a delicious Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich, along with fun teas, boba drinks and French pastries. Stasio’s Italian Deli has gourmet Italian subs, an Italian market, and is conveniently located next to Sideward Brewing and other favorites in The Milk District. Last but not least, Pom Pom’s Tea House & Sandwicheria has withstood the test of time. I went in college (years ago!) and still enjoy it today. They have something for everyone. P.S. You have to try the Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving sandwich at least once in your life!

For a casual, order at the counter spot: Black Bean Deli is a delicious Cuban cafe, and Black Rooster Taqueria and Tako Cheena make great tacos. The benefit of the taco spots is that they’re very close walking distance to many of our favorite local bars you’ll find in my Orlando Bar Guide.

For a mix of adventurous and not adventurous eaters: For something a little different that not everyone can find at home where they live, The Greek Corner and Hawkers both offer an approachable but still interesting menu. At The Greek Corner, the portions are large so you get a lot of bang for your buck. In the past year, they extended their patio and added an awning for shade – definitely sit outside if you go here! At Hawkers, we also prefer to sit outside where it’s not as noisy. We love their Kunizakari Nigori Cup cold unfiltered sake, bulgogi beef skewers, and Hawkers wings in the spring onion ginger sauce.

For sharable tapas that’s perfect for groups: I honestly think we have taken every single visitor to Santiago’s Bodega. Friends and family always love it, and so do we! We’ve also tried all but a few items on the menu, and best of all, they are consistently cooked/prepared well time and time again. It’s hard to pick favorites but I’ll try! The beef carpaccio and prosciutto-wrapped dates are probably our most ordered. We also love the cheese and charcuterie plates (no surprise here!), shrimp and chorizo, petite-rack lamb, Brussels sprouts, beef tenderloin and spanakopita. Because most of our favorites are hot tapas, I prefer it for dinner or an evening snack. As I mentioned above, our favorite place to sit is outside, and second would be the bar area.

For an upscale meal & experience and a lively vibe: Both Hillstone or Sixty Vines are in my opinion, impressive. Anyone you take there will appreciate the quality of their food and drinks, but also the atmosphere. I honestly don’t think I could narrow down my favorite food and drinks at both of these places!

Other places to consider: Prato, East End Market in general (Farm & Haus, Hinckley’s Fancy Meats, Le Femme du Fromage), Hunger Street Tacos, MX Taco, King Bao

Lunch spots on my wishlist to try: Bem Bom, The Pastrami Project, Swine & Sons, Orlando Meats (the new location specifically – we haven’t been to it yet but we loved and frequented their previous Virginia Drive location)

Dinner Only

For a lively scene and shareable Asian small plates: Out of the seven places we ate at while my sister and brother-in-law were in town, they agreed that Tori Tori Japanese Pub was their overall favorite. It checks all the boxes: great vibe, service, food, and drinks. Bonus that they offer something truly different with a variety of creative drinks & dishes. I recommend going as close to their opening time as possible because it fills up quickly. Clearly we’re not the only ones who love it! Some of our favorite things to order are the crab fried rice with garlic (a non-negotiable if we eat there – it’s SO good!), blue crab & corn croquettes, the chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken) with Japanese citrus pepper sauce (I’m obsessed with this sauce), and the chicken oysters.

For the most comforting AND flavorful meal that’s worth the hype: Domu is an Orlando hotspot in the Audubon Park District that has since expanded into a new location in Dr. Phillips and more recently in Jacksonville, a Domu wings pop-up, and a sister concept, Tori Tori (above). They’re best known for their ramen and wings (rightly so), but I love their cocktails and other plates too!

For delicious sushi and so much more: Kabooki Sushi and Sushi Pop are my favorite local restaurants if my visitors want sushi and a good vibe. Kabooki recently remodeled and expanded – I can’t wait to see it in person! I love their Hawaii x.o. roll and Zen roll, and have on my list to try their ramen. At Sushi Pop in Winter Park, they have a great happy hour, are steps away from Park Avenue, and the Ceviche Roll is a must-try!

For carbs that are really worth it: Pizza Bruno has our favorite pizza in Orlando, and I know I’m not alone. They have a long-standing stellar reputation in Orlando for good reason. On this entire list, it’s the most inconvenient and farthest location but it’s always worth it for their garlic knots, meatballs and Crimson Ghost pizza.

For a cozy neighborhood vibe and seasonal dishes: The Strand has been one of my go-to restaurants since I moved back to Orlando. It’s a restaurant I feel good supporting because it’s family-run and they source their ingredients locally – you can find the specifics on the chalkboard above the main entrance! Their menu changes seasonally but I love the snapper cakes to start, and the red snapper and scallop entrees. The Strand also has a fantastic menu of natural wines worth exploring. When Spencer and I go for date night, we always sit at the bar. For groups or visitors, I highly recommend making a reservation for a table.

For an upscale dining experience that’s never stuffy: Although Luke’s, The Ravenous Pig, The Osprey, and Russell’s all have different owners and menus, and are in different neighborhoods, in my mind they are similar. We’ve dined at each of them more than a handful of times and have never been disappointed. Plus, they all have great happy hours and are a hit with our visitors too! At Luke’s, we love to sit outside, order some cocktails and starters to share, and enjoy a long, relaxed meal while taking in the atmosphere. At The Ravenous Pig, their menu changes regularly so we’re always excited by all the amazing options. Their service is great so we tend to lean on our server for menu suggestions. The Osprey is beautiful inside and at the bar, but we love sitting outside for the bustling atmosphere in the heart of Baldwin Park given it’s corner location. They also have oysters on happy hour, which is a bonus in our book! Last but certainly not least, my love for Russell’s runs deep. See my full review here for all the details. They’ve recently added outdoor tables too!

For special occasions and celebrations: I couldn’t include a roundup of my favorite places without mentioning Kadence. I’ve written about it many times, including two reviews from their pre-fixe dinners here & here, and of their Chirashi Bowls here. It is worth the price, I promise! We’ve dined in-person for birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day, and it’s always such a treat.

Other places to consider: DoveCote, Atlantic Beer & Oyster (ABO), Sushi Lola, Christner’s

On my wishlist: Bites & Bubbles new location (that’s bigger & has a rooftop, yay!), The Pinery, Chez Vincent, Hamilton’s Kitchen

Dessert

For a romantic date or girl’s night out: I tried Better Than Sex – A Dessert Restaurant for the first time when my friend Carly visited me, and we had so many giggles because the names of everything are steamy, and “ooo’s” because everything sounded SO GOOD and indulgent. It’s a fun and memorable one!

For a quick, refreshing treat the whole family will enjoy: I first had Jeremiah’s Italian Ice when I was in college, and I still love it. While we don’t have it often, it’s always a treat when we do! I get the Scoop Froggy Frog (mint chocolate chip).

For authentic homemade ice cream: It’s hard to find a local ice cream shop these days. Fortunately for us, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream is only a 5-10-minute drive away. The quality is incredible, and the flavors range from staple favorites and more unique, limited-time special flavors. I once had a blondie ice cream that was DELISH – I had it probably three years ago and I still think about it!

For a cookie they’ll never forget: Gideon’s Bakehouse definitely tops the list for their huge and topping-filled indulgent cookies. I honestly can’t put into words how good they are. They still sell out constantly, and have done so well that they recently opened a location in Disney Springs!

For an afternoon sweet treat in a cafe setting: If your visitor wants dessert, The Glass Knife is a go-to because they have cakes, cookies, donuts, pastries and more. Plus, it’s very cute and Insta-worthy inside!

For donuts & coffee: The Salty Donut has a great setting with both indoor and outdoor seating available, as well as fun, delicious flavors of donuts…because who can resist a good donut?

On my wishlist: Ice cream from Matcha House Tea & Creamery and Matcha Cafe Maiko (I love picking up an iced matcha latte from one of these spots depending on where has parking easily available, but I haven’t tried their ice cream yet!), Dochi in East End Market

For A Day Trip

If you go to Sanford: Hollerbach German Restaurant is always busy on the weekends especially to sit outside, which I much prefer. It’s a fun spot for a group, and the food is authentic and delicious. Check out my Sanford guide for details and more recommendations in the area!

On my wishlist in Sanford: The Old Jailhouse, Buster’s Bistro (I’ve been there for drinks many times but never ordered food), Fuel BBQ, Henry’s Depot

If you go to Dr. Phillips: I’ve never had anything I didn’t like at Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi in Dr. Phillips. Their cocktails, sushi, Robata grill entrees, and specials are all so good.

On my wishlist in Dr. Phillips: The H, Slate

If you go to Disney Springs: On a nice day, you can’t beat The Boathouse. The restaurant is enormous with many different rooms, though we love sitting outside on the water. The prices, to be expected given its touristy location, are high, but the oysters are great quality if you’re looking to treat yourself. Across from The Boathouse is Wine Bar George. From a nice wrap-a-round bar as you walk in to a bright and airy upstairs, Wine Bar George does it right. Great service, great food, and great wine. Go here with your visitors who appreciate good wine!

On my wishlist in Disney Springs: Jaleo, Morimoto Asia (I’ve been to the Morimoto in Las Vegas and it was INCREDIBLE! – my review is here), and checking out Gideon’s Bakehouse new location!

Thank you for reading, utilizing and/or hopefully enjoying my Orlando Food Guide. If you made it this far in one sitting, bravo! Stay a minute longer and tell me in the comments below what your favorite restaurants and cafes are – Orlando or wherever you are. I’m always looking for new places to explore, or new dishes to try out at my favorite spots!

Drafts In The Works

  • Coming Soon: Orlando Openings I’m Excited About – There’s a lot of ’em! I covered some in this post.
  • My Orlando Bucket List & An Updated Travel Bucket List – Turns out I haven’t shared a bucket list since 2018! Work travel and COVID took over I guess, but I need to get re-inspired and back on track. Anyone else?
  • Links To Look At, Volume 12 – I’ve been extra diligent about saving articles lately and have some really good ones to share about traveling, as well as fun food & drink ideas for at home and social gatherings. In the meantime, here’s one we recently loved.
  • Recaps from my travels planned this month & in October – Two new cities I’ve never been to! I’m so excited.
  • More low-carb/keto-friendly favorites – If this interests you, check out this post!
  • My favorite cheese & charcuterie pairings – In the meantime, browse my Instagram for inspiration in the “at home” highlight or in my posts. I’ve shared quite a few of them!

In Case You Missed It

In This Adventure

  • Restaurants

    • Domu domufl.com

      Modern restaurant/bar serving ramen & Asian small plates, plus cocktails, sake, wine & beer.

    • Luke’s Kitchen and Bar eatatlukes.com

      Contemporary-industrial restaurant for American staples with an open kitchen and patio seating.

    • The Ravenous Pig theravenouspig.com

      Stylish gastropub serving inventive New American fare, beers brewed on-site & handcrafted cocktails.

    • Russell’s Lake Ivanhoe russellsorlando.com

      Located on the historic Lake Ivanhoe, Russell's offers an upscale casual dining restaurant and bar featuring an innovative and fresh menu.

    • The Osprey Tavern ospreytavern.com

      Lively American spot with an open kitchen & central bar, offering a creative take on the classics.

    • Kabooki Sushi kabookisushi.com

      Stylish, modern eatery featuring updated Japanese dishes & sushi plus inventive Pan-Asian creations.

    • Kadence kadenceorlando.com

      Snug reservations-only Japanese restaurant featuring multi-course sushi meals plus sake.

    • Atlantic Beer & Oyster atlanticbeerandoyster.com

      A neighborhood oyster bar and modern seafood shack with a beer list filled with coastal craft brews and classic domestics.

    • Hillstone hillstonerestaurant.com/locations/winterpark

      Upscale chain eatery serving burgers, steaks & other American fare in stylish, spacious surrounds.

    • Santiago’s Bodega santiagosbodega.com/home.php

      A wide array of tapas-style dishes offered in a colorful restaurant with a full bar & patio tables.

    • The Coop asouthernaffair.com

      Counter-serve joint specializing in classic Southern eats like fried chicken in a homey setting.

    • The Strand strandorlando.com

      Seasonal New American dishes paired with craft beer & wine, in a cozy space with retro accents.

    • Pizza Bruno pizzabrunofl.com

      Hip, pizzeria known for a variety of wood-fired red and white Neapolitan-style pies & craft beer.

    • Prato prato-wp.com

      Stylish Italian eatery offering modern takes on classic dishes in rustic-chic surrounds.

    • MX Taco mxtacorestaurant.com

      A fast-casual restaurant featuring fresh tacos, traditional soups and street corn in the style of a traditional Mexican kitchen.

    • Black Rooster Taqueria blackroostertaqueria.com

      Contemporary Mexican tacos, bowls & ceviches are served with coffee & drinks amid colorful decor.

    • Tako Cheena mytakocheena.com

      Tacos, burritos & empanadas have Pan-Asian fillings at this busy, compact restaurant.

    • Hunger Street Tacos hungerstreettacos.com

      Counter-serve hot spot for tacos, quesadillas & more, plus murals & covered patio seating.

    • Black Bean Deli blackbeandeli.com

      Sandwiches & other Cuban eats are doled out at this acclaimed deli with indoor & outdoor seating.

    • Peter’s Kitchen peterskitchencb.business.site

      Hong Kong specialties, including dim sum, are served in a spacious contemporary dining room.

    • Bulla Gastrobar bullagastrobar.com

      Contemporary bar with made-to-order sangrias, plus Spanish & Catalan small plates.

    • The Greek Corner thegreekcorner.net

      This casual, light-filled resource for classic cooking features festive belly dancers, plus a patio.

    • Briarpatch thebriarpatchrestaurant.com

      Breakfast fare such as waffles & eggs Benedict plus homemade ice cream served in an airy setting.

    • Tori Tori toritoripub.com

      A local Japanese pub serving yakitori, bar food and cocktails.

    • Sixty Vines sixtyvines.com/location/orlando-fl

      Sixty Vines is a comfortable and sophisticated restaurant inspired by California wine country. The space features an open, exhibition kitchen with a charcuterie bar, several dining spaces, and a greenhouse patio that gives you a true wine garden dining experience.

    • Sushi Pop Winter Park sushipoprestaurant.com/winterpark-homepage

      Enjoy a hand built menu by chef Chau that celebrates seasonal ingredients from both local farms and the Japanese fish market.

  • Bakeries and Sweets

    • Better Than Sex betterthansexdesserts.com

      This adults-only cafe offers sweet treats from cakes to cocktails served in a dark, romantic space.

    • Gideon’s Bakehouse gideonsbakehouse.com

      Sweets shop, with a warm Victorian ambiance, specializing in hefty cookies and rich cakes.

    • The Glass Knife theglassknife.com

      This counter-service dessert shop sells sweets, savories and coffees in a bright feminine space.

    • Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream kellyshomemadeicecream.com

      Unassuming, contemporary pink & white parlor selling a variety of handmade ice creams & sorbets.

    • Jeremiah’s Italian Ice jeremiahsice.com

      Counter-serve stand with frozen treats, including soft-serve cones, ices & gelati in many flavors. Multiple locations around Orlando!

    • The Salty Donut saltydonut.com

      The Salty is a family-owned, artisan donut shop that focuses on chef-made, small-batch, craft donuts that rotate based on seasonality. 

  • Cafes and Coffee Shops

    • Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria pompomsteahouse.com

      Compact cafe serves creative sandwiches, teas & sweets in a funky space filled with local artwork.

    • Paris Banh Mi Cafe Bakery parisbanhmicafebakery.com

      A French-Vietnamese fusion concept cafe serving banh mi sandwiches, milk and boba teas, alongside French pastries and desserts.

    • Stasio’s Italian Deli instagram.com/stasiositaliandeli
    • Eola General eolageneral.com

      A modern take on a good old-fashioned general store. The team behind Eola General wanted to create an eatery that folks can come to and not only get a delicious breakfast, lunch & dinner, but also grab other essentials. 

    • New General newgeneral.us

      Contemporary take on a general store with freshly prepared foods, coffees, apparel and home goods.

    • Foxtail Coffee Co. foxtailcoffee.com

      Foxtail’s flagship store, it houses a café as well as the wholesale roastery and package room.

    • Deli Desires delidesires.com

      A local Jewish deli providing comfort food favorites such as bialys, challah, traditional smoked fish and meats, deli salads, and more.

    • King Bao kingbaowow.com

      Snug no-frills restaurant specializing in Asian buns stuffed with proteins and unusual condiments.

    • Matcha House Tea & Creamery facebook.com/matcha-house-tea-creamery-106420967773870

      Matcha House specializes in all things matcha, specifically matcha soft-serve ice cream served in charcoal waffle cones, matcha lattes, matcha Thai tea and high-grade ceremonial matcha.

    • Matcha Cafe Maiko matchacafe-maiko.com/eng

      A matcha cafe offering Premium Ceremonial Grade Matcha and more from Uji, Kyoto Japan.

  • Markets

    • East End Market eastendmkt.com

      Vast array of artisanal vendors in one marketplace, from bakers to pasta makers to coffee roasters.

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