A.D. Thompson
foodies orlando

If you’re the sort who pays attention to the Food Network, or The New York Times, or fun, nationwide surveys like those put together by WalletHub, then you already know what foodies in Orlando know: this city seriously rocks when it comes to phenomenal indie restaurants and artisan foodstuffs!

While celebrity chefs are opening places at an impressive clip, you hardly have to head to Disney or Universal to dine well in the City Beautiful. Just hit up one of its many foodie-friendly local ‘hoods to taste the best this culinary capital has to offer. Here are just a few:

The Milk District

With hipster cred that’s been growing steadily for years, this unassuming little neighborhood (so named for the T.G. Lee dairy plant that operates here) is exploding with options for eats. Take Se7en Bites, for example. This little bakery/café’s secret weapon is the serious talent of its chef proprietor, Trina Gregory-Smith, whose talent for baking up Southern-inspired comfort foods both sweet and savory are most impressive.

Orlando’s Vietnamese restaurants are the stuff of legend. One of the city’s best, Saigon Noodle, operates a popular spot on Bumby Avenue and its menu is massive. There are no bad choices (newbies generally start with something traditional and well known, like pho) but the staff here is super-friendly and will be happy to explain items (translating if necessary) and make great suggestions.

And if sammies are your thing, both Beefy King – a classic in the beef sandwich realm for more than 40 years – and relative newcomer Bad As’s Sandwiches, with its killer, creative menu, will have you craving more. Other notables: Tako Cheena, Black Rooster Taqueria, Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa and Hawker’s Asian Street Fare.

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Northeast of the Orlando metro, Sanford’s slow and steady rise is picking up some serious speed. Its quaint, historic downtown boasts a handful of local craft breweries and a growing roster of foodie favorites. Over at the Tennessee Truffle, Chef Nat Russell has been wowing locals (including local food critics) with his spectacular Southern fusion. In fact, there are tastes of the south all over town, not the least of which is Shantell’s Just Until, a cozy little nook with fried chicken that some folks around town deem the best there is.

Feeling more oom-pa-pa? Longtime neighborhood favorite, Hollerbach’s Willowtree Café serves it up figuratively via its traditional German menu – and sometimes literally via live music! Other notables here include Jimotti’s (Japanese, despite the name!), the Smiling Bison (go for Saturday brunch!) and Fuel BBQ.

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College Park

A longtime favorite, as much for its divine walkability and lovely older homes, Orlando’s College Park neighborhood (named for the many streets which bear the names of Ivy League schools) has been a culinary hotbed for some time.

Amid the rolling greens of the local golf course, The Taproom at Dubsdread not only boasts beautiful views of the Dubsdread greens, but steaks and burgers that have ranked high on the lists of locals for years. Steps away, you can grab a casual falafel (and the wonderfully spiced shredded-potato goodness of their “mazel tots”) at Hubbly Bubbly. Or head down Edgewater Drive to sample phenomenal Italian fare at a range of eateries including The Pie, a casual joint where the specialty is Roman-style pizza, the Adriatico Trattoria Italiana, a decidedly more upscale (but still casual) place where the cuisine – and the cuisine – hail from the nation’s coast, and Trevi Pasta, where you can get fresh pasta cooked to order – or just buy some to take home! Other notables: the Soda Fountain, K Restaurant and Shaker’s American Café.

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About The Author

A.D. Thompson

A.D. Thompson spent the first half of her 25-year career behind the editor’s desk, including time at Playgirl Magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Orlando Sentinel and a host of other publications, print and online. Now a full-time freelancer, she is the Orlando expert for USA Today’s 10Best.com and writes about everything from Mickey Mouse to marijuana-based tourism with equal levels of enthusiasm – and occasional bouts of the munchies.