A.D. Thompson
james beard award winners 2018 orlando

Having spurred multiple visits from Food Network celebrities, several rankings on top foodie lists and  a recent New York Times article showcasing incredible options for eats, Orlando's food scene is undeniably hot. There are more than a few neighborhoods which enjoy James Beard nominees helming their restaurants. Here's the scoop in 2018:

The Rusty Spoon; Chef Kathleen Blake

Chef Kathleen Blake is a three-time James Beard Award nominee. Her most recent ascent to the semifinals came in 2017. Known for its delicious, simply-prepared American fare, Blake’s restaurant was “farm-to-table” before this now-cliché phrase was even a thing.

Exposed brick and artful photography (much of which documents the local purveyors whose products end up on Rusty Spoon’s plates) make for an elegant but comfortable atmosphere in which guests partake of the freshest ingredients Central Florida has to offer. On-street parking is generally available, though there are several inexpensive pay lots within an easy stroll.

Neighborhood: The Rusty Spoon enjoys a prime downtown location in the Church Street Historical District and is within walking distance of several apartment communities, not the least of which is 55 West. The Rusty Spoon literally shares the same address!


The Ravenous Pig; Chefs James & Julie Petrakis

The Ravenous Pig, a 2015 James Beard nominee, recently moved into slightly bigger digs up the road from where it first opened and embedded the term “gastropub” into the lexicon of Orlando’s foodie community. Many credit the Petrakises with being the Adam and Eve of the city’s hot indie restaurant scene. These days, they are a culinary mini-empire. The Ravenous Pig, which boasts its own brewery and taproom, serves exemplary Southern-inspired fare in cozy, well-appointed environment.

Neighborhood:  The Ravenous Pig (and its next-door sister food emporium Swine & Sons) are located in Winter Park, a stone’s throw from the shopping of tony Park Avenue. Nearby apartment communities include Broadstone Winter Park, less than two miles away.

Luke’s Kitchen & Bar; Chef Brandon McGlamery

Though McGlamery’s 2017 nomination was for longtime Winter Park favorite Luma on Park, we’re going to point you to his newest venue over in Maitland: Luke’s Kitchen & Bar. Luke’s has been winning accolades with its classic American cuisine since opening early 2017. Its beautiful two-level space is bolstered by an outdoor patio nestled amid enchanting moss-draped live oaks. The craft-cocktail expertise of its barkeeps, however, needs no bolstering.

Neighborhood: Quaint well-established Maitland is rife with parks, as well as dining, shopping and the lure of Orlando’s only art-house cinema, the Enzian Theater. Luke’s is within walking distance of several apartment communities including Maitland Station, an easy mile stroll up the road.

1921nva, Chef Norman Van Aken

Chef Norman Van Aken – the only Florida chef in the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of  Food & Beverage in America – won back in 1997 while at his  restaurant in Coral Gables, Miami (now closed, sadly). Van Aken has a large presence in Orlando, however. Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, a sumptuous and elegant restaurant if ever there was, has been universally lauded for ages. Now 1921nva, Van Aken’s relatively new venture in the nearby historic town of Mount Dora, showcases what Van Aken is best known for: modern Florida cuisine.

Neighborhood: Beautiful, picturesque Mount Dora is a haven for lovers of architecture and antiquing. Its myriad of shops, galleries, bistros and other amusements offer the perfect place to while away an afternoon. Bristol Lakes and Hammock Oaks are two nearby apartment communities, each about 10 minutes’ drive from 1921nva and the rest of Mount Dora’s attractions.



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.