By Susan and Simon Veness
September is Magical Dining Month, a time when some of the finest restaurants in Orlando offer special 3-course menus at just $33 per person. Taking advantage of it is a no-brainer, whether you already have fine dining on your radar or you’re tossing around the idea of branching out beyond buffets and burgers.
To help you wade through the myriad of choice, we break down our Top Ten, giving you an idea of what a Typical 3-course Dinner with appropriate accompaniments (but without drinks) would cost, per person, outside of Magical Dining Month, bearing in mind you could spend a bit less or you could spend a lot more. We also list the Magical Dining Month menu selections to help illustrate each restaurant’s cuisine, and, with Our Tips in mind, you’ll have a dining experience that may just be the most memorable of your entire holiday.
With 77 restaurants to choose from you’re spoilt for choice. Here are 10 of the best based on quality, service, atmosphere and value over regular-menu pricing:
1) A Land Remembered
The U.S. knows beef, and A Land Remembered in the Shingle Creek Resort fits our ‘best of the best’ when it comes to exceptional steaks. They serve only Harris Ranch All Natural Prime Black Angus, and, while this is serious splash-out territory reserved for the most auspicious occasions, we’ll make an exception during Magical Dining Month. If we could go every night, we would.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $92, though you can easily spend more.
Our Tip: We’re certain the chicken and fish are extraordinary, but if you’re not going to have steak you might as well go somewhere else. You’ll thank us later, so…You’re welcome!
Appetisers: Angel City Oysters, Ahi Tuna, or Pine Island Wedge with gorgonzola.
Entrees: Filet Mignon, Zeck’s Ribeye Steak and Shrimp, Blackened Salmon, or Glenda’s Free Range Chicken Breast.
Dessert: White Crème Brulee, Banana Cream Pie, or Chocolate Mousse
Named for Earnest Hemingway, this picturesque hideaway at the Hyatt Grand Cypress Resort honours the legendary writer’s love of Cuban cuisine and gets our vote for Most Enchanting Setting.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner:$80.
Our Tip: Reserve a table for sunset and bask in the romance of Hemingway’s spectacular seclusion.
Appetisers: Key Wester Salad, Key Lime Caesar, or Florida Rock Shrimp Chowder
Entrees: “Cayo Hueso” Crab Cakes, Shrimp Scampi, Cuban Criollo Chicken, or Crispy Black Fin Snapper
Dessert: Key Lime Tart or Peanut Butter Bombe
3) Morton’s The Steakhouse
Award-winning Morton’s has long been an Orlando institution for its succulent USDA Prime steaks, fresh seafood and luxurious supper-club ambiance. Perfect for Date Night or a special occasion, Morton’s is dressed to impress without being overly pretentious.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $73.
Our Tip: Servers are extremely well-versed in every aspect of the food and wine, so don’t hesitate to ask for the ideal wine pairing with your dinner selection. They’ll know.
Appetisers: Morton’s Salad or Caesar Salad
Entrees: Filet Mignon, Honey-chili glazed Salmon Filet, Double Cut Prime Pork Chop, or Chicken Bianco with artichoke hearts. Choice of mashed potatoes or steamed broccoli.
Dessert: Double Chocolate Mousse or Crème Brulee.
4) The Capital Grille
Located on International Drive, Capital Grille is a huge departure from the typical tourists haunts. Impeccable style makes this a haven for up-and-coming urban professionals. But go anyway. The food is fantastic.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $72.
Our Tip:Capital Grille’s wine list consistently wins awards, but their bartenders also mix some wicked cocktails. Enjoy a smashing signature drink, then take dinner at a blissfully relaxed pace.
Appetisers: Field Greens, Caesar Salad or Clam Chowder
Entrees: Filet Mignon, Parmesan and Herb Marinated Tournedos, Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin, Citrus Glazed Salmon, or Breast of Chicken Confit
Dessert: Cheesecake with berries or Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake
5) The Venetian Room
This AAA Four Diamond award-winning restaurant is tucked inside the Caribe Royal Resort, overlooked by most tourists but well-known to locals for its contemporary Continental cuisine. At Magical Dining Month pricing, this is one you shouldn’t miss.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $72.
Our Tip: Although it’s in the heart of Tourist Central, you’ll want to dress up a bit here. Decompress from the theme park frenzy by lingering over your meal.
Appetisers: BBQ Duck Confit, Corn and Lobster Chowder, or Baby Red Romaine Tapenade Salad
Entrees: Lump Crab Crusted Key West Mahi, Stuffed Free Range Chicken, or Black Angus Ribeye
Dessert: Milk Chocolate Demi-Sphere or Apple Mascarpone Tart
6) Todd English’s bluezoo
Celebrity Chef Todd English brought bluezoo’s ‘seafood with a twist’ concept to the Walt Disney World Swan Resort and the crowd went wild! The menu is unconventional, but the flavours are terrific.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $71.
Our Tip: Dine slowly, then stroll to the International Gateway to catch some of the fireworks from Epcot’s IllumiNations show.
Appetisers: Edamame Gazpacho or Heirloom Tomato Tart
Entrees: Octopus Bolognese, Whey Poached Chicken, or Flat Iron Steak
Dessert: Warm Chocolate Banana Molten or Raspberry Tart
7) Tchoup Chop
Tucked away in the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando, the Asian-Polynesian Fusion style offerings here are so beautifully presented they are like art on a plate. Sublime flavours regularly make this our Brit Guide Number 1 choice for fine dining.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $64.
Our Tip: Dress up, bring your camera, and order anything. Really. You cannot possibly go wrong.
Appetisers: Seared Ahi Poke Nachos, Asian Style Ratatouille Potstickers, or Fried Green Tomatoes Grilled Cheese “Sandwich”
Entrees: Pulehu Bistro Steak, Baked Seafood Cobbler, or Petit Veal Osso Bocco
Dessert: Baked Hawaii, Gianduja Chocolate Candy Crunch Bar, or Passion Fruit Lilikoi Chiboust
Our go-to choice for exceptional Polynesian-Asian fusion, Roy’s innovative cuisine is quirky enough to be interesting yet familiar enough not to be intimidating. You’ll want to forsake the theme park shorts and tee-shirt for something more refined here, but the stuffiness ends there.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $60.
Our Tip: Roy’s 188 cocktail, a tribute to their opening year in Hawaii, starts any meal off right.
Appetisers:Crispy Spicy Tuna Sushi Roll, Crunchy Lobster Potstickers, or Grilled Szechwan Spiced Pork Ribs
Entrees: Hibachi Style Grilled Salmon, Roy’s Classic Roasted Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with lobster sauce, or Fire Grilled Filet Mignon
Dessert: Roy’s Melting Chocolate Soufflé for Two
9) Bistro CloClo
It’s all about ‘joie de vivre’ at Bistro CloClo, one of Orlando’s newest restaurants. This unassuming neighbourhood bistro brings traditional French Provincial dining with an elegant twist to Restaurant Row, with the kind of laid-back charm you’d expect on the continent.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $58.
Our Tip: Try a pre-dinner Bellini-Framboises of Raspberry coulis with champagne. Delightful!
Appetiser choices: Prince Edward Island mussels in white wine, Escargots with garlic parsley butter in puff pastry, or Hand-cut Ahi Tuna in olive oil and citrus.
Entrees: Angus New York Strip steak, Congan flambéed scallops, or Seasonal Fish in lemon brown butter sauce.
Desserts: Crème Brulee or Mousse Au Chocolat over puff pastry.
10) Seasons 52
Many restaurants say they use ‘seasonal ingredients’, but Seasons 52 really means it. Each dish is made from produce that is currently fresh and ripe, and nothing on the menu is over 475 calories, so you can indulge guilt-free. The menu changes weekly and we could happily dine here 52 times a year.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $53.
Our Tip: Make the Belgian Chocolate S’more one of your mini-indulgence choices. Creamy, heavenly goodness!
Appetisers: Roasted Roma Tomato Flatbread, Garlic Chicken Pesto Flatbread or Blackened Steak and Blue Cheese Flatbread (shared by two) AND Organic Baby Spinach Salad or Organic Field Greens
Entrees: Cedar Plank Salmon, Filet Mignon, Grilled Sea Scallops, Pork Tenderloin and Portobello, or Maple-Glazed Roast Chicken
Dessert: Two Mini-Indulgence Desserts
With lower crowd levels in the theme parks, a slight easing-off of the heat and humidity, and the incredible savings of Magical Dining Month, September is a terrific month to be in Orlando. It’s easy to spend $33 per person in nearly any full-service restaurant, so we think it only makes sense to make your dining choices something truly memorable.