A Guide to Dining in Orlando's Hottest Spots

Dining

Pointe Orlando

Pointe Orlando is quickly becoming the Mecca of choice for great dining in Orlando. Located on International Drive, this chic dining location is host to a terrific line-up of restaurants, offering foodies a significant selection of both fine and casual dining.

A number of restaurants have claimed winners of the annual Foodie Awards in various categories and the lifestyle location has been dubbed the perfect place for those seeking a little more grown-up appeal on their Floridian travels by The New York Times. This trendy nook on International Drive is an ideal hub for wining, dining and socialising in style.

Check out some of the best The Pointe has to offer:

Capital Grille

Among the most upscale of choices along I-Drive, with a slick, trendy atmosphere that attracts both business people and conventioneers. Ready to finalise a big deal? This is the place to do it. Just want a great burger so juicy it will drip down your arm when you bite into it? You’ll find that here, too.

  • Type of food: American. Known for their dry-aged steaks, succulent burgers and fresh seafood, there is nothing ordinary about lunch or dinner here.
  • Who goes? Locals out to impress; conventioneers from the nearby convention center; couples looking for swish style over romance.
  • Best time to go: Dinner, after you’ve changed out of your shorts and T-shirts for something a bit smarter. And don’t worry about parking. The valet will be happy to assist you.
  • Signature dish: Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Shallot Butter.
  • Open: 10am-midnight.

The Pub

It may not have 500 years of history behind it and it’s several times bigger than anything you’ll find at home, but The Pub’s atmosphere is just as welcoming and you’ll recognise everything on the menu.

  • Type of food: British fare with a modern, upscale twist.
  • Who goes? Families, especially those missing a ‘taste of home’; locals who appreciate a great pint and a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Best time to go: Lunch is best, simply because you’ll fill up and won’t necessarily want more than a snack for dinner. But dinner is pretty good, too.
  • Signature dish: English Pot Roast, just like Mum always wished she could make.
  • Open: 11-2am.

Tommy Bahama

Bright and airy, it hits the perfect Caribbean-style key when you can’t be bothered to head down to the islands themselves. Chilled-out, laid back, but efficient service makes it a relaxing choice, and you can even pop into the gift shop for a Hawaiian-style shirt if you really want to get into the spirit of the place.

  • Type of food: Floribbean, with an emphasis on lighter fare.
  • Who goes? Families and couples making a day (or an evening) of it along I-Drive; hungry locals looking for their next Tommy Bahama clothing purchase.
  • Best time to go: Lunch or dinner here makes a welcome relief from the heavier, heartier portions you’ll find all around Orlando.
  • Signature dish: Caribbean Rubbed Mahi Mahi, but don’t miss the Ahi Tuna Tacos starter.
  • Open: 11am-10pm Mon-Sat, 12-8pm Sun.

B. B. King’s Blues Club

Part restaurant, part nightclub, all Southern in the extreme, B.B. King’s is Pointe Orlando’s hotspot for live music in best Creole style.

  • Type of food: Southern comfort foods, many of them in traditional New Orleans vein. Start with the Soul Sampler (catfish bites, fried pickles, and Memphis style wings), move on to the Lip Smackin’ Ribs or a Bourbon Glazed Ribeye, and finish with a big slice of Pecan Pie. You won’t be able to eat it all, but you’ll sure be happy trying!
  • Who goes? Families and couples staying along I-Drive, and locals who don’t mind making a special trip to the Pointe for some terrific live music.
  • Best time to go: Dinner, when the live music is on. Just don’t expect to have a conversation until the band takes a break.
  • Signature dish: Any southern restaurant that doesn’t make fried chicken or fried catfish their speciality isn’t worth visiting. BB Kings doesn’t make that mistake. Try both.
  • Open: 12pm-12am.

International Drive

Often called I-Drive, this emphatic road is home to a huge variety of restaurants and, in many of them, you might find the portions just the same. For those that like their food in a 'big' way, I-Drive is heaven. Here you will find fast food restaurants, a selection of fine dining, cuisine from around the world, lobster and steak houses, dinner shows, and more. International Drive is also home to the largest McDonalds in the world.

Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant

It may be a chain restaurant, but in this case that’s not a bad thing. Chuy’s came to Orlando with a reputation for great food in a fun environment, and it has lived up to the high praise.

  • Type of food: Tex-Mex, that addictive combination of Mexican-inspired cuisine and a toned down spiciness suited to non-Mexican sensibilities.
  • Who goes? Families who aren’t quite ready for full-on blow-your-head-off spice of a traditional Mexican restaurant; locals who know Chuy’s reputation for fresh, flavourful Tex-Mex dishes.
  • Best time to go: Lunch or dinner, just as long as you go. And don’t fill up on the tortilla chips and salsa. You’ve got a big meal coming, you know!
  • Signature dish: Famous “Big As Yo’ Face” Burritos
  • Open: 11am-10pm Sun-Thurs, 11pm Fri & Sat.

Burrito

Café TuTu Tango

It’s fun, funky and a bit loud, with a scattering of artists working on their latest painting if you visit during dinner. If a hippie colony and a culinary school had a baby, it would be Café TuTu Tango.

  • Type of food: Eclectic International ‘tapas’. Yeah, it sounds weird, but go anyway. It’s fabulous if you’re in the right frame of mind.
  • Who goes? Families and couples who don’t know what they’re getting into but love it once they do; locals who do know what they’re getting into and come back again and again for more.
  • Best time to go: Dinner, when the artists are on hand and happy to chat about their work.
  • Signature dish: Alligator Jambalaya. It’s not for everyone, but you almost have to try it just to say you have.
  • Open: 11.30am-12am.

Millers Ale House

This bar-restaurant is a cousin to our ‘local’, Orlando Ale House, and it’s about as close to an American pub as you’re going to get. Go for the laid-back style and the covered outdoor bar, come back for the Zingers and the fabulous drinks specials.

  • Type of food: American bar food, totally unpretentious.
  • Who goes? Families, locals and couples who can’t bear the fast-food scene but don’t want to dress up or keep their elbows off the table. Want friendly? This is the place to be.
  • Best time to go: During any big sporting event, when the locals turn out in droves and good-natured rivalries lend a fun, raucous atmosphere to the place. There may be a lot of shouting when the right (or wrong) team scores, but it’s all very family-friendly.
  • Signature dish: World Famous Zingers (boneless buffalo chicken wings). When your server asks if you want Blue Cheese dressing or Ranch, just say, “Yes” and you’ll get both. Don’t be embarrassed; we all do it.
  • Open: 11am-2am.

Fogo de Chao Churrascaria

With an increasingly large visitor population from South American, churrascarias are popping up around Orlando, and Fogo de Chao is one of the best.

  • Type of food: Brazilian-inspired skewered roasted meats and seafood served tableside, and a gourmet salad bar that beats any we’ve seen. Side dishes are included, and all meals are prix fixe.
  • Who goes? Families with hearty appetites (children under 6 are free, ages 7-12 dine for half-price), couples enjoying a date-night, and locals who love the all-you-can-eat style or show up just for the magnificent salad bar.
  • Best time to go: Lunch, preferably around 2pm. A meal here will certainly keep you going until breakfast the next day, and while dinner is popular, it’s a lot of heavy food for an evening meal. Have to go at dinnertime? Visit just for the salad bar or plan to skip lunch that day.
  • Signature dish: Any and all of their skewered roasted meats.
  • Open: 12pm-2.30pm and 5pm-10pm Mon-Thurs, 5.30-10pm on Fri & Sat, 5.30-9.30pm Sun.

Sand Lake Road

Sand Lake Road, located just off International Drive, is frequently referred to as 'Restaurant Row' for the section west of I-Drive and is home to one of the best selections of fine dining restaurants in Orlando. This ‘foodies dream street’ features restaurants with celebrity chefs, creative menus with fabulous wine lists, plenty of choice, and a reputation for excellent dining in comfortable surroundings. There are a few fast food restaurants here, but the main focus is on fresh, high-quality dining experiences.

Big Fin Seafood

All the quality of a great seafood place without the high prices makes Big Fin our go-to spot when we can’t make it through another day without a lobster tail or a big platter of steamed mussels.

  • Type of Food: Seafood, steaks, pasta and a fresh, appealing raw bar.
  • Who goes? Mainly locals, but Big Fin is increasingly popular with visitors and, unlike many upscale seafood places, well-behaved children fit right in here.
  • Best time to go: Dinner, because that’s when it’s open.
  • Signature Dish: Whole Maine Lobster Dinner. Oh, heavenly bliss!
  • Open: Sun-Thu, 5-10pm; 11pm Fri & Sat.

Rocco’s Tacos

If the 2-hour waits for a table at dinnertime are anything to go by (and they are), Rocco’s is one of Orlando’s most popular hotspots. Visit their website and reserve a table to avoid long waits, or simply do as the locals do and have a drink or two in the bar until it’s your turn.

  • Type of food: Mexican, with a somewhat Americanised tinge. Let’s just say it’s close enough to the real thing to be worth making the drive over for, but it won’t leave you reaching in desperation for the water glass.
  • Who goes? Locals are the biggest demographic here, but in-the-know out-of-towners will quietly sneak away from the main tourist areas and pay homage to this wildly popular choice along ‘Restaurant Row’.
  • Best time to go: Lunch, simply because you’re not likely to get in at dinnertime, when waits can top 2 hours.
  • Signature Dish: Guacamole prepared tableside. Regardless of whatever else you order, the ‘guac’ is practically compulsory.
  • Open: 11.30am-11pm.

Roy’s

Roy’s doesn’t even try to pretend it’s not a foodies’ delight, with a slightly pretentious air that’s well-deserved. Elegant, creative, with each dish packing loads of flavour, it’s a great choice for its refined atmosphere and exceptional service.

  • Type of food: Asian-Pacific fusion.
  • Who goes? Locals’ devotion has elevated Roy’s to the standard of a classic, and there is no telling how many couples have said, “I will” here. Families are, of course, welcome, but this is really the place for a more refined experience sans youngsters.
  • Best time to go: Dinner is your only option, but if it ever opens at lunchtime, we’ll go.
  • Signature Dish: Roy’s Signature Maine Lobster Pot Pie, but you won’t go wrong with anything here.
  • Open: 5.30-10pm.

Noodles and Company

A relative newcomer to the Restaurant Row line-up, Noodles is popular with the locals, and for a good reason. Tasty and inexpensive, there is plenty to choose from here, and all of it freshly made.

  • Type of food: International pastas, including Thai, Japanese, and Italian. Flatbreads sandwiches, salads and soups are also on offer, as is beer and wine. Most pasta items also come in smaller portions.
  • Who goes? Locals are probably the only ones who know about this family-friendly counter service offering, and its location in a strip mall makes it a bit less obvious. But we expect it will become more popular with tourists once the word gets out.
  • Best time to go: Lunch or Dinner, when you want ‘just enough’ but not ‘too much’.
  • Signature Dish: Thai Hot Pot of curry broth, vegetables, noodles, chicken and pork.
  • Open: 11am-10pm.

Our Orlando Favourites

Here are the restaurants we visit time and again, and recommend with confidence:

A Land Remembered

This tucked-away steak house serves the highest quality, most butter-tender steaks in town, bar none. Named for a popular book on the history of Florida’s ‘cowboy culture’, this is our go-to place for a splash-out date-night.

  • Where: In the golf clubhouse at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, making it a true ‘hidden gem’.
  • Type of food: Steaks. True, there are other things on the menu such as seafood, lamb, chicken and lighter fare, but the steaks are the real stand-out choice, and, try as we might, we never order anything else.
  • Who goes? Locals love it, couples love it, and while well-behaved children are always welcome here, it’s a surprisingly romantic choice, ideal for an adults-only evening.
  • Best time to go: Dinner is the only option, and rightly so.
  • Signature dish: Land Remembered Surf and Turf (lobster and steak), but just close your eyes and point to anything on the steak menu and you’ll go home happy.
  • Open: 5.30-10pm.

Oceanaire Seafood Room

Taking a page directly out of the 1960s Rat Pack days, Oceanaire boasts an atmosphere that feels more like the luxury ocean liners of old than a restaurant in the heart of Tourist Central. You half expect Frank Sinatra and his friends to walk through the front door.

  • Where: Pointe Orlando on International Drive, but don’t let that fool you. This is seriously elegant, slightly snooty, entirely appealing territory.
  • Type of food: Seafood is the highlight here, and why fight it when there’s an extensive raw bar?
  • Who goes? Couples looking for a swish evening out. Families are always welcome, but children will probably feel entirely out of place.
  • Best time to go: Dinner, or just for an after-dinner martini at the bar.
  • Signature dish: Chilled Shellfish Platter.
  • Open: 5-10pm.

Maggiano’s Little Italy

It couldn’t be more family-friendly if it tried. If a big Italian mama opened up her house to tourists, it would feel just like Maggiano’s. As loud as a family reunion but as relaxed as a dinner at home, it’s our choice for a hearty meal with enough left-overs for lunch the next day.

  • Where: Pointe Orlando on International Drive.
  • Type of food: Italian, served ‘family-style’. Portions are easily large enough to split, and the starters are so appealing it’s one of the few places we order one even though we’ll never make it through 2 courses, never mind dessert.
  • Who goes? Families, locals and couples who appreciate the old-world style and the comforts of a huge bowl of pasta.
  • Best time to go: Dinner is the most popular time to visit, but lunch will easily set you up for the rest of the day.
  • Signature dish: Chef KB’s Lobster Carbonara is pretty special, but you’ll also find classic and speciality pastas, plus lighter Italian options such as steamed mussels and shrimp scampi. Chicken and veal also feature.
  • Open: 11.30am-11pm.

Ming Court

This long-time resident may not remind you of your local take-away at home, and that’s probably because the menu is vast, and the dishes are authentic but creative. We think that’s a good thing, and while we don’t go out for Chinese often, when we do, we prefer Ming Court.

  • Where: International Drive across from Pointe Orlando.
  • Type of food: Chinese that goes far beyond the typical sweet-and-sour and fried rice. With 30 starters, 8 soups, 88 entrée selections and a dedicated Sushi menu, just deciding what to have is an adventure.
  • Who goes? Families, locals and couples looking for a more authentic menu than the standard take-away or uninspired Chinese buffet.
  • Best time to go: It’s much easier to get in at lunchtime, but dinner is worth waiting for, too.
  • Signature dish: Szechwan Flaming Wok filled with shellfish, chicken and vegetables.
  • Open: 11am-3pm and 4pm-11pm.

Cuba Libre

Cuban food is hot in Orlando (meaning popular, not spicy!), influenced by a large Cuban population in Miami and in Ybor City just outside of Tampa. And we’re so glad they’ve brought this hard-to-find cuisine to I-Drive!

  • Where: Pointe Orlando on International Drive
  • Type of food: Cuban, but not in an intimidating way. Even if some of the entrée names are unfamiliar, the ingredients are not. Think pork, chicken, beef and fish and add some uniquely Cuban seasonings, and you’re most of the way there.
  • Who goes? Families and couples before 9pm, conventioneers after 10pm.
  • Best time to go: Dinner or a late-night drink once the party atmosphere kicks in.
  • Signature dish: Churrasco a la Cubana (grilled skirt steak), ideally paired with one of their 12 Mojito choices…or two.
  • Open: 5pm-2am.

Ci-Ci’s Pizza Buffet

Unassuming CiCi’s is a straightforward all-you-can-eat bonanza, with a small salad bar, a soup and a pasta offering, a couple of desserts, and a pizza buffet unlike any you’ve seen before.

  • Where: 8586 Palm Parkway in Lake Buena Vista, and other locations throughout Orlando.
  • Type of food: Pizza, but in the most unconventional way. Cheese and pepperoni pizzas are included, of course, but why stop there when CiCi’s tops their pies with spinach and Alfredo sauce, Buffalo Chicken, Bacon and Cheddar, Mac and Cheese, BBQ Chicken, and so much more? Have a wacky combination of your own in mind? Just ask.
  • Who goes? Families and locals flock to CiCi’s for the immense value-for-money, and it’s common to find loads of students from the nearby university filling their bellies here. The atmosphere is friendly, family-oriented and bustling, making it a great choice with children.
  • Best time to go: Lunch or dinner, it’s a great choice any time of day.
  • Signature dish: Pizza every possible way!
  • Open: 11am-10pm.

Jiko—The Cooking Place

Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jiko is our hands-down favourite for a date-night get-away. Yes, it’s in the heart of tourist country and it’s full of families early in the evening, but later bookings benefit from a more grown-up crowd and a sophisticated ambiance.

  • Where: This is the premier fine-dining spot in Disney’s spectacular Animal Kingdom Lodge.
  • Type of food: African-Asian fusion, perfectly accompanied by an enticing South African wine list. We like to start with a flatbread, move on to the West African Jerk Scallops and Maize-crusted Monkfish, then cap the meal off with something in chocolate. But you’ll find your own combination, and trust us, you’ll be back for more.
  • Who goes? Families, locals and couples, but the real winners here are couples.
  • Best time to go: Dinner is the only option, but it’s so striking once the sun goes down we probably wouldn’t go at lunchtime anyway.
  • Signature dish: Spicy Botswana-style “Seswaa” Braised Short Ribs.
  • Open: 5.30-10pm.

Our Long Time Favourite Restaurant recommendation goes to the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary resort, and our Overall Favourite goes to Emeril's Tchoup Chop at Universal Studios Royal Pacific Resort.

Like this? Share it.