When we think of Orlando dining, we immediately think of Winter Park. Take a short drive up from Downtown Orlando, and you’ll find yourself among an extensive roster of restaurants in the city’s Park Avenue artery. If you’re hungry, there’s no better place to satisfy your stomach’s desires.
But what if you don’t want to make that drive? What if you want to stay close to the theme parks and eat some good food in the area? We stumbled across a few spots during our latest Central Florida trip and had to share our findings. And of course, we had to throw in a Winter Park restaurant for good measure.
Without further ado …
Miami is home to some amazing chefs, and we lost a great one last year: Venoy Rogers (ex-Essensia at the Palms Hotel on Miami Beach). He’s taken his talents to Orlando, where he continues to be a mad scientist in the kitchen. He’s a master at mixing and matching different ingredients and flavors to create meals that you’ll be thinking about long after you’re done dining. Just look at Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
At American Kitchen Bar & Grill inside B Resort & Spa, he’s elevating the food game with memorable dishes that mirror the restaurant’s name. The Cookhouse Meatball atop a creamy polenta is a flavor bomb and his “Just” Meat & Potatoes is anything but: A-5 Kobe Wagyu, smoked truffle potato, acorn squash, king crab and spring peas. And the Lion Wings and Miso Pork Buns had us in awe — both in presentation and taste.
Chef Rogers is still working on the new menu, so some of the items from our tasting might not make the final cut. Regardless, make it a point to stop in whenever you’re in Lake Buena Vista. We’re bummed he’s gone from the 305, but at least he’s not too far away.
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is easily one of our favorite places in Disney Springs. That says a lot, considering the abundance of dining options for visitors. Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar gets its name from Indiana Jones’s sidekick, and the bar embraces the movie’s setting wholeheartedly — it’s SO MUCH FUN.
As the name suggests, you’re inside a 1940s airplane hangar complete with spare parts, salvaged equipment and memorabilia from the movie series. One minute you’re hanging out with the crowds in Disney Springs, and the next you’re practically in an Indy movie.
The bar menu takes you on a literal adventure with exotic drinks galore. The Cool-Headed Monkey and Hovito Mojito are just a few of the libations that will have your senses embarking on a journey beyond the ordinary. The attention to detail — from the fun glasses to the staff uniforms — do an excellent job of making you feel like a true explorer. There’s nothing like it in all of Disney Springs.
When you can’t decide on what you want to eat, East End Market can help you make up your mind. The Audubon Park food hub is home to a variety of vendors that cater to any craving, but do yourself a favor and visit Domu. Two words: crack wings. Everyone and their mother told us to get the wings at this Japanese eatery, and now we know why; these bites of heaven have you dropping expletive after expletive once you dig in. Calling them merely “delicious” is an understatement.
Another highlight: the ramen. The signature Richie Rich with 18-hour pork broth is a bargain at $13. Get it with an order of wings, and you’re set. You don’t need anything else, but we won’t blame you if you get a second order of wings. #justsaying
This list wouldn’t be complete without a Winter Park entry, and our go-to spot every time is Prato. It’s quality Italian food at ridiculously reasonable prices. First things first: Make a reservation — this place fills up fast. Once you have a table, settle in and get ready for an experience.
Ordering a pizza is a given (go with the Diavolo), and opt for the $9 half portions of pasta. Going halfsies lets you try a little bit of everything without breaking the bank. In total, we had four delectable pastas for $36 — you’ll be hard pressed to find a similar deal anywhere else. We tend to skip the appetizers in favor of stuffing our faces with pasta, but the Prato Meatballs are a perfect starter if you’ve brought an extra-large appetite.
Side note: If you fall in love with the food (you will), you can even recreate some of Prato’s signature dishes at home. Chef Brandon McGlamery sells his book 9 Courses in the restaurant. You can see excerpts here.