It’s well-known that theme parks and Orlando are inextricably linked and, yes, if it wasn’t for Disney, an Eater Essential list for Orlando would be, well, it wouldn’t be. Nearly a quarter century ago, Disney made a conscious effort to offer tourists and Orlandoans alike fare a notch above the middling meals served at Olive Garden and Bennigan’s. They nurtured home-grown chefs and fostered a culture that, in the ensuing years, allowed Orlando’s restaurant scene to thrive and expand beyond the parks. Independent, chef-run boîtes and bistros added a layer of diversity; celeb cooks from Emeril to Morimoto brought a little glam; and Gen Xers and Millennials challenged Orlando’s culinarians to innovate.
This list is a reflection of all that Orlando has to offer – the legacy restaurants that legitimized the food scene, and those that helped give it some distinction. It’s a list across all price ranges, styles and neighborhoods, but one thing these restaurants all have in common is that the food-conscious denizens of Central Florida hold them in high regard.
“Nostalgic Southern comfort foods with a modern twist” won’t garner an endorsement from the American Heart Association, but for the breakfast, brunch and lunch set, Trina Gregory-Probst’s Milk District bakehouse is a sanctuary in which to indulge. Tables fill up quickly and lines often snake out the door, but it’s a small price to pay to enjoy some of finest baked goods and gut-busting Southern plates in the city. Be sure to ask for extra bacon, no matter your order.