Finding the local in Orlando

Coming this June, VA and I have lived in Orlando for 3 years (which just blows my mind). There are a lot of great things about living in Orlando: Disney and other theme parks, being close to the beach, all the free movie screenings, The Jacksons, WF peeps, Michael and Danielle and other friends, etc. But one of the things we've struggle with is finding those cool local places that give a city its personality. Orlando is very much homogenized, It didn't really start growing till Disney arrived in the seventies and is a breeding ground for chain restaurants and fast food establishments. It still feels like it's trying to find it's identity in the midst of paradoxically trying to get away from/embrace it's tourism heritage. After almost 3 years of living here we've got some local faves which I will now list for you.

Favorite Local Coffee shop: Drunken Monkey

Drunken Monkey is wonderful. Their coffee is delicious. Cool atmosphere. Free WiFi. Great Food (they have the best soup. seriously. I don't even like soup). tons of board games. Lost watching parties. etc. etc.

Favorite traditional Breakfast: Linda's Winter Park Diner

My dad discovered this place when he was visiting us a few years back. Great omelets, BACON, hot cakes, etc. at great prices . Always passes the parking lot test. The servers are great. Why would you ever go to Denny's, IHOP, etc. when you can eat here, and for cheaper. Just remember one thing, they take cash only.

Favorite Lunch/Deli: 903 Mills Market

I've been wanting to eat at this place for a while and we finally did yesterday. So Freakin Good. I had their signature sandwich The Grateful Bread: which is basically a thanksgiving dinner sandwich. turkey. cranberry mayo, blue cheese stuffing. mmmm....
VA had the California club which was delicious. It's going to be a new regular for us for sure. Great beer selection as well and a good place to sit outside and enjoy a gorgeous day.

Favorite Cuban: black bean deli

I'm sad it took so long to find this place. Seriously great cuban sandwiches. cuban pastries. cuban colas (Havana cola rocks! key lime/sugar cane cola), black beans w/white rice. it's a hole in the wall place with maybe four seats. so sit in your car in eat it or take it on a picnic.

Favorite Thai tie: Royal Thai and Thai House

We've been going to Royal Thai for a few years now. Great Service and Authentic Thai. Their Tom Kha Gai soup is excellent and I love their Param and Cashew Chicken. Mango and Sticky Rice for dessert (seasonal and so good).

Recently visited Thai House for the first time and was very impressed. Also have great Tom Kha Gai. dumplings (potstickers). I love their Param too. Their Green Curry is delicious too. Had fried bananas and coconut ice cream for dessert. will definitely be going back there when they come back from holiday. (closed till april 21)

Favorite Date Dessert Place: The Dessert Lady

um, i don't think there are adjectives to describe how good this is. All they serve is dessert (and coffee of course) Check out the website. My faves: Key Lime Cake. Zuccotto, Cannoli Cake.

Favorite ice cream/frozen treat: Jeremiah's Italian Ice

The first place we were told we have to go to when we moved here and the place we take friends and family when they come to town. We were sad to leave Shake's when we moved to Orlando but this place has happily filled that void. A Key West Gelati on a humid summer night is about as perfect as it gets.

Favorite BBQ: Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ and Porkie's BBQ (apopka and daytona)

It's taken us a while to find BBQ we really like in Orlando. These 2 places are definitely growing us. Be sure to try Porkie's home made 'Nanner Puddin too.

Favorite Date Night Dinner: Seasons 52
Okay this one is kind of cheating. Seasons 52 is a chain owned by Darden Restaurants (owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse.) but they're based out of Orlando so it technically is local and they're just too good not to put on this list. The best tasting, normal portioned, gourmet food ever. Each entree on the menu is under 475 calories and utilizes seasonally available veggies. nothing is fried. I had the oak roasted pork tenderloin with goat cheese polenta cakes and spinach and mushrooms. OMG. They are also the originator of the the mini indulgence desserts. Perfectly portioned desserts served in Shot Glasses. A must if you live in Orlando (or atlanta too).

So there's a good start to the list. What are your local favorites in Orlando?


Mandy 27/3/09 1:28 PM  

hmmm. seasons 52. so good! i loved going there for my bday last year!
keep up the pics of Liam--he's so sweet!

Brett 27/3/09 1:33 PM  

Jeremiah's Italian Ice, FTW!

Dustin Moody 27/3/09 1:45 PM  

Great list, Andrew. And I take some small satisfaction in thinking that I could have contributed in a tiny way to the idea of this post when I said last night that you should list out your favorite places for us to hit. Looking forward to taking your recommendations.

BetnyNonnie 28/3/09 11:51 AM  

This blog is making me HUNGRY! Thanks!

Rachel 31/3/09 8:16 AM  

my favorite saturday morning breakfast and activity: briar patch breakfast followed up by a stroll over to the farmer's market on a beautiful morning.

if we aren't just naming food, my fav weekend night activity: sak comedy lab.

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