Audubon Park is for Foodies
Exploring Orlando's food scene can certainly take you all over the map. From hunting down lesser-known mom and pop establishments to the more grand dining indulgences at some of the our high end resorts. However, if I had to say there was a singular hub that was a step above the rest in variety and community, I don't think any other area or Main Street district could compete with Audubon Park right now. Yes, good food is scattered all over the city, there is no debate there, but there is something to be said about an area that is distinguishing themselves as a full destination while still being welcoming.
If Audubon Park played it's cards right and landlords sought out even more truly exceptional brands and operators, it has potential to be much like 12th Avenue South in Nashville without relying on national names to come in, that is, if we could make it more pedestrian friendly.
So if you haven't spent an afternoon food crawl with your friends in-between visiting the retail shops like Owl's Attic, Park Ave CD's, Dear Prudence, and The Lovely Boutique Market, or special spots like Leu Gardens; I'm just here to showcase just some of your edible options.
The all black exterior may be mysterious to non-locals, but inside is where you will find a dining experience that is different from any other offered in the city.
Nine seats at a time, you can dine-in for a Japanese breakfast, sushi lunch tastings, or the more robust multi-course dinners.
You get to watch the trio of chefs showcase their skills right in front of you and try dishes and combinations of ingredients you probably haven't eaten unless you are well traveled. It's the elevated experience and quality that sets Kadence apart.
Domu's popularity seemed to explode overnight around dishes like the tasty Korean Fried Chicken Wings, their Ramen, and a well crafted cocktail list. Its popularity has almost becoming polarizing with both fans and haters littering internet comment boxes with their different feelings about the latest "it" place in town. The fandom cannot be denied as you stand in a packed bar before they even open as locals and visitors stand in line waiting for a table.
Yes, it's true the waits can be extremely long, but perhaps once other locations open it will lessen the burden of the one location now housed in Audubon Park.
Each summer it gets hotter, and Orlando is still left with a gaping void of independently owned ice cream shops to lift our soggy, sweat-stained spirits. Kelly has capitalized on this by now operating two scoop shops, with her home-base being in Audubon Park.
Not only is her ice cream homemade, she has over a dozen different flavors on hand every single day, while still coming up with seasonal flavors to keep us interested. She hosts community events and small business collaborations as she continues to keep us cool.
This small shop is packed with delicious baked goods including a pretty intense piña colada cruffin that I still think about. Offerings include gluten free and vegan treats but her hours are for early birds only. You have to catch her between 7 AM - 1 PM.
They do however ship their baked goods, so if you want to try them and miss her shop during open hours, you can email for orders and enjoy at home.
There is so much more to this bakery than exceptionally good pie. Everyday you can find a case stocked with sweet and savory bites that include hand pies, cookies, streusel, muffins, cinnamon buns, and cheesecakes.
Saturday specials get a bit more intricate with hearty biscuit sandwiches, chicken and waffles and more savory concoctions that are always posted on Instagram. If you ever see the Marshmallow Crunch cookie, do not hesitate to get it.
While personally, I'm not a big drinker and I drink even less beer, I still find myself hanging out at Redlight from time to time. And that's the genius of it. While Orlando is now flooded with craft brew options, Redlight is the OG, opening first on Bennett Road back in 2008. Now, a staple in the Audubon Park District, it's known for its events and food op-ups where they've embraced the burgeoning independent mobile food scene with heavy hitters like Bangrak Thai Kitchen, Orlando Meats, Smoke & Donuts, and Sushi & Seoul (just check their calendar for dates).
When you can appeal to hardcore craft beer drinkers and host Gilmore Girl trivia nights while getting non-beer drinkers to come eat great food and try a lambic, you're doing something right in my book.
With so many options in Audubon Park for baked goods, surely everyone has their favorite. For those who never turned their backs on cupcakes, even after the trendy shops faded away, Bluebird, who was never focused on trends, is still cranking out cupcake flavors like chocolate mint, nutella, coffee/toffee, and s'mores.
What I love about their cupcakes is while most overdo it on the frosting, Bluebird does not. I can actually eat a cupcake in it's entirety instead of eating around overly sweet frosting. Of course they have more than cupcakes, and they are the perfect place to keep an eye on during the fall season for those cozy flavors we all love.
Serving both Japanese and Korean cuisine, Sushi Lola's is another neighborhood favorite for locals. I'm a fan of their deluxe rolls like the Crunchy Dragon and the Tropical Roll; but they also have Bento boxes and noodles dishes. A little something for all appetites including sweet individually wrapped chocolate chip cookies at the end of your meal.
Everyone has their go-to vendor at the market, and we may even be guilty of not spreading the love among them evenly. Here is a brief breakdown of some of their vendors:
I can't say that I've ever seen such long lines for cookies in my entire life; that is unless I count Mr. Abatiello's students lining up for the hot Otis Spunkmeyer cookies he sold us (shout out to all the old school West Orange Warriors out there).
Steve's cookies are not just decadent, but his flavors change and intrigue us, piquing our interest to go and try the newest concoction. I remain partial to his cakes; still one of the best red velvet slices I've tried, and that's why we know he's not a one trick pony.
It's definitely my favorite spot in the market because I love an assortment of breakfast foods at my disposal. In addition to their dinner meal delivery service, you can visit their cafe in the market and grab a large slice of their award winning avocado toast; but there is much more on the menu to enjoy.
Want to try their homemade meals without leaving your house? Check and see if you live in their deliver radius.
Skyebird Juice Bar
There is so much more to Skyebird than their fresh juices and smoothies. I recently took a bite of my friends lunch which was the raw and vegan "Mac and Treez"; a bowl of zuchinni noodles and cashew cheese. I wish I had a picture to share, but you'll just have to envision it and believe me it was delicious!
One of the city's most popular coffee companies started in the East End market with their modest coffee counter. Lineage continues to grow as they now sell their beans wholesale all over the country, and they've cemented deeper roots in the community when they finally opened a full cafe in the Mills/50 area.
Eager to share their knowledge, they have an Instagram account solely for sharing their continuous coffee education and journeys as they travel to the countries sourcing their beans. Follow it @lineageacademy.
There is a lot on the menu to take in at Florida & Co. with their seasonally fresh meat and seafood dishes. You'll find most items on their menu are gluten free and vegan while not sacrificing flavor and exciting ingredients.
You can absolutely indulge in a charcuterie board here, or you can go all out with a flatbread pizza, a hearty breakfast sandwich or a decadent grilled cheese. If you are a cheese novice they will walk you through all of your options from mild to stinky and even pair it with the perfect bubbly beverage if you'd like.
More places are opening like Bem Bom that I hope add to the variety of food we can continue to enjoy in Audubon Park!
All pictures are the property of LemonHearted Creative and should not be used commercially without permission. All food was eaten and paid for by me unless a part of a branded photo shoot for the business.