When I look at any "Best of Orlando" lists, I find myself rotating between rolling my eyes and on rare occasions nodding my head in agreement. No matter what I think, the truth is that no matter what people like to eat, they are entitled to love what they love and enjoy every bite; chain food and all.
We can't fully escape the chain life, but my attempt in years past has always been to showcase what I personally find delicious and worth the money, and encourage people to step outside their comfort zone and try something new. Something that may not be that appealing on the outside, a place that might not serve chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks (no disrespect to either one of those beautiful items).
Orlando is not a foodie city in my opinion, but slowly it's gaining more and more momentum. If someone lives for the wings at Gators, I'm not hear to judge what makes you do a fat and happy dance. However, if we ignore independent places they might disappear, as will the motivation for others to follow suite and enter the risky business of hospitality. We want more mom and pop and less corporate frozen food truck overall.
I'm just a gal with a somewhat iron stomach, who will try anything once, and who has made a list below of my current "Best Of" food.
Best Wings - Jesse's Rib Shack
Wings are pretty subjective depending on how you like them. My current favorite wings in the city right now are from Jesse's. The sauce he uses literally makes my mouth water just from the smell. It doesn't hurt that you can get a combo and add in some ribs and some fried shrimp.
Also, not to be missed are the wings at PizzAMore in Mt. Dora.
Best Bakery - Buttermilk Bakery
Just like Method Man said "No need to shop around, you got the good stuff at home." You can travel these United States and realize that Buttermilk Bakery is an amazing place to buy fresh loaves and sweet and savory pastries, and sadly not all of Orlando has realized that yet.
Best but don't sleep on it bakery - P is for Pie
Don't forget P is for Pie in the Audubon Park district. Great at both sweet and savory, I am never disappointed when I come here. Ever. Their hand pies are delicious and it's still the home to the best Oatmeal Creme Pie I've ever had.
Best Breakfast - Se7enbites
No matter how much it may hurt after, it's still bliss every time you overdue it at Se7enbites. It may not be a traditional breakfast, but no one does breakfast sandwiches quite like Chef Trina does. She made me fall back in love with grits and I will always adore her for the many ways she will get pimento cheese into your belly.
Best Cheap Eats - King Bao
When I'm not eating a Crunchwrap from Taco Bell (no shame) there are many great locally owned places to grab cheap eats. Tako Cheena and Pom Pom's for instance, but also King Bao. All of the Bao options are between $3-4 and the buns tend you fill you up pretty fast.
Best Chinese says someone who isn't Chinese - Joyful Garden
I am no authority on Chinese cuisine, so I tread lightly when recommending it. All I can say is that I have really enjoyed my meals at Joyful Garden and the restaurant seems very clean. While I've also enjoyed Tasty Wok and Chaun Lu, this place has a more relaxed and comfortable vibe for me. The menu is a lot to digest, and I'd say you need to be a bit adventurous to come here, but it's worth it.
Best BBQ - Pig Floyd's
When in need of some pulled pork or brisket, I know where I'm going. Also, that shrimp and chorizo taco is on repeat on my Postmates orders.
Best Coffee - Vespr
Coffee shops are growing, competition is setting in, and some places are falling short. Burnt beans, overly sweetened drinks, and all around terrible service makes me shift in my favorite place to grab a latte. Vespr continues to be a place that hasn't let me down on any fronts. I just wish they were closer to my side of town.
Best Cuban Sandwich - Cafe Pinar
If you see a pre-made Cuban sandwich being pulled out of a fridge and pressed when you order it, you might as well have gone to 7-11. Get the real deal, loaded with juicy, flavorful meat. Don't be fooled.
Best Brunch - The Strand
It may only be served on Saturday, and I rarely get to eat it, but I love the changing brunch menu at the Strand. You can get something sweet like Johnny Cakes with blueberry compote, or do a Brunch Burger or Avocado Toast. This place is pretty much one of my overall favorite spots in the city for food and I don't know why it doesn't get more love.
Best don't sleep on it Brunch - Pizza Bruno
I'm not a boozy bruncher, I just want the best possible food that I can't cook at home. Pizza Bruno's brunch knocked my flip flops off with their Dutch Baby and a classic steak and eggs dish. Don't get caught up with places that offer bottomless mimosas or a bloody mary bar; that doesn't equal a good brunch.
Best Doughnuts - DG Doughnuts and Valkyrie Doughnuts
We are truly blessed to have two women in this city cranking out incredible dough-based goods.
DG Doughnuts continues to floor me with their flavors and the consistency of their product. I had a doughnut covered in rice krispie treats the other day and nearly fainted. Yes, it's a bit of a drive out to Oakland, but it's well worth it.
Valkyrie on the other side of town remains a powerhouse in all things dough with her vegan creations. The original square doughnut, taking no prisoners and no garbage from anyone, she and her doughnuts make me proud.
Stop eating terrible doughnuts just because they look pretty.
Best Sushi So Far - Seito Sushi
New sushi joints are popping up all over Orlando, and I haven't hit all the buzz-worthy places yet. I waver back and forth between Kabooki and Seito, but for now Seito has been one of my favorite places, not to mention a great date night recommendaiton.
Best Diner - City Diner
Behind the courthouse downtown, on Magnolia, you will find City Diner. It had been tempting me for awhile and I finally went and couldn't believe I had been sleeping on this spot. Superbly clean, good service, and one seriously good breakfast spread.
Best Latin So Far - Lechonera El Barrios
I say "so far" because the hidden spots for good Latin food are never-ending around Central Florida. It's so much fun to continue to uncover great places that do it right. One of my partners in exploring is OrlandoEats and she took me to Lechonera El Barrios recently. There are a lot of options here, but I'm always one to go straight for pork and yellow rice, one of my favorite meals growing up. This was some of the best pork I've had at a restaurant in awhile (usually I just wait hungrily for my sister to make hers).
Best Burger - Rusteak
A burger is a rare splurge for me (red meat and I do not see eye-to-eye) so when I'm craving one it CANNOT disappoint. Rusteak has consistently given me some of the best burgers in town. Always larger than life, cooked correctly per my order. They also have a great happy hour.
Best Pizza - Pizza Bruno
If you love Lazy Moon pizza over Pizza Bruno, just leave my page. I can't with you. To each their own, but seriously? Also, if you aren't trying the octopus while you are there, you are missing out on something wonderful.
Best don't sleep on it Pizza - Pizzeria Del-Dio
Pizzeria Del-Dio is literally hidden from plain sight. Located in the same shopping center as Bed Bath & Beyond on E. Colonial (near downtown) you'll find it around the corner from Quickly Boba. It's a full Italian restaurant, but the pizza is a must try. There is something about this crust that reminds me of up north.
Best Pho - Pho Vinh
Good Pho is not hard to find in Orlando, so it's hard to say one is dominate over the others. Pho Hoa and Anh Hong are always in my rotation, but I love Pho Vinh. They have a delicious soup, Bún Càri Gà, which is rice vermicelli with chicken in coconut curry broth. It hits all the right spots, especially if you are sick.
Best Mediterranean - Mediterranean Deli
Gooooooooo to Mediterranean Deli. Please. I promise you will love it. My favorite is the open-faced gryo and I add tabbouleh and hummus to it. The combo comes with a drink and will cost you less than $10.
Best Ice Cream - Midnight Sun
No one does it like Midnight Sun. No one. Period. The End. Don't @ Me.
Best Unnecessary Sweet Indulgence - La Isla De Frappe
Choose a frappe, and a candy and let the sugar rush take over you. With a list of 40 different options you can keep coming back to something new. It's honestly so good.
Best Mexican says this Cuban - Reyes Mezcaleria
Not being Mexican, all I can tell you about Reyes is that it's one of my favorite restaurants right now. I've literally gone just to eat the elote. My favorite current entree is the Birria de Borego, but my plan for the rest of the year is to continue to try the whole menu.
Best Local Fast Casual - Taste of Yucatan
The fast casual segment of dining doesn't have to mean you give your money to a chain. Find someone local doing it right and give your money to them. I was really impressed with the Taste of Yucatan. The made-to-order guac was on point, as were my tacos. Their burrito bowl is huge and filling, their meats had great flavor, and the place is clean. Go check it.
Best Ramen - None
So, that might seem harsh, but I haven't found amazing ramen in Orlando yet and yes I've tried. The ramen I've had in New York and Atlanta have left me extremely picky, and so far the best Florida based ramen I've had is in Tampa. So, sorry Orlando, I have no best of pick for you here. If you are in Tampa, check Ichicoro out. If you have ramen recommendations that I haven't tried yet, holler in the comments.
Best City Tacos - Black Rooster
I'm not lying when I say that no more than two weeks usually passes without me eating the Black Rooster Asada Taco. It's the best of the menu. Seared beef, apple wood smoked bacon, Oaxaca cheese, pickled chile poblano and fresh squeezed lime. It's simple and delicious and I'm addicted to it.
Best Hood Taco - Tortas El Rey
In all honesty, we have lots of great "hood" taco joints around Orlando. I do love Tortas El Rey though. They are simple and flavorful with great tortillas to boot but my full list of beloved hood tacos can be found here and I'm continuing to add to it.
Best Asian Street Fare - Mamak
Again, speaking to a cuisine I am not well-versed in, I just really love Mamak. From Pad Thai, Roti Canai, and their Kari Wonton Mee, there is so much to try here. It's a regular on my food delivery rotation and the flavors are keeping me coming back.
Best Bowl of Greens - Greenbeat
Let me say that I eat a lot of salads during the week. I'm a regular at Eden's Fresh and when I'm nearby I always stop at Greens and Grille. However, Greenbeat in downtown is my new salad crush. All salads are fresh and made to order, they have a lot of options to build with. Also, their hummus is amazingly good.
If there is a category or cuisine not listed, it's because I'm still on the hunt for something worth telling you about.
Every single photo found here is mine, do not steal and use without permission. Also every single meal shown here was paid for by me. Don't ask for freebies, support your local businesses.