It's a corporate chain driven world, and we are just living it, right? We can't help it when the easiest and sometimes most convenient places to grab food are owned by large companies and not our neighbors.
That being said, wouldn't it be helpful if we had alternatives in mind for when we have to chance to pick local over chain? Here are some helpful tips on where to get something better to slide down your gullet all while supporting local.
If you want a sandwich, you can't drive less than a mile without getting bombarded with a Subway sign. If you work in a business park, there is no doubt a Jimmy John's delivery kid is speeding to your workplace between noon and one o'clock with a single sandwich in hand, which is in no ways wasteful.
*cue eye roll*
Convenience will almost always win out, especially on a lunch break, but if you want a dope sandwich that is going to fill you up, is made fresh, and is served on some really great bread head to Pom Pom's Sandwich and Tea.
Options like Mama Ling Lings Thanksgiving are a local favorite. It comes with Turkey, Gouda, Stuffing, Ginger Cranberry Chutney, Mashed Potato, & Cream Cheese with a side of Gravy. I know, I started sweating just typing those ingredients.
My personal pick is always The Cobb with pumpernickel bread. Not to be confused with Pumpernickleback, the bread only your worst enemy would order.
This may not be the fastest place grab a meal, but you can call in your order and take it to-go.
Quick Service Spanish Food
Pollo Tropical might alright in a pinch, I've been known to thrown down on a Tropi-Chop a time or two, but when it comes to supporting a locally owned business you can't go wrong with Black Bean Deli. What they lack in a drive-thru they make up for in getting your meal out from their kitchen pretty fast if you are in a hurry.
With two locations in Orlando, you just might be near one to stop and pick up lunch or dinner to take home; or perhaps you will have the time to enjoy the patio at their E. Colonial location while sipping on a cortadito.
I think it's safe to say we usually feel terrible after we've succumb to the guiltiest pleasure of food delivery - Pizza Hut. Oh, it sounds like a great idea, and it smells and tastes even better, until two slices in when you are transformed into a sloth on it's last breathe and you long to end your days back where they began - in the fetus position.
Some of the best pizza I've had in Orlando for years is hiding in plain sight off Kirkman Road near Sandlake at Pizza Xtreme, in a less than glamorous strip. It's cheap, delicious and doesn't make you instantly regret your cries for triangular shaped food. My favorite is their veggie pie, it's overloaded with all the good stuff and you can get a good-sized slice, salad, and drink for less than $6.
Owner Anne Marie is a hospitable but no-nonsense owner, so I love to watch her hold her own with the men that come in for lunch as I enjoy a slice.
Bring a friend and take part in her X-treme pizza challenge. If you can devour a 30-inch pizza in an hour the pizza is free and you get a slot on the wall of fame, along with a free t-shirt. Her motto is if you throw it up you clean it up. What's not to love?
You can get a decent salad at almost any chain, problem is they add so much to it that it's no longer healthy. So you end up paying a nice chunk of change to eat something that has tons of calories, sodium, and cholesterol depending on what they top it with. So much for trying to be healthy.
Eden's Fresh has grown to four locations over the past few years, and is hands down the best place to get something that is truly healthy, and in just a few minutes depending on how long the line is that day.
My favorite is the Dude: romaine lettuce, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella, tortilla strips and Ranch Dressing. For protein I add blazing Buffalo Chicken. Create your own, or choose one of their options and be full while still feeling like you made a legitimate healthy choice.
The Fried Chicken Sandwich
I'm not gonna hate on a staple in my life, Chick-Fil-A. Those waffle fries have never done me wrong. But where can you get a deliciously fried, crispy, chicken sandwich accompanied by a few dill pickles that is all locally sourced? Well it might not be delivered to you in the heated pouch that has burnt all of our fingers at one point as we tor into it before we accelerated out of the drive-thru lane, but it is a wonderful local option.
The Strand on Mills Avenue has consistently been one of my favorite spots for lunch or dinner since they opened over a year ago. Their menu is small but mighty, with all items being sourced locally with a list of who they source from right on the menu itself.
Their buttermilk chicken sandwich can hold it's own in the pursuit of delicious fried poultry. It comes with a bit more than a few pickles, but I promise you, you won't even be thinking about those missing waffles fries as you tear into this.
Run for the Border if you must, but I've got three, count them uno, dos, tres, options for tacos that shouldn't give you what we call in mi casa, "hot snakes".
Taqueria El Mexicano on Orange Blossom Trail wins the #1 slot. If you are not Spanish, you will most likely be the only non-latina or latino in the joint, but don't worry, that's exactly what you want. Mind your manners and don't say the name Trump.
Although these are not authentic Mexican tacos, Tako Cheena doesn't need to apologize for it's delicious fusion. However I welcome their move into a new second location so I don't feel like people are breathing warm arepa breath on me from close seating proximity.
Gringos Locos wins the #3 spot, not because I think they are amazing, but because it's cheap and decent. These tacos taste better depending on how much alcohol you have in your system, which I suppose you could say about Taco Bell, but here you aren't giving your money to "the man", and again no hot snakes.
A hot & fresh Krispy Kreme donut cannot be denied, but do you really want to give those dollars to a Board of Directors consisting of old white guys, or to your local peeps cranking out some equally delicious dough?
If you thought I was gonna shout out The Donut King, slow your rolls. I need to show some love for a small bakery off Michigan Avenue, Bakery Plus. Ballin' so hard on their own they don't even have a website, let alone a board room of stuffy people with banking backgrounds that can't seem to bring this chain into a new age and cash in on the donut trend by energizing their own menu.
Grab donuts, croissants, and bagels which some rave rival NYC. Check them out and see for yourself.
Happy Local Eating!