In years past, Orlando hasn’t been a destination well known for dining, but that’s quickly changing. The country’s most-visited destination has grown substantially in terms of its culinary offerings in recent years, and groups at all ends of the spectrum will find something to suit their tastes here. This is evident in the Orlando’s recent recognition as the “Best Foodie City” by WalletHub and a “Top 10 Wine Destination” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Celebrity chefs have made a home here. Here are just two of many examples: Emeril Lagasse has two restaurants in Orlando, Emeril’s Orlando at Universal CityWalk and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. In coming months, the chef will also open the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden, an educational center for kids, in downtown Orlando. Norman Van Aken, called the “founding father of New World cuisine,” opened 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora last year in addition to his namesake, NORMAN’S at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.
And more celebrity chefs are moving in. With the transformation of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs brings a new collection of restaurants from celebrity chefs sure to wow any group. Recent openings include Masaharu Morimoto’s new Morimoto Asia, Rick Bayless’ Frontera Cocina, to Planet Hollywood Observatory, offering a menu of wild creations from Guy Fieri.
The convention district is well stocked, too. Within walking distance of the Orange County Convention Center are the more than 20 dining options of Pointe Orlando, ranging from upscale (The Capital Grille) to casual (Lafayette’s Restaurant & Music Room). Venture a little further along International Drive and find one of the newest hot spots, Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando, a two-story restaurant and nightclub with live Latin dance performances nightly. From there, take a right or left on Sand Lake Road and find Orlando’s Restaurant Row, lined with more than two dozen high-end restaurants, from Eddie V’s to Roy’s.
It’s truly global. Part of what makes Orlando’s culinary scene so unique is its diversity. Local favorite Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine has now grown to three locations in Orlando, the Mills 50 District is packed with Vietnamese restaurants, and EPCOT’s World Showcase restaurants offer the perfect opportunity for an around-the-world culinary crawl.
It’s also decidedly Southern. That means Orlando has great options for barbeque (4 Rivers Smokehouse), modern spins on down-home classics (the new Homecomin’ from Art Smith at Disney Springs), and classic soul food (Chef Eddie’s).
Breweries are big. In downtown, visit the state’s oldest organic microbrewery, Orlando Brewing, or Ten10 Brewing Company in the Mills 50 District, which ages its beers in wine barrels from local Quantum Leap Winery. Venture south to find the popular local hangout, Crooked Can Brewing Company. Attendees can even find local hops inside Orlando International Airport at Cask & Larder, a restaurant and craft brewery from James Beard Award-nominated chefs James and Julie Petrakis, owners of another local favorite, The Ravenous Pig.
Planners looking for a destination with a thriving culinary scene with more than 5,000-plus dining options and great live music will find that Orlando is the place to meet.
Brought to you by Visit Orlando (OrlandoMeeting.com)