Where's your favorite place to eat in Orlando - that's not in the theme parks?
By Robert NilesWhile many of us focus on the theme parks of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld when we visit Orlando, it's not physically possible to spend all of your time there. Even if you stay on-property, it's possible that you'll spend some of your Orlando vacation time away from the parks and their hotels.
Published: December 2, 2010 at 9:35 AM
When you do, where do you like to eat? I a few favorites that I find myself visiting again and again on my Orlando trips, and I'd like to hear yours. Let me start by saying that I'm looking for places near the theme parks, on the Orlando metropolitan area's southwest side. (So no favorites from Winter Park or Altamonte Springs, please.) Also, low price isn't essential to me, but high value is. Finally, I'm not saying that these places are the best off-property restaurants in the southwest Orlando area, just the ones I've found and liked. Please feel welcomed to add to this list with your favorites, in the comments.
I'll start with Jean Pierre's Bistro in the Water Tower shopping area off U.S. 192 at Celebration.
Laurie and Natalie pose with an especially tasty mousse in a chocolate cup, this summer at Jean Pierre's Bistro
As the name suggests, Jean Pierre's features French comfort food, with a thoughtful selection of salad, sandwiches and bistro fare, including Beef Bourguignon. It's my go-to place for lunch in Celebration, and the temptation of dessert (one pictured above) always encourages me to finish my meal. Not that it's a chore.
Drive deeper into Celebration to dine at Thai Thani, the table-service Thai restaurant that occupies the space on the corner of Celebration Avenue and Water Street, originally occupied by the world's smallest Goodings grocery.
I inevitably end up ordering one of the daily specials when eating in this very nicely decorated restaurant, so I can't offer a specific recommendation. But I've always walked away satisfied, though I should say that with Thai food, I always stick to tofu and fish, so I can't comment on the meat and chicken dishes. It's not a cheap hole-in-the-wall Thai joint, either, but the meal's always been worth the price. (And there's a coupon on the website, too!)
Someday, I'll have the discipline to save enough money to eat at Norman's at the Ritz. That, or my children will become fabulously wealthy and treat me. Obviously, I've not yet dined here, but Norman's long-list of awards and favorably reviews has the restaurant at the top of my off-property Orlando dinner wish list.
4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, FL 32837 (The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes)
Back on International Drive, Bahama Breeze is the only Darden restaurant I can stand. I find it hard believe that the wonderful Caribbean-inspired food from this restaurant comes from the same folks who dish out the dreck at Red Lobster and Olive Garden. I stay away from the pastas and choose instead something from the Fresh Fish menu, usually with either the jerk seasoning or the creamy mango butter sauce, depending upon how much heat I'm in the mood to handle. Key Lime pie's a must for dessert, too.
My favorite chain restaurant in the Orlando theme park area is Roy's Restaurant. Chef Roy Yamaguchi's chain of Hawaii fine-dining restaurants offers a delightful selection of sushi and seafood. Pork is typically outstanding, too, as one might expect from a Hawaiian restaurant. If you've not been before, don't expect tiki-room kitsch, this is table-cloth dining, with prices to match. But the service and value exceeds even the often-steep prices. For the best deal, look one of the prix fixe options, which offer an appetizer, entree and dessert for $36.
Now, let's hear your picks.
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