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Orlando is growing as a restaurant town, with fresh experiences to savor around every corner.  Newcomers include everything from world-class dining to Tex-Mex with the perfect margarita. 

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Food, Fun and Fantasy Showcased
at Orlando Theme Parks and Themed Restaurants

Start a fairy-tale day with Cinderella in the Magic Kingdom.  Turbo charge a lunch order at Race Rock Supercharged Restaurant before shifting into overdrive on the virtual racetrack.  Then talk to the animals while experiencing dinner at Rainforest Café, a veritable jungle of dining fun. There’s enough themed dining in and around Central Florida theme parks to turn a storybook vacation into a blockbuster hit. 

Dining with Character
Cinderella’s Royal Table inside the Magic Kingdom’s iconic castle serves a delightful Once Upon a Time breakfast and A Fairytale Lunch with Cinderella and other Disney princesses to greet guests and pose for photos.  Reservations are booked months in advance, but if the castle is already sold out, princess fans should reserve dining at  Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot, where fairy-tale heroines like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White appear for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

For a fancier memory, girls are encouraged to dress up for the My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a party that includes tea and sweets with Princess Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty.”  
Mickey Mouse followers can meet the “Big Cheese” at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, at breakfast at Ohana at the Polynesian Resort, and for lunch and dinner at Garden Grill in The Land pavilion at Epcot. More Disney characters: Winnie the Pooh and friends at The Crystal Palace; Goofy and pals at Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, and Donald and friends at Restaurantosaurus at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Also in the resorts, there’s breakfast at Disney’s Beach Club Resort with Goofy and friends, and breakfast and dinner at 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, with Mary Poppins and friends at breakfast, Cinderella and friends at dinner.

At Universal Orlando Resort, Thursday through Sunday, Dudley Do-Right, Cat in the Hat and other storybook and television characters join guests for breakfast at Confisco Grille at Islands of Adventure. And at SeaWorld Orlando, make a reservation for the Shamu & Crew breakfast in the park’s Seafire Inn.

Lights, Camera, Napkin!
Movie and television themes ramp up the fun at several Disney-MGM Studios restaurants.  At the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, the meatloaf and milkshakes are as magical as the black-and-white TVs airing classic sitcoms at dining tables.  The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant serves salads, sandwiches and fries to guests seated in classic convertible cars.  And 1940s Hollywood is in the spotlight at the Hollywood Brown Derby, serving modern American cuisine (including the original Cobb Salad) and featuring the restaurant’s trademark celebrity caricatures on the walls.

At Universal Studios Florida, Mel’s Drive-In is the quintessential ‘50s American diner based on the famous California eatery and Universal Studio’s Classic Monster Café serves “monster” salads, “devilish” desserts and pasta like “Mummy” used to make.  The Beverly Hills Boulangerie is the spot for gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and cappuccino. 

Try a Dagwood
At Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure:  Blondie’s: Home of the Dagwood takes the long-running syndicated cartoon theme to new sandwich heights for fans of Dagwood’s incredible concoctions and Wimpy’s makes the most of the great American burger, for which Popeye’s sidekick has a long-running obsession.

Lions and Tigers and Pasta, Oh My!
Several pasta dishes win fans of fine jungle fare at two Rainforest Café locations, one at the entrance of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the other at Downtown Disney Marketplace.  The realistic animals roar, hoot and twitter while guests enjoy Safari Salads, Rasta Pasta and Rainforest Pita Quesadillas.  Deeper into the Animal Kingdom park, visitors “do the dinosaur” at Restaurantosaurus, where wacky “prehistoric” music plays and guests enjoy a character breakfast buffet or counter-service salads and sandwiches for lunch.  Tusker House Restaurant, themed to a realistic African eatery, lures visitors with aromas of roasting meats like rotisserie chicken, grilled salmon and other goodies.  Roasted vegetables make for a terrific veggie sandwich.

On the Waterfront
Sharks Underwater Grill at SeaWorld Orlando serves “Floribbean-style” food while sharks from the Shark Encounter attraction swim in full view of guests. Or, Dine With Shamu in a private backstage area alongside the killer whale habitat. Polynesian flavors headline the park’s Makahiki Luau, a nightly dining and entertainment celebration with a menu that includes tropical salad, sweet-and-sour pork, Hawaiian chicken and seasonal desserts.

A World of Eateries
Dining choices are diverse and plentiful at Epcot, where architecturally true pavilions of 11 countries showcase ethnic fare.  World-famous fettuccine alfredo is made fresh daily at L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante in the Italy pavilion and belly dancers entertain crowds feasting on Middle-Eastern fare at Restaurant Marrakesh in the Morocco showcase.  Other popular World Showcase restaurants include Nine Dragons Restaurant in the China pavilion, Mitsukoshi Teppanyaki Dining Room in Japan, Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada, San Angel Inn in Mexico, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway, Rose & Crown Dining Room in the United Kingdom, Biergarten in Germany and Les Chefs de France and Bistro de Paris in France.

The park’s Future World also features two other nicely themed, full-service restaurants.  Coral Reef at The Living Seas pavilion gives diners a panoramic view of the attraction’s main aquarium and a menu heavy on seafood such as salmon, mahi, scallops and snapper.  At the Garden Grill in The Land pavilion, some of the salad fixings come straight from the attraction’s hydroponic greenhouses and the dining room actually moves slowly past scenes of farming environments.

It’s a Themed World After All
Racing is the number one theme at two Orlando-area restaurants.  Race Rock Supercharged Restaurant on International Drive serves traditional American fare with tasty shakes and visitors can commandeer one of many virtual race vehicles for a ride on the wild side.  NASCAR Café at Universal CityWalk showcases racing collectibles and serves steaks, chops and more.

The stars may not be on hand, but there’s enough celebrity memorabilia displayed to keep diners happy at Planet Hollywood at Downtown Disney, where film clips and movie previews play to visitors as they chomp on Cap’n Crunch-coated chicken tenders, ribs, pastas and salads. On International Drive, Café Tu Tu Tango celebrates the arts as dancers tango down the aisles and artists work on their next masterpiece.  Diners enjoy tapas of many flavors, such as flavorful chicken eggrolls or goat cheese and sun-dried tomato pizzas.  Down the road at Disney’s BoardWalk, the ESPN Club serves up multiple satellite feeds of sporting events on 90 video monitors, plus sports-themed food ranging from Tailgate BBQ Pork to the Hockey Puck dessert of a rich fudge brownie with chocolate and vanilla sauce.  And at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, the Official All Star Café broadcasts favorite sports to guests who dine on nachos, sandwiches and other American favorites. 
At Universal CityWalk, NBA City is another sports-themed chain with brick-oven pizzas, steaks and burgers. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville brings an island flare to town with cheeseburgers in paradise and a variety of tropical drinks. Visiting rock stars stir it up as they cook their favorite dishes for restaurant guests at the chef’s table in The Kitchen at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel. Hard Rock Café Orlando at Universal CityWalk plays hard rock on loudspeakers (what else?) while visitors check out 1,000 pieces of rock memorabilia and eat up potato skins, chicken wings and other menu favorites.

The Dinner Show Must Go On
Luaus, medieval feasts and other themed dinner shows earn applause nightly throughout the Orlando area.  Disney’s Spirit of Aloha luau at the Polynesian Resort, the Makahiki Luau at SeaWorld Orlando and the Wantilan Luau at Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort provide traditional Polynesian entertainment during dinners that celebrate Pacific cuisine.

Kissimmee is home to several popular dinner shows.  Medieval Times serves finger-lickin’ roast chicken and other sturdy fare as knights joust in the tournament arena and audiences cheer for their team.  Arabian Nights tells the story of an Arabian princess and showcases gorgeous horses and plenty of arena action as the audience dines on prime rib, vegetarian lasagna or other fare.  Capone’s Dinner and Show is a speakeasy and cabaret with Italian buffet and plenty of “mobster” fun.

In the Lake Buena Vista area, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show lays out a four-course meal while dinner guests join in a North-South rivalry featuring entertainers on horseback, racing pigs and ostriches, plus plenty of Dolly’s music.   And at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show on Universal Boulevard, guests can consider clues to the whodunit performances as they enjoy several courses, including a “mystery dessert.”  It’s no mystery that Disney’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue has been a Fort Wilderness staple for decades, and the show goes on nightly with the singing, dancing, joking troupe of Pioneer Hall Players as visitors chow down on buckets of fried chicken, ribs and strawberry shortcake.
If pirate fare is a priority, Pirate’s Dinner Adventure near International Drive serves guests several dinner courses while a swashbuckling, sidesplitting show unfolds aboard a fully rigged pirate’s galleon.

Global Tastes Add Spice to Orlando Dining Scene

The Central Florida dining scene offers visitors a culinary journey around the world with tastes from many countries and the islands of the Caribbean.

The area’s three African-inspired restaurants are located at Walt Disney World Resort.  There’s the buffet-style Boma – Flavors of Africa, with many choices to please various palates and award-winning Jiko – The Cooking Place, both at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  In Epcot, the foods of Morocco are represented at Restaurant Marrakesh where belly dancers entertain the constant stream of visitors.

China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, India and other Asian countries are represented at a wide variety of restaurants throughout Central Florida.  Ming Court – The Art of Oriental Cuisine on International Drive and Taste of Hong Kong on Carrier Drive serve dim sum and other gourmet traditional Chinese cuisine. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in Winter Park and at The Mall at Millenia gives a contemporary twist to Chinese fare and the mostly Cantonese menu at China Garden Restaurant on South Semoran has been a local favorite for decades.  Amura Japanese Restaurant on Sand Lake Road is a progressive eatery featuring high-definition sushi and steak. Raw seafood fans head to Shari Sushi Lounge in Thornton Park, Nagoya Sushi in Orlando, Sushi House of Orlando near Florida Mall, Seito Sushi in Winter Park and Celebration and Seito Japanese Restaurant in Kissimmee are local favorites. For Japanese specialties,  Ran Getsu of Tokyo on International Drive serves authentic cuisine. Asian and Polynesian flavors work wonders on the palate at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at Universal CityWalk.

Royal Thai on South Semoran, Tasty Thai on Curry Ford Road, Thai Thani Restaurant on International Drive and Siam Orchid on Universal Boulevard are all sure bets for the many great flavors of Thailand.  A cluster of Vietnamese restaurants sits along East Colonial near downtown – two favorites are Little Saigon Restaurant and Anh Hong.  Great Indian spots are scattered across Central Florida, with Memories of India on Turkey Lake Road serving specialties like tandoori chicken; New Punjab Indian Restaurant on International Drive with its lamb curry and Clay Oven in Longwood with spicy platters that include Indian coconut, mangoes and lentils.

Pan-Asian and Pacific-Rim creations deserve applause at Roy’s Restaurant on Sand Lake Road, where fresh produce, seafood and meats are dressed in European sauces and bold Asian spices.

Flavors of the Caribbean are found appetizers and entrees in many Central Florida restaurants, but some eateries specialize in island-inspired fare.  Bahama Breeze, with multiple locations including one on International Drive, is one of them, with its emphasis on seafood and island spices such as jerk, ginger, garlic and nutmeg, as well as flavors including coconut, rum and citrus.  Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Universal CityWalk presents Caribbean flavors plus the popular Cheeseburger in Paradise.  Rolando’s in Cassleberry and Numero Uno on South Orange Avenue near downtown are long-established Cuban restaurants and Samba Room on Sand Lake Road and Bongos Cuban Cafe at Downtown Disney serve Cuban fare in a trendier setting.  A mélange of Hispanic cuisine is served at Café Madrid on Curry Ford Road with Puerto Rican specialties that include plantains deep fried with pork skins and garlic.

The Orlando ethnic-dining scene continues to grow with exciting new experiences that reflect cultures from around the globe.

Schnitzel, strudel and good beer offer a taste of Bavaria at the Biergarten Restaurant at Epcot, which features lively entertainment and 33-ounce steins. France is well represented across metro Orlando, from Epcot’s popular Les Chefs de France and Bistro Paris to the elegant Maison & Jardin Restaurant in Altamonte Springs. Locals recommend the cozy Le Coq Au Vin on Orlando’s South Orange Avenue in Orlando and Chez Vincent and Café de France in Winter Park. 

Italian restaurants – more than 100 in the Orlando metro area – dominate the ethnic dining landscape. At the attractions, try Bice and Mamma Della’s Ristorante at Universal Orlando’s Portofino Bay Hotel or L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot. On the same end of town, Christini’s Ristorante Italiano (in the Dr. Phillips area) is a longtime favorite. Other popular spots include Bravissimo on Shine Avenue not far from downtown; Timpano Italian Chophouse on Sand Lake; Antonio’s Ristorante, with locations on Sand Lake Road, Hwy. 17-92 in Maitland and downtown Celebration; Vito’s Chop House on International Drive; Enzo’s on the Lake in Longwood and Limoncello Ristorante in Winter Park.

The British Isles are represented at several locations. The newest is Raglan Road at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island, where Irish cuisine ranges from fish and chips to rack of lamb. Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub & Eatery in Winter Park serves traditional favorites like shepherd’s pie; both standard and gourmet fare are found at An Tobar in Maitland; Epcot guests can belly up to the bar or grab a table at the Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room and fill up on fish and chips or smoked salmon. Cricketers Arms on International Drive serves 17 beers on tap with British fare.

Olympia Restaurant on East Colonial serves moussaka, baklava and other authentic Greek food. The kafka kabob and other Mediterranean treats keep diners coming back for more at Elijah’s Grill in Winter Park and Spoodles at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort serves tapas and entrees with Mediterranean flair. 

Middle Eastern fare reigns at Cedar’s Restaurant on Sand Lake Road and at Tony’s Deli on North Mills Avenue and for Old World Spanish cuisine, try El Quijote International Cuisine, a new restaurant in Dr. Phillips.

South America
Brazilian cuisine with emphasis on lots of meat is on the menu at three International Drive stops: Camila’s Restaurant, Crazy Grill and Texas de Brazil.  Choo Choo Churros is an Argentinian steakhouse on Lake Underhill Road in southeast Orlando.

Live music and Columbian food can be found at La Hacienda on Crystal Clear Lane near The Florida Mall while Columbia Restaurant in the town of Celebration serves traditional Spanish-Cuban cuisine in an Old-World setting.

Dinner for Two:
Orlando’s Romantic Spots

ORLANDO, Fla. – Which Central Florida restaurants are made for romance? Here are some favorite places for first dates, anniversaries or other amorous occasions.


Chez Vincent (407-599-2929).  It’s like a trip to Paris in this snug little bistro in Winter Park’s historic Hannibal Square, with candlelit tables and classic French cuisine and wines.

Enzo’s on the Lake (407-834-9872).  Enzo Perlini offers favorites from his native Rome in this hideaway on Lake Fairy in Longwood, built in the style of an Italian villa. Ask for a table overlooking the water and sculpted gardens.

Kimonos (407-934-1609).  Exquisite kimonos are the backdrop in this little hideaway at the Walt Disney World Swan. Choose a quiet table in the corner and share a plate of superb sushi and sashimi.  (Karaoke kicks in at 9 p.m., so you may want to slip out for a quiet walk.)   

Maison & Jardin Restaurant (407-862-4410).  Ask for a corner table in this elegant old manse in Altamonte Springs, with one of Orlando’s best wine lists and Continental fare.

Make a Big Impression

The Boheme (407-581-4700). In downtown Orlando’s Westin Grand Bohemian, start your evening in the sensual Bösendorfer Lounge, then slip into a luxurious booth in the adjacent dining room for classic Continental fare. 

Coral Reef (407-939-3463).  This Walt Disney World Epcot restaurant, with a view into the world’s largest saltwater aquarium, is a unique place to pop the question—and the food is delicious. Impress your significant other with a special message from a scuba diver—plenty of “Will You Marry Me” signs have surprised unsuspecting diners. 

Manuel’s on the 28th (407-246-6580).  Dates are swept off their feet with an elevator ride to the 28th floor and a panoramic view of downtown Orlando.  Contemporary world cuisine changes seasonally and features nightly creations of exotic game and seafood.

Venetian Room (407-238-8000).  Dramatic ambience and haute cuisine make this upscale dining room at the Caribe Royale Orlando a favorite.

Victoria & Albert’s (407-939-3463).  Orlando’s only AAA Five-Diamond restaurant and the crème de la crème of dining at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  The serene dining room with harp music, butler-style service and an award-winning, seven-course seasonal menu, embodies a spirit of luxury and romance. 

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