Last month we named our Top Tables of 2015; now it's time to look forward. There's a buzzy new crop of restaurants flourishing in Orlando, and we are, well, looking forward to seeing how they fare in 2016 – many seem poised to become established players on the dining scene. We picked just 16 here, but you can be certain we'll review many more than that in the months to come.
(A note about our reviews: We usually don't review restaurants until they've been open for at least three months. If you've ever visited a restaurant in their first days, you probably know why. Often, the kitchen and the front-of-house staff are still working through new ideas and new processes, which can lead to service miscues, slow plates and a generally uneven experience. We don't see any reason to set those early mishaps in stone, so to speak, by publishing a definitive review before a young restaurant is ready to shine.)
That said, we are beyond excited by the class of 2016, and we've selected 16 promising new arrivals – a mix of cuisines, price points and neighborhoods – for you to try right now. One's been open almost six months; one just opened two days ago, but all are pleasing harbingers of the year to come.
There's nothing newfangled about Thai food, or tea and toast, or grilled cheese, yet KrungThep (the Thai name for Bangkok) manages to make it all fresh. The whimsical, inventive menu twists familiar Thai favorites into delightful funhouse versions of themselves: tom yum goong soup becomes a snappy shrimp salad; gra-prow chicken finds itself in a grilled cheese sandwich with mozzarella and basil mayo. Dozens of teas and iced drinks round out a menu punctuated by "brick toast," KrungThep's over-the-top take on dessert, which consists of piles of honey-drenched toast "bricks" crowned with various combinations of ice cream, fruit, chocolate syrup, Nutella and/or whipped cream.
After a lengthy permitting process, Market on South finally opened its doors late last fall. For fans of Valhalla Bakery's vegan pastries and the Dixie Dharma food truck, the protracted wait was almost as painful for us as it was for the chef-owners (we said almost). But all's well that ends well. Anyone who enjoys plant-based cuisine now has easy access to Celine Duvoisin's inspired doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, butter tarts and Nanaimo bars, as well as Shaun Noonan's gourmet vegan riffs on Southern fare: fried green tomatoes with chowchow and eggplant remoulade; creamed Zellwood corn with charred pearl onions and chervil; Carolina barbecue jackfruit in Coca-Cola reduction. (Cruelty-free doesn't mean calorie-free – make no mistake, this is treat-yo'self dining.)
Orlandoans have followed genial Italian chef Stefano LaCommare from spot to spot (Il Pescatore, Stefano's Trattoria), but now the next generation is stepping in. Roughly six weeks ago, LaCommare's son Leonardo, daughter Antoniella and son-in-law Francesco opened a 10-seat pizzeria in Winter Park. Given that all three were involved at family-fave Il Pescatore (with Francesco manning the pizza oven), expectations are high – and likely to be fulfilled.
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