17 Orlando spots that opened this year where you can eat and drink equally well 

Best bar bites of 2015

click to enlarge The Baoery

Photo by Rob Bartlett

The Baoery

Compared to years past, creativity and innovation took a back seat to aesthetics in restaurants that opened in 2015 (see last week's Top Tables of 2015), but the number of quality eateries, luckily for us, increased. Options for Orlando's progressive, food-and-drink-conscious public have never been more plentiful, and it's great to finally say that we're no longer at the mercy of pedestrian wine lists or hackneyed cocktails. Somms, mixologists and beverage directors curated lists that were ever more nuanced, while offerings from local breweries found their way onto more and more drink menus.

In short, there's no need to settle for mediocrity, as evidenced by this list. Whereas in years past, we highlighted 11 of the best places to eat and drink, this year we had no choice but to expand that number to 17. Consider it a positive indicator as to the overall health of our restaurant scene. So here, in alphabetical order, are our 2015 choices for the best places to eat and drink in Orlando.

Baoery Asian Gastropub

617 E. Central Blvd., 407-849-9779, baoery.com

After opening Soco in 2014, chef/restaurateur Greg Richie was back at it this year with this paean to all things pan-Asian. Aimed at a younger and decidedly more laid-back crowd than Soco, the Baoery does bao and ramen right. Fists of fury come in handy when trying to keep up with waves of sake bombs and kung fu cocktails.

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

9150 International Drive, 407-351-5074, delfriscos.com

The popular meathouse returned to Orlando in a big and splashy way in 2015. Sure, prime steaks are a given at this equally prime and effortlessly chic two-story resto, but what really impresses is a wine list comprising 1,200 labels overseen by sommelier Jill Davis, awarded Best New Somm in our 2015 Best of Orlando awards.

Itta Bena

9101 International Drive, 407-917-6155, ittabenadining.com

OK, so you might not expect a speakeasy-inspired restaurant to serve pricey mod-Southern fare (although the she-crab soup is worth the price), but you would expect them to pour a stiff drink, and they do. The bar is an absolute beauty from which to sample a Southern Gentleman (for something sweet) or some original Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine (for something not).


Gaylord Palms Resort, 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee, 407-586-1101, gaylordpalms.com

It's a bit of a schlep to get to, but if you find yourself at the Gaylord Palms Resort, make the trek through the hotel's expansive atrium to the sophisticated environs of Moor. Fresh local seafood creations are typically stellar, and a drink at the elegantly inviting bar (try the gin cocktail with cucumber and an edible orchid) lends a little Old Florida panache to this most modern of hotels.

Morimoto Asia

1600 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, 407-939-6686, facebook.com/morimotoasia

With one of the finest selections of sake and beers from the Far East you'll find anywhere in the city, this Top Table of 2015 caters to the serious drinker as much as it does the discerning foodie. The restaurant's upper-level "Forbidden Lounge" – accessed through a hidden VIP entrance – is as slick as Iron Chef Morimoto's ponytail.

North Quarter Tavern

861 N. Orange Ave., 407-757-0930, northquartertavern.com

The North Quarter neighborhood might be newish, but NQT has a vibe that makes it feel like it's been around for ages. Chef Matthew Wall does his part to elevate tavern fare to gastropub heights, but it's equally nice to sidle up to the bar in the laid-back tavern or adjacent Bar Room for a local brew, bourbon or boozy concoction.

Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen

2603 Edgewater Drive, 407-930-6282, outpostcollegepark.com

Their mac & cheese may have garnered second-place honors at the annual O-Town MacDown competition this year, but this throwback diner with contempo 'tude impressed us with their wine selection when they opened this spring. In late November, they started serving a full liquor menu, and College Park residents responded enthusiastically.

Osprey Tavern

4899 New Broad St., 407-960-7700, ospreytavern.com

Jason Chin's popular Baldwin Park resto was our No. 1 Top Table of 2015, thanks to chef Joe Cournoyer-Burnett's sensuous plates, but the mixologists behind the dapper bar take just as much pride in crafting cocktails as the cooks do in prepping dishes. And the wine list, focused and interesting, is hardly an afterthought.


8323 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-500-7528, slateorlando.com

A wine list that stays in people's comfort zones without being prosaic befits this handsome sup spot with a showpiece bar, while well-executed, if safe, dishes crafted by Dominic Rice make it one of the more popular draws for the typical Dr. Phillips denizen.

Smiling Bison Sanford

107 S. Magnolia Ave., Sanford, 407-915-6086, smilingbison.com

The food (and attention to local sourcing) is of the same caliber as that of the Smiling Bison on Bennett Road, but the full liquor bar allows the Sanford outpost to proffer diners scores of intriguing cocktails. A case of the sequel being better than the original? It's a debate that might draw comparisons to The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II.

Swine & Sons Provisions

595 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-636-7601, swineandsons.com

One look at the curing room is all it takes to see how seriously Rhys Gawlak and his team take charcuterie and whole-animal butchery here. The signature sandwiches and plates of fleshy comfort pair perfectly with the signature brews from Cask & Larder, available on tap or in growler format for at-home enjoyment.

Tapa Toro

8441 International Drive, 407-226-2929, tapatoro.restaurant

Their paellas (best enjoyed in the 12-seat "paella pit") made Tapa Toro a Top Tables contender, as did the eye-catching interior. Enjoying a Spanish red, white or cava while sitting at the gorgeous bar transports you to Barcelona and almost makes you forget you're in Orlando. Almost.


525 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-3993, umiwinterpark.com

Many would argue Umi deserves to be a Top Table of 2015, but not making the cut doesn't take away from the fact that this Japanese joint is one of the better places on Park Avenue for gastronomes and imbibers alike. An interesting, focused wine list is somewhat overshadowed by the selection of sakes and Japanese beers – ideal for pairing with comforting bowls of udon noodles.

Urbain 40

8000 Via Dellagio Way, 407-872-2640, urbain40.com

This relative latecomer is, arguably, the most stunning restaurant in the city. Enjoying chef Jean-Stephane Poinard's dishes in the brasserie is as worthwhile as nursing a big-city cocktail in the restaurant's lounge. You'll be hard-pressed to pry yourself away from the gorgeous setting.

Urban Tide

Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Drive, 407-345-4570, orlando.regency.hyatt.com

Chef Jared Gross deserves much praise for maintaining the level of quality he set at Napa – Urban Tide's predecessor. And while his cioppino has garnered a loyal following, wine experts and wine spectators alike are thankful the fabulous list from the Napa days has remained unchanged.

The Whiskey

7563 W. Sand Lake Road, 321-430-6744, downatthewhiskey.com

If more than 150 types of whiskey, bourbon, rye and scotch aren't enough to draw your attention, maybe it bears repeating. MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY! And a decent selection of craft burgers (like the "salty pear") will help the serious imbiber to soak up the booze.

Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen

4040 Central Florida Parkway, 866-435-7627, grandelakes.com

Taking full advantage of the Grande Lakes Resort's on-site 7,000-square-foot garden, Whisper Creek Farm inside the JW Marriott offers up a variety of flatbreads, sandwiches and small plates, but beer hounds have been drawn to this farm-to-forker for different reasons. The restaurant taps into the resort's on-site nano-brewery for six different brews (five of them seasonal) to stay true to its hyperlocal ethic.


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