Sand Lake/Dr. Phillips 

All the neighborhood’s a feast

click to enlarge The Bar at Roy’s
  • The Bar at Roy’s

Even though it’s a tourist-rich area of town, even for locals the Sand Lake/Dr. Phillips area is the place to go for special occasion dining. The strip of Sand Lake Road between I-4 and Apopka Vineland Road isn’t nicknamed “Restaurant Row” for nothing.

It’s home to a number of high-end chain establishments, like popular Hawaiian fusion restaurant Roy’s (7760 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-352-4844, roysrestaurant.com), whose dark, sophisticated lounge is a comfortable meeting spot that serves creative cocktails (hand-shaken Hawaiian martini, anyone?) as well as interesting apps like Wagyu beef sliders and crunchy lobster potstickers. Fondue lovers flock to the Melting Pot (7549 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-903-1100, meltingpot.com), one of the few restaurants in town where you’re encouraged to play with your food – dipping strawberries in chocolate or chunks of bread in cheese (or bread in chocolate and strawberries in cheese) is a great ice-breaker for a first date and a guaranteed good time for girls’ nights out.

One of our favorite spots on this row is Cedar’s (7732 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-351-6000, orlandocedars.com), an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant specializing in Lebanese cuisine. Try the mohamara with pickled walnuts and pomegranate molasses, or one of the house specialties, like baked kebbeh (ground meat with cracked wheat, spices, onions and pine nuts).

If you’re looking for a nightcap after you’ve gorged yourself on fantastic food, you’ve got plenty of options down this way. There’s a World of Beer (7800 Dr. Phillips Blvd., 407-355-3313, wobusa.com), where craft beer is always on the menu, as well as Cricketers Arms (7563 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-730-2111, cricketersorlando), where you can take in the true British pub experience. (Orlando is home to lots of British expats, in case you weren’t aware, and it’s a super-popular vacation spot for Brits, as well.)

While you’re in the area, if you’re looking for a place to relax, you can head over to the I-Drive area (just a stone’s throw away) and get in a few rounds of mini-golf. Or, if you’re feeling more contemplative, you can stop by the Dr. P. Phillips Community Park (8249 Buenavista Woods Blvd., drphillips.org/node/49), located on the shores of Big Sand Lake, where you can take in 43 acres of green space, playgrounds, hiking, picnicking and dog parking.

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