3500 Curry Ford Road
There are precious few things that Miami gets right. South Beach is OK, we guess, if you’re into fake tits and fake people and overpriced espressotinis. Other than that, no thanks. Except for the food, that is – specifically, the wonderful, and wonderfully affordable, Cuban food. And nowhere in Orlando replicates that cuisine quite as well as Zaza New Cuban Diner: the quesitos, the medianoche, the lechon asado. It’s all pretty fantastic, but do yourself a favor while you’re there: grab a large coffee con leche. This exquisite concoction – it’s just espresso, steamed milk and sugar, but (trust us!) is very difficult to do correctly on your own – has the juice to get you going better than Dunkin’ ever could. More important, it’s absolutely bursting with flavor, perhaps because Zaza’s coffee is roasted just down the road in Longwood. No one in town – or outside of Miami, so far as we’ve found – does it better.
565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
The Ravenous Pig chef-owners Julie and James Petrakis opened sister restaurant Cask & Larder right down the street in Winter Park last year, to rapturous foodie acclaim. We heard tons of positives about the “Southern Public House”: tasty locally sourced plates, diverse house-brewed beer and so on. So it was no surprise when a Sunday-morning brunch order of biscuits and gravy ($9) landed us with a charming plate of fluffy, buttery miniature black-pepper biscuits and a small-yet-satisfying bowl of country gravy – for spoonful pouring, if you have manners. They were almost too cute to eat. Almost.
1. Blue Bird Bake Shop, 3122 Corrine Drive, 407-228-3822, bluebirdbakeshop.com
2. Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries, 3213 Curry Ford Road, 407-898-9561, charliesgourmetpastries.com
3. Raphsodic Bakery, 710 N. Mills Ave., 407-704-8615, raphsodic.com
1. 4 Rivers Smokehouse, multiple locations, 4rsmokehouse.com
2. Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue, multiple locations, bubbalous.com
3. Cecil’s Texas Style Bar-B-Q, 2800 S. Orange Ave., 407-423-9871, cecilsbbq.com
381 Orange Lane, Casselberry
So you heard there was this authentic Oktoberfest thing happening in Casselberry, and you had nothing to do that night anyway. You didn’t expect much, until you drove up Orange Lane and saw the German Alps-style lodge down this middle-of-nowhere road. Whoa. You paid your entrance fee and were directed into some kind of awesome party in the woods where people were eating wursts, drinking authentic dunkel and dancing, singing, cheering … in the woods in Casselberry. It’s as surreal and beautiful as it sounds, and words can hardly do it justice.
1. Keke’s Breakfast Café, multiple locations, kekesbreakfastcafe.com
2. First Watch, multiple locations, firstwatch.com
3. Matilda’s on Park, 358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-951-5790, facebook.com/matildasonpark
1. Graffiti Junktion, multiple locations, graffitijunktion.com
2. Matilda’s on Park, 358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-951-5790, facebook.com/matildasonpark
3. Beth’s Burger Bar, 24 E. Washington St., 407-650-4950, bethsburgerbar.com
1. Bahama Breeze, multiple locations, bahamabreeze.com
2. Mark’s Caribbean Cuisine, 10034 University Blvd., 407-699-8800, healthyjamaicanfood.com (tie)
2. Caribbean Sunshine Bakery, multiple locations, caribbeansunshinebakery.net (tie)
3. Singh’s Roti Shop, 5244 Old Winter Garden Road, 407-253-2900, singhsrotishop.com
1. Tako Cheena, 932 N. Mills Ave., 321-236-7457, takocheena.com
2. Gringos Locos, 20 E. Washington St., 407-841-5626, eatgringos.com
3. Tijuana Flats, multiple locations, tijuanaflats.com
1. Hawkers, 1103 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-0606, facebook.com/hawkersstreetfare
2. Imperial Dynasty Chinese Restaurant, 2045 W. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-786-2266, imperialdynasty.com
3. Lam’s Garden, 2505 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-0370
7339 W. Sand Lake Road
Restaurant Row’s Ocean Prime specializes in seafood, but the swanky restaurant’s “all-time best selling cocktail,” the Berries & Bubbles ($14), packs a little something not found underwater. The ingredients don’t sound so unusual – Belvedere Citrus vodka, marinated blackberries, house-made sour mix and Domaine Chandon brut champagne – but the cube of dry ice plunked in at the end adds over-the-top pizazz. The recipe can be found on Ocean Prime’s website in case you want to try mixing up one at home, but we suggest caution when playing around with dry ice – those fingertips come in handy for other things.