Best Of 2016

Best Vegan Junk Food
Photo by Rob Bartlett

Fakenit tater tots at King Bao

710 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-0013,

Clearly, not everyone who eats vegan is doing it to be healthy – we've seen some pretty kickin' vegan dishes that would give Chris Christie palpitations. These fried tots at the new Mills 50 bao hamlet are covered in tofu, fake bacon, roasted garlic and onion jam and sprinkled with scallions. Also, they're just $2.50, so if you wanted to also eat a Veganville bao for lunch (crispy tofu with ginger-pepper relish), your wallet would only be a smidge lighter.

Best Secret Rooftop Restaurant

Eleven at Reunion Resort

7593 Gathering Drive, Kissimmee, 407-662-1000,

By day, the rooftop where Eleven is located is the hotel's pool deck (which, really, is unique enough for Orlando), but come dusk, the sliding glass wall opens to reveal an elegant space where some of Central Florida's best steaks are served. Whatever you order for your main, don't miss the roasted garlic app that spreads like buttah over toasted baguette, Cambozola cheese and confit cherry tomatoes. Views of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot fireworks are on deck post-dessert.

Best Handheld Dessert

Brownies from George's Gourmet Cookies

501 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-1499,

You know how everyone in your office knows when there are leftover brownies from that board meeting? Everyone scampers like starved cats to the break room and descends upon the spoils, and then they're gone. If you find yourself so unlucky as to miss out, get to George's location on Lee Road and Orlando Avenue early enough to score one of the hefty handheld treats topped with caramel, marshmallow, chocolate drizzle and nuts, all for yourself.

Best Reason to Scrape a Bowl

Shoyu tuna poke bowl from Da Kine Poke Truck

Poke tuna is quickly becoming the next local food trend; we've seen it popping up at Quickly Boba Snow, Sus Hi Eatstation and even Publix, but our favorite so far is the mobile version from Da Kine Poke Truck. Not only does the truck seem to show up just when we get a craving for plump, toothsome tuna chunks in a tangy soy-based sauce, but the truck also offers a wide variety of furikake – seasoning blends made with nori, sesame and various other ingredients – to give the accompanying rice just the right flavor boost. And even though the owner has referred to us as "the worst news source out there," we'd be happy to split a bowl with him any time.

Best Canadian Dish Available in Orlando
Photo by Rob Bartlett

Valhalla Bakery's Nanaimo bars

2603 E. South St., 407-613-5968,

Until butter tarts, muktuk, moose in a can, peameal bacon, Montreal smoked meat sandwiches and poutine decent enough to make a Canadian stand "on guard for thee" make their foray south of the 49th Parallel, Valhalla Bakery's Nanaimo bars will be the singular finest Canadian treat you'll find in these here parts. The dark-chocolate graham-cracker coconut crust layered with a top-secret vegan "butter" custard filling and topped in magical dark chocolate is best eaten with your hands. If forking it, flip it upside down to avoid any custard ooze. That's how Ryan Reynolds does it.

Best Pink Drink
Photo by Rob Bartlett

Good Vibrations at New Moon Market

2314 Edgewater Drive, 407-440-8147,

The drink of summer 2016, the one you're tired of seeing on every basic bitch's Instagram, is the Starbucks Pink Drink, a "secret menu" concoction of their strawberry açai refresher made with coconut milk instead of water, with strawberries and blackberries blended in. Bleah. We say New Moon's summer 2016 Good Vibrations juice, a blend of cold-pressed organic watermelon, pineapple, basil and lime, beats that goop all to hell. It's a prettier color, it tastes cleaner and more summery, and it's a LOT better for you.

Best Broth

Saigon Noodle and Grill

101 N. Bumby Ave., 407-532-7373,

You know that pile of toppings (basil, jalapeños, bean sprouts) and the lazy Susan packed with sauces (hoisin, sriracha, chile-garlic paste)? You won't need them. Out of all the pho-bulous pho joints in this town, Saigon Noodle and Grill's pho broth needs no help at all. On its own, it's rich, perfectly seasoned and full of umami. Just pass the chopsticks.

Best Street Tacos
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

Carne asada tacos at Tortas El Rey

6151 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-850-6980

There are three basic requirements to look for in a street taco before you sit down: double corn tortillas, salsa roja strong enough to give you a small asthma attack and lengua on the menu. Tortas El Rey has all of these things, qualifying them for consideration. And their carne asada tacos are some of the best in town. For less than $3, you can buy one pocket of meat heaven at this remodeled Checkers drive-thru and have enough cash left to buy a medium horchata to wash it down.

Best Place to Talk Brexit Over Curry

Viceroy Chipshop's Curry Club


There's nothing more British than Indian food, and expats craving the curries found in merry ol' England now have an outlet in which to enjoy Brit-style kormas, tikka masalas and, yes, even fiery (and very Indo-British) balti roshan thanks to the Viceroy Chipshop's Curry Club, run by chef Paul Skingley and his wife, Jennie Lynn. The gang gathers every two weeks (check their Facebook page) at various venues across the city to eat and chat about matters across the pond. One thing you won't hear is "Do you want that mild, medium or spicy?" The curries are prepared the way they're supposed to be.

Best Disney Springs Snack
Photo by Rob Bartlett

Cap'n Crunch ice cream at Sprinkles

1676 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, 407-560-9192,

First thing: Sprinkles is supposed to be a cupcake shop, not an ice cream shop. Second thing: Crunchy cereal mixed into ice cream shouldn't work. Third thing: Forget those other two things, because this is the flavor of the summer so far as we're concerned. The ice cream is dense as gelato, infused with that special brown sugar and butter flavor and studded with individual Crunch nuggets. It's so much better than their cupcakes that eponymous sea captain Horatio Magellan Crunch might commit auto-cannibalism if he got his cartoony little paws on a scoop.