Best Of 2018

Best Beer for Bands

Namesake beers for local bands at Ten10 Fest

Live music at a brewery isn't exactly a new concept, but Ten10 Brewing Co. on Virginia Drive went a step beyond for their Ten10 Fest this past October. In addition to inviting 10 mostly local bands to throw an all-day hootenanny in their back parking lot, they invited five of those bands to brew their own signature suds to serve. From American Party Machine's Fireball cinnamon whiskey-inspired red ale to Fat Night's hibiscus-infused pale ale, the variety of brews gave the festival a little extra local love that we hope to see replicated again.

Best Citywide Jitters

Attack of the Orlando coffee shops

Orlando is awash in quality coffee all of a sudden and we are here for it. The gorgeous hangout space at Lineage Mills 50, the massive Foxtail invasion, the coffee bar at the Glass Knife, Gratitude finally getting a brick-and-mortar space ... Craft & Common, Deeply Coffee, Mercantile Coffee pop-ups at the Heavy ... they're popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. By the time this issue comes out there'll probably be a few more that we've missed but regardless, we are loving the buzz.

Best Civic Minded Shot

"The Buddy Dyer" at Shots

For better and worse, John "Buddy" Dyer's 15-year (and counting!) reign as the mayor of Orlando has left an indelible impact on the city. And what better way to honor that impact than by knocking back a sugary, alcoholic confection at a live-action LMFAO song of a bar owned by a group out of Miami? The "Buddy Dyer" at Shots is a tasty, Creamsicle-flavored – though maybe unintentional – commentary on the Dyer era: orangey, citrusy and oh-so vanilla.

photo from DaJen Eats by rob bartlett
photo from DaJen Eats by rob bartlett

Gourmet gas station food

While still bastions of junk food depravity, area gas stations are beginning to dabble in nibbles geared to gastronomes, giving new meaning to the term "filling station." There's the tesoros escondidos of Mexas Tacos and Tamale & Co.; the small-batch sinkers of DG Doughnuts; the bacon-crazed creations of the Sugar Sow; vegan-Jamaican sandwiches and rice bowls of DaJen Eats (up until she opened her own spot in Eatonville); the Trini-style rotis at Valmicki Roti Shop; and soul seafood and wings at Virginia's. Fill 'er up.

Best Edible Smiths Lyric
Photo by Rob Bartlett

Black coconut ice cream in a black waffle cone, the Greenery Creamery

We don't mean to overlook the many fine ice creams and toppings at the Greenery Creamery in favor of its most attention-grabbing pitch-black offering, but it's pretty hard to ignore. If you ever sang along to Morrissey and Marr's mopey "Unloveable" ("I wear black on the outside/'Cause black is how I feel on the inside"), this is the dessert for you. It's definitely the opposite of unlovable.

Best Emerging Dining Strip

Curry Ford Road

The early footprints of the new Hourglass District concept have only punctuated the nascent energy that's already been rising in this unassuming local stretch. In recent years, this old Orlando corridor has become surprisingly diverse in cuisine, with noteworthy newcomers joining established favorites of every cuisine: Italian (Pizza Bruno), Mexican (La Fiesta, Cilantro's Taqueria, Los Generales), Cuban (Zaza New Cuban Diner), Mediterranean (Theo's Kitchen, JJ's Grille) and Vietnamese (Pho and Roll). On the beverage side, Ocean Sun Brewing, Roque Pub, the newly reopened Claddagh Cottage, Foxtail Coffee and the upcoming opening of Hourglass Brewing distinguish the strip. Collectively, it's become an unlikely and organic frontier for accessible quality food and drink.

Best Everything but the Squeal

Grain bowl, Swine and Sons

Rhys and Alexia Gawlak's homey little sandwich joint and provisions market is rightfully renowned for its meaty offerings, from the house-made charcuterie to the high-quality proteins in the freezer case, but they bring the same skill to an animal-free option as well: their grain bowl. Peeping up shyly on the menu somewhere between the Nashville hot chicken and the Key West pink shrimp roll is this hearty assemblage of mixed grains topped with artichoke and white bean hummus, enoki mushrooms, asparagus and pine nuts, bathed in a burnt leek vinaigrette.

Best Jerky
Photo by Rob Bartlett

Sticky Rice Lao Street Food

New addition to the dining scene Sticky Rice serves up flavors you can't get anywhere else in Orlando, so kudos for that. We never fail to order their chicken noodle soup garlic-chili oil, mango sticky rice or delicately chewy pork tapioca dumplings, but it's the lemongrass jerky – lean beef coated in sugar and seasonings, dried, then crisp-fried – that we can't get enough of. It perfectly executes that heavenly trinity of mouthfeel, flavor and aroma in a way that's got us hooked.

Best Knife Fight
Photo by Jessica Bryce Young

You versus your willpower at the Glass Knife

Standing in front of that counter and gazing at all the cakes and doughnuts and assorted patisserie, you can feel your willpower starting to fade and your ability to make a choice leaking away. It's a classic id versus superego situation, you against your brain, the devil on one shoulder shouting down the angel on the other. But resistance is futile, puny human. Eat the cake. Enjoy life.

Best Lechonera

Lechonera El Barrio Restaurant

435 N. Semoran Blvd.

If the line out the door isn't an indicator that Lechonera El Barrio is #goals, sit down for a plate of their heavenly pernil with sides of arroz con habichuelas and boiled yuca with Dominican-style cebolla. It's so good, President Barack Obama went out of his way to stop here during his 2012 campaign.