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Photo via Rob Bartlett

28 new Orlando restaurants you need to try in 2017 

New, now, next

We, the food-conscious, restaurant-going public of Orlando, fancy ourselves a sophisticated lot, don't we? Coming off a banner year for restaurant quality (and quantity), we just can't seem to get enough. We want more hip independent restos; more gastronomic bombast from Disney; more doughnuts, izakayas, poke bowls and veg-forward entrees. We expect a painterly technique in plating; artistry in interior design; and service devoid of eye-rolls. We can revel equally in scenes both run-down and soigné, but we demand excellence on the plate. We might be trend laggards vis-à-vis the rest of the world, but we've become discerning gastronomes in this local Restaurant Golden Age. So what's in the cards for 2017? If this list of new restaurant openings is any indication, more glitz and, we hope, more brilliance.

Bem Bom on Corrine

What: Portuguese fare with French and Mexican influences is what made the Bem Bom food truck a popular draw, and it'll do the same when chef Francisco "Chico" Mendonça opens his brick-and-mortar operation in Audubon Park. A complete gut of the former BB&T Bank building has caused delays, but when Bem Bom opens, it, along with Kadence and Domu, will anchor the Audubon Park dining scene.
When: Opening summer 2017
Where: 3101 Corrine Drive, 321-236-2660, bembomfood.com

Big Kahuna's Island Style Bowls

What: Poke bowls are all the rage, and this Winter Springs outfit brings a taste of the islands (Hawaiian Islands, that is) to Winter Springs next month with the requisite ahi tuna, salmon and yellowtail, in addition to seasonal offerings of fresh catch based on local suppliers.
When: Opening February 2017
Where: 1450 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs, 407-310-7301, bigkahunasbowls.com

Circo Orlando

What: With a retractable glass roof and a $3.5 million renovation budget, Circo (from the same folks behind the famed Le Cirque in New York City) is going balls-out Dubai on International Drive. The menu of pricey upscale Tuscan fare will make Circo one of those restaurants gastronomes run away to, or run away from. Exciting!
When: Opening summer 2017
Where: 8050 International Drive, 407-906-7755, circoorl.com

The District: Eatery and Tap & Barrel

What: Sanford's dining scene will only get better once this family-owned gastropub in a 107-year-old building opens on West Second Street. Owner Brad Plummer and stepson Chris Mullen, both culinary school grads, will table a menu Plummer describes as "new American eclectic" (read Mediterranean- and Asian-inflected dishes) with cocktails being crafted by chief mixologist Charles Stafford. Plummer's wife, Anne McNamara, will run the business side of things – we're told local purveyors will be sourced as often as possible.
When: Opening late summer/early fall 2017
Where: 112 W. Second St., Sanford, facebook.com/thedistrictsanford
click to enlarge PHOTO VIA ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo via Rob Bartlett

Domu

What: Seats were hard to come by when this ramen/pan-Asian joint opened late last year in the old Txokos space in the East End Market, and they still are. A slick beverage program keeps the cocktail crowd content, but don't think about ordering ramen at the bar – splashy slurping is frowned on there.
When: Open now
Where: 3201 Corrine Drive, 407-960-1228, domufl.com

The Edison

What: It may be a tamed-down version of the Los Angeles original, but this post-industrial-themed eatery will still blend plenty of science, art and "world-class live entertainment" into its surroundings at Disney Springs. (In L.A., that entertainment includes live 1920s-style jazz, aerial silks and burlesque performances.) Our sincere hope is that the food and cocktails will be just as inventive.
When: Opening fall 2017
Where: Disney Springs, edisondowntown.com

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

What: The super-popular yakiniku chain gives cook-it-yourself barbecue enthusiasts plenty of meats, seafood and vegetables from which to choose, but even better is that their smokeless roasters have a downdraft system to ensure you don't leave the restaurant smelling like the meats you just grilled.
When: Open now
Where: 7858 Turkey Lake Road,
407-613-5056, gyu-kaku.com

The Halal Guys

What: Their gyros, chicken and rice platters, and falafel sandwiches have New Yorkers addicted (and dominate tourists' Instagram feeds); now they're taking the rest of the country by storm. Soon enough, patrons at the Alafaya Trail outpost will understand why folks queued up outside the humble food cart at 53rd and Sixth for hours. I get the sense many a UCF student will be late for class. When: Opening spring 2017 Where: 688 N. Alafaya Trail, thehalalguys.com

Hunger Street Tacos

What: In their soft-opening week, the lines out the door were reminiscent of the days when 4 Rivers Smokehouse occupied the space, but this taqueria is generating the sort of buzz that will all but guarantee its success. That and their tacos campechanos, squash-blossom quesadillas, and esquites with bone marrow broth reduction.
When: Open now
Where: 2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-617-1140, facebook.com/hungerstreettacos

Kadence

What: Arguably the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2017, the long-awaited omakase house by the founders of Kappo at East End Market will be a second home to Orlando's food cognoscenti. The 20-seat resto will also feature a sake bar offering what's promised to be the finest selection in the city.
When: Opening spring 2017
Where: 1809 E. Winter Park Road, kadenceorlando.com
click to enlarge PHOTO VIA ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo via Rob Bartlett

Luke's Kitchen + Bar

What: Brandon McGlamery's bustling new Maitland boîte on the old Steak & Ale site had locals salivating in anticipation, and opening hasn't stemmed the flow one bit. Like McGlamery's other offspring, Luma on Park and Prato, Luke's sources seasonally and responsibly, but the approachable menu of "classic American cuisine" gets imaginative with dishes like snapper ceviche, rotisserie chicken and prime rib.
When: Open now
Where: 640 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-674-2400, facebook.com/eatatlukes
click to enlarge PHOTO VIA ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo via Rob Bartlett

Maestro Cucina Napoletana

What: Local restaurateur Rosario Spagnolo (TerraMia Ristorante, TerraMia Brick Oven Pizza & Trattoria) paired up with fellow Neapolitan Antonio Martino to bring proper Neapolitan-style pizza to the good folks of Park Avenue. While the dazzling Ferrari-red Marra Forni oven is clearly visible from the open kitchen, don't let it blind you into forgetting to sample some classic fare of the Campania region.
When: Open now
Where: 528 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-335-4548, maestrocucinanapoletana.com

Market to Table Cuisine

What: When alFresco moved out of the historic Roper Building, the good folks of Winter Garden didn't have to wait long for a worthy replacement to move in. Chef Ryan Freelove, who had two stints under Scott Hunnell at Victoria & Albert's, wowed them at farmers' markets with his bone broths, compound butters and soups, and he'll undoubtedly wow them on Plant Street with his seasonal menu of modern American fare.
When: Open now
Where: 146 W. Plant St., Winter Garden, 407-395-9871, market2table.com

Mesa 21

What: After all the construction delays, we're still taking a "good things come to those who wait" attitude towards this lakeside resto promising "the most authentic Mexican food in America." We know tortillas will be handmade on-site, and trompo tacos like al pastor and sirloin will be shaved off a vertical spit. More reason to believe: Costras will be offered, as will a tequila menu "second to none."
When: Opening February March 2017
Where: 1414 N. Orange Ave., mesa21.com

Meza Mediterranean Grill

What: Nazih Sebaali, owner of the venerable and now-closed Café Annie, is bringing his vaunted falafel and Lebanese staples to Baldwin Park. The fine dining kebab joint with full bar will sit next door to Seito – one of the best Japanese/sushi spots in town – so here's hoping some of Seito's brilliance rubs off on the new kid in the neighborhood.
When: Opening April 2017
Where: 1776 Jake St., mezaorlando.com

Midici

What: Kissimmee gets a taste of the California-based Neapolitan pizza chain, but don't roll your eyes just yet. The two handmade ovens from Naples blister pizzas out in 90 seconds; the Marra Forni "Vittoria" flywheel slices prosciutto with extreme precision; and the stunning Victoria Arduino "Athena" espresso machine pumps out the perfect cup of coffee. Don't let the "chain" appellation chafe.
When: Open now
Where: 720 Centerview Blvd., Kissimmee, 407-201-3824, mymidici.com

Nonno's Ristorante Italiano

What: Clearly local restaurateur Stefano LaCommare didn't take very nicely to retirement. The respected chef ditched his golf clubs in favor of an apron, choosing to help son Leonardo open this new seafood-focused Sicilian joint in Altamonte. I suppose you can take the man out of the restaurant, but you can't take the restaurant out of the man.
When: Open now
Where: 1140 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, 407-260-8900, nonnositalianrestaurant.com

Omelet Bar

What: Founded by University of Central Florida alum Tarek Kanso, this breakfast joint near the UCF campus allows patrons to build their own omelets, frittatas, waffles and pancakes, or pick from a sizable selection of faves. A "flight" of chicken & waffles has got to be a first. If brekkie ain't your thing, lunch items like burgers, salads and sandwiches are offered, including a host of smaller-portion dishes called "munchkins."
When: Open now
Where: 11250 Strategy Blvd., 407-704-1597, omeletbar.com

Orlando Meats

What: Edgar Massoni's full-service butcher shop and fast-casual eatery can't open soon enough in Ivanhoe Village, as far as we're concerned, even if it'll just serve breakfast and lunch. Massoni has fostered relationships with local farmers and producers over the years, so you can bet the meat will come from animals that are fed natural diets, are ethically and pasture-raised, and are hormone- and antibiotic-free.
When: Opening spring 2017
Where: 728 Virginia Drive, 407-598-0700, orlandomeats.com

Paddlefish

What: After undergoing a multimillion-dollar bow-to-stern renovation, the Empress Lily reopens as a contemporary seafood restaurant in Disney Springs with a swish interior that'll erase any memory of Fulton's Crab House, though expect to see Fulton's faves like lobster corn dogs, Florida stone crab, and Alaskan king and queen crab. A rooftop lounge will stay open until 2 a.m. serving from a late-night menu, a DIY fish boil menu will also be served, and of course: weekend brunch.
When: Opening February 2017
Where: Disney Springs, paddlefishrestaurant.com

Phan's

What: South Orange Blossom Trail got a boost to its restaurant scene when this legit pan-Asian joint by local B-boy Tung Fu, of MF Kidz, opened this month. The menu of Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and Korean dishes, along with, yes, poke bowls (we can't get enough), have made "Phanatics" out of many.
When: Open now
Where: 9741 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-704-6399, phansorlando.com

Planet Hollywood Observatory

What: One of the more gigantic restaurants in Disney Springs chose to ride the bus to Flavortown by having polarizing schlock-jock of cookery Guy Fieri develop their burger and sandwich menu. If you're a fan of the Donkey Sauce – or of massive boozy milkshake concoctions – Planet Hollywood Observatory is likely already on your must-visit list. If not, Disney Springs has no shortage of dining options.
When: Open now
Where: Disney Springs, 407-827-7827, planethollywoodintl.com

The Polite Pig

What: The Mouse wanted a little local flavor in the restaurant offerings at their sprawling food-and-fun complex, and James and Julie Petrakis (Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder, Swine & Sons) were a natural choice. The pair will bring wood-fired, smoked and grilled Southern goodies to Disney Springs, as well as local brews (including Cask & Larder draughts), wine and cocktails.
When: Opening spring 2017
Where: Disney Springs, politepig.com

Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen

What: This seafood venture by former Hard Rock International VP and COO Fred Thimm will transform the old Ravenous Pig space and infuse it with a relaxed surfer vibe. Brah, we're totally looking forward to the seasonal and sustainable seafood preparations and their "high-end fish camp" fare: Diners can expect triggerfish, sheephead, hogfish and other local species, plus a raw bar.
When: Opening February 2017
Where: 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-543-3474, reelfishcoastal.com

Reyes Mezcaleria

What: Taking over the Citrus Restaurant space in the North Quarter, Jason Chin's Mexican resto will feature regional Mexican fare, but with chef Austin Boyd (Seito, Osprey Tavern) overseeing the menu, you can bet dishes will be as impressive as the interior design inspired by Tulum in Quintana Roo. Naturally, a vast selection of mezcal and tequila will round out the offerings.
When: Opening March 2017
Where: 821 N. Orange Ave., reyesmex.com

Teak Maitland

What: There's arguably no better place for a burger and a beer than this popular MetroWest joint, and the folks in Maitland will absolutely eat (and drink) this place up when it opens in the former Ran-Getsu location. After a thorough gutting of the space, the new Teak will be made to look like the original.
When: Opening April 2017
Where: 901 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, teakorlando.com

Valkyrie Doughnuts

What: Celine Duvoisin's spinoff of her crazy-popular Valhalla Bakery has a clean, minimalist and wonderfully Norse feel, but the lucky buggers out by UCF will jostle and prod in line for one thing, and one thing only – doughnuts. Ridiculously good vegan doughnuts. And vegan gelato. And doughnut ice-cream sandwiches. OK, three things.
When: Opening February 2017
Where: 12226 Corporate Blvd., instagram.com/valkyriedoughnuts

Wine Bar George

What: Master Sommelier and beloved wine expert George Miliotes' 210-seat Disney Springs wine bar will take on the look of a "winemaker's home estate" and offer up more than 100 selections by the bottle and glass in a range of varietals, vintages and prices. A menu of small plates will be offered to complement the wine list.
When: Opening fall 2017
Where: Disney Springs, winebargeorge.com

dining@orlandoweekly.com

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