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3 of our favorite cuisines and where to find them in Orlando based on your budget 

Palate, meet price point

Sometimes you've got the dough, sometimes you don't. That shouldn't stop you from eating well. Orlando's demographic mix of 1-percenters, college students, service-industry workers and families has netted us delicious dishes at almost any price point. Here are three favorite cuisines and where to find food that fits your budget, whether it's baller status or tight-fisted.


Splurge: La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Bonnet Creek
The first thing you should do when you sit down in your three-hour chairs (the plushy velvet ones restaurants only use when they know you're going to spend a lot of $$$ and be sitting for a while), after you finish ogling the art and the sweeping 20-foot ceilings, is order the fried Spanish olives and warm Marcona almonds to pair with a crisp, dry martini. Afterward, opt for fresh-made pasta like fettuccine with wild mushrooms, thyme and truffled cream sauce. Of course there will be secondi, and the braised lamb shank with Tuscan bean ragu and mint gremolata is both hearty and elegant. Finish with affogato (there's always room for ice cream, after all) and a double espresso before taking a walk around the hotel lobby and ending up at the garden fire pits with some single-serving friends. 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, 407-597-3600,

Spend: Spoleto
Two options for ordering at this fast-casual spot named for an ancient city outside Rome: Go for the Chipotle method (choose either pasta, salad or flatbread and customize with their more than 40 toppings plus upgrades like truffled mushrooms, basil-marinated shrimp or giant meatballs). Or, opt for the curated chef's menu, which includes Ravioli di Brodo – in which four-cheese ravioli bathe in savory chicken broth with kale, broccoli, carrots and herb-roasted chicken – or a flatbread topped with milky burrata cheese and prosciutto (pretty fancy for a quick-service). Dessert options go beyond the typical tiramisu and cannoli: Spoleto's sweets include a flatbread slathered with Nutella and strawberries (molto Italiano!), amaretti cookies, puff pastry filled with vanilla or hazelnut cream, and Italian chocolate truffles. Locations at Florida Mall, UCF and Winter Park,

Save: 900 Degreez Pizza
Yes, it is possible to build a rustic, Italian-style wood-burning oven inside an oversized food truck, and Drew Soifer, owner and operator of the truck, wants you to take notice. Instead of some fancy wrap, Soifer has replaced the facade of the truck with an "open kitchen" concept, made possible by an all-glass panel that lets pizza lovers watch their pie go from doughy to delish in just 90 seconds. This solves a typical food-truck-goer's problem: waiting a seemingly interminable amount of time for your food to get forked over. Go beyond margherita or pepperoni with creations like the EIEIO (an homage to Old MacDonald, no doubt), topped with Fuji apples, applewood-smoked bacon, garlic and mozzarella, or the Hercules Court, with fingerling potatoes and walnut pesto. Find out where they'll be next on their website.


Splurge: 'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Ukulele players serenade and tiki drinks on fire flow freely at this vast dining hall in the center of the newly refreshed Polynesian Village resort. Make two reservations, though: One for 'Ohana for dinner and one for pre-meal cocktails at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto & Tiki Bar, where the Shrunken Zombie Head cocktail comes in a souvenir shrunken head filled with three different kinds of rum, plus tropical juices, falernum and cinnamon. Then head into the restaurant for oak-grilled shrimp skewers, pillowy pork dumplings in garlic-ginger sa auce and probably the best bread pudding served in a hotel anywhere in town, laid over ice cream and topped with banana caramel sauce. 1600 Seven Seas Drive, 407-939-3463,

Spend: Ming's Bistro
You might have visited this popular dim sum spot on the weekends to score custard tarts and shumai from the passing carts, and truth be told, you can spend a buck in a hurry here (those little dishes add up fast). But if you've never ordered off the menu before, start there. Watercress soup envelops savory sliced pork, servers scoop live Maine lobsters out of the tank for steamed lobster with soy and chili sauce, the sound of giant Chinese cleavers hacking up sweet and salty roast duck swells from the kitchen, conch sauteed with green chives comes sauced in a rich seafood-stock glaze. The place has been redesigned to feel more intimate and upscale, but the prices are still fair and plates are full of flavors both exotic and familiar. 1212 Woodward St.; 407-898-9672

Save: Sushi & Seoul on the Roll
Found on weeknights outside pourhouses like Will's Pub, the Thirsty Topher, the Guesthouse and Redlight Redlight, this food truck is home base for sushi, Korean and Chinese street food like bao stuffed with soft-shell crabs, avocado fries and ramen bowls, perfect to pair with craft beers or cocktails. One of our favorites: seared ahi tuna tataki bites crusted with chili flakes and topped with avocado slices, belted with nori and dotted with a little sriracha and spicy mayo. The flavor bombs have dropped. Look out for Asian delicacies you wouldn't think to find on a truck, like salty, briny uni cradled by sliced avocado (forget bacon, everything's better with avo) and topped with salmon roe.


Splurge: Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes
Chef Norman Van Aken's flagship restaurant is a veritable temple of equatorial eats, using ingredients from all over the Caribbean, Central and South America to bolster the case that rice and beans are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Latin – or, as Van Aken calls it, New World – cuisine. Starters like Key West shrimp ceviche with tequila and avocado and Brazilian-style cracked conch chowder with a coconut "cloud" elevate traditional cooking methods and native dishes. Try as much as possible with the six-course tasting menu (a virtual steal at just $159 per person with top wine pairings by sommelier and general manager Yusuf Yildiz), then take your dessert and coffee on the patio and watch the sun sink below the golf course. We suggest choosing cheese from the rotating selection on the tableside cart or the Carmelito Crema parfait with foie gras ice cream, Malteada foam and duck confit "snow." 4012 Central Florida Parkway, 407-393-4333,

Spend: Pio Pio
Two words: bandeja paisa. Known for its succulent and well-seasoned rotisserie chicken, Pio Pio's locations are known for piling on enough food for dinner and lunch the next day for a comfortable price – especially if you're getting two meals out of it. The chain combines Colombian and Peruvian comfort food, and you'll find both tostones and arepas as well as ceviche and jalea (fried mixed seafood), which serves four people for just over 20 bucks. Crispy deep-fried pork skin called chicharron sits atop a perfect white-corn arepa for a starter that sets the tone for a hearty meal. Pair dishes with South American sodas like Postobon or Inca Kola, or opt for Peru's purple-corn drink, chicha morada. Multiple locations in Central Florida

Save: La Empanada Truck
It's best to check out where La Empanada is going to be on their Facebook page or on their website and show up early – they're most often found at Orlando City Soccer games and Food Truck Bazaars. Chances are, by mid-event, your favorite sweet or savory turnover is gonna be gone (especially the crowd-favorite Nutella and banana empanada). Most of the empanadas are about $3.50 each, and the menu features classics like picadillo and chorizo with potato alongside neo-Latin concoctions like BBQ chicken with gouda cheese and sun-dried tomato with poppy seeds. You'll also find that elusive Mexican Coke on their beverage menu, so crisp and so cold it cuts right through the empanadas' rich fillings and fried crusts.


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