click to enlarge bartlettimage-baoery-7619.jpg

Photo by Rob Bartlett

We dare you not to be charmed by Orlando's Thornton Park neighborhood 

This neighborhood is where you take visitors who think Orlando lacks allure. Thornton Park’s historic markers, sidewalk terraces and walkable boutiques are the ultimate in adorable. Claim your spot in the sun and spend the day strolling Thornton’s brick-lined byways – we dare you not to be charmed. Just promise not to climb into the fountain.


Baoery Asian Gastropub

617 E. Central Blvd., 407-849-9779,

Chef Greg Richie's sister restos abut each other – Soco is next door – making for a perfect East-meets-West motif. At Baoery, order seconds and thirds of the mac & kim-cheese and the braised pork spareribs. Sake bombs not optional.


629 E. Central Blvd., 407-849-1800,

Short for "Southern contemporary," this upscale temple to comfort food is swanky enough for date night but chill enough for happy hour. Vegetarians will swoon over the cauliflower steak entree, and the boiled peanut hummus is a slick twist on the ubiquitous dip.

The Stubborn Mule

100 S. Eola Drive, 407-730-3400,

New kid on the block serves at least seven variations on the Moscow Mule, its namesake cocktail, but also shines at brunchtime: great service, great patio, great big plates of food.

Graffiti Junktion American Burger Bar

700 E. Washington St., 321-424-5800,

The burger palace just moved in where Wildside used to be, almost doubling their square footage. Happy hour is twice daily, so there's a good bet you'll be treated to drink specials no matter when you walk in. Plus, it's one of the few spots open until 2 a.m.

Benjamin French Bakery Café

716 E. Washington St., 407-797-2253,

Tasty croissant and baguette sandwiches join the expected, and excellent, parade of French pastries.


Aku Aku Tiki Bar

431 E. Central Blvd., 407-839-0080,

Step back in time and don your coconut bra as soon as you walk through the door of Orlando's only true tiki bar. The bar's 1960s Gidget-goes-Hawaiian vibe is infectious, and the drinks (some in big goblets, some even on fire) are powerful.

The Falcon Bar & Gallery

819 E. Washington St., 407-423-2788,

Take a swan selfie with the mural by Miami artist Evoca1, then head inside for local art and brews. Singles sticking around should take a few minutes to peruse the old-school personal ads on the wall adjacent to the bar. If you're having a great time here, chances are your match loves the Falcon too.


Lauren Nicole

426 E. Central Blvd., 407-730-3836,

This boutique bills itself as "The Shop For Every Girl!", but we'd say it's for a certain type of girl – one downing mimosas at brunch in a maxi-dress and a statement necklace, or walking her French bulldog in a romper and giant shades. The kind of girl you see in Thornton Park, in fact.


The Abbey

100 S. Eola Drive, 407-704-6261,

A favorite venue for artists from all over, the Abbey's intimate setting hosts the flowering of a good portion of Orlando's art scene. Live music, theater, storytelling, dance, spoken word, readings and more take place here, as well as major citywide events like the Big Gay Brunch during Come Out With Pride.

Constitution Green Dog Park

300 S. Summerlin Ave., 407-246-2283,

Last October, our city's pooches got a new place to play: the home of some of Orlando's oldest residents. The historic oak trees at Constitution Green look over the dog park, where off-leash is allowed, and responsible owners supervise their fur babies.

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