From dining in our theme parks with your favorite characters to savoring the fresh flavors of our celebrity-owned restaurants, food has become the main attraction in Orlando. Come along for an insider's tour with Orlando dining expert and date night diva, Kristen Manieri. As part of our "Inside Orlando" series, she shares her recipe to having a great meal in Orlando and has exclusive tips for you.
Manieri has been writing about Orlando for almost 10 years now including Orlando's dining scene, date night scene, things for couples to do and things to do for families. "It is a fabulous city that's really coming into its own. And it has so much more for people to discover than what people think Orlando is all about," said Manieri.
Here are Manieri's top tips of restaurants not to miss during your visit in Orlando.
She says that you can find great dining through out the Orlando area. "We've got amazing urban districts that have wonderful boutique dining scenes. We've got amazing hotel restaurants that are not what you would expect from resort restaurants. And we've got lots of little boutique bistros and we've got amazing steak houses."
Regarding new dining options Manieri says, "I feel like every time I turn around a new awesome restaurant is opening up in Orlando, either in the downtown area or in the theme park district." She lists places like Capa at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Highball and Harvest at Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Cowfish at Universal CityWalk and American Q at the B Resort for offering really unique and exciting concepts for couples and families.
Manieri recognizes that Orlando has attracted several notable celebrity chefs, including Norman Van Aken who owns Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando. Emeril Lagasse has two restaurants at Universal Orlando Resort, including Emeril's Orlando and Tchoup Chop. There's La Luce by the late Donna Scala at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. And Chef Morimoto, famous from Iron Chef America, is coming to the new Disney Springs development with a brand new dining concept.
However, she also notes Orlando's own culinary talent, "We also have our own local celebrity chefs. They're celebrities to us, including chefs like Kathleen Blake at Rusty Spoon, Brandon McGlamery at Luma on Park, James and Julie Petrakis, owners of The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder, and John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse - he's got his own cookbook, and is a star at the South Beach Food and Wine festival every year."
Manieri also has a take on dining with kids in Orlando. "So I may be the local date-night expert but I do have two kids, and I know that when I can take them somewhere that has kid-friendly food, where the atmosphere is really fun and engaging for them." According to Manieri there's many family friend options including at Downtown Disney, Universal Citywalk, Pointe Orlando and the new I-Drive 360. "All of these restaurants are really designed to make eating with your kids a fun experience because they're so excited and interested in everything going on around them. Plus the food is spectacular for the adults too!"
One of Manieri's favorite aspects of dining in Orlando is it's romantic side. "One of the things that I love to do on date night is we do a progressive dinner. So, we find one of the many dining districts in Orlando including Winter Park, Restaurant Row, Downtown Orlando or College Park. We park our car, stop at the first restaurant have an appetizer, go to the next restaurant for an entree, go to the next restaurant for dessert and maybe have cocktails to conclude the night somewhere else. But its such a great way to experience several of the great independent restaurants here, in one night."
Manieri concludes by saying, "Orlando really has it all when it comes to dining. Family friendly, inexpensive restaurants, there are a lot of those. But we also have upscale, farm-to-table places where chefs are really upping the game in terms of creating very locally sourced, agile menus that adjust with the seasons and also adjust with what people want to be eating now."
You and your family are in for a treat because there is something for every food craving in Orlando. See why dining in Orlando can be a thrill ride for your taste buds. Just come hungry!