Asian American and Pacific Islander History & Culture in Orlando
Orlando’s wonders don’t just attract visitors from all over the world. We also boast a global mix of citizens, including vibrant Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities that are as richly diverse as the countries they represent. In addition to headlining one of Orlando’s most popular dining and nightlife districts, Mills 50, AAPI influence on local culture and history can be found throughout the destination, including unique restaurants, shops and annual celebrations that you’ll want to experience. Start here to discover it all.
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In the 1970s, refugees fleeing the Vietnam War became a key part of the Orlando community, starting businesses, building homes and churches — and growing families. Today, second-, third- and fourth-generation Vietnamese Americans help shape our social, economic and political landscape without losing sight of their ancestors’ traditions.
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Vietnamese influence is particularly evident in downtown Orlando’s multicultural Mills 50 dining and entertainment district, which features numerous Vietnamese restaurants, retailers and service-providers. And every winter, this district celebrates Vietnamese history and culture during Orlando’s Tet (aka Vietnamese Lunar New Year) Festival.
While people of Vietnamese descent make up the largest portion of Orlando’s AAPI population, many other cultures and countries are represented. We’re home to sizable Chinese, Asian-Indian, Filipino and Korean communities, plus smaller groups representing Thailand, Laos, Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan, among others.
Accordingly, Orlando is home to a wide range of authentic Asian-owned eateries and other businesses, not just in the Mills 50 district but all over town. (However, it is worth noting that Mills 50 is home to more MICHELIN Guide restaurants than any other district in Orlando.)
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Take Orlando’s Chinatown. Located about 15 minutes west of downtown, it features a collection of authentic Chinese restaurants and shops. It’s also extremely easy to find: Just look for the traditional Chinese arch known as a paifang or pailou, which serves as the historic area’s eye-catching centerpiece.
Authentic Asian architecture awaits at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando, too. It’s home to a ting, or one-story structure similar to a pagoda, that was built in Shanghai and signifies Orlando’s sister-city relationship with Guilin, China. Lake Eola Park also has a Japanese-style rock garden adorned with a massive piece of black marble that was gifted to Orlando by Taipei, Taiwan. You’ll find additional examples of AAPI influence throughout the Central Florida area.
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Orlando hosts a wealth of AAPI festivals and special events every year, including these popular options. Check Visit Orlando’s Events Calendar to see what’s happening during your next visit.
Central Florida Dragon Parade Lunar New Year Festival (February)
The vibrant Central Florida Dragon Parade Lunar New Year Festival brings East Asia to Central Florida with martial artists, taiko drummers and ample food vendors, as well as the signature parade. It’s held in downtown Orlando’s Mills 50 district.
Tet Festival (January / February)
Celebrating the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Florida’s largest Tet Festival is produced by St. Philip Minh Catholic Church at the Central Florida Fairgrounds.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May)
Every May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to life in Orlando with insightful events, delicious dining, notable landmarks and other reasons to visit during the month-long celebration.
Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival and Asian Cultural Expo (October)
Produced in tandem, these free, one-day events showcase the wonders of Asian culture through exhibitions, performances and crafts. Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival and Asian Cultural Expo is held in Bill Frederick Park, just north of Universal Orlando Resort.
Orlando Japan Festival (November)
Experience authentic Japanese music, dance and other entertainments at Orlando Japan Festival, presented by Japan Association of Orlando at Kissimmee Lakefront Park near Walt Disney World® Resort.
Orlando Korea Festival (November)
Hosted by the Orlando Korea Culture Center close to The Florida Mall®, Orlando Korea Festival features plenty of delicious Korean food, energetic K-Pop musicians, and other authentic Korean surprises and delicacies.
Downtown Orlando’s annual celebration of the people and many cultures that make Central Florida awesome, FusionFest features food, dance, art and more from numerous AAPI communities and other global groups. It takes place during Thanksgiving weekend at the open-air Seneff Arts Plaza, part of downtown Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
If you’re hungry for authentic Asian flavors, take a bite out of these AAPI-owned and operated eateries the next time you’re in Orlando — including several MICHELIN Guide restaurants.
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Aashirwad Indian Food: Just off International Drive, aka I-Drive, this restaurant offers a diverse mixture of flavors and tastes that reflect a variety of cultures, geography and climate.
Bawarchi Biryanis: A wide range of aromatic spices are used to create beautiful pots of biryani, this I-Drive eatery’s namesake mixed-rice dish.
B&B Express: Close to Walt Disney World® Resort, this fusion restaurant’s “B&B” stands for burgers and biryani.
BBQ Tonight Indian Restaurant and Caterings: Enjoy Indian staples such as tandoori chicken and biryani at this casual option near Walt Disney World®.
Chaat House: This Pakistani restaurant serves gyros, kebabs, pizza, burgers, seafood and more.
Charcoal Zyka: Dig into a mixed variety of American, Portuguese and Indian dishes at this casual grill close to SeaWorld® Orlando.
Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi: Part of Restaurant Row, Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi is a hip, modern, Japanese cafe serving tapas-style sushi and robatayaki.
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Qi Dragon Bakery: Close to The Florida Mall, this bakery offers a big selection of Asian cakes, cookies and breads.
Saffron Indian Cuisine: This stylish Restaurant Row eatery serves an extensive selection of traditional and inventive Indian dishes.
Sizler Tandoori Restaurant: Staples like biryani and samosas are served at this Indian and Pakistani restaurant.
Sushi Katana: This casual Japanese eatery near The Mall at Millenia pairs innovative specialties with a variety of sushi rolls.
Thai Thani: Carved wood decor and traditional artwork perfectly complement this International Drive restaurant’s authentic Thai cuisine.
Woodlands: Minutes from The Florida Mall, this casual vegetarian Indian venue features dosas, curries, a lunch buffet and more.
Chuan Lu Garden: This local favorite serves Sichuan-style Chinese cuisine with expansive lunch and dinner menus.
EDOBOY: The MICHELIN Recommended EDOBOY is Orlando’s first and only standing sushi bar, similar to ones in Japan. Due to its intimate size — eight guests maximum — reservations are required.
Kaya: This vibrant, MICHELIN Recommended Filipino restaurant brings together the best of Florida’s freshest ingredients with the heart and soul of Filipino cooking.
Little Saigon: Big portions and big flavor are the watchwords at this colorful Vietnamese eatery.
Ming’s Bistro: Enjoy dim sum and then some with 33 options plus a full regular menu.
Royaltea: Orlando’s outpost of this growing international chain makes freshly brewed tea with modern technology.
Shin Jung Korean Restaurant: Serving Central Florida since 1993, the MICHELIN Recommended Shin Jung Korean Restaurant serves traditional Korean dishes.
Sticky Rice: Dig into tapas-style Laotian dishes at this fast-casual, MICHELIN Recommended restaurant.
Tasty Wok: This Chinese restaurant serves pan-fried noodles, roast duck and other specialties.
Tori Tori: Modern meets traditional at Tori Tori, a MICHELIN Recommended mashup of an eclectic cocktail bar and Japanese food pub.
Vietnam Cuisine: The name says it all at this venue, where Vietnamese noodles and steamed rolls are staples.
Z Asian: A MICHELIN Guide Bib Gourmand honoree, Z Asian serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine with vegan options, pho and more.
Ahmed Indian Restaurant: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at Ahmed’s locations close to SeaWorld Orlando and the University of Central Florida.
DOMU: DOMU at East End Market in Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden District is a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand recipient. But whether you choose that location of their restaurant in the Dr. Phillips area near I-Drive, you can expect one of Orlando’s most rarified Asian dining experiences.
Hawkers Asian Street Fare: Serving Asian street eats, this national restaurant family has a MICHELIN Recommended location in Orlando’s Mills 50 district, and a second in the Windermere area close to the theme parks.
Izziban Sushi & BBQ: Dig into all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue and sushi at their locations in Mills 50, Metro West and near The Florida Mall.
Tabla Restaurant: Enjoy some of Orlando’s best Indian, Indo-Chinese and Asian fusion fare at Tabla’s locations in Winter Park, Lake Nona and close to Universal Orlando.
Urban Hibachi: Hibachi meats and creative sushi rolls share the spotlight at locations close to The Florida Mall and Universal Orlando Resort.
Viet-Nomz: Discover a modern take on Vietnamese cuisine at their locations in Winter Park and Orlando’s Waterford Lakes area.
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Other Downtown Orlando-Area Districts
JUJU: Part of The Milk District, the MICHELIN Recommended JUJU specializes in omakase, Japanese charcoal-fired dishes and Japanese craft cocktails.
Kadence: Located in Audubon Park, and exclusively available by reservation, this intimate, One-MICHELIN-Star eatery focuses on multicourse tasting menus and a carefully curated selection of sake.
Kathi Rolls: Specializing in Indian street food that ranges from rolls to bowls, this casual eatery is in the Conway neighborhood east of downtown.
Le House Vietnamese Restaurant: Part of downtown Orlando’s Church Street district, this concept offers fresh, affordable dishes that originate from the owners’ hometowns of Ninh Hoa and Nha Trang in Vietnam.
Pho Hoa: Part of a casual chain, this restaurant in The Milk District close to downtown serves traditional pho (noodle soup).
Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria: Routinely rated as one of Orlando’s best sandwich shops, Pom Pom’s makes creative finger foods, teas and sweets in The Milk District.
Saigon Noodle and Grill: Head to The Milk District for traditional Vietnamese dishes at this family-run eatery, which was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Sun Pearl Bakery: This gourmet pastry shop creates pastries, cakes and desserts that blend Taiwanese traditions with modern flavors.
Curry Bowl: Located in Maitland, just north of Winter Park, this colorful Indian buffet offers all-you-can-eat classics such as curries, biryanis and dosas.
Hotto Potto: This Chinese eatery and dim sum spot specializes in hot pots served tableside with housemade sauces.
Kai Asian Street Fare: Experience Vietnamese, Korean and Thai flavors on Asian and American quick-serve staples at this modern venue.
Kiko Japanese Cuisine: Enjoy traditional sushi rolls and Japanese entrees at this casual restaurant, including vegan options.
Krave Tea: This boba tea shop serves handcrafted milk tea, fruit tea and more.
Light on the Sugar: Lighthearted bites are always on the menu at this bespoke bakery and cafe.
Moghul Indian Cuisine: Tandoori and curry dishes are served in a serene dining room at this Northern Indian eatery.
Mynt Fine Indian Cuisine: Classic Indian fare is artfully presented in a refined setting with white and taupe furnishings.
Soseki Modern Omakase: Not only is Soseki Modern Omakase one of four One-MICHELIN-Star restaurants in the Orlando area, but it was also honored with a MICHELIN Sommelier Award for Beverage Director Benjamin Coutts.
Tamarind Indian Cuisine: Enjoy Northern and Southern Indian specialties in a bright, mural-decked dining room.
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