Orlando has grown into a dynamic and innovative foodie community, home to more than 40 international cuisines, 17 James Beard nominated or awarded chefs and 12 celebrity-chef led restaurants. With lavish, private dining rooms, expansive reception space and neighborhood dining hubs, Orlando continues to re-invent itself each year with buzzworthy dining spots perfect for dine-arounds, dinners and receptions.
What’s New in 2019
Five new restaurants illustrate the remarkable diversity in Orlando’s expanding culinary base. James Beard-winning and Noble Peace Prize nominee Chef José Andrés brings his Jaleo concept to Disney Springs, serving authentic Spanish tapas, paella and sangria. Book the Foosball Lounge for up to 25 guests, or rent out the entire multi-level restaurant for up to 550 people. Also opening at Disney Springs this year is City Works Eatery and Pour House, with 80 beers on tap. The Pointe Orlando complex on International Drive welcomes Lotus Asia House, serving Pan-Asian cuisine inspired by street food vendors and The Hampton Social, themed after the New York coastal resort region. Both are perfect for large or small groups.
Group Dining with a View
From stellar waterfront views to rooftops and fireworks, there’s an abundance of spots for enjoyable outdoor dining. For special theme park views, there’s Capa steakhouse at Four Seasons Orlando Walt Disney World Resort or California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort where groups can catch nightly fireworks. Bar 17 Bistro at the new Aventura Hotel overlooks Universal Orlando Resort. Canvas Restaurant & Market, located just minutes from Lake Nona Medical City, offers private and semi-private rooms, including an outdoor terrace and on-the-water rooms with floor-to-ceiling lakefront views. Just up the road is Chroma Modern Bar & Kitchen where groups can do a total buy-out or rent just the outdoor patio or lounge, complete with fire pits. Across town, groups can dine at 310 Lakeside overlooking Lake Eola, the centerpiece of downtown Orlando.
There’s no shortage of one-of-a-kind themed restaurants in Orlando. England-based motor diner Ace Café opened its first North American location in one of downtown Orlando’s most historic buildings, which once housed Harry P. Leu’s industrial supply company founded in 1926. At Disney Springs, groups can board an iconic paddleboat anchored on Lake Buena Vista at Paddlefish to feast on fresh seafood and savory steaks. Or, try The Boathouse waterfront restaurant, complete with tours of vintage amphibious automobiles. At Universal CityWalk, groups can rent space throughout two floors in a vintage chocolate factory. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen features steampunk-inspired décor, an industrial Robot named Jacques who greets guests and over-the-top desserts like the towering Marshmallow Crisp milkshake. Located on International Drive, Mango’s Tropical Café is a unique nightclub, restaurant and performance venue all rolled into one, accommodating groups up to 2,000.
Private Dining Rooms
While Orlando boasts incredible venues to accommodate the largest of groups, the smaller, more intimate private rooms are equally impressive for VIP dinners and special events. The Cellar is Luma’s lavish private dining room where guests enter through a private doorway leading them through the two-story wine vault. For groups looking for a unique atmosphere, try the Mexican-themed private room at downtown Orlando’s Reyes Mezcaleria, or enjoy the whimsical flair of the Chef’s Table at Café Tu Tu Tango on International Drive. For a rustic vibe, there’s Slate on Sand Lake Road or The Wine Room in Winter Park where groups can enjoy wine, cheese and charcuterie pairings in the private “Fromage Cave.” Other notable private rooms in the tourism corridor include Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Big Fin Seafood Kitchen and Bonefish Grille. Jack’s Place Steakhouse at The Rosen Plaza invites groups to enjoy a star-studded, executive-style private dinner among hundreds of autographed caricatures of celebrities, all drawn by the father of local hotelier Harris Rosen. Private food and wine pairings include Wine Bar George’s private room The Library, the private dining room at Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s Bull & Bear or Vines Grille & Wine Bar on Sand Lake Road.
Interactive Dining Experiences
For groups that fancy spirits over wine, there’s the Cocktail Table Experience at Highball and Harvest within the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes where dedicated bartenders create multi-course hand-crafted cocktails. Each cocktail is interactively prepared and paired with their meals. For something even more hands-on, Ravello at Four Seasons Orlando Walt Disney World Resort has a private room with an interactive demonstration kitchen where groups of up to 30 guests can enjoy a customized menu and participate in a live cooking demo.
Stroll-Worthy Food Halls
Food halls are a growing trend in Orlando, with local merchants, residents and visitors flocking to the open market concepts all over town. These multi-vendor halls can be an engaging experience for groups, allowing them to casually roam, socialize and explore, while tasting a variety of local bites. East End Market, located in the Audubon district, has everything from craft beers and farm-to-table cuisine to cookies and leatherworks. Groups can hold private events in several different spaces ranging from the Audubon Park Exchange, a stunning venue with vaulted ceilings and custom woodwork, to a lively demonstration kitchen. Plant Street Market in Winter Garden expanded this concept with its own craft brewer, more food vendors and local artisans. Downtown’s Market on Magnolia stretches two stories with a full bar (75 craft beers) and food stalls. Lake Nona’s Boxi Park features dozen repurposed shipping containers featuring restaurants and bars as well as an outdoor stage and beach volleyball.
Best Areas for Dine-Arounds
In addition to Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk, there are several other restaurant meccas where groups can explore a progressive dining experience, walking from eatery to eatery in a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. Pointe Orlando, an outdoor dining and entertainment complex on International Drive, is home to more than 15 restaurants with cuisine ranging from Cuban to Greek to Italian, and plenty of late-night venues to cap off the evening. Sand Lake Road is also known as “Restaurant Row” due its high number of restaurants located on a one-mile strip. Some of these eateries include Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, Seasons 52, Roy’s Restaurant and Rocco’s Tacos. From high-end restaurants to casual eateries ranging in both cuisine and price points, Sand Lake is a great dine-around destination. In downtown Orlando, streets like Church Street and Orange Avenue boast new and local favorite restaurants for groups, including the new French DoveCote Brasserie and The Rusty Spoon, owned by James Beard-nominated Chef Kathleen Blake.