The USA has a vast amount of restaurants and chains that turn out a wide variety of dishes, both good and bad! The Orlando area has no shortage of options for tourists to choose from and the 5000 or so that we are aware creates a huge challenge finding the best restaurants in town. Sure the internet has really made restaurant information more accessible, but, information overload makes the problem worse not better!
When it comes to choosing a great restaurant off property in Orlando, the right information is definitely the way forward!
With that goal in mind, we had office arguments galore as we filtered our way through the totalorlando.com pick of Orlando’s best restaurants in and around Disney.
Quality food, fresh ingredients and great service had to accompany tasty dishes to get into our list. While we might have missed a few great places off our list, we are near enough with something that any visitor to Orlando can safely use for a great meal!
The Flying Fish Cafe – Disney’s Boardwalk
A Disney Restaurant? Surely not!
Well, to be fair, we’ve never had anything but good fortune when visiting the Flying Fish Cafe on Disney’s Boardwalk. The New England style dockside location has a great atmosphere and the service from the open kitchen is perfect and relaxing, bearing in mind that this is still a family restaurant just yards away from some of Disney’s prime accommodation sites.
The Menu, is understandably oceanic, to say the very least, and the seafood is prepared and cooked to perfection. If you aren’t too keen on Seafood, there’s not too much choice from the oak grill, but, don’t be too disappointed, the limited choices are well worth the visit. The spiced Mahi Mahi is excellent, but, as you probably can tell, none of the dishes will disappoint.
The Cheesecake Factory – Mall at Millenia
At the main entrance to the upscale Mall at Millenia, the oddly named ‘Cheescake Factory’ faces a few challenges. Firstly, that bizarre name describes only a small part of what lies in wait on that menu. Diners that ‘are in the know’ are seen bustling about the reservations desk like wasps around candy. The result is inevitably a 40 minute wait to be seated as this sizeable restaurant!
Secondly, once inside (or if you can get close enough to the Menu board at the doorway), you will be bombarded by choice from the most wildly diverse menu we’ve seen in the states! Surely there’s the ‘golden rule’ that a big wide ranging menu with lots of choice should be avoided?
Not in the case of the Cheesecake Factory, if you want it, order it, and be sure that it’s going to taste great, whether it’s the Bang Bang Chicken or the Tacos!
Yes, and finally, of course they sell cheesecake, in fact dozens of varieties of rather large portions at amazingly high prices! But one and share, not to save cash, but they are just HUGE!
Manny’s Chop House – Haines City
A little off the beaten track, some 20 minutes south of the Disney parks towards Haines City, you will find the most enigmatic Steakhouse in Central Florida.
The ‘no reservations’ chop house is literally heaving with locals chatting, drinking as they await their spot in this ‘paper table cloth steak heaven!’
The rustic atmosphere has a kind of politely abrupt and racy charm that makes this place the authentic hotspot that is has grown to be loved for. As a rule, if it is packed with locals it’s going to be good, and Manny’s is no exception!
Sure, all of the steaks are great, (order a little bit over done than you’d normally ask for) but, astonishingly, Manny’s is as famous for their awesome ‘table prepared’ side salad as it is the atmosphere and steak! It all just works so well!
Ravenous Pig – Winter Park
If you love contemporary cuisine, this quirky gourmet style gastro pub will make your vacation!
Don’t expect the ordinary when you order the ordinary! The burgers are simple, yet perfect, the grill dishes are concise and beautifully presented and the truffle fries, addictively good!
The ambience is very upscale, yet, in a smart casual kind of way, making this a great way to dine in style without going to ‘too’ much effort.
The ‘Pig Tail’ and Chocolate donut dippers are delicious!
Maggiano’s Little Italy – International Drive
As the package tour centre for Orlando, International Drive has an eclectic mix of restaurants. With a handful of high end restaurants to choose from we finally went for Maggianno’s, based heavily on the fact that this capable chain location has never disappointed us. Mediterranean style appetisers and Pasta are the signature as you’d expect, and their fresh ingredients are very apparent as the dishes reach your table.
Huge appetisers can seriously limit the enjoyment of an entree, so take care and order to share! Stuffed mushrooms or the chicken pepper flatbreads are our top recommendation for appetisers and the Rigatoni D leads the way regarding Pasta!
Bravo! – Sand Lake Rd
Another chain on our top 10 list? our credibility is without doubt being tested here surely?
Bravo! lies along the unofficially named ‘Restaurant Row’ on Sand Lake Road, just a very short drive (or hot long walk) from International Drive.
Sometimes reviewing restaurants requires a lot of self doubt and analysis, how for example, can a chain be the best Italian Restaurant in town?
We gave up asking, and just instead go back time and time again to this fantastic open kitchen favourite. If you can find better pasta in Orlando, let us know!
The American / Italian style dishes are perfectly prepared and the Crispy Shrimp Napoli is a star of the appetiser section, closely followed by the Flatbreads. The pasta dishes are already nailed to the mast by totalorlando, so take your choice!
Brio Tuscan Grille – Mall at Millenia
Just opposite the Cheesecake Factory in the Mall at Millenia you will find yet another chain restaurant that sits on our list! Again, please trust us! We haven’t dumbed down nor are we mad, but this sister brand to Bravo! makes it into our list deservedly!
As with many American style Italian restaurants, the flatbreads and pasta dishes score very well, and we’d definitely recommend staying on that course for a great lunch or evening meal.
The service is good for a fast moving mall restaurant!
Emeril’s – Universal’s Citywalk
Universal’s CityWalk has a lot of restaurants to choose from, but, for those ‘in the know’ there’s only really one contender in the upscale category!
Celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse indeed has a reputation to uphold and the food at Emeril’s is without doubt worthy of your dollars.
Although casual theme park clothing is perfectly acceptable, the distinct impression that this has the aura of a more formal restaurant is never far from your mind, without making you feel unwelcome.
the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp is our top appetiser choice and the Roast Chicken Jambalaya is without doubt a great entree dish!
Raglan Road – Downtown Disney
We walked past this place for years, as Brits, we had a right to sneer at the UK menu board and head elsewhere, the Rose & Crown at Epcot is surely justification to dismiss any cuisine as unimaginative?
Thwarted by a very busy day in Downtown Disney, we managed to find a table at the Raglan Road, and how pleased we were to do so!
This crazy menu is served up ‘Gastro Pub Style’ and the dishes are flavoursome, fresh and fun! A million miles from the reality of british food!
Our favourite appetisers are the garlic ‘Kiss Before Prawns’ and ‘Dalky Duo’ battered sausages. order either and you will enjoy!
The shepherds pie is served uniquely and we won’t spoil that for you, but beer lovers with a brave heart will love a fresh pint of Irish Guinness as they enjoy the surroundings of this pub that has been painstakingly rebuilt brick by brick from the materials of the real deal from Dublin!
VIVO Italian Kitchen at Universal’s CityWalk
A fabulous new addition to CityWalk takes the old Pastamoré spot and couldn’t come soon enough!
Fabulous high quality Italian dishes that are freshly prepared in an open kitchen.
The high class cosmopolitan restaurant is upscale with a family friendly appeal and is a perfect choice for food lovers that don’t mind paying a little bit extra!
Sadly Removed from our list in July 2016 (Click Here to Read Our Review) We returned here to be shocked by poor service, burned food, and a restaurant that in our opinion, was much in need of a ‘reboot’. Some TLC would be essential to get this back onto our list and we would recommend one of the other great restaurants in this list.