Bites in the City Beautiful: Where to Eat in Downtown Orlando

No longer simply a theme-park destination, Orlando is home to excellent dining for all tastes and themes.


Photo By: Roberto Gonzalez ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Roberto Gonzalez ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved


Photo By: Roberto Gonzalez ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

©Benevolence Photography LLC

Photo By: Cricket Whitman at Cricket's Photography ©Cricket's Photography

Photo By: Ricardo Mantilla ©Ricardo Mantilla

Eating Across Orlando

It wasn’t long ago that Orlando was synonymous with theme parks, water slides and kitschy T-shirt shops. And downtown Orlando? It barely registered on tourists’ radar. These days, the blossoming culinary scene is giving visitors a whole new reason to check in. 

Photo courtesy of DoveCote

Artisan’s Table

A short stroll from the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Artisan’s Table is a favorite with the pre-theater crowd but also with in-the-know locals who head straight to the bar for all-day happy hour featuring $5 cocktails. Artisan’s short rib and brisket burger — slathered with bacon marmalade — is available at lunch and dinner, as are vegetarian-friendly dishes, including the Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms. 

Photo courtesy of Roberto Gonzalez

Go to: Artisan’s Table

Two Chefs Seafood

This North Quarter District gem could be called a gastro dive. Serving exceptional N'awlins-inspired cooking in an extraordinarily unfussy space, Two Chefs Seafood masters big flavors in low-key digs where Chefs Bernard Carmouche (formerly of Emeril’s Orlando) and Larry Sinibaldi (formerly of Palm Restaurant) tend the pots.  Opt for the Cajun Bowl, a layering of Carmouche’s collard greens, dirty rice, sweet potatoes and roasted pork or grilled chicken, for the best blend of flavors. 

Photo courtesy of Roberto Gonzalez

Go to: Two Chefs Seafood

DoveCote Brasserie

In the base of downtown’s towering Bank of America building, DoveCote Brasserie pays homage to French cuisine with a whimsical and clever flair. It’s a beautiful dining space — refined yet pleasant, like French china — where Chef Clay Miller (formerly of Napa’s The French Laundry) wows with dishes like Tomato Water Risotto, a rich, cheesy appetizer (or lunch entree) delightfully balanced by its tomatoey beginnings. At the bar, Gene Zimmerman (owner of the much-loved Courtesy Bar down the street) delights with an intrepid beverage program of craft cocktails designed to pair with everything from Steak Frites to Fruits de Mer. 

Photo courtesy of DoveCote

Go to: DoveCote Brasserie

North Quarter Tavern

This gastro pub boasts the “best $15 food in the city,” which is not an overreach. Chef Matt Wall focuses on solid, elevated pub grub for lunch, dinner and also Sunday brunch, when stars like Breakfast Poutine and Brunch Pizza exemplify Wall’s love for uncomplicated food done really well. Later in the day, opt for shared plates, including the charcuterie board, hickory-smoked brined Tavern Chicken Wings and Octopus Tostada, all best with beers. 

Photo courtesy of North Quarter Tavern

Go to: North Quarter Tavern

Shari Sushi Lounge

For inventive and artfully presented Japanese cuisine in the downtown core, head for Shari Sushi Lounge, a 14-year veteran in Orlando’s urban restaurant scene. Shari has a distinctly chic and stylish clientele, and its two-story dining room gleams with chrome, creamy white walls and black-clothed tables. It can feel like a hip, clubby space as the evening progresses on weekends. A long sushi bar sits at its center, where chefs craft more than 20 signature rolls and, more notably, 11 signature sashimi dishes that are simply outstanding. 

Photo courtesy of Roberto Gonzalez

Go to: Shari Sushi Lounge

The Rusty Spoon

Arguably one of Orlando’s staunchest farm-to-table advocates, Chef Kathleen Blake opened The Rusty Spoon on Church Street in 2011, before the renaissance of downtown dining. Though humble, Blake deserves a lot of credit for forging the path that now connects dozens of local restaurants to farmers and butchers in Central Florida. A three-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee, Blake excels with locally sourced fare that lets the flavors of the season speak for themselves. While many light and calorie-sensible dishes abound, the 55 Burger (grass-fed beef stuffed with bacon and Gruyère, then smothered with onions) is practically mandatory. 

Photo courtesy of Jessica McCarty-Carvajal of Benevolence Photography

Go to: The Rusty Spoon


North Quarter Tavern’s sister restaurant, Citrus, is a power-lunch hangout and a chic evening destination wrapped into one. Though new to this kitchen, Chef Alex Meyers continues the restaurant’s commitment to locally sourced ingredients —Florida datil pepper, orange, wahoo and Gulf shrimp — while also showing some Southern leanings with dishes like Beef Brisket Flatbread and Molasses-Brined Pork Chops. 

Photo courtesy of Citrus

Go to: Citrus


Perched on the corner of Central Boulevard and Summerlin Avenue in downtown’s Thornton Park district, Soco is a wonderful neighborhood restaurant serving modern Southern fare. Dishes like Grilled Meatloaf on Lobster Mashed Potatoes and Chicken-Fried Cauliflower “Steak,” both of them simply but deliciously prepared, keep many coming back. So does a fun and creative lineup of weekly promos, including TV Dinner Thursdays and Sundae Mondays. 

Photo courtesy of Soco

Go to: Soco

Baoery Asian Gastropub

Chef Greg Richie, who also cooks at Soco, unfurls his Asian culinary prowess in this new-ish casual spot in Thornton Park. Order a series of small plates, including the namesake bao filled with pork belly, Buffalo chicken, hot dogs or tempura shrimp, PEI Black Mussels in Red Thai Curry and Asian-Style Crispy Chicken Wings, with a cheekily named cocktail (Fists of Fury, anyone?) while watching the endless reel of South Korean pop videos and old-school martial arts movies that stream continuously on giant flat-screen TVs throughout the dining room. 

Photo courtesy of Baoery

Go to: Baoery Asian Gastropub


At the base of the Grand Bohemian Hotel, Boheme is a strikingly stunning restaurant oozing a deliciously sensuous aesthetic. Gauzy red curtains hang from the ceiling, creating private alcoves perfect for romantic encounters, while notes from the piano inside the nearby rotunda waft through the space like dandelion wishes. The Kessler Lump Crab Cake, one of the best iterations in the city, should not be missed as an appetizer. From there, try chophouse steaks, seafood and delectable desserts before retiring into the hotel’s Bösendorfer Lounge for cocktails and live jazz. 

Photo courtesy of Kristen Manieri

Go to: Boheme

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