Orlando is a city that covers over 100 square miles of land, and has a population of over 2 million people. As you can imagine, there are restaurants scattered throughout that 100 square miles, although most of them are concentrated in certain areas, of course, such as downtown Orlando or near the theme parks.
Most of the larger restaurants will have websites, which make it easy to discover their existence. However, there are plenty of small, excellent restaurants located in residential areas that only the “locals” of that area have ever heard of, and which serve “regional” specialties that you can’t get anywhere else.
Even if a local, family-owned restaurant doesn’t have a website, it may well have a Facebook account, or be listed in aggregate websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon).
So let’s talk about how you can enjoy fine dining in Orlando.
- Bring appropriate clothing.
Although dining (and going out to the theater) has gotten a lot more casual in the last decade or so, there are still fine dining establishments that expect men to wear jackets and ties, and women to wear dresses. Dining in jeans and sweatshirts with holes in them is discouraged!
- Do some research on restaurant choices before you go. Thanks to the internet, this is extremely easy. This preliminary research makes an excellent starting point.
- Be adventurous!
Be adventurous, as far as your food tourism goes. Be willing to check out cuisines that you’ve never tasted before. As with most major cities, Orlando will have at least a couple of restaurants in every ethnic category. You’re on vacation – why not try a new cuisine or two?
Make a list of all the cuisines you’ve had – and a list of those you’d like to try. You’ve probably had Chinese food, but have you ever had Thai or Japanese? Mongolian? Vietnamese?
Mexican and Italian restaurants abound in most cities – but have you ever been to a French restaurant?
- Do a search online for “Orlando regional cuisine,” and “famous Florida foods”
This will give you some idea of the local specialties. Most major cities have newspapers with online editions, so you are bound to find articles from local food writers on the regional cuisine. Read these articles, look at the accompanying photos, and if your mouth starts watering, write the restaurant – and its address – on your List of Restaurants to Visit in Orlando.
- Don’t miss the fresh seafood
Restaurants in Florida have access to fresh seafood, of course, so if you’re a seafood lover, make sure you visit several seafood specialty restaurants to try the variations in shrimp, oysters, tuna, grouper and more.
- Do you have any friends who have recently come back from a visit to Orlando? Ask them to recommend some restaurants, and of course, include the address. Make sure your food preferences match those of your friends, of course!
You’ve done your preliminary research, and packed appropriate clothing for the variety of restaurants you’ll encounter in Orlando.
- Check out the brochures in the racks at your hotel.
Most hotels will have vast literature racks – full of brochures on things to see and do in the area. Several of these will be restaurant related! Check to see if any of them aren’t on your list and if they sound good, add them.
Also check out the local coupon magazines and community newspapers that will probably also be present in your hotel. Some restaurants will offer two-for-one deals. The higher-end restaurants may just have coupons for a free appetizer.
- Check menus online
By now you’ve got enough information to have planned your dinners for every night of your stay. If you waited until you arrived in Orlando before deciding on restaurants, there’s still time to check the menus online to see how the different entrees are prepared.
- Why not be spontaneous?
That’s not me asking *you* that question – that’s *you* asking me.
For breakfast and lunch there’s nothing wrong with walking along a street, seeing a restaurant or café with an interesting name, and walking in. But dinners are different. You may stop into an interesting-looking restaurant only to find out you don’t meet the dress code, or, worse, that there’s an hour wait because you didn’t make a reservation.
By planning in advance, you’ll save yourself some time and aggravation.