10 Best Orlando Bars: Unexpected Surprises

A.D. Thompson

By , Local Expert, Orlando
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Ask 10 people for their idea of a great bar and odds are decent you'll get 10 different answers. Maybe more. Especially if you add the mood of the moment into the mix. Is this a first date or a night out with the girls or boys? Do you want to play dress-up or relax in your favorite, old T-shirt and broken-in flip flops? Are you feeling like a crisp, craft-brewed cider or a peppery Cabernet with notes of vanilla? More inclined to sample a fruity designer martini or a civilized sip on a 25-year, single-malt scotch? Are you planning on grabbing dinner while you're out? Is live music on your agenda? Just a few questions make the...  Read more »

  • 1

    The Imperial at Washburn Imports (Orlando)

    A drink at the Imperial, amid treasures redolent of exotic, far-off places, is like walking into a photograph from your favorite travel magazine.

    Local Expert Tip: "A prime location in eclectic Ivanhoe Village means you can begin or end your evening with the Imperial and still explore the myriad dining, shopping and yes, other drinking options this neighborhood affords."

  • 2

    Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour

    • Type: Bar, Pub
    • Neighborhood: Audubon Park

    My microbrew experience is limited, but my thirst (for beer and knowledge) can be formidable. Redlight's...  Read more »

    Local Expert Tip: "The place can get undeniably loud on busy nights, weekends in particular, and parking can be challenging. Come early for a quieter experience. Redlight has no kitchen, but you're welcome to order in."

  • 3

    Hanson's Shoe Repair

    Ambiance, history and gracious bartenders (almost unbelievable in such hip surroundings) garners Hanson's...  Read more »

    Local Expert Tip: "Adamant about not waiting? Thumb your nose to the overrated concept of "fashionably late," particularly on weekends, and make Hanson's your 8 pm starting place. Especially if you want an actual seat."

  • 4


    • Type: Bar
    • Neighborhood: Colonialtown

    BART gets all 'mad scientist' and fuses two titans of slackerdom (and a bit of arty class) into one wonderfully casual, fun Frankenbar.

    Local Expert Tip: "Hit them up on Fish Out of Water Wednesdays, when the popular local sushi truck rolls up. Plus, there's always a beer special."

  • 5

    La Cava del Tequila

    • Type: Bar
    • Neighborhood: Epcot ®

    A. La Cava del Tequila is home to friendly people who serve top-shelf tequila at Disney. B. See A.

    Local Expert Tip: "Adventure is it's own reward at La Cava del Tequila. Like your margaritas OTR? I recommend the jalapeno (my personal favorite). Frozen fans: try the avocado."

  • 6

    Wally's Mills Ave. Liquors

    • Type: Bar
    • Neighborhood: Colonialtown

    Not everyone digs a $12 designer martini, but few would argue with $2 PBR Tall Boys, $3 microbrews and Wally's 60-odd years of tradition.

    Local Expert Tip: "The bar side of Wally's is cash only, but they do take cards in the package store. An on-site ATM will hook you up if you pop in for a bottle but end up staying for happy hour. Additionally, it can get mighty smoky in here, so consider yourself warned."

  • 7

    Bosendorfer Lounge

    If Michelle Pfeiffer needed a piano on which to croon and vamp in a slinky red dress, the smart money says she'd pick the Bosendorfer.

    Local Expert Tip: "The Bosendorfer Lounge boasts a great happy hour with specials on drinks and appetizers. It goes long on "Thank God It's Thursday" evenings (4-8 p.m.). Parking for lounge patrons is just $6."

  • 8

    Oblivion Taproom

    An early open time and expansive menu makes Oblivion a kid-friendly entry on an otherwise adults-only roster. Until about 9 p.m., anyway.

    Local Expert Tip: "Cider fans, Oblivion serves roughly 60 different bottles, a mix of large and small, not to mention whatever's on those rotating taps. This is what heaven must look like. Because heaven definitely has onion rings."

  • 9

    The Velvet Bar

    Remember that rock show we mentioned? It's consistently good. Past Velvet Bar performers include Foreigner,...  Read more »

    Local Expert Tip: "Self-parking is free, but valet is $25 -- that is, unless you remember to get your ticket validated. Then the price drops to $5."

  • 10

    Cask & Larder

    Simply put, Cask & Larder is precisely where you want to be when you THOUGHT you just wanted a drink but then decided you were starving.

    Local Expert Tip: "Can't decide on which house brew to try? Order a flight and sample five 4-ounce pours served artfully nestled into a custom wooden plank ($10). And if you like day drinking, C&L's sumptuous Sunday brunch makes for a lovely excuse."



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