It's Called "International" For A Reason - Sampling I-Drive's Surprising Best Bets

A.D. Thompson

By , Local Expert, Orlando
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Alright, no one's going to argue that Orlando's I-Drive is ground zero for the city's zillion or so annual tourists, but with what seems like a zillion or so restaurants to match, is it possible to find an ethnic culinary gem amid the chain buffets and ubiquitous pancake houses? Indeed. In fact, if you dig a little deeper you might come to the conclusion that they named it INTERNATIONAL Drive for a reason. Did you ever imagine you'd find authentic Japanese or Uzbek or Ethiopian food in the heart of this tourist corridor? Such treasures surprise many an Orlando native, never mind the visitors. Of course, "chain" doesn't have to...  Read more »

  • 1

    Hash House A Go Go

    With its sharable portions, HHAG is great for travelers on a budget and a formidable venue for a spectacular, 100-foot plummet off the diet wagon.

    Local Expert Tip: "Bacon lovers: HHAG makes good use of it on salads and burgers and ribeye steaks. My personal fave: embedded in waffles. Make the Homer Simpson noise with me now...."

     
  • 2

    Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

    Nile's warm, welcoming atmosphere pairs beautifully with its flavorful, exotic fare. It's an Ethiopian culinary safari right on I-Drive.

    Local Expert Tip: "Come for the food, stay for the coffee. Nile's Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, that is, where traditional methods are employed to roast the beans before your strong, delicious brew is served up. Oh, the smells...!"

     
  • 3

    Fogo de Chão

    Fogo de Chao offers expertly seasoned meats alongside wonderful service -- no rushing. Lighter eaters can go "salad bar only" for lower prices.

    Local Expert Tip: "Don't be a rookie and eat your fill on the salad bar before the main-event meats make their appearance. Keep in mind there are desserts to consider, as well. "

     
  • 4

    Atlas House

    Atlas House is one of the ways in which adventurous I-Drive eaters can enjoy an EPCOT pavilion-style experience without a general admission price.

    Local Expert Tip: "Nervous about newness? Visit the restaurant's menu online to get an idea of what to expect. I bet it makes you hungry...."

     
  • 5

    Taverna Opa Orlando

    Taverna Opa is an all-in-one dining-dancing-entertainment venue that gets high marks for food and service....  Read more »

    Local Expert Tip: "Taverna Opa can get pretty lively, particularly on weekend nights. If you like a quiet atmosphere, look elsewhere. "

     
  • 6

    Jack's Place

    Jack's Place is a world-class steakhouse that manages to be off-the-beaten-path while sitting directly on it.

    Local Expert Tip: "Jack's fine dining garners higher-end prices. Check the restaurant website for ample discount coupons before heading out for your 20-oz. T-Bone."

     
  • 7

    Big Italy

    With 100 different pizzas, 100 different Italian wines, an array of pasta dishes and a family-friendly set-up, Big Italy is a definite I-Drive winner.

    Local Expert Tip: "Save some loot and ask about the daily $2 special before you order. "

     
  • 8

    Napa

    Elegant and certainly appropriate for a special night out, Napa's innovative rotating menu and attentive staff ensure a superb dining experience.

    Local Expert Tip: "If price is a factor but you're looking for that posh Peabody atmosphere, hit Napa up for lunch after your visit with the ducks. "

     
  • 9

    Hanamizuki Japanese Restaurant

    Often frequented by Japanese business travelers (along with locals who appreciate its authenticity),...  Read more »

    Local Expert Tip: "One of the nice things about Hanamizuki is its serene atmosphere and authenticity. Boisterous groups -- and those looking for monstrous American portions -- may prefer another venue. "

     
  • 10

    Pio Pio

    Offering simple, beautifully done Latin fare at affordable prices is, like its rotisserie chicken, a Pio Pio specialty.

    Local Expert Tip: "Got picky kids? My guess is that they'll find something native to love but fear not: Pio Pio's got an unremarkable children's menu so parents can enjoy the flavors of Latin America sans whining. "

     

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