Whether you’re looking for a place to grab-and-go or a venue suitable for power lunching, Orlando’s options are many. In the classic sandwich category, head to hip Ivanhoe Village and sample the wares of Chef Jason Schofield’s This ‘N’ That Eats, where the pork is plentiful whether belly, confit or in the form of thick-cut bacon. Over in the Milk District, Beefy King and Pom Pom’s are solid options, the former a roast beef haven for four decades, the latter a haven for creative, modern sandwiches. Bring clients, colleagues or your boss (definitely your boss) to Chef Kathleen Blake’s lauded Rusty Spoon where lunchtime brings with it farm-to-table goodness from a kitchen helmed by a two-time James Beard Award Nominee. Down near Universal, you can’t go wrong with a flat sammie at Hot Krust Panini Kitchen and in Winter Park, you can get an Asian version at KrungThep Tea Time, along with some stellar, sinfully sweet Thai iced coffee.
Dexter's of Winter Park
Warm, house-made banana bread? Creamy cheddar-grits with savory Andouille sausage and shrimp? How about the aptly named "Hot Mess," a big 'ol plate of biscuits and fried chicken topped with fried eggs and sausage gravy? It's a plate you'll see servers toting all morning long as fans of Dexter's' brunch file in with little on their minds save good food and full glasses with family and friends. Of course, if you're the rare bird for who caramelized banana and nutella crepes hold no appeal, no worries. You can go the lighter route with honey-almond granola and fresh berries instead. Like every other art form, brunch is subjective. Average entree cost is about $10. (407-629-1150, 407-645-5006)
When Jimmy Fallon was in town, he asked his Twitter followers where to eat. As the Internet is not short on opinions, suggestions piled up quickly, but one sandwich joint rose above all the rest: Beefy King, which has been stuffing Orlandoans full of sliced meat for more than four decades. Roast beef, cooked on the daily, is the top draw here, but you can dabble in two-meat combos with options that include pastrami, turkey, ham and corned beef and enjoy it all alongside spuds, onion rings, slaw and a pickle. Beefy King isn't for dieters, vegans or fans of the fancy but for everyone else? Yeah, you probably want to pop in for a sammie. (407-894-2241)
Hot Krust Panini Kitchen
Serving up tasty fast-casual eats from its comfortable Dr. Phillips digs, this cheery "paninery" does up a multitude of classic pressed sandwiches with fresh, locally made bread and house-roasted meats, which makes a big difference when it comes to taste. Vegetarians will find more than a few selections of krusty-with-a-K goodness for their diets, as well. From Philly steak to fondue turkey, Greek veggie to the sriracha-laden "Razzle Dazzle," which melds steak, provolone, strawberry jam and banana peppers for a unique fruity-tangy-creamy amalgam, diners are sure to find a sandwich to suit in HK's fast-casual environs. They're pretty friendly, too! ((407) 355-7768)
KrungThep Tea Time
Heavenly coffee (try the Thai iced; sweet and superb!) and tea and ridiculous-good brick toast desserts make KrungThep well worth a visit, but it's pressed sandwiches, each available as a salad if you're forgoing bread, make for a fine lunch choice. Austere, modern surrounds make for a serene but decidedly hip experience. Try the Thaiger is Crying (marinated beef, carrot, red cabbage, cilantro, cheddar and spicy sauce) or the animal-free From the Forest (steamed tofu, grilled mushroom and onion, lettuce, sesame soy mayo) and if you bring a share partner, don't let the opportunity pass to sample from the dessert menu. (407-733-3561)
Dandelion Communitea Café
The dandelion, an edible flower that we're quick to call a weed, is a mascot of sorts for this quirky organic teahouse. You'll first be reminded of the caf�'s namesake when you view the exterior (bright green with yellow shutters) and then again when reading the menu: vegetarian, sustainable and healthful. Plenty of vegan options, as well. And raw. In fact, generous salads piled high with fresh, snappy, many-colored ingredients make Dandelion something of a "live food" haven. "$5 Giddyup Monday" is a great intro for newbies, who can sample one of the most popular menu items (in salad or wrap form) for just five bucks. Be warned, its pleasantly crunchy confines may well have you inquiring about the next full moon drum circle. (407-362-1864)
This N' That Eats
Grab a gourmet sammie and a cafe con leche at this cozy Ivanhoe village cafe, where a limited but creative menu showcases international flavors on artisan breads. There's lots of pork and cheese to be sure, but veg-heads will find formidable salads and sides to suit. Set smack in the middle of the neighborhood's artsiest, craftsiest offerings, This N That is as ideally suited for an early bite and caff-up stop before heading out to shop as it is for a work-day lunch or a post-happy hour mop up. The small but tempting menu will make selections that much easier when visiting for the latter. (407-757-0810)
Whether your early-morning routine leans more toward steel-cut oatmeal and Greek yogurt or black pepper-crusted bacon, there is a lot to love about starting your day at Artisan's Table. Locally sourced ingredients are the norm here, as are delicious takes on quiches, egg sandwiches, French toast and more. Looking for something a little exotic? Try the Japanese bowl, which features sticky rice, scallion, bacon, sweet chili sauce and togarashi – topped with two eggs however you like them. Whatever you do, leave some of that yolk runny. ((407) 730-7499)
The Rusty Spoon
The motto says it all: American food, European roots, locally sourced. This organic gastropub-style restaurant encompasses a vast, airy space on Church Street, making it an ideal place to begin or end a bout of downtown exploration. Sourced from Florida farmers, its menu features animal proteins that are hormone- and antibiotic-free and fed all-natural diets ��" in fact, the ingredients are the stars in all of its kitchen productions. The focus on what goes into the food means that the Rusty Spoon's menu rotates, encompassing what's fresh and available, but favorites here include the "55" burger, slow-braised lamb collar and Lake Meadow eggs. This venue makes a great stop for pre-Amway cocktails, craft beers and appetizers, as well. (407-401-8811)
Oh, K...when will the love affair end? Please say never. This College Park restaurant is an across-the-board favorite for down-home burger lovers and duck confit aficionados and everyone in between. Its menu is like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates; local sourcing makes it slightly more unpredictable (in a good way). K's atmosphere is whatever you need it to be � relaxing or romantic, but maintains a comfortable, casual elegance. If you like your food with a bit of feel-good community happy, K's chef/owner, Kevin Fonzo gives back to Orlando in spades � school lunch programs, school gardening programs, even culinary instruction for youngsters, all of which has been recognized with awards that made a big enough noise here at home in Florida to be heard at the White House, where he was invited for his achievements. And if all that doesn't impress you, just try his mac and cheese. (407-872-2332)
Pom Pom's Teahouse & Sandwicheria
Pom Pom's is a small, arty little joint in the Bumby vein of the Milk District, a predictably hipsteresque but very friendly haunt with an array of generous fresh salads, homemade soups, a veritable library of teas and a creative, extensive menu of sandwiches, any of which they'll be happy to press. From the decadent Mama Ling's Thanksgiving (pretty much what you'd imagine on your choice of bread) to leaner veggie options to the Graceland-meets-Tijuana fantasy of banana, bacon, strawberry jelly, cayenne and peanut butter that is the Spicy Elvis, the offerings are as fun as the local art lining the walls which, much like the sandwiches, is all for sale. ((407) 894-0865)
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.
A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city.
Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
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