Savor Spring Training at the Top Tables Near Champion Stadium

By A.D. Thompson, Orlando Local Expert

So you're either an Orlando-local MLB junkie, a hardcore Atlanta Braves fan, or a visitor looking to take in some pre-season baseball. Either way, you've gotta eat. Exhibition games at Kissimmee's Champion Stadium are either early afternoon or evening events, but whether you're interested in grabbing lunch or dinner (or perhaps breakfast for lunch?!) 10Best is here with the hookup. Over in nearby Celebration, a town initially created by the minds at Disney, a treasure trove of eats await. Relax with some unique fusion fare and a glass – or bottle – at Imperium Food & Wine. Headed out for a romantic or special-occasion meal after the game? Visit Columbia Restaurant, also in Celebration, or go-to carnivore's favorite Charley's Steak House. Interested in something ethnic? Despite what some folks would have you believe, this area, while rife with chains (there are a few on this roster) has plenty of locally owned offerings. Case in point: King O Falafel, an absolute local favorite for Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delights or Taste of Punjab for those interested in flavorful Indian cuisine. Fresh fish is of the order at Island Fin Poke Co. and if you're a noob, its affable staffers will be happy to help you build your bowl. 

10. Chuy's
Photo courtesy of Chuy's

With locations in an abundance of states – the most telling being its success in Texas – Chuy's is a solid chain option for Tex-Mex if you're in the mood for chimis, nachos, fajitas and the like. And don't forget the margaritas. Elvis aficionados who've never been should stop by just for the theming; there's an Elvis shrine in every location. Generous portions and a casual, colorful atmosphere make Chuy's fun for groups. Orlando visitors have two options to get their queso dip fix: I-Drive or Kissimmee. Specials include Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom Enchiladas and Big As Yo' Face Burritos. You won't go hungry, that's for sure.

9. Charley's Steak House
Photo courtesy of Charley's Steak House

Big, gorgeous cuts of beef and a wonderful selection of seafood, chicken and other entrees are the order at Charley's Steak House, a venerable old favorite for Central Floridians looking for a special night out or special-occasion splurge. What to expect? Fine wines, generous portions and beautifully cooked, perfectly aged cuts. Don't forget dessert (if you manage to save room). It's what keeps regulars coming back. Charley's is not an inexpensive night out. Best to stay and savor. Steaks, chicken, chops and the like are fire-cooked at Charley's. The smell of that crackling wood alone is sure to set your stomach grumbling at the prospect.

8. T-Rex
Photo courtesy of Disney

This is the apex predator of Downtown Disney dining with kids in tow, though grown-ups should be aware that a visit to T-Rex will awaken your long-dormant inner paleontologist. Stellar theming to the Nth Degree is perhaps this restaurant's biggest cache – animatronic dinosaurs tower, loom, roar! The littlest ones in your party may not love them right away, to be sure, but the rest? It's dino-heaven. Food runs the gamut from burgers to ribs, salads to sandwiches, a full bar will slake your post-theme park thirst. Regular meteor showers make dining even more theatrical. T-Rex is undeniably fun and an absolute spectacle.

7. Columbia Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Columbia Restaurant

Ole, ole! Columbia has quite a history in Florida – the first opened as a small café in Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood in 1905. Since then, this Spanish venue (its founder was Cuban, it should be noted) has opened outposts in several other locations, one of them in Celebration. Small café no more, Columbia leans fine-dining and features an array of elaborate paellas on its menu (the 1905 salad is semi-legendary). While a proper visit requires a bit of a time investment – paella takes a while to prepare – you can easily pop in for lunch and grab a Cuban sandwich and head out. It does make a nice date night, though. Live music Friday and Saturday nights from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. in the Tapas Bar add to the ambiance.

6. Holler & Dash
Photo courtesy of Holler & Dash

Who wants biscuits?! This Southern-style breakfast/lunch chain has a few locations scattered across the nation. Celebration's is No. 3 and the locals – and area visitors – just love popping in for of biscuit-centric sammies like the Kickback Chicken or Hamabama, but those in the mood for something a little less artery-clogging can opt for avocado toast or a nice oat bowl. Of course, you could always throw breakfast and lunch out the window and just head right to dessert with an order of their beignets, which come served with a coffee dipping sauce on the side.

5. Celebration Town Tavern
Photo courtesy of Celebration Town Tavern

Opened some 30-odd years ago by a Boston family, this comfortable Front Street tavern has served as home base for many a Celebration-local family in the decades since. Open late but decidedly kid-friendly during the usual family-meal hours, the Celebration Town Tavern offers not only casual, cozy digs in which to dine but a charming location in which to explore this charming downtown originally created by the minds behind Walt Disney World. Kids meals (available for those under 12 and over 70 says the menu!) range in price from $5 to $9 and come with sides and a drink. The menu features tavern fare, pastas and fresh seafood.

4. Taste of Punjab
Photo courtesy of Ewan-M

Many Kissimmee residents are regulars at Taste of Punjab, whether they're enjoying a casual dine-in or picking up nan, butter chicken, chana masala and the like for some quality Indian take-out. For a few years now, this un-fancy family-owned eatery has been winning them over. If you're in the Kissimmee/Disney area and looking for something more local than what you'll find at the parks, give them a shot. A Taste of Punjab is family friendly, offering up creamy, quality curries and kormas and crisp samosas with a smile. Lunch specials are value driven, as well. Pop in for a taste from the tandoor.

3. Imperium Food & Wine
Photo courtesy of Imperium Food & Wine

Downtown Celebration is a charming, walkable little burg made more so by unique, local joints like Imperium Food & Wine. Fusion is the word for Imperium's menu, which features a nice array of appetizers – Asian to Cajun to French, salads, wraps, sliders and some very unique flatbreads. As the name implies, vino is Imperium's signature beverage. An extensive selection and knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you make a choice. Live music, weekend specials and al fresco seating up the romance factor for sure, but Imperium Food & Wine makes just as nice a venue for unwinding with friends.

2. King O Falafel
Photo courtesy of kennejima

The regulars here honestly wouldn't mind placing crowns on the heads of the falafel artisans here. Whether your passion is a well-seasoned gyro, a creamy platter of hummus or those crispy-delicious pita ensconced fried balls of chick-pea goodness, you've stepped into the right place. King O Falafel is reasonably priced, clean, casual, friendly – and everything is fresh-made. Is it fancy? No. Will you leave sated? Yes. And if you're only in town to visit, you'll be sorry this locally owned venue is so far from where you live. From the spinach pie to the lentil soup to the baklava, this is indeed a monarchy of flavor, whether meat laden or all-veggie, all the time.

1. Island Fin Poke Company
Photo courtesy of Island Fin Poke Co.

Poke is confusing to some folks, so let's break it down really simply: protein (often in the form of raw fish, though cooked is readily available here), carbs (rice options) fresh veggies, fruits, slaws and the like, and house-made sauces make for a wonderfully complete, filling, fresh and delicious meal. Island Fin (it has a sister location in the more locals-only town of Winter Springs not too far away) has an array of pre-designed bowls for your consumption or you can rise to the task of building your own. Staffers here are more than ready to help with tastes, suggestions and cheerleading as you go about the process. Ahi tuna, yellowtail, salmon and more are among your seafood options, the colors and flavors and textures are delightful. If you haven't tried poke yet, this is a wonderful place to give it a go.