Craft Coffee, Craft Beer, Lovecraft? Night Spots around UCF Have It All



The University of Central Florida’s team is the Golden Knights. As such, medieval names are pervasive among the haunts in East Orlando that border the campus. Cases in point:the Knight Library, a college hang if ever there was. Those in that age range may enjoy the camaraderie of their cohorts in such a haunt. UCF alums and others may enjoy mixed company at other venues. Craft beer enthusiasts will find their fantasies fulfilled at the World of Beer, but also at the Public House, another haven for hops, and an independent choice, as well. Coffee and tea aficionados might head to Vespr Craft Coffee & Allures and burgeoning oenophiles can hit the tasting room at the Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant. They may decide to stay for a whole bottle. If it takes more than the menu and tap selection to pique your interest, consider bowling a few frames – perhaps even line dancing – at nearby Firkin & Kegler. And gaming geeks? If any even care about who’s playing at Bright House, they may not once they hear about the Cloak & Blaster, a phenomenally creative addition to the area that combines gaming – card, tabletop and video – with a friendly neighborhood tavern where sci-fi and fantasy are the order of every evening.



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East Orlando


 

The Knight Library, quite simply, is College Bar Central. Depending on when you show, it could lean more sports bar or more dance club, but nightly specials cater aggressively to the local student populace. Single Saturdays, for example, feature $1 shots and bottled beers and free drinks and drafts until midnight. Expect the clientele to follow suit. Some evenings you may even find them lined up around the building. College can be high pressure. The Knight Library is definitely the sort of venue where students can cut loose. Food trucks and carts outside on select nights tighten them back up before they head home.


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This massive family entertainment center features a vast bowling area, bars, billiards, darts and an arcade. It's equally appropriate for kids birthday parties and grown-ups' nights out to do something a little different with friends. The Firkin Pub features all kinds of fare â€" burgers, salads, wraps, apps and more â€" and weekly specials on everything from bowling to beer run nightly. 21+ events include live DJs, line dancing, drink specials and more in Firkin's upstairs "Loft" section. And Wednesday's all-you-can-eat wings night runs $11.99 per person. Think a bowling alley can't equate to "nightlife?" F&K is open 'til 2 am, seven nights a week.


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Cooper's Hawk is winery based in Chicago. How's that, you ask? Simple: they fly in high-quality grapes from west coast regions â€" California, Oregon and Washington â€" and craft the wines in Chi. Since 2005, its tasting room/bar/restaurant concept has expanded. Waterford Lakes is its first Orlando location and its tasting room (no reservations necessary) offers reasonably priced samplings, which makes it a nice alternative for an afternoon or evening out. You can easily grab appetizers at the bar, but its accompanying dining venue makes it easy to pair dishes with appropriate bottles. It's an expansive menu, to boot, and even features a section just for children.


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Folks throw the "craft" word around quite a bit of late. At Vespr, they really mean it. With a philosophy that's rooted not only in the handmade production of fine beverages but sustainability and creative comfort, as well, Vespr offers visitors to its Waterford Lakes enclave a chance to sit, relax, write, share â€" and enjoy the simple pleasures of its wares: snacks and beverages that are Fair Trade, organic and locally sourced. Vespr offers all the expected â€" espresso, cortado and the like â€" along with surprising signature beverages the more adventurous coffee and tea enthusiast will enjoy. Craft wine and beer are available, as well.


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With a rotating roster of nearly 20 machines, this unassuming little gem of retro-hip sits tucked inside the aging-but-charming Oviedo Bowling Center (which actually suits it quite well). With a host of beers available â€" including locally brewed Red Cypress â€" and a bowling-alley menu that affords you an outlet for the artificial cheese-goo cravings you have but don't 'fess up to, here's where you can channel your inner Pinball Wizard while enjoying the pings, buzzers and bells you grew up with (or that your parents always told you about). Specials on play abound. Come get your multi-ball on.


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The name says it all, doesn't it? Fans of this franchise, which has capitalized on the exploding popularity of craft beer, can never try everything they'd like on one visit. The UCF-area location is no different, offering a vast array of cans, bottles and drafts from all over the world (plus wines for those more in the mood for the grape than the hop). Live music and events â€" whether holiday-inspired, brewery -related or otherwise â€" are a regular occurrence. A rather expansive patio allows patrons to enjoy the oft lovely Orlando climate. Truly nothing pairs with great weather like a fine, cold beer.


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Geeks, you have a home. And yea, though you may have thought it was in Middle Earth or the Seven Kingdoms or on the forest moon of Endor, it's actually in Waterford Lakes. Which means travel time will not cut into your gaming. Welcome to the Cloak & Blaster, where you can enjoy craft beer, cider and mead â€" straight up or in some creatively mixed elixir form â€" while you and your buddies play merrily in whichever universe you like. Card, tabletop and video gamers welcome (check out their library, as well). Pub eats with the greatest names ever (the Lannister, the Highlander, the Two Towers...you get the point) offer hearty sustenance to balance the hit points. The Cloak & Blaster is 18+ after 8 p.m.


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East Orlando


 

First off, CaddyShanks knows it's beverages. Beer enthusiasts will have a massive list from which to choose (over 150 bottles and drafts; there's an impressive ine list, too!) while they navigate more than 25 high-def screens that feature all the major sports packages. Less interested in watching, more interested in playing? Tee up on the pub's golf simulator, enjoy billiards, ping pong, virtual reality gaming and more alongside regular events such as trivia night. No need to stray if you're hungry, either. CaddyShanks allows for order-in service from a number of surrounding area restaurants so you can keep playing, watching, having fun.


2
East Orlando


 

Amid a sea of chain offerings and college bars that seem, well, extremely college-y, the Public House offers a decidedly 21+ haven for lovers of craft beer who don't want to stray too far from campus. Or home. Locals are discovering the charms of this neighborhood venue, where a full bar backs more than 20 draughts and a wide selection of craft brews. The eat/drink-local crowd will appreciate a rotating list that includes many Florida- and even Orlando-brewed options. Live music and other entertainment keep things lively on Friday and Saturday nights, but the Public House, true to its name, is a neighborhood hang â€" not nightclub. And that's a good thing.


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A welcome addition to the East Orlando dining and drinking scene, DeVine Wine Bar & Grill is a decided culinary uptick amid its strip mall brethren (a pancake house, a wing joint) offering creative, seasonal small plates for sharing alongside its expansive collection of wines. Most of these are dispensed via Enomatic machine, which means self-service (which can be great fun for groups in particular), but it's nice to choose the amount of one's pour without having to commit. Those less interested in the grape will find a full bar and expansive cocktail menu to their liking, perhaps most of all on $5 Martini Mondays.


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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