Good Food, Good Drink, Good Hair: Top Tables For An Orlando Autumn

By A.D. Thompson, Orlando Local Expert

Fall is glorious in Orlando, its cooler, drier weather signifying not only the end of another hurricane season, but the start of porch and patio season in all its glory. Good-hair season, too, but we digress.... Submitted here for your fall dining pleasure, a selection of varied venues chosen for a multitude of reasons. Some are ideal for enjoying the sublime al fresco eats and drinks the locals enjoy while their friends and relatives in the snow belt are putting chains on the tires. Others incorporate the flavors of the season into their menus – spice and pumpkin, fig and cranberry. Some offer both. But whether you're in the market for a good steak enjoyed on a picturesque golf course, a margarita at a sidewalk cafe ideal for people-watching or even a frosty, fall-flavored treat,  the fact that you can do all of it in flip flops - in December! - makes for one happy, Floridian fall experience. 

10. Cocina 214
Photo courtesy of Cocina 214

Tucked into a side street amid the charming brick-lined lanes of Winter Park's Park Avenue neighborhood sits Cocina 214. The "214" is a nod to the Dallas area � this is a Tex-Mex/Mexican establishment, an upscale setting for business, for date night, for happy hour - as many of the area's margarita-imbibing proponents will attest. Its low-lit intimate bar area has seats for dining, an expansive dining room is clean, bright and contemporary and a private room is available for events, as well. A lovely patio makes a beautiful location to take advantage of Central Florida's oft-stellar weather, along with warm, fresh chips, zingy salsa and an impressive array of creative and classic favorites. Mexican joints are often uber-casual (and we love this, of course), but Cocina 214 is an excellent option for leveled-up atmosphere when you're in the mood.

9. Saigon Noodle & Grill
Photo courtesy of Saigon Noodle & Grill

This restaurant, among several other Orlando eateries, gained nationwide notoriety when Guy Fieri paid a visit for his show, "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives," but folks in Orlando (occasionally referred to as Pholando for all the wonderful Vietnamese culinary options available) were already over-the-moon for Saigon Noodle's amazing fare. A vast menu – featuring plenty of options for both vegans and those willing to consume all manner of animal parts – makes choosing difficult, but once you do, disappointment is virtually impossible. Noodle soups, rice dishes, family-style options – you name it – all authentic, all delicious.

8. Se7en Bites
Photo courtesy of Se7en Bites

This quaint working Milk District bakery is open for breakfast and lunch with a manageable, fresh-made menu that changes near daily and makes choosing easy. Okay, that's arguable, since how one chooses between creative, handcrafted moon pies and fresh, local fruit-infused cobblers. is subjective. Easiest method? Bring a friend and share everything! Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pies ... the smells emanating from the Se7en Bites kitchen are wrong in all the best ways possible. Be thoroughly prepared for a sweet-related impulse buy to take home. Eggs and biscuits, scones and soups, Southern comfort classics and lots of surprising modern twists.

7. Tap Room at Dubsdread
Photo courtesy of Tap Room at Dubsdread

The Taproom at Dubsdread is notable on this list because it's not actually a steakhouse. It's a restaurant that also serves as the 19th Hole on the Dubsdread (public) Golf Course in College Park, a place that enjoys a loyal following for its burgers, brunch and beautiful views. All that said, it's earned its place not only for delivering high quality, well-cooked, hand-cut steaks and chops, but for doing so at a decidedly un-steakhouse price. The 12-oz. ribeye, served with sauteed spinach and mashed potatoes is a favorite. And at $32, the filet mignon and Maryland-style crabcake is the priciest.

6. The Greek Corner
Photo courtesy of The Greek Corner

An Orlando favorite in Ivanhoe since it opened in 2005, the Greek Corner offers not only delicious and authentic Greek and Mediterranean fare in wonderfully casual confines, its patio boasts one of the nicest views of Lake Ivanhoe available. Lots to be consumed, from lighter salads dressed with delightfully seasoned chicken to deliciously decadent pastitsio, with its creamy bechamel, Fans of staples like gyro, souvlaki and a range of traditional lamb delicacies won't leave disappointed. Or remotely hungry. Greek Corner also makes for a delightful end to a day of shopping and exploring this eclectic neighborhood, one of Orlando's most walkable.

5. Luke's Kitchen & Bar
Photo courtesy of Luke's Kitchen & Bar

Luke's open design is chic and warm and has been proving popular since its opening, not surprising - since the culinary talents behind it are responsible for two of Winter Park's most popular eateries. Luke's is more expansive and its menu - New American, with both raw bar and regular smokehouse offerings, among other dishes - rotates with seasonal availability. Can't decide? Order the smokehouse oysters and tick both boxes at once! Over at the bar, expert mixologists meld mean cocktails, whether it's your favorite by request or one of their unique, house recipes (the Gatsby is divine, tart and refreshing!). In cooler seasons, patio seating is an exceptionally appealing option amid the impressive, towering oaks of Maitland. Brunch available on Sundays.

4. Brick & Fire
Photo courtesy of Brick & Fire

The locals love Brick & Fire for Chef Mark's welcoming attitude, for 50-cent wing night, for regular wine specials, for Italian entrees, but most of all for the pizza. Like anyplace else, you're welcome to build your own but the house and specialty pies are a foodie's delight. From the Milano, with its Italian sausage, Portobello mushrooms and balsamic-roasted red onions to the Chicken Club with bacon and gruyere, bacon, tomato and baby greens, Brick & Fire delivers not only delicious pizzas, but creative combinations. Gourmands can sample it with duck confit; true carnivores can do their best to take down a pie with eight different meats piled on. Game on.

3. Jeremiah's Italian Ice
Photo courtesy of Jeremiah's Italian Ice

That we chose to highlight the Oviedo location is just us giving East Orlando some love, because you'll find the same amazing ices and gelati (their name for the creamy-frosty layered delight of soft serve and ice available in various combinations) all around the Sunshine State. There are 11 Jeremiah's locations in the Orlando area – the business is HQ'd here – but you can also find them in Tampa, Jacksonville, and Coral Springs. Seasonal offerings come and go and are oft-beloved, but there are more than 40 flavors of Italian ice from which to choose, including a few sugar-free options. Outdoor seating is the norm at this stand of frozen delights. Jeremiah's goes a long way in proving that Floridians aren't vehemently anti-snow. We just prefer it flavored and served in a cup on our way to and from the beach.

2. Gratitude Coffee
Photo courtesy of Gratitude Coffee

Sure, you COULD hit up a brick and mortar coffee shop. Orlando has plenty, but many locals choose to forgo not only the ubiquitous chains, but other local joints, just for a taste of this gracious, friendly proprietor's wares. Baked goods here at the Gratitude Coffee truck are homemade, so if you're on the hunt for a pumpkin spice muffin or a gooey chocolate-coconut varietal (perhaps with banana filling!) you'll probably want to get there early, because they do run out. What's more, the outdoor seating creates something of a garage-sale living room atmosphere that's fun and airy and comfortable. Bring your sweet tooth. Bring your friends. Bring your dog. Come ready to be caffeinated.

1. The Waterfront
Photo courtesy of The Waterfront

"Food, Brews & Views" is the tagline for this ideally located venue on the shores of South Orlando's Lake Jennie Jewel, and a jewel of a place it is. Both indoor and outdoor, the shaded patio makes for a cool respite in summertime (if you're not planning on a paddle or swim, that is - The Waterfront sometimes runs events that take participants out on the water....) and come Orlando's "winter," cool lakeside breezes and sublime temperatures make this an ideal oasis for lunch, dinner or a bottomless mimosa brunch if said special is running and you're so inclined. Folks who remember this place as Julie's Waterfront will be impressed with the upgrade in both food and atmosphere. The view? That really can't be improved upon.