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Dining Deals, Not Dollar Menus: Best Value Venues in Orlando



Who’s to say what “best value” really means? Price may be a factor but doesn’t what you get for your money figure in? With that in mind, 10Best presents a list of eateries – food truck to fine dining – we believe deliver on that promise, though not all in precisely the same way. Take Bem Bom, for example, which proffers exquisite Portuguese cuisine – right down to its delicate custards – for a very reasonable price, and all out the window of a food truck. Santiago's Bodega on the other hand, is a well known tapas venue that generally comes with a higher tab, but its happy hour and weekend brunch options offers hungry gourmands an excellent opportunity to fill plates and bellies with its fine fare. Orlando has more than a few great Vietnamese options in town, and Banh Mi Nha Trang barely has chairs, let alone a dining room – but its friendly staff and truly unbeatable $3.50 sandwiches earn it a place on the list. And down at the theme parks, Moroccan masters do their due diligence at EPCOT’s Tangierine Cafe, where Disney-goers' plates are piled seriously high with flavorful Middle Eastern fast-casual fare that will easily sustain them as they make their way through the World Showcase.  


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Generous portions of lamb, chicken, falafel and more fill the reinforced paper plates at the Tangierine Cafe, a fast-casual dining option in "Morocco" at Epcot's World showcase. You'll definitely want a tray for your order. Tabouli and lentils and hummus â€" along with hearty bread for wrapping and dipping â€" round out the ample plate. Disney isn't known for its drive-through $1 menus, but you'll get plenty of bang for your buck here and quite a bit of flavor to boot. This is one of the best fast-casual venues for vegetarians in the Disney realm, as well. Meat abstainers won't be limited to sides and/or salads while everyone else fills up.


The Meatball Stoppe
Photo courtesy of The Meatball Stoppe


Meatballs: so simple â€" a small, round hunks of deliciousness from your Nonna's kitchen, laden with garlic, spices, just the right amount of fat. Top 'em with sauce or cheese or both. Lay them gently onto a bed of pasta or polenta. Smash them into a crusty roll and top 'em with a fried egg. They're filling, comforting, and at this Lake Underhill family-run, fast-casual outpost that's edged out toward East Orlando, quite reasonably priced. What's more is that they're easy to grab on the go, but feel free to stay a while and sample the variety, which runs from traditional to Mediterranean, sausage to mac-and-cheese explosion. Pair them with sauces, salads, sides. Luxuriate in the simplicity â€" and the value.


Q'Kenan
Photo courtesy of Q'Kenan


Thought tucked into the confines of an unremarkable shopping center, for Venezuelan comfort food, Q'Kenan is tops. Cachapas, arepas and empanadas are just three of the stars on a vast menu that's drizzled with smooth crema and dressed with rice, beans and plantains (green or sweet). Unfamiliar with the cuisine? Don't be shy. Staffers are happy to walk you through the Comida Venezolana 101 crash course and breakfast, lunch or dinner. The impressive arepa menu alone, most under $5, loaded with an array of ingredients such as beans and cheese, shredded chicken, ham or pork, might make decision-making tough. If you're in a group, you'll hope it's made up of sharing types.


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To be fair, this tony tapas outpost is well known for many things, but being a one-dollar-sign venue is not one of them. On Saturdays and Sundays, however, Santiago's Bodega offers a brunch option. For $45 per person, you can partake of its excellent fare ad nauseum. Just how "nauseum" will depend on your own self-control. Mimosas and sangria are included in the price, which allows diners to test drive the place before deciding to come back for tapas. Prime rib, crab, custom omelets and an array of delightful eats clog the menu. And your arteries. Enjoy some sangria and offset the effects; red wine is heart smart.


Orlando has a vibrant food truck scene and among its many jewels is Bem Bom, which specializes in Portuguese cuisine with gourmet tacos and some delightful pastries, to boot. It's friendly proprietor, whose childhood was spent in the archipelago of the Azores, has traveled quite a bit in the pursuit of his craft – in the process creating the amalgam that became Bem Bom. Salted fish croquettes with black-eyed pea salad, popular Portuguese piri piri chicken and a host of other alluring items stud the menu. By the way, "Bem Bom" translates to "Good Good." When was the last time your food-truck slider was marinated filet mignon topped with a quail egg? We rest our case. Check their website, Facebook and Twitter to find them.


5
South Orlando


Tu Casa is an apt name for this small, friendly venue; many of its regulars (and take our word for it, there are many, many regulars) say the fare is comparable to the stuff mom or grandma serves at home. Largely Dominican but with nods to other pearls of the culinary Caribbean, the proof is in the long â€" but mostly fast moving â€" lunch lines that are often out the door. Why? Tender meats, heaping piles of staple carbs like rice, beans and maduros for starters. Add to that you'll walk out with 2-3 meals' worth of food in your container for little more than $5 and the value â€" and flavor â€" becomes apparent.




Beth's is a homegrown institution. Its downtown location (featured here) has spawned two others: one in Edgewood and another in the Universal Blvd./I-Drive area. It's a testament to the City Beautiful's love of not only tasty, reasonably priced and highly customizable burgers, but supporting what's local! And while burgers are the featured fare here (featured offerings include one slathered in peanut butter and the 4-patty, toppings-laden Double D Challenge, which will get you a t-shirt you no longer fit into after you consume it all!), Beth's also offers veggie, turkey and other sammies to suit varied palates.


Banh Mi Nha Trang
Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson


This shop is nestled into the far reaches of a tiny, aging plaza near the Mills 50 intersection. There are no tables save the folding plastic one, on which might find a few errant catalogs or Vietnamese newspapers. Several chairs for waiting or eating are crammed around the periphery of the miniscule standing area on the customers' side of the lunch counter. They don't take credit cards and English is most definitely the second language here. But guess what? No one cares. In fact, it's all part of the Banh Mi Nha Trang charm. That and the delicious $3.50 banh mi, of course. When the traditional Vietnamese sandwiches are this good, right down to the cheerful, "See you tomorrow!" farewell that regulars have come to expect from its charming and talented banh mi artisan, what's a little language barrier between new friends. Buy five, get one free!


Sticky Rice Lao Street Food


When post after post on social media reveals that, like you, a good number of the guests at Sticky Rice Lao Street Food tend to order more or less the entire menu every time they visit, it's a safe bet you can classify the place as having good value. This hip-yet-family-friendly venue in Mills 50, which slings small plates, salads and a fragrant noodle soup called Kao Piek Sen has introduced quite a number of Orlandoans to the joys of Laotian street food, which is traditionally consumed with glutinous or "sticky" rice as an edible utensil. Its friendly staffers will be happy to explain how, with delicious results.


1
Mills 50


You can get three tacos on special at Tako Cheena for $8.95, but you'll likely want to spend a little more. Why? Because it's freakin' delicious, that's why. This place is friendly and exceedingly local in vibe, but its food is a wonderful amalgam of Thai and Cuban, Korean and Indian and Filipino and Mexican, and unlike so many late-night taco shops, it's as good sober as it is...er, on those rare and random occasions when you're not. In fact, check it out for lunch and see! Panko-crusted cod takos, Thai peanut chicken takos, Indian butter chicken burritos, banh-mi hot dogs, Asian braised beef on arepas.... It's a culinary world's fair on one small, colorful chalkboard menu, with everything reasonably priced and served with a smile.


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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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