search

Grits 'n' Gravy 'n' Grandma's Faves: Great Picks for Homestyle in Orlando



They call it comfort food for a reason. It makes us feel good. Warm in the belly and the heart. And that's not just because too much of it will necessitate the services of a cardiologist. The Orlando restaurants listed here are among the tops in town for down-homey delights, dishes you may not want to eat every day (and probably shouldn't), but are guaranteed to warm the soul. Some offer breakfast and/or brunch. And nutritionists have long said we should make that the biggest meal of the day. Think about that if you’re feeling guilty for the warm, buttery biscuits and ladles of sausage gravy, then do an extra mile at the gym! Both Dixie Belle’s Café and the Townhouse are the sort of places the servers will come to know you if you pop in regularly for country-style breakfast. Want something more upscale? Check out Thornton Park's posh Soco or the Ritz-Carlton's lauded Highball & Harvest (where craft cocktails are a must!). Down in the tourist-laden I-Drive corridor, folks love the beyond heaping helpings available at the famed Hash House A Go-Go chain, where you may just want to order one plate per two diners in your party. It’s the sort of place where “come hungry” is better presented as “come starving.” You've been warned.


Advertisement



There's an old saying about eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Hash House A Go Go's policy is all King, all the time. Serving up what this San Diego-based chain calls "twisted farm food," HHAGG does up super-sized spins on Southern and Midwestern home-style favorites. Some inspirations you may know: chicken and waffles, chicken pot pie and an Indiana classic, pounded, crispy-fried pork tenderloin. Those familiar will immediately note that this one is portioned for when the monsters from "Pacific Rim" head inland to destroy Indianapolis. Open for all three squares and brunch on the weekends, just about every entree is suitable for sharing. Come seriously hungry and plan on leaving with a box or two.




From those who brought you the line-up-around-the-building flavors of the 4 Rivers Smokehouse comes the Coop. The focus here is fried chicken but visitors will find that and much more in its extensive, Southern-influenced menu. Beef oxtail stew, shrimp 'n' grits and fried green tomato po'boys pair with Souther collards, corn bread, hoppin' John and more. Located on the edge of Winter Park's Hannibal Square, the Coop offers copious seating inside and out; a good thing since it's not likely the lines will die down anytime soon. Icebox lemon pie and banana pudding are among the rich desserts. Buckets and sides are available for take out if you're not one to wait for a feast.


8
North Orlando


Slinging breakfast and lunch to a devoted legion of customers, and likely creating new ones daily, Nick's Family Diner showcases all of this culinary genre's classics along with hearty and satisfying Greek and Italian specialties. Whether you're in the mood for a good old burger deluxe or want to step outside diner business as usual and go for a daily special â€" perhaps the stuffed meatloaf â€" Nick's should deliver the good nicely. Soul food aficionados might want to give the chicken and waffles a try. As for breakfast, the customers love it so much they serve it all day long.


Advertisement
7
West Orlando


First things first: Low-carb dieters, Mrs. Potato is not for you. Not ever. You probably figured that out from the name. Second things second: Dieters in general, Mrs. Potato is not for you. Not ever. Why? Well, you COULD come here and get a baked potato completely plain, or with a pile of plain vegetables on top, we suppose, but you'd spend your entire meal hating on your dining companions as you watch them devour the massive "rostis" for which this place is renown. Brazilian rostis, much like their Swiss counterparts, are an undeniable comfort food, essentially a massive hash brown filled with all manner of ooey-gooey meats, cheeses and vegetables that is definitely big enough to share. If, for some reason, the rosti doesn't appeal, try a baked potato slathered in toppings that range from Philly cheese to Brazilian cured sausage with cheese and onions to chicken Catipury (a soft, creamy Brazilian cheese). Or something less Brazilian, like Buffalo chicken or beef stroganoff. Empanadas are an option, as well. And yucca fries. And cheese balls. We reiterate: diets no. Stretch pants, perhaps.


6
Gotha/windemere


This charming, off-the-beaten-path venue is charming and rustic, evocative of some diamond-in-the-rough surprise you'd stumble upon while road tripping. Its food is surprising, too. Sandwiches, salads, scrumptious starters and a whole lotta barbecue (which is primarily what landed it on the "Homestyle" list). A host of offerings showcase piles of YDE's signature pulled pork, including the Fire Pig (a wrap with apple wood-smoked bacon, gouda, fried onions and sriracha) and the Rufus (pork topped with thick-cut Brie, cherry ring peppers and topped with raspberry melba sauce). Ribs are available by the half-rack, as well. And YDE's house slaw is a sweet, tangy treat. Live music in the restaurant's outdoor beer garden adds ear candy to the menu.


The Meatball Stoppe
Photo courtesy of The Meatball Stoppe


Meatballs: so simple, 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 and the value.


Soco Thornton Park


Soco offers up loads of plated Southern comfort, though its name is actually a representation of Southern contemporary â€" which means you'll find some down-home diner favorites that have undergone an evolution into something more upscale. Think boiled peanut hummus, mac-and-cheese croquettes and chicken and dumplings that infuse the latter with lobster. Its dining room is warm and inviting but its al fresco sidewalk seating infuses meals with a hip, urban vibe that ticks everything up a notch. As appealing for dinner as it is for Sunday brunch or happy hour cocktails, Soco's patio is lively and hip. But the food here is exemplary, and well worth the visit even if the Florida rain is teeming outside.




To paraphrase that old 70s Greg Kihn hit, "they don't make 'em like this anymore." Oviedo's downtown is hardly bustling (unless you count its famous feral chickens, they bustle quite a bit) but at its center sits the TownHouse, almost as it has since the 1950s. A recent move has put it in brand-new expanded digs up the street, but the food hasn't changed a bit. They're serving up all the diner classics in a clean and cozy a setting; it's been named to a host of Orlando-local lists over the years, most notably for its breakfasts. Aside from biscuits and gravy, omelets, pancakes and the like at breakfast, the Townhouse menu also features Greek and Mediterranean fare, with staples like burgers and meatloaf and all the things you'd expect from a quaint country diner.




Quality homestyle fare can be acquired at roadside diners and church socials to be sure, but that doesn't mean it isn't appreciated at the top end of the dining spectrum. Case in point: Highball & Harvest, where fresh produce is farmed on site in a 7,000-square foot garden, incredible craft cocktails with fancy orbs of herb-infused ice are the norm and the ribs are as good as any you'll grab off a roadside smoker as you wend your way through the countryside of the American south. So it goes, as well, for the modern takes on Southern cuisine for all three squares: pecan pie pancakes at breakfast, pimento grilled cheese at lunch, pork and beans or shrimp and grits at dinner.


Se7en Bites


This incredibly indulgent 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 homemade chicken pot pie and a decadent meatloaf sandwich is subjective. Easiest method? Bring a dining partner and share everything! You likely won't want to miss out on the desserts here, either. Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pies â€" the smells 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.


Map

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.

A roller coaster...  More About A.D.

×