I is for International: Surprising Best Bets in Orlando's Tourist Zone



No one's going to argue that Orlando's I-Drive is ground zero for the city's zillion or so annual tourists, but with what seems like a zillion or so restaurants to match, is it possible to find an ethnic culinary gem amid the chain buffets and ubiquitous pancake houses? The answer is a resounding "YES!" In fact, if you dig a little deeper you might come to the conclusion that they named it INTERNATIONAL Drive for a reason. Did you ever imagine you'd find authentic Turkish or Ethiopian food in the heart of this tourist corridor? Such treasures occasionally surprise even Orlando natives, never mind the visitors. Alternatively, sleek, upscale, high-service eateries like Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse provide elegant oases ideal for special evenings out or business-grade meals well away from the Disney-bound hordes. And restaurants like Tapa Toro, a Spanish gem at the foot of the spectacular Orlando Eye, do up both succinct small plates for dates and succulent paella vats for family-reunion celebrations. 




Indonesian cuisine is the star at this curiously named I-Drive venue; with Halal and other Arabian dishes permeated the menu, as well. Fans of meat-and-rice offerings will love the colorful and fragrant platters and tiny servings of sauces, all...  Read More


Q'Kenan
Photo courtesy of Q'Kenan


Though 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,...  Read More




What's the burning question on the minds of Pio Pio patrons, you wonder? Perhaps it's how they serve such generous portions in the tourist zone for such reasonable prices. Perhaps, if they're locals, it's a disbelief that it's taken them so long...  Read More




Vincenzo Cucina Italiana is a hybrid of sorts, a superb restaurant that melds family-run warmth with a fine-dining vibe, making it a wonderful place for a date night, a client dinner, a post-work glass of Chianti or a special occasion dinner....  Read More




It's very likely you've heard of the Del Frisco's name and there's a good reason for that. Widely known across the country for their family of eateries - Del Frisco's Grille, Sullivan's Steakhouse and this, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse,...  Read More




Okay, so maybe you like to smoke the hookah and maybe you don't. But in the ample, open-air (but covered; take that, Florida rain!) space at Cafe 34 Istanbul, the smoke may not bother you at all, especially early on. This I-Drive enclave is...  Read More




From the folks who brought you Taverna Opa, another of our I-Drive favorites, comes Tapa Toro, a beautiful addition to the I-Drive 360 complex, where the paella pit beckons, flamenco dancers stomp and sangria " particularly at happy hour "...  Read More




Serving up tasty fast-casual eats from its comfortable Dr. Phillips digs, this cheery "paninery" does up a multitude of classic pressed sandwiches with fresh, locally made bread and house-roasted meats, which makes a big difference when it comes...  Read More




Seito Sushi has earned its reputation for being a quality and creative restaurant, and the Dr. Phillips location makes for phenomenal date nights, or family or business dinners, For discriminating groups, the venue excels. Smaller parties can be...  Read More




The Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, as the saying goes (sort of). In Orlando, it's one of a handful of independent restaurants amid I-Drive's sea of chain offerings, one serving up authentic Ethiopian fare in traditional style. What does this...  Read More


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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.

A roller coaster...  More About A.D.

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