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Taste late-night in Orlando at these fun foodie outposts



Things like burgers and tacos are standard for late-night menus – and you’ll find plenty of those on this Orlando roster. That said, there are surprises in store. Can you do better than the lamb taco at Tako Cheena, where about $10 will get your belly full of some seriously good food – tacos, burritos, hot dogs and more, much of it with an Asian spin – after a night out in Mills 50? It's a rhetorical question, but one we'd like you to ponder as you peruse this roster of late-night delights. Over in the Milk District, Tako Cheena’s sammie-slinging sister venue, Pom Pom’s, is open 24/7 on weekends, much to the delight of tea aficionados and late-night munchers. I-Drive's exemplary Cafe 34 Istanbul's kitchen not only never closes, in the wee hours there may well be a hookah-fueled party going on. And down at the Waterfront, you can get some surprisingly good and varied fare well into late night, and with a beautiful waterfront view to boot. 


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Austin's Coffee


Hyperlocal and frequented by both college students and Wifi-powered freelancers with a need for excellent Fair Trade coffee and a pleasant working environment, Austin's is a 24-hour establishment that provides a steady infusion of both. Add to this local art for sale on its walls, a better-than-decent collection of tabletop games and amusements and a very nice craft beer menu. Add to THAT an eclectic and affable staff, a solid menu that runs from carnivorous to dedicated vegan and live entertainment. Now we've really got something, don't we? Don't come here expecting fancy. It's not. Friendly, however, they have in spades. And if you want a good panini at 3 am, you can have that, too.




The Hideaway Bar is a tried and true local hang on the edge of Ivanhoe Village. Good, cheap drinks, a pool table and an exceedingly laid back atmosphere has garnered the place a legion of regulars. All comers, Miami Dolphins fans in particular, are welcome. (Note its colors and the sharp murals out front by local artist, Andrew Spear.) It's the eclectic mix of folks who frequent the Hideaway, in fact, that many cite as part of its appeal. Another facet is that the kitchen behind this dive bar is virtually universally lauded. Wings in an array of sauces, burgers, dogs, subs, sandwiches and more are available for dining in or taking out. And since the place opens at 7 a.m. six days a week, 9 a.m. Sundays (yes, really) you may want to give their breakfast burrito a try, too.




Arepas, at any hour, equate to Venezuelan comfort food, but they may taste best at 2 a.m. How do we know? This popular establishment, which began its life as a food truck, now has several permanent locations around town. The Universal-convenient shop isn't fancy, but it's clean and friendly and serves up white-corn goodness stuffed with your preferred array of meats, cheeses and vegetables. Prefer the sweet yellow corn of the cachapa? They've got these, too. And the carne mechada (think shredded pot roast) is tender and flavorful. Portions are generous, and this place won't break the bank, either.


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Oh, tacos. The later it gets, the better you sound. Not that Gringos Locos doesn't make a great lunch or dinner option. But you know what we mean. It's late, you're downtown, perhaps after visiting a few of our fair city's sophisticated nightlife options. Or not so sophisticated. It's cool. Tacos don't judge. Though you're like to judge those at Gringos Locos as ideal for an after-hours indulgence. They're open 'til 3 a.m. every night. And if you're around earlier, consider their happy hour; 4-8 p.m. daily brings $2 tacos, $2 beers and $5 burritos. You'll have plenty of money left when you show up again a few hours later.


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South Orlando


"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.




Pub food is a staple come the midnight hour and beyond. South American "pub food," particularly in the form of piled-high salchipapas or juicy-flavorful Colombian-style burgers, is a level up. Que Rico was a favorite of downtown, a food truck with delicious fare and a fun, high-energy vibe that enlivened Orlando's already hopping nighttime scene. It has since evolved into Super Rico Colombian Bistro, a brick-and-mortar operation that still caters to the nighttime crowds with hours 'til 3 a.m. on weekends. Delicious hamburgers, those aforementioned salchipapas (a street-food amalgam of sliced hot dogs and fries topped with cheese and flavorful sauces), empanadas, arepicas and more are delish for lunch and dinner, but downright decadent at midnight. Bonus: one of Orlando's best craft beer bars, Tap 'N' Grind, is right next door!




Sophisticated, spicy and authentic are words you'll often hear associated with Chuan Lu Garden, a Mills 50-outpost that operates as part of the larger Ginza steakhouse. We'd add colorful, flavorful, aromatic and delicious, though it's likely all been said before. Chuan Lu Yuan serves Szechuan dishes, many of which will seem delightfully new to folks more accustomed to Americanized Chinese fare. Hot pots, hand-pulled noodle soups, an array of dishes for the adventurous culinary explorer. While there are options available for those less interested in straying outside their comfort zones, we recommend you bring several bold dining companions (more people = more dishes to sample!), ask lots of questions and taste, taste, taste.


Pom Pom's Teahouse & Sandwicheria
Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson


Pom Pom's is a small, arty little joint in the Bumby vein of the Milk District, a predictably hipsteresque but very friendly haunt with an array of generous fresh salads, homemade soups, a veritable library of teas and a creative, extensive menu of sandwiches, any of which they'll be happy to press. From the decadent Mama Ling's Thanksgiving (pretty much what you'd imagine on your choice of bread) to leaner veggie options to the Graceland-meets-Tijuana fantasy of banana, bacon, strawberry jelly, cayenne and peanut butter that is the Spicy Elvis, the offerings are as fun as the local art lining the walls which, much like the sandwiches, is all for sale.


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 open 24 hours (yes, really) and the most active shisha enthusiasts come late. Or early. Depending on your perspective. The rest, and there are a lot of them, come for food so tasty and authentic that you may not get past the appetizer menu. Creamy, garlicky haydari and spicy, peppery ezme ... along with names you may recognize (hummus, tabouli, babaganoush and more) are served alongside soft pita. Come the entree round, beef and lamb doner (it's basically a Turkish gyro) compete with kebabs and juicy, well-seasoned kofte.


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Mills 50


You might fork over $10 for two or three tacos and a drink at Tako Cheena, but you'll want to spend a little more. Why? Because it's freakin' delicious, that's why. Small, fun, exceedingly local, the food here is a wonderful amalgam of Thai and Cuban, 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 burritos, banh-mi hot dogs, Asian braised beef on arepas â€" it's a culinary world's fair on one small, colorful chalkboard menu. Everything reasonably priced and served with a smile by knowledgeable staffers.


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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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