Orlando's talked-about tables: bakeries, burgers & big-@ss sandwiches

Want noods? This list, new for 2019, has 'em, along with Asian bakeries, meaty chains (first-timers for Orlando) and indie noobs in delicious ethnic flavors from India, Pakistan, Moldova and more! As such, adventurous eaters (and their less-interesting counterparts) are going to find plenty to get excited about. Repping Disney resumes, the chefs of downtown's newest noodle haunt, The Ramen, and the pastry maven of Le Ky Patisserie in the Hourglass District are bringing the artful offerings - one more slurpy than the other. 

And over at the Florida Mall, famed Brazilian foodsmith Horacio Gabriel has opened his first U.S. outpost of Hocca (meat lovers are most pleased). And speaking of meat, Austin's popular Hopdoddy Burger Bar has entered the Orlando market with a new resto at Pointe Orlando (again, meat lovers are pleased). If it's something a little different you're looking for, though, there's meat on the menu at SoDo's newest curry house, Forever Naan, as well as that of the Veranda, an Italian-Romanian venue that's looking to introduce Floridians to the allure of Eastern European cuisine. 


Hopdoddy is big in Texas (isn't everything) but this location, at the tourist haven of Pointe Orlando on I-Drive, is Florida's first as of 2019. Ample house-ground burgers and house-baked buns (including a gluten-free variety) come dressed to kill - not a cardiology joke, but it's there if you want it. From seared poblano peppers to Texas goat cheese, fried eggs to sundried tomato pesto, it's fair to say these juicy, well-reviewed burgers are highly customizable. There are lower-calorie chicken, tuna, veggie and bison options, as well, but once you pair it with parmesan truffle fries and a milkshake (which you can liquor up if you like), does it really matter? Go big or go home.

A safe bet for adventurous eaters who've yet to experience Eastern European fare, Veranda bills itself as a "Romanian and Italian restaurant." This means that diners more interested in pasta and pizza and bypassing the delicacies of Moldova (our recommendation: don't bypass the delicacies of Moldova) can find familiarity while everyone else expands their palate, partaking of mamaliga (an Eastern Euro version of polenta), flavorful mititei la grata (minced beef and pork rolls), stuffed cabbage and grape leaves and a host more. Try to leave room for dessert. Again, your options are many, so you COULD go with the tiramisu or - as we'd recommend - opt for something altogether different.

The Ramen

Noods are in, in case you didn't know, and Orlando has had a wave of slurpy, soupy restaurant opening in recent months. The Ramen, however, brings a splash of Disney; its proprietor is a former Disney chef who manned the stock pots at Epcot's Japan Pavilion for quite some time before bringing his gifts to downtown. Offerings at this fast-casual bistro include pork-based tonkotsu and soy-based shoyu ramen, but those less in the mood to open their sinuses can go with donburi (rice bowls). Of course, feel free to load on the spicy stuff for a similar effect. Add-ons including soft-boiled egg, pork belly, even roast beef mean you can make your bowl - soup or rice - as decadent as you like.

Doctor Phillips

Americans aren't the only folks who love chain offerings. In fact (gasp!) they do chains in France, too. And La Boucherie, France's most popular chain steakhouse, has opened its very first American doors right here in town. On the menu? Carnivore classics like the thick-cut rump steak or bone-in ribeye, along with decadent "French" brunch offerings - like the toast! wink wink! - as well as burgers so big and juicy, you'd think they were downright American. The French know their way around a kitchen. Fans of La Boucherie would say that the folks employed here are no exception.

Bread & Co

Yes, you can pop into Winter Park's Bread & Co and pick up any number of sweet or savory goodies for home, party, work meeting, picnic, luncheon or (more likely) just to stuff your face. But you can also pop in and peruse for all the aforementioned, then choose a little something special - walnut tart, twist pastry, croquette - grab a ginger tea or espresso or something cool and fizzy from the case, plunk yourself down, and just enjoy. Many locals were excited to see a Korean-style bakery open in Winter Park, a venue where they could satisfy their cravings for red bean bread and roll-style cream-filled cakes, cheese buns and doughnuts - the list goes on. But whether you're looking for something gorgeous for your party's dessert table, or a simple, crusty baguette to pair with cheese and a bottle of wine for date night, you will doubtless be wooed by the sheer enormity of exotic, carb-laden delights available.

Another Disney chef, this time of the pastry variety, has absconded from the Mouse to open an independent operation, much to the delight of residents of and frequent visitors to Orlando's burgeoning and increasingly hip Hourglass District. Le Ky Patisserie, located inside the still-expanding Hourglass Social House, Le Ky will keep fine company with fellow business Foxtail Coffee, with its delicious and supremely artful pastries, including peanut butter banana mousse and chocolate-raspberry macarons. Oft-fused French-Vietnamese staples (banh mi, for example) help round out the sweet menu with savories.

Forever Naan is not Indian-Pakistani fine dining. It's a little neighborhood curry shop, the likes of which you're more apt to find in larger cities like San Francisco or New York. Its food is scratch-made. You'll find familiar favorites like Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala, you'll find vegetarian staples like dal and channa masala and pag saneer. And of course, if the name didn't tip you off, you'll find warm, wonderful butter and/or garlic naan to make sure you don't miss a drop of those spicy, flavorful gravies. They were pretty new at the time of this writing (April 2019), and the menu was set to expand. Pop in and see what they've got cooking!

Banh mi. French dip. Hot pressed Cuban. If sammies are your thing and you like your selections high-quality and fresh, you have to hit up Hinckley's Fancy Meats, where you can get some on a bun (or roll, or croissant....) and jam it in your face or bring it home to do with as you please. The chef here has plied his trade all over the world, worked amid the James Beard-nominated and Michelin-starred, and finally opted to open his own joint at Orlando's own East End Market. Fans of house-made pate and seriously stacked sandwiches have been thus far delighted by the decision.

South Orlando

Hocca has five locations in its chef's native Brazil, but its Florida Mall location is the first in the U.S. And Orlando is lucky. Not just because its "Bellissima" mortadella sandwich is thick, luscious and completely, ridiculously off the chain, but for the rest of its well rounded menu - from shareable tapas like the Hocca ribs or traditional cod croquetas, to signature burgers for those intent on doubling down on tradition and cholesterol, to upscale offerings like lobster-tail laden paella and filet mignon with grilled onions. Craft cocktails - may as well go with the caipirinha! - abound and the vibe is such that you'll likely want to partake. At the mall! Who knew?

It's been a few years since Sushi Pop brought to East Orlando, more specifically Oviedo, one of its first rave-worthy independent venues. Now firmly ensconced to the point where those elsewhere will come to Oviedo for its succulent, fresh fish cuts and smart, date-night decor, Sushi Pop has opened its doors in the already-well-fed burg of Winter Park. Not that there's anything wrong with that. There's plenty of room for fine, sushi-driven menus in the 407. And now Winter Park residents won't have to make the trek out to the land of UCF. Good on ya!


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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