Orlando's Talked-About Tables: Asian Delights, American Classics & Seriously Saucy Options

By A.D. Thompson, Orlando Local Expert

If you're a seafood lover, you're going to find plenty to get excited about on this updated Orlando list of new, newish and top talked-about-tables we're posting as 2018 begins. Asian goodies abound, as well, whether you're in the market for a rare taste of some deep-sea succulence at Joyful Garden Seafoods Restaurant or feel more Korean-inspired, in which case you can amble over to BBB Tofu House. The two are mere steps from one another in West Orlando. Japanese delights in the wonderfully intimate confines of Kadence are an immersive and educational experience. And if something closer to home suits, pop into Muddy Waters, a new Thornton Park enclave where oysters are just the tip of the Cajun-inspired iceberg. Over in Mills 50, a new fast-casual, healthy-bowl experience awaits at Too Much Sauce, while out in East Orlando, Oviedo residents are enjoying a new outpost of the popular, Jacksonville-spun outfit, Maple Street Biscuit Company. Also on tap: pizza, cake and mighty fine butchery.... Explore the city's latest and greatest. 

10. Maple Street Biscuit Company
Photo courtesy of Maple Street Biscuit Co.

There was a buzz when this growing Southern chain (locations in northern Florida, a few in Tennessee and one each in SC and Georgia thus far) opened in a snazzy new section of Oviedo in late 2017 and the buzz here is phenomenal for those on the hunt for the comfort food of the American South. Chicken biscuits, BLT biscuits, plain 'ol biscuits and gravy are among the most popular offerings, but you'll find eggs and bacon and cheesy grits and more, as well. They're open for hearty breakfast and lunch daily, but never past 3 pm, so come early (this way you'll have time to start working off the calories before the sun goes down.

9. Nine Spices Hot Pot
Photo courtesy of Nine Spices Hot Pot

Hot pot is action-oriented and the AYCE option at Nine Spices – where a food conveyor moves ingredients out among the hungry diners for grabbing – ups the ante considerably. Choose your broth base, from the veggie-forward turnip radish to bone or herbal or a nice chicken-beef mix (and more), then go to town cooking up the 50 or so ingredient options on hand for simmering. Fish balls and pumpkin, tofu and watercress, taro and clams, and of course don't miss the bar where sauces and condiments help complete the culinary picture. There are a la carte options for those whose eyes don't go pie-plate-wide when the lure of the conveyor belt kicks in.

8. Joyful Garden Seafoods Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Joyful Garden

You don't have to have seafood at Joyful Garden. There are numerous chicken, beef, veggie and pork options amid its expansive menu of largely Hong Kong-style fare, but you'd be missing out. The unassuming place, located in the Asian-eats wonderland around the 1st Oriental Supermarket in West Orlando, boasts a pet store's fortune of glass tanks in which its freshest ingredients are housed. Joyful Garden is the adventurous diner's playground, to be sure, but risk-averse guests interested only in a pleasant and delicious dining experience can be gently guided to items within their culinary comfort zone.

7. Too Much Sauce
Photo courtesy of Too Much Sauce

The brains behind a longtime favorite panini joint here in town (he's since sold that business) is at it again, this time in trendy Mills 50, with Too Much Sauce, a clean-lined rice-quinoa-salad bowl joint that's tailor made for quick service, and healthy food (as healthy as you want it to be, that is) with lots of color. Get creative choosing a base, veggies and a protein - along with one or more of their signature sauces - or let them do the hard stuff and choose from a few pre-designed choices that range from uber healthy (the veggie) to debatable (Sauce of the Border features lots of cheese and sour cream). What's nice is you can customize and keep your calorie counts down if that's something you're interested in - plus the food here is fresh and fun!

6. BBB Tofu House
Photo courtesy of Kyle Nishioka/Flickr

The smells alone emanating from this Korean haven inside the 1st Oriental Supermarket are the stuff your sinuses' dreams are made of. To lean one's face into the steam above a bowl of the silkyspicywonderful soondubu? The culinary sauna you never knew you needed. That said, if bulgogi and bibimbap are the comforty-Korean cravings you most experience, BBB Tofu House can scratch this itch, as well. Pop in for succulent bites of garlic tofu or enjoy the marvel that is cheesy kimchi fried rice – quite likely your next favorite for carb binges. Come. Sample, Savor. And make everyone with an eye on your Instagram food porn feed jealous.

5. Muddy Waters
Photo courtesy of Muddy Waters Orlando

Located in the cosmopolitan and comely South Eola/Thornton Park section of town, Muddy Waters is the lovechild of the culinary team at the stellar Two Chefs Seafood Oyster Bar (another nearby NOLA-inspired gem) and the Beacon Hill Group where New Orleans cooking in a rustic setting is the order. And speaking of order, you'll likely want to sample the Crescent City's best fried flavor in the form of a po'boy – definitely big enough to share. Oysters are a staple here, as well. Get 'em by the icy tray or come for brunch and enjoy them individually on top of each bloody Mary. Shrimp and grits, fried chicken, gumbo and other regional specialties are equally tempting.

4. Pizzeria Roberti
Photo courtesy of Pizzeria Roberti

Small, cozy and absolutely reminiscent of the simple, walk-in pizzerias of New York City, Pizzeria Roberti, helmed by neighborhood native Joe Roberti, is a welcome addition. Though the pizza appears in a straight-up,New York-style, Roberti actually takes elements of several styles to create a pie, with stellar, handcrafted crust, that's been bringing folks back since the place opened. Italian specialties outside the pizza realm may beckon some, but don't miss the garlic knots – wonderful, warm, slightly underdone and chewy, they reside in a pool of pure love that's masked as cheesy, garlicky sludge. Eat your slice down to the end and use the crust as a mop. You won't want to waste a drop.

3. The Glass Knife
Photo courtesy of The Glass Knife

Beautiful, artful cakes, pies, cookies, pastries and the like set in a sleek, almost resort-like operation, makes for elegant and casual dining – whether you're stopping in for coffee and a pastry or a full-on lunch of soup, sandwich, salad, etc. Either way, you won't want to skip on the confections, which are the specialty here. Sumptuous cakes with silky fillings and delightfully crumbly cookies beckon. Surprisingly elegant doughnuts, along with lovely, delicate little bites for coffee and tea (pick up a box the next time you've got a function to attend!) tempt. Whatever you do, avoid this place if you're dieting; a visit under those circumstances would just be cruel.

2. Orlando Meats
Photo courtesy of Orlando Meats

MEAT. It's what's for dinner (and breakfast, brunch and lunch) at this Mills 50 mecca of all things carnivorous. Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, goat, lamb, eggs, you name it - all of it locally sourced - is what goes into dishes like the Sloppy Jehosephat (loose beef and cheddar on a French roll), the Wacky Delhi (curry goat, eggplant, raab, white bread) and a medium-rare burger that the whole of Orlando's meat-eating community has been raving about. Orlando Meats is open for all three squares; the breakfast menu features some creative spins on traditional offerings – but serious carnivores can order up that signature burger at 8 am if they so desire. Other delights including sippable beef or chicken bone broth and house made doughnuts are worth the visit.

1. Kadence
Photo courtesy of Kadence

Don't let the $140 average dinner price tag scare you off. You see Kadence, formerly known as Kappo (once housed a few blocks away at Audubon Park's East End Market), is a nine-seat omakase experience unlike any other you'll find here in Orlando. Sushi purists will delight in the artistic, authentic multi-course (for dinner, that's 18+ courses!) magnificence on display. Its three chef-owners choose the best fish of the day, treating guests in the intimate dining room to beautifully plated sushi offerings, along with soup and dessert courses. Sake, beer and tea are available for sipping as you wait for your table. Monday lunch and dinner seatings, are walk-in only - no reservations. Wednesday-Saturday sushi tastings are limited reservations, walk-ins welcome. Sunday's kappo-style tastings are by reservation only.