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Meet me on the patio, Daddy-O. Orlando's best al fresco dining.



We're not going to lie: there are lists that are more difficult to compile than others. This is one of those lists. Here in Orlando, where the weather is so often exceptional for dining out of doors, there are seemingly countless venues from which to choose. This selection that runs the gamut from one dollar sign to four, venues suitable for anniversary dinners and junior-high movie dates and everything in between. Their common thread, however, is that each boasts lovely outdoor seating areas where live music, trickling fountains, resplendent lakes and golf course (or even castle!) views help the lower blood pressure.

For occasions that call for finer dining, Soco is equally ideal for date night or dinner with the boss in a sidewalk setting that's both comely and cosmopolitan. Hillstone, too, has its charms, with excellent food and an enviable setting alongside Winter Park's Lake Killarney. Want the same view without the fuss? Just up the street, Shake Shack beckons, not only via the smell of fryer-fresh onion rings but water views that pair beautifully with its cold beer and simple, far less expensive fare. Nearby, tucked into a charming nook of Park Ave., Barnie's CoffeeKitchen offers a relaxing outdoor space that feels like a bit of a European vacation, whether you're visiting for a quick latte or a farm-to-fork weekend dinner. Try them all, we say. And then a bunch more we didn't have room to include. 


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Magic Kingdom ®
Casey's Corner


Casey's hot dogs, especially the massive foot-longs, definitely have a following. Some prefer a traditional take, others go whole-hog with the Philly cheesesteak, chili-cheese or mac and cheese toppings, but even vegans are happy to grab some fries and a frozen, mint julep lemonade to enjoy refreshments in the shadow of Cinderella's castle! Prime outdoor seats are a commodity, of course, but if you can snag one, it's a singular dining experience that's about as Orlando (inasmuch as what folks from other parts of the world think our city's about!) as you can get!


Barnie's CoffeeKitchen


Winter Park's famous Park Avenue is home to many unique local shops and restaurants. And this flagship Barnie's location, while small and cozy, houses a hidden foodie gem, particularly come weekend nights, when the focus â€" while still on-point for chai and latte and all things caffeine â€" leans heavily into farm-to-fork dining. Yes, really! Local ingredients, artful prep, delicious results, with excellent wine and craft beer to pair with. And the "outdoor dining" part? You could certainly do worse than its petite adjacent courtyard. A sparkling fountain adds lovely ambient sound to a romantic enclave that feels more like a nook in some small Spanish town than Central Florida. And it's not a bad place for a quick morning coffee or midday craft beer, either.


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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. A host of offerings showcase piles of YDE's signature pulled pork, including 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. Vegans fear not! There are loads of truly exceptional options! Live music in the restaurant's outdoor beer garden adds ear candy to the menu, Thursday through Saturday.


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With its truly exceptional lakeside setting, fine dining at Hillstone may leave you and your guests stuffed, but no one at the table will find it stuffy. In fact, it's just the sort of place to loosen the tie, slide the power heels off a bit (under the table, perhaps) and unwind after a day of wheeling and dealing â€" one cocktail and a bit of fresh air and schmoozing becomes simple socializing over an ample wood-grilled steak, crisp salad or perhaps a sandwich or burger. Save room. Hillstone's desserts are decadent, as well. Thank goodness the view has zero calories.


Canvas Restaurant & Market


With a rotating menu of New American cuisine and a romantic, lakeside setting, Canvas has made Lake Nona's rapidly expanding culinary scene tastier and prettier, injecting the Sunshine State's flavorful blend of Southern and Latin American into its Instagram-worthy plates. "Restaurant" may come first in Canvas' name, but let's not forget the "market" portion. It's one part high-end comestible-and-home-goods store, one part breezy cafe. Gifts and foodstuffs abound; they'll even take cooking dinner off your list of to-dos. Just buy it, bring it home and make whoever's eating it happy. (At the very least, you could bring a dessert treat!) The market is open daily from 7 am to 8 pm. Bar opens at 3 pm. The views to go with your wine, beer or cocktail are sublime.




Nestled into the lovely, rolling greens of College Park's public Dubsdread Golf Course, the Tap Room enjoys a loyal following of locals who come for lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch and a popular and notably jovial Happy Hour in cozy and comfortable digs. Though here for ages, it's not uncommon to encounter locals who've only just discovered the place. The wraparound porch (or verandah, as they call it) boasts some truly exceptional outdoor seating; come cooler months, it's the place to be â€" a delightful location for any occasion or no occasion at all save the pleasure of sublime al fresco dining.




The Shake Shack chain is renowned for tasty burgers, snappy hot dogs, thick milkshakes and the like, so if you're in the mood for a clean, fast-casual, all-American meal, they've got what you need. But if you're in the mood for a posh view without the four-dollar-sign menu, Winter Park's Shake Shack is precisely what you need. Their partially covered back patio is miles away from the busy lot out front, with resplendent lake views just as lovely as any of the city's upscale waterfront venues. Grab a beer, park yourself in one of the colorful Adirondack chairs and soak it all in.


3
Walt Disney World ®


This is the Four Season Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort's signature steakhouse and its Spanish-inspired cuisine is elevated - literally and figuratively. From on high, guests here can take in superb cuisine, creative cocktail and phenomenally romantic fireworks views from the expansive balcony (heaters will be going on chilly nights, so don't let that put you off). Inspired small plates are a wonderful way to experience the many flavors on tap here, but entrees from the duck breast to the halibut to the porterhouse for two are mouthwatering and on point. Truthfully, it would be easy for a planned glass of Argentine malbec to turn into a multi-course dinner here. This isn't a venue you'll leave easy. It's a space in which you'll want to linger.


Soco Thornton Park


Soco offers up loads of plated Southern comfort, though its name is actually a representation of Southern contemporary, 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 when the weather suits (which in Orlando is often), but the food here is exemplary and well worth the visit even if the Florida rain is teeming outside.


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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.


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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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