4Rivers' UCF/East Orlando location is, delightfully, just another satellite wherein fans of the superb barbecue can expect a superb, if caloric, experience. This Orlando-based, Texas-style barbecue empire serves up brisket, ribs, pulled pork and smoked turkey and a host of other foodie delights. Though crowds are common, no one seems to mind waiting ��" though you're welcome to opt for take-out instead. Barbecue's not a neat cuisine and even 4Rivers' sandwich menu � the Messy Pig and its two layers of slaw, in particular � pushes the envelope. Some fans swear by the desserts, as well. (Fried Oreos, anyone?) If you've got a sweet tooth, they are Southern-inspired and sinful as you-know-where.
An unassuming little shopping center in the suburbs yields big Far East flavor in the form of galbi, bulgogi, katsu and a long, tempting roster of lesser known and perhaps more delectable Korean delights. The outset of meals at Kimchi begin with a host of small dishes â" fish cakes, kimchi and more. Great to whet the appetite, particularly if you're new to Korean and want a quick initiation. Lunch box specials offer a sampling of the familiar with the more exotic for the cautious, the larger menu allows the adventurous to jump in whole-hog (or beef, or seafood, or vegetarian....).
This is the East Orlando outpost of the popular Winter Park eatery and a no less delicious venue. Extremely popular for its reasonable lunch buffet ($8.95) â" loaded down with chutneys and sauces, vegetarian and non-veg options â" it's very easy to over-indulge. The UCF Tamarind's "edge of Orlando" Colonial Drive location feels semi-remote, but belies the enjoyable atmosphere inside, where warm colors, soft music and Indian touches create pleasant confines in which to enjoy the spice-laden entrees (all you can eat at lunch) and soft, chewy naan. Many diners here are regulars at lunch time due to price and selection, but Tamarind's off-buffet menu is extensive and certainly warrants exploration.
Mark's Jamaican is yet another gem you'll find as you navigate the suburban sprawl-chitecture around the UCF campus. It used to be across the street in an unassuming aging strip mall but in late 2015 moved, expanded into brighter, more spacious digs with bar and outdoor seating options, as well. It's as busy as ever too, with customers who clamor for the jerk, Jamaican patties, curry, plantains, oxtail, curried goat and other regional delights. Pop in for a rich, stick-to-your-ribs plate piled high with the stewed meats and carby staples of the islands.
Lots of restaurants say they've got a family vibe but the mother-daughter proprietresses at Thai Purple Orchid Cafe, a modest little gem in an aging Colonial Drive strip center, serve it up with just the right amount of eastern spice. Sonia (a UCF grad) and mom, Nisa (a former pharmacist) welcome all walks of customers â" UCF students and well beyond, who come for very reasonably priced and authentic fare in a clean, cute place that feels sort of like your friend's mom's kitchen. Which it sort of is, we suppose. A small attached grocery (about an aisle's worth of foodstuffs) sells Thai staples. Feel free to ask questions about goods or dishes; staffers here are affable and the food is first-rate.
To paraphrase that old 70s hit, "they don't make 'em like this anymore." Oviedo's downtown is hardly bustling â" unless you count its famous feral chickens, they bustle quite a bit â" but at its center sits the TownHouse, almost as it has since the 1950s (a recent move has put it in brand-new expanded digs up the street). Serving up all the diner classics â" breakfast, lunch and dinner â" in as cozy a setting as possible, it's been named to a host of Orlando-local lists over the years, most notably for its breakfasts. Aside from biscuits and gravy, omelets, pancakes and the like at breakfast, the Townhouse menu also features Greek and Mediterranean fare â" with staples like burgers and meatloaf and all the things you'd expect from a quaint country diner.
A welcome addition to the East Orlando dining and drinking scene, DeVine Wine Bar & Grill is a decided culinary uptick amid its strip mall brethren (a pancake house, a wing joint, etc.) offering creative, seasonal small plates for sharing alongside its expansive collection of wines. Most of these are dispensed via Enomatic machine, which means self-service (which can be great fun for groups in particular), but it's nice to choose the amount of one's pour without having to commit. Those less interested in the grape will find a full bar and expansive cocktail menu to their liking, perhaps most of all on $5 Martini Mondays.
This little counter service gem, a favorite of UCF students, staffers and a good many of the other locals who live and work in the area has a formula: pick your mode of foodstuff delivery (roll, bowl or wrap), choose your protein (an array of cooked, raw and even vegan options), choose your ingredients and sauces (most are free, a few are 50-cent upgrades) and ka-pow! The staffers â" aka ninjas â" turn it out 1-2-3. You'll find among the ingredients things you'd expect â" cream cheese, scallions, cucumber â" and a bunch you almost certainly didn't, like raisins, Rice Krispies and Cheez Whiz. Don't count anything out straightaway, though. These ninjas know what they're doing. Fun place.
Spicy beef soup, brined eggs, fried tofu with housemade kimchi and marinated deep-fried pork chops. This is just the tip of the delicious iceberg that is Taipei 101, a hidden gem not far from UCF that's buried in the confines of an Oviedo strip-mall shopping center. The more recognizable fare (spring rolls, dumplings, orange chicken) are not only safe choices for the less adventurous, the quality stands out and for those looking to go a little more "No Reservations" and sample â" pig ear, pig blood rice cakes, tripe, tendon and a host of other "less American" options will suffice. And of course, there are lots of choices in the middle. Point is: the food here is wonderful and it's not uncommon to find a line stretching to the door upon arrival as this is a counter-order operation. Try it.
Native Orlandoans remember a time when Oviedo was nothing but native woodlands and sprawling farms â" celery, horses, you name it. These days it's a growing suburb with many, many residents, all of whom need a place to get their chow on. As such, innovative eateries have been popping up 'round these parts in recent years. Sushi Pop is one of them. Okay, it's still perilously close to a sod farm, but that doesn't take one bit away from its innovative menu of offerings. Many are non-traditional, employing ingredients such as fried capers and rendered bacon. Asian fusion brings bits of Vietnam and Korea into the nouvelle mix, as well, along with interesting seafood and meat entrees. Desserts are quite creative, as well, and the chic, anime-inspired décor makes it feel a bit South Beachy out here in the 'burbs.