Scarf in Style: Tasting The Best of Trendy Thornton Park

Orlando's Thornton Park neighborhood is mini, but mighty. Jam-packed with gorgeous historic homes, towering oaks and cobbled lanes, it has no shortage of stylish inhabitants nor emigres from the areas it borders. Parking, however, can be tight. Bars, bistros, restaurants and boutiques dot the district, one of Orlando's few truly walkable neighborhoods and one with history that envelops those who explore. All that strolling – whether amid the fantasy real estate or around resplendent nearby Lake Eola – is bound to work up an appetite. Submitted herein, a list of true Thornton Park outposts and a few which border it by mere steps. Soco and the Baoery are within a literal stone’s throw of one another. Meander off to the edge of downtown and you’ll find the stylish Shari Sushi Lounge and its soaring loft and the spirit of Bacchus at the warm, welcoming Eola Wine Company. There are no losers on this list. It’s just a matter of mood.


Peruvian cuisine is an exciting amalgam of Incan, European and even Asian and African influences and Gaviota â€" with its white tablecloth service â€" is a lovely, fine-dining experience during which to familiarize oneself with dishes like papa a la huancaina and its starchy, cheesy goodness or lomo saltado, with its tender beef and soy-pisco marinade. And speaking of pisco, this wonderful brandy is a Peruvian treasure those of you who imbibe must sample! Try an expertly mixed sour ahead of your meal. Outdoor and indoor seating are available here and Gaviota is as appropriate for a business lunch as it is for date night.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: Gaviota is an ideal place to get your Peruvian fix or jump start your addiction to its cuisine.

A.D.'s expert tip: New to the cuisine of Peru? Get experimental without breaking the bank and hit up Gaviota's Executive Lunch. Served 'til 3 p..m. on weekdays, for $16.95 you'll get a choice of app and entree and enjoy the dessert of the day.

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This fun, local burger joint now has a bunch of locations around the city of Orlando, but Thornton Park is where it all started. Bold colors, bold burgers, great happy hours (early and late!) and a universally friendly atmosphere welcomes everyone from the young to the young-at-heart. And who doesn't love a creative sandwich served alongside a cold beer? The entire place, inside and out, is ablaze with colorful art. Graffiti Junktion's Thornton Park outpost sits right in the middle of the area's tiny-but-charming business district, outdoor seating allows diners to soak up the atmosphere while scarfing down sweet potato fries. Win-win.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: Graffiti Junktion is loud and friendly. Drink specials, trivia nights and more keep things lively on a day-to-day basis.

A.D.'s expert tip: Kids eat free on Tuesdays from 5 - 8 p.m.

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Stylish, sleek, well-located with a soaring loft and enjoyable al fresco seating, Shari Sushi Lounge has been a staple venue in the Thornton Park area for quite some time. Serving elegant and artful Japanese fare â€" signature rolls, sashimi dishes and a few hot entrees for the not-so-sushi crowd â€" it's popular with the young after-works for happy hour but cuts a swath through the dining demographic at lunch and dinner. Just steps from Lake Eola Park, Shari's happy hour (seven days a week; select rolls $4.25) would put a nice refreshing cap on a day spent strolling or paddling the swan boats.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: Shari is the place to satisfy your sushi (and fancy saketini) craving when you're in Thornton Park.

A.D.'s expert tip: Shari's Candy Cane Roll, a swirly spicy tuna roll topped with soft, white tuna is festive (and delicious) in any season.

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The Stubborn Mule

If we had a 10Best Neighborhoods for day drinking and eating list Thornton Park would certainly make the roster. And with its outdoor seating section (along with a rustic-modern interior) the Stubborn Mule would get a mention. Fans of RusTeak, with locations in Winter Garden and the College Park neighborhood of Orlando will likely kvell over the fare, which includes some gargantuan burger options (try the resto's namesake, served with maple-pepper bacon, gooey gruyere and a messy stack of thin, fried onions - this is a knife-and-fork burger!), ample sammies, share-ables and more.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: It's not for diets, but it's fabulous for cheat days. And brunch. Which, much like Thanksgiving, is an auto-cheat day.

A.D.'s expert tip: Popular for post-work happy hour and among the downtown-area residents, peak times can be busy and loud.

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Eola Wine Company's downtown location, just a couple of blocks from Thornton Park and practically on top of Lake Eola Park, is resplendent. Inside, rich woods and exposed brick warm patrons like a robust red. Outside, the bright views of downtown engage, like a crisp white. Of course, you're welcome to a flight of bubbly if neither of those pique your palate. In addition to its extensive grape stock, Eola Wine proffers a delightful menu of light bites, wraps, tacos and flatbreads to pair with your vino selection. Craft beer enthusiasts will find a nice selection of these, as well.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: For an after-work glass of wine, an intimate date night, a brunch with friends, Eola Wine Company suits. Always.

A.D.'s expert tip: The El Cubano flatbread - pulled pork, proscuitto, queso fresco, mustard aioli and house-made pickles - is a delicious take on the classic sandwich. Nom.

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Depending on the hour you visit, Dexter's can be equal parts bar and restaurant â€" but most bars don't have a menu quite like this. Ditto for their Sunday brunch. In a word: decadent. Its lovely Thornton Park location, complete with al fresco seating (particularly enjoyable in this quaint neighborhood) is the icing on the cake. Sandwiches, salads and entrees are generous and made to satisfy, drink specials abound, live music is not uncommon. And get this: they also serve breakfast from 7-10 a.m., Monday through Friday. House-made corned beef hash before your morning meeting? Like we said: decadent. Dexter's is a good time.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: Dexter's serves all three squares, plus brunch, in lovely Thornton Park digs.

A.D.'s expert tip: Brunch! Hit up Dexter's for duck bacon or pepper-jack grits or the ultimate bloody Mary. Or, you know, all of it.

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Pop into this Thornton Park outpost for a petit déjeuner before work or a morning stroll around the neighborhood or nearby Lake Eola. Fresh pastries, croissants and baguettes baked on premises accompany coffee or, later in the day, an array of salads and sandwiches from the simple Le Parisien (Swiss cheese and butter) to the lavish Le St. Tropez (smoked salmon with dill-lemon créme). Quiches, of course, make more than an appearance. Try the familiar Lorraine or venture into something new, perhaps the La Montagne, with chicken breast or bacon accompanying confit onion, nutmeg sauce and goat cheese. Tarts, flans, macarons and more round out the menu â€" and perhaps your midsection.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: Crisp salads, fresh croissants and a prime location in lovely Thornton Park make Benjamin's a pleasant post-park spot for people-watching.

A.D.'s expert tip: Benjamin's also offers a small selection of gourmet products, oils, vinegars, salts, candy and the like, which make great, quick gifts for the foodie of Francophile in your life.

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It's eclectic, it's romantic, it's musical, it's fun, it's "neighborhood-y." Maxine's is lots of things, not the lease of which is a good restaurant that kinda feels like it's in the middle of a good friend's house. Just a couple of blocks outside Thornton Park proper, Maxine's on Shine actually does sit in the middle of a largely residential area, which adds to its appeal. Twinkly lights, outdoor tables, nights filled with live music are the side dishes to entrees such as fish tacos, skillet lasagna and a hearty brisket burger. Check them out for Sunday brunch, too. Festive and delish!

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: Quirky and quaint with good food and and a festive vibe, Maxine's is an easy, worth it walk-to from Thornton Park.

A.D.'s expert tip: Maxine's patio is pooch-friendly. Bring Rover if you're so inclined!

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Great service, nice atmosphere, friendly staffers, excellent food (and two kinds; just in case your party can't agree!) – these are the high marks oft given to Oudom, which moved into digs many viewed as cursed (it was a rotating Thornton Park location for a host of restaurants that didn't make it) and turned that trend on its ear with a vengeance. Thai that's cooked-to-order spicy and succulent cuts of tender sushi-grade fish are the lures. Mussaman curry, pineapple fried rice and crispy boneless duck may appeal to Thai lovers, while the Mexican and Bubba rolls could be just what the sushi doctor ordered.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: Digs well suited for power lunches or date night and a versatile menu that allows raw fish enthusiasts to dine alongside curry fans? Yes.

A.D.'s expert tip: Feel the heat, Ask for the spice tray and find the perfect pitch for your palate.

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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.

Recommended for Thornton Park Area's Best Restaurants because: With its fantastic, park-friendly location, cosmopolitan vibe and hearty fare. Soco is an solid and upscale option for putting the South in your mouth.

A.D.'s expert tip: In case you were unaware, crab-stuffed deviled duck eggs are a thing. Soco is where you can get them. You should.

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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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