Orlando

Orlando's Best Local Restaurants

Filed Under: Orlando, Restaurants

While in Orlando, anyone can get an ice cream bar in the shape of Mickey or stuff themselves on popcorn and soda. But why not sample some of the best local fare as well? Discover Orlando's best local restaurants -- places where the locals gather to eat, sip and connect. From family-run barbecue havens and outrageous burger joints, to restaurants with healthy, seasonal offerings and dishes created by master chefs, you’ve got plenty of culinary options to satisfy every taste bud.

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Harry and Larry's Bar-B-Que
Harry and Larry's Bar-B-Que
In a part of the country that takes its barbecue seriously, Harry and Larry's Bar-B-Que is spoken of in hushed tones, with respect. Though relatively new, the family-run restaurant has already gained a reputation as one of the best barbecue spots in the greater Orlando area. Don't go looking for white-linen table cloths or wine lists. It's all about flavor, heat and meat at this small barbecue aficionado's outpost.

Located in a section of downtown Winter Garden lined with buildings erected in the early part of the last century, the eatery is run by sisters who named the joint after their grandfathers, and who rely on long-held family recipes. Owners Katie and Ashlee Grimes' long, thin space is filled with home-cooked specialties including sauce whipped up by their dad and coleslaw from a recipe created by their mom. Pork, sausage and brisket sandwiches, platters of ribs and turkey and sides of okra, pickles and glasses of Southern-style sweet tea mark this spot as a carnivore's mecca.

This exposed brick barbecue haven is a 25-minute ride from Orange County Convention Center, not far from the shores of Lake Apopka.
Graffiti Junktion
Graffiti Junktion
Outrageous burgers, colorful street art and plenty of noise is what hungry visitors to one of Graffiti Junktion's Orlando locations will find. This is big food with a big imagination. Consider the Green Mountain Burger, an almost insurmountable stack topped with Canadian bacon, a fried egg and cheddar. Or try the Cheese Head -- a big, beefy patty topped with enough cheese (4 slices of American) to please any formaggionado.

For the beef-averse, there's the Fog City -- a “burger” anyone from San Francisco would be proud of: a turkey patty, pepper jack, avocado and sprouts. With inked, pierced hipster servers and neon decor, this unusual spot isn't too hard to find -- just look for the giant Les Paul-style guitars in front of the Thornton Park location, or the graffiti-painted picnic tables in and around the College Park location.
Seasons 52
Seasons 52
A fresh, seasonal menu and healthy offerings have helped Seasons 52 expand to several locations, but the original is right around the corner from the convention center in Orlando. The restaurant’s name reflects its unique approach: Every week of the year brings new ingredients and ever-changing harvests -- and therefore a seasonally-changing menu.

Depending on the time of year, entrees could include cedar-plank roasted salmon, oak-grilled filet mignon or caramelized sea scallops. Soft lighting, contemporary design, and wood and stone accents might create a sophisticated setting, but don't get too uptight: The piano bar and dessert flights bring everything back down to earth. Sample the wine list of more than 100 selections and order freely from the unique selections: Each item on the menu is no more than 475 calories.
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Miller's Orlando Ale House
Just steps from the Orange County Convention Center, this burger-and-a-beer eatery is a family- and wallet-friendly destination. This casual option provides guests with everything from bar food -- wings, pot stickers, burgers and quesadillas -- to over-the-top entrees like Maine lobster and tender ribeye steaks.

Sample some of the 75 beers or tip a glass from the surprisingly complete wine list. Daily drink specials include reasonably priced Cuervo shots and a tall, 20-ounce Guinness. Monday through Thursday nights during happy hour, thirsty guests can get a “bucket of beer” (5 bottles) for under $10.

If it's necessary to catch a game, Miller’s Ale House is also the spot for that. Screens abound for the sports fan in need of a meal and the score. There might seem to be one in most Orlando-area neighborhoods, but when the locals pack in every night, it's easy to see that someone is doing something right here.
Raglan Road
Raglan Road
An Irish pub/restaurant that serves better food than you'd probably get in an average diner in Ireland, Raglan Road is the bodhran-beating heart of the Emerald Isle in central Florida. Traditional dancers stomp, whirl and kick live onstage, and live Irish music is played 6 nights a week.

The pub was built in Ireland and shipped more than 4,000 miles to its current home at the Downtown Disney marketplace. Chef Kevin Dundon has cooked for Queen Elizabeth and U2, and you'd be advised to take advantage of the master chef's inspired cuisine.

The Salmon Swoon, smoked and served with capers and crème fraiche, is a far cry from corned beef and cabbage. Shrimp risotto, chicken and wild mushroom pie, Guinness and onion bangers on mashed potatoes, and roasted lamb shank in rosemary jus, create a menu that stands out from other Irish pub fare. Look for the statue of Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh -- identical to the one that sits ruminating along the Grand Canal near Baggot Street Bridge in Dublin -- and get here around 8 p.m. for the dancing and tunes.

About the Author

Bill Burke is an award-winning humor columnist and writer with 20 years experience in the newspaper and magazine industry. He is the author of Mousejunkies (Travelers' Tales 2009) and Mousejunkies: Second Edition (Travelers' Tales 2011) --a humorous look at Walt Disney World addiction.

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