Eating Out in Central Florida
Living in Lake Mary, Florida, I get a chance to eat out occasionally at some
nice places that are:
- Away from the run of the mill tourist trap crap.
- Not usually a part of the run-of-the-mill Chain restaurant "always the
same everywhere" so-called cuisine.
- Unusual. Different. Often one-of-a-kind type of restaurants.
This is my list of the best places to eat in Central Florida -- and I've been to
all of them.
What are some of the criteria on which I base my ratings? The criteria
- Ambience/Atmosphere -- Lets face it, if it's not a fun place to eat and in
an interesting location with something to make it noteworthy, why go?
- Affordability -- The third "A," you get what you pay for. I've had a
$38 steak at Emeril's and though it was good, I could barely hear the waiter
above the din. If I wanted to eat in the middle of a huge noise box, I'd be
at Chuckie Cheese's. Notice that Emeril's is not on my list?
- Good Eats! -- Now let's get this straight: my Grandpa used that term
long before Alton Brown was even born. He knew what good eats were (my
Grandpa did, that is) and it usually included bacon or pork products. But he
knew, and Grandma knew how to make it. I like a place where the food tastes
good... well, more than good, it should taste exceptionally good--great, eve. Good
enough to make you dream about a return trip.
- Service -- A good waiter or waitress can make or break a dining
experience. Don't take it out on them if the food is horrible, but if it
takes forever for a coffee refill or they can't get your order right, well,
let your "tip" do the talking. I'm a notoriously good tipper--minimum
20%--assuming the waiter does it right. They work hard, they deserve a good
tip. Plus, I'm sure only a small portion of that gets reported on income tax
and I'm happy to help them screw our unfair tax laws (but tax reform is a
topic better covered on other pages on my web site).
- A word about Chain Restaurants -- You know what I'm talking about, and
won't see any listed here. However, a few are noteworthy. Check out my
Chains/Fast Food page for some great
Enough! Here are my rankings:
Two Blondes and a Shrimp
||Oh, my, god! I have eaten here twice now, each time better than the
time before. I cannot wait to go back here. Not cheap, but not out of
this world expensive, this place is a real find. It's a relatively new
restaurant right in downtown Sanford. Try the Shrimp and Grits--out of
this world. For an appetizer, the Tomato Pie is to die for. Hungry for
dessert? Chess Pie rocks. Most every bit that went into my mouth was
scrumptious. I'll be back, for sure!
Chef Henry's Cafe -- Winter Park
||If you have not been to this gem of a place in Winter Park, what are
you waiting for? Authentic Eastern European cuisine prepared by real
Eastern Europeans...what could be better? Try the schnitzel... you won't
be disappointed. Reservations may be necessary. Dessert is worth saving
room for...if you can. And the appetizers.... well, I'm hungry already!
Try the Roquefort Gordon Bleu...if you dare (no calorie counting here!).
And I am not a fan of steamed cabbage...except for the wonderful stuff
they sell here!
Delano--the Everyday Cafe -- Lake Mary
||I found this place right across from the Lake Mary City Hall when I
went to the Farmer's Market one Saturday. A week or so, a few friends
and I went there for lunch. We were blown away! I've been back several
times with various friends and even for dinner. For lunch I recommend
their Take 3: half a sandwich, half a salad, and a bowl of soup. Don't
let the word "half" fool you, you'll have plenty to eat. Better yet, do
the Choose 2. Each portion is huge. The salads are divine, and every
sandwich I've had has been out of this world. The could easily push Chef
Henry to the number two spot, especially given the reasonable price.
Visit Delano's--I highly recommend it
Polonia - Longwood
||There is no mystery to why the local paper's food critic rated this
restaurant so well--the food is simply great. If you like Polish food,
this place is for you. From the pierogi to the źurek and barszcz
(soups),l to the bigos (sauerkraut) and the kielbasa, you can't go wrong
with a meal here. The setting is not fancy, but the food is excellent
and hearty. And why not wash it all down with a nice cold źywiec (piwo--beer).
I've been back a number of times and will keep going back and back and
Harmoni -- College
||I have only been here once, and can't wait to go back. The
atmosphere is casual yet sophisticated--much like the food. The meal we
had was spectacular, the service great, and the wine mighty fine. They
also have a market here and my local spies (thanks, Joe and Ewa) tell me
the breads are out of this world. I can't wait to go back here.
Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe -- Sanford
||A great find here, also in downtown Sanford. This German restaurant
is usually packed in the evenings and also boasts live music. The
seating is traditional family seating. The food is fantastic. Schnitzel?
To die for! Red Cabbage? Outstanding! Spaetzle? You will love it. Black
Forest Cake? Best I've ever had. Don't pass this place by. Make your
The Corkscrew Grill --
||I went to lunch here one day with a coworker because (a) it was a
new place and (b) I had a coupon. I was pleasantly surprised, and so was
my friend. Went here again for a real dinner one night and was blown
away. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere hip and cool. We had a
great meal and I can't wait to go back again.
Deck -- Daytona Beach
||You cannot beat the view and atmosphere here. Two storied located
right smack dab on the ocean, on the beach at Daytona Beach. Eat on the
second level for air conditioned comfort and a view of the pier. Eat on
the "open air" first level to smell and feel the sea breeze and hear the
sounds of the beach. And on a small patio, you can actually drink beer,
practically on the beach
Swamp House Grill -- Debary
||The perfect place for an evening meal, just about sunset. Sit by the
open air "windows" and feel the evening air, watching as sunset comes to
the St. John's River. And the food is good, too. It's an experience you
owe to yourself and your guests.
Fish House -- Winter Park and New Smyrna Beach
||You order at the counter here, then are led to a table--when one is
available. At busy times, consider ordering "to go" and taking it
outside. The feature here is fish, and it's good. Not real fancy, not
overly expensive, just good food and a pleasant, "family style" type of
Pisces Rising -- Mount
||Saw a good review for this place, and then found it almost by
accident on a trip to Mount Dora. I just "knew" I had to eat here. Had a
fish sandwich for lunch which was very good. Sat on the patio
overlooking Lake Dora and could see the nearby sightseeing train
station. This restaurant is partly in an wonderfully restored old
(1920s) house with an enclosed porch and an open air patio with bar. I
plan on going back here soon. Great food, wonderful atmosphere, all in a
Golden City -- Altamonte Springs
||If you want great Chinese take-out food, this is the place to get
it. Be prepared to wait--all the food is prepared fresh to order and
it's usually a very VERY busy place. Want to eat here on a Friday night?
Call ahead, but still be prepared to wait an hour. But it's worth it.
The portions are large (enough for two meals) and the taste is great.
Ask for the hot mustard, if you dare!
Osteen Diner -- Osteen
||It's a diner, for Pete's Sake. Don't expect fancy napkins, there's a
roll of paper towels at the table. Find a sit, sit down, grab the
plastic laminated menu, and order. Nothing fancy here, but good food and
large portions. A popular stop for motorcyclist's out touring around
too. Worth the drive if you've never been there.