Central FL Greats



Eating Out in Central Florida

Living in Lake Mary, Florida, I get a chance to eat out occasionally at some nice places that are:

  1. Away from the run of the mill tourist trap crap.
  2. Not usually a part of the run-of-the-mill Chain restaurant "always the same everywhere" so-called cuisine.
  3. 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 include:

  • 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 ones.

Enough! Here are my rankings:

Rank Name Review/Comments #
1 Two Blondes and a Shrimp --Sanford 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!  
2 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! 4
3 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  
4 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 back....  
5 Harmoni -- College Park 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.  
6 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 reservations early!  
7 The Corkscrew Grill -- Lake Mary 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.  
8 Ocean 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 6
9 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. 2
10 Boston's 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 atmosphere. 6-8
11 Pisces Rising -- Mount Dora 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 quaint city. 1
12 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! 6+
13 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. 6+


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