Once only known for chain restaurants and theme park eateries, Orlando has burst onto the foodie scene in just a matter of years — now home to more James Beard Award “Best Chefs in the South” nominees than any other city in the state. Here’s where the locals line up for delicious meals, away from the tourist corridor.
Cask and Larder: Insiders know that Orlando’s foodie movement truly got its momentum when James and Julie Petrakis started opening restaurants. After honing their talents at Walt Disney World’s California Grill, New York’s Tribecca Grill, and The Ritz Carlton, the James Beard-nominated chefs first went independent with The Ravenous Pig. Today, their Cask & Larder — a “Southern public house” that serves up artisanal local foods and brews its own beer onsite — is a big local favorite. It’s been so popular, in fact, that a second location is slated to open at the Orlando International Airport in summer 2016. Entrees start from $14.
4 Rivers Smokehouse: When lines wrap around a building all day, every day, you know that the food inside has got to be good. And if you had any lingering doubt, the smell of smoked meats in the air will have you salivating by the time you step up to the 4 Rivers Smokehouse counter to order. Born out of a “Barbecue Ministry” cookout fundraiser, this BBQ eatery has a casual feel, complete with picnic bench seating and meals served up on brown paper-lined trays. From $7.
Se7enbites: You just can’t go wrong with freshly baked treats such as bacon salted caramel cinnamon rolls. Calling itself a sweet and savory bakeshop, Se7enbites is a local go-to for grabbing a hearty Southern-inspired breakfast or lunch in addition to pastries. In the early morning, enjoy the 7th Trimester special — a breakfast of buttermilk garlic biscuit, egg, applewood smoked bacon, mac n’ cheese, and potato chip bacon crumble. You’ll need all day to work off thee delectable calories. Pastries from $1.50; breakfast from $6.75.
Kappo: Located in the trendy East End Market, Kappo has an almost cult-like following, with locals vying to score one of seven seats. Reservations work a bit differently at this omakase bar, inspired by traditional Japanese flavors and paired with modern techniques. You can reserve a specific date and time (if you plan far enough in advance), but you’ll have to purchase a pre-paid, non-refundable “ticket.” The chef’s choice tasting menu typically features 10-12 dishes and starts from $85.