Orlando, FL inhabits a large portion of tourists. But having a large amount of tourists does not translate to chain restaurants at every corner. Having lived in East Orlando for 5 years and Kissimmee for 1 year, I’ve come to know the ins and outs of Orlando from the mom-and-pop restaurants to the best deals for a starving college student. Here I’ve listed some of my favorites that I wanted to share with all of you.
a. Spam Musubi, Mochiko Chicken, Seasoned Edamame // Hawaiian Grindz (Oviedo, FL)
A new local spot in the east side of Orlando, this family owned business is not only personable but affordable! Greeted with a warm Ahola, it was a perfect spot to grab a quick bite to eat before a day filled with shopping at the outlets or attending the next UCF event (literally less than 10 minutes away from campus). I personally ordered the spam musubi ($2), seasoned edamame ($3.50), and mochiko chicken ($4.50). The food was AMAZING and to this day, I still crave their spam musubi and mochiko chicken (A MUST!!) but can never get it to taste as good. Although these are all appetizers, they basically filled me up as much as a regular dish will and it only cost me $12 with tip! I am a huge fan of family-run restaurants so PLEASE VISIT (I want to ensure that this place stays open because I will make it a point to visit this every time I visit Orlando). Follow them @Hawaiian_Grindz
b. Taro Milk Tea // Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria (Orlando, FL)
This place is in the heart of the Milk District, an area perfect for indie hipsters that want to get away from the crowded clubs and greek lifestyle. Pictured is their taro milk tea which is amazing (being Filipino, I prefer taro to taste more like ube and this is like having liquid ube, aka not watered down). Pom Pom’s offers not only a wide variety of freshly steeped loose leaf teas, they provide a choice of sandwich that is different from your normal B.L.T. or Italian sub. I highly recommend their Yellow Curry Chicken salad (my go-to!) or their Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving (be sure to go on an empty stomach for that massive sandwich). Follow them @PomPomsTH
c. Bulgogi Bee Beem Bab // Sushi Lola’s (Orlando, FL)
THIS. PLACE. IS. AMAZING. This restaurant is yet another family-owned restaurant which has very limited seating but a warm welcome. This aromatic dish comes out in a hot stone pot with your food still sizzling as it is presented to you. As customary, the servers mix the dish for you, and if you’re like me and you love spicy food, make sure you add a heaping amount of their red spicy sauce. Most places I’ve tried in Miami don’t serve this dish with Bulgogi so this is a must for anyone who loves Korean BBQ.
d. Dessert Lady (Orlando, FL)
Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, this dessert spot is the perfect cherry to top your girls night out (or end to a perfect date). Perfectly made still-moist cakes, Dessert Lady offers a medley of sweets to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, make sure to inform your server so they can provide a chocolate greeting on your plate. And if you like mixing the bad with the good, you can always add alcohol or liquor to any hot chocolate/coffee listed on their menu (highly recommend frangelico and their famous hot chocolate).
e. Fruit Tart and Napoleon // Boulangerie Pâtisserie in EPCOT (Kissimmee, FL)
Even though this restaurant is only available with a ticket to EPCOT, I had to at least mention this to all who read the blog. These are the best desserts offered in all of Central Florida (at least in my opinion). Upon arrival, you’ll probably run into a long line that leads out the door, but don’t be turned away! They have two lines with quick and friendly service with real French cast members assisting you with your order (this is Disney World, afterall). When I lived in Kissimmee, I made sure to get an annual pass at Disney World and believe me when I say I’ve tried almost all of their desserts: these two top my list.
f. Tuna Taco // Moonfish for Happy Hour (Orlando, FL)
For about $2 a piece, these sashimi style tuna chunks are sandwiched between a fried wonton topped with seaweed salad and an edamame paste mixture. This has to be the best meal for your buck considering this is located on Restaurant Row, a street in the middle of the Dr. Phillips area with a high reputation for top-of-the-line food. I rate this the best happy hour deal with deals like $0.50 oysters, half-off select rolls, and what seems like full sized appetizers for $4-$6 dollars.
There are more of my favorites that just couldn’t fit, so wait for my future blog of additional MUST EAT at restaurants in Orlando!