Orlando is a weird town in some ways.
Don't get me wrong -- I figure most towns are weird towns in some ways. But Orlando is the one in which I live, so I get to appreciate its idiosyncrasies most directly.
So, one of the things about Orlando is that, though we don't have any particular reputation as a city of foodies, we have more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States. We top some of the more specific lists, too: pizza, burgers, seafood.
Orlando has so many bars.
Before I lived here, my mental image of Orlando was Disney. Specifically, it was a remembered image of Spaceship Earth at Epcot, silhouetted against the sky. I thought of it as a corporation-owned city, and it remains easy to think that when you look around at all the chain restaurants on every corner.
But that mental image isn't entirely fair to Orlando -- or to the small business owners who are earning their living with local spots for local folks (and friendly visitors).
These are some of my favorite local Orlando places to grab a drink and a meal.
I've mentioned this gaming pub before, when they were just a Kickstarter, and now they're in open beta -- gamers ought to be familiar with the beta testing concept -- which means the game lounge upstairs isn't open yet and the menu is a little different every time I go in. The decorations keep going up and the sound baffling keeps improving, too.
Watching this place evolve is pretty fascinating in and of itself. But it's also just a great spot for nerds. There's already a pretty extensive game library and the table top role-playing group I'm a member of has made it our regular meeting spot. (Anyone play Apocalypse World?)
The fish and tater tots -- excuse me, "po-tay-toes" -- with a draft root beer are my current faves.
2. Se7en Bites
Chef Trina and her crew make the best freaking pie I have ever had in my entire life. And the rest of the food is kind of like modern Southern angels got together and designed a menu full of comfort food.
And then there's the bakery case.
This is where I take anyone who is visiting me from out of town.
A long time ago, Stardust was a video store. They specialized in indie and hard-to-find films, stuff you couldn't get at your local Blockbuster. I was kind of obsessed.
Now the VHS boxes are all gone and Stardust is purely a social hangout -- they've got decent food and a good bar and excellent wifi. And I'm still kind of obsessed.
I love finding a little table in some hidden corner and writing. I'm not the only one. At Stardust, the corners are always full of writers.
I don't actually know how Troy, the Canadian owner of Eat More Produce, wound up in Orlando but some weekend I am going to ask him. Because I am so stinking glad he's local.
Think of this place like a permanent tiny farmer's market. Maybe a green grocer. Not everything is organic but most of it is locally grown.
There's also a deli case where you can get food. There are wine events and I recently was happy to hit up Taco Wednesday. And the green smoothie is a great deal any day of the week.
(Also -- they make the best salsa I have ever had.)
This is actually a teahouse and sandwicheria so you can have a killer sandwich with your tea. Or, if you go on weekends, you can have a bowl full of grits topped with the daily special.
I go on weekends a lot. Because grits, y'all.
Honestly, the best seat is at the bar so you can watch everything going on -- the servers and sandwich makers move fast.
There are a ton of other local Orlando places that I love -- I try to seek out locally owned businesses and support them. Right now, that's super easy in my part of town, so the list really could go on.
But every list has to end. And what I really want to know is what YOUR favorite local places are. Where would you take someone spending time in your town?