What's Your Favorite Local Place? Here's 5 of Mine

Orlando has so many bars.

Jul 20, 2014 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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.

And bars.

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. 

1. Cloak & Blaster

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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

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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. 

3. Stardust

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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.

4. Eat More Produce

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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.)

5. Pom Pom's Teahouse

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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.

Like, I can't believe I don't have Noodles & Rice or Redlight Redlight on this list. Or any of the food trucks (Melissa's Chicken & Waffles, oh, yes).

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?