Orlando brims with fabulous and affordable dining options, both within easy striking distance of the theme parks and in downtown Orlando and surrounds, too. The city has an outstanding range of affordable international restaurants that surprises even bigger-city arrivals. Right near SeaWorld Orlando, Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine is considered one of the finest in all of Florida for authentic African cuisine (try the delicious spiced chicken dish called doro wot).
And you’ll find mouth-watering pho, banh mi and Vietnamese baked goods on offer in the many restaurants lining Colonial Drive in the city’s Mills 50 district, near downtown Orlando. Among the favorites to check out there are long-standing noodle soup bastion Little Saigon and Paris Banh Mi, for grab-and-go Vietnamese goodies. A little more stylish is nearby Tori Tori, a fabulous omakase-style Japanese pub with craft cocktails and lots of tasty share plates.
Don’t overlook Winter Park’s affordable dining options either, even if this suburb skews tonier than its surrounds. The Ravenous Pig is an award-winning Winter Park gastropub with a delightful beer garden and tasty steak frites on the menu. For a date night that won’t break the bank on Park Avenue in Winter Park, Prato serves up wonderful dishes for sharing, like wood-fired pizzas and its famous mustard spaghettini cacio e pepe.
Reservations are always best. Count on long waits at chain restaurants in the tourist areas in and around the theme parks if you don’t call ahead or book with OpenTable. The celebrity-chef restaurants are mega-sized, so calling the same day works well.
Ways to save: Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining event every September. It's a five-week foodie bonanza where more than 100 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe dinners for $35 per person.
Theme park fare
Theme park eats go way beyond turkey legs and burgers. Don’t miss the Italian truffles and Japanese beef at Disney’s Victoria & Albert’s. California Grill has 250 wines on hand, and Trattoria al Forno has more than 30 wines by the glass and more than 60 by the bottle. Believe it or not, Walt Disney World Resort has more than 400 sommeliers. Cheers!
For fancy Italian, Bice Restaurant at Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel can’t be beat. Think Chilean sea bass with Sicilian caponata and homemade tiramisu. A more affordable (and quite magical) option: Three Broomsticks, inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, where shepherd’s pie and fish and chips top the menu. At SeaWorld you can nosh on filet mignon while sharks swim by at Sharks Underwater Grill.
Eat your way around the world at Epcot, where the World Showcase dishes food from 11 countries, such as Neapolitan-style pizza (made with water from Naples), falafel wraps, and sushi or sashimi.
Ways to save: Find a foodie fix in a flash at Disney Springs. Food trucks and kiosks serve crowd pleasers like classic Canadian poutine, pork belly sandwiches and smoked salmon crepes. If you’re near downtown Orlando on a Tuesday, gobble up chicken and waffles and Philly cheesesteaks at the weekly food-truck block party on Robinson Street.