Off-Site Eats
Our favorite restaurants outside the theme parks.

If you've been to Disney World or Universal Studios and you've ventured off property, odds are you've found that a decent restaurant in Orlando near the theme parks can be tough to come by, very tough in fact.

Sadly, most of Highway 192 near Disney and International Drive near Universal are both populated by a combination of boring national chain restaurants and those scary hole-in-the-wall places that put off even the most adventurous culinary explorer. Case-in-point, "Colorado House of Beef" specializes in a Mexican buffet. Peculiar? To say the least. Check back often - we'll be adding more locations in the future.
 
Location & Reviews 
However, over the years with lots of trial and a lot more error than success, we've found a few places near the parks that we love. We'll break them down for you by area. These reviews will be purposefully short, simple and to the point - if we listed a restaurant here it's because we like it. Don't see one listed that you like? Well, we either haven't been there yet or we didn't like it.  

What We Like
First, a little background so you know what type of palate you're hearing from, we're not vegetarian or vegan or pescatarian, we just love good food. We'll try just about anything once, we love very flavorful and spicy dishes, the bland "please the masses and impress no one" philosophy has no room on our plate. But, at the same time, we're not snobs and we can be perfectly happy with our favorite Taco Bell menu items . . . as long as you let me liberally apply fire sauce. 
Thursday
May162013

Ari Sushi 

Celebration - 15 minutes from Disney
671 Front St • 407-566-1889 
Visit their website here.

Approximately $10/roll.

Reasonably priced, high-quality sushi. Most diners can order 2 rolls for a meal and be full. Their Spicy Tuna Roll is one of the best we've had. A trendy but small restaurant. Make a reservation for a Friday or Saturday night. Formerly known as Seito Sushi Celebration.
Friday
May172013

Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ

Universal Resort Area - 10 minutes from Universal
5818 Conroy Rd. (at Kirkman Rd.) • 407-295-1212
Visit their website here.

Approximately $8 entrees

Like any good BBQ place, you can smell the smoker long before you can see the restaurant. They’ve been slowly smoking your dinner since the early morning hours to make you the best BBQ you’ve ever had. The pulled pork sandwich here is absolutely world class. The sauces here are amazing - rich, deep flavors that really enhance the bbq, and they even have one, "Killer", that is for the professional spicy eater. They do to-go orders as well if you want to bring it back to your hotel.

*This restaurant is so popular and successful that they've opened a few locations around Orlando. Good news, they're all following the same exacting standards as the original.
Friday
May172013

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

International Drive - 15 minutes from Universal
8625 International Drive • 407-248-2222
Visit their website here.

Approximately $9/tapa.

Most diners will order 3 tapas to make a meal. You'll find some unique items (they even have gator bites) that are all excellently prepared, flavorful and leave you wishing there was just one more bite. An eclectic artsy restaurant with a large delicious tapas menu and killer sangria, great food in this high-energy restaurant, the art on the walls is for sale too. They also have a great Happy Hour. Be sure to get on their mailing list for special offers - like free food!
Friday
May172013

Charley's Steakhouse

International Drive & Hwy 192 - 10 minutes from Disney
8255 International Drive • 407-363-0228
2901 Parkway Blvd. • 407-239-1270
Visit their website here.

Approximately $40 entrée + a la cart side items

Some of the best steaks you'll find anywhere. Unfortunately, in today's sea of chain restaurants, it's easy to pay a fortune for mediocre. This time it ain't cheap, but over $30 for a steak without a single side somehow feels just fine for this sort of delicousness. Aged and perfectly seared on their ultra-hot grills, these steaks will ruin you for all others. Split a giant smashed potato with a neighbor and you've got a hundred dollar meal for a special occassion. Enjoy the old-fashioned steakhouse atmosphere and the view of their walk-in cooler of in-house aged primals and fresh cut steaks before taking your seat. While it is expensive there's no need to be intimidated. Flip flops and a tank top might not be a great choice but a polo and khakis will make you fit right in with their casual and comfortable atmosphere.

*Other locations in Downtown Orlando and Tampa 
Thursday
May162013

Columbia Restaurant

Celebration - 15 minutes from Disney
649 Front St. • 407-566-1505
Visit their website here.

Approximately $18-$30 entrees.

The best Cuban & Spanish dishes you'll find in Florida. They're famous for their "1905 Salad" (named for the year the original restaurant opened in Tampa). The delicious salad, prominantly featuring ham and swiss cheese, is tossed right at your table. Big deal, lots of salads are tossed tableside, right? How about a house-made dressing created for your salad that's made from scratch right at your table too? Now we're talking. We've eaten here several times for lunch and dinner and always love everything we order. Atmosphere is classy but not stuffy. They make one of the best Sangrias you'll ever have the pleasure of drinking. Just get a pitcher, trust us. They have a small, dark and intimate bar off to the side of the main dining room that's nice to grab a glass of Sangria or an expertly poured old-fashioned cocktail and enjoy the live music. Here's a fun bit of trivia for you: the Columbia is
 also the oldest restaurant in Florida.

*Multiple locations in Central Florida. Original oldest restaurant located in Ybor City near Tampa.
Friday
May172013

Everglades Restaurant

International Drive - 15 minutes from Universal - 20 minutes from Disney (5 minutes from SeaWorld)
9840 International Drive • Rosen Centre Hotel • 407-996-2385
Visit their website here.

Approximately $35 entrees.

One of our favorites when we feel like splurging on a high-class meal. We've been here many times and every meal has been superb. Classy service and an upscale steak/seafood menu with a focus on Florida foods: grouper, shrimp and even buffalo - yup, we've got farm-raised buffalo here. The high-end menu is accompanied by a confusing yet amusing mix of very upscale/tacky decor - look up, is that a giant fiberglass manatee above you? The owner has taken some styling cues from the putt-putt courses down the street but the food is spot on. Check their website before you go, they often have discounts posted (sometimes buy-one get-one entrees!.
Wednesday
Jun172015

Gator's Dockside

Cagan Crossings - 4 Corners - 10 minutes from Disney
601 Cagan Park Ave. Bldg #4
Clermont, FL 34714
352-536-1174

Gator's Dockside Menu

This is a decent sports bar with a good selection of reasonably priced bar food and a moderate selection of excellently priced beer. Actually "bar food" probably isn't 100% fair, they've got a selection similar to what you'd expect at a chain sit-down restaurant but it tends to be better tasting than most of your average national chain-brand places. Being a sports bar, there's a focus on appetizers and tasty Florida-style grilled wings with lots of custom Gator's wing sauces.

Gator's would love to convince you that they're a great family restaurant and there is a family dining area and there are always families with children of all ages eating while we're there but, if we're honest, this is really more of a sports bar. Think of "family restaurant" in the same way that Buffalo Wild Wings claims they're a family place.

Lots of big screen TVs, pool, darts, and hightop tables combined with great beer specials keep us coming back here every so often.

Wednesday
May222013

Hot & Juicy Crawfish

Universal Resort Area / Sand Lake Rd. (aka Restaurant Row)
7572 West Sand Lake Rd. • In the Publix Shopping Plaza • 407-370-4655
Visit their website here.

Approximately $16 entrees
 
Delicious, cajun-spiced whole crawfish served in the plastic bag they were cooked in. No silverware, not even a plate, but fun and tasty. Crawfish have tended to be a touch on the small side but they're nicely seasoned and fun to eat.
Thursday
May162013

Johnnie's Hideaway

Downtown Disney Area
12551 State Road 535 • Crossroads by Downtown Disney • 407-827-1111
Visit their website here.

Approximately $30 entrees

Comfortable, casual yet upscale atmosphere. Specializing in seafood and steak. A bit pricy but well worth it. Also a good Happy Hour - Mon-Sat 4:30-6:30. A large outdoor patio wraps around the side for a more casual hang out.
Wednesday
May222013

Sloppy Taco Palace (STP)

Universal Resort Area
4892 S. Kirkman Rd. (at Conroy Rd.) • 407-574-6474
Visit their website here.

Approximately $8 entrees

A little bit of a dive bar but it's good. Great selection of beer (albeit in bottles and cans for the most part) and good, cheap bar food. The "sloppy tacos" are worth the trip alone. Flaky flour shell, pico de gallo, your choice of meat and covered in bright yellow queso. The crunchy shell and creamy queso will leave you wondering where this temptation has been on all of those late nights.
Monday
Jul212014

Texas De Brazil

International Drive
5259 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819 - (407) 355-0355
Visit their website here.

Approximately $47 all-you-can-eat steak and salad bar (Salad bar only option: $25)

You've likely been to a "Churrascaria" Brazilian Steakhouse by now so I'm not going to waste a lot of time explaining the concept. Long story short, servers wander with varying cuts of delicious assorted steaks and bring them to your plate until you're very, very full. As expected, steaks here are excellent. Possibly not expected, Texas De Brazil also has an extremely impressive salad bar, sushi, salmon, assorted cheeses and breads, potato salad, pasta salad, greek orzo salad, the list goes on and on. Carnivores, surely you can talk the family into taking you here with the less expensive salad bar option for them!

Lunches are less expensive as well. See their website for details. Sign up for their email for special deals for birthdays and anniversaries.

Thursday
May162013

Thai Silk

International Drive
6803 S Kirkman Rd. (at Kirkman & I-Drive) • 407-226-8997
Visit their website here.

Approximately $12-$20 entrees (Cheaper lunch specials available)
 
The best Thai we've found in Orlando. Very flavorful, reasonably priced, and one of only a handful of restaurants that's not afraid to make it HOT when you ask for HOT. Always a good thing on my list. (Formerly known as Red Bamboo - same chefs, new name).
Monday
Jul212014

The Pub at Pointe Orlando

International Drive
9101 International Dr. Orlando, FL 32819 (At Pointe Orlando) - 407-352-2305
Visit their website here.

Approximately $10-$15 entrees

Great selection of beer and liquor including a couple of those trendy new "pour your own beer" taps on the walls. Nice drink specials for happy hour. Tasty Irish sandwiches. Nicely designed, comfortable bar.

Monday
Jul212014

Yellow Dog Eats

West of Universal/North of Disney
1236 Hempel Ave, Windermere, FL 34786 - (407) 296-0609
Visit their website here.

Approximately $10 entrees

Feel like you haven't found the hipster in Orlando? Don't worry, we've got plenty. Feel like a sandwich with a fun name like the "Kitty Kat"? How 'bouta "Holy Crap"? Yellow Dog Eats has great, unique and trendy sandwiches. Ingredients like cointreau mayo and goat cheese on smokey BBQ sandwiches make the silly names worth it. It's a little bit of a hike from the tourist areas but if you're feeling like a zanny sandwich, it's a drive you'll want to make.