Olivier Lacan

Software bricoleur, word wrangler, scientific skeptic, and logic lumberjack.

A homemade guide to the good things of Orlando.

Version 3.0 (2016)

    Coffee Shops

    Downtown Credo

    Downtown Credo's Sign The View from Credo's outdoor seating The great space inside Credo Co-working by the window with Tony

    An honor-system community coffee shop and event space where you can meet tons of creative people, enjoy good coffee, tea and pastries and great music.

    The staff is incredibly friendly and can brew, steep, or conjure up some good coffee, tea or hot chocolate for you.

    The back of the shop can be rented out for events during the day and the whole shop can be rented out after 6PM every day.

    Lineage Coffee Roasting

    A Pour Over at the Lineage bar lineage-roasting-02.jpg

    According to my more knowledgeable coffee-afficionado friends, this is hands down the best roaster in the area. They're currently located at the back of East End Market which deserves its own section.

    Vespr

    The Dick Tracy at Vespr The Butterscotch Latte at Vespr The Barrel Smoked Sweet Iced Tea The Scarlett Johnansson (cherry-based) cortado style

    Hands down the best coffee shop in Orlando. The mood alone warrants a visit: great quiet music, dim lighting, comfortable wooden chairs and tables and a beautiful sense of clean design. The menu is a work of art and hard work that can satisfy coffee and tea lovers.

    If you're serious about coffee they have a great single-origin selection; it can be brewed in multiple ways and they can always recommend something that matches your taste (pour over, siphon, etc.). There's plenty of great local snacks and cookies to go with your drink and their small bites are good for a light lunch.

    Make sure to try one of the single origin coffees. If you're an iced coffee fan, give the cold brews a try. If you like sweet things in your coffee I can't recommend the Dick Tracy, the Butterscotch Latte, or the Scarlett Johansson. Tea lovers should give the selection a sniff but try the Barrel Smoked Sweet Iced Team — this thing is the best mid-afternoon pickup ever if you prefer to go easy on the caffeine.

    In general, just explore the menu. The team puts a lot of work into it and it shows.

    Bakery Pastry Shops

    Benjamin French Bakery Cafe

    A delicious baguette sandwich at Benjamin's

    One of the things I missed the most from France (and Paris) was the "Sandwich Parisien". A really basic ham and cheese sandwich on a fresh half-baguette. Thanks to Benjamin's I can ease that craving whenever I want now. They make the absolute best baguette in town and it's not a close call.

    They also have great quiches. While you can try any of them you should start with the classic Quiche Lorraine (with bacon bits). The French family that runs the show is from Bordeaux, and as you should expect they make delicious local specialties called Canelé which you should try.

    If you're coming for lunch, just look over at the "Rustic Sandwiches" list and pick a combination that you like, but I beg you, tell them not to toast your sandwich. If it was up to me, I wouldn't allow people to toast anything else than the inside of a baguette, and only very lightly.

    Croissant Gourmet

    A recently murdered Croque-Madame Squadron of French Lemon Pies A proper French Brunch

    There are no better French pastries in Orlando. Accept no imitators. Bear in mind, however, that great pastry chefs are not necessarily great bakers. The Quiche Lorraine and Croque Madame are also great.

    My personal recommendation would be the lemon and apple Normandy tarts. All the other wet pastries are safe bets even if the dry pastries (croissant, pain au chocolat, etc.) are not the best.

    Olde Hearth Bread Company

    The huge and varied wall of bread at Old Hearth

    This is something I've only discovered recently since they now have a home base at the East End Market in Audubon Park. Their French Baguette is miles better than what Publix passes as a baguette but I would rather recommend their excellent "pains". In France, "pains" are larger round loafs of bread that generally don't use white dough. Pain au Levain (Sourdough) is one of their best. I also recommend their lovely Ciabatta rolls. Don't be afraid to explore, I can't think of another local bakery with such a wide selection.

    P is for Pie

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    Although Audubon Park was already an interesting neighborhood, P is for Pie is the cherry on top. They sell lovely little pies and althouhg it's not a marquee offering, great coffee — Portland's Stumptown. I was happy to discover they served Stumptown's Cold Brew bottles which paired quite well with their delicious Strawberry basil pie.

    Restaurants

    Briarpatch

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    Some of the best pancakes I've ever had in my life. More precisely the raspberry lemon cream. Depending on the meny they also serve a delicious skirt steak and eggs with chimichurri sauce.

    Cask & Larder

    Coffee-rubbed steak Croissant doughnut but you can't call them that but nobody cares because these are consistently fucking delicious. Nashville hot chicken and waffles The English Muffin

    While The Ravenous Pig decidedly has an American-European bent to it, Cask is a place closer to what one might expect to find in the Southern US. It's a sister restaurant to the Pig.

    I think the best introduction to the restaurant is the Sunday brunch because you get to test an array of creatively delicious bakery and pastry items and at the same time you can sample some of their serious dinner food in brunch-friendly format: coffee-rubbed steak, pig muffin, chicken & waffle, ribeye hot dog, double stack pork burger.

    To compete Ravenous Pig's perfect Farmer salad, Cask's Kale salad is a serious contender. It's massive (although you can order a half-portion) with delicious avocado, granola, apples, and bacon vinaigrette.

    Cask & Larder has their own brewmaster(s) and the brewery is right inside the restaurant (you can even eat inside of it if your party's too big for the other tables or if you sign up for the dream-like Whole Cookery Dinner). Most of the beers served are house brews and you can even try a flight of them. Bar-side things are just as serious as the big sister with a very competent staff serving my favorite cocktails in town (well, ok, Hanson's is in a league of its own) including the simply perfect Back To Mezcali (sombra mezcal, aperol, house grapefruit shrub, celery bitters, lemon). Yeah, you want to come thirsty here too.

    Finally let's talk about desserts. Too many menu bottoms are filled with boring triple-decker chocolate cakes with no flavor, the necessary cheesecake and an uninspired peanut butter combo. Although Cask' dessert menu varies weekly or monthly like the rest, there's often an impressive display of daring and varied stuff. Some of my all-time favorite include a three-chocolate mousse "bomb" cake with a solid dome-shaped crust, and the delicious chocolate-strawberry cake pictured above.

    Fatto in Casa

    Tagliatella alla Carbonara fatto-in-casa-02.jpg fatto-in-casa-03.jpg fatto-in-casa-04.jpg

    One of the many wonders of the East End Market — a recent arrival on the Orlando food scene and one of my favorite places in the world — Fatto in Casa is led by Elisa, a native of Torino, Italy, who brings fresh recipes every day to this catering joint which makes for a perfect lunch spot when paired with the lovely half-shaded courtyard outside.

    K Restaurant

    Although K's menu is a bit too static, what they serve is often downright excellent. The eggplant parmesan is great even if you're not a vegetarian because it will make you understand how one can possibly survive without meat — even though it must be torturous.

    On the dinner side, I really like their Duck Breast and Ricotta Gnochi although I don't believe in "pea-style carbonara". They could almost convince me that it deserves to be considered.

    Their cheese board is from La Femme du Fromage (whose name is actually Tonda and who you should seek out at East End Market) so that's something you should try. And please, if you're going to red drink wine, pair it with cheese and red meat, otherwise you've never tasted wine.

    Kappo

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    The Kappo team is bringing exquisite sushi culture to Orlando. If you manage to snag a seat for lunch (don't plan it, just fucking go, it's East End Market, you can't fail) please trust me to trust them and have their Omakase menu. Yes, it's insane to pay this much for lunch, no you shouldn't care if you've made it this far into this guide. It's not like you're going to eat this every day. Their attention to every detail is fascinating, from the very first bite to the dessert. They'll explain to you everything you need to know about what you're putting in your mouth and you'll leave on a little cloud. This is as close as you can get to Kaiseki (minus the pomp) in Orlando.

    Pig Floyd's

    Chicken Al Pastor & Butter Chicken Tacos with a side of sweet plantain The Pig Floyd's sign

    Pig Floyd's (just for that pun you should go) is a recent addition to the already stellar Mills lineup. You can think of it as a perfect mix between 4River's BBQ and Tako Cheena. It's a lot roomier than most places on Mills (and it even has a decent parking lot) and the terrace is absolute perfection during the day. Make sure to try their plantain and Apple Fennel Coleslaw sides. My favorite tacos are the Al Pastor and Butter Chicken (pictured with the sweet plantains).

    Prato

    The Margarita pizza The pizza oven A view from inside to the terrace. The perfect Mustard Spaghettini 'Cacio E Pepe'

    It's shameful how long it took me to finally try Prato and I wasn't disappointed. They make and serve the best pasta I've had in a long time. Their egg bucatini is a goddamn dream and so is the mustard spaghettini ("Cacio E Pepe", pictured), and I hope you'll find it on their ever changing menu of glutten wonder.

    The wood-fired oven pizza made on the premises is not the best Neapolitan-style you'll find anywhere but as far as I know it's the best and only in town. Go with the Margherita or Widowmaker (caciocavallo, romesco, fennel sausage, farm egg), especially if you come by for lunch.

    Their bar alright but I'd focus on wines. Better to take your cocktail drinking to Cask & Larder nearby or drive over to Hanson's Shoe Repair on Pine Street.

    The Ravenous Pig

    The absolutely perfect Farmer salad ravenous-pig-02.jpg ravenous-pig-03.jpg ravenous-pig-04.jpg ravenous-pig-05.jpg ravenous-pig-06.jpg ravenous-pig-07.jpg ravenous-pig-08.jpg

    The Ravenous Pig is quite simply the best restaurant in Orlando. I think I discovered the gastropub concept through it. The idea is simple: great drinks and great food in the same place.

    As a Frenchman it was really nice to discover a place in Orlando where you could clearly feel the French influences. That means great charcuterie (cold cuts) and cheese platters in to start the meal, but also their own twist on pub fare like avocado rock shrimp tacos, and the best salad I've ever had in the word: the Farmer (bitter greens, soft bacon chunks, parmesan flakes, brioche croutons, vinaigrette and a perfectly soft boiled egg sliced on top, swoon).

    Their drinks are serious business too. You should definitely try their house old-fashioned (bacon-infused buffalo trace bourbon) and other cocktails. I'm not a beer specialist but they carry great brews, and I can attest that their wine list is solid as well.

    But about the serious eats? They're amazing. Between the Pork Porterhouse, the marinated flat-iron steak frites, there's a regularly changing cast of delicious plates prepared with clear attention to detail when it comes to sourcing, preparation, and presentation. It's far from cheap, the flat-iron steak frites is $25 at lunch or dinner and the farmer salad is $12 but it's worth taking a bite out of your budget.

    Sapporo Ramen

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    You'll have to drive a bit to the Chinese market past Pine Hills (yes, Pine Hills, deal with it) on 50 but if you need a Ramen fix Sapporo will help. Their Tonkotsu broth is much too mild for my taste now that I've tried more serious stuff but they make a very decent Shoyu (soy-based), Shio (salt-based) and Miso ramen. Their Curry Udon is also particularly great during the few cold weeks in Orlando.

    SEA Thai

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    There's a healthy array of Thai restaurants in Orlando but in a few years in town, none has impressed me as much as SEA (South East Asian) Thai. The plate presentation, the taste and the quality of service are all top notch.

    Sure, it's in a strip mall on the side of Colonial Drive (SR50) and the outside is plastered with reviews and awards in the least classy way possible, but once you get inside you discover a subtly decorated and dimly lit little restaurant with a few booths and tables.

    I like their Tom Kha (coconut milk) soup although it's not groundbreaking. The Phad Thai is delicious, so is the Red Curry, and I can't resist the Panang Duck, and the Pineapple Duck Curry. Yes, it's cliché but if there's any space left try their Thai Donuts, they're great.

    Tako Cheena

    The Mary Had a Little Tako

    Affordable, creative, and mostly healthy food: the dishes are a fusion of asian and latin food. Remember to ask for specials. They change often and it's better for you to try something new or ask the waiters for advice than stick to your guns. I made that mistake early on and I regret it.

    It's open until midnight from Tuesday to Sunday (which is still far too rare in the city) and until 4AM on Friday and Saturday, but don't go there wasted with numb tastebuds please, that would be a waste. I don't like tofu and their crispy tofu is one of the best I've ever had, so you can bring your vegetarian/veggan friends along.

    The Smiling Bison

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    They always have good beer, often good music, and always some delicious hearty (but not only) food, even late.

    My favorites include the Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, and their Duck Lovers pizza. The Smiling Bison Burger is good, but not as great as it should be to bear their name considering how neat the place is.

    Watch out though, they often get packed and the place isn't that big. Parking can be tricky too.

    Bars

    Cask & Larder Bar

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    Delicious cocktails and house-made beer.

    Hanson's Shoe Repair

    The best craft beer bar in town. Tons of taps, great music, and great people.

    Redlight Redlight

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    The best craft beer bar in town. Tons of taps, great music, and great people.

    The Ravenous Pig Bar

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    Delicious cocktails and house-made beer.

    Parks

    Cady Way Trail

    Central Park

    Harry P. Leu Gardens

    Lake Baldwin

    Lake Eola

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    Wekiwa Springs State Park

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    Theaters

    AMC Altamonte Mall

    Cobb Cinemas

    Dr. Phillips Centrer for the Performing Arts

    Enzian Theater

This guide is inspired by Andy Baio's Geek Guide to Portland which is basically amazing.