Restaurant Recommendations

We like to find unique dining experiences, and that can be difficult in an area dominated by chain restaurants and theme park restaurants.Here are some restaurants we have found enjoyable for one reason or another.You can find just about every national chain restaurant in the area.In this list, we hope to share some places other than those!The star ratings and dollar signs are purely our opinion only.We used a one to four star rating to signify how much we like a place and one to four dollar signs to signify how expensive we feel the place is.These restaurants are roughly ordered by distance to the house.Enjoy!

Wildside BBQ and Grille (***, $$, 5 minutes away)

Steak and BBQ place very close to our houses.Food is OK, but it is not a chain, it is very casual, it is inexpensive, and it is very close to home.I have NEVER had to wait to sit at this place.

Sakura Asian Fusion (****, $$$, 5 minutes away)

This is a surprise find, because it looks like an Asian fast food restaurant from the outside.I only went in because it was rated well on TripAdvisor.It was a pleasant surprise!Very nice inside and a wonderfully different menu with Vietnamese and Korean dishes to go along with the more typical Japanese and Chinese dishes.My father’s favorite dish is their Bibimbap.If you don’t see it on the menu, ask for it!

Pollo Tropical (**, $, 7 minutes away)

This is a fast food chain located in Florida, Texas and Georgia.They serve a Caribbean inspired menu revolving mostly around chicken (but also some pork).This is one of my two favorite fast food places in the area.The main dishes are good, the sides are good, and the sauces are great!Try this place if you want a fast, cheap alternative to the typical fast food.My two favorite sauces (on the self-serve sauce bar) are the Curry Mustard and the Cilantro Garlic.

Rock & Brews Restaurant (**, $$, 8 minutes away)

I really wanted to hate this place, because it is a chain and as touristy as you get, but the food is good and the prices are not bad either.The entrees, drinks and desserts seem to be a bit pricier, but the entrees are very reasonable.This is the first restaurant to open in the Margaritaville development, and as you might expect, it gets very crowded on weekends and evenings.

Sweet Tomatoes (**, $, 8 minutes away)

This place is in the Super Target shopping center.I have never eaten here because it is vegetarian, but my wife tells me it is good if you like that sort of food.They have a menu featuring vegetarian, vegan and gluten free foods.It is a chain restaurant, but It is always rated very high on TripAdvisor (top 10 in the area). 

Flippers Pizza (**, $$, 8 minutes away)

This is a local pizza restaurant chain, which is pretty much the only pizza we get when we are down there.They have a dining room and takeout, though I don’t think they deliver.Pizzas, hoagies, wings and meatballs are all very good.Portions are a little smaller and prices a little higher, but the best in the area, IMHO.

Culver’s (**, $, 11 minutes away)

This is my other favorite fast food chain in the area.You may have Culver’s near you as there are hundreds of them throughout the country, but none in Pennsylvania where we are from!They have quality cooked to order food (worth the short wait and brought to your table).They specialize in “butter burgers” but have such a large menu, it can be overwhelming the first time there.They have such diverse selections as pot roast and pork chop sandwiches and meals.The other thing they specialize in is frozen custard.They always have a few standard flavors and they also a feature a different flavor of the day every day of the week!Delicious!

Boma – Flavors of Africa (****, $$$$, 12 minutes away)

This is a Disney restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.Since it is Disney, it is more expensive than it should be, but you do get the Disney treatment!This is an African themed restaurant which is all buffet/family style.There are lots of interesting flavors and dishes on the buffet if you are looking for something different.Since it is buffet style, at least you won’t go hungry for the price!Even though I don’t stay in Disney hotels anymore, I always find it enjoyable to visit them, and Animal Kingdom Lodge is beautiful as you would expect!Parking is free at Disney hotels so that’s nice too!Please note that most Disney restaurants must be booked well in advance of your arrival (sometimes months).

Celebration Tea Room (???, $$, 12 minutes away)

I just came across this place on my last visit and I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I plan to on my next visit.The menu looks good and they seem to have a fairly good representation of high tea.

Celebration Town Tavern (***, $$$, 16 minutes away)

This is a seafood restaurant in the Boston style (where the family that started it is from).It has a wide selection of seafood dishes in a casual atmosphere.I have had some mediocre dishes here and I have had some good ones, but what really puts this place on my list is the lobster special they run in late summer (usually through Labor Day weekend).In 2017 they featured 1 whole lobster with 1 side for $15, 2 lobsters for $25 and 3 lobsters for $35!!!These are 1 ¼ pound freshly cooked live Maine lobsters, and they are delicious!!!I had 3 last time even though it almost made me miss my flight!If nothing else, the town of Celebration is worth a visit.If you have never been to Celebration before, it is a town designed by Disney.Look it up and read about it.

Columbia (***, $$$, 16 minutes away)

This is a Cuban/Spanish restaurant also in Celebration.The food is good, and the prices are not too high even though it’s in Celebration!This is not the best Cuban food I have eaten (frankly I like my Cuban restaurants less fancy), but it’s close to the houses and something different.See my notes above regarding visiting Celebration.

Jerusalem Middle Eastern Restaurant (**, $$, 16 minutes away)

This is nice, little family-owned middle eastern restaurant with an interesting menu and great prices.I had the single lamb shank for about $14 (you could get two for about $17) and it was plenty to satisfy me.Of course I did have some appetizers and dessert as well!

Rosie’s Smokin’ Hot BBQ (**, $, 17 minutes away)

This is a decent little BBQ place on the 192.Good BBQ, good sauces and good prices!Sausage was probably the standout meat and burnt-end beans are a great side.The Texas toast was also above average.Since the website seems to be down, here is the address:

4838 US-192, Kissimmee, FL 34746

Seito Sushi (***, $$$, 19 minutes away)

This is a modern, sushi, fusion type of restaurant.Host to a young, hip crowd.Good food, good drinks, good sushi.Not too pricey.I liked their take on edamame almost as much as Roy’s (see later).

Q’Kenan (***, $, 20 minutes away)

Q’Kenan is “the authentic Latin flavor from Venezuela”.This may be my new favorite restaurant in the area.It has unique foods, it is super casual (think diner) and it is very inexpensive!They have a kids menu, wine and beer and friendly service.It is located close to the International Drive corridor, but south of the touristy area in a shopping mall (so plenty of parking).

Wispering Canyon Café (***, $$$, 20 minutes away)

This is one of my favorite Disney Restaurant.Decent BBQ food, all-you-can-eat and the best Disney dinner entertainment of any restaurant without a dinner show.Be careful asking for the ketchup!In Wilderness Lodge which is amazing to walk around.Please note that most Disney restaurants must be booked well in advance of your arrival (sometimes months).

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (***, $$$$, 21 minutes away)

This is my favorite of the Disney dinner shows.Same BBQ food as whispering Canyon but with a vaudeville style, family friendly dinner show complete with fart jokes, which makes it favorite with kids!Please note that most Disney restaurants must be booked well in advance of your arrival (sometimes months).

El Tenampa (****, $$$, 21 minutes away)

Maybe the best Mexican restaurant I have ever eaten in (especially since Maria Bonita in Cancun closed)!Huge menu of fantastic dishes (not just tacos and burritos here), interesting drinks and reasonably priced.I had the shrimp sampler plate last time, which had 6 different kinds of shrimp (including ceviche and stew) and it was about $22 (one of the most expensive dishes on the menu.Lots of different juices (fruit waters), horchata, and tequila selections.On Fridays and Sundays, they have a Mariachi band!P.S. Their website is so bad, I included the TripAdvisor link instead.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ (****, $$$, 22 minutes away)

This restaurant is a national chain, but I love it anyway!It is located in what is known as the “I-Drive” corridor, which stands for International Drive.If you are not familiar with this area or term, International Drive is a road that runs roughly parallel to the I-4 between Sea World and Universal.The I-Drive corridor is jam packed from end to end with hotels, chain restaurants and cheesy tourist attractions (like Ripley’s Believe It or Not).It also has some decent attractions like the Orlando Eye.It is very difficult to find any restaurant in this area that has great food and is not a chain (or maybe I should say, is unique).Gyu-Kaku is a rare exception.It is a cook-your-food restaurant in a style similar to The Melting Pot, but instead of boiling everything, you cook it on a grill embedded in the center of your table.I am not a huge fan of The Melting Pot, because boiled meat is, well, boiled meat!Now grilled meat on the other hand, that’s what America is all about…but in a Japanese restaurant.I shared the Meat Lovers mean with a friend.It comes with an appetizer, soup, salad, six kinds of meat and dessert for $58 (as of March 2018).Of course the meats were good, but what really made this place great was that the appetizer, soup and salad were all phenomenal as well!This is a fun place to try for a special occasion!

Sonny’s BBQ (***, $$, 23 minutes away)

Local BBQ chain.Very good in all the meat categories (brisket, pulled pork, chicken, ribs).Good sides as well.Banana pudding done right.I am very particular about my BBQ, and this place is pretty good for a chain.You pass right by this place on the way to Legoland, which is how I discovered it.

Roy’s Restaurant (****, $$$$, 25 minutes away)

Roy’s is a chain of Hawaiian fusion cuisine restaurants started by a famous chef (Roy Yamaguchi).The food is excellent, and the Hawaiian flare makes for unique dishes.The have the best edamame I have tasted (the secret is their house made Togarashi spice (which they kindly gave me a container of after I gushed about it to the waiter).They also have an amazing pineapple upside down cake for dessert (which may have to be ordered early in the meal, so don’t miss it)!!

Clermont Oyster Bar (**, $$, 30 minutes away)

Central Florida is generally not the best place to get seafood, but this place is pretty good.If you like dives with character, this is the place to try!It can be a little difficult to find (though GPS took me right there).It is in a part of a building occupied by an electrical company and a real estate agent.This place was apparently started by the electrician (who owns the building) as a hangout for employees and family, but it has built a reputation among the general public now.They specialize in oysters, and will shuck them right in front of you when you are ready to eat them!They also have great hush puppies and other seafood as well (clams, shrimp, and crab legs).

Calabria Ristorante and NY Style Pizza (???, $$, 32 minutes away)

I have not yet tried this place, but it came highly recommended to me.Apparently they make there own cheeses (Feta and Mozzarella) and I am told they have some of the best pizza in the area.It is on my list to try and my next trip!

The Crooked Spoon (****, $$, 33 minutes away)

This is my new favorite place to eat in the area!It is a fantastic gastropub with food every bit as good as the Ravenous Pig, but at one half to one third the prices!!!They have three regular menu items which were featured on the food network, and the daily specials are always interesting to try.On Tuesdays, all burgers on the menu are $8 and on Wednesdays, all bottles of wine $30 and over are half price!What’s not to love?

The Ravenous Pig (****, $$$$, 36 minutes away)

This is a great gastropub and a destination for foodies.It is a bit of drive, and can be quite expensive, but worth it!

Rumba Island Bar and Grill (****, $$$, 80 minutes away)

This restaurant is one of those rare finds where everything is done right, from the drinks to the appetizers, to the main courses and through dessert.The service was so good that I went out of my way to find the manager and compliment our server.Caribbean style food done to perfection!This is a must try place if in the Clearwater area (the best beach around our houses).