The most fabulous 10 days of dining in Orlando begins today — and although all the participating restaurants are offering fantastic deals and menus, I've picked my top 10 dinners to help you do your planning. That's one for every night!
First, the deets: Restaurant Week runs from Thursday, April 28, through Saturday, May 7. Lunches and dinners are available for $10, $15, $25 or $35, and those prix fixe menus offer either two courses (lunch) or three courses; some include beverages. Restaurants are scattered across the city and across the dining spectrum, from a few casual places to some really high-end ones. All of the restaurants and their full menus can be viewed at OrlandoRestaurantWeek.com.
Think of this as an open house, a chance to try new places, new dishes, new neighborhoods with your friends. Plus, the last day falls right before Mother's Day, traditionally one of the most crowded days of the year in restaurants, so you could kill two birds with one stone: Take your mom to dinner on Saturday to save money and avoid the crowds. Also, keep in mind that most of these restaurants are offering multiple choices for each course — I'm picking the combo that sounds best to me, but for the same money at the same place, you could get a totally different meal.
On to the picks!
1. Boathouse of Winter Park, $25 — upscale Southern cuisine.
Starter: Fried green tomato (arugula salad, toasted cumin vinaigrette, stone-ground mustard remoulade and roasted red pepper aioli) (I'm really torn on the starter here; the shrimp & grits and the pimento cheese are also temptingly Southern)
Main: Blackened flatiron steak (served with Tasso black beans, kaffir lime scented rice, and cilantro chimichurri)
Dessert: Smores bread pudding
2. The Capital Grille, $35 — classic steakhouse fare.
Starter: Caesar salad
Main: 14-ounce bone-in Kona-crusted dry-aged sirloin with shallot butter (served with mashed potatoes and fresh creamed spinach
Dessert: House-made ice cream
3. Cuba Libre, $25 — Cuban turned up to 11 (this menu good through May 4).
Starter: Mamá Amelia’s empanadas. Choose any two: Ground beef, olives and raisins; chicken, corn, sweet peppers and Jack cheese; shrimp, creamy spinach and pine nuts; or pulled pork, roasted poblano and charred tomatoes served with baby spinach salad, goat cheese-ranch dressing and tomatillo relish
Main: Bacán de platanos vegetarianos. Banana leaf-wrapped plantain tamal with African stew of roasted cauliflower, okra and coconut milk
Dessert: Arroz con leche. Mami Totty’s recipe for classic Cuban rice pudding, served with an alfajor de membrillo (quince paste wafer cookie)
4. David's Club, $25 — contemporary Floridian comfort food.
Starter: Watermelon “gazpacho” (Smoked Key West pink shrimp, pickled watermelon rind, micro arugula)
Main: Olive oil seared mahi mahi (confit fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, Honey Bell IPA beurre blanc)
Dessert: Chocolate root beer trifle (vanilla ice cream, fizzy foam)
5. Funky Monkey Wine Company, $35 — eclectic and casual, with a well-curated wine list.
Starter: Bison sliders (ground daily, on onion brioche bun, with crispy potato salad)
Main: Drunken sea scallops (microbrew bacon sauce, seasonal vegetables, Maine lobster mash)
Dessert: Chocolate lava cake
6. K Restaurant, $25 — seasonal, local, Italian-inflected (my dinner at K during last year's Restaurant Week was one of the best meals I ate all year).
Starter: Waterkist Farms heirloom tomato salad (basil from our garden, Manchego, arugula, sherry vinaigrette)
Main: Palmetto Creek Farms pork (with Logan Turnpike grits, aged cheddar, chipotle barbecue sauce)
Dessert: Pecan pie with warm ginger-caramel sauce
7. Nelore Churrascaria, $25 — Brazilian-style all-you-can-eat steakhouse.
Starter: The fantastic "salad bar" carries more than 40 composed salads, cheeses, fish, vegetables, breads and side dishes
Main: They just keep bringing meat until you cry uncle, up to 15 different cuts: lamb chops, pork ribs, filet mignon, bacon-wrapped chicken, garlic steak, sausage and more
Dessert: the restaurant does offer dessert, but I'd go with a selection of cheeses from the aforementioned salad bar.
8. Oceanaire Seafood Room, $35 — exquisitely fresh, extremely high-end.
Starter: Fried red-chili calamari with warm Asian vegetables
Main: Flash-fried nori-wrapped Trinidad & Tobago tuna "katsu" with coconut-Thai chili gastrique
Dessert: Key lime pie
9. Paxia, $25 — modern Mexican cuisine, killer tequila selection (Restaurant Week menu includes a soda and a coffee).
Starter: Ha’ sikil pak (organic Mayan pumpkinseed puree with roasted habanero and cilantro); Mexican soda
Main: Cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus juice and achiote with grilled asparagus and cotija mashed potatoes)
Dessert: classic flan; cappucino
10. The Wine Room, $25 — laid-back Park Avenue tasting bar (menu includes one glass of wine from the by-the-glass selection; let the staff guide you, but I'd go with a Ripasso or Amarone).
Starter: Charcuterie sampler
Main: Wild mushroom, goat cheese and truffle-oil flatbread with field greens salad
Dessert: Orange and caramel panna cotta
And my bonus lunch picks:
1. Mellow Mushroom, $10 — "Wild Mellow Balls" (garlic pizza dough knots) and 10-inch "Funky Q Chicken" (barbecue chicken, mozzarella, cheddar, caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon)
2. Waitiki, $10 — Cilantro lime grilled pork loin medallions (with sautéed veggies, fried plantains and black beans and rice) and Chef Jean Paul’s Caribbean bread pudding (with pineapple and raisins over vanilla rum sauce)