We, the food-conscious, restaurant-going public of Orlando, fancy ourselves a sophisticated lot, don't we? Coming off a banner year for restaurant quality (and quantity), we just can't seem to get enough. We want more hip independent restos; more gastronomic bombast from Disney; more doughnuts, izakayas, poke bowls and veg-forward entrees. We expect a painterly technique in plating; artistry in interior design; and service devoid of eye-rolls. We can revel equally in scenes both run-down and soigné, but we demand excellence on the plate. We might be trend laggards vis-à-vis the rest of the world, but we've become discerning gastronomes in this local Restaurant Golden Age. So what's in the cards for 2017? If this list of new restaurant openings is any indication, more glitz and, we hope, more brilliance.
Bem Bom on CorrineWhat: Portuguese fare with French and Mexican influences is what made the Bem Bom food truck a popular draw, and it'll do the same when chef Francisco "Chico" Mendonça opens his brick-and-mortar operation in Audubon Park. A complete gut of the former BB&T Bank building has caused delays, but when Bem Bom opens, it, along with Kadence and Domu, will anchor the Audubon Park dining scene.
When: Opening summer 2017
Where: 3101 Corrine Drive, 321-236-2660, bembomfood.com
Big Kahuna's Island Style BowlsWhat: Poke bowls are all the rage, and this Winter Springs outfit brings a taste of the islands (Hawaiian Islands, that is) to Winter Springs next month with the requisite ahi tuna, salmon and yellowtail, in addition to seasonal offerings of fresh catch based on local suppliers.
When: Opening February 2017
Where: 1450 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs, 407-310-7301, bigkahunasbowls.com
Circo OrlandoWhat: With a retractable glass roof and a $3.5 million renovation budget, Circo (from the same folks behind the famed Le Cirque in New York City) is going balls-out Dubai on International Drive. The menu of pricey upscale Tuscan fare will make Circo one of those restaurants gastronomes run away to, or run away from. Exciting!
When: Opening summer 2017
Where: 8050 International Drive, 407-906-7755, circoorl.com
The District: Eatery and Tap & BarrelWhat: Sanford's dining scene will only get better once this family-owned gastropub in a 107-year-old building opens on West Second Street. Owner Brad Plummer and stepson Chris Mullen, both culinary school grads, will table a menu Plummer describes as "new American eclectic" (read Mediterranean- and Asian-inflected dishes) with cocktails being crafted by chief mixologist Charles Stafford. Plummer's wife, Anne McNamara, will run the business side of things – we're told local purveyors will be sourced as often as possible.
When: Opening late summer/early fall 2017
Where: 112 W. Second St., Sanford, facebook.com/thedistrictsanford