There’s a movement afoot among some tourism and restaurant industry folk to name a “signature dish” for Orlando. Rock shrimp, stone crab and grouper sandwiches belong to the coast; Key lime pie to the Keys. So what does that leave for the City Tasteful – gator tail? Thanks, but nah.
So we asked a few trendsetters around town: If it were completely up to you, what would Orlando’s signature dish be? Some got saucy, but some took it seriously. Here’s what they had to say.
Owner, the Daily City Food Truck Bazaar
"Our county has a very rich street food culture with some excellent food trucks run by professional local owners. If you come to Orlando you must get a taco from Tako Cheena, the Hula Hula chicken from Over Rice and an ice cream sandwich from Midnight Sun ice cream truck."
Food Network Star, Cupcake Warrior and Cutthroat Kitchen champ
"Mamma feels we need to let that dish simmer a bit. As proud as I am of this big melting pot of a food city, we really don't have our own dish yet. Something like that needs to evolve organically."
Guitarist and lead vocalist, Trivium
"Cuban bánh mì served with red beans and rice. Bam! Cuban. Vietnamese. Caribbean/Haitian. That's pretty representative of Orlando."
Orlando Sentinel columnist
"I've always said Orlando is a crock pot of cultures. So I reckon I'd go with that – a crock pot stew filled with mojito pork, gator sausage and Fleet-Farmed veggies, all served over an authentic Florida Cracker biscuit."
Owner, Tasty Chomps Food Blog; civil engineer
"I would vote for the King's Feast at King Cajun Crawfish: boiled shrimp, crawfish, potatoes and corn all in a spicy sha-bang sauce. It's Southern but with a Vietnamese twist – garlic, butter, spices and slices of citrusy orange and lemon – a humble dish with a lot of culture and kick, just like Orlando."
Chef, Soco; partner, Thornton Park Restaurant Group
"It seems to me that most regions that have a 'signature dish' have come by it organically. I think it'll be challenging to conjure one up for Central Florida by design, but I think we can all agree that meatloaf is something most everyone can love. And who has better meatloaf than Soco, really?"
Host of "Intersection," WMFE-FM
"Does Orlando have a signature dish? No. But if I were to pick one food item that I associate with the City Beautiful, it would be the bánh mì. Pork, pâté, lime, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños ... jammed into a baguette. It's a beautiful collision of flavors, somewhat like the mélange of cultures in Orlando. Plus you can eat it with one hand – perfect for driving on I-4."
Chef, Cress Restaurant; mathematician; sustainability advocate
"Not-from-Florida, citrus-cured, don't-know-where-this-fish-came-from served with roasted squash delivered from a big truck, Mexican-grown cilantro, and off-season, heavily subsidized corn."
Chef, Art Smith's Homecomin'; author
"Turkey leg from Disney. I think sheer volume wins out."
Norman Van Aken
Chef, Norman's and 1921 by Norman Van Aken; author; bon vivant
"Magic mushroom mousse!"