When it opened in 2007, The Ravenous Pig heralded the city’s arrival as a serious food destination. Nearly 15 years later, owners James and Julie Petrakis continue to grow their gastropub into one of the best restaurants in the South. The addition of former Dovecote chef-owner Clay Miller as chef de cuisine only solidified the Pig’s rep as the place to indulge in elevated pub fare with a Southern twang (mulard duck ham, lamb saddle, or pork burnt ends, anyone?). On tap are small-batch craft beers produced by the Ravenous Pig Brewing Co., which is situated next to the restaurant’s newly constructed family-friendly beer garden.
Mike Collantes, the classically trained chef who’s worked with such A-listers as Wolfgang Puck, Joël Robuchon, Eric Ripert, and Masa Takayama, turned heads at his Filipino-American eatery Taglish at the Lotte Plaza Market. But at Soseki, he’s joined forces with talented journeyman chef Tadateru Tokudaiji and Kevin Abanilla to present luxe, globally inspired omakases. The stunning artistry of the seasonally driven dishes is worth the price tag ($150 for a 15-course omakase and $185 for the 20-course), be it lobster nigiri with brown butter miso or a decadent ending of “mat-cho” featuring a delicate masterwork of matcha, chocolate, and burnt marshmallow. There are only 8 seats in this cozy Winter Park locale, so book early and prepare your taste buds for a memorable adventure.
Blink and you might drive past The Aardvark, a neighborhood haunt that’s been serving Orlando’s SoDo District since the 1980s. It started off as a bottle shop, but new owners Emmie Olivecrona and Mark Solli recently brought chef Hugh Holland on board to elevate Aardvark’s culinary offerings, and they’re clearly aiming high. Holland’s gulf-to-grill and grove-to-stove approach has yielded some of the finest pub grub in the city: you won’t find crawfish gnocchi, white truffle risotto, or a grouper “old fashioned” with orange bitters couscous and broken cherry glaze at any ol’ neighborhood tavern. It’s about as unique an eatery as there is in town.
Grab ’n’ Go
Deli Desires opened this year to major buzz—hardly surprising given the credentials owners Hannah Jaffe and Nathan Sloan bring to their Colonialtown breakfast-and-lunch joint. Jaffe cooked alongside L.A. notables Jessica Koslow and Michael Voltaggio, while Sloan worked under James Beard Award winners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo at seafood joint Son of a Gun. But it’s the bialy—the non-boiled, malt-free counterpart to the bagel with a caramelized onion, or smoked jalapeño and muenster, center—that the pair spotlight at their hip little takeaway joint. Get one filled with gravlax, labneh, or even scrapple (this is not a kosher deli), or opt for the corned beef “big mac” served on a Martin’s sesame seed bun. It’s one of the hottest sandwiches in town.
Kevin and Maria Ruiz have garnered a loyal, almost obsessive following for presenting upmarket takes on classic Peruvian fare at their pop-ups. When they finally opened Papa Llama, a brick-and-mortar operation in Orlando’s Curry Ford West district, they were greeted with a buzz. The bright, modern space reflects the dishes Kevin fires up in the sizeable kitchen, like chicharrón de calamar with herbaceous wakatay salsa, and a snappy arroz chicken chaufa with smoky ají panca, Peruvian choclo, and bok choy. The focused selection of natural wines purposefully veers into the esoteric.
Where to Stay
In the heart of downtown Winter Park sits The Alfond Inn at Rollins College. This Spanish-Mediterranean Revival-style gem recalls the look of the historic bungalows it’s nestled amongst. Staying at The Alfond is more than a getaway—proceeds from the hotel support Rollins College’s premier scholarship fund, offering up to 10 full scholarships each year to first-year students. And don’t overlook the hotel’s prestigious art collection donated by Rollins College alumni Barbara and Ted Alfond. Designed as an imaginative extension of the college’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum, more than 300 pieces by established and emerging artists are displayed on rotation throughout the hotel’s public areas.
Since opening in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood in 2017, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden operated by Edible Education Experience has provided a hands-on cooking experience to Orlando Junior Academy students. But the first-floor lounge and welcome center, as well as the lush garden, hosts numerous events throughout the year, from the interactive “Chef’s Night” staged by notable culinarians to special gatherings like chef Kevin Fonzo’s “La Tavola” series of pop-up dinners celebrating Italian culture and cuisine. Monthly how-to classes called “Culinary Curiosities” feature topic experts, light bites, and take-home goodies.