What are some Orlando foodie hot spots worth visiting?

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Answered by: Katharine, An Expert in the Food, Drink and Nightlife Category
Orlando isn’t just about the theme parks. A visit to The City Beautiful isn’t complete without a stop at one of the Orlando foodie hot spots. Many of these gems are farm-to-table, which means the bulk of the food is locally sourced and the menus are generally seasonal - all the better to indulge year-round.

One local favorite for uptowners-in-the-know is brand new tapas spot Scratch. The mixed bar/restaurant space is relatively small but intentionally intimate, with a vintage-cool vibe that lends itself to lively conversation. Even the bathrooms are adorned in funky pieces of art. The small plates are complex in flavor and perfect for sharing, while the beverage menu is extensive and well-organized. The rock shrimp risotto with basil pesto was a highlight, and the pork belly adobo was memorable for achieving a mouthfeel that was luscious rather than slimy, and really flavorful served next to black rice and carrot puree.

Two memorable Orlando foodie hot spots are owned by chef couple and James Beard Award semifinalists Jim and Julie Petrakis. Their sister restaurants, The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder, both feature unique cocktails and farm-to-table seasonal menus worthy of frequent repeat visits. The thing to love about these eateries is the attention paid to each element on each plate they serve.

The Ravenous Pig has long had a reputation for excellent, handmade food. Open since 2007, this casual American gastropub offers an oft-rotating regular dinner menu as well as a $60 tasting menu, or $90 with wine pairings. Even the standard pub burger, an anchor item on both the lunch and dinner menus, is elevated beyond its modest name with housemade buttermilk blue cheese and truffle fries.

Though Jim and Julie Petrakis have earned top honors as chefs and restaurateurs, surprisingly their restaurants are also two of the best places to go for happy hour. For those who can’t resist the call of raw oysters next to an icy glass of suds (and who among us can resist that), hit Cask & Larder during happy hour 7 days a week for $3 house-brewed beers and $1 raw oysters. Beer enthusiasts can peek at Cask & Larder’s own brewery, which is displayed behind the glass at the back of the bar.

Closer to Orlando’s International Drive tourist scene is James Beard Award-winner Roy Yamaguchi’s Hawaiian fusion restaurant, Roy’s. Assuming that this restaurant is less-than-amazing - because it’s not a single location but actually a chain in seven states - would be a mistake. Though the food may not be unique to the Orlando area, the balanced flavors of each dish overcome that foodie obstacle. Seafood features boldly on this menu, and the scallops were seared to perfection.

Dinner reservations are offered at all but the smallest of these restaurants, Scratch. Unless you plan to hover near the bar, it’s recommended to reserve a table at least a week in advance at The Ravenous Pig, and at least a day in advance at Roy’s or Cask & Larder. The wait will be well worth it.

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