Talented chefs create a culinary destination

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With local creative chefs seeking to please the palates of both visitors and residents alike, here’s a sample of Metro Orlando’s popular dining areas::

Restaurant Row

A dozen or so restaurants are intermingled with wine shops, gourmet chocolate boutiques, a bookstore and other specialty shops along several blocks of Sand Lake Road. Vines Grille & Wine Bar and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood are excellent choices both with live jazz on most nights in their upscale bars. Then there’s Rocco’s Tacos, Roy’s Restaurant, Seasons 52, Bonefish Grill, Ruth’s Chris Steak House making restaurant row a unique dining destination.

Winter Park and North

Hillstone Restaurant, always an awe-inspiring place to watch the sunset on beautiful Lake Killarney, serves American cuisine. The award-winning Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder restaurants are both owned by Chefs James and Julie Petrakis. Other restaurants include: The Coop and 4 Rivers Smokehouse, both owned by award-winning Chef John Rivers, Paco’s Mexican Restaurant, open in 1981 serving Tex-Mex cuisine, The Winter Park Fish Company which serves one of the best crab cakes around and newly opened Shake Shack. A fine dining experience in Winter Park on Lee Road is Christener’s Prime Steak & Lobster, one of Orlando’s oldest steakhouses.

Winter Park Village, a vibrant outdoor shopping village, has a mix of shops, eateries, upscale chain stores and Regal Cinema’s 20-screen movie theater. Dining options include Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Mitchell’s Fish Market, P.F. Chang’s, Brio Tuscan Grille, The Cheesecake Factory and Fleming’s.

North of the Village is Maitland where you can listen to live jazz at Jazz Tastings while enjoying delicious wine and famous shrimp and grits. The restaurant was named in 2014 by USA Today as one of the 10 Best NightLife locations. Eden Bar at the Enzian serves a full lunch and dinner menu as well as a theater menu for hungry theater-goers. The trendsetting venue offers first-run independent features and special events, such as the nationally-recognized Florida Film Festival and is frequented by area artists, musicians, writers and celebs. Also in Maitland is Francesco’s Ristorante & Pizzeria which serves authentic Italian cuisine by Chef Francesco Aiello.

Winter Park - Park Avenue

Historic Winter Park has been a popular restaurant town for decades, from the charming outdoor cafes that line toney Park Avenue to the many superb restaurants scattered throughout the city including award-winning Luma on Park and sister restaurant Prato. On or near the Avenue there’s Café de France, Park Plaza Gardens, 310 Park South, Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, The Wine Room, and even a Burger Fi. The newest restaurant to open is Hamilton’s Kitchen in the Alfrond Inn.

A mainstay on Park Avenue is Pannullo’s Italian Restaurant. Chef Richard Pannullo and his partner Michael Schwartz opened their restaurant on Park Avenue more than 20 years ago. “Everything we do here is freshly made, prepared to order,” said Chef Pannullo. “We buy top quality ingredients and give high quality service to our customers for reasonable prices.” Our Publisher frequents Pannullo’s for his favorite fresh veggie pizza.

Zagat-rated Chez Vincent serves traditional French cuisine and is owned by Chef Vincent Gagliano. One can walk through the restaurant into its sister restaurant/piano lounge, Hannibal’s on the Square, which serves casual French cuisine.

Downtown Orlando

Dining in downtown Orlando is an upbeat experience as more people flock to the urban center to live, work and play. Among the popular places are Anthony’s Pizza Café, Kres Chophouse, KASA Restaurant & Raw Bar, The Boheme and Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant. Our Publisher heads over to Chef Eddie’s when he wants good home-cooked soul food, such as slowed cooked barbeque, fried chicken, chicken and waffles and his favorite -- fresh collard greens.

Thornton Park offers Shari Sushi where the restaurant became known for its high quality sushi and its Sushi Happy Hour. Other notable venues are Mingos, Dexter’s, CityFish, and Graffitti Junktion all offering luscious selections.

Ivanhoe Village

Just north of Orlando’s city center is a stretch of stylish, hip restaurants such as Santiago’s Bodega, a tapas-style restaurant and bar known for their famous Sunday Brunch with unlimited mimosas and Ethos Vegan Kitchen, rated frequently by consumers as the best vegan/vegetarian restaurant. Mike Hennessy, owner of the award-winning White Wolf Café, which has been featured on “Rachel Ray’s $40 a Day” show, just opened Wolfie’s Pizzamia. Award-winning Gargi’s Lakeside Italian Ristorante overlooks Lake Ivanhoe and serves classic Italian cuisine. Newly opened in the area is Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in the Market at Mills Park.

Baldwin Park

To dine in style, head to the Village Center of Baldwin Park on New Broad Street where majestic 30-ft palm trees line the street all the way to the quiet fountain area of Lake Baldwin. Along the way is an array of restaurants including Zagat-rated Seito Sushi, Jack’s Steakhouse, CaddyShanks Sports Pub, Colibri Mexican Cuisine and Gator’s Dockside Restaurant. Seito Sushi owner Jason Chin’s upscale casual restaurant, Osprey Tavern, will open in early 2015. The gastropub will feature new American cuisine, craft beer, fine wines and cocktails featuring small batch spirits and is located just across the street from Chin’s highly-acclaimed sushi restaurant. Linda’s LaCantina Steakhouse, an Orlando tradition since 1947, sits at one entrance of Baldwin Park on the corner of Colonial Drive and Lake Baldwin Lane and diners have consistently voted Linda’s as “The Best Steak House in Central Florida.

Winter Garden

Due west of Orlando is Winter Garden, an historic city giving rise to new restaurants, shops, a farmer’s market and a garden theatre. Built in 1927, the Edgewater Hotel houses the award-winning restaurant, The Chef’s Table, owned by Chefs Kevin and Laurie Tarter. For an entertaining evening, the Attic Door is a wine bar with appetizers, small sandwiches and live music.

Networking Events

Newcomers can make new professional and social connections. . . Our Publisher states, “Orlando has America’s best networking events” and recommends: RedCarpetMonday.com®, a sophisticated social and business network featuring successful business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs. PressOnEvents.com is known for their annual Black and White party and Orlando Networking Parties.

WinterParkAnnual.com CEO Anthony Dinova hosts more upscale and trendy events which are musts to attend says our Publisher. They include the annual Derby on Park, the Winter Park Wine and Dine and the Baldwin Park Sip. Orlando’s Godfather of fun, aka Mr. Bob Lee, CEO of LifeOrlando.com hosts his annual Purple Rain and always has an over-the-top Halloween bash.

Follow Scott Joseph

Metro Orlando’s most respected restaurant critic will keep you up-to-date about the area’s restaurant reviews, dining news, drinks and chef recipes at scottjosephorlando.com.

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