Orlando has been a foodie town for a while, but it’s only in the last fifteen years or so that the world has really begun to take notice. Now, the city is chock-full of award-winning restaurants with menus crafted by acclaimed chefs. Some are romantic, some have “character”, and others—including the ones below—have celebrity credentials that immediately add to their appeal. Orlando is, of course, a city with a ton of out-of-town visitors, so for many of the well-known chefs who have opened restaurants here, the city provides a great opportunity to reach a cross-section of America, and indeed the world. If there’s a celebrity name behind the restaurant, though, reservations often book up fast, so if you’re a fan of creative dining and you’re planning a trip to the City Beautiful, book a table at one of these standouts ahead of time.
La Luce by Donna Scala
Celebrity chef Donna Scala herself died in March 2014, but this gourmet Italian spot in the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek lives on. The Northern California-influenced Italian offerings include inventive fresh pizzas, grilled rib eye steak dressed in gremolata butter, and an outstanding Pappardelle Bolognese.
Todd English’s bluezoo
Entering this restaurant, with its gorgeous chandeliers and flattering lighting, is a bit like stepping into a work of art. But wait until you try the food: Cookbook author, television personality and restaurateur Todd English offers an inspired menu featuring freshly caught seafood and creative twists on traditional dishes. Don’t miss the jumbo shrimp served with white cheddar grits. Located inside the Walt Disney World Dolphin.
From Emeril Lagasse, whose name is practically synonymous with the term “celebrity chef,” comes a New Orleans-inspired menu filled with creative dishes with a Creole flair. The Fresh Gulf Fish Ceviche, Creole-Marinated Fried Calamari and Andouille-Crusted Trout are well worth the trip to Universal’s CityWalk entertainment district. There’s another Emeril’s outpost nearby too: Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
Celebrity chef and cookbook author Normal Van Aken is quintessentially Floridian, so you can expect a locally-influenced menu at this restaurant, housed at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. The dining room is beautiful, and the view from the outside patio spectacular. Try the tasting menu with a wine pairing for a truly transcendent meal, or choose a la carte offerings such as the cilantro-spiked Beef Tartare or the Adobo Charleston Cut Lamb.
Celebrity Chef Kevin Dundon is one of Ireland’s most beloved chefs, and not only has he brought the flavor of his home country to this restaurant at Downtown Disney, but he’s also brought the restaurant itself – literally. The building’s fixtures, furniture and bars were all shipped directly from Ireland. The end result: a delightfully authentic Irish pub featuring live music, Irish dancers and great food, including Mammy’s Roast Chicken and the delicious Smokie City haddock and cheese dip.