One of the perks of living in a town that attracts lots of tourists is a thriving hotel scene—and with world-class lodging comes world-class dining. The five restaurants I’ve listed below are some of my favorites in Orlando, but they barely scratch the surface of the incredible offerings available at resorts throughout the area. Both Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort and the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando host elaborate luau meals, for example, and others such as deep blu at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific, and The Boheme at the Grand Bohemian Hotel downtown offer spectacular settings. A handful boast fabulous bars; others offer special meal events, such as elaborate brunch spreads or character-hosted dining. Still others are the brainchildren of some of this nation’s top celebrity chefs. Bottom line: If you’re spending any time in Orlando, make sure to take a look at the dining options the hotels near you offer.
Victoria & Albert’s
Far and away the best dining experience in Orlando, this justifiably acclaimed restaurant is located within Walt Disney World’s magnificent Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s premiere property. Chef Scott Hunnel’s prix fixe menu with wine pairings is an elaborate affair, and though pricey, it will be an unforgettable experience.
Bull & Bear
Modeled after the restaurant of the same name at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, this Orlando outpost (set in the lobby of at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando) offers the same sort of experience: a classic steakhouse menu; an atmospheric, clubby, wood-paneled dining room; and impeccable service. If you’re here on business, there are few places in Orlando better suited for an expense-account meal.
The Venetian Room
This highly rated restaurant at the Caribe Royale All-Suite Hotel and Convention Center is a local favorite with world-class service, an extensive wine list, and a fresh, hearty menu (standout main courses include braised bison short ribs, fennel-roasted portk chop, and a classic Dover sole). the Romantic and beautiful, it’s a great spot for a special date night.
The huge windows of this dining room overlook the lake, garden and golf course of the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Upscale and authentically Floridian, this is a great spot for a meal that highlights regional seafood and preparations (including locally caught cobia, and desserts like a Cuban rum-infused banana split). Try the tasting menu for a great sampling of the best that Chef Norman Van Aken has to offer.
The lowest-priced restaurant on this list, Sanaa is set in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. The menu at this African- and Indian-influenced spot isn’t all that’s outstanding; while you dine, you’ll see giraffes, zebras, gazelles, ostriches and more right outside your window. While the primary menu is decidedly adult (with lots of spicy entrées), there are also kid-friendly dishes, and young children will be endlessly entertained by the animals strolling by.