Outdoor Dining in Orlando
If you’re anything like us here at Debbie’s Villas HQ, one of the most essential requirements for the happiest of holidays is the ability to dine outdoors and enjoy the wonderful sense of freedom that goes with it, La Bella Vida, if you like.
Patios and covered verandas abound, and you don’t need to look too far to find somewhere that offers the luxury of dining with natural air-conditioning, and we have put together an essential catalogue of all the places that you can count on for memorable outdoor dining, especially now the summer heat has cooled off.
Outdoor Dining at the Orlando Parks
Surprisingly, most restaurants at Disney and Co are all indoors, but there are a few that are worth looking out for, and they all allow you to enjoy the theme park vibe while taking a break from the ride frenzy.
Magic Kingdom: While Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland offers the fun indoor entertainment of Sonny Eclipse and his one-man (animatronic) show, there is plenty of outdoor seating here that allows you to avoid the crowds inside.
Epcot: It’s hard to compete with the sip-and-stroll vibe of Epcot during the four main festivals but grab a snack or small meal from Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion and take it outside to a small patio under the bamboo next to the Koi Pond and you have an ideal location for an outdoor chill-out.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: You simply can’t beat the cocktails and small-bites menu at the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge, which is not indoors at all, as it sounds, but on a lovely terrace outside the main restaurant.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Outside the hottest months of the year (basically June to September), the ideal spot for some al fresco sit-down dining is Flame Tree Barbecue, the counter-service eatery that is all about taking your food into the open-air picnic areas behind the servery. Special shout-out to the outdoor terrace at the Nomad Lounge for some grown-up cocktail choices.
Universal Studios: When you’re ready for a full-service lunch or dinner, look to see if Lombard’s Seafood Grille in the San Francisco area has one of its rear terrace tables open. If not, the TODAY Café is your best choice, just inside the main entrance.
Islands of Adventure: Many people miss it, but the Harry Potter-themed Three Broomsticks has plenty of outdoor space at the rear of the restaurant, and it comes with a great view of the superb VelociCoaster ride in the neighbouring Jurassic Park land.
The big tourist destination between Disney and Universal is also home to several fine options for that idyllic open-air meal. This is true outdoor dining territory and your choices vary from the predictable (TGI Friday’s, Shake Shack and Buffalo Wild Wings) to the more offbeat, including Café Tu Tu Tango, Taverna Opa and Bahama Breeze.
You can also look for some especially distinctive dining at our Fab Four for the I-Drive area:
The Yard House: Here’s a gastropub that features both great beer and fine food, and it’s all offered with the opportunity to sit in their outside terrace and soak up the views and vibe of ICON Park.
Cuba Libre: Get ready for a journey to exciting Havana, and all the Cuban speciality dishes that go with it, at this wonderfully themed and delightfully situated restaurant in the heart of Pointe Orlando.
The Hampton Social: The fresh, nautical style of this elegant recent restaurant, also at Pointe Orlando, is just the starting point for a casual lunch, special dinner or weekend brunch, with seafood always a speciality.
Miller’s Ale House: Orlando’s big sports-bar restaurant chain boasts one of their largest venues in the heart of I-Drive, with its own outdoor patio and bar area that is ideal for those balmy evenings.
If there is one suburb of Orlando that has practically cornered the market in creating its own pavement café culture, it is ritzy Winter Park, just to the north of downtown. Here, it’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t have an outdoor option.
But choose any of our favourites for this area and you can be sure of a truly memorable meal, as well as that essential open-air vibe. Choose from:
Briarpatch: The locals’ big choice for breakfast, lunch or weekend brunch, with a fresh, inviting menu and an elegant outdoor patio in front of the restaurant.
Prato: Bustling, lively and very, very tasty, Prato is a gastropub style in menu and pavement café in vibe. You may well need a reservation here as it is a popular choice at weekends.
Bosphorous: Excellent Turkish cuisine is on the menu at this corner venue on high-profile Park Avenue, where their pavement tables are always sought after and make the ideal people-watching opportunity.
Hamilton’s Kitchen: At the chic Alfond Inn on New England Avenue, signature restaurant Hamilton’s Kitchen offers some of the best food in town, along with an inner courtyard that is the perfect setting for lunch or dinner al fresco.
Not willing to be outdone by its fancy neighbour of Winter Park, Winter Garden has quietly become the big outdoor dining story of Orlando suburbs in recent years.
Plant Street has been the epicentre of this movement, and the likes of The Hangry Bison, Mangoni Italian Market and Moon Cricket Grille serve up a delicious array of menu choices that run the gamut of classic comfort food to wine bar chic.
Then there’s Plant Street Market, with its extensive outdoor terrace along one side and fully 10 dining choices to choose from inside, along with the signature Crooked Can Brewery. It’s a rich and exciting mixture of dining styles and you are spoiled for choice here.
You’ll also find another fab outdoor patio at the wildly eccentric Yellow Dog Eats in nearby Gotha, where the locals often insist this serves THE best sandwiches in town.
There are others, of course. This is Florida after all, and the outdoor vibe is never far away. But stick with our recommendations and you simply can’t go wrong.