Southern Style Dining
Orlando feeds the southern soul with these 6 spots.
Try The COOP's pimento cheese with bacon for a delicious take on this southern dish.
Orlando hasn't always embraced its Southern locale in the culinary world. As a destination that attracts millions of families, snow birds and international travelers, when it came to feeding the masses, it often took a bland, meat-and-potatoes approach. But in the past few years, celebrity chefs and locally owned eateries have shaken up the scene. The city's chefs have adopted the farm-to-table movement, and with that, its Southern roots. Lucky for me, a born and bred Alabamian, I can have my fill of down-home, comfort food, but with a modern, Florida twist. Here are some worthy plates for the Southern palate.
Cask & Larder
Husband-and-wife team James and Julie Petrakis got the momentum going in 2012 when their sophisticated public house in Winter Park took Southern cookin' to a whole 'nother level. The menu offers hot biscuits with pepper jelly and ham, rabbit and dumplings, freshly shucked oysters and "fixins" like okra and green tomatoes with chow chow. This popular spot, which also brews its own beer, has earned a loyal following. 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321.280.4200
Helmed by award-winning Chef John Rivers, The COOP is a fast-casual restaurant serving up comfort food classics made from scratch daily. Signature dishes include Southern fried chicken and waffles and Lowcountry shrimp and grits and a wide selection of house-made desserts including The COOP moonpie. For breakfast, a line winds around outside for specialties like the tamale pancake topped with pulled pork or the caramelized-croissant French toast served with the housemade bourbon maple syrup. 610 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, 407.843.2667
Highball & Harvest
This fresh new concept from the Ritz-Carlton presents farm-to-table cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Guests can expect handcrafted cocktails and Southern-inspired comfort food like beef jerky, pork and hash and the shrimp and grits pictured here. For dessert, guests can order hot doughnuts, served in a brown paper bag with their own tube of Nutella. Nothing ritzy, just plain good. 412 Central Florida Parkway, 407.206.2400
Visitors to Orlando can now get a little taste of Nashville at Tin Roof, which sits right at the feet of the Orlando Eye, the new 400-foot observation wheel on I-Drive. Diners can enjoy the famous Nashville hot chicken topped with potato salad on a sandwich or the Hoe Cake Pile Up, pictured here, with buttermilk pancakes, barbecue brisket and slaw. Sides include creamy grits, mac-and-cheese and turnip greens, and live music is played nightly. 8371 International Drive, 407.270.7926.
Located inside the swanky new B Resort at Downtown Disney, American Q isn't your typical barbecue joint. Here you'll find the best barbecue styles from across the country along with specialty cocktails. You can start your day with a smoked brisket hash or relax at 5 pm with a Cherry Maple Manhattan and Swine Candy, smoked bacon roasted with molasses and spice. The dinner salad bar is served on the flatbed of a 1950s cherry-red, Ford F1 pickup truck. 1905 Hotel Plaza Blvd., 407.828.2828
Last year, Greg Richie opened a Southern contemporary restaurant in the quaint neighborhood of Thornton Park. His menu includes farm-fresh ingredients like heirloom tomatoes, turnip greens and black-eyed peas, but as the name implies, he gives them a contemporary flavor. Richie, acclaimed chef of Magnolias in Charleston and the Abbey in Atlanta, serves small plates of duck confit with boiled peanuts, crisped oysters and turnip soup, and entrées like Korean fried chicken and smoked Florida Cobia. Be sure to save room for dessert. 629 E. Central Blvd., 407.849.1800