Dining Awards 2022: Editor’s Picks, Part 2

(PHOTOS PROVIDED BY BACAN)Editor’s Choice: Best New Hotel Restaurant

BACÁN at Lake Nona Wave Hotel

The burgeoning Lake Nona community is on a roll, opening new dining venues faster than Disney churns out thrill rides. Just opened in late 2021 and honored this year with a Michelin recommendation, BACÁN’s dramatic, richly appointed “open theater” kitchen and curated menu of Central and South American dishes serves up a dining experience worthy of a date-night splurge. Think charred octopus with Argentinian chimichurri, Peruvian chili pepper, and smoked feta finished with black olive dust and paired with a Mexican red. Executive Chef Guillaume Robin says one of his favorite creations is the Stuffed Squash Blossom with chorizo, ancho buttermilk dressing, and date candied cashews. “The flavors pair so well for a dynamic dish this season,” he says. Another is his Key West pink shrimp ceviche with Asian pear, toasted sesame seeds, and caviar. “It’s giving guests a surprise-and-delight moment.” | lakenonawavehotel.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Classic Hotel Restaurant

California Grill

The opening of California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort in 1995 kicked off a Disney culinary renaissance that’s still underway. Winner of awards and plaudits for its fine dining experience and bird’s eye view of Magic Kingdom fireworks, California Grill doesn’t rest on its laurels. To celebrate Disney World’s 50th anniversary, Chef de Cuisine Daniel Sicilia crafted a limited-time prix fixe menu of three courses with starters ranging from sushi classics to house-made duck confit pizza with figs and orange. Entrées like wild Alaskan halibut and cast-iron-grilled pork tenderloin take center stage. And sweet surprises such as lavender sugar doughnuts and Grand Marnier crème brûlée promise a happy ending. Sicilia says the menu’s top-selling starter is a Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons dish, and “I would call this my signature dish, as it narrates my chef personality—a perfect blend of sweet, savory, acidic and spicy.” | disneyworld.disney.go.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Neighborhood

Shantell’s Just Until

For Shantell Williams, the true definition of a restaurant is a place you can go that’s an extension of home. “It makes you feel like you are at home, you can have a home-cooked meal, and there’s no rush to move. If you want to stay there all day, you can,” says Williams, the vivacious owner of Shantell’s Just Until, Sanford’s go-to place for comfort food.

Being a Southern girl, Shantell’s list of must-order items includes her fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes. But she has soul food and vegan offerings, too. She fuses Caribbean cuisine with Southern to create her jerk chicken Philly, and if you love her flavors, you can buy a bottle of her Soul and Caribbean Cuisine Spices. On Sanford Avenue, the black business district during segregation, Williams says, “We’re the last and only black-owned business still there. The building’s been in my family since 1958.” | shantellsinsanford.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Kept Secret

Atlantic Beer & Oyster (ABO)

Imagine a seafood shack with a salty weatherworn décor tucked in a cozy courtyard off Park Avenue. The unexpected Winter Park is abuzz with folks escaping the avenue’s bustle. “It’s all about the relaxed vibe,” says Atlantic Beer & Oyster (ABO) manager Eric Carasella. “Guests love to come in and just relax. That’s the charm.”

The compact dining space has a long bar where draft beer flows. Look for bestsellers OBP, Jai Alai, and Panty Dropper from Florida breweries. A few tables run parallel with the bar, where diners crowd in to feast on oysters on the half shell—bivalves from Canada, the Eastern Seaboard, West Coast, and the Gulf. Crab legs, ceviche, and lobster rolls round out the menu but don’t skip the fish dip. “It’s special for two simple reasons: the seasoning and the whitefish—a mixture of wahoo, Mahi, and amberjack. It’s absolutely delicious,” says Carasella. | atlanticbeerandoyster.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Casual Restaurant

Kappy’s Subs

You can’t miss the big Kappy’s sign on Orlando Avenue in Maitland. The no-frills restaurant has been a staple since 1967. “We call ourselves a Maitland tradition,” says owner Rachel Milsom. “There are many families whose kids grew up going to Kappy’s; some met their husbands and wives here or rode their bicycles when in middle school.”

Under a canopy, folks order at the window and grab a seat at a picnic table out front. Inside there’s a diner-style counter with 12 faded red vinyl stools. Kappy’s is known for its cheesesteak sandwiches—brown beef with American cheese and the traditional Philly. Everything here is handmade from scratch, including favorites like chili, and roast pork, from Kappy’s special recipe, for its Cubans. But what surprises customers are the milkshakes. “We don’t use mixes. We make hand-dipped real ice cream milkshakes. That’s something you just don’t find anymore,” says Milsom.  | kappyssubsfl.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Cocktails

Mathers Social Gathering

Step back in time at Mathers Social Gathering. This 19th-century furniture store-turned-speakeasy features the best cocktails in Orlando. Bar manager Devin Anthony describes their cocktail program as being built “on the concept of single spirit mixology; the theory that using one main distillate as our only base spirit enhances the purity of the cocktail. We complement the libation with fresh ingredients without taking away from the full characteristics of the spirit.” There’s a prohibition cocktail for every drinker; our recommendation is the bathtub gin with notes of honey and lavender paired with their Mathers board to snack on! Visit between 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for half-off their hand-crafted cocktails. | mathersorlando.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Bakery

P is for Pie

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll want to head over to P is For Pie. This small batch, artisan bakery is full of tasty, sweet, savory pies and desserts. Our pie rec? You can’t go wrong with a classic like an apple or cherry pie, but we’re always trying their seasonal selections! The goal of this bakery is “to provide guests with delicious quality, consistency, and genuine kindness in a welcoming atmosphere. As one of their regular customers explains it, ‘if cheers were a bake shop, it would be P is For Pie.’” | crazyforpies.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Ambiance

Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe

When you pull up to Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe, the valets will offer you a warm greeting. They might even recommend a favorite dish. When choosing a motif for Russell’s, the owners decided on a pineapple, a symbol of hospitality. Also, back in the 1800s, the land Russell’s was built on was a pineapple farm. Russell’s offers a unique take on casual, fine dining. The bar area features wooden tabletops. In the sunken dining room, it’s all white tablecloths. You can come in wearing shorts and sit at the bar. Or you can come in a nice dress and eat in the main dining area. No matter where you sit, you have a view of Lake Ivanhoe. | russellsorlando.com

Editor’s Choice: Best Appetizer

Tori Tori

If you’re looking for a great place to meet up with friends, head over to Tori Tori for creative cocktails and the best appetizers in Orlando. This Japanese pub features unique flavors and pairings that you won’t find anywhere else. Where else can you snack on kimuchi pimento cheese with salt and vinegar pork rinds? General Manager Casey Moore attributes their “success to our incredible, talented and dedicated staff.” The “goal at Tori Tori is to provide a style of service that is welcoming and approachable, while also presenting a level of skill and attention to detail one would expect from a world-class izakaya. | toritoripub.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Street Food

Sticky Rice

A 2017 addition to the Mills 50 district’s Asian restaurant and market scene, Sticky Rice-Lao Street Food earned a Michelin Guide recommendation this year. With its Laotian marketplace vibe, Sticky Rice is a prime example of how diverse the local food scene has become, says Ricky Ly, owner of TastyChomps local food guide and blog. Chef-owner Kevin Kel Phanhvilay says he’s delighted to share his heritage: “Being the first Lao restaurant in Orlando, I felt it was my responsibility to educate people about the Lao culture.” He enjoys chewing the fat with diners about tantalizing dishes like lemongrass beef jerky, curry ribs, crispy lettuce wraps, and more. Best-seller coconut curry ramen, a delectable dish of coconut curry broth, shrimp, cilantro, scallions, sautéed mushrooms, and bean sprouts, was an Orlando Ramen Rumble! Winner. “I appreciate the Orlando community for embracing Lao food,” says Chef Kevin. | stickyricesushi.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Out-of-the-Way Restaurant

Urban Brick

Enter Urban Brick as a guest and leave as family! You’re going to want to make the drive to DeLand to visit this delicious Italian spot. Owner Rosemarie Morelli noted that “the Urban Brick experience creates a sense of family and community. Besides consistently serving great food that has been created with love, another key ingredient is hiring people who care about other people and take pride in everything they do!” For the pasta lovers out there, we love their fiocchi ala pera, made with imported pear and four-cheese beggars-purse pasta, tossed in a light lemon cream sauce and finished with fresh basil, pecorino Romano, and toasted pistachios. For the pizza fanatics you have to go with their signature sweet and salty pizza with fig, prosciutto, gorgonzola, red onion, pecorino romano, mozzarella, and fresh basil. | urbanbrick.com

Wyndham 8/22

Courtesy deep blu

Editor’s Choice: Best Seafood

deep blu Seafood Grille

If you need a break from the crowded, hot theme parks, deep blu Seafood Grille in nearby Bonnet Creek is a great option. Located inside the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort, this AAA 4-Diamond restaurant offers some of the freshest seafood and sushi. “We’re known for our crab cakes and grouper,” says food and beverage manager Devin Murphy. “We source all our ingredients fresh.” In addition to freshness, the chefs put a premium on sustainability. Just outside the elegant, high-ceiling dining room is Bar 1521, providing handcrafted cocktails for the restaurant.  “Our most popular drink is our candied Old Fashioned. We dehydrate orange slices and then torch them. We also make our own brown sugar simple syrup.” They also have a 10-ounce ribeye served with smoked wild mushrooms, potato mousse, and a romesco emulsion for land lovers. No one will be left out with a vegan gluten-free “meatloaf” on the menu. | deepbluorlando.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Mexican Restaurant

Reyes Mezcaleria

The North Quarter dining vibe is hip, and the menu is as authentic as Mexican cuisine gets. Reyes Mezcaleria, opened five years ago by Sue and Jason Chin of Good Salt Restaurant Group, brings Mexican flair to dishes crafted with duck, pork, seafood, and more, pairing them perfectly with craft cocktails and agave spirits. Executive Chef Wendy Lopez, a Michoacán native, constantly experiments with fresh ideas and seasonal ingredients. “I love that I can play with food all the time … and draw inspiration from all over Mexico,” she says. The whole Mediterranean Sea Bass is her favorite dish. Still, she’s also “really into the Arroz a la Tumbada” with Jupiter rice from Jacksonville, a mildly spicy guajillo broth, Cedar Key clams, the day’s fresh catch, yuca, and roasted tomatoes. “It’s a comforting way to eat Florida’s fresh seafood with warm Mexican spices.” A new chef’s table tasting menu is expected to debut any day— “Something you can really taco ’bout.” | reyesmex.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Spanish Restaurant


If you’ve been to Madrid or thereabouts, you’ve probably tried one of Spain’s most beloved everyday dishes, Patatas Bravas—crispy fried potatoes drenched in a spicy sauce. It’s a menu favorite of Capa Chef Malyna Si’s because “people truly find comfort in this dish.” You’ll find culinary comfort in many Capa dishes, from the Platinum X Wagyu Delmonico steak to the Iberico Pluma Pork Loin that Chef Si tops with orange marmalade and micro cilantro. Chef Si recently added Tuna Crudo with mango and truffles to the menu because mango is traditionally a fall ingredient in Spain, and “I really like the combination of tuna and truffles.” Recently awarded a Michelin star, Capa immerses you in Spanish culture, pairing tapas with regional wines and offering Spanish guitar music on the terrace lounge. Enjoy a sweet finish with churros and a nightcap after gathering on the Capa viewing deck to watch Disney fireworks. ¡Es mágico! | fourseasons.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Outdoor Dining

Sear + Sea

Luxury hotels are known for exquisite settings, and JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa scores big for its lobby-level restaurant’s alfresco space. “Sear + Sea’s outdoor dining is special because the entire balcony and terrace area is enveloped by Florida nature and the surrounding Bonnet Creek preserve,” says Daniel Schmidt, the resort’s food and beverage director.

Minutes from Disney World, yet secluded, the restaurant’s a good choice for cocktails, appetizers, or a steak dinner. Schmidt recommends the hand-cut steak tartare appetizer. “The tender meat is blended with creamy mustard and topped with smoked tomatoes and shaved bits of salt-cured egg yolks, paired with toast points,” he elaborates. For an entree, his pick is the 16-ounce “1855 Helperns” Black Angus prime rib eye, “It’s a beautifully grilled steak with a sear to make the restaurant’s name proud. We prefer to serve a perfect red medium rare, with roasted garlic cream, blistered shishito pepper, and a confit pearl onion.” | marriott.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Pizza

Pizza Bruno

It makes sense that Chef Bruno Zacchini is a local ‘za-meister. From slinging slices on a Jersey boardwalk at age 13 to opening his own Orlando pizzeria in 2016, Zacchini lives a pizza state of mind. His Pizza Bruno earned a Michelin Guide recommendation this year and recently opened a second, larger ’za palace in College Park. Meanwhile, his original Curry Ford location’s wood-burning ovens produce so many popular pies that it’s hard to choose a favorite. But the Crimson Ghost with mozzarella, soppressata, basil, and Mike’s Hot Honey always has been a frontrunner. “That’s at the top of the list with our classic Margherita,” he says. And his Nona’s Meatballs and Lemon Riccota starter is a perfect blend of beef and veal (think northern Italy) and golden raisins for sweetness (think Sicily). Pizza Bruno’s playlist rocks the dining experience. “The business plan from day one was good pizza, good music, and good times.” | pizzabrunofl.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Power Lunch


Executive Chef Maelo Cotto was recently transferred from RusTeak’s Ocoee location to their newest spot in Thornton Park. Since arriving at the new location, he has been working hard to create a lunch menu. “We started serving lunch about a month and a half ago,” he says. “We get a lot of medical groups and lawyers coming in for lunch and a lot of regulars from the nearby condos.” Cotto’s menu is ever evolving. “I create a special every day. If it does well, we add it to the menu.” If you are looking for a power lunch, Cotto recommends their keto-friendly dish, playfully named Keto Keto Keto. “It’s like a loaded potato gratin. But instead of potatoes, we use cauliflower.” The cauliflower is blended with cheddar cheese and pancetta, then baked in a casserole dish. Served with a grilled salmon fillet and asparagus, it makes for a healthy yet delicious lunch. | rusteakwinebar.com


Editor’s Choice: Best Steakhouse

The Venetian Chop House

If your pulse quickens at the thought of a perfectly seared, shareable tomahawk steak, you’re in for a treat at The Venetian Chop House. Chef David Hackett of this Italian-inspired, richly appointed AAA Four Diamond restaurant will make your steak dreams come true with that 36-ounce hunk of buttery ribeye. The 8-ounce Center Cut Filet Mignon, the 14-ounce New York Strip, and the bone-in Veal Parmesan will capture your heart, too. Settle into a private booth of jeweled tones and dark wood; take in the lush garden area from a patio table or ask to sit in the new open-air atrium. Fish fan? Don’t miss the Seared Fennel Pollen Sea Scallops with polenta cake, pancetta crisp, salmon roe, and porcini cream sauce—a combo likely to make your taste buds dance the tarantella. Chef Hackett says his goal is to continue the restaurant’s award-winning legacy “and elevate the overall experience through identifiable dishes with a modern approach and presentation.” | cariberoyale.com


Editor’s Choice: Restaurant We Wish Would Come Back

Ronnie’s Restaurant and Pastry Shop

It was the Jewish mother of all delis since 1956, and legions of locals kvetched like crazy when Ronnie’s Restaurant and Pastry Shop closed abruptly in 1995. “Ronnie’s was the only place this side of the Mason-Dixon where you could get a great hot pastrami sandwich,” said then-Orange County Chairman Linda Chapin to the Orlando Sentinel when the deli shuttered. Those who once queued impatiently for a table would welcome a Ronnie’s redux. Die-hard fans still rave about the restaurant where butter pats were rationed, cabbage soup was sacred, and authentic rye loaves came fresh from the oven, where politicians and prom night partiers held court as surly servers fork-checked diners sharing a dish. Facebook fans still celebrate Ronnie’s, and the Orange County Regional History Center last year remembered Ronnie’s “Mogambo Extravaganza” sundae on #NationalHotFudgeSundaeDay. Could a Ronnie’s revival be around the corner? We wish.


Editor’s Choice: Best Service

Salt & the Cellar at the ette hotel

Salt & the Cellar is the latest addition to Michelin-starred Chef Akira Back’s culinary empire. The Iron Chef alum, who has cooked for such notables as the Dalai Lama, the British royal family, and several A-list celebrities, has brought his culinary savvy to Orlando. It’s no coincidence that Salt & the Cellar is being recognized for its service. “Our servers undergo a very intense training,” says Food and Beverage Director Agustin Sosa. “They’re taught to touch the five senses when presenting a dish.” It is located inside the ette hotel, which focuses on wellness and doesn’t serve alcohol. Salt & the Cellar offers “mocktails.” Into the Woods includes fresh green herbs, ginger, cucumber, and lemon. It’s presented on a custom-made wooden tray with dry ice representing forest mist and infused with pine to engage your sense of smell. There’s a cookie crumble floating on top, meant to look like soil. It’s such a sensory overload; you won’t miss the alcohol. | saltandthecellar.com

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