Don't Call It a Chain…

Businesses spread the goodness of local food, brews and coffee through multiple locations.


​Orlando, as we all know, has been home to just about every multi-outlet restaurant line and fast-food experiment for decades. According to information broker Datafiniti, we managed to capture the flag for most fast-food restaurants per capita in the country this year.

It is therefore heartening to see the growth of local businesses, willing to take the risk of multiple locations while remaining true to their neighborhood-born ethos. We’re of course familiar with our king of  'cue, John Rivers, whose 4 Rivers Smokehouse business has grown from a single, former tire store location to 700 storefronts in several states—okay, only 16, but there’s still time. And the James and Julie Petrakis-driven Ravenous Pig/Polite Pig, Cask & Larder/Swine & Sons group is one of the first to make inroads at Disney and Orlando International Airport.

But it’s the current generation of little guys making a fast-growing splash right now.

Sonny Nguyen, who began influencing Florida’s taste buds while running the Bento Group in Gainesville, is taking his explosively popular Domu to new places,  spawning a traditional Japanese pub called Tori Tori; Domu Chibi, a fast-casual version of Domu; and two full-sized eateries in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood and in Jacksonville.

Sus Hi Eatstation, which began as a create-your-own-sushi location near UCF, has a second spot in Altamonte Springs, is opening in Lake Nona this year and is prepping a site near The Mall at Millenia, with more on the way.

Hawkers Asian Street Fare has spread their multi-cultural bistro to four Florida locations, with spots in Atlanta, Charlotte and Delray Beach either in the works or development, and another 15 locations in the Southeast on the planning board for the next two years.

Downtown brewmasters Orange County Brewers opens a second location in Lake Mary this year, along with upcoming taps at the airport and a brewing and distribution facility in downtown’s Creative Village area.

Teak Neighborhood Grill, which at one time had Ocoee’s RusTeak as a second location (which then split off, opened their own second in College Park, then created The Stubborn Mule downtown … deep breath …), opened another Teak in Maitland recently.

And spreading like wildfire, Foxtail Coffee Co. has grown to seven locations in various configurations since it began in 2016, from the eclectic Farmhouse in Winter Park to locations inside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and a French-flavored coffee bar inside DoveCote Brasserie, and a new drive-through on Lee Road. They will also be opening in the UCF campus bookstore and at OIA’s new south terminal.

Opening any new restaurant is a risky business; running several at the same time can have its hazards. But the rewards seem to make it worthwhile for Orlando’s own.

What local restaurant would you like to see move into your neighborhood? Send me a note. Stay in touch at and access a comprehensive list of my print and online reviews here!


Categories: Savor Orlando