Where do locals go when they want a craft cocktail or the perfect croissant? What’s the skinny on the best night of dancing or the most indulgent spa? We’ve followed the buzz to some of the hottest destinations for food and leisure in Orlando, and hand-picked the ones you need to know right now.
What does it take to get people talking about an old standby like pizza? Ask the eponymous chef of Pizza Bruno (3990 Curry Ford Rd). His 2016 eatery with its rustic pizzas has been drawing crowds since it opened, many lured in by the BYOP (build your own pizza) menu, a mix-and-match approach in which you select gourmet ingredients for bespoke pie. Don’t try to call in your order—they’d be too busy to answer, if they even had a phone (which they don’t).
One of Florida’s most acclaimed new dining destinations, Nova (1409 N Orange Ave) capitalizes on relationships with the all-stars of Florida food and produce: Lombardi’s fresh-caught seafood, bread from Hearth Bakery, and veggies from Joyce Farms, among others. The inside is welcoming and warm, but the hottest seats in town are at the outdoor tables with views of Lake Ivanhoe.
Valhalla (603 E. South St) has managed the nifty trick of becoming the most popular bakery in central Florida while still being vegan-friendly, making many of its insanely rich desserts without butter or cream. Whether you opt for their cupcakes, S’mores, decadent YOLO cookies, or doughnuts (which seem to disappear near-instantly), they promise that “your tastebuds will go to heaven.”
The competition can step off: The Courtesy Bar (114 N Orange Ave) is Orlando’s most-sought purveyor of craft cocktails. With creative in-house inventions infusing premium spirits with ingredients like Himalayan pink salt, rose petals, and Serrano chile syrup, the bartenders here have set the standard for the city and the state.
No reservations, no attitude, and just about no limit to your choices: that’s what makes Redlight Redlight (2810 Corrine Dr,) heaven for beer-drinkers. Housed in an old Carrier air conditioning store, the laid-back bar features more than two dozen beers on tap at a time (with an oft-changing rotation), and a whopping 250 bottled varieties, all served by a friendly staff ready to answer questions.
Friday and Saturday nights only, there are lines out the door at the Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar (Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive), as DJs set the dance floor afire with Merengue, Salsa, Bachata, and Latin pop music. Equally beckoning pros worthy of Dancing with the Stars and novices caught up in the irresistible rhythms, it’s the most infectiously joyous party in town.
In recent years, when it seems like big hotels have cornered the luxury spa market, none of them hold a (scented) candle to The Spa (2626 Edgewater Dr) in College Park. It might as well be called The Only Spa, since it snags all the accolades, all the time, having been voted #1 by Yelp, TripAdvisor, Orlando Weekly, and just about everyone else for its massages, nail treatments, and salon services.