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Where Orlando Locals Eat – Dining Outside Disney World and Universal Studios

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Whether looking for comfortable, great family dining, the food you remember from your hometown, or a world-class foodie scene, the Orlando area has options for everyone. If you’re looking for a little relief from the price of food at Disney and Universal, that’s fair too. Let’s talk about how the locals dine when we aren’t at Disney World and Universal Studios.

My family moved to the Orlando area a few years ago. The list below includes some of our local favorites, and also places we haven’t tried yet that are recommended by friends we trust. If you’ve got a car, or you’re staying offsite, then you might want to check some of them out.

Family-Friendly Local Spots

Everything from great BBQ to the perfect spot to watch the game to delicious breakfasts. These spots are local to Orlando, family-friendly, and delicious, with a price point that won’t break the bank. Orlando is truly a melting pot, and I’ve included a few hometown regional restaurants that are chains, but might not be local to you.

Family-Friendly Counter Service

4 Rivers Smokehouse is a local Texas-style BBQ franchise. Entrees range from $7.99 to $19.29. There are several locations around Orlando, and 4 within 20 minutes of Disney or Universal, so your GPS is the best way to find one near you. Depending on the location, drive-thru or curbside pickup may be offered, and 4 Rivers is closed on Sundays.

Black Rooster Taqueria is an authentic taco spot that is simple and delicious (it’s Michelin-recommended)! We love the vintage bobbleheads they use instead of a table number! Tacos start at $3.75, and a feature is Mexican sodas served in glass bottles. The Mills location is 12 miles from Universal at 1323 Mills Road, Orlando. Online ordering is available.

Disney and Universal (starred), 4 Rivers Smokehouse (blue), Portillo’s (green) and other local restaurants

Portillos is a Chicago-based staple that serves hot dogs, burgers, and Italian sausage. The interior is tons of fun, and when I asked a friend from Chicago what to order, she was super jealous! By the way, she suggested the Italian sausage sandwich with sauce on the side; if you ask for a dip, they actually dip the whole sandwich, making it very messy! Prices range from $3.99 to $9.99. There are locations near International Drive and Kissimmee, so check your GPS for the closest location to you. Online ordering and drive-thru are available.

Steak ‘n’ Shake is an American icon; Shake Shack, Habit, Five Guys, and others are everywhere now but Steak ‘n’ Shake was the original. Although the chain has been troubled in recent years, the food is still tasty, the variety of shake options is large, and you can still get paper hats and paper cars for your kids to assemble. Prices range from $5-12; online ordering and carryout is also available. And if you had a late flight and will arrive at your Disney hotel after everything is shut, Steak ‘n’ Shake is open until midnight. The location at 12163 S Apopka-Vinland Road, Orlando is most convenient to Disney and Universal.

White Castle is known for their sliders. It’s based in Columbus, but New Jersey and Chicago will also claim them as their own. You might be surprised that I included a fast food place in this article, but this happens to be the largest, busiest White Castle in the country. When it opened, there were wait times for hours and a line of cars for blocks! They are still so popular that from time-to-time they will impose a limit of 60 sliders per order. Craziness! Prices are around $10 per person with drinks. Located at 11595 Daryl Carter Pkwy, Orlando.

Family-Friendly Table Service

Bahama Breeze is a Florida-based chain that serves Caribbean-inspired cuisine, but there are plenty of palate-friendly options for picky eaters. Expect island-inspired atmosphere, a lineup of umbrella drinks both with-and-without alcohol, and live music on select evenings. Entree prices range from $15-25, and online ordering for carryout is available. There are several locations around Orlando and Kississimme, so check your GPS for the best option.

Chuy’s is another Florida-dense chain, but the cuisine here is Tex-Mex. It features the typical Tex-Mex favorites, which are made fresh and are quality meals. Entrees are generally $12-16, and carryout is available. There are four locations around Orlando, so GPS can help find the one nearest you.

Disney and Universal (starred), Bahama Breeze (blue), Chuy’s (green) and other local restaurants

My French Cafe is my favorite spot for breakfast, and their sandwiches make a lovely lunch or early dinner. The menu features beautiful pastries and delicious hot breakfast items including omelets, french toast, and quiche. At lunch, the main dishes and sandwiches are large enough to share. Prices range from $10-20, and carryout is available. My French Cafe is at 7782 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Windermere, just minutes from Disney World. It looks similarly close to Universal Orlando as the crow flies, but will take about a half-hour on the roads. It might be worth the trip anyway!

Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati-based chili parlor known for its Coney’s and Way’s. A coney is a chili dog with cheese; a Way is spaghetti and chili; add cheese for a Three Way, onion or beans for a Four Way, and a Five Way is everything. Full disclosure: I’m a Cincinnati girl, and my family eats here every week. I’d like to give you a heads-up: The chili is not what most areas call chili; it’s really more of a Greek meat sauce with a hint of cinnamon. If you’re a first-timer, you can get a free sample, and down here in Florida, they also offer chicken tenders as a safety net. Now serving Coke products (Cincinnati people understand this is a recent change and a big deal). Prices range from $3.50-$10.20, and Drive-thru is available. They are located on Disney property in the Flamingo Crossing Area, at 2231 Western Way, Winter Garden.

Teak Neighborhood Grill has a fabulous menu, a full bar, and is a fantastic space to catch a game. It has multiple screens, including a huge screen under a covered patio. The menu includes flatbreads and tacos, amazing burgers, and entrees, including grilled tenderloins, priced between $13.50 and $17.50, with carry-out available. It is located 14 minutes from Universal and 30 minutes from Disney Springs at 6400 Time Square Ave, Orlando, FL.

Local Fine Dining

For those with a more discriminating palate, Orlando has a diverse selection of truly incredible restaurants. I couldn’t write about the food scene in Orlando without including them. Most of these restaurants are still kid-friendly, but have cuisine and/or price points that separate them from our family-friendly selections.

Many (but not all) of the spots on the list below are in the Dr. Phillips area. This area is in-between Disney, Universal, and the Orange County Convention Center. Many of these restaurants are about 15 minutes from either Disney or Universal; some that are closer to Universal have an alternate location that is closer to Disney World. Check your GPS if distance is a concern.

Bombay Street Kitchen: Indian Street Fare, Michelin Bib Gourmand | $20-$30 | 6215 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809

Le Cafe De Paris: French-owned, brunch and lunch | $10-$20 | 5170 Dr. Phillips Blvd. ​Orlando, FL 32819

Chatham’s Place Restaurant: American Fare, reservations required | high end, more than $100/person | 7575 Dr Phillips Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819

Chima Steakhouse: Rodizio-style dining | $50-$100 | 7830 W. Sand Lake Road Orlando, FL 32819

Domu: Ramen, Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand, no reservations | $20 | 7600 Dr Phillips Blvd #14, Orlando, FL 32819 (also has a Winter Park location)

El Inka Grill: Peruvian | $20-$30 | 7600 Dr Phillips Blvd. Orlando, FL 32819 (a second location in Town Center is also convenient to Disney World)

Fresco Cucina Italiana: Italian, closed Sundays | $20 | 7721 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando, Florida 32819

Fogo de Chao: Brazillian Steakhouse | $50-$100 | 8282 International Dr. Orlando, FL 32819

Gyu-Kaku: Japanese BBQ | $15-$30 | 7858 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL (there is also a location in Flamingo Crossings)

Kabooki Sushi: Contemporary Japanese Cuisine, Michelin Guide recommended | $30-$50  | 7705 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819

Korean Gogi Grill: Korean | $30-$50 | 7800 Dr Phillips Blvd. Orlando, FL 32819

Lisbon: Portuguese | under $30/person | 7600 Dr Phillips Blvd #12, Orlando, FL 32819

Ocean Prime: Seafood | Over $100/person | 7339 W Sand Lake Rd #400, Orlando, FL 32819

Volcano Hot Pot BBQ: Make individual hot pots at your table | $20 | International Dr Orlando, FL 32819 (also has an Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy location closer to Disney World)

YH Seafood Clubhouse: Cantonese, Michelin Guide recommended | $20-$50 | 8081 Turkey Lake Rd #700, Orlando, FL 32819

You may have noticed a lack of pizza in this article. We have yet to find a pizza worth recommending, especially one that is close enough to the area with hotels and vacation rentals. If you know of a spot we should check out, please share!

We will update this list as my family continues exploring our new hometown. If you have any suggestions, even if it isn’t pizza, let us know in the comments.

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Amy Schinner

Amy Schinner is a lifelong fan of Disney, a mom, and an advocate for people with special needs. She loves spinning in teacups, screaming down Mt. Everest, and exploring it with her family. Her joy is helping families vacation and create memories together because everyone deserves some pixie dust!

7 thoughts on “Where Orlando Locals Eat – Dining Outside Disney World and Universal Studios

  • The best pizza and great Italian food is at Mama Romanos in Kissimmee on West Osceola Parkway. I go there every time I go to Disney or Universal.

  • NY Giant Pizza on Colonial Dr. In Orlando is open 24 hrs, has breakfast, NY Pizza by the slice, whole pies including a giant pie they have an eating challenge for, wings, and Italian food like pasta, salads, garlic knots, calzones etc. They are the best NY spot I’ve found in Orlando so far, comparable to great spots in Tampa. It’s got a 3.7 star review on Google right now. Id say that’s accurate and the prices are also fair.

  • As an Orlando local I agreed with the first two, then they said portillos. No one eats there, it’s touristic.

  • It may not be the absolute best pizza in the world (that’s here in the Midwest at Casey’s), but we enjoy Cici’s buffet pizza when we are in Orlando. It’s a chain restaurant, but there is a good variety of pizza, pasta, and desserts that everyone in a group can find something they like, and being a buffet, there is plenty of it!

    There are several Cici’s in the area, but the one we go to is on the Bronson Memorial highway.

    • Thanks! We’ll Check it out!!

      • Thanks! Let me know if you do and update with your own opinion if you don’t mind!

  • Playa Pizza is decent, and has the benefit of being one of the best fireworks viewing sites for Magic Kingdom since it is across from the cast parking lot on Reams Road.


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