Hotel dining has certainly changed over the years. Gone are the dimly lit hotel lounges off the lobby with a bar menu of club sandwiches and BLTs. Today's hotels, especially in Orlando, put as much emphasis on the dining as the overnight stay. Orlando guests will find trendy restaurants with innovative menus and award-winning chefs, surprisingly located within Orlando's hotels and resorts. Here are some highlights, whether you're booking a stay or looking for a great meal.
The pinnacle of hotel dining is Victoria & Albert's at none other than Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. At Orlando's only five-diamond restaurant, multiple James Beard semi-finalist Scott Hunnel takes guests on a decadent 10-course culinary journey. For more fabulous dining experiences on property, try Citricos and Narcoossee’s.
This Ritz-Carlton restaurant was created by Chef Norman Van Aken, the only Floridian inducted into the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage.” Other excellent choices on property are Highball and Harvest, for fine bourbon and Southern cuisine, and Primo at the JW Marriott, with its own impressive garden.
On the penthouse floor of the stunning five-diamond Four Seasons is Capa, a Spanish-style steakhouse with panoramic views, craft cocktails and exquisite cuisine. Also on property are Plancha, a Cuban-style clubhouse eatery, and Ravello, a stylish Italian restaurant serving breakfast and dinner.
At the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is LakeHouse, a fresh hotel-restaurant concept featuring sushi, flatbreads and seafood in a casual yet elegant atmosphere. (Think best friend's deluxe lakefront house!) The sea bass with citrus butter sauce will have you coming back night after night.
Tucked away in the exquisite Animal Kingdom Lodge, with views of giraffes and zebras outside the windows, is one of Disney's most-unique restaurants: Sanaa. The cuisine is as colorful as the surroundings with tantalizing Indian and African flavors. Also on property is Jiko, an upscale South African restaurant with a notable wine list.
Even if you're not staying at the Waldorf Astoria or Hilton Bonnet Creek, a trip to this special-occasion restaurant is worth it. You'll be blown away by the dry-aged tomahawk ribeye, although the lobster on the spit is another tempting choice. Have an after-dinner cocktail in the Peacock Lounge, designed after New York's lounge.
Start with the delectable pork belly or the generous crab cake and move on to the filet with a side of mac-and-cheese. The bar serves great classic cocktails like The Grand Manhattan and the Basil Cucumber Shower with gin and ginger, perfectly refreshing on a warm Orlando evening.
Whether you're actually staying at the Hyatt or somewhere on International Drive, this Italian steakhouse takes it up a notch. Start with a specialty martini and choose from a menu of brick-oven pizzas to a filet with scallops or veal Milanese with capellini pasta.
The celebrity chef with the wow factor goes Polynesian here in one of his best outposts. The decor at this Loews Royal Pacific hotel at Universal sets it up, and the menu of sushi, kalua pork and crunchy shrimp knocks it out of the park. Save room (if you can) for Emeril's signature banana cream pie.
Inside the Gaylord Palms Resort is a huge glass atrium filled with amazing Florida landscapes, from St. Augustine to Key West. In the Everglades section lie a few rustic wooden shacks that don't look like much on the outside, but inside is Old Hickory, one of the finest steakhouses in town.
Tucked inside the World Center Marriott lobby is this authentic Italian restaurant, serving craft cocktails, antipasti, pizzas and pastas. For dessert don't miss their homemade gelato or hot zeppole, Nutella and freshly made doughnuts.
This swanky restaurant in downtown's premium hotel, the Grand Bohemian, is especially festive before a show at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts or an event at the Amway Center. The Sunday jazz brunch is consistently ranked among the best of Orlando.
This boutique hotel owned by Rollins College is a destination in Winter Park with its fantastic contemporary art collection and its restaurant, Hamilton's Kitchen. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Hamilton's Kitchen puts a modern spin on Southern favorites infused with local produce.