Dear Orlando, You’ve Grown On Me: A Local’s Guide to the City Beautiful

Coffee:

  • Lineage – Great coffee; the decor is a little too sparse for me personally but the hip kids love it and so will you, cool internet person.
  • Craft & Common – This one is my favorite; someone went absolutely plant and millennial pink crazy so of course I’m obsessed. The entire shop is insta-ready but it doesn’t feel pretentious (nothing in Orlando does – that’s the best part). True story: the first time I was here the Barista got a zip tie and jimmy-rigged the sagging bumper of my 2007 Honda Civic because he saw that it was dragging. What I’m saying is, there are many coffee shops in Orlando but I will die on this hill.

Craft & Common creating the perfect place to rest your butt.

Plants (yes, plants, someone did ask me where I got my plants from the other day so there):

  • Palmer’s – Helpful salespeople will tell you which plants are hardest to kill (but don’t worry, you’ll still kill them).
  • The Heavy – Our local pot dealer housed in a lush, photo-friendly location that used to be a fish market! It doesn’t smell like fish, miraculously. Photos below.

Dessert

  • Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream – The line is usually out the door but it moves quickly and the seasonal flavors are always worth it.
  • Valhalla Bakery – Vegan baked goods. When you wonder whether or not you should get the cookie sandwich lookin’ thing called a YOLO – yeah bro, just do it.
  • The Backhaus – An authentic German bakery on the shores of Lake Ivanhoe.

Food

  • Tori Tori – Panasian from the minds behind Domu. Try one of everything and don’t be afraid of the hip bartenders, they’re all super nice. As of date of publication, they’re still in soft opening.
  • Osprey Tavern – ~American~. Splurgey. Located in Famously Bougie Baldwin Park, right by the lake so you can take a stroll before or after.
  • Sticky Rice – Self-described as Lao Street Food and that basically covers it; if you’re not adventurous read the descriptions in case you’re not into fermented crab. The lemongrass beef jerky is a crowd pleaser.
  • Pizza Bruno – Haven’t been personally but universally adored. Let me know when you’re going and I’ll come with. I am also eager to try the new Bagel Bruno (Foxtail/Pizza Bruno lovechild dream baby). 
  • Anna’s Polish Restaurant – After a trip to Poland I was craving pierogi and this spot did not disappoint. Serves traditional Polish dishes like pierogi and goulash, and it has a mom-and-pop vibe so you know it’s good. (Technically Winter Park, close enough). 
  • Se7en Bites – Favorite post-Church Sunday breakfast spot; this is a truly Southern comfort, biscuits-and-gravy, coma-inducing experience if you want it to be. It is always crowded but they keep it moving and there’s sweet art you can ‘gram pre- or post-feast. 
  • Briarpatch – This is technically Winter Park, also, but oh well. It is the quintessential brunch spot. The raspberry lemon cream pancakes are a hot item; ya gotta try ‘em at least once.
  • Guavate – Traditional Puerto Rican food. If you haven’t tried Mofongo yet, this is the place to do it.
sweet purple rice with coconut gelato from Sticky Rice

Bars

  • Whippoorwill – BEER. Representing the Milk District well. Relaxed and well-curated style, with delish food-pop ups every so often. They are really on top of their Instagram if you want to see what’s up for tonight.
  • Big Daddy’s – The best and most divey karaoke in town EVERY NIGHT.
  • Lil Indies/Will’s – These 2 separate but structurally connected bars were described by a friend of mine, in earnest, as having the appearance of “a house from a third world country.” I think that’s a harsh assessment to both the bar and developing countries at the same time. Regardless of the political correctness of that assessment, I love local shows here. Go on a school-night to enjoy slowly bopping along to legitimately groovy music with approximately 6 other people. You’ll feel good spending $7 on an indie band from Tampa because who knows, they could make it! The weekends are more lively, and their themed events never disappoint (hello, 90s Night and my introduction to Zima). 
  • Guesthouse – For the grown ups who enjoy reasonably priced cocktails and well-placed plants.
  • Aku Aku – Tiki vibes and sugary cocktails for days. Grab “The Volcano” with a friend and if you live to tell the tale I’ll be very impressed. “Tiger F*cker” is a safer choice, despite the name. 
Will’s Pub does not mince words.

Shops

  • Park Ave CDs – CDs are the new vinyl, right? You can cop both here, along with many other quirky goods including your favorite band merch and jokey socks.
  • The Lovely – Located in the same plaza as Park Ave, I love the vintage finds here. For Christmas one year I bought a good friend a vintage camera here (it worked!); the look on her face was priceless.
  • YAY – This tiny place packs a big punch; my coworker and I stumbled upon it during lunch break. We somehow dropped mad money in a store that can’t be more than 500 square feet. The owner is deeply knowledgeable about all of her wares, and there is nothing better than a piece of art with a story, especially if it’s from Florida. 

To-Do

  • Lou Gardens – Take in luxurious flora and fauna on a relaxed, lovely stroll. Did you know that roses smell better when they’re not from the grocery store?
  • Enzian – Local indie theater with an outdoor restaurant and bar; their halloween party is the go-to spot for true film nerds who sport the most thoughtful costumes.
  • Orlando Museum of Art – I took a boy here on a date and he sincerely asked me, “they had cameras during the civil war?” which tells us two things: 1) we seriously need to take a long, hard look at public education, and 2) this is a a fun and easy way to impress your witless dates! But seriously, their exhibits are well-curated and worth visiting.
  • Did y’all know Universal Studios is here? Oh, you did? Did you know the roller coasters are 1000x better than any in Disney and the annual pass is more affordable? I know, I know, you can’t really compete with the Disney brand but hey Harry Potter World amirite?? Just throwing it out there!!
  • Neighboring Apopka is home to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive – You have to be very enthused about nature to really enjoy this one, but if you have the patience to endure the 10 mph speed limit you could see over 360 species of bird, and gators. I personally did a little nature walk here and saw some gators up close and personal; it is truly wild to me how casually unsafe it is.
Aw! New Friend @ Lake Apopka

3 thoughts on “Dear Orlando, You’ve Grown On Me: A Local’s Guide to the City Beautiful

  1. SOOO many things I did not know about our lovely Orlando! I wouldn’t mind doing coffee at craft and common one day lol

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