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christmas table

As always, Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide is compiling lists for holiday dining, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Follow the links to each page to find what the restaurants are offering.

In most cases, we’ve included only those restaurants serving special menus on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve because many restaurants are open those days anyway.

For Christmas Day, however, we’re listing any restaurant that has indicated it will be open on Dec. 25 whether it is serving a special menu or not. Some folks are just looking for a meal that day, and we’re happy to provide the service.

For others, a meal at a restaurant is an attractive option to entertaining family in their homes. So it’s especially nice that some restaurants and their staffs give up their holiday to serve others. If you dine out on the 25th, remember that most restaurants will be busy and you may have to wait a little longer for a table and for food to be served. Be kind – Santa starts making next year’s naughty/nice list right away.

For Christmas Day, you’ll find such delicious options as Raglan Road, Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, Tapa Toro, Taverna Opa, American Kitchen & Bar and others. Check them out then make your reservation early.

Restaurateurs, if you’d like to add your business’s details to the list, send the information to us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Hinckley stand

I fancied a meat sandwich the other evening, so I stopped in at Hinckley’s Fancy Meats, a snout-to-tail butcherie at East End Market.

Matt Hinckley is the eponymous owner of the small stand. According to his bio on the website, he has spent a considerable amount of time traveling the world cooking in an array of kitchens, from a beachside cafe in Nicaragua to a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. It was in Nicaragua, he writes, that he witnessed a man slaughter and butcher a cow on Christmas Eve and then distribute all of it to local residents to use in their Christmas meals. He says he was impressed that the butcher left nothing behind. That “zero waste” philosophy guides him in his meat market.

The menu is larger than the kiosk space should accommodate. There are charcuterie, sausages, smoked meats and bone broths.

And most of the products are available in sandwiches. Well, not the bone broths; the breads get too soggy.

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Soco5 teamFrom left, Venoy Rogers III, Stuart Whitfield, Patrick Montana, and Greg Richie in the kitchen at Soco.

Soco, the Thornton Park Southern contemporary restaurant, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary with a collaborative dinner. Chef/partner Greg Richie invited Venoy Rogers III of American Kitchen, Patrick Tramontana of Antonio’s Maitland, and Stuart Whitfield of the Glass Knife to join him in the kitchen, and the result was a special dinner of great food and wine.

And cocktails, too. PJ Smerechansky of the Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom offered guests a choice of welcome drinks: Tea Time with Prudence, Sipsmith VJOP Gin, Earl Grey Tea, King’s Ginger Liquor, honey and rosemary; or Bootlegger’s Basil, Basil Hayden Bourbon, fresh blackberry, basil, Angostura Bitters, and orange peel. I managed to taste both of them and decided I liked the Bootlegger’s Basil best, even though I prefer gin to bourbon.

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Delaneys lounge

  • Delaney’s Tavern enters the brunch realm starting Sunday, offering a buffet of selections from chef Anthony Albino. Over the last few years, brunch menus have been trending toward á la carte, so a buffet style should be appealing. Cost is $39.99 per person and there are all-you-can-drink mimosa and bloodies options.
  • Tapa Toro, too, is changing its Sunday menu, now offering a bottomless brunch. Bottomless means all you can eat paella and does not – I can’t stress this enough – refer to the dress code. Cost is $25 per person and bottomless mimosas and sangrias are also available for $16, but you’re limited to two hours, so leave your sleeping bag at home.
  • You all ate a lot of Magical Dining meals this year, enough to send $306,772 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Orlando and Lighthouse Central Florida, the two charities chosen as the beneficiaries of the $1/dinner donation by Visit Orlando. I guess that means you ate somewhere around 306,772 dinners.

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nile platter

I had the opportunity recently to join some people for a dinner at Nile Ethiopian Restaurant and found it to be just as wonderful as before.

I was also pleased to find it still doing well after 13 years.

We had other Ethiopian restaurants open in Central Florida before Nile, but for some reason they never lasted more than a year. I always assumed it was the location – one of the early Ethiopian restaurants was in a motel at 33d Street and I-4 and another was in a strip mall on South Orange Blossom Trail. Nile was smarter in choosing International Drive where a diverse clientele could find it.

It was even smarter to serve excellent food.