It’s been a busy year for Central Florida restaurants, with dozens of openings, not as many closings and all sorts of newsy tids and bits. The flog published 425 articles this year, more than 100 of them restaurant reviews. Here are some highlights:
Maria & Enzo’s, Enzo’s Hideaway, The Edison, Terralina Crafted Italian, Chicken Guy and Wine Bar George all helped to keep Disney Springs the center of high-profile restaurant openings.
The Hangry Bison — New Winter Park Villager with killer burgers and cocktails.
Grills Lakeside Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar — The coastal restaurant moved inland to take over the former Shooter’s space.
Mykonos — Forced to move to a different location, the popular Greek restaurant finally opa-ned.
The Glass Knife — upscale cakery.
Sticky Rice — Another Asian street fare restaurant but this one featuring Laotian cuisine.
Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub — Long awaited rebirth of the popular pub in the unofficially designated Hourglass District.
Taste of Chengdu — Hot, hot, hot, and I don’t mean just in popularity.
Garp & Fuss — An odd name for an odd restaurant; it took over the Bistro on Park Avenue space in the Hidden Gardens.
Cafe Linger — A coffeehouse concept with non-coffeehouse food.
Inay’s Kitchen — Filipino food served by nice people.
Agave Azul Winter Park — Second location for this Texish Mexican restaurant, this one better than the original.
Kai Asian Street Fare — It seems all you have to do these days to open a restaurant is to add Asian Street Fare to your name.
Tin & Taco Sodo — Or put your food in a taco.
Viet-Nomz — The Vietnamese quick-serve opened a second location on the East side of Orlando.
Meza — Cafe Annie fans rejoiced when the owner of the shuttered downtown restaurant reopened this Mediterranean in Baldwin Park.
Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine — Wash your hands and try out this latest African restaurant.
Bem Bom — Popular Portuguese food truck opened a brick and mortar location in Audubon Park.
Muzzarella Pizza and Italian Kitchen — All locals pizzerias should be on notice: the pizza game is on.
F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen — This Hourglass District newcomer has taken up the pizza challenge, and is also serving some good Italian dishes.
Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market — Not a full deli; not a complete market, but what it’s doing is good.
Ford’s Garage — Florida-born chain brings its considerably good burgers to Orlando.
Cafe Madrid Deli & Bakery — Rebirth, at least in name, of a longtime Cuban/Spanish restaurant (see Notable Closings below).
These restaurants have opened recently but have not yet been reviewed on the flog. Critiques will be coming soon:
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill
The H Cuisine
Menagerie Eatery & Bar
Park Pizza & Brewing
These restaurants opened this year but also closed this year:
El Buda Latin Asian Cuisine
Peppino’s Organic Italian Kitchen
Truck Stop Pop-up Kitchen
Wonton Asian Kitchen
Stir Restaurant & Bar
Four Rebels Tacos
Brooklyn Coffee Shop
Red Claw Lobster Rolls and Pizza Pies
Cafe Madrid — After 28 years, this Cuban/Spanish restaurant closed just one week after I reviewed it (it was a positive review, I swear).
Carmel Kitchen Wine Bar — Charming wine-centric restaurant just couldn’t get a foothold in the area.
Peppino’s Organic Italian Kitchen — F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen took over this space after its months-long run.
Winnie’s Oriental Garden — It never seemed to have macadamia nuts in its Macadamia Nut Shrimp dish (walnuts were usually substituted) but that didn’t keep it from having a healthy 23 year run before owner Winnie Leung decided to retire.
Mai Bistro — Another Vietnamese quick-serve with excellent food. It closed after just a few months in operation.
Tommy Bahama Cafe — The food was never as good as the clothing in the retail store next door; both closed at Pointe Orlando.
Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors — Not a restaurant, but Orlando’s unofficial favorite dive bar caused a panic when it abruptly closed this year.
Bauern-Stube German Restaurant — For 30 years, most of them from a Pizza Hut hut on South Orange Avenue, this over-decorated restaurant had been serving brats and bratens for better or for wurst.
El Bodegon — Charming tapas restaurant across the breezeway from Rocco’s Italian left us this year.
Oblivion Taproom — This burgerie was on our list of closed restaurants last year, too, but someone reopened it. Then closed it again.
Emeril’s Orlando — Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop closed the year before. Now this, the original Orlando Emeril outpost, went out with a whimper, not a bam.
Ferg’s Depot — It was obvious from the start that this was meant to be a drinking place, not an eating place. Locals didn’t embrace it for either.
Kokino’s — An upscale tapas concept that never found its niche (or its clientele).
Old Gems Revisited
Big Fin Seafood Kitchen
Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar
Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster
Jiko — The Cooking Place
Pannullo’s Italian Restaurant
Soco for Brunch
Enzo’s on the Lake
deep blu seafood grille
Yellow Dog Eats
Linda’s La Cantina
Paul Bocuse is Dead at 91
Governor Signs Liquor Bill into Law
Lopez Leaving Tapa Toro to Become Executive Chef at Reyes Mezcalaria
Dexter’s Restaurants Have Been Sold
1921 No Longer by Norman Van Aken
Bull & Bear Named 1 of OpenTable's 100 Best Restaurants
Mauricio Colindres, Co-owner of Chatham's Place, Dies at 71
Poke, Hawaii’s answer to sushi, continued to be popular.
Quick-serve restaurants are more prominent.
Critic’s Wish List
Let’s find something other than street food for a restaurant concept.
And does everything have to be a taco?
What to Look for in 2019
Jaleo, new restaurant from Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Jose Andres
The Old Jailhouse Sanford from chef Bram Fowler
New restaurants at Pointe Orlando: Hampton Social Club; Lotus Asia House; and Hopdoddy Burger
East Hampton Bait & Tackle
Tre Bambine in former Spice Modern space
Artisan’s Table will relocate to West Church Street
Se7en Bites owners will open a new restaurant in downtown Orlando
Boxi Park from Tavistock (in Lake Nona, of course)
Mexican Ceviche in Sanctuary condominium building
MX Taco from chef Ryan Manning
Jack & Honey’s, 24-hour diner next to Hammered Lamb
Kabooki Sushi will open a second location in the former Kokino's in Bay Hill Plaza
Sushi Pop opens a second location in Winter Park
The Bovine Seakhouse in former Park Plaza Gardens (end of March, perhaps)
Whatever happens, we'll be here to cover it.