Here are some of the highlights from 2019:
Significant openings (with links to their reviews): MX Taco opened in the Milk District with authentic regional tacos. By mid year, owner Ryan Manning would open a second location in Waterford Lakes and announce a third for 2020...Tamale Co. joined the expanding Hourglass District...The long-anticipated Delaney’s Tavern debuted and proved to be worth the wait...Wolfgang Puck returned to the area after an extended absence with Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at Disney Springs...Jaleo by José Andrés also opened in Disney Springs (coincidentally in about the same spot that Wolfgang Puck Cafe had previously occupied)...City Pub moved into the former North Quarter Tavern space...The H Cuisine brought a New York style meathouse to the Dr. Phillips/Restaurant Row district...Old Jailhouse opened in an old jailhouse in Sanford, bringing the culinary talents of Bram Fowler back to the dining public. The restaurant was voted Best New and Best Overall in our 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants...Trina Gregory Propst and Va Propst opened Sette Italian in the Ivanhoe Village...Mykonos, the popular Greek restaurant, returned to Longwood following a long absence forced by a lost lease and move...Toledo started serving from the top floor of the newly opened Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs...Chef’s Table and Tasting Room owners Laurie and Kevin Tarter took over Winter Garden’s Attic Door, expanded the menu and increased their culinary kingdom...American Social, a South Florida sports bar, took up residence on Restaurant Row...Hook & Reel started reeling in seafood fans in West Orlando...Tori Tori Pub, from Domu’s Sonny Nguyen, forever changed the notion of what bar food should be...Alex’s Fresh Kitchen changed the notion of what a cafe should be...And Proper & Wild and Hungry Pants fuel the plant-based cuisine craze.
Chef’s Table at the Edgewater: Still a fabulous dining experience.
Tap Room at Dubsdread: Upping its game on steaks.
Shaker’s American Cafe: Hard to find a better breakfast.
American Kitchen Bar & Grill: One of the area’s best-kept secrets.
Bull & Bear: Currently the only B&B in existence.
Raglan Road: New chef is keeping the culinary first rate.
The Whiskey: So much more than good burgers.
Soco: Five years and counting.
Victoria & Albert’s: Hey, Michelin Guiders, look over here.
Frontera Cocina by Rick Bayless: One of Disney Springs’ more overlooked restaurants.
Eddie V’s: I love the atmosphere as much as the food.
Shula’s Steak House: Redesigned space but same high-quality steaks.
Chefs de France: A theme-park guilty pleasure.
Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster: Still a choice for special occasions.
Fig’s Prime: Delighted to return and find the quality has improved.
Bread & Company
Cinco Tacos + Tequila
Lotus Asia House
All of the above restaurants closed within months of opening.
Manny’s Original Chophouse
Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton
Dexter’s (Lake Mary location still open)
Baja Burrito Kitchen
Chef Wang’s Kitchen
Mon Petit Cheri
Noodles and Rice
O’Charley’s Restaurant and Bar
Mark O’Neill took over as executive chef at Raglan Road
Josh Oakley, formerly with Smiling Bison, move to 1921 Mount Dora
Ryan McLaughlin, formerly with K restaurant, opened Dexter’s New Standard in Winter Park
Jason Wolfe joined Tornatore’s Pizzeria in College Park
Frank Galeano left his position at Tapa Toro and moved to San Francisco
Tim Keating left Urbain 40
Plant-based foods, such as served at Humbl, Proper & Wild, Hungry Pants and now most Disney restaurants. Look to see a lot more nonmeat items.
Small plates: Once called tapas, they're now just right-sized portions.
Quickserve: Order and pay at a counter, someone will bring you your food. Fewer servers needed in a tight employment market.
Fewer new microbreweries: We may have reached an oversaturation point on the brewpub front; quality will survive over quantity.
Looking forward, these are some of the anticipated restaurants for 2020:
Knife & Spoon (in former Norman’s space at the Ritz)
Norman’s (in former Bravo! space)
Russel’s on Ivanhoe (in former Mesa 21)
Papa Llama (former King’s Pizza, Curry Ford)
Osphere (former Tre Bambine)
Bovine (former Park Plaza Gardens)
Space 220 (Epcot)
Kavas Tacos + Tequila
And in the coming weeks and months, watch for these reviews:
Cavo’s Bar & Kitchen
Dexter’s New Standard
El Vic’s Kitchen