Twenty-twenty-two will be remembered as the year Michelin came to town, bringing recognition and deserved legitimacy to restaurants in a way the James Beard Foundation Awards never could. Sure, some of the Michelin inspectors’ choice caused some head scratching, but for the most part all who were named were deserving.
Here are some other highlights of the year as noted on these pages.
Notable new restaurants and reviews.
Four Flamingos: A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen brought new life to the former Hemingway’s restaurant space at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.
The Lake Nona Wave Hotel opened and introduced us to Bacán – and a treasure trove of fine art in its sculpture garden. Ava MediterrAgean reimagined the space that had long been Luma on Park and brought a bit of South Florida to Winter Park.
Another new hotel, Meliá, brought seafood-centric The Wilson to Celebration, a companion to a New York City restaurant. The JW Marriott Bonnet Creek opened its UnReserved Food Bazaar, a full service, multi cuisine take on a food hall. And Swan Reserve brought us Amare.
Speaking of food halls, Hall on the Yard in Ivanhoe Village opened its doors and brought us the Chef & I, which features a counter-service tasting menu. At the Marketplace at Avalon Park, The 1 Cantina took over the hall’s event space and brought a full service restaurant with authentic Mexican cuisine. Brazas Chicken moved out of the Marketplace and opened a stand-alone restaurant that features not only its popular rotisserie chicken but also Peruvian favorites unique to that location. Just up the road, on Alafaya Trail, Wine 4 Oysters is serving bivalves and other delicious foods.
Y.H. Seafood Clubhouse wowed diners with its Cantonese cuisine.On the subject of seafood,
It was a good year for Indian restaurants. Tabla opened two new locations, in Lake Nona and Oviedo. Naan Stopp opened in Windermere. And a restaurant that opened under the name Daana Pani changed it to Gully (same owner, same good food).
Although it’s been open several years, Tartini Pizza & Spaghetteria seemed brand new with new owners and a new menu.
We also found refreshed menus at Soco Thornton Park and Big Fin Seafood. And a new chef at Hemisphere.
SoDo District became pizza rich with John & John’s and SoDough Square.
And two fine dining Disney restaurants came back online after pandemic closings, Monsieur Paul at the France pavilion in Epcot and the estimable Victoria & Albert's, which should give the Michelin inspectors something to chew on for the guide’s next edition.
Park Avenue mainstay Cafe de France; Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ, the original on Lee Road; Cafe Linger, Jade Sushi & New Asian and El Vic’s in College Park; Padrino’s Cuban, Hunters Creek; P is for Pie and Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux in the Audubon District; Orlando Meats; plant-based Humbl; meat-based The Steer; Tarantino’s Italian, Kissimmee; Mediterranean Blue; Sanctum and Proper & Wild; and Goff’s Drive-in ice cream stand failed to reopen after arson closed it earlier in the year.
The “That Was Fast” Award: Thai Farm Kitchen, a College Park version of a Brooklyn restaurant left town after mere months.
Two close shaves: Enzo’s on the Lake was sold but continues to operate as before; and Old Spanish Sugar Mill at DeLeon State Park closed for remodeling and reopened with new operators and without Spanish in its name.
And What’s Ahead?
We’ll have reviews of already-opened Salt & the Cellar, Kaya, Juju, Edoboy, Hen & Hog and Farm & Haus. We’ll head to New Smyrna Beach for the relaunch of Spanish River Grill. We’ll also check out the recently remodeled Tornatore’s in College Park.
We’ll look forward to F&D Woodfired Italian opening in its new Curry Ford West (after closing earlier this year in its original Curry Ford West location). There will be Bang Bang Noodle Co. from Top Chef winner Hung Huynh and Red Panda from former Orlando Meatsters Eliot Hillis and Seth Parker. Another celebrity chef, Roberto Trevino, will open Chicharron Grill at Marketplace at Avalon Park.
Upscale Rosa Mexicano is slated for Swan and Dolphin this year. And Descend 21 is scheduled for February at Hyatt Regency Orlando, replacing Urban Tide.
We shall have pizza. Or more specifically Pigzza, from Pig Floyd’s and Stasio’s Italian Deli. And Black Magic Pizza will work out of the window of Lou’s Whiskey, replacing Itsa Chicken, which was another contender for the “That Was Fast” award.
Chelsie DiPaolo, formerly of Sanctum and Proper & Wild, will debut One Life Daily Market in the former Marlow’s Tavern space on Orlando Avenue in Winter Park. The Current Seafood Counter from Sanford will open a second location in the former Jade Sushi space in College Park.
And it looks like Norman's, which left the Ritz-Carlton three years ago, will finally – FINALLY – open at Dellagio on Restaurant Row.
Take note, Michelin.