Jackets Required: Dress Up for Orlandos Best Fine Dining
Alright, the title’s a little misleading. Technically only the No. 1 pick – Walt Disney World’s famed Five-Diamond venue Victoria & Albert’s – actually requires male guests to wear jackets. Some diners balk at restaurant dress codes, but when it comes to fine dining, wearing a special-occasion dress or cufflinks seems to level everything up, making an opulent evening out that much more sumptuous. Not that you’d call the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa’s signature venue anything but. With up to 14 prix fixe courses available, dining at Victoria & Albert’s is nothing less than a culinary experience, which is why reservations are best made well in advance. But lest you think the Disney realm is the only place in Orlando where dining is magical, be sure to investigate this roster’s other gems. Those looking for a classic steakhouse experience will find no fault at Ocean Prime where thick cuts are seared to perfection and the side dishes are as decadent as anything off the dessert menu. Celebrity chef Norman Van Aken’s namesake at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes will delight those who enjoy Floribbean fare and if you’re looking for something with more of a locals-only feel, check out his newer venture in Mount Dora: 1921. Its charming, walkable location boasts many options for pre-meal cocktails and window shopping to work up your appetite.
It’s all those things people love to read: AAA Four-Diamond, award-winning, all that, but more importantly The Venetian Chop House affords diners a sumptuous evening of fine dining. With steaks and entrees that range from $32-59, you will pay for it, but the service, the detail and the food are truly exceptional. Creamy lobster bisque with chunks of tender meat lie in wait beneath a layer of flaky, buttery puff pastry, flavorful, slow-braised bison short ribs satisfy the heartiest of appetites, but if you’re splurging on the luxury of the Venetian Room, you have to save room for its always-creative dessert selections. Ooh la la.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: This is a classic steakhouse with seafood options that are just as good. The décor, including impressive crystal chandeliers, adds to the ambiance.
A.D.’s expert tip: If your date is vegetarian, don’t shy away from this place. There are vegan entrees and plenty if vegan/vegetarian sides as well.
Long lauded a Dr. Phillips-area favorite for steak- and seafood-related special-occasion splurges, Orlando’s Ocean Prime outpost (there are several throughout the country) knows how to handle groups, even the largest of them. Its two private rooms accommodate up to 32 and 64 diners with ease, but smaller parties will enjoy stellar service, as well as some phenomenal 10-layer carrot cake if they are so inclined. Watch for weekly specials such as the Special Sunday menu. It features an 8 oz. filet with your choice of “surf” for $55 per person. Compliment your steak with half priced bottles of wine from the Wine Spectator award-winning wine list.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: The attentive staff, extensive wine and liquor menu and exquisite food make this a must. I mean, the have truffle popcorn. Isn’t that enough?
A.D.’s expert tip: Plan to spend at least three hours dining. There are several courses you’ll want to take your time enjoying.
Hotel: a delicious word that conjures crisp sheets, sleeping in, vacation. “Brunch” is another sleep-in kind of word. And when the accommodations in question are as top-tier as the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, then you know the brunch – in this case a Jazz Brunch at its acclaimed Boheme restaurant – is going to be something truly exceptional. Whether it’s to linger in the last moments of your sumptuous weekend stay, in celebration of a special occasion or simply a decadent splurge, Sunday brunch at the Boheme will run you $45 per person ($15 for kids 6-12) and showcases all the hallmarks of high-end: a prime rib carving station, custom omelet station and fresh waffle station among them. Of course, brunch being what it is, it makes sense that you might want some snow crab legs, oysters or steamed shrimp to pair with that waffle. And did we mention the Kitchen Action Station, where seafood and meats are prepared to order? And that’s not even the spread in its entirety. We’re not sure how you’ll save room for dessert, but we’re sure you’ll manage. Start strategizing now.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: This is well beyond a simple meal. You’ll see what we mean from the rich wood furnishings, hand-selected ingredients and extensive wine list.
A.D.’s expert tip: The Grand Bohemian is just, well – sexy. Consider making your dining experience a delicious part of a romantic getaway.
This beautiful venue, which bills itself as an American brasserie, was new on the scene at the close of 2015 and has been delighting guests with its 1940s panache and versatile continental menu. Groups here are well taken care of and larger parties are welcome to book separate spaces that allow for as much privacy or visibility as is desired. In fact you may want to leave the doors open to hear the live music, which plays nightly and pulls material from a host of beloved genres, from instrumental jazz to Sinatra favorites. Buyouts are available here, as well, and your guests will no doubt be wowed by the place, from the gorgeous fountain out front where they can set up for outside service to the inviting warm interiors.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: Your taste buds will be pampered when staples you love are transformed into mouthwatering dishes.
A.D.’s expert tip: Oh, the mussels! Whether iron skillet roasted or floating amid a ladle of Billi Bi Soup in the form of a tender-crispy beignet, they come highly recommended.
Looking for a restaurant that has it all: impeccable service, outstanding food and drinks and spectacular view? Look no further. Capa is the place to book for special occasions or whenever you want to treat yourself. There are two large outdoor terraces that offer views of the resort’s gorgeous grounds. During a certain point in the evening, turn your head one direction and you’ll see fireworks for Magic Kingdom. Turn your head another direction and you’ll see Epcot’s nighttime spectacular. All this while dining on everything from caviar (starting at $172 an ounce) to A-5 Wagyu beef ($32 an ounce). There also are plenty of small plates and tapas starting at $5. Don’t let the “fanciness” deter you from brining your children. There is a children’s menu and the staff goes out of their way to accommodate the little ones.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: You don’t get much finer than dining atop the Four Seasons in the resort’s signature restaurant.
Michelle’s expert tip: This rooftop restaurant on the 17th floor of the Four Seasons Orlando gives the quintessential view of fireworks from Walt Disney World theme parks.
It should immediately be noted, the average main course price is not $59; that’s the cost of your entire, impeccable three-course meal. This intimate room inside the Winter Garden’s historic Edgewater Hotel is a sorta-kinda best-kept-secret in Orlando. It has made everyone’s list, from local publications to Zagat’s Top Restaurants in America, but its size and location (out in Winter Garden; about 15 miles west of downtown Orlando) has allowed it to keep some of its clandestine buzz, despite being open several years. Menus shift with fresh ingredients but never disappoint. Chef’s Table is a special-occasion delight. Turn your cell phone off; leave the kids at home. Enjoy.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: Some diners say a prix fixe setup makes dinner out feel more posh; Chef’s Table delivers tempting fare and historic charm sans stuffiness.
A.D.’s expert tip: Can’t get a (Chef’s) Table and craving its kitchen’s delights? Enjoy small plates and craft cocktails at the casual Tasting Room, its spin-off eatery right next door!
Chatham’s has been wowing Orlando’s fans of fine dining since 1988, an impressive feat for any restaurant these days, and that’s likely due to a well executed combination of ambiance, service and culinary excellence. From lump Cajun crab cakes to filet mignon, Florida grouper to rack of lamb, the menu is not extensive, but laden with interesting spins on classic dishes. Whatever it is, it keeps diners coming back for special nights out. Attentive but unintrusive service allows diners to enjoy their meals quiety, intimately, and often with live piano accompaniment. Chatham’s is an excellent choice for client dinners, as well, but when it comes to special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries and other potentially romantic occasions, it’s an ultra-reliable go-to.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: In a city where many fine-dining venues are chain- or hotel-based, Chatham’s Place is a refreshing, truly unique local venue for an intimate dinner.
A.D.’s expert tip: Experienced servers and delightful, palate-cleansing sorbet are two highlights of the Chatham’s experience.
Who invented “Florida cuisine?” We’re not sure if the first person to smoke mullet and smear it on a cracker graduated from culinary school, but we do know that if a name jumps out for having raised the bar (and this is NOT to underplay the importance or deliciousness of basic smoked fish dip on any level), it’s surely Norman Van Aken. His skills with the Sunshine State’s oceanic bounty are on full display at 1921, where you might find barrelfish or striped bass or some other tender-flaky offering, but those less inclined to opt for the raw bar will find plenty of other options, from a “Koreatown” take on fried chicken and mac to a succulent wagyu ribeye to a juicy burger with house bacon and a zingy horseradish cream.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: Swanky decor and sumptuous cuisine hit the mark times two!
A.D.’s expert tip: Come early and wander the sleepy, Southern streets of lovely Mount Dora before your sumptuous meal with Chef Van Aken. Reservations are required for parties of six or more.
Living up to its New York namesake’s reputation, Orlando’s version of Bull & Bear pulls out the stops with attentive service and a traditional, club-like steakhouse atmosphere with contemporary touches. Portions are hearty, beef is top-quality and the menu offers both traditional favorites and refreshing surprises; sometimes a melding of the two. Popular favorites include the Bull & Bear Shellfish Platter for two (the crab cocktail is a standout) and the formidable, Fred Flintstone-sized Tomahawk, a blockbuster, bone-in, 38-ounce cut of dry-aged Certified Angus Beef that is carved tableside and dressed with the velvety drippings of a beef-tallow candle.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: You will easily feel wined and dined after a Bull & Bear visit. The amount of table-side options, from salads, to beverages is unmatched.
A.D.’s expert tip: If you really want to put the “up” in “upscale,” considerordering Bull & Bear’s impeccable food and service right to your hotel room.
While exemplary fine dining can be found throughout the Disney compound, none surpass the level of service delivered during a Victoria & Albert’s prix fixe, seven-course meal that can only be described as a top-of-the-line culinary experience. Meals here are an event, whether served in the elegant dining room or, if intimacy and knowledge of the kitchen’s inner-workings are more your game: the Chef’s Table. Here, six guests will dine in the kitchen alongside the chef himself, learning the ins and outs of running a AAA Five-Diamond restaurant as they dine on up to 14 courses. Unless you’re a regular on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” Victoria & Albert’s is an eatery probably best reserved for very special occasions, but meals here, and the service with which it comes, are guaranteed to become memories that will last a lifetime.
Recommended for Fine Dining because: Victoria & Albert’s is a venue evocative of an era when dining was an elegant ritual. To call it anything less would be unfair.
A.D.’s expert tip: Time is of the essence. A. Book your reservation, especially for the Chef’s Table, WELL in advance. B. Meals here are nothing short of an event and last several hours. Plan accordingly.