Mrs. Selfish and I lived in Orlando, Florida for 8 years before we left on our Selfish Year. We both moved there for work, and somewhat reluctantly stayed after getting a house. Orlando was in many ways a place we were forced to live, not a place we wanted to live.
That being said, 8 months later when we were drinking cocktails in Beijing with an awesome view of the Forbidden City, we actually found ourselves missing Orlando!
So we decided to go back.
Back to Epcot, to drink our way around the world. Back to Orlando, to visit friends. Back to Winter Park, to eat.
The Ravenous Pig: Gastropub Goodness
Located at 1234 N. Orange Ave. in Winter Park, the Ravenous Pig was probably the first good restaurant we ate at in the Orlando area. Opened in 2007, the Pig has won numerous awards, and was a semifinalist for the James Beard Awards in 2011 and 2012!
They have a great selection of wines and microbrews with a menu that changes weekly. Lunch typically runs from $10 – $18 for most orders, and dinner comes in at closer to $18 – $30.
Mrs. Selfish and I have probably eaten at the Ravenous Pig over a dozen times, and we’ve never had a disappointing meal. This time around I ordered their fried chicken sandwich, and Mrs. Selfish ordered the shrimp and grits.
The fried chicken sandwich was perfectly cooked: tender, crispy, slightly crunchy, yet still moist. The hot & sour sauce had a nice BBQ as well. The shrimp and grits were spicy, savory, and overall satisfying. I was glad we went back!
Cask & Larder: Southern Comfort Food
We also ate at Cask & Larder, the Ravenous Pig’s sister restaurant, which opened after we left Orlando in 2012. Located at 565 W Fairbanks Ave just down the road from the Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder specializes in southern comfort food in a decidedly more casual environment.
Since we were eating with friends, Mrs. Selfish and I ordered the Hill Billy Basket, The Dip, and the Ribeye Hot Dog.
The Hill Billy Basket ($8), is a basket full of hush puppies, savory cheese scones, fried green tomatoes, fried garlic-dill pickles, fried okra, and hot sauce aioli. A heart attack in the making, it is truly excellent.
I had “The Dip” ($11), which is a smoked pork sandwich, with ginger aioli, crispy challots, and pok jus served on a fresh baguette. While the meat was excellent, I found the sandwich to be a little unwieldy for dipping, ironically enough.
I stole a bite of Mrs. Selfish’s Ribeye Hotdog ($11), a tasty beef dog packed with spices and topped with sweet vidalia relish, chili, ketchup, and beer mustard, served in a celery seed bun. This was probably one of the best hotdogs I’ve had in a long time, and reminded me of our favorite hotdog restaurant in Shanghai.
Blue Bird Bakeshop: The best cupcakes ever
For dessert, Mrs. Selfish and I headed back to our favorite cupcake shop in the world: the Blue Bird Bakeshop. Located at 3122 Corrine Dr. near Baldwin Park, Blue Bird has been serving up amazing cupcakes since 2010. I’ve had cupcakes just about everywhere, including Magnolia bakery in NYC and nothing compares to the ones at Blue Bird. Somehow they strike the right balance between frosting and cake, managing to be sweet and delicious without being cloying.
Blue Bird Bakeshop makes 10 different flavors a day, 8 of which they serve every day: Downside Up, Upside Down, Tuxedo, Strawberry, Neopolitan, Sweet Cake, Ch-chocolate, and Red Velvet. The other flavors come from a rotating stable of original cupcakes such as: S’mores, PBJ, Chocolate Guiness, Creamsicle, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Rose, and Hummingbird, to name a few. They also make killer ice cream sandwiches.
Blue Bird Bakeshop is a local gem, and their cupcakes are devastatingly delicious. Pop by for an afternoon snack, but make sure to arrive before 5pm – once they run out of cupcakes they shut down for the day!
Enzian: The Local Indie Powerhouse
Located in 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland, the Enzian is Central Florida’s local Indie Theatre, serving up Indie Films, Cult Classics, Foreign Flicks, and everything in between. If it’s out and it’s Indie, chances are the Enzian is showing it.
It’s also a great place to grab dinner and a drink alongside your favorite art house flick. For our visit back to Orlando, Mrs. Selfish and I caught the movie “Black Fish.” We both ended up ordering the Enzian burger, a wagyu burger served with swiss cheese, vegetables, and mayo and served with a side (in this case, I chose mac ‘n’ cheese).
Nothing beats eatin’ burgers and watching a movie, simultaneously!
Lechonera El Barrio: Love me some Mofongo
Last, but not least, Mrs. Selfish and I stopped by Lechonera El Barrio for some Puerto Rican/Dominican cuisine. Located at 435 N Semoran Blvd, it’s a great place to grab a bite on the way to the airport. Mrs. Selfish and I visited San Juan back in 2009, and immediately became hooked on the food!
If you’ve never had it, Puerto Rican Cuisine is a blend of European, African, and American influences. It’s also tends to be great value for money.
Lechonera El Barrio is laid out cafeteria style. You can order a small plate (~$3.50) or a medium plate (~$4.99) for lunch. After choosing your type of rice and protein, you also choose a side. Portions are cheap and generous.
For roughly $12 Mrs. Selfish and I split a medium plate with slow cooked pork and yucca, and an order of mofongo.
The pork was tender and greasy, while the yucca had a nice vinegar-y flavor. We made sure to top it with extra garlic oil. So good.
The mofongo was excellent, albeit a little dry. Mofongo is a mixture of fried plantains stuffed with cracklins and onions, traditionally served in a broth. While the mofongo we had in NYC was better, it’s hard to complain about Lechonera’s considering the ridiculously low price.
Plus it is filling. I wasn’t even remotely hungry again until 6 hours later, after we had landed back in Virginia.
If you’re planning on visiting the ol’ House of Mouse, but get tired of park food, rent a car and drive due north off property. After about 30 minutes of driving and you’ll find yourself surrounded by food trucks, cute cupcake shops, and indie theaters. Just tell them Mr. and Mrs. Selfish sent you!