September is a perfect opportunity to sample the many incredible restaurants Orlando has to offer. Every area of the city, from Lake Buena Vista to Altamonte Spings, has chefs ready to show off their best at a special price for this month only. Orlando Magical Dining Month offers $30 prix fixe three-course dinners at more than 60 restaurants. Each restaurant will feature their special menu just for this event and at that price, it’s definitely worth sampling more than one. Plus. $1 of every meal goes to the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Central Florida. So you can eat well and feel good about it.
Make reservations early and expect weekends to fill up fast. Weeknights are always a better bet but no matter what day you want to dine, early reservations are a must (especially for peak dining times). For a list of restaurants, special menus, phone numbers, opentable.com links, and more, go to the Orlando Magical Dining Month website.
All of the restaurants on the list are excellent choices and I’ve never had a bad experience during Magical Dining Month. This year, I’m thrilled to see some of my very favorites on the list, places where I have had many memorable meals over the years. Here are my top five picks, in alphabetical order:
- The Boheme at the Westin Grand Bohemian, Downtown Orlando – worth the drive downtown to this beautiful space with a menu inspired by art and music. The Boheme was voted “Best Hotel Restaurant” by Orlando magazine.
- HUE Restaurant, Downtown Orlando (Thornton Park area) – attention to detail is they key, with cuisine as beautiful as it is deicious. After dinner, wander Thornton Park, one of Orlando’s hippest neighborhoods.
- Norman’s at the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes, South Orlando near International Drive -- your chance to dine at the New York Times' pick for Best Restaurant in Florida. Norman Van Aiken is one of the best chefs in the culinary world and he oversees all operations at this Ritz Carlton gem.
- Seasons 52, International Drive/Sand Lake Road -- an ever-evolving, seasonally-inspired menu and a massive wine list including 60 by-the-glass choices. The restaurant was the #3 choice for "Best Restaurant 2009" in Orlando magazine.
- Todd English’s bluezoo at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, Lake Buena Vista – my absolute favorite seafood restaurant anywhere, with a truly stunning atmosphere. If you’re up for a cocktail, ask for a cucumber martini -- it's no longer on the cocktail menu but the bartender will still mix one up for you.