Introducing … Dinner


New restaurants are popping up all over town. Here’s a list of what to try next.
by Rona Gindin

1921 by Norman Van Aken

Opening date: August 2016

Owners: Norman Van Aken, Ken Mazik, Donna Brown, Larry Baker

Cuisine: Modern Florida Cuisine

Neighborhood: Mount Dora

We’ve been privy to celebrity chef Norman Van Aken’s New World Cuisine in the posh Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, for more than a decade. Now the renowned culinarian is taking an entirely other approach to food service: He’s serving a Modern Florida menu in an elegant series of dining rooms in remote-yet-quaint Mount Dora. Partnering with locals involved in the city’s arts community, Van Aken developed a 150-seat multi-room eatery with patio seating, a custom wine cabinet, rotating artwork from the Modernism Museum, and a menu built around ingredients from local farms and Florida waters.


Opening date: late 2016

Owners: Mark Vyan Berdin, Lordfer
Lalicon and Jennifer Bañagale

Cuisine: Japanese

Neighborhood: Audubon Park Garden District

Teeny-tiny Kappo, an omakase-only restaurant in Orlando’s East End Market, was a megahit from the day it opened. Now its trio of owners, who closed the original space months ago, is expanding the concept by opening a similar establishment around the corner. Each of two dining rooms will have 10 seats for chef-chosen meals. One will focus on sushi, the other a wider range of foods.


Opening date: July 2016

Owners: Clayton Miller, The Courtesy’s Gene Zimmerman

Cuisine: French

Neighborhood: Downtown Orlando

A trio of Orlando’s biggest change-makers worked together to create DoveCote, a sprawling indoor-outdoor brasserie located in a downtown Orlando office building. The French-inspired fare is the creation of Clayton Miller, who served as chef de cuisine at the then-new Norman’s and later gained national renown at the Washington, D.C., restaurant Trummer’s on Main. His partner is local cocktail crusader Gene Zimmerman. American cuisine standard-bearers James and Julie Petrakis consulted.

Speaking of Clayton Miller, he’s cooking up a food hall concept for Maitland. The stalls might all be his, or they might be independently run. Stay tuned.

And speaking of the Petrakises, their Swine Family Restaurant Group will grow twice in coming months. A second Cask & Larder will open, this one at Orlando International Airport, in October 2016. In addition, The Polite Pig is scheduled to join the Disney Springs restaurant repertoire in spring 2017, serving wood-fired and smoked foods in a counter-service set-up with on-tap beers and cocktails.

Luke’s Kitchen and Bar

Opening date: 2017

Owners: The Luma/Prato team

Cuisine: Modern American

Neighborhood: Maitland

Chef/partner Brandon McGlamery has one of the most faithful culinary teams in
Central Florida. His cooks and bakers tend to move up in the ranks and between his two perpetually popular Winter Park restaurants, Luma on Park and Prato. Now vets Derek Perez, Tim Lovero and Brian Cernell will be a part of a new concept opening in a freestanding building in this suburban area. Here’s what we know about the as-yet-unnamed space so far: The menu will be “approachable and simple,” McGlamery tell us, and “a collaboration of all of us celebrating American seafood, meats and produce with some very familiar classics that we all love and adore.” So, American classics revved up a notch or 10.

Market to Table

Opening date: October 2016

Owner: Ryan Freelove

Cuisine: American/Mediterranean

Neighborhood: Winter Garden

After honing his skills at top local spots like the Ritz-Carlton and Bella Collina, Chef Ryan Freelove developed Market to Table, which sells kitchen staples like marinades and bone broths at farmers’ markets and Plant St. Market. Now he’s gearing up to serve full contemporary American meals at a restaurant of the same name in Winter Garden’s historic downtown. Look for fresh, simple selections such as housemade pastas, fresh seafood and hand-cut steaks.

Circo Orlando

Opening date: late 2017

Owner: Sunshine Ventures

Cuisine: Italian

Neighborhood: International Drive

A local company called Sunshine Ventures is bringing the splash of New York and Las Vegas to International Drive by opening Circo Orlando, which will be related to big-budget, big-city eateries including Le Cirque. The 10,000-square-foot Italian luncherie and dinnerhouse will be situated 120 above ground level, on the top floor of a building next to Mango’s Tropical Café.  It will have a retractable glass roof, I-Drive views and a lounge called ‘la Vetta.

Pizza Bruno

Opening date: June 2016

Owners: Bruno and Vanessa Zacchini

Cuisine: Pizza

Neighborhood: Conway

We have (finally! thankfully!) begun seeing serious efforts in the pizza arena around town in the past year. Now former Oblivion Taproom chef Bruno Zacchini brings the
local community his take—a selection of fire-baked white and red Neapolitan-style pies. The space is shoestring-budget chic. The menu is inspired by Bruno’s grandparents, Italian-born circus performers who worked with the Ringling folks in Sarasota. The hipster-filled spot serves local brews.



Opening date: May 2016

Owner: Walt Disney World Resort

Cuisine: African, Asian and Latin American

Neighborhood: Disney World

Tiffins is so inconvenient as to be tucked into Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the theme park, yet we urge you to seek it out next time you’re in the park for a safari. This newcomer was developed around Imagineers’ discoveries in Asia, Africa and Latin America when they did research to create the park. As a result, the décor includes intriguing items like prayer flags and sketchbooks with actual drawings. The menu brings in flavors from around the globe including berbere-spiced lamb chops.

Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen

Opening date: September 2016

Owners: Tavistock Restaurant Collection

Cuisine: American

Neighborhood: Lake Nona

This contemporary space in a burgeoning part of town features fare as on-the-edge as its décor plus an open kitchen, a bar and lounge, outdoor seating, and spirited beverages on tap.

Soupa Saiyan

Opening date: April 2016

Owners: Marshall Pandachit and Joy Nguyen

Cuisine: Pan-Asian

Neighborhood: Universal

It would take Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, to define why this humble Asian noodle bar had 90-minute lines—and a budget to double in size—nearly immediately upon opening. Yet draw crowds it does. Soupa Saiyan is a counter-service restaurant featuring little more than design-your-own soups. The décor is anime-inspired, in a thrift shop sort of way. Geeky millennials have found a happy home.

Bulla Gastrobar


Opening date: Fall 2016

Owner: Centurion Restaurant Group

Cuisine: Spanish tapas

Neighborhood: Winter Park

Bulla means chatter, more or less, in Spain, and it’s the name of a gastrobar duo in South Florida. Now the Spanish tapas concept comes to Winter Park. The 5,500-square-foot restaurant’s ambiance is woodsy-warm with a sleek European bent, with a patio designed to evoke a Barcelona marketplace, a tapas bar with an exhibition kitchen, and a plusher main dining room.

Jimotti’s Restaurant

Opening date: June 2016

Owner: Junichi Takazoe

Cuisine: Japanese

Neighborhood: Sanford

After serving on the opening team of Morimoto Asia, Chef Junichi Takazoe stayed in Central Florida, ultimately opening a New Japanese restaurant in a modest Sanford space. His artistically presented dishes like sashimi and pork belly in a sweet soy sauce are most notable, yet American fare including hamburgers—many with Asian-flavored toppings—are available during the lunch hour. Imported Japanese beers and sakes are also on the menu.

Flying Fish


Re-opening date: August 2016

Owner: Disney World

Cuisine: Seafood

Neighborhood: Disney World

The whimsically decorated Flying Fish Café quickly became a Disney signature restaurant when it opened with the BoardWalk Inn & Villas 20 years ago. Following a multimonth total revamp, the seafood dinnerhouse has reopened as simply Flying Fish, now a sophisticated establishment distinguished by a dramatic chandelier of hand-blown glass in fish shapes and booths designed to resemble waves. Chef de cuisine Tim Majoras recharged the menu with creative dishes made from only sustainable seafood. He uses local ingredients where possible, from seaweed bread baked by Olde Hearth Bread Company (it’s served with scrumptious, salty homemade butter), to a pork belly croquette appetizer topped with a Lake Meadow Naturals quail egg.

The Lowdown on Disney Springs

Dining was always a significant part of the descriptor for the dining/shopping/entertainment complex long known as Downtown Disney. Now that the destination within Walt Disney World has been vastly expanded and rebranded as Disney Springs, it also has a boondoggle of new restaurants. Three headliners deserve the most attention: Art Smith’s Homecoming Kitchen & Shine Bar, a Southern restaurant with a rustic feel with food by a sixth-generation Floridian and celebrity chef, and Frontera Cocina, an upbeat spot for the vibrant Mexican fare of culinary headliner Rick Bayless. Both have take-out windows offering quick-service meals and cocktails. STK Orlando brings our town its first new-age steakhouse. This high-energy dining room with purple backlighting and dramatic floral arrangements has a DJ blasting youthful tunes while diners indulge in high-end steaks. The Asian-ish Morimoto Asia has been up and running for a few months. This fall, the former Fulton’s Crab House will reopen as Paddlefish with steak, seafood and a rooftop lounge.

If your schedule or budget prohibit big-name splurges, Disney Springs still has you covered. Several better-than fast food kiosks provide pocket-friendly options for under $15 a meal. D-Luxe Burger has classic, creative and veggie burgers, plus fresh-cut fries and artisan-gelato shakes. You’ll find French fries with sauces at The Daily Poutine, international sausage sandwiches at B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co., pastries and cakes at Amorette’s Patisserie, vegan and gluten-free sweets at Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC, sweet and savory filled French pancakes at AristoCrepes, cupcakes and ice cream at Sprinkles, and Asian-inspired handhelds and bowl at Yesake.