Your best options for going out with friends, curing a hangover, or breaking bread with family in Orlando’s best breakfast and brunch spots.
Updated on April 2, 2021; original reporting by Rona Gindin.
The Tennessee Truffle
Everything at Chef Nat Russel’s cozy restaurant in downtown Sanford is scratch-made. You can’t go wrong with the fluffy biscuits, the sausage gravy made with local pork, or the candied jalepeños that top a simple side of pineapple. We have a tough time choosing between the sorghum and pecan-topped heirloom grits or the blistered tomato and macaroni salad, made with just the right amount of bacon grease.
In Thornton Park, the menu puts a spin on Southern staples. For instance, the restaurant tops an everything “bagel” biscuit with sorghum-cured salmon. Meanwhile, it adds fried green tomatoes, Benton’s country ham, and Creole hollandaise to the eggs Benedict. The rustic-chic spot also offers up half a dozen “brunch libations.” In the Kentucky Cooler, coffee — iced Lineage roasted coffee — is mixed with bourbon and espresso liqueur.
Highball & Harvest
Highball & Harvest seems frou frou by nature of its Ritz-Carlton address. Even so, the Southern-splashed breakfast fare has humble roots. Grandma’s Biscuits & Gravy come with fingerling potatoes. The oatmeal is enhanced by dried blueberries, vanilla bean, and almonds. The signature breakfast, Pig ’n’ Potatoes, is served three meals a day. Its poached eggs share a plate with pork cheeks, potato hash and hollandaise sauce.
Red Wing Restaurant
They understand the concept of the hearty American breakfast at this rural retreat in Groveland. On weekend mornings from 8 a.m. till 11:30 a.m., this diner-like restaurant with an ambitious menu pairs its eggs with fried bologna, corned beef hash or steak. Those game for game can get a hunter’s omelet with sausage made from animals we rarely eat. Standards are fair game too. Choose from specials like sweet potato pancakes and Elvis-style stuffed French toast with bananas and peanut butter.
Tucked into a remote part of Ocoee, Carlo’s Diner is essentially the quintessential greasy spoon. It’s a spic-and-span coffee shop with all kinds of eggs with sausage and bacon. Upon request and for a pittance extra, your morning meal will be made with free-range eggs. Bonus: The owners are Italian, so return for a Tuesday lunch. That’s when they offer red-sauce specials.
Order early for same-day pickup of ethereal croissants, pull-aparts and pop tarts. These talented bakers are equally adept at sweets (guava and cheese, chocolate and orange, lemon poppy) as they are at savory flavors (baby potato and cheddar, smoked jalepeño and egg), so get yourself a variety.
Yes, you can dine in and enjoy breakfast all day long at this much-feted and festive Orlando favorite. But if you’re headed to a friend’s for a midday meal, they’ll love you forever if you stop on the way. Load up on sweet or savory scones, delectable coffee cake, or a passel of mini pies.
You’ll feel as if you’re a half-block from the Champs-Élysées, not Park Avenue, at this Winter Park French café and bakery. Greet the morning with a strong café au lait along with a crepe, French toast or a simple almond croissant.
Located on Winter Park’s Park Avenue, Barnie’s signature unit is at once an espresso bar — with exceptional latte art — and a restaurant. It’s light farm-to-table meals are served indoors and out. In the morning, granola, Belgian waffles, and organic egg dishes like Israeli shakshuka are among the choices.
Maxine’s on Shine
Maxine and Kirt Earheart are mighty keen on wine, which is why they call their restaurant’s weekend morning-afternoon endeavors the Rejuicination Brunch. Live music plays (never too loudly). Conservative imbibers might shun wine in favor of a bloody Mary, made with a beer floater and garnished with smoked shrimp and a bacon stirrer. Day-starters might be beef hash, French toast, or shrimp and grits.
White Wolf Café
This antiquey Ivanhoe Row standby with its eclectic clientele serves breakfast from 8 a.m. on seven days a week, yet somehow the weekend vibe is more relaxed. It’s practically law that every table must share a warm, gooey cinnamon bun. After that, opt for the roasted vegetable eggs Benedict, or maybe another variety: Mediterranean, red beans and rice, crab cake, steak or traditional.
If you’re still saving up for your tapas-and-steak dinner at the splurgy rooftop Capa, explore the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World with a better-than breakfast at Ravello. This sleek spot has both à la carte and buffet offerings. Look for citrus salad with ginger syrup, brioche French toast stuffed with Key lime curd and a locally sourced shrimp-and-grits combo.
One can find any wild variety of eggs Benedict all over town, but the most authentic version, surely, is served at Oscar’s in the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. The poached egg with ham and hollandaise, after all, was created in the original New York City Waldorf. The signature dish complements a full array of buffet and à la carte offerings. The waffle is a big seller: light and crispy with Florida strawberries, whipped cream and Vermont maple syrup.
In locations throughout Central Florida, the unfussy Zaza gives Cuban foods a bit of polished zip. In the a.m., hungry hordes fuel up on breakfast sandwiches and platters, served with Cuban toast and strong coffee. As it says on the menu, “Some people skip breakfast. Cubans don’t skip meals.”
This upscale Venezuelan coffee shop–style restaurant near the south I-Drive outlet mall is so authentic that you may have trouble finding English-speaking service. That enhances the experience. For breakfast, have an arepa—a bready pocket filled with shrimp, sauce and cheese, or eggs, black beans and cheese. But breakfast doesn’t start til 10. 8117 Vineland Ave., Orlando.
In a Mexican resort, we discovered chilaquiles—a breakfast of fried tortilla strips doused with chicken, green sauce and cheese. If you can wait until 10 a.m., you can breakfast like this through dinner at El Tenampa, a South Orlando cantina, drinking freshly squeezed fruit juices like tamarind or guava with your meal. Come on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to hear a mariachi band perform. 11242 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando.
The Rollicking Raglan Weekend Brunch is pretty much as upbeat as it sounds. While guests feast on breakfast faves like oatmeal, pancakes and full Irish breakfasts—or daytime staples like shepherd’s pie or fish-and-chips—Irish dancers tap and leap enthusiastically to live music tunes. Groups might pre-order “Host the Roast!” a hearty family-style meal.
Hamburger Mary’s is known as much for its colorful staff as it is for its burgers, and that upbeat approach extends to its Broadway Brunch. The foods are predictable (mostly), such as omelets, skillets—oh, and the G-BLT. While you eat, drag queens with names like The Minx and Ginger Minj perform show tunes.
Häos on Church
Fried pickles, brunch burgers and plenty of bubbles are on the menu at Tiara Brunch, which happens every Sunday between 10:30am and 3:30pm. BLUElala Entertainment provides the bawdy distractions by guests VARIAtease and other talented burlesque performers.
House of Blues
Have a little soul with your smoked ham at the weekly Sunday Gospel Brunch. Spirited performers, traditional or contemporary, belt out godly tunes while guests heap their buffet plates with bread pudding, made-to-order omelets, jambalaya and chicken and waffles.
Nurse Your Hangover
Give your morning a boost with The COOP’s Mexican Scramble, where chorizo sausage, poblano peppers and cheese will tackle any lingering effects from the night before. Other than that, go Southern at this counter-service stop, with sweet potato–pecan pancakes, cinnamon roll French toast or cornmeal-crusted catfish and grits topped with a fried egg.
Hash House a Go Go
This upbeat International Drive American restaurant tends to go large—and by large, we mean gargantuan—on all its entrées. To recover from a too-fun evening, counter the booze with a scramble of chipotle-charred tomato, chuck roast, fresh asparagus and mozzarella. If you’re bent on eggs, the sage-fried chicken with spinach, bacon, tomato, griddled mozzarella, chipotle cream and scrambled eggs might do the trick. Open at 8 a.m. daily.
Breakfasts at this downtown Orlando hot spot span the world, from a Japanese-style breakfast bowl with chili sauce and togarashi over eggs, bacon and rice to a Southern-style one with chorizo, grits and smoked Moody Blue cheese. Organic fruit smoothies, croissant egg sandwiches and coffees like the spicy Mexican mocha and the sweet Fluffer Nutter latte will rev anyone up before a morning meeting.
This spot for globally influenced tapas opens on Saturday and Sunday for what seems like an endless brunch. Following a trail along the cramped quarters, guests heap their plates with leg of lamb, rosemary-roasted chicken, snow crab claws and flourless chocolate cake. Servers will bring croissant French toast, griddle cakes and unlimited sangria and mimosas to the table, all part of the $39.95 price tag.
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