Orlando’s best morning meals, from organic granola to a platter full of tacos with deep-fried cod
BY RONA GINDIN
At home, we tend to have a start-the-day habit. Coffee or tea, along with toast or eggs or oatmeal or bagels or avocado or muffins, just to get us started. That’s why having breakfast out is such a joy. We’re treated to a change of foods, flavors, aromas and textures. Plus, of course, we get to skip the dirty dishes.
Restaurants around town cater to our daybreak needs in diverse ways. Here’s a roundup of options—some for breakfast, others for weekend brunch.
Market Street Café
Celebration’s three-meals-a-day restaurant is big on big portions, so a simple breakfast of baked potato omelet, breakfast burrito or cookies-and-cream pancakes will feel more like an event than a simple day-starter. If coffee won’t do, you might want to get one of the mammoth milkshakes.
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, plus 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—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.
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.
Indoor and outdoor breakfasts have a slight Italian accent at this airy Winter Park newcomer. Jelly-filled croissants, cheese-filled corn pancakes and asparagus frittatas are among the morning attractions—along with foamy cappuccinos.
Located on Winter Park’s Park Avenue, Barnie’s signature unit is at once an espresso bar—with exceptional latte art—and a restaurant with light farm-to-table meals 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), and 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.
Orlando’s four Dexter’s cafés are known for foods with bold flavors in unusual combinations, and the Sunday brunch bloody Mary is an example, with its spicy base of Zing Zang. Each unit has its own morning meals, but they’re similar to Winter Park’s: walnut-banana bread, truffled egg whites and wild mushrooms on grilled sourdough and A Hot Mess, aka fried chicken with a buttermilk biscuit. dexwine.com
The Tasting Room
With its dark woods and low lighting, this tapas-style spin-off the Chef’s Table at the Edgewater Hotel is romantic at night. On Sunday morning, it evolves into the purveyor of Bloody Benedict Sundays, where a simple tomato juice-based cocktail is only $3 (unless you add on a muffuletta slider for $4). The beef tenderloin/pork belly burger has all kinds of toppings, and the egg-inclined might choose one of four Benedicts.
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.
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, um, 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.
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.
You’ll be full all day after a Polish breakfast at Polonia, a Longwood restaurant where Eastern European favorites show up in surprising ways. Cheese-babka French toast, omelets with fresh or smoked kielbasa and eggs with Polish scrapple complement more standard-American fare like biscuits with gravy.
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.
In Altamonte Springs and on Curry Ford Road, 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.
(New) Southern Style
Local sourcing is important to the chefs of this all-day restaurant in Winter Park’s Alfond Inn, so diners can bet that the ingredients in their omelet with bitter greens and charred tomato, if not the aged white cheddar, were sourced locally if possible. Chef Bill’s French toast is enhanced by “Heavens to Betsy” preserves; that can’t be bad.
In Thornton Park, the Soco chefs put a 2015 spin on Southern staples by topping “johnny cakes” with crab and artichoke, placing poached eggs on duck confit potato cakes and putting its homemade granola and yogurt into a retro mason jar. The rustic-chic spot also offers up half a dozen “brunch libations.” Coffee—iced Lineage roasted coffee—is mixed with bourbon and espresso liqueur in the Kentucky Cooler.
Highball & Harvest
Highball & Harvest seems frou frou by nature of its Ritz-Carlton address, yet the Southern-splashed breakfast fare has humble roots. Grandma’s Biscuits & Gravy come with fingerling potatoes, and 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.
The Smiling Bison
This sausage-centric from-scratch hangout gets ambitious with its Saturday brunch menu, which includes cheddar and bacon-fat biscuits with sausage gravy and fried sage and French toast with bananas, strawberries, candied peanuts and whipped cream.
The Crooked Spoon
Now that Clermont has its own gastropub, foodies looking for a Saturday or Sunday fix might fill up on duck huevos rancheros made with duck confit, a four-cheese-and-chive omelet that includes smoked Gouda or chicken and waffles with garam masala maple syrup.