Just Back: Florida Restaurants Not to Miss in Orlando and Palm Beach

Last year, for the first time ever, Florida debuted its own Michelin Guide—an international sign that the state’s culinary scene is flourishing. Having just visited Orlando and Palm Beach, if food was formerly an afterthought, it feels like every establishment is upping its culinary game, from theme parks to stand-alone restaurants. Here are some not to miss:

Orlando: Michelin Star Steakhouse to Special Dining Events

Capa, the Spanish-theme steakhouse at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, is fantastic not just for the food but the whole experience. The sexy space, on the 17th floor of the hotel, sets the mood with dim lighting, modern black decor and bold strokes of red—not to mention amazing views. Top tip: Find out what time the Disney fireworks are happening; you can clearly see them from the restaurant. (Depending on the time of year, Disney fireworks can happen from 6:30 to 10:30 pm.)

The menu crafted by Executive Chef Malyna Si—which earned the restaurant a Michelin star in the inaugural Florida guide—is the perfect combination of daring and comfort food you crave, all with her unique spin and making use of the finest locally sourced ingredients as well as some rare items imported from Spain. 

A restaurant with modern black and red decor

On that note, do not miss ordering the Iberico Pluma; this is an unusual Spanish cut of pork that comes from the neck end of the loin, making it fattier and more succulent. Chef Si pairs it with her own Marcona Almond Romesco and Orange Marmalade, the perfect balance of salty and sweet, cut with a hint of citrus. The steaks are sourced from ranches in Texas and Kansas; we loved the bone-in New York Strip. If you are not a meat-eater, there are plenty of seafood options, including caviar, oysters, local shrimp and fish, as well as Maine lobster, and a great selection for vegetarians.

The starters and sides are equally amazing. Our favorites: The patatas bravas with aioli, fried cauliflower with culantro sofrito, and a delicate app of dates, almonds and bacon. If you have room, all the desserts are winners and they will make a sampler platter for you. Pretty neat: The wine list is one of the most extensive in Florida; (Capa has been named to the Wine Enthusiast magazine list of Best 100 Wine Restaurants in the U.S.)

Good to know: Capa also has a kid's menu and is perfectly suitable for little ones early in the evening. There is also a lively bar scene and live Spanish guitar on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Booking is essential; call 407-313-7777.

Harbor Nights at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando

If you don’t know the five-star Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, it really does look exactly like its namesake in Italy, which is why the Italian-themed Harbor Nights event is so genius. Held about four times a year, the ticketed event draws a mix of well-heeled locals and travelers to the hotel’s harbor and spotlights authentic Italian cuisine (think: prosciutto, cheeses and Italian wines paired with live opera music and a festive atmosphere). There are a variety of hot food stations and desserts—you definitely need to come hungry, but really the quality of the food is on point. 

An outdoor restaurant at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando

Good to know: This is one for adults, 21 and over only. Booking essential, choose from $79 per person for Standing Harbor, $109 for VIP, and $850 for a Private Table (which includes reserved seating for up to 10 people at a private table for your entire party). The next event is on April 21, 2023.

Family option: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is also home to the delicious and more relaxed Mama Della’s, serving authentic dishes from Tuscany, Naples and Piemonte—best lasagna ever, while the cannoli and tiramisu are to die for. The dishes are served family-style in a fun atmosphere with live music. Booking is essential; call 407-503-3463.

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando: Ride and Dine

If you can’t make it to New Orleans but want to get into the Mardi Gras spirit, Universal Orlando has got you covered. During the entire Mardi Gras season, from the day before Ash Wednesday to the start of Lent in the Christian faith, Universal has nightly parades, dining experiences and live music. This year, there were eight live performances by top names in music like Sean Paul, Maren Morris and the Goo Goo Dolls—all included with your park ticket. A fun way to VIP Mardi Gras is the newly launched "Ride and Dine Experience," which includes a ride on a float and a three-course meal at one of four participating restaurants. Being on one of the New Orleans-inspired floats––such as the iconic, two-story Riverboat and nearly 50-foot-long King Gator––and throwing beads into the crowd is definitely next level.

At press time the 2024 Mardi Gras dates have not yet been announced, but as soon as you book your hotel for Mardi Gras and inquire about "Ride and Dine," contact the VIP Call Center at 866-346-9350.

Palm Beach: Felice in West Palm Beach

A table for four with pasta and wine served

The latest buzzy dining destination in Palm Beach is the new Tuscan restaurant and wine bar, Felice, part of the successful SA Hospitality Group that also owns Sant Ambroeus and Casa Lever in New York. While there has been a Sant Ambroeus cafe just across the Intercoastal way at the Royal Poinciana Plaza since 2017, this is the first restaurant for the group in West Palm Beach. The opening of Goldman Sachs's Florida office at 360 Rosemary, in the newly developed “The Square” neighborhood of West Palm Beach, has further solidified the area’s post-pandemic reputation as “Wall Street South.” Not surprisingly, top New York City restaurants are following.

When we visited Felice—occupying the ground floor of 360 Rosemary—last month shortly after opening, the beautiful curved stone bar was already teeming with professionals getting after-work drinks dotted with a mix of ladies dressed in Palm Beach florals and their pastel-shirted husbands. The space, designed by Meyer Davis, is warm yet airy with high plastered ceilings, walnut wood chairs and Italian tile accents—definitely giving la dolce vita vibes.

The food does not disappoint. Felice’s menu, led by Executive Chef Roberto Maurizio, includes signature favorites such as Pappardelle Alla Salsiccia (pappardelle pasta, Italian sausage, endive, Porcini mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano) and Branzino Al Cartoccio (oven roasted Greek branzino, potato, olive, fresh herbs)––both of which we loved.

The extensive Italian-driven wine program at Felice West Palm offers a selection of varietals, blends and esoteric grapes that can only be found in Italy, including a large selection of vintages of Super Tuscan and Brunello wines. There is also a heavy focus on organic, biodynamic, sulfate-free, sustainable and natural wines. 

Booking is essential; call 561-421-6036.

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