East Orlando definitely doesn’t get as much love as the downtown or Disney areas. I love the opportunity to showcase the place that I called home for four years when I first moved out for college back in 2014. I lived in that part of town with my boyfriend (now fiance) and went to school at UCF and Valencia for a few years. Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do with friends, it still is. I loved to explore the food scene when I wasn’t busy with school or work. Though as a college student I definitely wasn’t going to any fancy, expensive places. So in this blog I’ll tell you the places to eat in East Orlando that are affordable without sacrificing flavor or atmosphere.
My Top 10 Places to Eat in East Orlando (Near UCF):
A few of these places are located in Waterford Lakes, a popular shopping plaza with a lot to offer. I actually worked at the Petsmart there for a few months. Pretty much everyone I knew in college worked in the plaza at some point- so it’s a hot spot for locals and visitors alike. The restaurants that aren’t in Waterford are still within about 10 minutes of UCF. You don’t have to go far to enjoy a variety of flavors!
I’m starting strong with SusHi. They have custom poke bowls, sushi burritos (that you can tempura fry), and sushi rolls. They also have a bunch of different appetizers like rice fries, krab rangoons, and dumplings. Any time someone visited from out of town we took them here and they always loved it. It’s fun and friendly, plus they have options varying from tofu to tuna to steak, so even your vegan or sushi-skeptical friends can enjoy. They’ve expanded since their first location by UCF and now they have a few more in Central Florida. We go to the Millenia one whenever we can. If you go you have to try the sweet soy sauce- it’s great with everything!
My best friend and I love a good shrimp boil. This place is a hidden gem with an unassuming location in front of a bowling alley, hidden in plain sight. We found it on Yelp one day and realized we had driven by it many times without even noticing it. Once you actually go in it’s a cute seafood joint with great specials and lots of options. It is small, which was fine for our party of two, but if you have a big group I suggest ordering out. The food is fresh and made to order so you have to wait, but it’s worth it. They have shrimp, crawfish, gumbo, really anything your southern heart desires!
While this list isn’t in any particular order, Fresh Kitchen would definitely be in my top 3. They make healthy food taste so good. Their food is bowl-style with different bases, proteins, and toppings. The location in Waterford Lakes has the cutest aesthetic. There’s lots of bright wallpaper and a patio area if you want to eat outside. I probably miss this place the most since moving to Kissimmee. The mashed cauliflower and sweet potato noodle bases were my favorite, topped with whatever the current tofu option was (it changes seasonally). Honestly you can’t go wrong here, all of their food is so good. If you aren’t sure what you want just ask your server and they’ll let you try a bite of the toppings before you choose!
Marlow’s Tavern is probably the best “date night” spot on this list. It is a pub-style restaurant located in Waterford that has fun weekly specials,. From what I’ve heard it also has a pretty nice brunch on weekends. They have TVs and mostly American-style food that you would expect from a sports bar, but with an upscale twist. I got a veggie burger and cheesy grit cakes that were great, plus a fun drink on ladies night! Marlow’s also has a great cocktail menu and change their food menu up pretty often so you can always go back to try their new meals.
Lazy Moon is a UCF icon. All students have been at least once (but usually much more). They have pizza slices bigger than your face. They’re open until 3 AM most nights which is perfect since they are located right near some of the university’s most popular bars (Lib and Pub- if you know, you know). The pizza is good and there are a bunch of topping options. They also have honey you can put on your crust. I had never heard of doing this and now do at home to this day.
I know, another pizza place? I had to include Blaze because they are such a great if you have a group with varying tastes. As long as everyone likes pizza (if they don’t, why are you even friends??) you can each get your own delicious, custom personal sized pizzas. You can eat there or even have them delivered to you. You can also order large pizzas if your group has similar tastes. They have a bunch of toppings to choose from, even vegan “meats”, cheese, and GF/ vegan crust options!
There is a surprising lack of cute cafes (rip Natura Coffee & Tea) in the area considering the large population of young people in need of places to study/ get free wifi for a few hours. Coffee Factory & Cafe fits the bill. While the original coffee shop in this location was replaced and redecorated, it is still a cute spot to go with friends or work on your laptop. I love their unique flavors like spiced maple and honey or chocolate churro. The food is really good too if you want more than just a latte. For my favorite coffee shops in Orlando check out this blog!
This is more than just a bakery. Insomnia Cookies delivers freshly baked cookies and other sweet treats to your door until 3 AM. That’s right, they’re delivered to you. In the current world of Doordash and Uber Eats that sounds like nothing, but in 2017 this was mind blowing. Plus, they are just as delicious as they are convenient. They have a variety of flavors to choose from (though either of their double chocolate flavors are my personal favorites). Insomnia cookies even has a vegan/gluten free cookie!
Sweet! By Holly is my favorite dessert spot in the area, I miss them dearly. I love their mini cupcakes and the fro yo bar is a great pairing. They have 30 flavors that are constantly changing, with creative options like different cereals, s’mores, tiramisu, and blueberry cheesecake. I’ve honestly never tried a flavor I did not like, plus they look adorable! They are located in Waterford Lakes, and are a perfect stop during a long day of shopping (the fro-yo tastes even better on a hot day).
If you’ve never had nitrogen ice cream I definitely recommend going! It’s a fun experience, and perfect for a summer date (or any time, who am I kidding it’s Florida). You can have one of their yummy flavor combos or pick your own mix-ins and toppings to try, and finish it off with one of their sauces. We chose cookies and cream, and the spoon they give you changes colors when it gets cold! They also have fro-yo and coconut milk ice cream. The freezing process is fun to watch- plus it makes for a denser, creamer treat than traditional ice cream.
That’s my list of my top 10 places to eat in East Orlando. I hope it is helpful for anyone new to the area, or if you just want to branch out and try a few new spots to eat! There are so many more great restaurants in the area, local and chain locations. I will add a few more “honorable mentions” below if you want to know a few more of my favorites.
Haven’t Tried (yet):
- Ice & Bites
- The Social House
I haven’t been back to try out all of the new restaurants and cafes that have popped up in the last few years, but I’ve heard there are some great spots to try when I make the trip back one day.
Are there any places to eat in East Orlando that I should add to my must-try list?