Cheap eating in Orlando doesn't mean boring food. You'll find genuine international cuisine, burly burgers, colossal cookies, cool cocktails and lots of satisfying bites. An example is the Big Floyd sandwich, as displayed by Gretchen Velez at Pig Floyd's in Orlando's Mills 50 district.
At Pig Floyd's, you can have a pulled pork sandwich or a rack of ribs, and you'll also encounter barbecue in a taco or a bento box. "We present barbecue as you probably know it, but we give it influences from all around the world," says Big Floyd's Gretchen Velez.
The Big Floyd ($9.95) is a massive sandwich that includes beef brisket, sausage, pulled pork, citrus peanut slaw and French fries on a Hawaiian-style roll.
Serving the downtown Orlando nighttime crowd with big food and big style is Beth's Burger Bar, owned by local entrepreneur Beth Steele. Choose one of the popular house burgers or create your own using a combination of the dozens of available toppings. There are three Beth's locations around the city.
Beth's Burger Bar employees say the most popular menu item is the Peanut Butter Burger, featuring house-made peanut butter sauce, grilled onions, cheddar cheese and A-1 steak sauce. A double costs $7.74, and a single is $5.24.
Mathers Social Gathering is a cocktail lounge that hearkens to Prohibition-era speakeasies, but it's above ground. In fact, you'll see a lot of daylight from the third floor of the Mather Building, a 19th-century structure that was previously a furniture store.
If you give the word to one of the bartenders at Mathers Social Gathering, you'll be taken to a corner of the bar where a secret menu is revealed under black light.
Santiago Emeric, bar manager at Mathers Social Gathering, pours a Bathtub Gin cocktail. The aromatic concoction contains The Botanist gin, honey simple syrup, freshly ground lavender, lemon juice, and half and half. The $15 Prohibition-inspired drink is served in a ceramic bathtub and offered half price daily during happy hour, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
East End Market, in Orlando's Audubon Park Garden District, draws foodies with its focus on eats crafted from the bounty of Central Florida farms. The 11 businesses share a space that's become a cultural hub with a market garden, live music, culinary classes and an incubator kitchen.
Steve Lewis, owner of Gideon's Bakehouse inside Orlando's East End Market, displays a few of his novel, oversized cookies that have captured the sweet teeth of Orlando residents. Lewis, a musician and artist, experimented with his cookie-making hobby for years before opening Gideon's. The bakery has a winsome, literary vibe that Lewis created based on handwritten notes in a 19th-century cookbook. "We've only been here for a year and a half, but we've sold out every day," he says.
Sandra Leal, an employee at Gideon's Bakehouse, works on a Cookies & Cream cake in the bakehouse's cozy kitchen at Orlando's East End Market.
Lineage Coffee Roasting co-owner Ryan Wilcox travels the world with co-owners Jarrett and Justine Johnson in search of beans for their 5-year-old business in Orlando's East End Market. The expertise is apparent in the finely brewed coffees served at two Orlando locations. "Ever since we started, we were really interested in the supply chain, finding and buying the green coffee," Wilcox says. "Now, we want to make our passion for coffee known."
Annastasia Charles prepares a pour over, a brewing method that highlights the craft coffees that Lineage produces.
A mug of mocha at Lineage Coffee in Orlando's East End Market is $4.50.
As the sign implies, there's nothing timid about Se7en Bites, a Southern-style bakery that's big on flavor. Serving breakfast and lunch items that range from sweet to savory, Se7en Bites features "the quintessential things that you'll find in a Southern kitchen," says owner Trina Gregory-Propst.
Gregory-Propst entered culinary school at age 40, trading in a career in the spa business for the opportunity to run a restaurant. Now, she's turning her grandmother's recipes into favorites among Orlando diners. The most popular dish is the 7th Trimester, featuring a garlic buttermilk biscuit, eggs, Applewood-smoked bacon and five-cheese mac and cheese for $9.75. "No diets are allowed here," she says.
The sweet side of Se7en Bites includes pies, cheesecake, scones, pudding, cookies and other items, such as salted caramel dark chocolate pecan pie ($7), the Don't Fudge With Me bar cookie ($5.75) and dark chocolate stout cake ($6).
Linda Tran and her daughter, Mai Dang, offer freshly made Vietnamese food at Mai Bistro, a fast-casual restaurant on Colonial Drive in Orlando's Asian district. Tran and her husband, Dat Dang, started the concept in 2017, providing quick-serve Vietnamese favorites such as banh mi sandwiches, noodle dishes and flavored tea.
Mai Bistro’s grilled pork banh mi sandwich is served on a steamed bao bun with traditional Vietnamese veggies for $5.45.
Mai Bistro's combination sticky rice, which includes Vietnamese sausage, pork roll, shredded chicken and barbecue pork, goes for $6.95.
Patti McCall (right) and Emily Nodino enjoy the atmosphere at Black Rooster Taqueria in Orlando. Black Rooster provides a hip take on Mexican food, with a variety of ceviches, tacos and combo bowls on the menu. The inspired decor includes handmade furniture by chef John Calloway, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Juliana.
At Black Rooster Taqueria, a variety of tacos, such as the Black Rooster asada (right) and the vegetarian, range from $3.25 to $4.75.
One of Orlando's up-and-coming dessert shops is Kelly's Homemade Ice Cream. Founded in 2015 by New York transplants Kelly and Scott Seidl, the shop offers craft ice cream and sorbets at two locations.
Chris Vithoven, with Kelly's Homemade Ice Cream, serves a flight of four scoops in sugar cones, including the popular "Cookie Monster" flavor, center. The four-serving sample costs $8.25.
Lazy Moon is revered around the University of Central Florida campus for its oversized pizzas and craft beer menu. There’s a second location near downtown Orlando.
Lazy Moon is known for husky slices. A piece of cheese pizza will set you back just $4.20.