Eating Out And Restaurants
Although it would be stretching a point to describe American food as haute cuisine, it is both accurate and fair to praise its convenience, general availability, reasonable price and good quality. Portions tend to be large so a great feature of most places is they will pack up leftovers in a “doggy bag” if you just can’t finish it. Also, the concept of sharing (as in ordering one dessert and three spoons!) is readily accepted.
The number of catering outlets in Florida is staggering. There is always somewhere to eat close by, no matter where you are, and the service is unfailingly cheerful, efficient and friendly. There are no access, menu or attitude problems with small children – still a feature of UK dining out – and there is no need to self-cater. Most diners and family restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and many are open 24/7.
The variety is also impressive. Although Indian restaurants are few, far-between and relatively expensive, just about every other example of international food else is represented – particularly Italian.
The food available reflects the cultural melting pot that is America. Despite this, pretty much everywhere serves the staple American fare of steaks, ribs, chicken and seafood, with differences in style and emphasis the main features. For example, at Italian places there are more pastas and pizzas whilst those influenced by TexMex have more chili and tortillas on the menus. Our group had its fair share of preferences and a few food fads, but nobody went hungry at any of the places chosen.
On this page is a list of those restaurants and diners we have tried and tested, together with location details of the closest to Calabay Parc and comments where appropriate.
We haven't mentioned the big fast food chains as most are household names and the products are equally well-known, there seemed little point. However, this group’s choice for best place for a snack stop in a hurry was Burger King.
A few extra points to bear in mind if this is your first time in Florida. In common with the other 49 states is a tipping culture that expects 15%. This is not as generous as it seems, as wages in catering are very low and staff depend on tips to make a living.
Remember that when you pay by credit card or switch, you will be asked to fill in the amount to be paid as well as signing the slip. This allows tipping by card. Where service is included this is unnecessary as a separate donation, but 15 to 18% will be added on the bill. The exception to the above is fast food outlets and anywhere else without table service.
Finally, a 6% local tax is levied on everything bought in Florida. A minor irritant in comparison with our VAT, and put even more in perspective when you realise there is no state income tax in Florida!
This is a Caribbean style diner with amazing plantation-room styling. Don't forget to try the mouthwatering West Indian Patties or the sublime Black Pepper Seared Tuna. However choose your time to visit carefully, because at peak times there can be a delay getting a table due to its popularity. On International Drive.
A restaurant for true motor-racing fans. Packed with rare motor-racing memorabilia it's a Hard Rock Cafe for motor sports. They are open until midnight and reasonably priced, so a great place to go and unwind after a busy day. On International Drive.
This is the best place to go for an American breakfast. There is waitress service and takeout, and it is not just breakfast either, Denny’s serves throughout the day with many outlets open 24 hours. There is usually at least one great bargain on the menu and great for pancakes. On the 192.
Lots of lobster, prawns and even steaks. Lobster has never so affordable. On the192 near Splendid China.
This is an Irish-American themed grill and tavern with a decent range of beers. The ribs are unmissable, and are fabulous as part of a combo! On the 192 east of International Drive.
Not to be missed – Australian theme restaurant. Huge steaks! It's not cheep, but it is worth it. You can find it on the 192 next to Splendid China.
We love Carrabba’s. It's an Italian grill restaurant. You get fresh bread and a herb dip to munch on whilst choosing. Great atmosphere. On the 192 next to Splendid China.
In our opinion this is the best vegetarian restaurant in town. Featured on BBC’s Holiday you call the shots. It has a fantastic range of salads, soups etc at a very low fixed price. At the top of International Drive. Great after a day at Universal.
The Olive Garden
We really like eating here. You get a great value Italian meal (although wine will push the price up). Children are also well catered for and seem to like it as well. A good place to relax after a busy day at the parks. On the 192 near the 535.
For a special night out. Charlie’s consistently comes in the top ten steak houses in the USA. Don’t order starters and sharing a steak is definitely worth considering. Great wine list too. On 192 near Marker 8.