Manny's Original Chophouse (10.4 miles:- 17 mins)
We had this restaurant recommended to us by friends in the UK. Manny’s was always on our hit list to try out and after a busy day we decided to call in for a nice juicy steak. 6.00pm seemed a good time to ‘get there for an early dinner’ ….. well it was for us …and also for about 20-30 other people outside too!! The restaurant inside was already heaving. The smells were divine! We entered and asked the courteous staff what the chances were for a table ….. 'table available in about 90 minutes' …we looked at each other and decided to come back the next evening instead and take their advice which was to phone ahead and book. By booking ahead you generally still have to wait for your table when you get there, which is a testament to how popular Manny's is. However, the wait greatly reduced to about 30 minutes which was fine as we were able to enjoy a drink beforehand and take advantage of the happy hour. Their 'Happy Hour' 2 for 1 drinks does in fact stretch from 4.00 pm until 7.00 pm! Our barman delivered up my beer in a two pint glass that made us both laugh and we stood outside listening to the banter of the locals.
When called to our table (they give diners an electronic device which vibrates when their table is available) we were well looked after and had a brilliant meal of breads, salads and steaks. We can honestly say we were absolutely ‘pogged’ and the ‘people watching’ was second to none. It’s a brilliant place for couples and families alike. Children are given crayons to decorate the table cloth!
Our suggestions for visiting are:
(1) Phone ahead to be put on the list for a table reservation. You’ll still have to wait for a while but probably about half the length of time you would have to wait if you just turn up without phoning in advance.
(2) The salads and rolls are delicious …be careful not to fill up on them!
International Drive (22.9 miles: 28 minutes)
International Drive (or I-Drive) has an abundance of places to choose from to dine out. This link is worth a read though as it showcases 5 restaurants (one being MacDonalds!). Some of them sound a lot of fun though in terms of the entertainment and the food sounds good too. Not eaten at any of these yet ourselves but could also check out their reviews on Tripadviser if you are interested.
Longhorn Steak House (15.9 miles: 21 minutes)
There are numerous outlets of Longhorn Steak House in and around Orlando, although we have so far only eaten at the one based on 5351 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34746, as it is the nearest one to our villa being just 21 minutes drive away.
It is located on the edge of a large retail park which is also the location of a TJ Max so we tend to “walk off” our meal with a browse round TJ Max afterwards and look for some great bargains!
We have eaten here 3 times now over the past year. Once as just a couple and twice with my elderly parents and our grown up sons. Each time we have had to sit and wait for a table for around 15 minutes or so. However, you can get a drink and sit at the bar and the food and experience make the wait worthwhile.
The service, ambience and decor are all very good and the food across a range of different choices is excellent. It is of course a steak house and choosing one of their steaks will certainly leave you very happy with your selection as they are cooked to perfection. The menu does offer a wide range of dishes though, not just steak, and from what we have seen and tried, they have all been very good.
5351 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee, FL, 34746
Portofino Bay Hotel (34 miles: 47 minutes)
Portofino Bay Hotel near to Universal Studios was recommended to us by a local as a nice place to go for a meal in the evening as it is really quite a unique place. When you arrive at the hotel parking is in a large multi storey car park but if you buy any food at one of the hotel’s restaurants they will validate your car parking ticket so that it is free to exit.
When you get to the entrance of the hotel you walk down some steps and find yourself in a large Italian piazza overlooking a lake. Various restaurants and bars surround the piazza. On the evening that we were there which was in May 2016 it was surprisingly very quiet especially bearing in mind that it is a popular hotel for people to stay who want to go to Universal Studios and a small ferry for hotel guests runs from a jetty on the lake to the theme park . It is a lovely place to sit out in the square and enjoy a drink especially as each evening there is free entertainment in the form of a couple of opera singers who come out onto a balcony of the hotel and give a 20 minute or so performance to the audience in the piazza. The time may vary slightly when the do this but when we were there they came out and performed at 8.30pm.
Afterwards we had dinner in the Italian restaurant called Mama Della’s Ristorante (see link above). It was busy despite the area being quiet so we were glad we reserved a table an hour before we wanted to eat. The meal was nice but in my personal opinion nothing special and more expensive and not as good a somewhere like the chain restaurant Olive Garden. However Mama Della’s is not a chain which makes a nice change and the location was very nice.
We will definitely return to Portofino Bay Hotel in the future to spend an evening there again but next time we will try the Thirsty Fish Restaurant which is next to the edge of the lake and was in fact where we had been given the recommendation to eat but we went for the Italian option instead on this occasion.
We would recommend an evening here as it is just so different to other venues and in the evening when it gets dark it is very pretty with the lights reflecting off the lake
Ovation Bistro and Bar (7.1 MILES:- 11 MINUTES)
We have eaten at Ovation Bistro and Bar four times now. Once just the two of us and on the other occasions with friends and family and it always goes down really well with everyone. It has been very busy each time we have been and I have been pleased that we had booked in advance. The portions are pretty big, as is typical of all the restaurants in the area, and the quality of the food is very good too.
There are a lot of things to choose from on the menu and twice I have had a very nicely cooked steak with a salad. Richard has chosen the ribs and steaks and always been happy. My niece and nephew who are very hard to please teenagers had a beef burger and a chicken burger and both eat them quite happily, which is saying quite a lot for them. The desserts are nice too, and I have really enjoyed the cheesecake.
Ovation is a good choice to eat as the location is just off Posner Park on the US 27 so it is easy to get to and only about 10 minutes drive via the new Ernie Caldwell Blvd link road which makes access to that area from the villa really excellent.
Would suggest booking ahead for a table. Tel: +1 863-354-6967
Monday- Thursday 11 am - 10 pm
Friday - Saturday 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Sunday- 12:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Ponderosa Steak House (10.4 miles: 18 minutes)
We went to Ponderosa Steak House for the first time this week after chatting to a man recently who had been there in the evening with his family for steak and salads and he told us how pleasantly suprised they had been by both the quality and price as well as the food being very fresh and healthy.
We decided to try their breakfast as Tripadvisor reviews said it is very good for breakfast. We thought it was very good value in terms of quality and quantity of food. It is a buffet from which you can eat as much as you want and it ranges from fruit, yogurt, cereals, cooked breakfast and then waffles and pancakes.
I had an omlette which is cooked in front of you and tailor made to what you want inside it. It was very nice. Afterwards I tried a waffle and a pancake with maple syrup. Richard had grapefruit followed by a full cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, beans and hash browns. We also had two cups of coffee.
Service was good and the total bill was around $20.
The Cheesecake Factory (27.8 MILES :- 37 MINUTES)
Part of a large chain The Cheesecake Factory has restaurants throughout the USA and tends to be very popular. The one we went to in Orlando is located at the shopping centre The Mall at Millenia and was convenient to stop off at on the way home after a day at Universal Studios.
I don't know why but the name of the restaurant The Cheesecake Factory always gave me the impression of a fairly basic, almost buffet type eatery and so it was quite a surprise when we first arrived to discover it is actually a very smart and quite upmarket establishment. We had phoned while on route and were told no need to reserve a table as it was "quite quiet". When we arrived 20 minutes later it was full and we had to wait 45 minutes for a table which was hard as by then it was nearly 9 pm and we were all shattered after a full day at Universal Studios.
The food was very good and our sons, aged 27 and 30, particularly enjoyed their meal. The hot, spicy chicken wings were a great starter. The mains were things such as steaks, ribs, pasta and pizza. We also shared a very large pudding between a few of us.
From a price point of view it was the most expensive place we had eaten out at while we had my sister and her teenage children on holiday with us. It was a good meal but I am not sure if it was worth as much as it cost us, but that may have been because we were perhaps just a little bit too tired and eat too late to fully enjoy our meal.
Al Fresco dining ideas (Varies)
With the weather so good in Florida it is one of the great pleasures when on holiday to be able to go out in the evenings and enjoy the warm, balmy feel. When it is so lovely and warm it is wonderful to be able to make the most of it and eat al fresco. It is often warmer to eat outside than in as many if not all of the restaurants have their air conditioning in full use and that can sometimes make a restaurant feel quite chilly inside.
Pointe Orlando (23 MILES:- 30 MINUTES )
If you want a change from the parks then Pointe Orlando on International Drive has a lot to offer with a range of shops, restaurants and various attractions. It is a fun place to have a stroll around and if you fancy somewhere a bit different to eat out then this blog from Visit Orlando on Top 10 Reasons to visit Pointe Orlando gives some really good ideas of bars/restaurants that have live music to help while your night away while you eat.
Harborside Restaurant (22 Miles:- 40 Minutes)
Harborside is a very nice restaurant, situated south of the villa in Winter Haven. It is situated right on edge of Lake Shipp and is a great waterside dining spot with lovely views. Inside there are many tables that have windows looking directly onto the lake and there is also a patio overlooking the lake for dining al fresco. We ate at Harborside twice within a week. Once on our own and once with 4 friends and each time we enjoyed our food.
The restaurant is right next to the jetty for The Living Water Boat Cruises, although it states on their website that their tours depart from various locations in Winter Haven and the departure location is assigned at the time of booking a cruise.
Harborside Restaurant is a good choice if you are visiting Circle B Reserve , which is one of our favourite places for hiking and bird watching, as well as gator spotting. It is only 15 minutes drive to the restaurant from the reserve.