Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster (Photo: David Lawrence)
Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations — they’re all prime reasons for taking your dinner show on the road. Luckily, Orlando’s restaurant scene is bursting with perfect places to pop the bubbly and make a toast to a new year, a new marriage, a new job … you get the point.
Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, Winter Park
Marked by impeccable service, a hopping piano bar, and ambiance that exudes romance, Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster is consistently one of Orlando’s favorite places to celebrate. Slide into one of the deep red leather banquettes and let the bow-tied staff whisk you away to a time when the power lunch was king.
Start your meal with a dish of calamari drizzled with Thai sweet chili sauce and a crab cake that boasts way more jumbo lump crab than cake. For your entree, wet-aged USDA Prime steaks are broiled to order and paired with house wines you won’t find anywhere else. Finish with a giant slice of mandarin orange cake — a family recipe and perennial dessert menu favorite. Reserve one of nine private rooms at no extra charge (some are smaller than others, holding between 8 and 40 people), or make reservations for the last Saturday of the month and sit in on a fun-filled sleight-of-hand presentation by one of Orlando’s best magicians, Kostya Kimlat.
Chef’s Table at the Edgewater, Winter Garden
Just outside Orlando’s city limits is Winter Garden, a sleepy town with a surprising secret — there’s a James-Beard-nominated chef slinging some of the best food in the state. You’ll be presented with a three-course prix fixe menu, where you’ll choose an appetizer like the favorite mushroom and chive torte or the pan-seared foie gras with brioche and blueberry-lavender gastrique; an entree of duck, fish, pork or steak; and a dessert like sweet potato and white chocolate bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream. That will all set you back about $55, but take it over the top (it is a special occasion after all) and pair every course with wine for another $23.50. This place is not messing around — chef Kevin Tarter helms the kitchen, and his training under Scott Hunnel at Victoria & Albert’s is an undeniable high-end culinary pedigree.
Luma on Park, Winter Park
Another member of Orlando’s culinary royalty, chef Brandon McGlamery, heads up the kitchen at Luma on Park, one of the best places to spot a celeb in the city. The open kitchen is an immediate sign that food is paramount here. McGlamery believes heartily in using farm-fresh ingredients from local purveyors as much as possible, so you’ll find names like Waterkist Farms, Lake Meadows Naturals and plenty of local fish on the menu. Start with yellowfin crudo with local strawberries and roasted beets. Then, dive into a ribeye Delmonico steak or pasta bolognese topped with eight-hour ragu. Finish light with a lemongrass pot de creme or go whole hog with a charcuterie and cheese plate to finish your meal. Reserve the wine room downstairs for an intimate and exclusive dinner experience for up to 42 guests.
The Knife, Lake Buena Vista
One of those restaurants you leave groaning in complete corporal satisfaction, The Knife is an Argentine steakhouse that’s all-you-care-to-eat and then some. Table-side carving of USDA Black Angus beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork and sausages make this a carnivore’s delight, and there’s plenty of options for kids as well. The place is loud, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself letting kids be kids while you stuff you gullet with whatever protein is making the rounds. After all, it’s your celebration. The salad bar is worth the money itself, full of ceviches and antipasto and fries of all kinds. The trick is not to fill up on the smorgasbord at the bar before that meat starts coming around. You’ll want plenty of space for top sirloin, stuffed pork loin and short ribs. Finish your celebration sweetly with arroz con leche or a crepe filled with dulce de leche.