Gathering family around the Thanksgiving table is an annual tradition worth waiting for. But who says it has to be your table? Orlando offers some choices both upscale and casual for your holiday get-together.
Thanksgiving With International Flair
Located at the popular Orlando Eye ferris wheel, Tapa Toro invites your family to celebrate a festive Thanksgiving dinner. Guests will enjoy all-you-can-eat seasonal paella, farro salad with cranberries, and a sweet potato tart with marshmallow and whiskey caramel sauce. Flamenco dancing and music will be provided for the ultimate family entertainment.
Trade in turkey at home this year for lamb and late-night dancing at the ever-popular Taverna Opa on International Drive. Open from noon until 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Taverna Opa is serving a Greek-style prix fixe feast all day long. Enjoy your choice of appetizer and entree, plus indulge in dessert, with specialties like Greek salad, keftedes, spanakopita and sweet loukoumades. $25 per person. (The regular menu is also available.)
All Everyone Can Eat
Hotelier Harris Rosen, owner of the many Rosen hotels on and around International Drive, is a firm believer in buffets and offers some of the best holiday treats in Orlando. Of course there is turkey, stuffing and prime rib on the menu at Rosen Plaza, but the turkey adverse will also find a stir fry station and gulf shrimp, house cured smoked salmon, and one of the best dessert presentations on I-Drive.
Rosen Shingle Creek offers a 25 percent discount to Florida residents for their Thanksgiving Day Buffet at Café Osceola. The view of the grounds is impressive; the view of the buffet is better. Unlimited Mimosas and champagne make for a well-lubricated meal along with holiday favorites.
Rosen Centre’s elaborate all-day brunch goes from turkey and stuffing to omelettes, waffles, pasta and paella stations, Maine lobster bisque and market salads. Featured are specialties from various Centre restaurants—98Forty’s mango crab "martinis" and Banshoo’s Sushi Bar’s California rolls. Not to mention ample desserts including a chocolate fondue fountain. Prices include valet parking, champagne and Mimosas and all Rosen buffets offer meals free to kids under four. And if food isn't entertaining enough, stick around for the ice carving competition at 39 Poolside Bar & Grill.
Fun on the Run
Dining in the parks this year? You don't have to sacrifice a delicious dinner with traditional flavors while running to your next attraction.
Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort is serving up turkey and mashed potatoes at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe; mosey on over to Frontierland to partake in this hearty feast that includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and gravy. Sunshine Seasons in Epcot will also be serving a Thanksgiving plate for lunch and dinner consisting of turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce.
If you’re traveling to the Valley of Mo’ara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll find that the Na’vi have created their own version of a traditional Thanksgiving meal on Pandora. Satu’li Canteen will be serving up wood-grilled roasted turkey breast with gravy, apple and sage stuffing, green beans, orange marmalade glazed sweet potatoes with candied pecans, mashed potatoes and cranberry boba pearls; available in both adult and kids’ portions. And for dessert, you’ll find a delicious pumpkin cheesecake mousse.
A Casual Delight
Pom Moongauklang, or as we like to call her, "The Serene Highness of Sandwiches," has been running hipster-and-beyond haven Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria since 2005. The always creative Milk District on Bumby Avenue is home to some of the oldest and newest alternative eateries in town, but none finer than the handcrafted goodies at Pom Pom's. And Ms. Moongauklang's most popular item is the timely Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving. A pressed feast of sliced turkey, Gouda cheese and thick layers of stuffing, mashed potatoes and ginger cranberry chutney (with gravy, natch), the holiday is complete.
Thanksgiving at Disney Springs
Disney's premier shopping, entertainment and dining district offers a world of flavors for your Turkey Day feasting.
At Morimoto Asia, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's first Pan-Asian restaurant located in Disney Springs at Walt Disney World, the restaurant will be serving a special Thanksgiving treat for those looking for an Asian twist. This Thanksgiving enjoy a spin on the traditional holiday staple and try the Peking Turkey Dinner, served with roasted pork fried rice "stuffing," Japanese-style candied yams, cranberry-litchi chutney and Szechuan peppercorn gravy.
You won't find the American invention of corned beef and cabbage at celebrity chef Kevin Dundon's Disney Springs eatery, but you can enjoy (paradoxically) a totally authentic Thanksgiving spread—granted, with some wholly Irish embellishments. A continual Orlando magazine Dining Awards Best Restaurant winner, Raglan Road accompanies almost everything with a song and a fast dance, and Thanksgiving Day is no exception. While the regular menu is available, roasted herb and butter turkey breast served on mashed potatoes, with delicious sides such as apple, sage, and sweet onion stuffing, smoked bacon Brussels sprouts, duck fat-roasted potatoes and cranberry-plum chutney — with plenty of gravy — are the highpoints. Kids love the high-stepping dancers, adults like the flights of imported Irish brews.
Joining in on the Thanksgiving fun this year is Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World. On Thanksgiving Day only, you’ll be excited to find a roast turkey special. And through the month of December, try their delicious seasonal dessert, a pumpkin bread pudding served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
T-Day With a Minion
There might not be a song about rockin' around the Thanksgiving table, but there certainly is a Thanksgiving getaway at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal. The Kitchen is known for a kid-friendly rock star attitude (the Kid's Crib play area is a delight for parents who want to dine without distractions), and the all-day, turkey-day buffet is a particular pleasure. Seafood bar, turkey, country ham, smoked New York strip and roasted Atlantic salmon join a kid's buffet, face painters and appearances by Minions, SpongeBob and Dr. Seuss characters.
For the ultimate Thanksgiving meal, head to Eddie V’s on Sand Lake Road, where an abundance of fine dining restaurants has earned the area the name “Restaurant Row.” Enjoy beautiful views of the lake while savoring a thanksgiving dinner of sliced turkey, brioche sage stuffing, cranberry chutney, whipped potatoes, green beans, roasted butternut squash and—if there’s still room—a pumpkin pie tartlet with whipped cream and praline sauce.
Party of Fore!
A prime, peaceful brunch spot overlooking manicured lawns in the heart of Orlando would be the perfect place for a family Thanksgiving repast, and indeed it is in the form of The Taproom. Nestled like a piney woods lodge at the entrance to Dubsdread Golf Course, the Thanksgiving buffet menu includes choices of roasted turkey with sage stuffing, prime rib with au jus, homemade cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole with pecan marshmallow crust and Yukon gold smashed potatoes.
Holiday of Lights
Escape the confines of Orlando for a magical road trip to St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city. A grand holiday tradition is the lighting of more than 3 million lights throughout the city, which occurs on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, turning the landmark Bridge of Lions and King Street into a sparkling spectacle. St. Augustine's branch of Columbia Restaurant, founded in Ybor City in 1905, is in the heart of the Historic District, offering a slice of Old Havana along with roast turkey accompanied by the famous Columbia stuffing: Italian sausage, ground beef, chopped chicken livers, apples, water chestnuts and raisins.
Even More Delicious Options
Here are some other wonderful spots to consider in and around Orlando if cooking isn’t on your list of to dos this Thanksgiving.
Venture to 1921 by Norman Van Aken for a selection of special thanksgiving prix fixe menu. Main dish options include chestnut and foie gras stuffed turkey roulade and brown sugar glazed smoked ham with pineapple chutney; round out the meal with sides like sweet potato casserole and sourdough stuffing and citrus cranberry sauce. Be sure to save room; there's pie for dessert.
Canvas Restaurant & Market will offer a three-course prix fixe menu, in addition to their a la carte menu. Look for selections such as curried butternut squash bisque, turkey roulade served with ciabatta and chorizo stuffing, chèvre whipped potatoes, pancetta French beans, and for dessert, chocolate pecan pie.
Urbain 40 offers its prix fixe meal, which includes three courses of holiday-inspired, upscale flavors. Pumpkin bisque, slow roasted turkey breast and a dark meat roulade, and a caramelized pear-studded croissant bread pudding are some of the tempting flavors.