Hipster Restaurants and Artisan Foods in Central Florida

    By Ashley Brooke

    The foodie scene in central Florida is booming. Every time I visit Orlando, I see another eatery opening its doors. The cookie-cutter chains of the past are being challenged by boutique restaurants that have the hipster swagger of a big city with the laid-back vibe of central Florida. 

    Today I'm sharing five of my favorite Orlando hipster restaurants. Each restaurant on the list takes its food very seriously, featuring local ingredients and interesting flavor combinations served in a stylish settings.

    These small and in-demand restaurants focus on fine-tuned flavors over flashy decor and community-building over commercial restaurant tactics. I guarantee you'll want to make a reservation to each spot on the list after seeing the delicious food and hearing about the new perspectives that each hipster restaurant provides.

    Cask & Larder

    The Cask & Larder is a "Southern public house" nestled into the hipster suburb of Winter Park in Winter Garden, Florida. Cask & Larder is devoted to creating artisan foods with a modern twist, and they focus on curating locally grown ingredients into seasonal menus inspired by Southern favorites. You'll feel a little bit more hip the second you walk into their door. The decor isn't intimidating or pretentious thanks to the amiable employees, and you can see how much they appreciate food as you stroll around the restaurant.

    The walls are lined with beers brewed on-site, and jars of preserved fruits and vegetables prepared in the restaurant's kitchen are used as decoration around each table. There's also a sign that proudly displays the restaurant's local vendors. This restaurant clearly values fresh and high-quality ingredients.

    The chefs have carefully curated a menu that enhances seasonal, locally-grown ingredients, and the Southern flair of each dish is a perfect fit for the Winter Park community. Cask & Larder is open for lunch and dinner throughout the week, and they have one of the best brunch menus in the area.  The restaurant's menu succeeds by giving classic Southern recipes a facelift. Traditional ingredients mix with international flavors and modern techniques to create dishes bursting with flavor and personality.

    While you can't go wrong with anything on their menu, Cask & Larder's rendition of Chicken & Waffles will blow your mind. The combination of crispy fried chicken, cornbread waffles, smoked honey, sweet relish, and dill crème fraiche activates all of your taste buds, and each bite provides the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and sour flavors. If you stop by the restaurant for Sunday brunch, don't forget to try the hash browns. Cask & Larder's version features exquisitely caramelized potatoes and Swiss cheese. You won't be able to eat normal hash browns again after a few bites of this unforgettable side dish.

    Cask & Larder is a perfect spot for any foodie looking for modern Southern food done correctly. If you enjoy your time at Cask & Larder, you'll love their sister restaurants, The Ravenous Pig and Swine & Sons.

    Cask & Larder
    565 West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park, Florida, 32789 | 321-280-4200 | caskandlarder.com


    Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa

    Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa is a modern barbeque joint with a hipster flair in the Mills50 district of Orlando. Unlike traditional BBQ restaurants, Pig Floyd's uses the Caribbean barba'koa method to create juicy roasted meat, and their menu fuses Latin, Asian, and Caribbean flavors to create a flavor profile that's completely addictive. In addition to stellar food, the relaxed mood of the restaurant makes it the perfect location for a meal with friends.

    Everything on the menu is incredible, but Pig Floyd's definitely lives up to its urban barbakoa name with their pulled pork and brisket. Both items are tender and packed with flavor. The pork belly tacos are incredibly delicious, and you won't want to leave without trying the plantains or corn on the cob. For a sweet treat that's just the right size, try the Cuban banana pudding.

    Whether you're enjoying a quiet afternoon by yourself or planning a dinner with friends, Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa is the perfect destination.

    Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa
    1326 N. Mills Avenue Orlando, FL 32803 | 407-203-0866 | pigfloyds.com


    The Smiling Bison

    The Smiling Bison is a gastropub in Orlando that's making waves in the foodie community. This restaurant isn't trying too hard to be cool; it just is cool. The Smiling Bison’s understated decor is accented by playful quirks, including a portrait of Darth Vader enjoying a package of Chips Ahoy cookies. In addition to its friendly staff and low-key environment, the restaurant features incredible specials and a space for live performances.

    The menu varies, but you can always count on delicious basics such as bison burgers, pizza, and poutine. If you're not familiar with poutine, it's fried potatoes topped with cheese curds and gravy -- AKA heaven on a plate. The Smiling Bison tops its poutine with a fried egg, and the dish is just as delicious as it sounds! You’ll be surprised at how simple flavors are elevated to new heights at this establishment. For instance, you might not think a BBQ chicken pizza would be anything special, but The Smiling Bison makes each flavor in the dish sing.

    If you're looking for great food in an unpretentious environment, The Smiling Bison needs to be your next restaurant destination.

    The Smiling Bison

    Orlando: 745 Bennett Rd Orlando, FL 32803 | (407) 898-8580 | smilingbison.com
    Sanford: 107 S Magnolia Avenue Sanford, FL 32771 | 407-915-6086 | smilingbison.com



    Vespr is a craft coffee shop in the Waterford Lakes area of Orlando that's about as hipster as it gets. You'll find a Macbook on every table and a noticeable lack of ongoing conversation or smiling faces. In its place, you'll find a plethora of skinny jeans, beards, and mumbled thoughts on indie music and artisanal beer. 

    This minimalist coffee shop focuses on creating high-quality coffee in an environmentally friendly and ethically responsible manner. The employees take coffee brewing to the level of art, and they want you to experience their product in its highest form. If you order a pumpkin spice latte with an extra dollop of whipped cream, you should expect to receive a professionally executed eye roll followed by suggestions for a more interesting cup of coffee.

    The menu features meticulously prepared tea and coffee offerings including cold-brew iced coffee and hand-crafted colas. From a basic cup of joe to cappuccinos and lattes, you’re guaranteed it’ll be fresh and flavorful. The Vintage Honey Malt combines smooth coffee with sweet honey and malted milk, and I think this  dessert-like coffee might permanently replace your cravings for PSLs. In fact, you might not want to visit the coffee mega-chains ever again after sipping Vespr’s maple-Madagascar vanilla and rose-lavender lattes. Their coffee is that good.

    Vespr is the definition of a hipster foodie spot. The unassuming exterior blends into the building, and the interior decor features only the bare necessities: wooden tables, dim lighting, and WI-FI. While there is a noticeable aura of elitism in the store, it's fully deserved. Their coffee is superior, and their recipes provide the perfect balance between thought-provoking flavors and traditional technique. This coffee shop excels at its mission of providing ethically-sourced, artisanal coffee, and it frankly deserves to have a chip on its shoulder. Their coffee is outstanding, and the quiet atmosphere is the perfect environment for studying or decompressing at the end of a long day.

    If you want unique coffee in a peaceful setting, Vespr will quickly become your new favorite spot in central Florida.

    626 N. Alafaya Trail Suite 105 Orlando, FL 32828 | thevespr.com


    Pom Pom's Tea House & Sandwicheria

    The last stop on our hipster restaurant food tour of Orlando is Pom Pom's Tea House and Sandwicheria. Pom Pom's has a cult following among the local college students for its delectable sandwiches and teas. While you wouldn't think much of its humble storefront on Bumby Avenue, the interior of Pom Pom's features bold colors and quirky art pieces.

    Every part of the restaurant is bursting with color and personality, but Pom Pom's menu is what really sets it apart from the crowd. The most famous sandwich at Pom Pom's is Mama Ling Ling's Thanksgiving sandwich, which showcases the stars of the November holiday (turkey, ginger cranberry chutney, gouda, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cream cheese, and gravy) between two slices of fresh bread.

    All of their sandwiches are outstanding. The Fu Manchu features Asian pulled pork combined with watercress, goat cheese, red onions, and ginger cranberry chutney, or you can try the Seasonal Berry Melt with fresh berries, brie, red onions, and spicy mustard for a combination of sweet and savory flavors.

    Pom Pom's Tea House and Sandwicheria is a hidden gem in Orlando.

    Pom Pom's Tea House and Sandwicheria
    67 N Bumby Avenue Orlando, FL | 407-894-0865

    Whether you're planning a trip to Orlando or simply looking for new local hot spots, these five hipster foodie spots will not disappoint. Each restaurant features high-quality ingredients, an artisanal perspective, and an ultra-cool vibe. I'm constantly trying out new restaurants, so please let me know if there's another foodie spot in central Florida that I need to visit.

    Which restaurant would you like to visit?

    This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA. The opinions and text are all mine.