The Ravenous Pig

Half-portion of a spring vegetable salad.
I know I've said this before, but the Ravenous Pig is hands-down my favorite restaurant here in the Orlando area.

Candied bacon tops an Old Fashioned

Orlando has the sad reputation of being a culinary wasteland. The prevalence of chain restaurants, theme parks and tourist attractions hasn't helped, but its the transient nature of most of the residents that has caused a lack of local food culture. There wasn't much here until Disney World opened in the 1970s and the population boom that started in the 80s was really in response to that tourism. The last time I looked, Orlando attracted more than 50 million tourists a year while our Metro area resident population is just over 2 million. Compare that to New York's 19 million residents and 47 million tourists or Chicago's 9 million residents and 40 million tourists and you'll see why the local food scene has been behind the times.

And yet, since I moved to the Orlando area in 2004, I've seen major growth in the Orlando food scene. The first big change on my radar was the opening of the Ravenous Pig in 2007.

The Pub Burger with a side of fries.
They call themselves an American Gastropub inspired by local, seasonal ingredients. They are indeed what they proclaim to be, yet so much more. Pastas and charcuterie are handmade daily, the craft cocktails (Can you say Old Fashioned made with bacon-infused bourbon?) can't be beat, and the dishes, both in the quality of ingredients used and in the technical skills and know-how, show the best that Orlando has to offer.

Shrimp Tacos
James and Julie Petrakis are the husband-and-wife chef-owners of the Ravenous Pig. They are also responsible for another favorite, Cask & Larder, but that is another post. They've been James Beard Semifinalists for Best Chef: South for every year since 2011, and the accolades continue to roll-in for the culinary team.

House-made soft pretzels
But back to the food. I've never had an unsuccessful dish at the Ravenous Pig. From pork three ways (roasted loin, smoked/cured ham and grilled house-made sausage) to their Pub Burger (caramelized onions and buttermilk blue cheese on a grilled brioche bun - finger licking good) everything is executed using top notch ingredients. The house-made charcuterie and cheese board is one of my favorite ways to start a meal, and the salads always feature locally grown, seasonal produce.

Seasonal arugula salad
Desserts are gorgeous too, save some room if you can, although I often don't make it to dessert since their cocktails and wine list have so many options. And if libations are your thing, don't miss their beers or Whiskey and Scotch flights.

Craft cocktails can't be beat.
Dinner reservations definitely need to be made in advance, two weeks should give you plenty of flexibility and options, but if you want to take part in their seasonal roasts (the first Saturday of each month, from whole hog to seafood) don't be surprised if they fill up quick. Guests like me keep coming back for more.

Assorted deliciousness...

Steak Frites

The Ravenous Pig
1234 N. Orange Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789

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