I'm digging into steak frites -- porcini-marinated Angus New York strip steak with truffle fries and garlic aioli at The Ravenous Pig, where this dish has been the No. 1-selling entree for years. Yet instead of paying $27 for this mini feast, I'm doling out $33. That's because I'm also having a Gatherer salad, usually $8, and Pig Tails (donuts with chocolate sauce) ($8 on its own). That's value, and it's typical of Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016.
Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016 (really just called Magical Dining Month) is what we might dub Visit Orlando's Big Hit. Carefully chosen restaurants (read: good ones) all over town offer three-course dinners for $33 throughout the month of September. Locals start planning their meals weeks in advance, bopping all over Central Florida to dining rooms that are usually beyond their budgets. This year, a record-breaking 96 establishments are participating.
Here are some that I think are the best value. All the photos are of Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016 options at The Ravenous Pig, since that's where I attended a media preview dinner.
Let's continue with The Ravenous Pig before we move on. The Orlando area's first gastropub, this Winter Park headliner still gets so crowded that it's sometimes tough to get a table even on a Tuesday night. For Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016, guests can choose from that Gatherer salad or shrimp 'n' grits for starters. For the main course, the options are steak frites or a mighty tasty duck leg with Abruzzi rye berries, Seminole pumpkin puree, roasted Braeburn apples, mole, and ginger oil. Dessert is those Pig Tails or panna cotta with blackberry jam, milk crumble and rum chantilly cream. I said value, right? Make your reservation now.
More Exceptional Deals: Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016
It's tough to choose from Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016's 95 additional menus, so please spend time on the official website scrolling through your options. Here's what jumped out at me.
How often do you get to dine at the Four Seasons for $33. Jump in. Ravello is a contemporary, airy Italian restaurant. Here your Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016 dinner might start with an artichoke tart, followed by pan-seared local redfish and a hazelnut budino (a thick pudding) with salted caramel and a chocolate crisp. Menu
Orlando's unit of this high-end steakhouse with a DJ in the dining room and modern ambiance opened recently at Disney Springs. Before you invest in a steak for $28 to $92, see if you like the place. For $33 during Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016, you can start with a chilled tomato soup, then have a petit filet mignon and an Orange Dream cheesecake. Menu
Conveniently walking distance to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and other downtown Orlando entertainment venues, Artisan's Table is an all-day restaurant with an ambitious menu. Fill up on short rib poutine with roasted Fingerling potatoes, pepper-crusted New York strip medallion and apple strudel. Menu
This jazzy French brasserie is one of my go-to places in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood, also known as Restaurant Row. During Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016, go ooh-la-la over French onion soup gratinee (it's wonderful); pork shank with potato purée, blistered Campari tomato, charred asparagus and thyme-honey sauce; and a parfait of berries and vanilla cream. Menu
I just tried F&D Kitchen Saturday night for a client and had a refreshingly good meal. The rustic-chic, modern-American Lake Mary bright spot is offering, among other treats, a starter of fried green tomatoes, an entree of cast iron-seared chicken with herbed whipped potatoes and charred Brussels sprouts, and a bacon- and bourbon-laced Milk & Cookies dessert. Menu
Out in Baldwin Park, The Osprey Tavern is an American brasserie, a grand space with creative yet homey meals. Check out Executive Chef Joseph Burnett's foods such as falafel with paprika oil, oak-fired hangar steak with cheddar-cauliflower gratin and brown-butter steak sauce, and chocolate mousse cake. What a meal for $33. Menu
What You Need to Know: Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016
I could go on, but I trust you to take it from here. Set aside time to meander through the 96 Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016 menus on Visit Orlando's Magical Dining website. The restaurants are conveniently broken down by location. Make reservations, and when you arrive ask for the Orlando Magical Dining Month 2016 menu if it's not automatically provided. Don't be embarrassed, and don't be shy. Ask! If a restaurant signs up to participate, you are entitled to order from the $33 three-course menu. The offerings run from August 29 through October 2, 2016.