House of Blues Orlando

House of Blues Orlando is a popular concert venue with a "folk art collection and blues theme." (House of Blues Entertainment)

If you seek perfection in nightlife, then you’ll find nirvana in Orlando, Florida’s extensive bar and club scene. Local Orlando experts suggest you sidle up to the bar at these top-notch music venues, dance clubs, speak-easies, lounges and themed drink joints.

House of Blues Orlando


House of Blues Orlando

House of Blues Orlando (House of Blues Entertainment)


House of Blues Orlando at Disney Springs is one of the best concert venues in town. Visitors can chill on the outdoor courtyard with a beverage and listen to free live music or buy a ticket to see nationally recognized bands inside. Nearly every location in the House has a great view of the stage – a very intimate feel.

“Not only do they have live music and concerts, but also the folk art collection and blues theme they have inside is very nice,” says Sandra Ferrarese, chief concierge at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.

House of Blues’ restaurant and bar are open daily at 11:30 a.m., and close Sunday through Thursday at 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 1 a.m. Check the website for event hours.

[Read: The Best Hotels in Orlando-Walt Disney World.]

Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando


Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando

Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando (Courtesy of Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando)


Known for its sparkly, feathered dancers, shirtless hunks and live Latin music, Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando on International Drive has the feel of an old-school Havana hangout with a modern flair.

“It’s a very famous Florida dinner show that started 25 years ago in South Beach, and they opened one in Orlando,” says Lourdes Gee, concierge at the Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando. “It’s a cabaret-style entertainment show.”

Patrons can enjoy live performances at a VIP table in the main bar, lounge in the Mojito Room or dance to the DJ’s beats in the Vodoo Room. Mango’s is open daily from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Blue Martini Pointe Orlando


Blue Martini Pointe Orlando

Blue Martini Pointe Orlando (Courtesy of Blue Martini Pointe Orlando)


Blue Martini, which has locations throughout Florida and the country, is the go-to after-hours cocktail bar for local professionals. Located in International Drive’s Pointe Orlando, the trendy spot features live music nightly, top-notch DJs and themed events such as Monday’s Hospitality Night or Wednesday’s True Blue Ladies Night. If you hadn’t guessed yet, Blue Martini specializes in – wait for it – martinis! You’ll have 42 signature concoctions from which to choose, including a jalapeno passion fruit martini, plus other specialty cocktails and VIP bottle service.

There's a business casual dress code, so don’t show up in your bathing suit and flip-flops. Blue Martini is open weekdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.

[Read: 7 Great Orlando Theme Parks.]

Hanson’s Shoe Repair

Located in downtown Orlando, Hanson’s Shoe Repair is one of three local speak-easies that mix history and specialty cocktails for a special Orlando experience. To get inside Hanson's, you must use a password.

As Phillip Haddock II, lead concierge and ambassador of the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, Autograph Collection, explains, “You have to knock on the door and they ask you for the password. It has exclusivity. They only allow about 15 or 20 people in there.”

Call ahead at 407-476-9446, or check out its Twitter account @hansonsshoeshop to get the password. The speak-easy is open Monday through Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Herman’s Loan Office

A short stagger from Hanson’s Shoe Repair is Herman’s Loan Office, which has the speak-easy feel but without the password exclusivity. The original loan office operated in the mid-1900s, and the decor reflects this.

“It has a Great Gatsby look,” Haddock says. “It’s got a fireplace and leather-backed booths” and various vintage accents. The skilled bartenders craft liquid art for patrons. This is a great place to impress a date.

Herman’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., opening early at 5 p.m. on Fridays. It's closed Sunday and Monday.

Pharmacy

Any bootleggers needing a hideout can drop in on Pharmacy, located just off West Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. According to Pharmacy's purposefully ambiguous website, its expert apothecaries craft pharmaceuticals “to provide you with an antidote from all your troubles.” A true speak-easy, the establishment uses an unmarked elevator door for its entrance. If you can find it, you’re in.

“It’s kind of a secret entrance,” says Ferrarese, who enjoys the establishment's specialty tinctures. “Pharmacy has craft cocktail drinks [and] a great lemon tart.” It also has a full menu to accompany your elixirs.

Pharmacy writes prescriptions Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight.

[Read: The 6 Best Places to Shop in Orlando.]

Wall St. Plaza


Wall St. Plaza

Wall St. Plaza (Ninjetic)


Wall St. Plaza, which opened more than two decades ago, comes alive at night with a rowdy street-party atmosphere.

“For a collection of options in one location, locally owned Wall St. Plaza in downtown Orlando offers true variety, from a laid-back restaurant and bar atmosphere by day to the livelier vibe of Orlando’s only [regular] block parties every Friday and Saturday night,” says George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, the area's official tourism organization.

Orbiting a long, blocked-off brick street sit seven themed bars from the island-themed Waitiki Retro Lounge to the carnivalesque Sideshow to The Hen House, billed as “The World’s Smallest Bardello.” Bar entrance is usually free, except for certain special events and the larger holiday block parties. It also hosts many events like RumFest, the Florida Music Festival & Conference and the self-claimed “biggest and best pregame party” for Orlando City soccer home games. Hours vary from bar to bar, so visit the website for more information.

One80 Skytop Lounge

The terrace of the stylish One80 Skytop Lounge, located on the Amway Center’s rooftop, has probably the best view of downtown Orlando.

“It’s a unique place,” Gee says. “It’s very high. They have these nice patios, and you can see the whole city while enjoying the experience and music and company.”

If you’re watching an Orlando Magic basketball game or a concert, this is the perfect pre-event/halftime/intermission/post-event bar. One80 has specialty cocktails, themed DJ music and VIP bottle service, all under the stars. It also has a chic indoor lounge if you don’t want to sweat. Wear something fashionable, and get plenty of selfies with the city glowing in the background.

One80 Skytop Lounge is open Monday, and Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. It's also open before and during concerts, basketball games and other special events at Amway.

To experience more of what Orlando has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

15 Best Foodie Destinations in the USA


Photo Gallery
Friends eating pizza at a restaurant.
The Las Vegas strip at sunset.
Philly Steak Sandwich with Au Jus
Telescope overlooking the Seattle skyline.
USA, South Carolina, Charleston, Church Street, St. Philip's Church
Close-up of Burgers and Hot Dogs on the Barbecue, Houston, Texas, USA
Cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. during late March.
Foodie tour classic Chicago hot dog with french fries
San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.
New Orleans Beignet
Dramatic sky over Los Angeles.
|

What makes a great foodie destination?
More and more travelers are planning their vacations around the eateries they want to visit in any given destination. After all, a large part of a city's culture lies in its cuisine. But what makes a place worth visiting for the food alone? The answer depends on who you ask.

Some would say it's a distinct, authentic cuisine that the city does best, while others value a wealth of options that range from ethnic to innovative. Others say it's placing heightened importance on using only fresh, local ingredients. No matter the definition, the 15 cities that appear on U.S. News' first-ever Best Foodie Destinations in the USA ranking share one common factor: they offer unforgettable gastronomic experiences that travelers keep coming back for. 
(iStockPhoto)

15. Pittsburgh
Home to hearty Eastern European classics like Polish sausages and cabbage rolls, plus french fry-topped sandwiches and salads (which aren't going anywhere anytime soon), the Steel City is graduating to a more sophisticated culinary style. The gastronomic resurgence in recent years has caught the attention of publications like Zagat, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine Magazine. While critics are singing Pittsburgh's praises, locals are embracing the edible renaissance with open arms. 
(Getty Images)

14. Asheville, North Carolina
This small mountain town may be known for its laid-back, hippie vibe, but it still packs a palatable punch in its 45 square miles. While the Appalachian Trail may seem like a strange place for a culinary hot spot, chefs and curious eaters have started congregating in western North Carolina in pursuit of inventive, offbeat creations. Aside from its impressive restaurant lineup, Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country, meaning you'll have plenty of interesting suds to pair with your meal.  
(Getty Images)

13. Las Vegas
High rollers have to eat too, right? And in Vegas, they expect to eat well. Sin City has raised the stakes when it comes to dining, dazzling tourists with whimsical, over-the-top decor and celebrity chef-backed restaurants from the likes of Wolfgang Puck and Pierre Gagnaire, whose only U.S. restaurant is in the Mandarin Oriental. And if you lose in the casinos, don't worry: Sin City still boasts plenty of affordable options and cheap all-you-can-eat buffets to keep you going. 
(Getty Images)

12. Philadelphia
In 2015, Philadelphia was named the first World Heritage City in the United States. Though the City of Brotherly Love is certainly home to a fair amount of history, that doesn't mean its food scene is stuck in the past. While classics like cheesesteaks and soft pretzels still reign supreme, Philly balances those hallmark dishes with vegetarian and vegan eateries, as well as a wealth of genuine Italian and Jewish fare. Plus, the city originated the BYOB policy and now boasts more than 200 bring-your-own-bottle restaurants.
(Getty Images)

11. Seattle
No visitor to Seattle can pass up a trip to Pike Place Market, but there's more to the Emerald City than watching people throw and catch fish. The city's abundance of fresh seafood (namely salmon and oysters) along with its Asian culinary influences have shaped its gastronomy. Seattle's selection of sushi and rice bowls, along with its unique Seattle teriyaki, known for its thick, Korean-inspired sauce, have been recognized by critics and discerning food lovers as some of the best in the country. 
(Getty Images)

10. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston put low country fare at the forefront of the foodie scene. The regional cuisine, known for relying heavily on seafood with a mix of Southern, Caribbean and African flavors, is what this quaint South Carolina city does better than anywhere else. Though the city is proud of its well-preserved history, its chefs have started reinventing staple dishes (like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup) to fit the needs of 21st-century palates.
(Getty Images)

9. Miami
Miami's vibrant nightlife and scantily clad beachgoers often overshadow the city's rich culinary scene. But its cuisine shouldn't be overlooked. The city whips up the best Cuban food outside of Havana, and the proximity to the Caribbean also brings a multitude of full-bodied island flavors. Plus, the restaurant scene is full of young chefs who continue to bring something new to the table.
(Getty Images)

8. Houston
Houston has the savory chops that only the largest city in the Lone Star State can claim. Business travelers from around the world are continually surprised by the culinary diversity here – from mom and pop takeout shops that locals line up for to fine dining pioneers that attract a more upscale clientele. The city is also home to a large Vietnamese and Chinese immigrant population, allowing Asian dishes like spring rolls and pho to intermingle with area classics like barbecue and Tex-Mex.
(Getty Images)

7. Washington, District of Columbia
A city that attracts everyone from small-town tourists to international diplomats has to provide ample options to satisfy them all – and the nation's capital measures up to the task. Boasting an all-encompassing restaurant scene that offers some of the best ethnic food (especially Indian and Ethiopian), as well as area staples like bottomless brunches and happy hour specials, D.C.'s food landscape is anything but boring. When you're touring the monuments, don't forget to stop and grab a half-smoke (the half-beef, half-pork cousin of the hot dog that's a D.C. specialty).
(iStockphoto)

6. Chicago
Deep-dish pizza. Distinctively dressed hot dogs. Italian beef. Cheese and caramel popcorn. Plantain encased sandwiches called jibaritos. Plus the Greek answer to grilled cheese, saganaki. The Windy City's calling card lies largely in its hearty, gooey and iconic dishes. But Chicago's culinary power extends from those staples into a toothsome and ever-evolving dining culture that's as big on innovation as it is on flavor. Plus, Chi-Town beckons talented chefs (40 James Beard Award winners call Chicago home) who ensure that this Midwestern authority presents a robust offerings, so no one goes hungry.
(Getty Images)

5. San Francisco
Regularly lauded by critics and visitors for its culinary chops, San Francisco is a hotbed for foodies of all kinds. The City by the Bay is also known for its knack of modernization and invention, meaning gourmands who flock here expect to be at the forefront of dining trends – and chefs here deliver. But with the influx of tech money and the constant rising of rental rates, the city isn't known for cheap eats.
(Getty Images)

4. Portland, Oregon
Portland might as well have invented the word "foodie." From its emphasis on ingredients (the fresher and more unusual the better) to its affinity for low-cost, high-quality food carts, Portland has emerged as the foodie capital of the Pacific Northwest. The city has become a favorite of industry experts for its eagerness to present unique yet affordable options, from doughnuts to craft beer.
(Getty Images)

3. New Orleans
The Big Easy has an identity all its own – a mix of Cajun, Creole and French – that has always made its food distinct. Now, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, the city has retained its unmistakable character while pushing forward to become something entirely new. Aside from the mouthwatering dishes, the deeply rooted sense of community that's attached to the food here makes it a must for any self-declared epicurean.
(Getty Images)

2. Los Angeles
Los Angeles presents the ultimate in culinary mashups. The city that tailors to celebrities and wealthy patrons with fine dining establishments that boast big price tags also delivers some of the best street food in the country. And since the City of Angels is home to large immigrant populations – namely Hispanic and Asian communities – the opportunities to please your taste buds with globally inspired cuisine are endless. From food trucks to strip malls to trendy eateries, local establishments churn out creative dishes with high-quality ingredients, helping LA stay at the top of the gastronomic food chain.
(Getty Images)

1. New York City
A visit to New York City can include meals inspired by just about every continent, country and culture. Simply put, the Big Apple has it all. It's the premier stage for chefs looking to gain notoriety, and the restaurant scene progresses at breakneck speed, meaning the eateries that stick around have earned the stamp of approval from notoriously opinionated locals. Whether you're craving a pastrami sandwich from the corner deli or a meal on white tablecloths prepared by a celebrity chef, New York City has you covered.
Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Friends eating pizza at a restaurant.
The Las Vegas strip at sunset.
Philly Steak Sandwich with Au Jus
Telescope overlooking the Seattle skyline.
USA, South Carolina, Charleston, Church Street, St. Philip's Church
Close-up of Burgers and Hot Dogs on the Barbecue, Houston, Texas, USA
Cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. during late March.
Foodie tour classic Chicago hot dog with french fries
San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge at sunset.
New Orleans Beignet
Dramatic sky over Los Angeles.
USA, New York State, New York City, Aerial view of city with Freedom tower at night

What makes a great foodie destination?
More and more travelers are planning their vacations around the eateries they want to visit in any given destination. After all, a large part of a city's culture lies in its cuisine. But what makes a place worth visiting for the food alone? The answer depends on who you ask.

Some would say it's a distinct, authentic cuisine that the city does best, while others value a wealth of options that range from ethnic to innovative. Others say it's placing heightened importance on using only fresh, local ingredients. No matter the definition, the 15 cities that appear on U.S. News' first-ever Best Foodie Destinations in the USA ranking share one common factor: they offer unforgettable gastronomic experiences that travelers keep coming back for. 
(iStockPhoto)

15. Pittsburgh
Home to hearty Eastern European classics like Polish sausages and cabbage rolls, plus french fry-topped sandwiches and salads (which aren't going anywhere anytime soon), the Steel City is graduating to a more sophisticated culinary style. The gastronomic resurgence in recent years has caught the attention of publications like Zagat, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine Magazine. While critics are singing Pittsburgh's praises, locals are embracing the edible renaissance with open arms. 
(Getty Images)

14. Asheville, North Carolina
This small mountain town may be known for its laid-back, hippie vibe, but it still packs a palatable punch in its 45 square miles. While the Appalachian Trail may seem like a strange place for a culinary hot spot, chefs and curious eaters have started congregating in western North Carolina in pursuit of inventive, offbeat creations. Aside from its impressive restaurant lineup, Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country, meaning you'll have plenty of interesting suds to pair with your meal.  
(Getty Images)

13. Las Vegas
High rollers have to eat too, right? And in Vegas, they expect to eat well. Sin City has raised the stakes when it comes to dining, dazzling tourists with whimsical, over-the-top decor and celebrity chef-backed restaurants from the likes of Wolfgang Puck and Pierre Gagnaire, whose only U.S. restaurant is in the Mandarin Oriental. And if you lose in the casinos, don't worry: Sin City still boasts plenty of affordable options and cheap all-you-can-eat buffets to keep you going. 
(Getty Images)

12. Philadelphia
In 2015, Philadelphia was named the first World Heritage City in the United States. Though the City of Brotherly Love is certainly home to a fair amount of history, that doesn't mean its food scene is stuck in the past. While classics like cheesesteaks and soft pretzels still reign supreme, Philly balances those hallmark dishes with vegetarian and vegan eateries, as well as a wealth of genuine Italian and Jewish fare. Plus, the city originated the BYOB policy and now boasts more than 200 bring-your-own-bottle restaurants.
(Getty Images)

11. Seattle
No visitor to Seattle can pass up a trip to Pike Place Market, but there's more to the Emerald City than watching people throw and catch fish. The city's abundance of fresh seafood (namely salmon and oysters) along with its Asian culinary influences have shaped its gastronomy. Seattle's selection of sushi and rice bowls, along with its unique Seattle teriyaki, known for its thick, Korean-inspired sauce, have been recognized by critics and discerning food lovers as some of the best in the country. 
(Getty Images)

10. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston put low country fare at the forefront of the foodie scene. The regional cuisine, known for relying heavily on seafood with a mix of Southern, Caribbean and African flavors, is what this quaint South Carolina city does better than anywhere else. Though the city is proud of its well-preserved history, its chefs have started reinventing staple dishes (like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup) to fit the needs of 21st-century palates.
(Getty Images)

9. Miami
Miami's vibrant nightlife and scantily clad beachgoers often overshadow the city's rich culinary scene. But its cuisine shouldn't be overlooked. The city whips up the best Cuban food outside of Havana, and the proximity to the Caribbean also brings a multitude of full-bodied island flavors. Plus, the restaurant scene is full of young chefs who continue to bring something new to the table.
(Getty Images)

8. Houston
Houston has the savory chops that only the largest city in the Lone Star State can claim. Business travelers from around the world are continually surprised by the culinary diversity here – from mom and pop takeout shops that locals line up for to fine dining pioneers that attract a more upscale clientele. The city is also home to a large Vietnamese and Chinese immigrant population, allowing Asian dishes like spring rolls and pho to intermingle with area classics like barbecue and Tex-Mex.
(Getty Images)

7. Washington, District of Columbia
A city that attracts everyone from small-town tourists to international diplomats has to provide ample options to satisfy them all – and the nation's capital measures up to the task. Boasting an all-encompassing restaurant scene that offers some of the best ethnic food (especially Indian and Ethiopian), as well as area staples like bottomless brunches and happy hour specials, D.C.'s food landscape is anything but boring. When you're touring the monuments, don't forget to stop and grab a half-smoke (the half-beef, half-pork cousin of the hot dog that's a D.C. specialty).
(iStockphoto)

6. Chicago
Deep-dish pizza. Distinctively dressed hot dogs. Italian beef. Cheese and caramel popcorn. Plantain encased sandwiches called jibaritos. Plus the Greek answer to grilled cheese, saganaki. The Windy City's calling card lies largely in its hearty, gooey and iconic dishes. But Chicago's culinary power extends from those staples into a toothsome and ever-evolving dining culture that's as big on innovation as it is on flavor. Plus, Chi-Town beckons talented chefs (40 James Beard Award winners call Chicago home) who ensure that this Midwestern authority presents a robust offerings, so no one goes hungry.
(Getty Images)

5. San Francisco
Regularly lauded by critics and visitors for its culinary chops, San Francisco is a hotbed for foodies of all kinds. The City by the Bay is also known for its knack of modernization and invention, meaning gourmands who flock here expect to be at the forefront of dining trends – and chefs here deliver. But with the influx of tech money and the constant rising of rental rates, the city isn't known for cheap eats.
(Getty Images)

4. Portland, Oregon
Portland might as well have invented the word "foodie." From its emphasis on ingredients (the fresher and more unusual the better) to its affinity for low-cost, high-quality food carts, Portland has emerged as the foodie capital of the Pacific Northwest. The city has become a favorite of industry experts for its eagerness to present unique yet affordable options, from doughnuts to craft beer.
(Getty Images)

3. New Orleans
The Big Easy has an identity all its own – a mix of Cajun, Creole and French – that has always made its food distinct. Now, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, the city has retained its unmistakable character while pushing forward to become something entirely new. Aside from the mouthwatering dishes, the deeply rooted sense of community that's attached to the food here makes it a must for any self-declared epicurean.
(Getty Images)

2. Los Angeles
Los Angeles presents the ultimate in culinary mashups. The city that tailors to celebrities and wealthy patrons with fine dining establishments that boast big price tags also delivers some of the best street food in the country. And since the City of Angels is home to large immigrant populations – namely Hispanic and Asian communities – the opportunities to please your taste buds with globally inspired cuisine are endless. From food trucks to strip malls to trendy eateries, local establishments churn out creative dishes with high-quality ingredients, helping LA stay at the top of the gastronomic food chain.
(Getty Images)

1. New York City
A visit to New York City can include meals inspired by just about every continent, country and culture. Simply put, the Big Apple has it all. It's the premier stage for chefs looking to gain notoriety, and the restaurant scene progresses at breakneck speed, meaning the eateries that stick around have earned the stamp of approval from notoriously opinionated locals. Whether you're craving a pastrami sandwich from the corner deli or a meal on white tablecloths prepared by a celebrity chef, New York City has you covered.
Getty Images/Tetra images RF

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Tags: Orlando, travel, vacations, food and drink


Vincent Crampton is a freelance writer, editor and educator who’s in love with his native Florida. He writes about restaurants, theme parks, hidden gems, weird tales and the natural wonders of his hot and humid state. His work has appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, the Sun Sentinel, the Orlando Weekly and the West Orange Times. He also writes short stories, and he is the creator and managing editor of ScrawlBrawl.com, an online microfiction journal. He maintains a thriving copywriting, editing and proofreading business called The Proofessional. He is also on the selection committee for the historic The Jack Kerouac Writers In Residence Project of Orlando. You can follow him on Twitter at @ScrawlBrawl.

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