When the nation gets a cold, Black America catches the flu, so the saying goes. That notion held true during the pandemic, which has been brutal to the food and beverage industry. Because of the challenges Black businesses typically face with accessing capital and obtaining government funding, Black restaurants faced even more dire circumstances.
Thankfully, amidst the bleakness, there’s good news. Black America may face more difficulties than the rest of the country, but its resiliency always kicks in, as it has for the past 400 years.
That resiliency is alive in Black Orlando’s food and drink scene, but it’s on life support. Despite this being a huge tourist destination, there are very few outstanding eateries for visitors or locals, for that matter, to enjoy.
Several spots have closed due to the pandemic, but there are also spaces that have opened because of the very same reality. We hope more culinarians begin their journey in Orlando since it can easily emerge as one of the nation’s foremost foodie destinations buffered by the huge tourism traffic generated from the theme parks.
To help celebrate our sixth year, The Hungry Black Man Media (www.thehungryblackman.com) is publishing several Top 10 lists for various cities. Orlando had to be included, so we eagerly tallied the votes of our followers to select Orlando’s Top 10 Black Owned Restaurants of 2021. From top notch vegan programs to pit master inspired creations, Orlando’s Black food entrepreneurs understood the assignment by providing foodies awesome options for various pandemic-related dining experiences, from socially distant date nights to Zoom luncheons.
The Black-owned Orlando eateries are among the more than 1,000 our team has visited across the country. You won’t find any of the awful but popular spots on this list. We focused on the cornerstones of a pleasant, rewarding dining experience – food, quality, and service. The list contains true Orlando spots as well as a couple located in the metro Orlando area about a 30-minute drive outside the city, like Apopka and Sanford.
Orlando’s Black restaurant scene is a story of perseverance and grind. Here’s hoping that 2022 brings a renewed energy to the food scene that propels it into the sustained culinary excellence it appears capable of manifesting.
Here are Orlando’s Top 10 Black-owned Restaurants of 2021 Finally Ranked
#10. P & D Soulfood Kitchen Inc
927 S Goldwyn Ave #120
Orlando, FL 32805
There are several soul food spots in Orlando. As a Black American, this spot was the closest to home cooking. It’s not a flashy spot, and the service is quick and very busy due to the small size of the space. The food is in warmers, as it is a cafeteria style service counter, which I don’t like usually prefer, but this place is so busy your food doesn’t get a chance to sit very long. On the bright side, those items that need just a little more marinating in their juices get it done here. I enjoy the food and spirited folks at this spot, and I think you will too. Take out only, but there are seats within the plaza if you wanted to sit down and dine.
#9. Island Thyme
457 S Avalon Park Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32828
This Jamaican inspired Caribbean quick casual concept has homestyle cuisine that is fragrant, soulful, and delicious. All the staples are served with a smile, which was a pleasant surprise. The seasonings are made in house for the jerk chicken, oxtails, and brown stew chicken. I absolutely loved the jerk chicken and shrimp! You will find all your Caribbean favorites here for an amazing price. This is my go to anytime I’m in Orlando and craving some real Island flavor.
#8. Something Fishy
2107 E Semoran Blvd A
Apopka, FL 32703
This seafood forward eatery is the truth. Chef Terry and his wife Patricia created a unique seafood restaurant with everything from mussels to seared salmon. The fried fish and grits were super nostalgic and no frills. This space allows its fresh seafood to speak for itself. Instead of store-bought sauces and heavy flavoring turning your dish into homogenous flavors, you get delicious sophistication with in-house seasonings that allow the beautiful fresh fish taste to come through for a true seafood lovers experience. The service is some of the best in the city with a super courteous staff that is attentive and constantly checks on your table. This is a perfect date night or even family outing dining destination.
#7. Sister Honey’s Bakery
247 E Michigan St.
Orlando, FL 32806
Not a restaurant, but it will change your life. I don’t think this lady is human. These pies taste like Jesus made them. I can’t get enough of them. I spent $150 on pies here and ate them all. Judge yo momma. Every single pie is delicious so I can’t tell you which to get. You have to experience this space intellectually unencumbered. Simply look at what is in her clear glass showcase and select a pie. You will thank and curse me at the same time, because now, you will be addicted and fat just like me. You will find yourself day dreaming about these pies while trying to listen to the pastor on Sunday or your boss on Monday, or even your teacher on Wednesday. Bottom line is, you’ve been warned that eating these pies could very well lead to a serious addiction.
#6. DaJen Eats Café & Creamery
323 E Kennedy Blvd. Suite F
Eatonville, FL 32751
Chef Jenn Ross is a magician. This chef transforms vegetables into some of the most life altering culinary experiences imaginable. I must admit that I have taken quick day trips from Miami just to dine here. From fresh baked bread to her in-house created plant based meat, Jenn is the best vegan restaurant in Orlando and one of the best in the state. Her signature sandwiches are the real show stoppers. The Identity Crisis Sandwich is a delightful creation featuring Chef Jenn’s signature vegan jerk and buffalo chicken with secret sauce, shredded greens, all sandwiched between her fresh baked Jamaican Hard Dough Bread, which is a star all by itself that can be ordered by the loaf. Baked at the restaurant, I often compare Chef’s soft and buttery bread to the bread at some of the nation’s most notable bakeries. One bite and you’re hooked.
#5. Nile Ethiopian
7048 International Dr.
Orlando, FL 32819
Honestly, I was not fan of Ethiopian cuisine until I experienced the grandma cooking at Awash Ethiopian in Miami. (The food was so good; it was one of the reasons I converted to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.) Awash Ethiopian and a recent Ethiopian cuisine binge in Washington D.C. are my reference points for great Ethiopian food, preparing me to appreciate the deliciousness of Nile. Nile has edged them out for the top spot. I love the food, which is always fresh, flavorful, and soulful. You can’t go wrong with their vegan options or their sizzling meats. Everything is flavorful with spicy stews, fragrant lentil and split pea dishes, and with almost every entrée you will find injera—a tangy, bitter and even slightly sour flavored sourdough bread made from teff flour (super healthy). If you’ve never had Ethiopian cuisine, this NEEDS to be your entry point. Oh, and make sure you get an order of the sambosas.
#4. Shantell’s Just Until
503 Sanford Ave.
Sanford, FL 32771
This isn’t Orlando proper, but I could not write this article without this spot. She has the best soul food hands down in the Orlando area. It is worth the drive. If you go on weekends, they have a whole band and outdoor dining. The owner is a sweetheart and makes her rounds all day welcoming guest. The cuisine is outstanding and I visit her each time I drive through the state. It is a stop that I always look forward to making. The banana pudding here is legendary!
#3. StreetWise Urban Food
4434 Hoffner Ave.
Orlando, FL 32812
Was the chicken sandwich created here? I mean, once you’ve eaten here, no other Orlando chicken sandwich will measure up. Chef Peterson Pierre is an amazing culinarian who prepares incredibly fresh foods while sourcing premium ingredients from local purveyors, farmers, and suppliers. The awesomeness of the chicken and waffles convinced me the other menu items were going to SLAP! They did! Sandwiches have a special place on this menu. Folks may think there is no cooking involved, just mere assembly, but that’s so not the case. I have tons of respect for great sandwich makers, especially those who tap into the unlimited potential to make sandwiches that are memorable, imaginative, and sophisticated.
#2. Brick & Spoon
933 S Orlando Ave
Maitland, FL 32751
(Inside the Villages at Lake Lily)
Yes, right out the gate I’m preparing you for some of the best French toast you’ll have in all of Orlando at this newly opened brunch forward eatery. Kentrail Davis (Former Milwaukee Brewers Professional Baseball Player) opened Brick & Spoon inside the Villages at Lake Lily and we were one of the first to dine at this amazing brand. Kentrail’s team made small tweaks to this chain restaurant, making it way more soulful. The bar has some incredible brunch style cocktails in addition to their signature Bloody Mary for those recovering from a night of drinking. The cuisine is outstanding. The deliciousness begins with the fresh baked Brioche bread from their scratch kitchen and continues to one of my other favorites, their fried shrimp topped devil eggs and ginormous pancakes. This is brunch at its finest.
#1. Smoke Made Meats
Currently serving as a weekend popup open on various days throughout the week, Pit Master Tyler Brunache has unquestionably created the best BBQ in Orlando. The great African-American chef, pit master, and father of Kansas City barbecue, Mr. Henry Perry would be very proud of Tyler. His brisket resembles Gates BBQ in Kansas City; however, Tyler’s overall BBQ style and technique are clearly the Central Texas inspired “low and slow” persuasion with homemade rubs and seasonings. It is deliciously paired with incredible sides and outstanding homemade desserts like their key lime pie. Do yourself a favor and get their HOMEMADE SAUSAGES! Yep, this brother is old school to the core – making the casing, ground meat, and seasonings in-house. Once you’ve had your first visit, you’ll taste why Smoke Made Meats was chosen for the #1 spot of 2021.
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @smokemademeats for all schedule updates! Here is their January 2021 Schedule:
Saturday 1/8 @ GB’s Bottleshop from 5pm-sell out
Friday 1/14 @ Propagate Social House from 5pm-Sell out
Monday 1/17 @ Tactical Brewing from 6pm-sell out
Friday 1/28 @Wally’s Bar 6-10pm
Saturday 1/29 @Redlight Redlight from 5pm-sell out
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