Orlando’s 20 best new restaurants of 2016

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This was always going to be a banner year for restaurant openings in Orlando. We waited with breathless anticipation throughout the last year for much-ballyhooed boîtes by such ballyhooed chefs as Art Smith, Ashley Nickell, Clay Miller, James and Julie Petrakis, Norman Van Aken and Rick Bayless to open in 2016. All, as expected, did – and while a couple of them failed to live up to expectations (sorry, Restaurant ASH and Frontera Cocina), most of them, luckily for us, lived up to the hype.

Trend-wise, we still aren't in the same place as much of the country – we didn't see menus veer toward veggie-leaning entrees, nor did we see a move to no-tipping policies, but boy, did we take our relationship with ramen to the next level. And the outlook for 2017? Well, it won't be a year dominated by celebrity chefs, though we do have two notable restos – Luke's Kitchen + Bar (by Brandon McGlamery) and Kadence (from the trio behind Kappo at East End Market) – to look forward to. Local restaurateur Stefano LaCommare will come out of retirement (just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in) to open Nonno's Ristorante Italiano in Altamonte Springs early next year, while farmers-market regulars Hunger Street Tacos and popular mobile purveyor Bem Bom will set up brick-and-mortar operations. Disney, naturally, will also vie for the attention of the food-conscious public with Paddlefish, the Edison, Wine Bar George and the Polite Pig (by the Petrakises).

Until then, let's celebrate the very best restaurants of this banner year. Here, then, are the Top Tables of 2016. -