If you’re looking for beautiful homes, welcoming front porches, a superb lifestyle, and recreational amenities along peaceful and tree-lined streets, you need to visit Celebration, Florida. Because along with all those lovely items comes great food.
Envisioned by the Walt Disney Company as a planned community, their goal was to “build a better place and a better way to live.”
While Disney is no longer in the Celebration picture, the town has grown into a dynamic, thriving community with an iconic downtown area.
Full disclosure: The postal address Celebration extends west of I-4, but I only visited the “non-chain” restaurants in the downtown area along the lake.
The 7 Best Celebration FL Restaurants
701 Front Street // (407) 566-8698
The Downtown Diner was mentioned almost immediately whenever I asked anyone who lived or worked in Celebration what restaurants I shouldn’t miss. Closing at 2 pm, they serve breakfast all day and lunch from 11 am to 2 pm. Indoor and outdoor seating is available.
Enter to the typical noise and clashing of plates and silverware. Leave your name, or maybe have immediate seating with the hostess on the left. Check out the jukebox before the counter seating or peruse some of the sweets available.
The restaurant was bustling when I arrived, but I was seated quickly. The server warned me it might be a half-hour wait for my food, but their WIFI was strong and there was no rush.
Facing the window, I was able to see all the activity going on along the lake. There’s a path for your daily walk that circles the lake.
Back to the menu, I checked out the lunch section first. The Berry Chicken Salad looked appealing, and the selection of sides is extensive. Comfort food options include a chicken pot pie, turkey dinner, country fried chicken, ham with macaroni and cheese, Shepherd’s Pie, and country fried steak. Sandwiches included corned beef or roast beef or an Italian wrap.
The options continued for two pages, plenty to try for more than the two weeks I stayed in the area. And today, I offered my server my two options and her face lit up when she recommended the latter. You know that’s a good sign.
Back at the breakfast menu, I was impressed to see starters, another first. They have pancake bacon dippers and bagel sliders and strawberry banana pancake skewers. Inventive and fun.
Their “Egg”celent choices include 2 and 3 egg meals, a Celebration platter, sandwiches, or healthy options. Their Downtown Delights include typical southern breakfast fare: chicken and waffle, biscuit and gravy, or chicken biscuit and gravy.
My eye, though, was drawn to the pancakes and specialty pancakes. Buttermilk, blueberry, funfetti, chocolate chip, cinnamon roll, apple crisp, or lemon ricotta. Wow! Those are some serious options. No wonder they have that path along the lake. I’d need to walk for a while to work some of that off.
The waffle options include Belgian, Berry Delicious, Peanut Butter & Banana, or a cinnamon roll waffle. Ditto the pancakes, lots of choices.
Specialty pancakes require extra time and come dusted with powdered sugar. Offering Dutch Baby, Fresh Berry Dutch Baby, and Apple Cinnamon Dutch Baby, I asked the server her preference.
Her eyes lit up at the Apple Cinnamon Dutch Baby. Maybe that’s when she warned me it could take a half-hour, come to think of it.
When the pancake arrived, I learned it was a German pancake, made with thinly sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar, but made in a deep-dish cast-iron skillet for a crispy bottom and tender top.
It was delicious. Especially piping hot. I was pulled away for a phone call and, while still good, it wasn’t as great as it was served straight from the stove. So be sure to have the ability to finish it at the restaurant.
649 Front Street // (407) 566-1505
This gem of Spanish restaurants was always the first or second mentioned by locals as their favorite place to have a celebration. Whether a birthday, anniversary, or graduation, Columbia remains popular year after year.
Enter to see a suit of armor, ready for your photo opportunity. There’s a gift shop to the left and both indoor and outdoor seating for your dining pleasure. Tables prevail with a few banquette seat tables available. The overhead fans and air conditioning keep the climate quite comfortable, even in 90F+ weather.
Once seated, take the opportunity to read much of the history on the menu. The Gonzmart family opened this restaurant in 1905. They take great pride in their relationships five generations hence with distilleries around the world welcoming them back on tasting trips. Reading about their visits to the Spey distillery in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland made even a non-drinker like me just a little envious.
The history of the original Cuban sandwich and the restaurant’s choice as Food & Wine Magazine’s best sandwich in Florida are appropriately celebrated while offering a Mahi Mahi Cubana, Curt’s meatloaf sandwich, Palomilla steak sandwich, or a half and half combo.
If you’re ready for tapas, the black bean cakes, championes rellenos, queso fundido, Ybor City Crab Croquettes, or empanadas made from a multiple generations finely tuned recipe. Basically, you could choose almost anything on the menu and have a great meal.
At lunchtime, the sandwiches and tapas were readily available. The Empanadas de Picadillo started with a recipe for picadillo, made with spiced ground beef, garlic, tomato, onions, raisins, and olives. The raisins were a new twist on an old favorite for me, adding sweetness and texture.
Dessert options include flan, churros, key lime pie, and white chocolate bread pudding. Any make an excellent choice for a celebratory meal. Or a regular day out and about.
Lakeside Bar & Grill
700 Bloom Street // (407) 566-6000
This lovely boutique hotel is perched at the far corner of town on the lake. Its structure reminds me of a lighthouse. The outdoor living furniture is elegantly appointed with socially distanced space for guests.
Enter the restaurant through the lobby area and you’ll see six interior tables and six exterior tables, so be sure to call for reservations as they fill easily. You can stroll along the path around the lake by starting around the right of the hotel.
The bartender and server are helpful and make you want to stay longer. And take you up on their urging to return often.
This restaurant also participates in the Magical Dining program for charity. For a fixed price, the Lakeside Bar & Grill, and many restaurants in the Orlando area, provide a three-course meal with three options for first, main, or dessert courses. They also offer wine pairings.
As they say, “When classically inspired dishes are elegantly elevated, your old favorites become new ones, all over again. Indoors or al fresco, enjoy the sparkling lakeside.”
Shareable dishes include Kessler calamari, Hunter’s board, crispy brussel sprouts, and an heirloom tomato burrata.
Soups & salads offer the Caesar and power bowl or an iced gazpacho, a zesty tomato, farm box cucumber, and cucumber salsa.
Their sandwiches include a smoked turkey breast club, spiced whiskey burger, pulled pork sandwich, and hot honey chicken sandwich.
What grabbed my attention, though, were the entrees. While the grilled petit filet was tempting, and the Joyce Farms Chicken with root vegetables looked great, when I learned I could substitute the coconut rice, the pan-seared red snapper with asparagus and a mango avocado relish took the day.
I’d not eaten snapper before my visit to Placencia, Belize, but now know it’s an easy fish to love to eat. Let me be the first to say this chef added new layers of flavor that I hadn’t experienced with simply grilling fresh snapper. The dry-fried asparagus was perfect and the mango relish refreshing.
There wasn’t room to have dessert, but the options made me want to return for a tasting. The apple tart has fresh strawberries and cinnamon. The rustic three berry tart and flourless chocolate torte looked decadent when nearby diners enjoyed them. And cheesecake and Key Lime Pie are also available.
It’s easy to see there are plenty of options to choose from and many reasons to return.
Mulligan’s Irish Pub
39 Blake Blvd // (407) 566-0501
Celebration’s Irish Pub since 2006, walking in to find the owner and staff hanging twinkle lights along the bar made me smile.
Their Pub fare is straightforward and typically Irish. For appetizers, they offer jumbo fried wings in your choice of sauce (including fire buffalo), sausage rolls, nachos, fried cheese curds with a tangy marinara dipping sauce, chips and salsa, Irish Nachos (with sour cream), pretzel sticks (yum!), quesadilla with cheddar jack cheese, chicken tenders or a sampler.
For soups & salads, while you may not be able to pass on the Guinness stew, check out the “Pot O’ Gold.” This creamy loaded baked potato soup topped with shredded cheddar cheese, bacon, and chives will make you feel like you’re on the Emerald Isle. In addition, they have offered chili and three salads. For here or take away.
Sandwich choices include a cheeseburger, Rueben, BLTC (C for cheese), chicken salad wrap, Pretzel Burger, Beer Battered Fish Sandwich, Buffalo Chicken Tender Sandwich, or grilled roast beef with garlic butter on grilled French bread with au jus.
The roast beef was an easy sell for me. The shavings were thin and perfectly accompanied with just the right amount of garlic butter (more available should you desire it). The sandwich didn’t need the au jus, but I know many people like the brown gravy for dipping.
Their Mains include beer-battered fish and chips, Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers N’ Mash (British sausages with garlic mashed potatoes), or open-faced roast beef.
Next time I’m back, I’d be hard-pressed not to try the pretzel sticks, chicken salad wrap, and check on dessert options. Just like in Dublin, I’m going to pass on the mushy peas, but they keep them on the menu.
Better still, they have trivia night on the second Monday of the month. The first prize is a designated bar tab. It’s fun to go to trivia night, to bring friends, and win some prizes.
Le China Chinese Restaurant
37 Blake Blvd // (321) 939-2462
One surprising thing I’ve learned about Florida is that many people find it difficult to find good Chinese food. It may not help that several restaurants, with the Covid Delta variant ongoing, continue to offer take away service only.
Accepting orders by telephone or online, this restaurant was easy to find in the plaza close to the Publix off Celebration Avenue. Ordering online was simplest.
The Crab Rangoon was good. The edamame was al dente. Sesame chicken was sweet and tasty. The order was accurate, and the steamed rice was fresh. So, overall, pretty good.
Other menu options include fried wonton, potstickers, chicken or beef teriyaki, and seaweed salad.
Their chow mein or chop suey came with five protein options: chicken, roast pork, vegetable, beef, or shrimp. The Lo Mein offered the same proteins.
I can see my daughter ordering the Hawaiian Fried Rice during a later visit. And maybe the Sweet & Sour Shrimp to see how well their “sweet” sauce compares to the sauce used for the sesame chicken.
Little Greek Fresh Grill
45 Blake Blvd // (407) 566-4736
Easy to find in the Publix complex, several of the area workers commented on how great the Greek food is here. The most common item mentioned rapturously was the Spanakopita, a spinach pie with flaky phyllo dough stuffed with a mixture of spinach and cheese. I’m new to tzatziki sauce but it seems to go with everything, even pita chips. They’re right. It’s delicious.
If you’re ready for a salad, you can choose the Village Salad with NO lettuce, a Caesar Salad, or a Greek Salad in typical or mini portions. They let you choose what you want in your Greek salad with choices including beets, potato salad, feta cheese, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, red onion, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, or lettuce. It’s true, that old adage, if you leave here hungry, it’s your own fault.
For a light meal, you may be up for their offered skewered proteins: chicken, steak, salmon, or lamb. Or a pita or wrap with the tzatziki sauce and a combination of proteins, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.
Their desserts in the baking case looked delicious. Baklava or homemade rice pudding was available the day I was there.
And the dinners, served with pita bread included the gyro platter, chicken skewers, steak skewers, salmon skewers or lamb skewers, will hit the spot on your Greek seeking tastebuds.
If you have a taste for Greek food, this is your place in Celebration. Opa!
41 Blake Blvd // (321) 939-4300
Wood tables and benches welcome you in, streamlined to draw your eye to the large, red pizza oven in the middle of the restaurant. With shelving along the right side wall holding cans of tomatoes, sacks of Caputo, and olive oils, you know this dough is fresh.
The personnel are friendly and helpful making it even easier to navigate the menus on the wall.
Appetizers include ½ pound meatball, parmesan garlic pizzetta, avocado pizzetta, meat & cheese boards. Salads include the house salad, Caesar, Chopped Panzanella, or a refreshing Caprese salad that you can order with chicken.
Traditional pizzas include cheese, margarita, sausage & mushroom, and pepperoni. The gentleman I spoke with tells me that his favorite is the sausage & mushroom which sells well, but it’s difficult for anything to outsell cheese or pepperoni.
If it feels like you’re getting a lot of pizza, remember, you’re on vacation and, after Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando or Sea World or all the wonderful other things to do in the area, you may be looking for something hot, fresh, and fun.
Visiting other destinations in Florida? Check out our other guides:
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- 13 Fun Things To Do In San Marco Island
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Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler, she happily goes on new adventures, especially on birthdays. Multi-generational travel remains a treasured pastime. She divides her time between Ireland and the U.S. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.