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Raising the Bar

20 standout small plates to enjoy with your next cocktail, cold beer or glass of wine.

Once upon a time, grabbing a bite to eat at the bar typically meant some sort of fried snack, a plate of wings or maybe a sandwich. But these days, many establishments are showcasing much more refined dishes on their menus, proving that a bite at the bar can be both elevated and approachable. We made our way across Orlando to uncover the best bar food, and the following selections are a great mix of sophisticated snacks that pair wonderfully with the adult beverage of your choice.


Found on Jack’s lounge menu, this meaty mushroom is certainly a crowd pleaser. Coated in tempura batter and lightly fried to provide great textural balance, it is only enhanced by the accompanying parmesan peppercorn dipping sauce.

A truly addictive dish designed for sharing, but no one could fault you for wanting it all to yourself. Rice and blue crab are fired in the wok along with garlic confit, green onions and squeezes of lemon to create a tantalizing option to pair with any drink.

Whether stopping for a signature cocktail or perhaps a dram of quality bourbon, no visit is complete without and order of these soft pretzel bites—still warm from the oven and with the perfect amount of chew—served alongside housemade pimento cheese and honey mustard.

GOAT CHEESE CROQUETTES at American Social Bar & Kitchen
These croquettes stuffed with goat cheese make for the perfect light bite during happy hour, or any hour really. Crunchy and cheesy, they get a hit of sweetness thanks to a red chili-guava glaze that helps to create a harmonious bite.

PINXTO MORUNO at Bulla Gastrobar
This scintillating small plate showcases the depth of flavor in Spanish cuisine. Pork loin is marinated with cumin, charred on the grill, skewered and then topped with mojo verde and a Greek yogurt sauce.

There’s a faction of people that avoid Brussel sprouts like the plague. They’ve obviously never had this concoction, where they are roasted in the oven until golden brown and served in a bowl with goat cheese, sliced almonds and a chili honey.

FROG SONG CARROTS at Luke’s Kitchen and Bar
Baby carrots sourced from Ocala’s Frog Song organic farm are roasted, then pan seared before being plated atop a homemade buttermilk ricotta. The dish is finished with a crunchy mix of pecans, puffed rice and sesame seeds, drizzles of orange blossom honey infused with fresno peppers and fresh chives for garnish.

BURRATA at Wine Bar George
Wine and cheese make for one of the more dynamic duos and there’s no shortage of vintages here to pair with this dish where grilled sourdough bread is topped with sliced heirloom tomatoes, corn and a generous portion of smooth and creamy burrata cheese.

GRILLED LAMB LOLLIPOPS at Vines Grille + Wine Bar
In this standout dish that packs plenty of flavor, tender cuts of single-chopped Australian lamb are cooked to perfection and outfitted on the plate with dollops of beet hummus, preserved lemon and a shaved fennel salad.

ATUN CRUDO a la PLANCHA at Capa at The Four Seasons
A menu item as decadent as its surroundings, this vibrant seafood specialty features slices of seared tuna and pickled mango bathing in a pool of truffle avocado puree with shaved black truffles for good measure.

We can’t get enough tacos in our life and this one is quickly becoming a go-to order. The cauliflower is rubbed with a mix of sour orange juice and achiote spice and is placed into a tortilla with charred peppers, roasted corn and a garlic-basil crema.

This sophisticated cocktail hangout is where you’ll encounter this delightful flatbread made with a wonderful combination of broccoli rabe, ricotta cheese, Gulf shrimp and finishing touches of red chili flakes and pickled onions.

THIGH HIGH CHICKEN BISCUITS at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
Whether sharing with a group or devouring them yourself, these are a must. Tender fried chicken thighs are slid in between two delicate—and delicious—biscuits with bread and butter pickles and drizzles of hot honey. May. Need. Two. Orders.

KOREAN BBQ ST. LOUIS RIBS at The Stubborn Mule
This half rack of ribs is braised in cola, which adds an underlying sweetness to the meat while also ensuring it remains tender and juicy before it’s lathered in a Korean barbecue sauce that brings a little bit of heat on the back end.

CRAB ARANCINI at Big Fin Seafood Kitchen
Forget the rice balls stuffed with Bolognese that you love so much and give this seafood version a try. Each order consists of oversized breaded orbs packed with crab and risotto resting in a pool of remoulade and shakes of Parmesan.

DRUNKEN SCALLOPS at Root & Branch Bistro Bar
Even non-drinkers would find this scallop dish appealing. Three nice-sized U-10 scallops are seared beautifully and then plated atop potato rounds, topped with micro greens and bathed with a whiskey-pancetta cream sauce.


Photo Courtesy of Grande Lakes Orlando

This glitzy restaurant is known for its authentic Mediterranean flavors and that is certainly evident with this house specialty found on both the regular and bar menus. Homemade Greek-style meatballs are livened up with squeezes of lemon and a side of tzatziki for dipping.

SHRIMP AND GRITS at Highball Harvest
We cannot recommend this delectable variation of a Southern comfort food staple highly enough. A flavorfully layered “low country broth” sets the stage for creamy goat cheese grits and Cape Canaveral rock shrimp and the result is a dish that will linger in your mind for some time.

OCTOPUS at Primo
Tender and meaty, the grilled octopus would be sufficient on its own. But when intermingled with a preserved bean emulsion, crumbles of chorizo sausage, glazed root veggies and a raisin agrodolce, you have a symphony of flavors that crescendo with a stunning performance.

This industrial-themed Disney Springs spot is where you’ll often find us bellied up to the bar and noshing on these hanging strips of maple bacon heavily seasoned with black pepper and served with sweet and spicy pickles.