There’s a direct correlation between my struggle to stay on track with a healthy diet and the accounts I follow on Instagram. As my friend Lisandra likes to justify it for me: “Stephanie, you do eat for a living.” Thus, I attend bootcamp workout sessions during the week, and stuff my face with cookies and tacos on the weekend – all in the name of research. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Because I live in Davenport, treks to Orlando must be thought out. If I’m going to drive 40 minutes for a taco, it better be good. (Truthfully there is no time limit on how long I’d drive for a taco. #honestybox.)
For the purpose of this post, I set out to follow the culprits of my Instagram-induced drooling sessions to find out whether or not these eats in Orlando were worthy of the hype.
Valhalla Bakery Doughnuts – Market on South
Doughnuts (donuts?)–especially giant and uniquely decorated ones–are having a moment right now and I’ve got 0 problems with that. But a pretty doughnut is worthless if it doesn’t taste good, too. Luckily, Valhalla Bakery succeeds in both departments offering up colorful and flavorful creations that delight both the photographer and sweet-toothed sides of my personality. They also happen to be all vegan, which means they’re basically health foods, correct?
Valhalla Bakery does sell many other baked goods (follow their Instagram and marvel at the unicorn cakes – hint hint for my birthday next year…) but their doughnuts are high-demand right now. In fact, Valhalla Bakery was just crowned Best Bakery in Orlando Weekly’s Best of Orlando 2016. During my visit, I intended to purchase a conservative 3 doughnuts, and ended up leaving with 6. Flavors rotate daily, but I loved the Vanilla Sprankle and Chocolate Brownie.
These doughnuts definitely live up to their media hype, just make sure to eat them sooner rather than later as some of the toppings weren’t as good after a day on the counter.
King Bao – Mills50
My first experience with bao (pronounced BOW) was at Baoery in Thornton Park, but King Bao was the spot that kept popping up on my radar. Located in Mills50 (right at the intersection of Mills and 50) I had a somewhat hard time finding it my first go round, but eventually found my way and scored a prime parking spot.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bao, I’d liken it to a mini Chinese taco. It’s miniature in size (about half the size of a normal taco) and has a soft bun with a pillow-like texture. In more official terms from my good friend Wikipedia, bao is “a type of steamed, filled, bun or bread-like (i.e. made with yeast) item in various Chinese cuisines.”
I tried the Kickin’ Chicken (Kimchi fried chicken, cucumber, sriracha aioli, scallions) and Firecracker Shrimp (Chili lime marinated shrimp, guacamole, lemon pepper aioli, cilantro) along with a side of Truffle Tots and a drink for $11.
Of all of the restaurants mentioned on this list, King Bao is the one I choose as most hype-worthy. It’s a fun culinary experience, the vibe is chill, and the food is amazing. I love a restaurant that specializes in ONE thing and proceeds to do it incredibly well.
Black Rooster Taqueria – Mills50
By now you’ve probably heard of this taco shop in Mills50 or at the very least seen a beautiful taco and guac Instagram pic from your foodie friend. I decided to make Black Rooster tacos my birthday wish from John (granted) and all was well in the world.
Immediately upon walking in, I was feeling positive. The inside is spacious with plenty of seating, there was hip-hop music playing, you order at the counter, and the décor is all day of the dead themed. In short: low key, hip, and arty vibe. Perfect for a taco joint, especially in this area. (<3 you Mills50.)
The best part? The fresh guac and tacos totally lived up to my expectations. I’ve never loved corn tortillas, but the ones at Black Rooster changed my mind. The toppings are kept simple (pickled red onions and cilantro on my Achiote Pork for example) to let the flavors shine. Worthy of the hype 100% and I can’t wait to get back.
I recently attended a creative meetup at East End Market and admit that half my motivation for attending had to do with the fact I finally had an excuse to be in the same vicinity as these cookies. I’d seen photos of Gideon’s red velvet cake and HUGE cookies and was pumped to stuff my face.
I ordered a Cookies & Cream and had a magical moment after taking my first bite. Oreos on top, Oreos inside, so many Oreos. And the texture is like eating cookie dough even though these cookies are fully baked. I want their secrets.
The ONLY complaint I have about these cookies is that they are so. rich. This isn’t totally a bad thing as it forced me to eat my cookie throughout the day, but it felt almost like too much. Worthy of the hype IF you’re a big fan of sweets, but proceed with caution.
**FYI- Gideon’s just closed down for a month for some renovations, so be on the lookout for news of their return in about a month.
This research was certainly enjoyable for me (big surprise) so expect future installments profiling other popular eats. Ah, the things I do for this blog… 🙂
PS – I fully realize everyone’s taste buds are different, so regardless of my opinions I encourage you to get out and try each option for yourself while supporting local eateries.