Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining returns this year with a new twist: two pricing structures, either $40 – last year’s cost – or $60 for the three-course, prix fixe dinner.
The 18th version of the annual restaurant promotion will start a week earlier than last year, running Aug. 18 through Oct. 1. (In its early days, it was Magical Dining Month and was confined to September.)
More than 115 restaurants have signed on to participate this year. The restaurants, which pay a marketing fee to Visit Orlando and agree to donate money from each sale to charities selected by the organization, offer special Magical Dining menus from which diners may select a first course (appetizer, soup or salad), an entree and dessert for the set price. Most restaurants, though not all, choose to spotlight items from their regular menus, and the fixed price often represents a savings over the a la carte prices.
In recent years, more restaurants started offering dishes that weren’t on their usual menus, perhaps because the food costs made it easier to break even if not actually make a profit. (The smarter restaurateurs look at Magical Dining as a chance to attract new customers and present menus representative of their usual offerings.) Some diners have been suspicious that even the restaurants that offer menu favorites used smaller portions or lesser quality ingredients.
The $60 option presumably gives those restaurants the leeway to offer the same quality foods as usual without the greater financial burden.
In the past, restaurants pledged to give one dollar from each meal sold to the charities selected by Visit Orlando to benefit from the promotion. That remains the same for the $40 tier, restaurants offering the $60 menu will donate $2. The Lifeboat Project, an organization raising awareness on the issue of human trafficking, is this year’s beneficiary.
In addition, six charities that provide services and resources to survivors of abuse in Central Florida have been selected to receive an award of $2000 each: Mustard Seed of Central Florida; Nuevo Sendero; One Heart for Women and Children; Salvation Army Orlando; Samaritan Village; and Wake Up Mentoring. Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining program has raised more than $2 million since the charity component was added in 2009.
Another change from years past: the Magical Dining website already has most of the restaurants and menus posted. New restaurants include: Amare at Swan Reserve ($40); Bella Tuscany Ristorante Italiano – Ocoee ($40); Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ – Orlando and Flamingo Crossing locations ($40); LakeHouse ($40); MYlounge Orlando ($60); North Italia ($40); Osphere Grill; Sushi and Bar ($40); Palate Bistro and Bar ($40); The Palm ($60); Park Avenue Tavern ($40);The Wilson Cocktails & Seafood ($40); and Salt & The Cellar ($60).
Three Michelin Guide-recognized restaurants – Ava MediterrAegean ($60); BACÁN ($60); and The Pinery ($40) – are also new additions, joining other Michelin notables Kabooki Sushi East Orlando ($40); Maxine’s on Shine ($40); The Ravenous Pig ($40); and Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen ($40).
Visit Orlando is also again offering Magical Nights, which has special pricing at hotels whose restaurants are part of the dining component.
See all of the restaurants and the staycation deals at magicaldining.com.