I’ve always had a thing about restaurant longevity. Whenever I travel to someplace new, I try to find out what the oldest restaurant in the area is. I like knowing the history, and I figure any restaurant that can stay in business for a long time must be doing something right.
So when my friend Kristen Manieri asked me to write a guest article for her Orlando Date Night Guide about the area’s most historical restaurants, I said sure. Here’s the article, with a jump to Orlando Date Night Guide:
Earlier this year, I wrote a review of Cafe Madrid, a Spanish and Cuban restaurant, and made note of its 28-year run, no small feat for a restaurant. A week later, Cafe Madrid closed. And I swear it was a positive review.
I’ve always had a thing about historic restaurants, often seeking out the longest continuously operated restaurant in whatever city I’m visiting. (Botin, in Madrid, claims the title of oldest restaurant in the world (1725); I wrote a review of it in 2001.) My fascination prompted me to write an article for the Orlando Sentinel in 2005 attempting to discover the longest running restaurant in Central Florida.
Of the six restaurants that I named in that article, only two are still around, including La Cantina, the steakhouse on East Colonial Drive in Orlando, which opened in 1947. (The ownership has changed over the years, but it has always been a “La Cantina.”)
The other survivor is Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar, everyone’s favorite dive, established in 1950. Oysters and cold beer, a winning concept.
That got me thinking of other restaurants that have toughed it out and beaten the odds in this difficult industry that serves a very fickle public. Here are some of the restaurants I consider to be Central Florida’s most historic.