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Some folks subscribe to the philosophy that when it comes to dining out, it’s best not to fill up on appetizers so you can save room for the main course. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that line of thinking, for us, the truth is some of the best dishes you’ll find in the Greater Orlando area just happen to be at the top of the menu. Whether you’re sharing a plate with the table or savoring the flavor all by yourself, these standout appetizers set the stage for a wonderful meal.

Smoked Octopus Carpaccio at Big Fin Seafood Kitchen

This seafood starter features cold smoked octopus that has been thinly sliced and plated with pickled red onion, chimichurri, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and drizzles of olive oil to enliven the culmination of ingredients.

Wild Cherry Clams at Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe

This hearty appetizer arrives to the table with meaty cherrystone clams swimming in an herb-infused broth full of white beans, which add a slight contrast to the sweet taste of the quahogs.

Barbecued Crispy Eggplant at Narcroossee’s

Sizable portions of eggplant are breaded and fried to perfection then finished with barbecue sauce and served with wilted spinach, crispy chickpeas (an underrated co-star) and a charred onion vinaigrette to further enhance the dish.

Salmon Rillette at Root & Branch

A wonderful poached salmon spread with pickled shallots is seasoned with lemon tarragon and a bit of dill, resulting in a shareable appetizer that will have diners scrambling for the last baguette to savor the final bite.

Pork Burnt Ends at The Ravenous Pig

This sinfully delicious dish kicks off any meal at this restaurant in high fashion. The charred, chewy burnt ends are seasoned beautifully and bathe in a bowl of seriously addictive corn pudding with touches of a piquant ranchero sauce.

Ribeye Pinchos at Four Flamingos

Ribeye Pinchos at Four Flamingos

Celebrity chef Richard Blais’ whimsical flair for food is on full display with these skewers of 20-day dry-aged beef presented with a signature sauce made up of guava and sweet chili.

Hoisin Chili Calamari at The Boathouse

Outside on the dock overlooking the water is the perfect place to dig into this plate of calamari rings and fiery counterparts like jalapeños and serrano chilies, all lightly breaded and ready for dipping into the accompanying hoisin sauce.

Grilled Octopus at AVA MediterrAegean

This newer fine dining destination serves up plenty of polished plates including this memorable offering where meaty octopus is elegantly plated with a Kalamata olive tapenade, extra virgin olive oil and a charred lemon to add vibrancy.

Maguro Truffle at Kabooki Sushi

Ultra-fresh tuna is encrusted with rice puffs, sliced and served with slivers of serrano peppers before adding the finishing touches of shiitake crema and a balsamic truffle soy sauce. A simple-yet-sophisticated dish that pops with flavor.

Duck Confit at Highball & Harvest

The oh-so-tender duck confit would be enough to satisfy our appetite any day of the week, but when you add whipped burrata, mini eggplant, roasted figs and pickled blackberries it becomes a culinary experience that’s hard to forget.

Grilled Octopus at AVA MediterrAegean

Loaded Pierogis at Teak Neighborhood Grill

Delicate pockets of dough are stuffed with potato and cheese and then tossed in an alfredo sauce made with sour cream, sriracha and chives and topped with chopped bits of bacon and frizzled onions.

Meatballs Wellington at Maxine’s on Shine

The dynamic duo of pork and beef is the base for these delectable meatballs that are blended with spinach and blue cheese, cloaked by phyllo pastry dough and served with a jalapeño-cilantro aioli for good measure.

Toasted Pumpkin Seed “Hummus” at Frontera Cocina

This “hummus” is an homage to the Yucatan Peninsula and is made with pumpkin seeds rather than chickpeas with a habanero sauce providing some punch. Part spread, part dip and perfect for the accompanying cucumbers, jicama and tortilla chips.

Ham and Cheese Beignets at DoveCote Restaurant

Far from a run-of-the-mill appetizer, these outstanding breaded orbs are stuffed with homemade roasted ham along with both pecorino and gruyere for a gooey, melty bite that fires on all cylinders.

Foie Gras at Kres Chophouse

Whenever we visit this stellar steakhouse it’s a night of indulgence, and there’s no better way to begin the evening than with this decadent delicacy that is seared off and served with sourdough bread, fresh berries and a succulent cherry demi-glace.

Heritage and Swine Flatbread at Boca

As hardcore pizza lovers, it’s hard for us to sometimes embrace flatbreads as they are too often lacking any real creativity. That’s certainly not the case here with this tantalizing number coated in a white barbecue sauce with bacon, caramelized onions, heirloom tomatoes, Manchego and arugula.

Hamachi Crudo at Knife & Spoon

Former Top Chef contestant Jon Tesar’s menu has been wowing guests since he arrived on the Orlando dining scene in the fall of 2020. Here, the fish is topped with dollops of sriracha, half-moon slices of avocado, pink grapefruit and cilantro.

Manti at Primo

Consider this Italian comfort food at its finest as beef dumplings float in a light, flavorful chicken broth that is elevated with San Marzano tomatoes, goat cheese crema and sumac.

Carciofini Mama Mia at Adriatico Trattoria Italiana

A can’t-miss order of baby artichokes that are sautéed with strips of sundried tomatoes, EVOO and garlic. Sprigs of mint are the final complement to the dish and add a pleasantly surprising dimension.

“Steak Frites” at SoCo

This clever take on a European bistro classic replaces the ribeye steak with truffled teres major (the second most tender cut of beef behind the tenderloin) in tartare form topped with a quail’s egg yolk, crispy chicken skin and a side of fries.

Mushroom and Chive Crepe Torte at Chef’s Table at the Edgewater

Like a savory crepe on steroids, this dish features an earthy mushroom filling that is stuffed between ultra-thin layers of dough and then crowned with melted gruyere and rested in a roasted shallot cream sauce with pinches of truffle salt.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip at Slate

Spinach and Artichoke Dip at Slate

The creamy blend of spinach and artichokes is a winning combination, but things only get better once a fig marmalade and hunk of brie are nestled on top as you grab a slice of homemade bread and dig in.

Late Harvest Strawberry Gazpacho at 1921 Mount Dora

The menu at 1921 Mount Dora changes frequently, so you’ll want to get there while you can to sample this colorful cold soup poured into a bowl with candied bacon, tomato sorbet and rye croutons.

Chorizo Stuffed Dates at Bulla Gastrobar

The chorizo sausage is made in-house and stuffed into Medjool dates with Manchego cheese before the entire thing is wrapped in bacon, resulting in a salty, sweet, spicy mouthful that entices the taste buds.

Bone Marrow Croquettes at Feather & Quill

These morsels may be an opening act, but are worthy of a starring role. Bone marrow beef, Yukon Gold potatoes and Vermont sharp cheddar are combined, breaded, deep fried and served with a port wine demi-glace for added richness.

The 25 best appetizers you should be ordering the next time you head out for dinner. […]Read More

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