Amid brick walkways and burnt-red walls, leaves rustle softly. Steam rises in the distance, then quietly disappears. One moment, this place emits smoky hints of cedar; the next, it teems with notes of ginger and cinnamon bark. This isn’t an idyllic college campus on a brisk autumn night. It’s Infusion Tea, a charming café on the balmy streets of Orlando. Sun streams through oversized windows, warming chilly scoops of gelato and triple-decker cream-cheese sandwiches. More than 70 types of tea—including blacks, greens, oolongs, and herbals—can be ordered hot or cool, like most jazz saxophone solos. Though they hail from faraway lands such as China, Japan, and South Africa, many of these teas are organic and fair-trade certified, reflecting values owner Christina Cowherd cultivated while traveling the world in the Peace Corps. Rare, premium teas such as gyokuro transport taste buds to new frontiers as well, whether nestled in a takeaway tin or steeped in a pot made for sharing in house.
Heaping platters of steamed fish embellished with ginger and scallions, and piping vats of caramel shrimp and pork stew sit at the center of the table at Ánh Hồng Restaurant. Voted best of Yelp and a Zagat award winner, Ánh Hồng Restaurant serves up family-sized portions that encourage friends and relatives to indulge in not just traditional Vietnamese specialties, but also a shared dining experience. The family-style eatery caters to single and small group diners as well, whether they are vegetarians ready to dive into a pile of lemongrass tofu, or vigilant meat eaters enjoying pork fried rice or chicken pho, a popular Vietnamese soup. The menu also boasts plenty of options for dessert, including mango and strawberry smoothies and Vietnamese puddings made from fruit and fresh milk from the chef’s pet cow’s coconut.
Slurp an 8-ounce cup of mushroom-brie soup ($2.69) or bite into a hearty honey-turkey wrap with colby jack, tomato, and mustard ($6.89). Green day's menu offers lettuce, veggies, and savory dressings spread out in a salad or rolled into a wrap. Fans of fiery flavors can try the buffalo chicken wrap tempered by cool gorgonzola ($6.89). Selections come sided with choice of veggie chips or broccoli crunch (florets flavored up by sunflower seeds and raisins). Energy seekers can rev up naturally with an antioxidant-rich guzzle of cool Via Blast ($4.89). Kids' options are also available.
The neighborhood noshery serves up fast-casual fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is an ideal place to linger over a fresh lunch or scarf up sustenance before a tap-dance battle. Break your nightly fast with an order of the Nutella Belgian waffle with strawberries ($5.50) or a pair of Virgin Olive's breakfast tacos ($3.25+) loaded with eggs, cheese, and salsa. The lunch and dinner offerings include savory sandwiches—available either hot or cold—and scrumptious salads. Herbivores looking for a hearty hand-held meal will enjoy the Flower Child, a swiss cheese and cucumber sandwich seasoned with roasted pumpkin seeds and veggies and a spread of apricot cream cheese ($5.50), while the carnivorally inclined will quell red-meat cravings with The Brute, a roast beef and havarti concoction on ciabatta ($6.50). Salads offer vitamin-enhanced eats such as the Olive Oyl, which blankets baby spinach leaves with turkey breast, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, and fresh strawberries and pears ($5.95), or the fresh mozzarella, tomato, olive, and basily caprese ($5.95).
Dandelion Communitea Cafe is a health-, environment-, and people-conscious cafe serving up fresh, local fare to fresh, local people seven days a week. The menu commencers include a Tex-Mex trio of whirled peas guacamole, black bean dip, and queso rock ($8), creamy hummus accented with hemp seed ($8), and the machos libre, a vegetarian twist on nachos with Dandelion's signature chili, organic corn chips, and homemade queso ($9). The quinoa pilaf in the native mama mix ($5) provides enough energy to win an arm-wrestling contest against a 'roided out rhinoceros, while the salads don't miss a veggie-bumping beet with options such as the Polynesian banana fantasy, a montage of spring greens, carrots, celery, and walnuts all tossed in a curry-inspired dressing ($8.50). The fakin lettuce and tomato replaces bacon with organic artisan tempeh and basil aioli ($7.50), and the kids menu includes an almond butter and jelly sandwich ($6) and organic cheddar grilled cheese ($7). The beverage menu contains more than four dozen varieties of organic teas, plus organic coffee and locally brewed beer.