Anyone even remotely familiar with American barbecue as a cuisine knows that there are several distinct regional styles. The competition between these regions for the best barbecue has been and always will be intense. Traditionally, barbecue hotspots have been places like Texas, St. Louis, Kentucky, Alabama, and the Carolinas. As the city of Orlando grows in size, so too does its presence in the world of barbecue, with several new entries to the local scene over the past few years.
It wouldn’t be an Orlando list without a mention of Disney, but The Polite Pig certainly deserves a spot on this list regardless of its Disney status. This Disney Springs favorite features a menu with more range than you would expect from a barbecue restaurant, but this makes sense—it is Disney, after all. Of course, anything Disney tends to cost a bit more than comparable places (what locals affectionately call “the Disney tax”), but a meal at The Polite Pig is worth every penny.
Must-try item: Baby Back Ribs, made with a special dry-rub and Layla’s Sweet BBQ Sauce.
Bubbalou’s has been serving Orlando barbecue since 1986, longer than any other restaurant on this list. In that time, they have racked up a number of awards—not only from local publications like the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Magazine, but from national institutions like USA Today, Southern Living, the New York Times, and the Food Network.
Must-try item: 3 Pig Platter, featuring a healthy serving of pulled pork, sliced pork, and spare ribs.
4 Rivers is probably the most iconic of the Orlando barbecue restaurants. Established in Winter Park in 2009, 4 Rivers quickly became a city favorite, and then a state favorite as they pulled in traffic from all over Florida. Their original restaurant was tiny—the line was always out the door and usually ended up wrapping around the building. They have since expanded to 14 restaurants, including the first one outside of Florida in Atlanta. Keep an eye out for their bumper stickers when you’re in town: “Peace, Love, 4R” has become somewhat of a mantra around here.
Must-try item: Signature Angus Brisket, smoked for 18 hours and seasoned with a signature rub, sliced lean or moist.
Cecil’s has taken on the responsibility of bringing good, old-fashioned, Texas-style barbecue to Orlando for nearly 30 years now. All their meats are hickory-smoked for hours on end, making them so tender that you don’t even need a knife to cut into them. Cecil’s may not be attempting to revolutionize the world of barbecue, but in this world of slow-cooking and sweet tea, some things don’t need to change.
Must-try item: Pork loin, a very generous portion of meat served with two sides and Texas toast.
If any one of these restaurants provides a distinct identity in the world of barbecue, it is Pig Floyd’s. Serving up everything from banh mi to pork al pastor tacos, this diverse barbecue restaurant pulls inspiration from Orlando’s similarly diverse population in combining traditional barbecue styles with a wide variety of cultural flavors. Simply put, if you are looking for a new favorite restaurant, Pig Floyd’s should be on your shortlist.
Must-try item: The Big Floyd, a combination of Fred Stokes sausage, pulled pork, and Oakwood-smoked brisket topped with citrus peanut slaw and french fries, served on a coconut pineapple roll.
Each of these delectable restaurants is easily accessible from Rosen Inn Universal, the perfect home base for your summer Orlando vacation. Book your stay now by clicking the button in the upper right corner or by calling (407) 996-4444.