Plus, behold the cutest pet in our Paw-lidays Pet Photo Pageant.

🍽 Orlando's biggest restaurant openings and most heartbreaking closings of 2021

Plus, behold the cutest pet in our Paw-lidays Pet Photo Pageant.

By Katie Johnston

It’s Tuesday, Orlando.

Have you enjoyed any new food or tasty cocktails around the City Beautiful this year? Despite the negative effects of the pandemic on the economy, there were countless new restaurants, breweries, bars, and cafes to try in 2021 — 48 of which we’ve rounded up down below.

The country saw 110,000 food and drink establishments temporarily or permanently close in 2020, due largely in part to the unpredictable nature of a global pandemic. However, this year seemed to be all about rebounding, though we still bid tearful farewells to some beloved spots. 

Keep reading for an end-of-year roundup of some of the most notable openings and heart-breaking closings of 2021 across Orlando.


The Monroe is just one of the many things we were thankful for in 2021. 📸: @themonroeorlando | Wanna see your photo here? Tag either #pulptown or @pulptown on Instagram to be featured as our IG of the Day!

Did you eat yet? 2021 delivered on new food and drink spots in Orlando. 

Here's our annual roundup of Orlando's biggest restaurant openings and most heartbreaking closings of the year, starting with the good news first, in order of appearance (i.e. when it opened): 👇


🌌 AC Sky Bar debuted in Downtown Orlando at the beginning of the year, boasting a swanky rooftop terrace with dynamite views of Orlando. On the menu: tasty tapas, artisanal cocktails, and Sunday brunch.

🌮 Taco Bell Cantina officially opened at the start of 2021, and fans of the chain ran straight to the border of Central Blvd and Orange Ave.  


🥯 Deli Desires is my jam. The hot new Jewish deli opened next door to the old Sanctum restaurant on Fern Creek and Colonial and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bacon bialy anywhere else in the world. Wowzers. 

🍾 The Hampton Social opened at Pointe Orlando earlier in the year and in addition to rosé all day, it offers IG-worthy photo ops, lobster rolls, short ribs, and other boujee dishes. 

🍣 Ootoya Sushi Lounge took over the former Shari Sushi space in Thornton Park and I can honestly attest to the fact that the Tiger Roll is rather unforgettable. Now if only F&D Cantina can hurry up and open next door, that little square might finally be cooking again. 


🍣 Soseki, a 10-seat Omakase experience in Winter Park, is the brainchild of Taglish Collective, “teaming Taglish's Mike Collantes with Kaizen Izakaya's Denni Cha”, and serves globally-inspired seasonal dishes that take you on a wonderful journey.   

🍱 Japango is a trendy eatery that opened in the old Chewy Boba Co. space on Colonial in March and its sushi bento boxes range in name from "bitch box" to "boss box" (they offer vegan boxes too). Right next door is Dochi, the fine Japanese mochi donuts that gained popularity at East End Market before opening its Mills 50 location earlier this year.

🎤 Aloha Beautiful is both a great greeting and also the name of Team Market Group’s 2021 karaoke tiki bar concept. There’s more to do in Orlando than eat — a girl’s gotta drink too, amirite?

🍞 Cheba Hut held its grand opening in March when it arrived on the scene in East Orlando with its weed-themed sandwiches. 

🍖 Smokemade Meats has popped up all over town this year, with its initial debut happening back in March. Arby's claims to have the meats, but it’s got nothing on this guy and his team. 


🍩 Pattie Lou’s Donuts moved into the City-owned floor retail space beneath the downtown library parking garage on Pine Street back in April and co-owner Kobina’s friendliness warrants a return visit almost as much as the build-your-own doughnuts he churns out daily. 

☕️ Cups and Pups Coffee took over Gratitude Coffee on April 1 when the then-owner Jenny decided to move on to the next chapter in her life, but not before handing the keys over to coffee purveyors who would continue her legacy in College Park. 


🍽 The Monroe is the newest concept from the Good Salt Restaurant Group, the same people who brought us The Osprey, Seito Sushi, and Reyes Mezcaleria. “Orlando’s living room” opened on the bottom floor of The Julian in Creative Village mid-year and is named after Dr. William Monroe Wells, one of Orlando’s first Black doctors. 

🍔 White Castle likely topped the list for hot local restaurant news this past year, even though it’s a California-based chain. The tiny square-shaped sliders have amassed a cult following, one I have yet to understand.  


🌭 Portillo’s — speaking of out-of-state chains with cult followings everywhere — teased its opening for months on end until finally launching its Orlando location in June

🍍The Pinery is a fine dining casual restaurant that opened on the floor of the Lake House Apartments overlooking Lake Ivanhoe and its Florida roots and outdoor patio has been the talk of the town for months now.  

🥂 Bites & Bubbles isn’t a new-new restaurant to Orlando but it’s relatively new to its current space in the former short-lived Bellicoso building next door to Brass Tap.  

🍲 Shin Jung came back to the Mills 50 scene this year. The popular Korean bbq restaurant reopened two years after a devastating fire.

🥯 Jeff’s Bagel Run really found its stride in 2021, first as a pop-up before landing a brick-and-mortar in Winter Garden

Still hungry? Curious about what opened the latter half of the year? We’ve got Pt. 2 of the newest spots serving pizza, ramen, global flavors, beer, cocktails, and sweet treats (and the most heartbreaking closures) coming at ya in tomorrow’s newsletter. You don’t want to miss it.

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🎁 Enjoy a live production of the holiday classic, "A Christmas Carol", at Orlando Shakes. (Loch Haven Park)


🍿Kick your holidays off early with a Wednesday matinee showcasing "A Christmas Story" (Maitland)

🎁 Enjoy a live production of the holiday classic, "A Christmas Carol", at Orlando Shakes. (Loch Haven Park)


🎄 Santa has arrived at Wall Crawl and he wants to take holiday pictures with you and there are only two days left to do so (Parramore)


🌊 Watch the Surfing Santas from Cocoa Beach Pier or the comfort of your couch (Cocoa Beach/Online)


🎄 Celebrate Boxing Day with Santa and a festive photoshoot at Wall Crawl (Parramore)

One more thing…


Okay, so more like three more things… 

Behold! You have voted and crowned Moki Bear the cutest pet that submitted to our Happy Paw-lidays Pet Photo Pageant. Congrats to Moki Bear’s owner Natalie — they’ve won a $50 gift card and a personalized dozen of doggie treats from our friends at Eola Pets, in addition to bragging rights for the year. 

There’s a new episode of our 15 Minutes in Pulptown podcast out today and I might be biased, but I think you’ll like it. You can check it out right here

And lastly, here’s your friendly reminder that your girl here is taking a much-needed break for the holidays, and Pulptown won’t be publishing from December 23 through the rest of the year. We’ll be back in your inboxes on Tuesday, January 4.

See you back here tomorrow for the last newsletter of 2021.

– ✌️ Katie at Pulptown

P.S. Don’t forget to share with us your bright spots of 2021. I’m looking to end the year on a high note: so tell me about something good that happened to you this year, whether it was a new baby, a new job, or a new favorite watering hole — I wanna know about it all. Reply to this email or drop it to me on Instagram or Facebook, wouldya?

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