There are times when the view from a restaurant's dining room can upstage the kitchen's best efforts. It's a bonus that ups the ambience for wonderful eateries and that little something extra that can make an OK destination over-the-top.
It is a "myth that view is important" in restaurants, notes Shan-Tung Hsu of the Blue Mountain Feng Shui Institute in Seattle (fengshui.cwok.com). "Just a hint of view somewhere inside the restaurant, or when you enter the restaurant, is enough. Once the customer sits down at a table, his focus is on the conversation and the food, not the view."
When the genre is fine dining, captivating conversations and desirable dining companions should be the focus. But there are some tables in Central Florida where the views are mesmerizing and often entertaining. In some cases, the view does not have to offer a jaw-dropping panorama of the great outdoors.
We offer a sampling of those coveted locations, where the food can be a supporting player or star performer but in the end the view from the dinner table always steals the show.
Chart House, 2250 Front St., Melbourne, 321-729-6558. This chain is known for spectacular waterfront dining and scenic views in 30 locations across the United States. Florida is home to seven of those locations along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. The Chart House in Melbourne is on the Indian River and offers dinner guests glimpses of passing boats and wildlife, including an occasional manatee. Open daily for dinner and Sunday for brunch.
Milliken's Reef, Port Canaveral; The Shark Pit Bar & Grill at the Cocoa Beach Surf Co., Cocoa Beach; Café Coconut Cove, Melbourne Beach
Al's Top Shelf, 111 W. Ruby St., Tavares, 352-253-5237. Al's Top Shelf has a bistro-elegant feel with high ceilings and understated decor. Large windows facing Lake Dora fill the room with light before sunset. At night, candles and nicely placed lights give the main room a warm glow. The view of the water from the dining room is arguably among the Top 20 in Central Florida. Tavares is a seaplane port, so planes taking off and landing are an added attraction. Open Thursday-Sunday evenings for dinner.
La Hacienda at the Mission Inn Resort & Club, Howey-in-the-Hills; Blackwater Inn, Astor; Pisces Rising, Mount Dora
Spice Modern Steakhouse, 407 E. Central Blvd., Orlando, 407-481-9533. Located on Lake Eola in the space formerly occupied by Lake Eola Yacht Club, Spice Modern's window seats and patio fill up fast. The lushly landscaped sidewalk is a people-watching paradise and the view into downtown simply gorgeous. When the refurbishing of the historic Lake Eola fountain is complete, Spice Modern will be a triple threat for great views. Open daily for lunch, dinner and late night dining; also Saturday and Sunday for brunch.
Hemisphere, Hyatt Regency, Orlando International Airport; Jernigan's, Amway Center; Hillstone (formerly Houston's), 215 S. Orlando Ave. (U.S. Highway 17-92), Winter Park; 310 Lakeside, 301 E. Pine St,, Orlando.
Enzo's on the Lake, 1130 S. U.S. Highway 17-92, Longwood, 407-834-9872. First-timers are often surprised by the surroundings as they approach the restaurant on U.S. Highway 17-92. A mishmash of businesses surround the long stucco wall that separates Enzo's from the congestion. Once you pass the entry, the setting is only a bit more stately. The transformation occurs inside. To the left, the elegant wood bar beckons. A few steps beyond that, the Terraza room absorbs the natural light before sunset and then takes a romantic turn as the exterior gardens and walkways are illuminated. Open for lunch on Fridays and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Rivership Romance, cruising the St. Johns River out of the at the Monroe Harbor Marina in Sanford; Efes Turkish Cuisine, Sanford
Top of Daytona Restaurant & Lounge, 2625 S. Atlantic Ave, Daytona Beach Shores, 386-767-5791. From the 29th floor of the Peck Plaza condominiums, guests have spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean as well as Florida's Intracoastal Waterway and the mainland. When the restaurant was Sophie Kay's Top of Daytona Restaurant, Tom Cruise filmed a scene there for the racing movie "Days of Thunder." The bar faces the Atlantic, but the best seats in the house are along the north and south sides where you can get a panoramic view. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner.
Azure at The Shores Resort & Spa, 2637 S. Atlantic Ave. (State Road A1A), Daytona Beach Shores; Chart House, 100 Marina Point Drive, Daytona Beach
California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, Walt Disney World, 407-939-3463, An award-winning gourmet experience for 16 years, the restaurant has views of the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Magic Kingdom theme park and the fireworks over Cinderella Castle. For the fireworks, lights in the 15th-floor dining room are dimmed to enhance the show. With an emphasis on seasonally fresh cuisine, the restaurant hits its mark nightly. And don't overlook the sushi. Open daily for dinner.
Sharks Underwater Grill at SeaWorld; Mythos Restaurant at Universal's Islands of AdventureCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times