When we first covered Orlando’s budding dining scene a couple years ago, we were surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response. Sure, we knew there were terrific restaurants worth mentioning, but to have passionate locals chime in and agree (for the most part, at least) with our findings? That was icing on the cake.

And since 2014, more noteworthy restaurants have popped up all over the city, making an already solid dining destination even more alluring to locals and visitors alike.

And it doesn’t matter how much (or little) you want to spend, what kind of cuisine you’re craving or the ambience you’re seeking. You want it? Orlando’s got it. Here are 12 dishes that are essential to the City Beautiful’s diverse and colorful culinary landscape.

Ribs at Morimoto Asia
This is the dining destination that Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) desperately needed and deserved — it’s terrific for tourists and locals alike — because the menu is full of dependable crowd-pleasers like the ribs. After braising for several hours, the pork ribs are dusted with cornstarch, fried and glazed with a combination of hoisin and sweet chili sauce. And if you’re lucky enough, you can pry off all that crispy and sticky meat in one single bite. 1600 Buena Vista Dr., Orlando; 407-939-6686; patinagroup.com/morimoto-asia

Nashville Hot Chicken at Cask & Larder
We’ll always have a place in our hearts (and guts) for hot chicken. And the version prepared by celebrated owners and chefs James and Julie Petrakis at their casual Southern-inspired spot takes the classic components of the Nashville staple — the skin is a dark red with equal parts heat, sweet, tang and spice — but adds chopped pickles for crunch and an Alabama-style white BBQ sauce on the side. (Imagine an herb-less ranch dressing on a sweet and sour kick.) 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 321-280-4200; caskandlarder.com

Butter Chicken Tacos at Pig Floyd’s
There are very few misses at this bustling, globally inspired BBQ joint in Mills 50, but it’s the butter chicken tacos that can’t be missed. Shreds of spicy hand-pulled chicken are tucked into a warm tortilla, then topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, tikka masala sauce, Greek yogurt and jalapeño slices. Every bite is packed with contrasting textures and flavors, making for one really unique and deeply satisfying taco. 1326 N. Mills Ave., Orlando; 407-203-0866; pigfloyds.com

Chef Dominic Rice’s local red snapper is accompanied by zucchini “noodles” and a creamy spoon bread. (Photo credit: SLATE)
Chef Dominic Rice’s local red snapper is accompanied by zucchini “noodles” and a creamy spoon bread. (Photo courtesy of Slate.)

Hearth Roasted Red Snapper at Slate
There’s no shortage of good eats on Orlando’s popular Restaurant Row, but this relative newcomer stands out with chef Dominic Rice’s bright and approachable menu. Among his most popular dishes is the roasted red snapper. A fillet of the local fish is sprinkled with herbed bread crumbs, fired in the wood-burning oven and accompanied by zucchini “noodles” and a creamy spoon bread. The dish completely satisfies without weighing you down. 8323 Sand Lake Rd., Orlando; 407-500-7528; slateorlando.com

Lamb Ribs at Osprey Tavern
Though it opened just last year, this Baldwin Park tavern from the owners of nearby Seito is already a local favorite. The menu, conceived by chef Joseph Burnett, is a globe-trotter, drawing inspiration from just about everywhere. His much-talked-about lamb ribs, for example, are dark and crusty and perfumed by za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend. A generous drizzle of smoked honey and cooling yogurt cut through the richness of the meat. 4899 New Broad St., Orlando; 407-960-7700; ospreytavern.com

Mussels at Urbain 40
There’s nothing wrong with the classic moules frites, but the impressive presentation at this stylish American brasserie — imagine a heap of salt-crusted Prince Edward Island mussels arriving in a sizzling cast-iron skillet with drawn butter — elicits all sorts of happy gasps from the table. Grab extra slices of the house-made baguette to sop up every last bit of sauce. 8000 Via Dellagio Way, Doctor Phillips; 407-872-2640; urbain40.com

The broth for the Seito Sushi's Tonkotsu Ramen takes several days to make. (Photo credit: Seito Sushi)
The broth for Seito Sushi’s tonkotsu ramen takes several days to make. (Photo courtesy of Seito Sushi.)

Tonkotsu Ramen at Seito Sushi
The difference between a good and great bowl of ramen? Time. Seito owner Eric Springer says, “The depth of flavor, collagen and marrow of our broth is extracted over a multiple-day process in small batches. It takes lots of bones and time.” In addition to the creamy, slurpable broth, there’s crispy pork belly, pickled ginger, a soy-marinated soft-boiled egg and springy house-made noodles.  8031 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando; 407-248-8888seitosushi.com

Roti Canai at Mamak Asian Street Food
The neighborhood of Mills 50 is jam-packed with incredible (and affordable) Asian restaurants, but if you can only make it to one, this is it. Simple and sublime, the Indian-influenced flatbread here is perfectly puffy, soft and flaky. Already incredible on its own, a dunk in the spicy curry sauce takes it to the next level. 1231 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando; 407-270-4688; mamakasianorlando.com

Widowmaker Pizza at Prato     
Chef Brandon McGlamery — he also owns Luma on Park, another local hot spot — specializes in contemporary spins on rustic Italian favorites at his second restaurant. The beloved Widowmaker pizza swaps out tomato sauce for a hazelnut romesco and gets even heartier with fennel sausage, kale and an egg. Because the pie is baked in the wood-fired covered brick oven for just 90 seconds, the yolk remains runny, making it the perfect dipping companion for the crust. 124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park; 407-262-0050; prato-wp.com

Bull & Bear's Tomahawk Ribeye is a massive 38-ounce bone-in chop of 28-day dry-aged Angus prime beef. (Photo credit: Waldorf Astoria Orlando)
Bull & Bear’s tomahawk rib eye is a massive 38-ounce bone-in chop of 28-day dry-aged Angus prime beef. (Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando,)

Tomahawk Ribeye at the Waldorf Astoria’s Bull & Bear
In the mood to impress? Then look no further than this massive 38-ounce bone-in chop of 28-day dry-aged Angus prime beef. It’s a total showstopper (and heart stopper, too). And that little candle on the side? It isn’t just for show. It’s made of solidified beef tallow, and after it melts, it’s drizzled over the beef — which is dramatically carved and plated table side. 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando; 407-597-5500; bullandbearorlando.com

Dirty South at Rusty Spoon
This is chef and owner Kathleen Blake’s playful nod to shrimp and grits. A bounty of local seafood (Canaveral red snapper and shrimp and Cedar Creek clams) is steamed in a fragrant shrimp and peanut stock, then paired with garlicky greens, luscious grits and toasted baguette slices so you won’t miss a drop of savory broth. 55 W. Church St., Orlando; 407-401-8811; therustyspoon.com

Lomo de Cerdo at the Four Seasons Orlando’s Capa
While perfectly charred steaks are what this Spanish-leaning restaurant on the top floor of the Four Seasons Orlando is renowned for, this pork dish exemplifies chef Tim Dacey’s more delicate sensibilities. The fork-tender pork loin is balanced with fresh corn, blueberries, red onion, and most interestingly, huitlacoche — a fungus that grows on ears of corn. Also referred to as “corn smut,” it imparts an earthy, mushroom-y flavor to food. 10100 Dream Tree Blvd., Orlando; 407-313-7777; fourseasons.com/orlando/dining/restaurants/capa