This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019
Why eat at Earls Kitchen?
In a place like Orlando, Florida, there’s bound to be thousands of restaurant options. There’s no way you can know which ones are great and which ones are not-so-good unless you have a recommendation. That’s why I’m taking the time to write this review…so you’ll know.
What makes Earls great?
Earls Kitchen + Bar is located at The Mall at Millenia, and close to International Drive. That means it’s near shopping, hotels, and nearly all of the amusement and theme parks. It’s not deep inside the mall, but visible and accessible from the parking lot. As a result, parking is plentiful and free. When we arrived, it was pouring rain. We were grateful to find a parking spot within easy walking distance.
A Warm Welcome
From the moment I walked in the door, I felt comfortable at Earls. It was great to get out of the storm, but more than that, my husband and I were greeted so warmly. The receptionist offered to take our wet umbrella, and we were promptly seated. Water was brought immediately. Our waiter, Taylor, also greeted us and offered to answer any questions we had about the menu. We appreciated her suggestion to try the craft sodas as they were a wonderful addition to our meal.
Atmosphere and Decor
Earls Kitchen + Bar has a very open and light atmosphere. It has a casual feel in the sense that it is comfortable, but the quality of furnishings and décor make it feel nicer. The high ceilings and ceiling-to-table windows make you feel you are in a very spacious room. Because tables are not spaced too closely, I enjoyed conversing with my husband in our own “space”. Beautiful and creative lighting fixtures as well as the sleek, contemporary lines of the kitchen give the restaurant a very clean and trendy look. Earls even has patio seating. The thick cushions, umbrellas, and colorful accents made this a fun gathering place. A lot of attention was given to art, too. My favorite was a full-wall ink mural of birds (think Sharpie pens!) created by Andrew Spear of Orlando’s Mills Avenue. All of the art displayed at Earls has a local connection.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Careful Attention to Detail
A lot of thought must have gone into the design and layout of Earls. A few things I noticed: distressed leather benches, the clean lines of the tables, warmly lit spaces, tinted water glasses, an easy-to-read menu, and two separate bars – one for gathering in groups to watch sports, and a second more intimate one. With a variety of seating options (benches, tables, bar stools, and lounge seating) there is something for everyone. The open kitchen adds an element of sophistication. Plus, it is just fun to watch all the beautiful food presentations coming out of the kitchen! The music soundtrack was also pleasing – upbeat…a little jazzy…but not upstaging conversation. There’s a great vibe at Earls.
Ah, yes! The food. It IS why we came to Earls, after all. We visited at 1:30 pm after a long morning of beach and lighthouse tours. We were quite hungry, but it was not easy to make a quick choice. The menu offers several international dishes as well as American fare with a flare…nothing is just ordinary.
My husband and I do not drink alcohol. However, I was hoping for something other than the standard Coke-Diet Coke-Sprite selection of soft drinks. I was not disappointed. Earls has a wonderful selection of craft sodas. I ordered the Lemongrass Orange Blossom (it just sounded so quintessentially Floridian!) What a fun combination of zip and citrus flavor. My husband ordered the Raspberry Lime. Then we traded sips. (That’s the bonus of dining out with a partner!) I highly recommend you try at least one of these unique sodas ($4).
To give me more time to decide on an entrée, I ordered the Warm Spinach + Three Cheese Dip starter ($12). We were happily surprised by the generosity of its proportions! The dip was warm and delightfully smooth, and I was never sure which three cheeses were used, but I’m sure there was feta and probably cream cheese as well as another (maybe goat cheese?). The bread slices were a good size, too—toasted lightly with a little butter. Just letting you know…this could easily be a meal.
Should I order the Warm Kale Salad? That sounded so good after coming in out of the rain. Or maybe I should try the Chicken, Brie & Fig Sandwich… I finally decided to go with an Indian-inspired comfort food—the Jeera Chicken Curry bowl ($16). With the gravy presented in a silver bowl with a ladle, I could easily spoon it over the mound of aromatic coconut jasmine rice. The chicken was very tender, the curry & cumin seasoning just right (not too spicy), the gravy rich and flavorful. The naan bread was a nice touch. Again, Earl’s does not skimp on quantity. I was impressed with the appearance and embellishment as well. I was also grateful for the larger bowl so I could add chicken and gravy (and eat it) without worrying about overflow. Here is a fun story about how Jeera Chicken Curry ended up on the Earls menu.
My husband ordered the Hunan Kung Pao with a choice of 1-6 hunan peppers (His 2-pepper version left his taste buds tingling but didn’t make him break out in a sweat). It was helpful to learn that our waitress had tried this dish with all six peppers and was well-qualified to give a recommendation. My husband described this entree as “colorful, tasty, vegetables just right–not overdone, and steak is juicy.” At $11 with a $5 steak add-in, this is a very reasonably priced meal…and very satisfying. As a bonus, I found the recipe on the Earls Kitchen + Bar website!
Since first viewing the menu, I had been hoping to complete my meal with a piece of Toasted Coconut Cake. Sadly, my husband and I just couldn’t comfortably eat anything else after finishing our entrées. The next time I visit Earls, I may order that first so I don’t miss out. The fact is, ALL of the Earls desserts sound amazing. I’d suggest planning a date night and just ordering dessert sometime. (All desserts are $8)
Earls is not your standard mall restaurant. Not by a long shot. This is a place where you could easily rest from a day of shopping, for sure. Or you might prefer to hang out here instead of shopping. Come for a business meeting (free wi-fi) or a date, a ladies’ night out, or a family meal. Wear a blazer…shorts and a t-shirt…or a tunic dress and heels. It all works.
Earls staff are attentive and well-trained. They were dressed attractively – very classy! I was impressed that they have sampled everything on the menu so they can be more knowledgeable and make recommendations for guests. There is a sense that all of the staff are there to find a way to help you enjoy your visit. After meeting the manger, Stefan Oostveen, I am convinced that he cares very much about Earls and its guests.
Prices are reasonable and portions satisfying. I would definitely like to return to this location. I’m also hoping that Earls Kitchen + Bar makes its way to southern California where I am based. Is there an Earls near you? (Click here for locations) Don’t miss visiting Earls when you are in Orlando!
Earls Kitchen + Bar is a family business, started by father and son duo Leroy Earl Fuller and Stanley Earl Fuller, in 1982.
Stanley traveled the culinary capitals of Europe to find dining ideas that had not been tried before in casual restaurants. From their website: “The culinary inspiration trips continue to this day; noodle dishes learned in Asia, fish taco’s right from the grill in Mexico, bright fresh chicken and avocado dishes inspired by trips to California and our house made pasta sauces from Italy.”
Headquarters are in Vancouver, British Columbia, and there are 68 restaurants in Canada, Washington, Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
Disclaimer: I would like to gratefully acknowledge that I was hosted by Earls Kitchen for this meal. My opinions (and taste bud impressions) are my own. The staff gave me no special attention not given to other customers.