SoCo Thornton Park in Downtown Orlando

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – François de la Rochefoucauld

You’ve seen it. You know it. You’ve likely been (if you haven’t you’re definitely missing out on some fine food!). Owned and operated by Thornton Park Restaurant Group, LLC, SoCo Thornton Park is literally located in the heart of the Thornton Park District which is nearly hugging Lake Eola Park and its surrounding areas.

“SoCo’s name is inspired by the cuisine that we serve – “Southern Contemporary.” It’s a new and adventurous culinary approach to dishes that we have all come to know and love. At Soco, we are focused on true Southern hospitality, and we are committed to overall excellence.” – SoCo’s website

(SoCo’s exterior.)

We’ve been to SoCo Thornton Park various times for brunches, happy hours, and dinners. Celebrating special occasions, then end of the work week, or just simply on the hunt for some tasty nosh. On a recent visit we stopped in for their happy hour–which is one of the best in the area, in our opinion–to catch up with a friend. So we just opted to hang out at the gorgeous bar versus snagging a table in the main dining area. The bar can be located just to the left after entering the restaurant.

(SoCo’s bar.)

So before we get into the thick of it, we have to reiterate just how great SoCo’s happy hour is. For the deals on drinks? Sure. But mostly because they have “bargains” on some of their most popular and delicious items.

Here are a handful of some of SoCo’s most yummiest choices we opted for on this visit:

Macaroni, Bacon and Three-Cheese Cassoulet
SoCo’s version of ‘mac and cheese’ is this traditional dish on the next level. First of all, the noodles are huge and quite fulfilling (even if you’re sharing there’s likely going to be enough to take home for leftovers). They are drenched in cheese, bits of bacon, scallions, and dusted with bread crumbs. This has been a dish we’ve ordered on nearly every visit to the restaurant and a must-have for any first-timer. The cheese is so flavorful and the crumbs add a nice texture to this old favorite dish. We also love the nice touch of it being served to the table in a cast iron skillet.

Soco-Style “Chicken and Dumplings”
This is not your grandmother’s famous chicken & dumplings recipe. No way. SoCo’s interpretation is like nothing you’ve probably ever had, and is known to be one of the most favorite items on the menu according to patrons. While it’s certainly a beautiful dish it’s the chicken breast, lobster dumplings, local mushrooms, edamame, and soy butter that make this a star.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Give us a sprout and we’re happy as pigs in mud (hey – we’re trying to stay with the southern theme here). And the roasted sprouts at SoCo are something special. They’re roasted to perfect “crunchy” perfection – just how we like them. The oomph to this dish, though, is the shaved parmesan and balsamic-sorghum glaze dusted perfectly on top. Definitely a recommend for brunch, happy hour, or dinner!

Pecan Pie
For as much as we love food, surprisingly we’re not huge huge desert people. No sugar – that’s another thing. Perhaps it’s a cultural or geographical upbringing kinda thing? That being said, we do have some go-to places around town when a sweet tooth hits. But on this visit our happy hour companion wanted to give the pecan pie a try and so we did. Overall it was pretty delicious; we enjoy pecan pie. The one minor beef we have about this creation, though, is the pecans are chopped up rather than whole pieces. If the pecans were full and placed neatly on the top of the pie we feel it would be a much more enjoyable dish. We even mentioned it to the manager (?) who hand-delivered it to our seats and he said that tends to be common feedback from customers. Hmmm….

More dishes from a previous visit for brunch: (Soco Wedge Salad, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, The “Other” KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower Florests, Macaroni, Bacon and Three-Cheese Cassoulet, and Brunch Burger.)

Should you decide to have a more formal meal in SoCo’s dining room (which we’ve done a few times as well), you’ll see something a little like this: (SoCo’s dining room.)

So whaddya think? Sufficiently hungry yet? If not, check out the brunch and dinner menus for all the items we didn’t cover here (and there are a lot of them):

For any meal you might show up for, there is an incredibly extensive selection of wines, beer (bottle only, no draft; we highly recommend the Bell’s Official Hazy IPA) and cocktails. You take a peek at all of them on the bottom of SoCo’s menu.

PRO TIP: SoCo is closed for business on Monday, so if you ever had any intention of heading that way to let off some Monday steam – DON’T!

EXTRA PRO TIP: Always, always, always order the buttermilk biscuits. They are light, fluffy, delectable…and the jam options are a wonderful complement to these little darlings. They definitely bring on the “southern comfort” this place shouts on the sign outside.

Location deets:
SoCo Thornton Park
629 E. Central Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32801

Have you ever dined at SoCo? If so, what did you have and what did you enjoy the most?

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