Monday, July 20, 2015

This spot is worth leaving the park for.
(Photo: Flickr/Meagan)
By Rachel McRady
Nestled between the Olive Gardens
and Outback Steakhouses on International Drive in Orlando is a tapas
restaurant that rivals those in Spain.
Parked right next to the Convention Center and a stone’s throw away
from the Disney and Universal parks, Café Tu Tu Tango seems rather out of
place.
But the lively, colorful restaurant, which boasts an expansive, diverse menu,
refreshing cocktails with a bite, floor-to-ceiling paintings from local
artists, and live performances from belly dancers, has become both a tourist
destination and a local hangout over the past two decades.
I first happened upon it in 2013 on a trip to Orlando where I began my secret
love affair with the spiced alligator bites and the vicious temptress that is
the Key lime mustard dipping sauce.
So when I returned this year on a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
with my husband (I swear, we’re adults), I booked a hotel within
walking distance to the restaurant to ensure maximum meals and, therefore,
maximum alligator bites.
Shrimp in a sweet chili-garlic aioli.
(Photo: Flickr/Brianna Mewborn)
I’m not the only person who has a
long-standing romance with the restaurant.
In fact, by general manager Troy Wilson’s standards, I have not even
brushed the surface of having a history with this place.
The Orlando native came to Café Tu Tu Tango two years after it opened in
1996 as a waiter; almost two decades later, he’s running the place.
"I had just graduated UCF, and I didn’t really want to get serious and
be a manager yet.
I was in a band, and I was working at restaurants and I was dating this
girl," he explained.
"I hated the restaurant I worked at, and she was like, ‘Let me take
you to my favorite restaurant,’ and she brought me here.
I filled out an application, started two weeks later, and I’ve been
here ever since.
Then I married the girl.
"Wilson worked his way up and now is the general manager of the only remaining
location.
There were once spots in Miami and Atlanta, and now the location in Orange,
Calif.
, is run by different management, though they have the same general concept.

Local artists’ work being displayed at Café Tu Tu Tango.
(Photo: Flickr/Brianna Mewborn)
The vision for Café Tu Tu Tango started
back in 1991, when the original owners took a trip to Barcelona, Spain, eating
at tapas restaurants and seeing the community of local artists there.
Today, the trendy Orlando spot has daily shifts for local artists to come and
paint in the restaurant, then sell their pieces with only a 10 percent
commission for Café Tu Tu Tango versus the 40 percent commission
they’d find at art galleries.
"Some people come in here who have never gone out of their way to go to an art
museum before, and now they get to actually interact and watch an artist
creating on property," Wilson said.
"The whole idea of art just goes all the way through.
Our menu, everything is made from scratch so the chefs are doing their art in
the back.
That makes a big difference in the quality of the food and the experience
people get.
"Related: How to Enjoy Orlando as a GrownupAnd though eating at Café Tu
Tu Tango is partly about the ambiance and energy, it’s really all about
the food.
With an expansive menu of items from all over the globe, you can be noshing
on a Cajun chicken egg roll (another personal favorite) one minute and cooling
off with the Alforno roasted pear salad with pecans, blue cheese, and arugula
the next.
The late night haunt hasn’t skimped on the drinks either.
In addition to the flavorful (and affordable) sangria choices, there’s
also the screaming jalapeño margarita, which features
jalapeño-infused tequila with muddled cilantro, and Wilson’s
favorite, the spicy old-fashioned with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Ancho Reyes
chile liqueur, muddled orange, and black walnut bitters.
Not fancy enough for your taste? They even make their own maraschino cherries
by soaking them in Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.
Tapas meal at Café Tu Tu Tango.
(Photo: Flickr/Brianna Mewborn)
Not only do tourists in Mickey Mouse
T-shirts stop in, but Café Tu Tu Tango also has a devoted pack of
regulars who live in Orlando — a rarity, considering the
restaurant’s location.
Related: The New Drinking Trend in Orlando? Speakeasies!"I’ve lived in
Orlando basically my whole life, and as a local, we sort of avoid
International Drive, but we’ve got a really good following with the
locals," Wilson said.
"I’d say our biggest form of marketing comes from word of mouth.
Everybody who lives here knows somebody who’s coming here to visit.
I’m always out talking to the guests, and I’m always talking to
people who are like, ‘I was on a plane with a guy from Chicago, and he
heard I was coming to Orlando and said I had to try this restaurant out.
Now I’m here and it’s awesome!’ It’s so cool to
have fans from all over.
"For more details (and to drool over the menu), visit the restaurant’s
web site.
Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
and Pinterest.
 Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad Nestled
between the Olive Gardens and Outback Steakhouses on International Drive in
Orlando is a tapas restaurant that rivals those in Spain.
.
The vision for Café Tu Tu Tango started back in 1991, when the original
owners took a trip to Barcelona, Spain, eating at tapas restaurants and seeing
the community of local artists there.
Today, the trendy Orlando spot has daily shifts for local artists to come and
paint in the restaurant, then sell their pieces with only a 10 percent
commission for Café Tu Tu Tango versus the 40 percent commission
they’d find at art galleries.
"Some people come in here who have never gone out of their way to go to an art
museum before, and now they get to actually interact and watch an artist
creating on property," Wilson said.
"The whole idea of art just goes all the way through.
Our menu, everything is made from scratch so the chefs are doing their art in
the back.
That makes a big difference in the quality of the food and the experience
people get.
"Related: How to Enjoy Orlando as a GrownupAnd though eating at Café Tu
Tu Tango is partly about the ambiance and energy, it’s really all about
the food.
With an expansive menu of items from all over the globe, you can be noshing
on a Cajun chicken egg roll (another personal favorite) one minute and cooling
off with the Alforno roasted pear salad with pecans, blue cheese, and arugula
the next.
The late night haunt hasn’t skimped on the drinks either.
In addition to the flavorful (and affordable) sangria choices, there’s
also the screaming jalapeño margarita, which features
jalapeño-infused tequila with muddled cilantro, and Wilson’s
favorite, the spicy old-fashioned with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Ancho Reyes
chile liqueur, muddled orange, and black walnut bitters.
Not fancy enough for your taste? They even make their own maraschino cherries
by soaking them in Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.
Tapas meal at Café Tu Tu Tango.
(Photo: Flickr/Brianna Mewborn)
Not only do tourists in Mickey Mouse
T-shirts stop in, but Café Tu Tu Tango also has a devoted pack of
regulars who live in Orlando — a rarity, considering the
restaurant’s location.
Related: The New Drinking Trend in Orlando? Speakeasies!"I’ve lived in
Orlando basically my whole life, and as a local, we sort of avoid
International Drive, but we’ve got a really good following with the
locals," Wilson said.
"I’d say our biggest form of marketing comes from word of mouth.
Everybody who lives here knows somebody who’s coming here to visit.
I’m always out talking to the guests, and I’m always talking to
people who are like, ‘I was on a plane with a guy from Chicago, and he
heard I was coming to Orlando and said I had to try this restaurant out.
Now I’m here and it’s awesome!’ It’s so cool to
have fans from all over.
"For more details (and to drool over the menu), visit the restaurant’s
web site.
Let World traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,
and Pinterest.
 Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad Nestled
between the Olive Gardens and Outback Steakhouses on International Drive in
Orlando is a tapas restaurant that rivals those in Spain.

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