February 28, 2017

Florida Life

Street Eats in Orlando

Hawkers offers a wide sweep of Asian finger foods for a small price.

Chris Sherman | 9/29/2011

Roasted duck breast with spring onions and dipping sauce at Hawkers in Orlando

In the endless search for modern foods that are small, clever and affordable, a group of Orlando entrepreneurs has found a very old model for their new restaurant, Hawkers — as in street vendors who "hawked" small bites of food in the cities and byways of Asia in the millennia before food trucks.

In this case, the Asian street fare has a fixed location — and on an appropriate street. Mills Avenue is one of the chief axes of Colonialtown, also known as Little Saigon, a lively cluster of immigrant businesses in the heart of Orlando locally famous for its Vietnamese restaurants and markets. It is not pedestrian, but Hawkers includes a 12-foot-tall window looking out at oncoming cars.

Hawkers has modernized and sanitized a setting more hip industrial than rustic Third World market. Yet it keeps a sense of humor with corrugated tin walls, high common tables and everything covered with Asian newspapers, like a Korean beer hall in an anime graphic novel. As with street food, prices are small. Nothing is over $6.50, even roast duck, shrimp, cod or calamari, encouraging anytime eating for as many and as long as you want.

It is an unusual new restaurant in Orlando, a tough-to-achieve status in a market where chefs are busy cooking up and importing new formats, often with a they-might-be-chains dream ["Test Kitchen"].

The menu at Hawkers covers a wide sweep of Asian finger foods from India to China and a large helping of curries and noodles from Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
While some dishes such as fried pot stickers and lettuce wraps are familiar, Hawker dresses skewers with Malay, Korean, Vietnamese or jerk seasoning and serves wings 10 ways, including sriracha and General Tso.

The most intriguing items are authentic, like puffy roti canal flat breads with curry, fried green beans and pickled vegetables or chicken-shrimp noodles — recipes borrowed from the owners' relatives, who still have market stalls in Malaysia. Others are modern fusions: Five-spice fish tacos and "sliders" of bulgogi beef with Vietnamese?banh mi garnish or a $3 dish of curried mashed potatoes.

Tags: Dining & Travel

Digital Access

Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single digital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.


Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Florida Travel: Walking With Giants at Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland
Florida Travel: Walking With Giants at Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland

Made famous by a viral video featuring a 12-foot-long bull gator nicknamed "Mr. Humpback" by longtime visitors, Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida is the perfect place to spot natural wildlife.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Rate your personal consumer confidence (i.e. HIGH - it's an OK time to make major purchases, or LOW - I need to save my money)

  • High confidence
  • Some confidence
  • Low confidence
  • No confidence

See Results

Ballot Box