A Stylish, Eclectic Gem in Downtown Orlando

Thornton Park has been a favorite neighborhood for Orlando sophisticates for quite a long time. The enduring neighborhood was founded in 1988, and has not just survived, but thrived, for over twenty-five years. Chic, fun and vibrant, this neighborhood attracts many cutting-edge artists and entrepreneurs, followed closely by a youthful clientele. Recently, the fifty-plus ThortonPark_copy1businesses in the area, located to the south and east of Lake Eola, joined together to form an official neighborhood business district.

A lot of the hard work that went into forming this business district can be attributed to district president Lisa Cullett. “Without all of her hours of work and her tireless drive, Thornton Park District would be nowhere near where it is today,” said Barbara Poma, owner of local business Wildside BBQ, and the district vice-president.

There are businesses here to satisfy every curiosity. If you’re looking for great food, there are a number of fabulous restaurants in this district, such as 310 Lakeside, which serves New American cuisine; Anthony’s, which serves pizza and Italian cuisine; Benjamin, which is a French bakery and café; Cityfish, a fun place to enjoy seafood and Sunday brunch; Dexter’s, which serves dinner paired with great wines; Iza, a place to enjoy tapas; Mucho Tequila and Tacos, for ThortonPark_copy4your Mexican food cravings; Shari Sushi Lounge, a wonderful spot for Japanese cuisine; Spice Modern Steakhouse, when a thick, juicy steak is something you have to have; and the aforementioned Wildside BBQ & Grill, where delicious soul food is on the menu.

If you like to enjoy a good drink, there are many places in Thornton Park where you can get a cold beer, a fine wine, and anything else you desire. These establishments include Aura Bar, Burton’s Bar, Eola Wine Company, Maxine’s on Shine, Sonoma Draught House, Stardust Lounge, and The Falcon.

In addition to all the places to eat and drink in Thornton Park, there are a number of design firms, clothing shops, hair salons and spas (including an all-inclusive hotel and spa, the EO Inn and Spa). The entertainment venues The Abbey and The Mezz are also in this area. Finally, there are smaller businesses that have set up shop here, such as architecture firms and law offices, and even chain stores such as Publix, Menchie’s, Tijuana Flats, 7-Eleven, Panera Bread and Starbucks.

As vice-president of the Thornton Park District, Barbara Poma knows quite a lot about this area and why it’s so special. She told me all about this beautiful neighborhood in this exclusive Hotspots interview.ThortonPark_copy5

What gives the Thornton Park District its charm?

There’s Mills 50, there’s Ivanhoe, there’s Church Street, but what sets Thornton Park apart is our commitment to celebrating life and diversity. The District board likes to spend a lot of time celebrating the art and food scenes, and the business owners make it a priority to keep things clean and fresh. It’s a very walkable district, too, which is wonderful. We just celebrate life here.

Tell us about the “Second Thursday” Art and Wine Walk. Are businesses open during this time for people to visit?

We love this event because it really raises awareness about what the Thornton Park District has to offer. We have artists who come in from all over the city and display their artwork for people to view. Most of the businesses are open at this time too so people can see what the neighborhood is all about. It’s a really great event that we love to host once a month.

Many young entrepreneurs are starting their own businesses now that the recession is over. What would you say to them to convince them to open their business in Thornton Park?

I’d tell them to find their niche and be true to their dream. It’s also important to network and make friends. When you’re a part of the community here, you become friends with all of the business owners, and we all help one another if we need it. We welcome new businesses because they bring more people to this community and they also complement the existing close dynamic we have here.

For more information on the Thornton Park District, including the “Second Thursday” Art and Wine Walk, visit