Best Of 2012

Best of the bar scene

When you work in a bar, being in a bar can get really old really fast – days blur together and sometimes you can't tell your Friday night from your three Saturdays before. So I'm thankful that there are some bars out there offering something out of the ordinary to help break up the weekly routine.

In honor of the fact that this is the Best of Orlando issue, in which we tell you what we think are the best and brightest things in the city, I figured I'd use this column to point you to some of the bar scene's best drinking gems.

Pickle back shots at Finnhenry's
39. N. Orange Ave., finnhenrys.com

Imagine a world in which shots of Jameson are chased with a dash of hot sauce and a heaping pour of pickle juice. It's almost too good to be true. Good thing it's not. Don't like whiskey? Try a Patrón pickle back instead. Some bars have Mountain Dew. Others serve Dr. Pepper. Finn's steps it up with an abundance of dill pickle juice, one shot at a time.

Pudding shots at Lizzy McCormack's
55 N. Orange Ave., lizzymccormacks.com

Oreo cookies, cookies-and-cream, M&M and funfetti are just four flavors of homemade pudding shots made daily by a magical Irish elf at Lizzy's. Served with a spoon and a dollop of whipped cream, these delicious little treats come strong and with a swift kick right to the bloodstream. 

Tuesdays at the Matador
56 E. Pine St., @matadororlando

Tuesday nights at Matador, the bartender prepares fresh-squeezed lemonade, homemade sour and simple syrups and other treats so you can have the perfect nightcap after a hard day at the office. If vodka, Tazo passion tea, homemade lemonade and two dashes of grapefruit bitters garnished with a plump organic blackberry doesn't suit your fancy, perhaps a rosemary gin fizz – rosemary-infused honey syrup, fresh lemon and gin, topped with soda water and fresh rosemary – will do instead. Did I mention a single, oversized square cube keeps your drink chilled? They're frozen special each Tuesday, just for you.

Microbrews, boutique wines and specialty empanadas at the Imperial Wine Bar and Beer Garden
1800 N. Orange Ave., imperialwinebar.com

One of my favorite food trucks is La Empanada, which parks outside the Imperial in Ivanhoe Village on Wednesday nights. When I can find fried pockets of sweet and savory goodness and enjoy an ice-cold Good JuJu at the same time, I just can't resist. Look for the chicken banh mi queso-romesco, and tomato, corn and goat cheese empanadas, in particular; they're the perfect complement to the Imperial's many microbrews.

Ladies Night at Bar-BQ-Barand Eye Spy
64 N. Orange Ave. and 54 N. Orange Ave.

Attention, gentlemen: Cheap drinks, good company and the best booty-shaking hip-hop bring all the girls to these two hot spots on Thursdays. The place is packed, but the bartenders are quick and the shots don't stop. There are even drink specials for the guys. I don't know too many places where you can get toasty for $15, but it could definitely happen at these two bars. (disclosure: I bartend at Eye Spy, so I'm not entirely impartial on this one.)

Sunday Picnic Party at Paradise
1300 N. Mills Ave., paradiseorlando.com

$1 Long Islands (huh?), vodka cocktails (excuse me?) and draft beers (those too?) are served by chiseled, shirtless men all day and night every Sunday at Paradise. If that's not enough, seven different shots are just $2 each, Diana Ross is blasting on the patio and the hot dogs are free. Sabretts! Need I say more?

What's your favorite bar night or drink special in town? Leave a comment at orlandoweekly.com.

Food & Drink - Reader' Picks

Best Caribbean

1st Bahama Breeze, multiple locations, bahamabreeze.com
2nd Mama Millie's, 12273 University Blvd., 407-382-3570, mamamillies.com
3rd Caribbean Sunshine Bakery, multiple locations, caribbeansunshinebakery.net

Best Chinese

1st Hawkers Asian Street Fare, 1103 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-0606, facebook.com/hawkersstreetfare
2nd Imperial Dynasty Chinese Restaurant, 2045 W. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-786-2266, imperialdynasty.com
3rd Lam's Garden, 2505 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-0370

Best French

1st Le Coq au Vin, 4800 S. Orange Ave., 407-851-6980, lecoqauvinrestaurant.com
2nd Chez Vincent Traditional French Cuisine, 533 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-599-2929, chezvincent.com
3rd Paris Bistro, 216 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-671-4424, parisbistroparkave.com

Best Greek

1st The Greek Corner, 1600 N. Orange Ave., 407-228-0303, thegreekcorner.net
2nd Mediterranean Blue, 435 E. Michigan St., 407-422-2583, mediterraneanblue.net
3rd Taverna Opa, 9101 International Drive, Suite 2240, 2nd Floor of Pointe Orlando Plaza, 407-351-8660, opaorlando.com

Best Indian

1st Woodlands, 6040 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-854-3330, woodlandsusa.com
2nd Memories of India, 7625 Turkey Lake Road, 407-370-3277; 3895 Lake Emma Road, Lake Mary, 407-804-0920, memoriesofindiacuisine.com
3rd Moghul Indian Cuisine, 401 N. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park, 407-599-9001, moghulindiancuisine.com

Best Italian

1st ll Pescatore, 651 N. Primrose Drive, 407-896-6763, ilpescatoreonline.com
2nd Tolla's, 240 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-0068, tollasdeli.com
3rd Stefano's Trattoria, 1425 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs, 407-659-0101, stefanos-trattoria.com

Best Latin

1st Black Bean Deli, 325 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-0294, blackbeandeli.yolasite.com
2nd (tie) Numero Uno, 2499 S. Orange Ave., (886) 495-7187, numero-uno-restaurant.com
2nd (tie) Pio Pio Restaurant, multiple locations, mypiopio.com
3rd Guavate, 422 S. Alafaya Trail, 407-281-4700, guavateinorlando.com

Best Mexican

1st Garibaldi Mexican Cuisine, 929 N. Semoran Blvd., 407-275-5035
2nd Tijuana Flats, multiple locations, tijuanaflats.com
3rd Gringos Locos, 20 E. Washington St., 407-841-5626, eatgringos.com

Best Middle Eastern

1st Bosphorous Restaurant, 108 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-644-8609, bosphorousrestaurant.com
2nd Cedar's Restaurant, 7732 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-351-6000, orlandocedars.com
3rd Tony's Deli, 1323 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-6689

Best Thai

1st SEA Thai Restaurant, 3812 E. Colonial Drive, 407-895-0985, seaorlando.com
2nd Thai House of Orlando, 2117 E. Colonial Drive, 407-898-0820, thaihouseoforlando.net
3rd Royal Thai Restaurant, 1202 N. Semoran Blvd., 407-275-0776, royalthai-orlando.com

Best Vietnamese

1st Little Saigon Viet-namese Cuisine, 1106 E. Colonial Drive, 407-423-8539, littlesaigonrestaurant.com
2nd Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant, 730 N. Mills Ave., 407-897-3488, pho88orlando.com
3rd Anh Hong Restaurant, 1124 E. Colonial Drive, 407-999-2656, anhhongorlando.com

Best Bakery

1st Charlie's Gourmet Pastries, 3213 Curry Ford Road, 407-898-9561, charliesgourmetpastries.com
2nd Blue Bird Bake Shop, 3122 Corrine Drive, 407-228-3822, bluebirdbakeshop.com
3rd Raphsodic Bakery, 710 N. Mills Ave., 407-704-8615, raphsodic.com

Best Barbecue

1st 4 Rivers Smokehouse, multiple locations, 407-474-8377, 4rsmokehouse.com
2nd Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que, multiple locations, bubbalous.com
3rd Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q, multiple locations, sonnysbbq.com

Best Breakfast/Brunch

1st Keke's Breakfast Café, multiple locations, kekesbreakfastcafe.com
2nd Dexter's, multiple locations, dexwine.com
3rd – White Wolf Café, 1829 N. Orange Ave., 407-895-9911, whitewolfcafe.com

Best Burger

1st Graffiti Junktion, multiple locations, graffitijunktion.com
2nd Pine 22, 22 E. Pine St., 407-574-2160, pine22.com
3rd Johnny's Fillin' Station, 2631 S. Ferncreek Ave., 407-894-6900, johnnysfillinstation.com

Best Cupcake

1st Blue Bird Bake Shop, 3122 Corrine Drive, 407-228-3822, bluebirdbakeshop.com
2nd The Yum Yum Cupcake Truck, 407-494-9336, theyumyumcupcaketruck.com
3rd Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly, 711 N. Alafaya Trail, 407-277-7746, sweetbyholly.com

Best Coffeehouse

1st Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar, 444 N. Bumby Ave., 407-893-4994, drunkenmonkeycoffee.com
2nd Stardust Video and Coffee, 1842 E. Winter Park Road, 407-623-3393, stardustvideoandcoffee.wordpress.com
3rd Austin's Coffee, 929 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-975-3364, austinscoffee.com

Best Teahouse

1st Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria, 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-0865, pompomsteahouse.com
2nd Infusion Tea, 1600 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-5255, infusionorlando.com
3rd Dandelion Communitea Café, 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864, facebook.com/dandelioncommunitea

Best Diner

1st Bananas Diner, 924 N. Mills Ave., 407-480-2200, bananasdiner.com
2nd Christo's Café, 1815 Edgewater Drive, 407-425-8136
3rd Linda's Winter Park Diner, 1700 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-644-2343, facebook.com/winterparkdiner

Best Hummus

1st Dandelion Communitea Café, 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864, facebook.com/dandelioncommunitea
2nd Taverna Opa, 9101 International Drive, Pointe Orlando, 407-351-8660, opaorlando.com
3rd (tie) Bosphorous Restaurant, 108 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-644-8609, bosphorousrestaurant.com
3rd (tie) Tony's Deli, 1323 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-6689

Best Ice Cream

1st Jeremiah's Italian Ice, multiple locations, jeremiahsice.com
2nd Cold Stone Creamery, multiple locations, coldstonecreamery.com
3rd Twistee Treat, multiple locations, twisteetreatusa.com

Best Pizza

1st Mellow Mushroom, 2015 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-657-7755; 11680 E. Colonial Drive, 407-384-4455, mellowmushroom.com
2nd Lazy Moon, 12269 University Blvd., 407-658-2396, eatdrinkandbelazy.com
3rd Anthony's Pizza Café, 100 N. Summerlin Ave., 407-648-0009, anthonyspizza.com

Best Pho

1st Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant, 730 N. Mills Ave., 407-897-3488, pho88orlando.com
2nd Pho Hoa, 649 N. Primrose Drive, 407-895-6098, facebook.com/phohoaorlando
3rd Anh Hong Restaurant, 1124 E. Colonial Drive, 407-999-2656, anhhongorlando.com

Best Pub Grub

1st Fiddler's Green, 544 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-645-2050, fiddlersgreenorlando.com
2nd Oblivion Taproom, 5101 E. Colonial Drive., 407-802-4800, obliviontaproom.com
3rd The Ravenous Pig, 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-2333, theravenouspig.com

Best Sandwich

1st Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria, 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-0865, pompomsteahouse.com
2nd TooJay's, multiple locations, toojays.com
3rd Jimmy John's, multiple locations, jimmyjohns.com

Best Seafood

1st Winter Park Fish Co., 761 Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-6112, thewinterparkfishco.com
2nd (tie) Bonefish Grill, multiple locations, bonefishgrill.com
2nd (tie) Boston Fish House, 6860 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-678-2107; 1133 Rinehart Road, Sanford, 407-878-5874, bostonsfishhouse.com
3rd Red Lobster, multiple locations, redlobster.com

Best Smoothie

1st Planet Smoothie, multiple locations, planetsmoothie.com
2nd Tropical Smoothie, multiple locations, tropicalsmoothie.com
3rd Smoothie King, multiple locations, smoothieking.com

Best Steakhouse

1st Christner's Del Frisco's Prime Steak and Lobster, 729 Lee Road, 321-282-6579, delfriscosorlando.com
2nd Charley's Steakhouse, multiple locations, talkofthetownrestaurants.com
3rd Ruth's Chris Steak House, multiple locations, ruthschris.com

Best Sushi

1st Amura, multiple locations, amura.com
2nd Seito Sushi, 4898 New Broad St., 407-898-8801; 8031 Turkey Lake Road, 407-248-8888, seitosushi.com
3rd Shari Sushi Lounge, 621 E. Central Blvd., 407-420-9420, sharisushilounge.com

Best Vegan

1st Ethos Vegan Kitchen, 1235 N. Orange Ave., 407-228-3898, ethosvegankitchen.com
2nd Dandelion Communitea Café, 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864, facebook.com/dandelioncommunitea
3rd Loving Hut, 2101 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-5673, lovinghut.us/florida

Best Vegetarian

1st Dandelion Communitea Café, 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864, facebook.com/dandelioncommunitea
2nd Ethos Vegan Kitchen, 1235 N. Orange Ave., 407-228-3898, ethosvegankitchen.com
3rd Infusion Tea, 1600 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-5255, infusionorlando.com

Best Wings

1st Buffalo Wild Wings, multiple locations, buffalowildwings.com
2nd Gator's Dockside, multiple locations, gatorsdockside.com
3rd Wing House, multiple locations, winghouse.com

Best Meat

1st Petty's Meats, 2141 W. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-862-0400, pettysmeats.com
2nd Freshfields Farm, 400 E. Compton St., 407-423-3309, freshfieldsfarm.com
3rd Meat House, 669 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-629-6328, themeathouse.com

Best Produce

1st Freshfields Farm, 400 E. Compton St., 407-423-3309, freshfieldsfarm.com
2nd Eat More Produce, 1111 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-5292, eatmoreproduce.com
3rd Publix, multiple locations, publix.com

Best Outdoor Dining

1st Buffalo Wild Wings, multiple locations, buffalowildwings.com
2nd Hillstone Restaurant, 215 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-740-4005, hillstone.com/hillstone
3rd 903 Mills Market, 903 S. Mills Ave., 407-898-4308, facebook.com/pages/903-mills-market

Best Food Truck

1st Big Wheel Provisions, 407-797-0167, bigwheelprovisions.com
2nd Korean BBQ Taco Box, 407-844-3990, kbbqbox.com
3rd The Yum Yum Cupcake Truck, 407-494-9336, theyumyumcupcaketruck.com

Best Cheap Eats

1st Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria, 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-0865, pompomsteahouse.com
2nd Tijuana Flats, multiple locations, tijuanaflats.com
3rd (tie) Hawkers Asian Street Fare, 1103 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-0606, facebook.com/hawkersstreetfare
3rd (tie) Gringos Locos, 20 E. Washington St., 407-841-5626, eatgringos.com

Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

1st The Ravenous Pig, 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-2333, theravenouspig.com
2nd Christner's Del Frisco's Prime Steak and Lobster, 729 Lee Road, 321-282-6579, delfriscosorlando.com
3rd Seasons 52, 7700 Sand Lake Road, 407-354-5212, seasons52.com

Best Late Night

1st Bananas Diner, 924 N. Mills Ave., 407-480-2200, bananasdiner.com
2nd Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria, 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-0865, pompomsteahouse.com
3rd Tako Cheena, 932 Mills Ave., 321-236-7457, takocheena.com

Beet & green apple juice from Café 118º

Best attention-grabber beverage

Beet & green apple juice from Café 118º
153 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park
407-389-2233, cafe118.com

Nope, it's not Tru Blood – "cow's blood mixed with goat milk" is our usual deadpan response when startled Park Avenue pedestrians stop to ask what we're drinking. In truth, the not-so-petrifying potable is a blend of beets, carrots and green apples courtesy of Café 118º's juice mixologists, but the synthesis of ingredients takes on the look of a different deep-red, clotted fluid – the kind appetizing to vampires – when seen through a plastic go-cup or in a glass. The juice will set you back $5, but the look on people's faces? Priceless.

 

Best food-related law

Cottage food operation
Florida statute 500.80(5)

Last year, entrepreneurs who dreamed of launching a small food operation saw a huge cost barrier removed. In July 2011 the state of Florida made it legal, with certain restrictions, for small business owners to make some food products in home kitchens rather than requiring them to rent time in a licensed commercial facility. Passage of House Bill 7209 brought Orlando one step closer to artisanal Brooklyn; now we're just waiting for the explosion of small-batch bitters, shrub vinegars, pickled ramps and pretzel rolls.

Best restaurant in which to relive a recent Roman repast

Peperoncino Cucina
7988 Via Dellagio Way
407-440-2856
peperoncinocucina.com

Those who've sojourned in Italy know full well that sinking feeling upon returning home, occasioned by the prospect of dining at Italian restaurants nowhere near the caliber of those found in the Old World. But there is a cure for the post-Roman Holiday withdrawal: a meal at Barbara Alfano's Peperoncino. Her daily changing menu spotlights dishes evocative of the rustic and contemporary meals we've enjoyed in il bel paese, while the intimate environs (elbow-to-elbow seating isn't out of the question here) can quickly make amici out of strangers.

 

Best restaurant for Jews cheating on their spouses

Flame Kabob
7536 Dr. Phillips Blvd.
407-248-2280

We confess: This category is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but no offense is meant. After seeing the hilariously inappropriate "Palestinian Chicken" episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the thought occurred to us that Palestinian-run Flame Kabob (like "Al Abbas Original Best Chicken," the eatery in said episode) would be, to paraphrase Larry David, "a fantastic place for Jews who are cheating on their spouses to come to. You'd never get caught, because no self-respecting Jew would come here!" In addition to being an ideal hideaway for philandering MOTs, the place serves up some of the finest kebabs this side of the West Bank. Hey, if treaties, accords and saber-rattling won't solve the Middle East crisis, maybe good sex and delicious kafta will.

 

Best bacon

C&S Brisket Bus, brisketbus.com, Twitter: @CSBrisketBus

Bacon may have jumped the shark for many gastronomes, but at C&S Brisket Bus, it's still revered and respected alongside their other smoked, cured and corned meats. We're talking more than just maple-sugared here. How about pastrami-style? Or sweet tea-cured? More than just a gimmick, C&S's sweet tea-cured bacon has both sugary sweetness and serious black-tea notes going on.

Best non-bacon bacon

Turkey bacon at Keke's Breakfast Café
345 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
407-629-1400, kekesbreakfastcafe.com

Yeah, some of you may think that writing about the virtues of turkey bacon amounts to a complete waste of ink, but we gave the turkey bacon at Keke's Breakfast Café in Winter Park a go, and this imposter deserves special mention. Lower in fat, calories and guilt, Keke's turkey bacon – crisp, meaty and smoky – is not just a godsend for those with a muffin top or a bay-windowed frame, it's go-to meat candy for anyone catching flak from their rabbi or cardiologist.

 

Best croissant

Les Petits Pleasures
2120 Edgewater Drive
407-422-4702, lespetitspleasures.com

Pretty much everything in Les Petits Pleasures screams Paris – from the gray damask covering the walls to the French-language satellite radio playing softly in the background. But nothing recalls l'Île de France more than their perfect croissants. That's not an overstatement, either: They're beautifully browned, fantastically crisp and flaky on the outside, and ultra-buttery inside. Digging into one first thing in the morning is about as idyllic as it gets on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Best cookie

Chocolate chunk cookie at the Flour Shop
1480 Lee Road, Winter Park
321-557-8427, flourshop.net

Some like their cookies chewy, some crispy – but the best chocolate chip cookie in Orlando is neither. This thick, gargantuan cookie is more biscuit-like: all at once sweet, salty, crumbly and buttery. Generous hunks of chocolate render this cookie more than a mere indulgence; it's a cookie-cravings annihilator.

 

Best panini

Dylan's Deli
1198 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park
407-622-7578, dylansdeli.net

Their combined years spent in France and Spain grant owners Arnaud and Noemi Dupont unusual sandwich expertise. Yes, panini are Italian, not French or Spanish, but the French know bread and cheese better than anyone, and the Spanish genius for tapas, those tasty little preserved bites (oil-packed tuna, marinated baby octopi, roasted peppers and tomatoes), makes for brilliant sandwich filling combos. Highly recommended.

 

Best mint tea this side of Marrakech

Pasha Taverna & Lounge
4104 Millenia Blvd.
407-730-3222, pashaorlando.com

Mint tea is part of any Moroccan feast, and its preparation has been elevated to an art form in Mediterranean North Africa. Here in Central Florida, no one does it better than Pasha Taverna & Lounge. Ornately designed teapots hold the elixir fashioned from sugar, gunpowder tea and fresh mint sprigs, a beverage that's at once smooth, refreshing and very sweet. The sugary quaff has put off a few local patrons and owner Simo Soaf has capitulated by scaling back the sweetness, but if you ask for your tea to be prepared (and poured) in the traditional manner – tooth-singingly sweet and poured into tiny cups from a pot held dangerously high above the table – he will gladly oblige.

 

Best latte

Barnie's CoffeeKitchen
118 S. Park Ave., Winter Park
407-854-6626, barniescoffeekitchen.com

The proliferation of frou-frou coffee drinks may have gotten a little out of hand, but at Barnie's CoffeeKitchen, they've elevated the art of espresso drinks to sheer sophistication. This ain't no ordinary double shot. Barnie's lattes come with the kind of practiced, sleight-of-hand latte art one sees in Milan, topped with a foam so thick and creamy, it's practically dessert on its own.

 

Best morning deal

Java Girls
910 Lee Road, 407-622-0601
javagirlsorlando.com

Get past the objectification. Those girls press a mean breakfast panini and use a real espresso maker complete with milk frother, both death-defying feats while wearing a bikini – and all for under $5.

 

Best way to widen your dining horizons for cheap

Orlando Restaurant Week
orlandorestaurantweek.com

Each year, usually in May, Orlando Weekly releases its dining guide, BITE. And each year, to celebrate this utterly stellar collection of condensed critics' reviews, dozens of Orlando restaurants offer three-course prix fixe meals for between $10 and $35, giving locals a low-risk, high-reward impetus to try a new dish, a new restaurant, a new part of town. Go eat!

Best Asian market

Woo Sung Market
5079 Edgewater Drive
407-295-4077

Whether you're raiding the ready-to-eat banchan (the bevy of condiments/garnishes/side dishes that accompany Korean meals), stocking up on house-made kimchi or furrowing your brow over unrecognizable vegetables, there's always something to take a chance on (and love!) at Woo Sung Market. Even if you have no idea what the packages say, it's cool. Chances are, it'll be an eye-opener.

 

Best shawarma

Middle East Market & Deli
8100 S. Orange Blossom Trail
407-855-6555
middleeastdeli.com

If the sight of a rotating, dripping, juicy spit of mystery meat makes you weak in the knees, Middle East Market's version of shawarma, a Persian specialty sandwich, could cause an Arab Spring in your mouth. Choose from chicken or lamb; pile on the bright pink pickled turnips, hummus, cucumber and tomato; and let the warm pita take you away to a petroleum-rich food paradise far, far away.

 

Best messy meal

Melissa's Chicken & Waffles
facebook.com/melissaswaffletruck

The enormous waffle creations served from Melissa's bright-orange school bus can be a bit daunting. To enjoy, you must get over the realization that 1) some part of this meal will definitely trickle down your face and possibly onto your clothes; and 2) each of your bites will make you faintly resemble a velociraptor. Grab a few extra napkins and don't let it stop you – the sweet-and-salty, crisp-and-spicy, warm-and-hearty goodness that emanates from this food truck will make the slop factor worth it.

 

Best summer cocktail

Cetriolo at Prato
124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park
407-262-0050
prato-wp.com

We hate to give away secret recipes (this one is actually printed on Prato's cocktail menu, we swear), but to appreciate this, you've got to hear the ingredients. The cetriolo combines organic cucumber vodka, agave nectar, lime, white cranberry juice and basil to create a refreshing, simple craft cocktail that'll offer a much-needed reprieve from the hot-and-sticky air outside. When sipped at Prato's rustically swank bartop, you'll feel refreshed and decadent.

 

Best nonalcoholic beer

Butterbeer at Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure

Harry and his classmates were merely tweens at the start of J.K. Rowling's series, so real booze was out of the question for them. But butterbeer, in all of its sugary-
sweet glory, was a suitably intoxicating alternative. Universal Orlando has concocted its own butterbeer, a sweet, frothy, frosty beverage with hints of butterscotch and cream soda. Dozens of recipe variants can be found on the Internet, some of which include real butter, but why bother with that when the stuff sold at Universal's Islands of Adventure is pretty much exactly what you would have imagined the drink described in the books to be?

 

Best Weed Eater

Deane Jordan
eattheweeds.com

Food is everywhere in Orlando – in parks, in backyards, even in ditches – but the thing is, you need someone to teach you what to eat and what to avoid. Orlando's urban and suburban landscapes boast more delicious edible wild plants than some entire states do, and forager Deane Jordan, aka Green Deane, can help you find them. If you're a health nut, you'll love foraging because wild plants have a higher nutritional content than many veggies (both conventional and organic) found at the grocery store or co-op. If you're a dumpster-diving freegan, you'll love the nonexistent cost. And if you're a foodie, you'll find yourself squarely in the middle of the foraged-food trend made popular by restaurants such as Noma in Copenhagen. While we don't suggest you eat any old weed you come upon (see "Backyard buffet," March 22), we know once you try your first safely prepared meal from a ditch, you'll be hooked.

Best place to get a taste of World War I

Anzac biscuits at Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar
444 N. Bumby Ave.
407-893-4994
drunkenmonkeycoffee.com

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and the biscuit of the same name was popularized in Australia during World War I, presumably because simple ingredients like rolled oats, flour and desiccated coconut could stay relatively tasty after a long transit. Selling Anzac biscuits takes verve, though, since Australian law protects the name and original recipe. In 2008 Subway restaurants abandoned plans to sell their own version of the cookie, since they were prohibited from using cheap substitute ingredients. Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar, always up for a challenge, began offering an original-recipe version ($1.50) a little over two years ago. Recently they began including flavored varieties like peanut butter, lemon ginger and a gluten-free version (all for $2 each). The soft, not-too-sweet cookies may not make you nostalgic for the days of trench warfare, but the taste will leave you shell-shocked.

 

Best place to drink from a boot

Hollerbach's Willow Tree Café
205 E. First St., Sanford
407-321-2204
willowtreecafe.com

Proffering real German gemütlichkeit (bless you), which is basically a sense of euphoric and drunken camaraderie, Hollerbach's brings the sleepy downtown Sanford strip to raucous life nightly in a way that stands in stark relief to what Sanford has now unfortunately become known for. All sorts of meaty German fare is offered in a family-style, long-bench setting as the lederhosen, yodeling and folk instruments come out periodically to send the assembled masses – the place gets packed – into a "schunkeling" mess of arm-locked, swaying (so as not to fall over) audience participation. At the dinner service's peak, a giant plastic boot of beer is passed around a table, with each participant basically forced to swig the joyful backwash of their nearest neighbor. It's German! It's fun! It's totally not what you expect in Sanford.

Best foodie trend to hit Orlando last

Le Macaron
216 N. Park Ave., Winter Park

Just another foodie trend that's gone yawningly mainstream in bigger cities before it pops up here (or eye-rollingly "ugh so OVER" to the real cool kids), macarons are nevertheless so freaking pretty and sweet and delicious and delicate that they get a wide-spectrum late pass from us. (Le Macaron's gelato is also pretty good.) They may be 2012's cupcake, but given the choice between a cupcake and a macaron, we say bring on the macaron truck.

Best popsicle

Chocolate-banana-sea salt pop
Yum-Yum Pops
yumyumpops.net

We love most of Yum-Yum's flavors – blueberry-hibiscus is a close runner-up – but this particular pop is a frozen chunk of joy. It's packed with deep, rich, creamy cocoa; the banana taste/texture is present in a backgroundy way, like a hint of tropicalia; the salt is barely perceptible except for the way it sharpens the other flavors. ■