Best Of 2013

Best of Another Round DIY pub crawls

There’s something about the final days of December that tends to bring on the holiday warm-and-fuzzies, along with well-intended visions of maybe, finally, sticking to that New Year’s resolution. I get it, especially being as 2014 sees a lot of change for me personally. After six years, I will soon be leaving Orlando and moving to Miami with hopes of living out sunny daydreams farther south.

Of course, there are many things I’ll miss about the City Beautiful, and after embarking on monthly DIY pub-crawling excursions for nearly a year now in this Another Round column, it just wouldn’t be right to leave O-town without sharing my favorite bar-hopping experiences. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

I kicked off Another Round last February by cozying up with my husband at a host of valentine-worthy bars in downtown Orlando – one of which, the craft cocktail-centered Courtesy Bar (114 N. Orange Ave.), was an ideal spot to nuzzle in a corner while sipping on New York sours.

The springtime led me through near-downtown neighborhood crawls, with stops at Ivanhoe Village staples such as the furniture store-slash-bar Imperial at Washburn Imports (1800 N. Orange Ave.). In April, we detoured north for a fresh sangria fix at Hannibal Square’s BARcelona (433 W. New England Ave., Winter Park), before facing day-drinking Cinco de Mayo shenanigans in College Park, complete with pickle shots on the patio at Ollie’s Public House (3400 Edgewater Drive).

Our summer drinking excursions began in the diverse Mills 50 district with a “come as you are” ethos – not to mention some heated pinball games at arcade-inspired watering hole BART (1205 N. Mills Ave.). A month later, we landed beachside for margaritas and the infamous Pusser’s Painkiller at New Smyrna Beach’s Toni & Joe’s Patio (309 Buenos Aires Ave., New Smyrna Beach). Note: My liver is still hurting from that crawl.

Nevertheless, we marked the launch of UCF’s fall semester at a few off-campus bars, which involved sipping cheap domestics at Knight Library (11448 University Blvd.), a popular hang that this year topped the Daily Meal’s list of “25 Best College Bars in America.”

We toned it down a bit in September with a sipping-and-strolling afternoon along posh Park Avenue in Winter Park, where we basked in cool(er) fall temps and enjoyed fancy pear martinis at an outdoor table at Matilda’s on Park (358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park).

Ushering in the Halloween season, we were steered toward a round of local downtown Sanford haunts, and we soon learned that no trip to Sanford would be complete without a visit with Moire Wisdom at her eclectic joint, Little Fish Huge Pond (401 S. Sanford Ave., Sanford).

When November rolled around, we drowned our Mall at Millenia holiday-shopping woes in what can only be described as “a beast of a martini” while resting our tired feet at Blue Martini (4200 Conroy Road). Little did I know, my jaunt around the Millenia area would be my final pub crawl for this Another Round column.

Certainly there are many other crawl-worthy neighborhoods in the area that I didn’t have the chance to cover, and although there might not be any immediate plans in the future, undoubtedly, OW will continue to cover Orlando’s thriving nightlife scene – in whatever form that might take.

I can’t say enough how incredibly fortunate I am to have been a part of the exceptional team at Orlando Weekly. And even though I’ll be leaving, there’s no doubt I’ll continue to be a devoted OW reader from afar – even if that means scrolling through stories on orlandoweekly.com while mounted up at a waterfront bar overlooking Biscayne Bay, ice-cold mojito in hand. Hmm, yeah … let’s cheers to that!

Best Adorable Brunch Dish

Mini biscuits & gravy at Cask & Larder

565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
321-280-4200
caskandlarder.com

The Ravenous Pig chef-owners Julie and James Petrakis opened sister restaurant Cask & Larder right down the street in Winter Park last year, to rapturous foodie acclaim. We heard tons of positives about the “Southern Public House”: tasty locally sourced plates, diverse house-brewed beer and so on. So it was no surprise when a Sunday-morning brunch order of biscuits and gravy ($9) landed us with a charming plate of fluffy, buttery miniature black-pepper biscuits and a small-yet-satisfying bowl of country gravy – for spoonful pouring, if you have manners. They were almost too cute to eat. Almost.

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

1. 4 Rivers Smokehouse, multiple locations, 4rsmokehouse.com
2. Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue, multiple locations, bubbalous.com
3. Cecil’s Texas Style Bar-B-Q, 2800 S. Orange Ave., 407-423-9871, cecilsbbq.com

German-American Society of Central Florida’s annual Oktoberfest

381 Orange Lane, Casselberry
407-834-0574
gasocf.com

So you heard there was this authentic Oktoberfest thing happening in Casselberry, and you had nothing to do that night anyway. You didn’t expect much, until you drove up Orange Lane and saw the German Alps-style lodge down this middle-of-nowhere road. Whoa. You paid your entrance fee and were directed into some kind of awesome party in the woods where people were eating wursts, drinking authentic dunkel and dancing, singing, cheering … in the woods in Casselberry. It’s as surreal and beautiful as it sounds, and words can hardly do it justice.

1. Keke’s Breakfast Café, multiple locations, kekesbreakfastcafe.com
2. First Watch, multiple locations, firstwatch.com
3. Matilda’s on Park, 358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-951-5790, facebook.com/matildasonpark

1. Graffiti Junktion, multiple locations, graffitijunktion.com
2. Matilda’s on Park, 358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-951-5790, facebook.com/matildasonpark
3. Beth’s Burger Bar, 24 E. Washington St., 407-650-4950, bethsburgerbar.com

1. Bahama Breeze, multiple locations, bahamabreeze.com
2. Mark’s Caribbean Cuisine, 10034 University Blvd., 407-699-8800, healthyjamaicanfood.com (tie)
2. Caribbean Sunshine Bakery, multiple locations, caribbeansunshinebakery.net (tie)
3. Singh’s Roti Shop, 5244 Old Winter Garden Road, 407-253-2900, singhsrotishop.com

1. Tako Cheena, 932 N. Mills Ave., 321-236-7457, takocheena.com
2. Gringos Locos, 20 E. Washington St., 407-841-5626, eatgringos.com
3. Tijuana Flats, multiple locations, tijuanaflats.com

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

Best Cocktail That Looks Like a Science Experiment

Berries & Bubbles at Ocean Prime

7339 W. Sand Lake Road
407-781-4880
oceanprimeorlando.com

Restaurant Row’s Ocean Prime specializes in seafood, but the swanky restaurant’s “all-time best selling cocktail,” the Berries & Bubbles ($14), packs a little something not found underwater. The ingredients don’t sound so unusual – Belvedere Citrus vodka, marinated blackberries, house-made sour mix and Domaine Chandon brut champagne –­ but the cube of dry ice plunked in at the end adds over-the-top pizazz. The recipe can be found on Ocean Prime’s website in case you want to try mixing up one at home, but we suggest caution when playing around with dry ice – those fingertips come in handy for other things.