Tip Jar: Downtown Food & Wine Fest goes big-time in its sixth year

Also, potential Shake Shack opening, fancy post-Valentine’s Day dinners and seven new restaurants to try now

The ever-growing Downtown Food and Wine Fest celebrates its sixth year Feb. 22-23 at Lake Eola. More than 20,000 people are expected to chow on fare from 35 area restaurants (Primo, Siro, Hawkers, Tibby’s, Christner’s, Kasa and the Smiling Bison, to name just a few), and sip wines from 10 wineries, like La Crema and Hess. New this year is the Wine Tasters Club, VIP bottle service at the Liquid Lounge and the Ultimate Fest Experience. Tickets are $15 in advance; $20 at the door. Visit downtownfoodandwinefest.com for more.

The Orlando Eye entertainment complex (formerly known as I-Drive Live) has already seen the new-look Longhorn Steakhouse open amid construction, but expect a slew of chains to open at the I-Drive tourist haunt in the coming months, such as Outback, Carrabba’s, Buffalo Wild Wings … yawwwn. One bright spot: Rumours abound regarding a potential Shake Shack opening there. The giant Ferris wheel, BTW, is scheduled to be operational by New Year’s Eve.

A couple of post V-Day items: Cask and Larder’s three-course prix fixe dinner Sunday, Feb. 16, features such dishes as lamb ribs, veal brisket, and milk and cookies for dessert. Cost is $45. On the same night, Carmel Café hosts its last Perfect Pairing dinner, allowing you to pair a selection of mod-Med dishes and dessert with 90-plus-point wines for $10 a glass.

At Trevi Pasta in College Park, the pasta machines have arrived from Italy, the gelato case is in place, and the beautiful Expobar espresso machine is ready to pour. Target opening date is the first week of March.


A ton of newly opened restaurants to report: Grounding Roots Juice Bar on Princeton Street in College Park; Aku Aku, a retro tiki lounge, on Central Avenue; Another Broken Egg Café in Winter Park Village; Qarma Crêpes on Summerlin Avenue in Thornton Park; Sushi Lola’s (now in a larger space) in Audubon Park; Stefano’s Grill in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips; and Antojitos in the former Latin Quarter space at Universal CityWalk. Whew! That’s a lot of eating … In Ivanhood news, the Orange Blossom Brewing Co. (home of Orange Blossom Pilsner) plans to open a pub on Virginia Drive this summer.

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