Locations in Winter Park Area

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    The Geek Easy
    If you were turned off by the Geek Easy when it first opened, with its fluorescent lighting and weird membership fee, it’s definitely time to revisit the place. Recent renovations have doubled the space, the lighting is now at an appropriate level, and the selection of beer and “cocktails” is both varied and cheap. Various events occur weekly, from comedy to trivia to the aforementioned karaoke, making good use of the new stage and PA.

    The best part about the holiday season is that it's a perfectly justifiable excuse for stuffing yourself silly -- with the "New Year's resolution" ploy as a handy fallback.

    So add George's Gourmet Cookies to your personal shopping list. The shop at 947 Orange Ave. in Winter Park complements the online store, www.georgesgourmetcookies.com, but both are dangerously tempting. Each cookie is about the size of a saucer, too thick to jam whole in your mouth unless you're very gifted, and loaded with things like dark gourmet chocolate, fresh-roasted peanuts, sweet cranberries, whole cherries and real butter.

    So add George's Gourmet Cookies to your personal shopping list. The shop at 947 Orange Ave. in Winter Park complements the online store, www.georgesgourmetcookies.com, but both are dangerously tempting. Each cookie is about the size of a saucer, too thick to jam whole in your mouth unless you're very gifted, and loaded with things like dark gourmet chocolate, fresh-roasted peanuts, sweet cranberries, whole cherries and real butter.

    George's has been making more than a dozen kinds of decadent cookies as well as ultrathick brownies and dessert bars (mmm, chocolate butterscotch) since 1989. He also offers sandwiches and soups at the shop, and drool-inducing gift baskets. Yeah, like any of it will leave your house.

    Psst – I'm about to let you in on a secret. What's the cheapest theater ticket in town? Answer: Gino's Pizza & Brew III on Orange Avenue, just north of Church Street. No matter what the hour, the guys behind the counter launch into a kinetic, gritty version of Hell's Kitchen performance art every time the front door opens and a fresh horde of hungry seekers pin themselves against the counter.

    At night, the neon sign glows garishly over Orange Avenue, as the late-night crowd mixes with horn-rimmed yuppies. All this atmosphere for the cost of a slice of pizza ($2-$3.50)? Now, that's entertainment.

    At night, the neon sign glows garishly over Orange Avenue, as the late-night crowd mixes with horn-rimmed yuppies. All this atmosphere for the cost of a slice of pizza ($2-$3.50)? Now, that's entertainment.

    There's also an eagerness to please. If you don't see the entree you want on the menu, their "experienced N.Y.C. chefs" (who include at least one scrappy Scotsman) have been known to go out for the ingredients and whip up a customer's request.

    There's also an eagerness to please. If you don't see the entree you want on the menu, their "experienced N.Y.C. chefs" (who include at least one scrappy Scotsman) have been known to go out for the ingredients and whip up a customer's request.

    The restaurant itself is the mirror image of a thousand pizzerias: A narrow entrance, with just enough room to order at the counter. Seating is minimal at the formica tables upstairs (forget finding a seat between noon and 2 p.m. weekdays), where a smudged window overlooking the street further sets the mood. No wonder requests for slices to go are as common as the red-and-white-checkered vinyl tablecloths.

    The restaurant itself is the mirror image of a thousand pizzerias: A narrow entrance, with just enough room to order at the counter. Seating is minimal at the formica tables upstairs (forget finding a seat between noon and 2 p.m. weekdays), where a smudged window overlooking the street further sets the mood. No wonder requests for slices to go are as common as the red-and-white-checkered vinyl tablecloths.

    At any given time, nearly a dozen choices are on display. The veggie slice looks approachable in comparison to the staggering stuffed meat-lover's pizza, which spills over with pepperoni, bacon, salami and meatballs. The slices we sampled were faultless even though they were reheated, as is the standard. The bianco version, in particular, was a luscious blend of Romano, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses ($2.50).

    At any given time, nearly a dozen choices are on display. The veggie slice looks approachable in comparison to the staggering stuffed meat-lover's pizza, which spills over with pepperoni, bacon, salami and meatballs. The slices we sampled were faultless even though they were reheated, as is the standard. The bianco version, in particular, was a luscious blend of Romano, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses ($2.50).

    There are also strombolis, calzones, wings, salads and pasta dishes. But something went wrong with the ziti ($5.50) we tried: The pesto sauce had plenty of gusto, but the pasta was limp and overcooked. Lasagna, on the other hand, was unforgettable and dangerously messy – just as we'd hoped – with rich layers of ricotta and fresh marinara. Don't miss the garlic rolls, twisted into knots and broiled with butter.

    On this Friday night, the mood upstairs got boozy as some of the customers waited (and waited) for dinner – beer flowed, brows were mopped as the A/C blew hot, cold and hot again. Finally an argument erupted between one couple, and a woman slammed her fist on the table. Taking no chances, we gathered our leftovers and made a swift exit.

    On this Friday night, the mood upstairs got boozy as some of the customers waited (and waited) for dinner – beer flowed, brows were mopped as the A/C blew hot, cold and hot again. Finally an argument erupted between one couple, and a woman slammed her fist on the table. Taking no chances, we gathered our leftovers and made a swift exit.

    On our way out, the guys behind the counter called out "goodbye," even as they were hefting vats of pizza dough big enough to feed a battalion.

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the Giovianni's in Oviedo.

    Seems like everywhere you look, there's another Giovanni.

    I'm talking, of course, about Giovanni's Italian Restaurant, which is now a triplet with the addition of their newest location. I had to look up the location myself; drive all the way east on Curry Ford Road, then hang a left.

    I'm talking, of course, about Giovanni's Italian Restaurant, which is now a triplet with the addition of their newest location. I had to look up the location myself; drive all the way east on Curry Ford Road, then hang a left.

    Echoing the decor and menu of the other two establishments (Giovannises?), the place has Nu Yawk Eye-talian written all over it in hearty tomato-sauce letters, and that's a very good thing, indeed.

    Echoing the decor and menu of the other two establishments (Giovannises?), the place has Nu Yawk Eye-talian written all over it in hearty tomato-sauce letters, and that's a very good thing, indeed.

    If the pizzas don't tempt you, the "chicken sorrentino," "baked clams oreganata" and combine-it-yourself pasta combos will. This isn't a chain as much as a guy who likes cooking Italian food with a bunch of restaurants that he likes to keep an eye on. It's sort of a family thing ... no offense.

    If the pizzas don't tempt you, the "chicken sorrentino," "baked clams oreganata" and combine-it-yourself pasta combos will. This isn't a chain as much as a guy who likes cooking Italian food with a bunch of restaurants that he likes to keep an eye on. It's sort of a family thing ... no offense.

    Read the review on the Giovanni's located at Alafaya.

    Do demons like burgers? For Graffiti Junktion's sake, I really hope they do. A long line of restaurants ' Thornton Park Café, Luciano's Terrace, La Fontanella da Nino, Rocco's, even Jephanie Foster's Midnight Blue ' have all succumbed to the mean-spirited phantoms cursing this attractive locale. Perhaps an extreme makeover (or extreme makeunder as the case may be) was in order for a proper exorcism; the changes to the once-slick interior are nothing short of dramatic. The style is in marked contrast to Midnight Blue's cool refinement, resembling an abandoned building taken over and decorated by squatters. Doors have been ripped off their hinges, windows removed, graffiti sprayed onto the walls and comfy furnishing swapped out for doodled-on picnic tables. All of it fosters a scene tending toward backward-baseball-cap'wearing post-grads and their girly-girl strumpets, right down to the Jokerman font on the small, simple menu.

    It's a lively scene, but I confess I had a better time observing the random T-shirts on diners than I did downing a spoonful of their Texas-style beef chili ($5). The overly seasoned hash caked my tongue with a pungency reminiscent of chili powder from a grocery-aisle packet. The fact that it was served lukewarm with limp, unmelted cheese didn't help salvage the starter. A wasabi chicken Caesar salad ($8) with spicy Caesar dressing seemed intriguing at first, but you wouldn't have known the Japanese condiment was even present had there been no mention of it on the menu. One consolation: The nicely seasoned chicken strips were warmer than the chili.

    But the meat of Graffiti Junktion's matter lies in their patties. For the most part, the burgers (all tagged with city nicknames) are thoroughly gratifying ' beefed-up rounds with homemade buns to boot. Yeah, they initially forgot the jalapeños in my Austin City Limits ($10) burger, but the well-trained staff was quick to replenish the peppers and offer an apology. Pepperjack and chili underscored its Texas-manwich status, and as far as the fries were concerned, the skin-on, seasoned strips were entirely laudable, though my dining partner, a self-professed French fry authority, thought them a tad soggy and lacking in crisp. The Fog City ($10) turkey burger, layered with tomato, pepperjack, avocado and sprouts on a whole-wheat bun, proffered the gastronomic yin to the Austin City Limits burger's yang. It's a hefty sandwich, no doubt, but it just seems better suited to a beef patty rather than turkey ' an option that is available if you're so inclined. Desserts, on the other hand, aren't an option and likely won't be for a few weeks, but that doesn't seem to bother the regulars, who seem content with the straightforward fare, full bar and sportive conviviality.

    For all its burger-worthiness, Graffiti Junktion does seem to be more about the scene than the food. The din can be uproarious and patrons delightfully vainglorious, so there's nothing else to do but plant your seat at a table, grab some grub and enjoy the show. If you can't join 'em, watch 'em.

    At one time it was home to corporate pizzas, as bland and predictable as the building they were made in. Today the shell of this former Pizza Hut still stands, but inside you will no longer find God-awful garlic bread served by minimum-wage slaves. Instead, at Greek Flame Taverna you'll find warm homemade pitas and other Greek treats served with pride by the Chrisan-thidis family.

    They've tried to exorcise all the old deep-dish demons. The restaurant is painted classic blue and white. It's clean and decorated with pieces of Greek culture. There are Greek murals on the wall, classic statue replicas, traditional clothes on display and a map of Greece on the place mats.

    The Greek Flame is far from fancy, but it's a nice alternative to fast food, especially if you're taking the kids out. The staff went out of its way to remind me how cute my son is. They also had a bunch of toys to keep him out of trouble while I read the laminated menu.

    We sampled two appetizers. I found the saganaki ($4.95), a flaming cheese, to be an appropriate start. Just like the lighting of the Olympic torch, the cheese is set on fire and carried to the table. The fire is put out with lemon, which adds to the flavor. It tasted even better when wrapped inside a warm pita. I also enjoyed the spanakopita ($4.50), a light dish of spinach in a flaky phyllo dough.

    I'm a relatively large man, so I ordered the "Hercules platter" ($9.95), which features large samples of four dishes. The gyro meat, a combination of beef and lamb, was served in thin shavings. It was tender and appropriately seasoned. The dolmades – grape leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice – were fine. I enjoyed the mousaka, layers of eggplant, ground beef and potato topped with béchamel sauce. Also delicious was the pistichio, a lasagna of ground beef and noodle, also topped with béchamel.

    While Hercules and I were celebrating the thrill of victory, another member of our party was tasting the agony of defeat. She ordered a shrimp-and-garlic special ($10.95). While the shrimp was fresh and tasty, a couple of the jumbos were served without being properly cleaned (oops!).

    After the shrimp slip-up, our table bounced back quickly with dessert. The Greek coffee ($1.25) gave us a lift somewhere between espresso and Cuban coffee. The baklava ($1.95) was obviously homemade, as was the galaktobouriko ($2.25), a Greek custard with phyllo dough.

    Overall I was satisfied. The food is fine, and when it's time to pay the bill, you won't have to groan. A family of four can get their fill for about 40 bucks.

    Creperies appear to be blossoming all over the city, be they comfortable restaurants like Pointe Orlando's La Creperia Café or humble food carts like downtown's Crepe Company. Winter Park's Green Lemon Café likely falls into the fast-casual category, but husband-and-wife owners Amanda and Rob Volence certainly don't foster a dine-and-dash mentality. Like the cooks, they're always up for a chat; during quieter moments, the original paintings hanging on the café's colorful walls beg for a closer examination and, if one's wallet allows, purchase. But unlike the art, the food served here won't break the bank ' most items hover around the $7 mark, offering affordability without sacrificing taste. A plus: Only Boar's Head meats are used in their savory crepes, salads, sandwiches and paninis ' a definite notch above the grade of meat offered a couple of doors down at Subway. And with the Whole Foods Market in the same shopping plaza, Green Lemon should, theoretically, have a steady base of customers filtering out of the grocery store's doors and into theirs.

    In fact, a few happened to walk in the evening of my visit proclaiming ignorance of the café's existence, grabbing a few takeout menus, then enviously peering at the pesto-heavy chicken Florentine crepe ($7.50) I was so gleefully devouring. The thin-fried envelope packed a flavorful wallop with a proper proportion of chicken, spinach, onions, mushrooms and cheddar-jack. The turkey brie ($7) posed a lighter, more subtly flavored option, with green apple slices adding a mild sweetness. (They didn't skimp on the brie, either.) If you opt for the sizable 'black & bleuâ?� roast beef'and'blue cheese crepe ($7.50), the irony of the café being sandwiched between Marie-France and Omaha Steaks won't be lost. OK, it probably will, but that won't take away from the sandwich. I happened to glance at the turkey bacon panini ($7.25) one of the cooks was chomping down on during a break and it, too, looked worthy of ordering.

    But when it comes to crepes, the pièces de rèsistance lie on the sweeter side of fried, so I was a little disappointed in the absence of my favorite ' crepes suzette ' from the selections listed on the menu. The fact they're not licensed to sell alcohol may have something to do with it, though that may change in the coming weeks. Until then, the Green Lemon crepe ($4), with lemon and sugar, is the closest thing, but you're better off going with a more filling option, and there are plenty. The Southern Comfort crepe ($5.50) is a viscous mélange of peanut butter, bananas and chocolate sauce, while the 'caramel delightâ?� ($4.50) can be made a seasonal delight with the addition of cinnamon apples for a buck extra. A separate 'dessert crepesâ?� category listed items that were entirely too rich and decadent for my tastes, but if you're the type that gets a kick out of Oreo crumbs or s'mores in your crepes, have at it.

    There's a scene in Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby gets his arm broken for refusing to utter the words, 'I love crepes.â?� After enjoying one here, you likely won't need your arm twisted. And if you don't, there's likely another one on Green Lemon's menu that'll squeeze the sentiment out of you.

    There's a scene in Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby gets his arm broken for refusing to utter the words, 'I love crepes.â?� After enjoying one here, you likely won't need your arm twisted. And if you don't, there's likely another one on Green Lemon's menu that'll squeeze the sentiment out of you.

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