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    Amid a bustle of pre- and post-pubescent mallrats, a Greek man is boldly bringing a French delicacy to the masses. Some say they're wussy pancakes; some say ça c'est bon, but either way you flip it, crepes are a street-food staple and Konstantinos Chilias, aka chef Dino, is griddling at the chance to find converts in the Sunshine State. Sure, a food court isn't the most likely place to find a creperie, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Indoor street fare is essentially what food courts serve up, and Dino's brand of delicate made-to-order flappe-jacques are worthy of a traipse into the Orlando Fashion Square Mall fray.

    Leafing through the menu, I was struck at the number of sweet and savory crepes ' nearly 70 are offered. Even by Parisian standards, that's an impressive amount, but what really impresses is that quality doesn't suffer as a result. 'Mall foodâ?� and 'qualityâ?� are often thought of as being mutually exclusive, but the friendly Grecian is doing his part to alter that perception one gourmet crepe at a time.

    Ushering in this new era in food-court dining has taken chef Dino halfway 'round the globe, from humble beginnings hawking crepes on the thoroughfares of Paris in the early 1980s to owning and operating cafés on the Greek isle of Rhodes, in Long Beach, Calif., and, most recently, in Ybor City. Odd he would choose a mall in Orlando as his next conquest, though he admits his ultimate plan is to open a storefront café downtown or in Winter Park.

    Yearning for a light meal on my initial visit, I opted for 'La Creperie Special� ($8.25), a creamy mélange of mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, green peppers and caramelized onions enveloped by a slightly crisp whole-wheat crepe. Every fromage-filled bite satisfied, accompanied with Dino's fresh-squeezed, though lip-pursingly sour, lemonade ($3.75), and I couldn't help but feel sorry for the folks lining up at Sbarro and JJ's Cajun.

    Vegetarians can have a field day here, no doubt, but I have to say I enjoyed the chicken-filled 'La Parisâ?� ($8.25) even more; it balanced perfectly the flavors of feta, spinach and roasted red peppers. On another visit, I sampled the 'turkey a la brieâ?� ($7.50), which proved to be my favorite. Layered with square slivers of turkey, diced tomato and gooey brie, the dish is made magnifique by Dino's secret cream sauce.

    It took me awhile to decide on a sweet crepe, but I eventually settled on the 'Marie Antoinetteâ?� ($7.25) with Nutella, banana, strawberries and Baileys liqueur. The batter, made with fine baker's flour, is properly brushed around a hotplate, resulting in a light, ultra-thin pancake. Watching the cook prepare my indulgence, I noticed the bananas he used were overripe, the peel nearly black. Then walnuts were sprinkled into my crepe, after which I realized they weren't making a Marie Antoinette at all. What I got instead was a decent enough sweet crepe, but the miscue brought to light some of the service deficiencies apparent when Dino isn't present (usually on weekends). The staff, sans Dino, can get a bit out of sorts when serving two or more customers at a time; on this occasion they mixed up my order, forgot the 'Berry Appealingâ?� smoothie ($4) I ordered and forgot to charge me for dessert.

    On another visit, Dino himself prepared the classic crepes suzette (known here as 'Madame Suzette,� $7.75), and though a flambé failed to materialize, the crepe was everything I hoped it would be: a buttered and sugared crepe drizzled with Grand Marnier, splashed with fresh lemon and orange juice, folded into a triangle and drizzled with more Grand Marnier.

    Since the demise of Maison des Crepes in Winter Park, crepeheads haven't had a venue in which to satisfy their cravings. But chef Dino is as determined as King Leonidas to change that, and I wouldn't be surprised to see one of his stand-alone creperies open in town sooner than later.

    But for now, we dine in (mall) hell.

    The building's not much to look at, but there's no missing the brilliant color of La Granja – yellow-orange and lots of it. The only adornment is the name of the South Florida fast-food chain emblazoned in red along with the description: "Pollos y carnes a la brasa," which loosely translates into "chicken and meat on the grill."

    The parking lot is usually buzzing with cars, whether it's lunchtime or dinnertime, and on busy days, the kitchen runs out of some items. So there's obviously been a warm reception to this ethnic spot near the intersection of Semoran Boulevard and Aloma Avenue in Winter Park (where Miami Subs used to be).

    The parking lot is usually buzzing with cars, whether it's lunchtime or dinnertime, and on busy days, the kitchen runs out of some items. So there's obviously been a warm reception to this ethnic spot near the intersection of Semoran Boulevard and Aloma Avenue in Winter Park (where Miami Subs used to be).

    There's a drive-through window, but go inside to see what people are packing away: large plates of spit-roasted chicken, grilled steak and pork accompanied by large helpings of white rice, black or red beans and french fries. The standard "Family meal #1" ($26) includes half a chicken, half a pound each of pork and steak, large rice and beans, large french fries and four sodas. Call it Latin American comfort food (or call it a carbohydrate curse), but the meat is the star of the meal, with its "secret" Peruvian spicing permeated by the flavor of cumin (which is the main ingredient in chili powders). By contrast, the rice and beans are bland, but the fries were thick and tasty.

    There's a drive-through window, but go inside to see what people are packing away: large plates of spit-roasted chicken, grilled steak and pork accompanied by large helpings of white rice, black or red beans and french fries. The standard "Family meal #1" ($26) includes half a chicken, half a pound each of pork and steak, large rice and beans, large french fries and four sodas. Call it Latin American comfort food (or call it a carbohydrate curse), but the meat is the star of the meal, with its "secret" Peruvian spicing permeated by the flavor of cumin (which is the main ingredient in chili powders). By contrast, the rice and beans are bland, but the fries were thick and tasty.

    The fried bananas ($1.75 small, $2.50 large) are my recommendation for dessert, though the flan ($2) is fine, too. The spare salad ($2/$3.50) is not worth the cost. Other side items are garlic potatoes and fried yuca ($1.75/$3.50). And the meat sandwiches served with fries are a good deal ($4.95). The yellow Inca Cola ($1.15), kind of like a cream soda, is refreshing, even if the Peruvian product is now owned by Coca-Cola. Don't be put off by the potential for carb-loading here – just pick up some of the spicy meat and pair it with a healthy salad at home.

    Exploring one of the area's small but growing number of ethnic markets is like an adventure into uncharted culinary territory. Even if you don't get double-coupons or a florist center as part of the deal, you'll find everything you need to inspire a home-cooked Spanish feast, or the option for cheap takeout, at La Nacional Hispano American Grocery.

    The sound system is tuned to Spanish pop, and the produce aisles are filled with exotic green plantains, shiny brown yuccas and bright, pumpkin-orange calabaza squash. Head back to the deli for specials like roast chicken, rice, stewed beans, flan and a soda for $4.99.

    The sound system is tuned to Spanish pop, and the produce aisles are filled with exotic green plantains, shiny brown yuccas and bright, pumpkin-orange calabaza squash. Head back to the deli for specials like roast chicken, rice, stewed beans, flan and a soda for $4.99.

    Long rows of Cuban bread dough are laid out, waiting to be baked -- and you get a free loaf with every purchase of $20 or more.

    For the last 10 years, I have been conducting a secret experiment: When traveling to other cities, I seek out Vietnamese restaurants to compare with the ones in Orlando. Unwittingly, restaurants in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C., have been put to the test, and not one of those exalted cities had anything – be it summer rolls, pho or syrupy-sweet coffee – as good as the eateries back home. And now there's a new contender in the Vietnamese paradise on that wonderful stretch of Colonial Drive near Mills Avenue: Lac-Viêt.

    It was hard not to be a bit skeptical about Lac-Viêt, because I wasn't fond of Lemongrass Bistro, the last establishment to occupy the space that for years housed La Normandie. When we walked up to the door just after dusk and crossed under a welcoming gate with a cheerful entrance, I saw that the new occupants have more design sense than any of the previous ones.

    The dining room has been opened up and made brighter, and it smelled like fresh bamboo and steeping lemongrass. I breathed a sigh of relief. The whole room felt altogether more pleasant than it ever had in the past. With sleek wooden chairs, a traditional Vietnamese instrument motif and depictions of Vietnamese scenery adorning the walls, a sense of style has taken the place of what is usually referred to as "character."

    The food was the true test, and it passed with gold stars. We started with the old standby, garden rolls ($2.50), which were fresh and flavorful with plenty of sweet shrimp, basil and a sprinkling of fried shallot. The sweet potato shrimp cakes ($4) – a dish that was new to me – sounded alluring, so we tried those too. Starchy shreds of sweet potato mingled in a tasty batter and married well with fish sauce for dipping. Lotus salad ($9.95), a medley of tender white lotus shoots, fresh herbs and marinated pork with a garnish of fanned shrimp also was delicious. My favorite dish was the seasoned rare beef with tamarind juice ($8.95), served with crunchy shrimp chips and fresh cilantro. This creation was so moving that I am petitioning the city to start a Seasoned Rare Beef With Tamarind Juice Day.

    The pho ($6.95) was outstanding. The one I chose had eye of round, brisket and soft tendon in an exotic, hearty beef broth with tantalizing seasonings – delicate cinnamon, a spark of star anise, the gentle heat of ginger, refreshing mint – toned down and made almost creamy by a large helping of cool rice noodles. The special vermicelli ($9.95) came with a heaping amount of grilled pork, spring rolls, shrimp paste and grilled beef, all absolutely delicious.

    The meal was so exciting that we decided to go for dessert, something I rarely do at Vietnamese restaurants. Soon we were blissfully sipping our avocado fruit shake ($3) and pink jelly with coconut milk ($2.50), nodding agreeably at all the flavors we'd experienced. For days, I couldn't stop thinking about the vast menu and all I hadn't tried. So I went back two days later to test the seafood hot pot for two ($20.95) and the not-to-be-missed house specialty rice crepes ($7.95).

    Orlando is now even further ahead of the rest in my quest to find the city with the very best Vietnamese cuisine.

    Everyone talks about the plethora of Vietnamese cuisine in Orlando, the wide variety of Hispanic restaurants or the strong Indian presence. Now add to our multicultural mix the words "vareniki" and "piroshki," foods from Russia.

    The Lacomka Bakery & Deli in Winter Park is serving up potato dumplings and borscht worthy of a stay at the Summer Palace. Born in Georgia in the Ukraine (did you know that in Soviet Georgia they grow peaches and eat grits?), Luboi Vyazhvich is eager to serve up her handmade cakes or wrap up whole smoked herrings so tender that they spread like pate. Pick up a box of Csar Nicholas Royal Tea or take home some meat and cheese blintzes. The meat case holds authentic Russian sausages and homemade eggplant relish, and the taste of a "Russian melt" chicken sandwich will make you dance the "kazatski" all the way back home.

    For decades, the cafeteria at Florida Hospital Orlando has been a secret arsenal for vegetarians, vegans, the healthy-minded and the broke. The operation is wrapped in the traditions of the hospital system's founding Seventh-day Adventist Church ' a diet free of meat and caffeine being one of those traditions ' but the cafeteria is loaded with meaty and meatless options, most at cheap prices.

    What's always been missing is atmosphere ' the room is pleasant but nothing fancy, though mounted TV screens and fresh tabletop flowers soften the institutional vibe. Still, the panoramic view at the hospital's new Lakeside Café blows away the competition. Sitting at an outdoor table on the terrace, looking out to the east across Lake Estelle, you can see the tree-filled back side of Loch Haven Park and bustling Mills Avenue off in the distance. There's plenty of climate-controlled space inside, as well.

    Inside the café itself, there are a handful of stations where food is ordered and prepared before visitors head for the cashier. The smoothies (blended from scratch, not a mix) were worth the visit alone; my refreshing carrot concoction with ginger root and banana was not too sweet and served slightly chilled ($4.99). At the colorful salad station, the crunchy Thai version with peanut sauce (and more ginger) burst with flavor; a full plate ($4.99) could be a whole meal and the half-plate ($2.99) of any variety (Greek, house, make-your-own) is a steal.

    Paninis ($4.99) seem to be favorites at the sandwich station, which had ample contemporary selections but didn't forget to include a simple chicken salad on an oatmeal bun ($3.99). There are more gourmet options at the flatbread station, and they cooked my choice of cheese and roasted garlic ($5.99) in minutes. Pesto, roasted red pepper and marinara sauces were stocked at the cooked-to-order pasta station. The chocolate cake ($1.89) at the bakery was a little dry, and though I wanted a latte, I passed on the Starbucks in canisters. But the small raspberry sherbet gelato ($2), one of a dozen or so flavors, was berry- rich in taste.

    The long-standing dim sum hot spot cools somewhat in the evening hours, but that doesn’t stop diners craving traditional Cantonese-American from indulging in the copious number of dishes offered. For freshness, look to the tanks teeming with striped bass, tilapia and lobster; otherwise, take your chances with the huge menu. Wor shu duck is a crispy, garlicky winner.


    Teaser: The long-standing dim sum hotspot cools somewhat in the evening hours, but that doesn't stop diners craving traditional Cantonese-American from indulging in the copious number of dishes offered. For freshness, look to the tanks teeming with striped bass, tilapia and lobster; otherwise, take your chances with the huge menu. Wor shu duck is a crispy, garlicky winner.

    You may not have ever sampled the El Salvadoran pupusa, but if you've enjoyed Venezuelan arepas or Mexican gorditas, then you're likely familiar with the Central American nation's most popular food staple. The puffed rounds are such delicious little numbers that every Nov. 13, El Salvador celebrates National Pupusa Day.

    At Las Delicias Grill, the savory pancake-like corn tortilla ($2.50) is stuffed with soft cheese and, optionally, chicharron (ground pork) and refried beans, then grilled and served with a smooth red salsa and crunchy curtido, a type of pickled cabbage akin to sauerkraut. You'll also find heating trays with an assortment of soups and stews ' if you just happen to be suffering from a hangover, the menudo ($5.99) is an appropriate remedy. A clear broth with honeycomb tripe, cassava, potatoes, zucchini and corn on the cob, its heat resuscitates sobriety. You'll also find tasty beef empanadas ($1.99) served with a zingy green hot sauce, tacos and rotisserie chicken.

    The 26-seat pupuseria is a popular spot with Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan men craving home cooking, though it's a little hard to find. Just look for the Las Americas supermarket in the nondescript strip mall on Semoran just south of Lake Underhill, and you'll find it situated in the corner of the plaza, adjacent to the Latin grocer. The scene in front of the eatery resembles a street-corner setting in San Salvador, while inside, pupusa-pacified men shoot stick while wistfully singing to native tunes emanating from the jukebox. Note: Credit cards are not accepted; cash only.

    One of my first international culinary trysts was with Mexican food. In Los Angeles, where I grew up, the lure of a taco stand was never farther away than a nearby side street. Even now, on cool, dry days when the sun is shining, I still crave the simplicity of marinated meat barely wrapped in the skin of a soft corn tortilla – eaten while standing, of course.

    It took me years of testing and trying to discover this same joy in Florida and build up a cache of Mexican places I frequent. When I hear of a new Mexican place, I can't resist checking it out for myself – especially when the owners are Mexican and have a track record, as with Las Margaritas on Semoran Boulevard (aka State Road 436). It was opened in April by Javier Martinez, a man originally from Guadalajara who migrated to the United States at age 17. Although he never worked in the restaurant biz back in Mexico, he was sucked into the chaos of restaurant life after moving here, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up. He now owns three restaurants, two in Port St. Lucie and this new location. How could you not appreciate this man's dedication and hard work?

    But how is the food? Most of it was OK – not as good as I wanted it to be and not quite good enough to live up to my favorite haunts. Still, if you're in the area, it's well worth a try.

    This saffron-colored cottage is inviting on this otherwise desultory stretch of 436. With a plethora of neon signs lighting the windows, it reminds me of a colorful piñata about to burst at the seams. The first time I stepped inside I was shocked to find it so still and silent. My friends and I were the only patrons for the first third of our meal, which was somehow unsettling. I looked around the festive room at the empty wooden chairs engraved with white lilies. The room desperately needed people to complete the scene.

    Las Margaritas claims to focus on food from Jalisco, a coastal region in the west of Mexico. Because of this, they offer more seafood dishes than your average Mexican joint. In fact, our fish and seafood selections were some of the best items we tried. Many of the shrimp dishes are gracefully seasoned and erupting with flavor, like the basic arroz con camaron ($10.95) – shrimp with rice. The subtly spiced marinade brought out the sweet, sharp taste in the delicate pink flesh, paired nicely with aromatic rice.

    For a restaurant that opened with the intention of bringing authentic food to Orlando, they seem to have a lot of perfunctory Americanized selections – why bother with nachos and jalapeño poppers? Or cheeseburgers? And fajitas, although a tasty addition to Mexican-American repertoire, are definitely a Tex-Mex creation.

    Among the dishes I wished I had skipped was the queso flameado ($3.75), which had both the taste and texture of Cheez Whiz, rather than billowy mounds of hot queso blanco.

    A shredded beef taco ($2) came with a stale, hard corn tortilla and was disappointing. The beef was well-seasoned, but looked like something served in a school lunchroom – small grains of meat (and sometimes gristle) clung to each other in a shallow pool of grease. Enchiladas ($8.25) fared better, with shredded beef and real cheese. The mole that smothered this dish was flavorful, but slightly sweet, lacking the spiciness and acidity of a well-balanced dish. One of my friends got the pollo combo ($13.75), which came with garlic sautéed shrimp – the best part of the meal. Unfortunately, the chicken was dry. The refried beans were a tad mealy but full-flavored.

    If you need a reason to go to Las Margaritas, it is to support a man who has worked hard to get where he is today. But don't fool yourself into thinking that this is the most authentic Mexican food available. It's just OK Mexican food served by someone who once ate authentic food on his home turf.

    Take one look at the decor in LaSpada's cafeteria-style eatery, and you'd probably guess they sell cheese steak and hoagies even if you didn't read the full name. Posters of the Rocky films, Phillies memorabilia, New York Yankees hate speech ' the kitschy charm doesn't make a great sandwich, but it helps while you wait for one. 

    The 6-inch steak supreme ($5.75) crams chopped steak, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and white American cheese into a tiny roll, making it a seasoned, cheesy mess that's worth grabbing a fork for. On the cold side, a 6-inch LaSpada's Famous ($5.95) stacks five different meats, including prosciutto and capicola, on provolone cheese and vegetables, creating a sandwich that's tasty but challenging thanks to the super-salty cold cuts. Sides include a couple of homemade salads for 95 cents each: The potato is sadly bland, but you may want to grab a large portion of the creamy macaroni.

    'I feel like a 5-year-old!â?� says my wife, who, though certainly young, has at least graduated from kindergarten.

    Dwarfed by the epic-sized slices of pizza at Lazy Moon Pizza (12269 University Blvd., 407-658-2396), she was reminded what it's like to be a miniature person, when everything seems outsized. The wide variety of toppings make for endless flavor combinations, but it's the thin, crispy crust that allows one to devour these ridiculously mammoth pieces without exploding. (And, with the honey decanters on the table, it also makes for a cheap dessert.)

    The collegiate crowd that packs the place for said slices is able to wash down the pizza with an impressive selection of imports and microbrews, and the soups and salads on offer put Lazy Moon quite a few notches above the average pies-and-beer joints that dot college campuses. Keep in mind, however, that the median age of the UCF clientele may have some of you feeling the opposite of 'young.â?�

    Claude and Chantal Wolff’s unassuming cafe on the fringes of Dr. Phillips may not conjure up images of enjoying lattes and croque monsieurs on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, but it won’t conjure up images of pouty, mustachioed servers dishing out attitude along with the chocolate croissants either. The Wolffs are so genuinely charming and exuberantly welcoming that you’d think they’re out to single-handedly undo France’s reputation for brusque, splenetic service.

    Claude, it seems, takes it upon himself to personally greet every customer, while Chantal, though somewhat limited in her proficiency of the English language, perpetually beams as she preps soups, sandwiches and salads behind the counter. The French quarters here are cramped: The handful of tiny tables can sometimes make for a near-mob scene, and the tables outside fill up quickly. But there’s good reason for it – the savory sandwiches.

    Le Café de Paris’ secret lies in the baguettes, which Claude flies in daily from a small village in his home région of Lorraine. So whether you opt to layer your baguette with ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato (as in the croque monsieur – $5.95), or with butter, brie cheese and tomato (as in the Le Parisien – $5.95), it’s really hard to go wrong. The pan bagna chicken ($6.50), a livelier version of the chicken salad sandwich with black olives, is so named because the bread (pan) is usually bathed (bagna) in olive oil, but because many patrons here don’t have a palate for huile-dressed bread, Chantal will only brush the oil on by request. I enjoyed the enormous sandwich, which was cut into three filling diagonals, but I would’ve preferred a side of potato salad instead of a bag of Lays potato chips.

    Though the quiche (as well as all tarts and pastries) is prepared by a good friend of Claude’s, the outsourcing hasn’t affected the taste any. The fluffy core of eggy quiche Lorraine ($5.50) is accentuated with bacon and ham and walled by marvelous crust. Vegetarians will enjoy a more intensely flavored version with spinach, broccoli and cheese ($5.50), but if you’re up for a high-caloric intake, the tartiflette ($5.50) with potato, eggs, bacon and cheese will disprove the claim that real men don’t eat quiche.

    Chantal’s salad du jour ($6.95), on this visit a Niçoise-like salad sans hard-boiled eggs, was a humdrum assemblage of green beans, cucumbers, black olives, onions and thin tomato slices with a dollop of canned tuna occupying the core of a large plate. Tomato bisque ($3.95), though a tad salty, was perfectly rich and creamy, while chicken soup ($3.95), with its pungent oniony broth teeming with carrots, celery, thick noodles and morsels of chicken, proffered one comforting slurp after another.

    I’ve always been partial to chocolate croissants ($1.90), and the flaky rectangles served here are buttery indulgences. The only issue I had with the crème brûlée ($3.38) was the consistency – more runny than custardy – but the wonderful essence of vanilla bean had me scooping the bowl clean. The flaky peach tart square ($4.50) would’ve been better served warm, a request I later realized I could’ve made. A thick chocolate chip cookie ($1.50) goes well with any of their espresso-based coffees, which Claude is more than happy to refill au gratis should the mood strike him.

    In France, I quickly learned that conversing in the native language, or at least making an effort, resulted in pleasant experiences and favorable outcomes. At Le Café de Paris, a similar approach may tip the balance in your favor, though the Wolffs are so affable, they seem to extend their hospitable generosity to just about everyone.

    When I go to a fancy French restaurant, I expect to pay a lot of money. It's part of the whole experience: Exquisite food, first-rate service, hushed atmosphere, and a bill that makes me flinch.

    So, I was taken aback when my guest and I received a relatively modest tab at Le Coq au Vin. Our dinner, including two appetizers and two entrees, plus dessert -- came down to just $52.74, including taxes. And we could have gotten off cheaper if we had ordered half-portions of entrees, which are half-priced, plus $2.

    In spite of the manageable bill, it still was an incredible dinner. We started off with a traditional onion soup, gratinee au cide ($5). It was, hands down, the most exceptional onion soup we've ever experienced. Sweetened with apple cider, cream and gruyere cheese, it had a bit of a nutty flavor.

    We also sampled a gorgeous vegetable pastry, feuilette de legumes ($5.75), a phyllo-dough affair, embedded with toasted sesame seeds, and baked with a filling of finely hopped vegetables, cheddar cheese, tarragon and basil. The whole effect was light, crispy and delicious.

    Our dinners also were enticing, particularly le grouper bronze aux dix epices ($16). This was a beautiful fillet encrusted with toasted pecans and spices, then bronzed in a cast-iron skillet and bathed in citrus beurre blanc. My guest had a black angus steak ($18) that surpassed all expectations; it was a primal experience. Center-cut for tenderness and cooked to medium perfection, there was a touch of blush to the meat, served with a potent dollop of creamy peppercorn sauce. On the side, buttery caviar potatoes were the perfect complement to both of our dinners, crowned with puffs of sour cream and dots of caviar.

    Afterward, we immersed ourselves in Grand Marnier soufflé ($5). It was the picture of grace, rising high over the dish and glazed golden brown. Drenched with liqueur it was pure heaven, enhanced by lemony undertones.

    Service was professional, but not quite as polished as we had come to expect based on previous visits. Yet our waitress seemed sincere in her desire to be thorough.

    Le Coq au Vin is a bit of an enigma. It's oddly located on a stretch of Orange Avenue that includes convenience stores and used car lots. But its saving grace is that it consistently serves some of the best country French cuisine in Orlando, if not all of Florida.

    We didn't expect to be greeted with a remote beeper and a 20-minute wait for a table when we arrived at Le Peep on a Saturday morning. But then, it was our first visit, and those who live in the Bay Hill/Dr. Phillips area were way ahead of us. In fact, Le Peep has been packing them in for 12 years at the intersection of Kirkman and Conroy/Windermere roads.

    Le Peep was originally an upscale Aspen breakfast spot, founded by a ski buff who wanted to pay the bills and hit the slopes in the afternoon. As the restaurant has expanded into a national chain, some of the individual charm has given way to formulas and concepts. The menu reads like a series of cutesy one-liners, many of them trademarked, like the "pampered eggs," "berry patch waffles," "Sir Benedict omelettes" and "proud bird" chicken sandwiches.

    Le Peep was originally an upscale Aspen breakfast spot, founded by a ski buff who wanted to pay the bills and hit the slopes in the afternoon. As the restaurant has expanded into a national chain, some of the individual charm has given way to formulas and concepts. The menu reads like a series of cutesy one-liners, many of them trademarked, like the "pampered eggs," "berry patch waffles," "Sir Benedict omelettes" and "proud bird" chicken sandwiches.

    We were won over by the muffins. "Gooey buns" ($1.95) are nothing like they sound. They're actually English muffins transformed into toasted-brown-sugar-and-cinnamon rolls, and served with a dollop of cream cheese and a side of baked apples.

    We were won over by the muffins. "Gooey buns" ($1.95) are nothing like they sound. They're actually English muffins transformed into toasted-brown-sugar-and-cinnamon rolls, and served with a dollop of cream cheese and a side of baked apples.

    The dining area is a step up from a Denny's or a Perkins, with patio seating and umbrellas over some of the tables. Every table was filled, so the waiters were on their toes. But with an ever-present crowd of people waiting in line out front, there was understandably more emphasis on turning tables than encouraging customers to linger.

    The dining area is a step up from a Denny's or a Perkins, with patio seating and umbrellas over some of the tables. Every table was filled, so the waiters were on their toes. But with an ever-present crowd of people waiting in line out front, there was understandably more emphasis on turning tables than encouraging customers to linger.

    With dozens of combinations of omelets, skillet dishes, French toast, Belgian waffles and pancakes, there's something for everyone here. Some of it is original, like the "granola blues" pancakes that have crunch thanks to the blueberry granola ($4.55). But even better are the pancakes textured with sliced bananas and crumbled Southern pecans ($4.15).

    With dozens of combinations of omelets, skillet dishes, French toast, Belgian waffles and pancakes, there's something for everyone here. Some of it is original, like the "granola blues" pancakes that have crunch thanks to the blueberry granola ($4.55). But even better are the pancakes textured with sliced bananas and crumbled Southern pecans ($4.15).

    By comparison, "original French toast" ($4.50) isn't as exciting as the menu's detailed description. The thick slices of Vienna bread, soaked in custard batter and grilled until light and golden, taste like plain old French toast.

    By comparison, "original French toast" ($4.50) isn't as exciting as the menu's detailed description. The thick slices of Vienna bread, soaked in custard batter and grilled until light and golden, taste like plain old French toast.

    Many items are featured with hollandaise sauce, and a little bit of caution might be in order here. A heavy helping of the sauce weighed down an otherwise fine seafood skillet crepe ($6.15), which was filled with crabmeat, broccoli and veggies. On the side, "peasant potatoes" were a lame rendition of diced potatoes that tasted dry and flavorless.

    Many items are featured with hollandaise sauce, and a little bit of caution might be in order here. A heavy helping of the sauce weighed down an otherwise fine seafood skillet crepe ($6.15), which was filled with crabmeat, broccoli and veggies. On the side, "peasant potatoes" were a lame rendition of diced potatoes that tasted dry and flavorless.

    The "light" omelets are quite good, made with whipped egg-whites and light cheddar cheese. We liked "white lightning" ($6.15), a Southwestern version with chicken, green chiles and guacamole.

    The "light" omelets are quite good, made with whipped egg-whites and light cheddar cheese. We liked "white lightning" ($6.15), a Southwestern version with chicken, green chiles and guacamole.

    And if you're a fan of fresh-squeezed orange juice, Le Peep offers one of the best deals in town. A half-liter carafe ($2.95) easily serves two, and then some.

    And if you're a fan of fresh-squeezed orange juice, Le Peep offers one of the best deals in town. A half-liter carafe ($2.95) easily serves two, and then some.

    With its wide variety of breakfast and brunch meals, Le Peep fills a niche in the high-traffic area. But there isn't anything new going on here that would drive hungry brunchers to traveling extremes.

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