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As one might expect, the N. Park Ave. Deli & Food Mart is on the famous Park Avenue in Winter Park. But it's on NORTH Park Avenue, the more unsightly other end of the spectrum than the chichi shops. For years, the previous owners – Anna Federer, a native Hungarian, and her husband – made their mark by offering hot goulash, among the other ethnic recipes, in the deli behind the counter of what's really a convenience store. Now retired, the Federers still own the building but a new couple is carrying on the tradition, sans goulash.

Still, the deli carries an interesting menu of cheap sandwiches and subs. A healthy egg salad on wheat with lettuce and tomatoes costs $3.19. Or take home a pound of the egg salad for $4.19. The hefty hummus and tabouli on a wrap was $4.99. The tabouli tasted a bit different than the typical varieties sold about town; this version was thick with moist bulgur wheat and thoroughly infused with the lemon juice and olive oil. It was full of flavor.

The deli also prepares the usual varieties of cold or hot sandwiches ($4.79-$5.19), from a fried chicken sandwich with fries to a tuna melt on pita. The Reuben sampled was prepared and heated in style, but there was a non-discussed substitution of cheddar cheese for Swiss. The fries were a wonder, though, thick and crispy, cooked in an auto-fry machine just for me.

The deli sits a block before North Park merges into U.S. Hwy. 17-92, near Maitland, so it's tucked off the main road and looks a bit junky, unless you're a local who knows better. And after hours, don't be shocked by the sight of the metal security gates that all but obscure the front of the store.

We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the N.Y.P.D. Pizza & Delicatessen on Orange Avenue.

Among the glut of fast-food joints and chain restaurants of every conceivable category littering the thoroughfares of the attractions area, there’s a smattering of mom-and-pop eateries freeing jaded locals (and quite a few perspicacious tourists) from the bonds of culinary mediocrity. Case in point: Nacho’s Grill. The outlet mall–area venue is attracting a loyal patronage for its pan-Latin delicacies, the majority of which fall in the categories of Cuban and Mexican cuisine. It may not be in the most prominent locale (look for the end unit of a small strip mall next to the Outback Steakhouse), but that just brings it all the closer to hidden-gem status.

Application of the keep-it-simple principle is always a beneficial trait, and owner Gerardo Muñoz’s uncluttered menu allows his able all-Mexican kitchen staff to execute dishes with skill and alacrity. No sooner had I ordered the maduro relleno ($4.99) than a plate of sweet caramelized plantains atop Creole-sauced ground sirloin had me chowing down. Sopa de pollo ($5.99) had all the properties of a comforting soup – invigorating broth, morsels of flaky chicken breast, potatoes, pasta, cilantro and fresh onion – it almost seemed a shame I wasn’t feeling under the weather. Also good was the empanada ($1.99); the seasoned beef turnover with a thick crust resembled a Jamaican beef patty more than it did its South American cousin. Be sure to ask for the house hot sauce made with fiery “Japanese” peppers, or so they’re known in Chihuahua.

In the “Puerto Vallarta” ($12.99), a liberal dose of that hot sauce is a must. The combo dinner comprises a gooey cheese enchilada, chicken taco and beef tostada, along with a heap of pinto beans and yellow rice flecked with corn, peas and green beans. The taco started off crispy but quickly disintegrated into a soggy mush. The tostada held up to the meaty heft and was by far the best of the three.

Miamians in town hitting the theme parks will appreciate the tang of the bistec de palomilla ($12.99), a top-round cut pounded flat, marinated in citrus and slathered with grilled onions and cilantro. The beef was juicy and tender, but finishing the immense portion tests intake abilities. No matter – take the leftovers home and make a sandwich.

The kitchen also will prepare seafood paella for two ($44.99) – just enjoy a good 20 minutes of conversation over a carafe of sangria ($22) while you wait. And you can be sure that Muñoz and his wife, Adela, will come by to tend to any needs – they’re a pleasant pair and know the importance of customer service.

Muñoz prepares the two house desserts from scratch, and while the slab of creamy tres leches ($5.99) proved too sweet for my tooth, the flan ($4.99), with plenty of sugary nectar to soak every bite, was outstanding. In fact, the custard was so completely infused with caramel that it took on a burnt orange-brown hue.

Just as colorful are the restaurant’s digs. Papaya- and teal-colored walls mix with an equally vibrant display of caricatures, celeb photographs, travel posters and some truly surreal paintings. Then again, when the food is this dreamy, that’s hardly a surprise.

Some pubs in Ireland keep a rack behind the bar for personalized beer mugs -- sort of an incentive for steady guests and a companionable gesture. Why don't other establishments do that -- personalized chili sauce dispensers at Thai House? Monogrammed bibs at O-Boys?

Nagoya Sushi has the idea, with a rack of labeled chopstick holders by the front door. Owner Jenny Tay Lu says it lets her get closer to frequent visitors and saves a tree or two.

Nagoya Sushi has the idea, with a rack of labeled chopstick holders by the front door. Owner Jenny Tay Lu says it lets her get closer to frequent visitors and saves a tree or two.

Nagoya the city is dead center in the island of Japan and is a cultural and economic hub. Nagoya the restaurant isn't in the center of anything, tucked away in a MetroWest shopping center. But judging by the rows of chopsticks, it attracts a loyal following. Lu's husband, Danny, can be found behind the sushi bar, along with his brother, Calvin, creating masterpieces from deep-red tuna, paper-thin cucumber, neon-orange fish eggs and translucent yellowtail.

Nagoya the city is dead center in the island of Japan and is a cultural and economic hub. Nagoya the restaurant isn't in the center of anything, tucked away in a MetroWest shopping center. But judging by the rows of chopsticks, it attracts a loyal following. Lu's husband, Danny, can be found behind the sushi bar, along with his brother, Calvin, creating masterpieces from deep-red tuna, paper-thin cucumber, neon-orange fish eggs and translucent yellowtail.

There's a view of the action from the booths and tables in the relatively small place, but give yourself a treat and sit at the bar. Watch Calvin slide his knife across the grain of fatty salmon (let it melt on your tongue), as well as chop pickled mackerel and slice slivers of tender octopus for the chirashi bowl ($16.95). Dobinmushi ($4.95) is seafood soup steamed (mushi) in a little teapot (dobin) and served with a tiny cup. Danny peeked his head over the counter to see if we liked it. And we did.

There's a view of the action from the booths and tables in the relatively small place, but give yourself a treat and sit at the bar. Watch Calvin slide his knife across the grain of fatty salmon (let it melt on your tongue), as well as chop pickled mackerel and slice slivers of tender octopus for the chirashi bowl ($16.95). Dobinmushi ($4.95) is seafood soup steamed (mushi) in a little teapot (dobin) and served with a tiny cup. Danny peeked his head over the counter to see if we liked it. And we did.

I adore grilled eel but hadn't tried grilled lobster sushi (ise ebi; $3.75) -- now it's a new favorite. Try the miso eggplant ($4.95), a stubby eggplant-half covered in sweet miso sauce that caramelizes under the grill -- a simple but extraordinary dish. Miso shows up again on tender pan-fried scallops ($14.95), which would have been more exciting if I hadn't had the eggplant, too. Pick one or the other and enjoy.

I adore grilled eel but hadn't tried grilled lobster sushi (ise ebi; $3.75) -- now it's a new favorite. Try the miso eggplant ($4.95), a stubby eggplant-half covered in sweet miso sauce that caramelizes under the grill -- a simple but extraordinary dish. Miso shows up again on tender pan-fried scallops ($14.95), which would have been more exciting if I hadn't had the eggplant, too. Pick one or the other and enjoy.

The owners successfully play with flavor and color combinations. The flamboyant "New York roll" ($8.95) combines pale hamachi (young yellowtail) with tuna, salmon, avocado and flying-fish roe. Tender shrimp peek through baked mango like crustaceans swimming in a sweet ocean for the "mango shrimp" entree ($15.95). There are several beautiful vegetable rolls -- bright-green asparagus, avocado and cucumber ($3.25), or a dark and spicy kimchi ($2.95).

The owners successfully play with flavor and color combinations. The flamboyant "New York roll" ($8.95) combines pale hamachi (young yellowtail) with tuna, salmon, avocado and flying-fish roe. Tender shrimp peek through baked mango like crustaceans swimming in a sweet ocean for the "mango shrimp" entree ($15.95). There are several beautiful vegetable rolls -- bright-green asparagus, avocado and cucumber ($3.25), or a dark and spicy kimchi ($2.95).

The sushi rice -- a recipe Jenny Lu brought from her former restaurant in Manhattan -- is as tasty a starch as you'll find anywhere. Which means it's about as good as everything else at Nagoya. Go several times, earn your chopsticks.

California wine-country cooking gets the local treatment in the signature dining room of the handsome new Peabody hotel. A daily-changing "taste of the valley" starter offers a worthy intro to NoCal cuisine, but to pass on the Meyer Ranch filet is to deny oneself a singular gastronomic pleasure. Portions are controlled enough to enjoy desserts without second thoughts.


Teaser: California wine-country cooking gets the local treatment inside the the signature dining room of the handsome new Peabody. A daily-changing "taste of the valley" starter offers a worthy intro to NoCal cuisine, but to pass on the Meyer Ranch filet is to deny oneself a singular gastronomic pleasure. Portions are controlled enough to enjoy desserts without second thoughts.

While there is a host -- nay, horde -- of sushi bars within walking distance of Lake Eola, we haven't seen very much Thai food downtown, which is odd considering how much pad Thai can be found elsewhere.

One of the places known for that sweet, sticky rice-noodle dish is Thai Cuisine on Edgewater Drive. This was where my partner and I had our first chicken sate and spring rolls together, and I remember the food cooked by its original owners (since changed) quite fondly. Those owners, it turns out, were the parents of the young people who opened Sawadee Thai on Kirkman in 2001, a restaurant I quite liked. Now those (still) young folks, lead by Odum Ketsatha and his wife, Kanjana, have moved to Pine Street and brought the flavors of Siam to the old Le Provence building in the form of Napasorn Thai.

One of the places known for that sweet, sticky rice-noodle dish is Thai Cuisine on Edgewater Drive. This was where my partner and I had our first chicken sate and spring rolls together, and I remember the food cooked by its original owners (since changed) quite fondly. Those owners, it turns out, were the parents of the young people who opened Sawadee Thai on Kirkman in 2001, a restaurant I quite liked. Now those (still) young folks, lead by Odum Ketsatha and his wife, Kanjana, have moved to Pine Street and brought the flavors of Siam to the old Le Provence building in the form of Napasorn Thai.

Not much has been changed inside, aside from a new color scheme for the two-level room, a new bar and a complete overhaul of the kitchen, run by Ketsatha's Uncle Damri. ("Thai cooking is very different from French," Uncle Damri tells me.) The menu isn't 100 percent Thai, with smatterings of Chinese (a dark-brothed and savory wonton soup with plump dumplings for $3.50), Japanese gyoza and a good but not stellar sushi menu.

Not much has been changed inside, aside from a new color scheme for the two-level room, a new bar and a complete overhaul of the kitchen, run by Ketsatha's Uncle Damri. ("Thai cooking is very different from French," Uncle Damri tells me.) The menu isn't 100 percent Thai, with smatterings of Chinese (a dark-brothed and savory wonton soup with plump dumplings for $3.50), Japanese gyoza and a good but not stellar sushi menu.

Appetizers are both authentic and jazzed-up. The crispy spring rolls ($3.95) are stuffed with ground chicken and a coleslaw-like shredding of vegetables, both crisp and mellow. The "cheese roll crisp," on the other hand ($3.95), finds cream cheese and tiny bits of shrimp inside the wrap, and I'm still not sure if I liked it or not, but it's different. Most traditional is "sate gai" ($5.95), rich, peanut-sauced chicken slices on a skewer.

Appetizers are both authentic and jazzed-up. The crispy spring rolls ($3.95) are stuffed with ground chicken and a coleslaw-like shredding of vegetables, both crisp and mellow. The "cheese roll crisp," on the other hand ($3.95), finds cream cheese and tiny bits of shrimp inside the wrap, and I'm still not sure if I liked it or not, but it's different. Most traditional is "sate gai" ($5.95), rich, peanut-sauced chicken slices on a skewer.

My favorite carryover from the Sawadee days is the basil duck dish ($15.95), a savory combination of dark duck meat and spinach-like basil leaves that now features mushrooms and peppers added to the lime-and-basil flavored sauce. Also a treat is "garlic and pepper meat" ($9.95), your choice of beef or chicken ($2 more for seafood) with a tang of spicy garlic, spicier black pepper and even spicier sauce that sneaks up on you until the sweat is pouring. I wasn't as impressed with the "madsa mahn" curry ($10.95), a dish from Islamic south Thailand that is usually loaded with potatoes which here seemed to have cooked down to a thick paste. Still, the combination of roasted peanuts and tender chicken was enjoyable.

My favorite carryover from the Sawadee days is the basil duck dish ($15.95), a savory combination of dark duck meat and spinach-like basil leaves that now features mushrooms and peppers added to the lime-and-basil flavored sauce. Also a treat is "garlic and pepper meat" ($9.95), your choice of beef or chicken ($2 more for seafood) with a tang of spicy garlic, spicier black pepper and even spicier sauce that sneaks up on you until the sweat is pouring. I wasn't as impressed with the "madsa mahn" curry ($10.95), a dish from Islamic south Thailand that is usually loaded with potatoes which here seemed to have cooked down to a thick paste. Still, the combination of roasted peanuts and tender chicken was enjoyable.

Napasorn is both a welcome addition to the downtown food scene and a chance to eat Uncle Damri's great cooking a lot closer to home.

Coffee and Internet access: They go together like skateboards and beer. Nothing like answering important e-mail while throwing back your third espresso.

While just about every caffeine pusher in town is also a wireless connection hotspot, the folks at Natura Coffee & Tea brew what they consider the finest beans available: from Cafe Britt, a Costa Rican company that supplies green (unroasted) coffee to Starbucks, Barnies and illy. Go right to the source, we say, and sample grinds like Shade Grown Organic and Tarrazú Montecielo.

While just about every caffeine pusher in town is also a wireless connection hotspot, the folks at Natura Coffee & Tea brew what they consider the finest beans available: from Cafe Britt, a Costa Rican company that supplies green (unroasted) coffee to Starbucks, Barnies and illy. Go right to the source, we say, and sample grinds like Shade Grown Organic and Tarrazú Montecielo.

Natura also serves Sir Aubrey's English teas for those with a more refined taste, along with quiche, croissants and sweet treats like brownies and cheesecake. The techno-hungry can satisfy their jones on Dell workstations and a T1/broadband Internet connection, along with high-speed wireless access from the comfy sofa.

By now, most of us have been initiated into the carnivorous merry-go-round of the Brazilian steakhouse, or churrascaria ' whet your appetite at an enormous salad bar, then take your pick of meaty cuts served by puffy-pants-wearing gauchos brandishing blades dressed with succulent beef, chicken and pork. It's a belly-busting (and wallet-draining) affair, to be sure, but if you can't taste the quality in the meats, especially the cuts of beef, the $37.95 you drop may seem like a big waste when it's all said and done.

Nelore, a polished restaurant in the space once occupied by Allegria Wine Bar, bridges the gap between quality and quantity, but doesn't quite reach the beefy heights attained by high-end steakhouses. Fact is, you're not going to find Capital Grille or Del Frisco's quality meat at an all-you-can-eat churrascaria, so lowering expectations is an inevitable part of the rodizio experience.

The area housing the 'salad bar� is enormous, and many of the items offered (40, to be exact) were superbly fresh ' crisp hearts of palm and asparagus, beet orbs, artichoke hearts and salmon to name a few. I've known people who've gone to Nelore (named after the Nelore cattle breed) just for the salad bar, which is a steal for $9.95 at lunchtime ($17.95 for dinner). Cauldrons of black beans, rice, yuca, mashed potatoes and, on the night I visited, tomato basil bisque were also offered. Cheese bread and fried yuca were then presented seconds before the first round of hit-and-miss meats made their way to our table. Things started off nicely with the salty sirloin and picanha (rump roast), but subsequent cuts of flank, filet mignon (which also comes wrapped in bacon) and the rib-eye all tasted much the same. The seasonings were Spartan ' just a little sea salt 'resulting in a sometimes lackluster flavor. I headed to the salad bar and poured myself a bowl of chimichurri as a dip for the meats, and that helped to liven the flavors. The filet and rib-eye, it should be noted, were way overcooked, though the friendly, accommodating gauchos are more than willing to get you cuts cooked to your liking. I did like the tender garlic beef and the fatty, flavorful ribs (both beef and pork are offered); the sausages had a proper kick. Chicken drumsticks came crisp and smoky, but were just OK. Gamy and off-putting, the lamb chops were a big disappointment ' one bite was more than enough. We never did get to see the parmesan pork or the leg of lamb, but we were pretty well finished eating anyway. 

Park Avenue's upscale environs likely played a role in the omission of offal from the menu ' no blood sausage, chicken hearts, sweetbreads, kidneys or intestines. The interior, however, plays right into the hands of the sophisticated clientele the restaurant hopes to attract. It's a beautiful space that made me think of a contemporary lodge, with wrought-iron chandeliers and wood chair rails making lovely accents. Just as lovely was the pitcher of sangria teeming with fruit, but house-made desserts failed to impress us. Papaya cream ($7.50), while refreshing, was a bland ending, even with a splash of crème de cassis (black currant liqueur). The gooey chocolate truffle known as brigadeiro ($6.50) fared better, with condensed milk and butter adding a caramel-like consistency.

And consistency is key. Without it, Nelore's corral is less than golden.

Given the scores of Brazilians visiting Orlando, it’s no surprise that businesses catering to this demographic have popped up all over the tourist sector. On the corner of I-Drive and Municipal Drive sits an eyesore of a strip mall, but it’s a sight for sore eyes for homesick Brasileiros. Anchored by a sizable Brazilian supermarket and a spacious cafeteria-style restaurant, the complex’s true hidden gems veer toward the sweeter side. Netto Ice Cream specializes in Brazilian gelato – a scoop of the cheese-and-guava (the most popular flavor among Brazilians) is worth the drive alone. Also worth sampling are espresso coffee, roasted coconut, dulce de leche and banana, the latter enhanced with a drizzle of guava syrup. They’re exotic, but don’t let that preclude you from trying the raisin wine, corn or plum rum flavors.

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