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The slightly funky location at Orange Avenue and Wall Street rescues this streetside eatery from too-calculated hipness. Basic Tex-Mex fried favorites are heaped with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream and are absolutely delicious. Salads and grilled sandwiches round out the offerings


Teaser: The slightly funky location at Orange Avenue and Wall Street rescues this streetside eatery from too-calculated hipness. Basic Tex-Mex fried favorites are heaped with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream and are absolutely delicious. Salads and grilled sandwiches round out the offerings.
Special occasions, from New Year’s Eve to Oktoberfest, belong to this cantina-themed meeting place for the masses. Located at the epicenter of downtown Orlando, and always throbbing with music, booze and vitality, Wall St. Plaza and its eight venues take up an entire city block, but it’s easy to navigate, heavy on the drink specials and stocked with eye candy for all.
The fare coming out of the kitchen of this lakeside bar/restaurant isn’t just a notch above its Julie’s Waterfront days, but downright impressive. Korean pork belly with house kimchi, sesame-crusted ahi tuna with seaweed salad, and tuna poké bring an undeniable Asian bent to the menu, but fish camp classics like blackened catfish and stellar fish (haddock) and chips are worth consideration. The cheeseburger is a knockout.

Sooner or later, chances are you'll end up at White Wolf Cafe on a Saturday night. It might be to catch a cappuccino and dessert after a show at Theatre Downtown, which is right up the block. Or maybe to celebrate a special occasion with a group of friends around one of the bigger tables. From an outdoor vantage, you can watch activity along the strip of Orange Avenue that's an artsy jumble of antique and gift stores. There are a half dozen marble-top tables outside on the sidewalk, buffered from traffic by rows of potted plants.

This antique-market-turned-cafe on the fringes of downtown has become a landmark hangout since opening in 1991, known for its quirky, romantic setting and its easy pace. The comfortable clutter of antique armoires, framed photographs, books and chandeliers add more than ambience. If you like a piece of furniture, the restaurant will likely sell it to you.

Evening entertainment on Thursdays through Saturdays, usually an acoustic guitarist, helps to set the scene that's suitable for drinks as well as full-blown dinner. The eclectic menu includes vegetarian burgers, Middle Eastern mango-nut tabouli, low-fat focaccia pizzas and Moroccan chicken salad with almonds, raisins and bananas.

Inconsistency has been a recurring problem, which we experienced on our visit. Our meal got off to a great start when we took our waitress' recommendation for the "bianca lavosh" ($7.50), a whisper-thin cracker-crust pizza, topped with delicate portions of mozzarella, Romano, spinach, tomato and feta. Brushed with olive oil and dusted with minced garlic, it was sizzling, steamy and delicious.

For entrees, our waitress urged us to try the popular three-cheese lasagna ($9.95), as well as chicken and mozzarella brioche ($10.95). We were stunned when less than five minutes later, we had both dishes at our table. But the outside of the lasagna was only vaguely warm and the inside was cool -- it obviously had not been prepared to order. Had it been served fresh, it surely would have been a winner. The flavors were lively and multidimensional, and there was plenty of mozzarella and ricotta.

We flagged down the waitress, who by now was overwhelmed with more customers and tables than anyone should have to manage. She offered to take the lasagna back to the kitchen to be warmed up, but it was a good 10 minutes before she returned with it.

By then, we were finished with the brioche, which was a delicately seasoned chicken breast, baked inside a baguette of French bread with melted mozzarella. Everything that was good about this dish seemed to get lost in the excessive portion of bread. The menu promised it would be "smothered" with marinara, but the portion of sauce was too slim to make an impact.

White Wolf Cafe generally does an outstanding job with its mousses, layer cakes, cheesecakes and tortes. On the night we visited, apple pie a la mode ($5.25) was no exception. The crust had a brown-sugar/cinnamon bite, and the baked-apple filling was sweet and decadent. Vanilla-bean ice cream melted dreamily over it all.

Although White Wolf Cafe's wait staff is generally friendly, that doesn't make up for requests not being met in a timely manner. But the atmosphere is charming and relaxed enough that this small restaurant will remain a favorite midtown destination. Keep in mind that the noise volume inside can be too high for relaxed conversation during peak periods and especially when there's entertainment.

The new Whole Foods Market is a great stop for a quick bite, and not just because of the free samples -- from chocolates to cheeses, fresh-baked sunflower loaves to black-bean hummus. It's a different food-gathering experience altogether.

With background swing music, Utne Readers at the check-out and booth-seating at the front, it's the kind of market that we didn't know we were missing. The deli has an impressive display of takeout delicacies: saffron-yellow paella primavera ($4.59/lb.); grilled portobello mushrooms ($10.99/lb.); oriental sea bass with ginger, honey and pineapple ($14.99/lb.), and more. Plus, the smoothie counter offers an array of liquid energizers, including espresso shots (95 cents). Try "OrangeMango Madness ($3.50)," filled with chunky, organic mangoes.

If you want to start an argument at a table full of men, don't bother questioning religious beliefs, views on women or slamming the local football team. Ask them about the best way to barbecue.

And we're not even talking about Korean bulgogi, Indian tandoori or Spanish churrasco. No, this debate is between Texas brisket and Memphis pulled pig, Kansas City spareribs or North Carolina pork, wet cooking or dry rub. When the Wild-horse Saloon at Disney was focused on food, the chef was a dry-rubbed fanatic, which made for eye-rollingly superb food. Now that Wildfires has opened downtown, it looks like we have a winner again.

And we're not even talking about Korean bulgogi, Indian tandoori or Spanish churrasco. No, this debate is between Texas brisket and Memphis pulled pig, Kansas City spareribs or North Carolina pork, wet cooking or dry rub. When the Wild-horse Saloon at Disney was focused on food, the chef was a dry-rubbed fanatic, which made for eye-rollingly superb food. Now that Wildfires has opened downtown, it looks like we have a winner again.

The corner place on Washington Street used to be an Out of Hand Burrito Stand, which took over for the similar Chez Jose. Now a group led by Rosario Poma (Pacino's, Wise Guys of Chicago, Key W. Kools), who was connected with the XS Orlando restaurant when it first opened, has brought smoke to Thornton Park, and where there's smoke ...

The corner place on Washington Street used to be an Out of Hand Burrito Stand, which took over for the similar Chez Jose. Now a group led by Rosario Poma (Pacino's, Wise Guys of Chicago, Key W. Kools), who was connected with the XS Orlando restaurant when it first opened, has brought smoke to Thornton Park, and where there's smoke ...

You won't be terribly shocked by the menu, although a few things go beyond ribs 'n' bird, like smoked portobella sandwiches ($5.95) and fried shrimp ($8.95). Please avoid the chicken crostini appetizer: While the meat is fine, the bread, which by definition should be crunchy, is so limp that a fork is mandatory.

You won't be terribly shocked by the menu, although a few things go beyond ribs 'n' bird, like smoked portobella sandwiches ($5.95) and fried shrimp ($8.95). Please avoid the chicken crostini appetizer: While the meat is fine, the bread, which by definition should be crunchy, is so limp that a fork is mandatory.

But you don't go to a kosher deli and order a ham sandwich, and you don't go to a smokehouse for bread -- you go for ribs! From a half-rack for $6.40 to the rib, chicken and pork "sampler" for $11.95, these babies are a good definition of barbecue. Dry rubbing takes hours before the slow heat and dense smoke cooks the meat, leaving a crust of spices and a mellow, dark taste. Don't smother them with sauce, even though it's available.

But you don't go to a kosher deli and order a ham sandwich, and you don't go to a smokehouse for bread -- you go for ribs! From a half-rack for $6.40 to the rib, chicken and pork "sampler" for $11.95, these babies are a good definition of barbecue. Dry rubbing takes hours before the slow heat and dense smoke cooks the meat, leaving a crust of spices and a mellow, dark taste. Don't smother them with sauce, even though it's available.

If you're not interested in meat, there are a couple of fish items on the menu. The oak-grilled mahi ($12.95) is a tasty bit of tender, juicy fish, but you will look over at the servings of your more carnivorous tablemates and wonder what you did wrong: They have massive, overflowing portions and you have a sliver of a meal by comparison. The corn and tomato salsa that accompanies the fish is an unfortunately boring choice, lacking both flavor and interest.

If you're not interested in meat, there are a couple of fish items on the menu. The oak-grilled mahi ($12.95) is a tasty bit of tender, juicy fish, but you will look over at the servings of your more carnivorous tablemates and wonder what you did wrong: They have massive, overflowing portions and you have a sliver of a meal by comparison. The corn and tomato salsa that accompanies the fish is an unfortunately boring choice, lacking both flavor and interest.

But if you order the chicken, you'll know you're on to something. The firm and juicy meat is sweet from smoke -- almost apple-tasting -- and falls apart in your hand ($7.95 for a half bird).

But if you order the chicken, you'll know you're on to something. The firm and juicy meat is sweet from smoke -- almost apple-tasting -- and falls apart in your hand ($7.95 for a half bird).

There's live jazz on weekends, and I'm told more Orlando locations are in the works. Go, grab some well-crafted 'cue. There's no bones about it.

The last time I'd visited downtown Mount Dora was during the annual art festival. Anyone who has attended the event know that finding a vacant table in one of the town's permanent restaurants is a feat in itself.

On a more recent morning when I didn't have to fight the crowds, I set out to investigate a tiny and intriguing respite, the Windsor Rose English Tea Room. We might have missed the restaurant, which is tucked just off the town's main thoroughfare, Donnelly Street, if not for its Union Jack snapping in the brisk breeze.

On a more recent morning when I didn't have to fight the crowds, I set out to investigate a tiny and intriguing respite, the Windsor Rose English Tea Room. We might have missed the restaurant, which is tucked just off the town's main thoroughfare, Donnelly Street, if not for its Union Jack snapping in the brisk breeze.

Arriving around 12:30 pm, we were greeted promptly and seated at one of several tables for two. In fact, the largest tables seat only four.

Arriving around 12:30 pm, we were greeted promptly and seated at one of several tables for two. In fact, the largest tables seat only four.

Floral chintz tablecloths under glass, floral English bone china, crystal sugar bowls and hardwood floors create a delightful tearoom ambience amid a charmingly clutter of bric-a-brac.

Floral chintz tablecloths under glass, floral English bone china, crystal sugar bowls and hardwood floors create a delightful tearoom ambience amid a charmingly clutter of bric-a-brac.

A British bobby's helmet, framed photos of the royal family members past and present, U.K. souvenir mugs, teapot cozies and jars of English fruit preserves are for sale. Prices range from $2.99 for a package of English tea bags to $270 for a commemorative Royal Wedding Wedgewood set.

A British bobby's helmet, framed photos of the royal family members past and present, U.K. souvenir mugs, teapot cozies and jars of English fruit preserves are for sale. Prices range from $2.99 for a package of English tea bags to $270 for a commemorative Royal Wedding Wedgewood set.

A lovely vase of gladiolas decorated the cashier's counter, along with freshly baked desserts.

A lovely vase of gladiolas decorated the cashier's counter, along with freshly baked desserts.

My friend and I decided to share the Windsor Rose "full English tea for two" ($15).Our server approved of our choice upon learning this was our first visit, since it would provide a wide sample of goodies.

My friend and I decided to share the Windsor Rose "full English tea for two" ($15).Our server approved of our choice upon learning this was our first visit, since it would provide a wide sample of goodies.

The presentation arrived in short order on a trilevel serving piece dressed with floral sprigs. The bottom layer was brimming with four types of finger sandwiches, the middle with a pair of hefty scones, butter pats and whipped cream; the top tier held three luscious desserts. A pot of tea, insulated by a floral cozy, was delivered instantaneously.

The presentation arrived in short order on a trilevel serving piece dressed with floral sprigs. The bottom layer was brimming with four types of finger sandwiches, the middle with a pair of hefty scones, butter pats and whipped cream; the top tier held three luscious desserts. A pot of tea, insulated by a floral cozy, was delivered instantaneously.

The pairs of finger sandwich triangles were refreshingly light and included salmon and cream cheese on white; smoked turkey with butter on wheat; egg salad with cream cheese on white; and our favorite, chopped walnuts and cream cheese with a hint of raspberry preserves on pumpernickel. The tea was piping hot and wonderfully mild.

The pairs of finger sandwich triangles were refreshingly light and included salmon and cream cheese on white; smoked turkey with butter on wheat; egg salad with cream cheese on white; and our favorite, chopped walnuts and cream cheese with a hint of raspberry preserves on pumpernickel. The tea was piping hot and wonderfully mild.

We then tackled the scones. While prepared a bit differently than I remembered from my London high tea introduction to this Scottish quick bread several years ago, they were immensely enjoyable. Baked with raisin bits, they had a light, cake-like texture. I slathered on some strawberry preserves for a wonderfully sweet taste treat.

We then tackled the scones. While prepared a bit differently than I remembered from my London high tea introduction to this Scottish quick bread several years ago, they were immensely enjoyable. Baked with raisin bits, they had a light, cake-like texture. I slathered on some strawberry preserves for a wonderfully sweet taste treat.

We paused to catch our breath and let our food settle a bit before dessert time. Two of the pastries were chocolate: one resembled a brownie, dusted with confectioners' sugar, but had a distinctly strong, spicy flavor that we were told was ginger; the other was fudgelike, with a cookie crust and a walnut-bit garnish. The morsels were very rich and large enough for sharing.

We paused to catch our breath and let our food settle a bit before dessert time. Two of the pastries were chocolate: one resembled a brownie, dusted with confectioners' sugar, but had a distinctly strong, spicy flavor that we were told was ginger; the other was fudgelike, with a cookie crust and a walnut-bit garnish. The morsels were very rich and large enough for sharing.

The pièce de résistance was the pair of Queen Victoria sponge cake slices, crowned by a fresh strawberry sliver and powdered sugar, and filled with strawberry preserves and cream cheese. The mixture of flavors had the effect of being sweet but not cloying. We shared one slice and took the other one home.

The pièce de résistance was the pair of Queen Victoria sponge cake slices, crowned by a fresh strawberry sliver and powdered sugar, and filled with strawberry preserves and cream cheese. The mixture of flavors had the effect of being sweet but not cloying. We shared one slice and took the other one home.

All in all, we had a lovely time. Our server wasn't as charming as we might have expected, but was efficient enough. The Windsor Rose is worth a visit on your next Mount Dora outing.

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