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The Urban Chic Expereince like none you have ever had before. The mood is neo-soul, it's trendy, stylish, and chic. Come to experience it yourself.
With an attractive wait staff, eclectic art and 30-plus wines and champagnes, Dexter's makes you feel cool even if you're not. The unique selection of international beers is popular at this wine bar and café; the concrete floor means it can get noisy as hell.

A satisfying dark-roasted brew works well in expresso  drinks (lattes, macchiato, cappuccino) and as  a straight-up drip coffee is served in a room as simple and satisfying as the menu, with clean lines, comfortable modern furniture and just enough embellishment to make the space appealing. The pay-what-you-will model is intriguing; we hope it works out for them.

Last week it was the Ravenous Pig; this week it’s the Drunken Monkey. In coming weeks, expect reviews on the Lecherous Hedgehog and the Fetid Squirrel. Seriously, attention-grabbing appellations can give a newly opened restaurant some much-needed buzz but, thanks to their very own coffee-bean roaster, Drunken Monkey does a pretty good job generating its own.

And the inspiration for naming the café after a poggled primate? BAM! None other than Emeril Lagasse or, rather, Emeril Lagasse’s “Drunken Monkey” ice cream – a blend of white chocolate, bananas and rum. Co-owner Maureen Hawthorne says the name stuck during her stint at the portly superchef’s restaurant at Universal’s CityWalk. Plus, seeing that the other co-owner, Larry Hardin, is a proponent of Chinese martial arts (of which the Drunken Monkey form of kung fu is a part), endorsing the coffee house’s bibulous designation proved a cinch.

Inside, a miscellany of découpaged tables, office chairs and vintage sofas make for a stylistic clash, and the same could be said about the menu. You’ll find everything from quiche and paella to soups and burritos, but unlike the building’s previous tenant (Conway’s BBQ), meat takes a backseat to a healthy offering of vegan and vegetarian fare. A wedge of jalapeño-streaked Southwest quiche ($5.95 with a cup of soup) was a perfectly portioned starter, only it was served partially warm and needed to be sent back, after which it was re-served too hot. French onion soup was superbly satisfying; no real surprise considering it was made by John Batcho, whose Soupçon Soups were a main draw at the College Park and Downtown Farmers Markets. His liquid gold is now sold exclusively at Drunken Monkey.

The irony in the café’s proximity to Beefy King isn’t lost, though meat does make its appearance in some offerings. Shrimp, chicken and sausage are optional ingredients in paella ($6.95), but I made a conscious effort to eschew the wrath of these urban herbivores by ordering the meat-free version. Granted, it wasn’t served in a pan, and the aromatic splendor of saffron was absent, but the hodgepodge of veggies – onions, celery, peas, artichokes, olives, green beans and chickpeas – offered an interesting twist on this classic Spanish dish.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Baja Dann ($4.50), a burrito stuffed with huevos, tomatoes, queso, caramelized onions and peppers and a black-bean spread, but a dunk in the pureed salsa really kicked it up a notch (pardon the Emeril-ism). A soy patty wedged between ciabatta bread comprised the veggie burger ($5.99), but I found the sandwich bland and unsatisfying, like other meatless burgers I’ve sampled.

Desserts are small in stature, but large in flavor. Dense banana bread with chocolate chips ($2) partnered well with specialty coffee drinks like the Mojo Jojo ($3), a Vietnamese-style beverage with sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon and vanilla flavoring. Triple-chocolate organic cookies ($1 for three) begged for a dip in the cappuccino ($3.10), and don’t overlook their fresh-squeezed juices, particularly the pleasurably tart limeade ($2).

What I like about this coffeehouse is its inclusive, across-the-board vibe. As laid-back as it is eco-conscious, Drunken Monkey caters to Dandelion’s drum-circle set without alienating java junkies and meat-lovers. Service needs a little tweaking, but in a place like this, you get the sense that these folks won’t mind monkeying with the monkey.

Remember all those rock songs you liked so much you just wanted to eat them up? Well, now's your chance. Emack & Bolio's is like eating rock & roll at its finest.

The company story: Amid the blazing rock & roll scene of the late '70s, Bobby Rook, an entertainment attorney cum ice cream enthusiast in Boston, creates a place to entertain rock stars after hours. They're hanging out, get the munchies, Bobby Rook makes some far-out flavors, and next thing you know he's known as Boston's ice cream man. The demand for his ice cream reaches record proportions, so he decides to open a store, but doesn't know what to call it.

"Name it after us," say Mr. Emack and Mr. Bolio, homeless men that he's done some pro bono work for. They live in the alleyway behind his store.

And thus, the first premium ice cream shop named after homeless men is born: Emack & Bolio's.

The Hard Rock Hotel location has very little grassroots flavor left in it. It is a big, flashy store with characteristic Hard Rock paraphernalia lining the walls and colorful, kitschy signs announcing the flavors. There are no homeless men anywhere to be seen. But the ice cream is still the same premium, homemade concoction, and it's really good. Not only that, but it's made from hormone-free milk.

"I'll take the Twisted Dee-Light," I said, remembering the time I asked my mom to take me to the Glendale Galleria to buy the new Twisted Sister album. I was handed an enormous scoop of chocolate ice cream laced with fudge chunks and brownies ($3.25 for one scoop); the creation of which was the brainchild of Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, the same man who brought us "I Wanna Rock!"

Deep Purple Cow is black raspberry ice cream with blueberries and black and white chocolate chips. Delicious. The signature Strawberry Fields Forever is like popping ripe berries and cream in your mouth. The lemon sorbet, We Call It Mellow Yellow, was perfectly balanced, sweet and tart.

Pistachio Ga Ga, neither cloying nor green, had real nuts. Crunch Control to Major Tom (my winner for the best flavor name ever) was good though its description was convoluted: vanilla ice cream, caramel swirl, chocolate crumbs, chocolate chips, nuts and cookies.

Emack & Bolio's also serves sundaes with homemade hot fudge, a banana split called Bolio's Banana Submarine ($6.25), ice cream floats and smoothies.

Two pieces of advice: Don't be turned off by the parking situation; they validate. And do share. The portions are huge.

Sitting at Infusion Tea on Edgewater Drive, sipping Assam black tea ($2) and munching on delicious vegetarian hummus ($6), I reflect on what this place has in common with my favorite hot dog counter in the East Village: They are both what sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls "Third Places." Naturally the First Place is home; the second is work (damn). Third Places are the gems, providing us the precious community we so often lack in our lives.

I went to Infusion for the third time in four days last night. I met up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, and we closed ourselves off to the outside world to concern ourselves only with conversation and the vast menu of tea before us. Suddenly the choice of black, oolong, white, green or herbal seemed the most important thing in the world. Jasmine pearls? Or monkey-picked oolong?

Some places can just sweep you off your overworked and/or bored-at-home feet, and Infusion has the charm to do it. The quaint corner spot in a little retro building on Edgewater begs you to bike over and stay for hours. Owner Christina Cowherd is interesting and kind, and has created a special atmosphere where visiting and lingering reign over efficiency and the bottom line. She and her husband, Brad, got the idea to open Infusion Tea while in the Peace Corps in Guatemala, and moved back to College Park to be near their families and down the street from their alma mater, Edgewater High School. Incorporating into their business many of the lifestyle changes they learned in Guatemala, they are avid recyclers, conscientious organic-food buyers and dedicated composters. Among their fantastic food choices are banana bread ($1.75) and gazpacho ($5) – recipes that Christina created with her Guatemalan students – and delightful organic tea-time bites such as scones ($1.75) with fresh cream and jam (add 75 cents).

I couldn't help but ask about their goal in opening the tea shop. "This may sound hokey," Christina said, "but I read this book called Great Good Places by Ray Oldenburg …"

"The one about Third Places?" I asked.

"That was my primary goal," she said.

Doesn't sound hokey to me at all. In fact, I'm happy to switch my affection from all-beef kosher dogs to Assam tea when it provides me with something nourishing that I crave: community.

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.

Orlando’s lone Ethiopian restaurant is a blessing for foodies with an appetite for the exotic. Utensils come in the form of pancake-like sourdough bread called injera, used to scoop intensely spiced dishes from a large communal platter. Be sure to sample traditional honey wine as well as Ethiopian coffee, brewed in a clay pot.
If Orlando was famous for something other than Mickey Mouse, it’d be Redlight Redlight. Their exhaustive beer list and impeccable taste make it tempting to take up residence on a barstool in the much bigger space they now inhabit in Audubon Park. Plus, as of 2014, they have begun brewing and serving their own independent craft beers.

Boho coffeehouse perks up the Aloma/Semoran corridor with bold brews, live music and a colorful aesthetic. Soups, salads and sandwiches comprise the menu offerings; butternut squash and tomato-lentil soups are spot-on, while sandwiches can be hit ("roast beef yum") or miss ("Tofurkey Day"). To end, the chocolate trilogy provides another caffeine fix. Closed Sundays.

Stardust started life as a video rental place that served coffee and over the years has morphed to serve the changing desires of the community. Among its many functions (work and study spot, café, live music venue, market host) and despite its ramshackle air, the ’dust is prized by anyone looking for a quality buzz. The bartenders of the Slanted and Enchanted Bar (in the big room) are given free rein to come up with inventive craft cocktails; the Scotch Bar (in the smaller room) stocks exquisite bottles; and the bottled beer and cider selection is choice. For many, it’s a home away from home.
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