Breakfast/Brunch in Orlando with Kid Friendly

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    When I was growing up in DeLand, there just weren't any kosher delis around. I didn't discover blintzes, latkes and matzo ball soup until going off to college in Atlanta. And while these days Orlando hardly brims with traditional Jewish food, the unassuming market and deli Amira's is worth a visit.

    As a kosher deli, cleanliness, food and service at Amira's are supervised by the Orlando Rabbinic Council. But don't ask about the name; I felt like a real schlemiel when I asked our waitress for a translation, and she informed me that "Amira" is the owner's first name.

    My companion and I visited for lunch, served between 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. For starters, we split the mini Israeli sampler ($4.95), a smaller version of the Israeli platter ($6.95). I could have made an entire meal out of the falafel (think chickpea hushpuppy) and the eggplant relish, which was similar to ratatouille. The tabouli also was tasty; heavier on parsley than bulghur wheat, it tasted more like a regular salad than other versions I've tried. And while I thought the hummus had too much tahini, my companion pronounced it delicious. Our sampler also came with a big plate of pita bread.

    For my entree, I ordered half a "Virgin Rachel" and a cup of chicken noodle soup ($5.95 for the combo). Even without the customary Swiss cheese, this Rachel was superb. Served grilled on rye bread, it came with a huge, hot stack of pastrami, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. The soup stock was marvelous, although there was only one measly piece of chicken hiding in a cup full of noodles. My companion's overstuffed cold corned beef sandwich on rye ($6.95), served plain with condiments on the side, was similarly outstanding. His sandwich came with cole slaw and potato salad, fries or a potato knish. He chose the latter, a spicy mashed-potato mixture inside flaky pastry.

    Other sandwiches include hot or cold beef brisket ($7.25), chopped liver ($5.25), half-pound turkey burgers ($6.25), and quarter-pound chili dogs ($4.45). And excepting Friday evenings, when Amira's is closed, the dinner menu includes stuffed cabbage ($9.95), prime rib ($12.95), half a rotisserie chicken ($9.95), and open-face roast beef or turkey sandwiches (both $7.95).

    A good old-fashioned country diner may seem a wee bit out of place on the modern suburban thoroughfare of Lake Mary Boulevard, but that hasn't stopped families from tolerating Appleton's fruity decor (a decor that gets ridiculously kitschy once Halloween and Christmas roll around) and gorging on heaping plates of hearty, greasy goodness. Maybe it's because the Old South vibe here isn't uncomfortably Old South ' it's relaxed, friendly, even a little dowdy, but it's got a distinct charm, and it offers a pre-noon alternative to the Heathrow housewife scene at the Peach Valley Café a couple of miles down the road.

    The waitresses at Appleton's are delightfully old-school and defiantly pleasant in the face of sluggish and disinterested diners. And they can certainly perk up the senses with comments like 'I wouldn't recommend the fruit today,â?� which, while somewhat off-putting, had me in stitches nonetheless.

    So, forgoing the cup of fruit ($2.95), we dove headfirst into one of their 'hearty breakfasts,â?� namely the country-fried steak and eggs ($7.95), which lived up to all expectations. The crunch of the pounded steak was perfect, and the thick sausage gravy that smothered it added a nice kick. Interspersing each bite with eggs over easy sopped up with a homemade country biscuit just made the meaty morning meal all the better.

    'Grits,â?� my dining partner remarked, 'are a serious personal choice.â?� The ones served here are on the thicker side, in need of quite a bit of butter and salt to give them the desired consistency and flavor. On the potato front, I preferred the home fries over the hash browns, though, really, both were good. From the griddle, both the thick French toast ($5.95; short stack, $4.25) and the pillowy pancakes ($5.95; short stack, $4.25) were flawlessly cooked. In keeping with the café's theme, warm apples and cinnamon can be added to your hotcakes for a couple more bucks. My only complaint, and it's an oft-cited one with me when it comes to breakfast joints, is that pure maple syrup isn't offered, even as an upgrade.

    All omelets are prodigious three-egg envelopes with enough sides (your choice of home fries, hash browns or grits and your choice of toast, homemade biscuit or English muffin with plain or cinnamon-raisin bagel) to keep you going until dinner. The Greek omelet ($7.95), however, was just too dry to fully enjoy. The cook was likely distracted from all the other dishes he was cooking and left it in the pan a few minutes too long, a shame considering I was looking forward to downing this eggy number with gyro meat, pepperoncini, black olives and crumbled feta.

    Coffee snobs need to leave their java judgments at the door ' the cup of joe served here is dark, strong and not for the faint of heart. A lunch menu is also offered (the place is open until 3 p.m.) with a variety of comfort food and greasy-spoon fare.

    'The Next Best Thing to Mom's Cookingâ?� is emblazoned on their menu, and while that may be true, their furnishings, particularly in the screened-in back porch, are the next best thing to a Motel 6. Then again, I wouldn't have expected anything less from a place that celebrates its Old Florida character. Biscuits to bacon, Appleton's is down-home to the core.

    Briar Patch has much working in its favor: A primo location on Park Avenue that guarantees a steady influx of old fans and curious newcomers, and a menu that's meant to be enjoyed rather than comprehended. That is, if you can get your foot in the door.

    Just try to snag a table around noon on busy weekends, on Saturdays in particular. As countless others have found over the 10 years since it opened, you'll be cooling your heels by the ice-cream counter or out on the sidewalk for 20, 30, even 40 minutes.

    But that doesn't seem to stop most people from coming back for more.

    There's a front-porch coziness that pervades the restaurant, all the way back to the deepest recesses. Althought the seating is packed in as comfortably as possible, you're still likely to be elbow-to-elbow with the diners at the next table.

    The menu rarely overreaches: salad nicoise with albacore tuna ($7.95), two-fisted guacamole and Swiss burgers nestled in piles of potato chips ($7.50), omelets perfumed with pears and Gorgonzola cheese ($6.75), and bow-tie "picnic pasta" with ham, pecans and cheese ($8.95). Many items are tried-and-true favorites that have been on the menu since the beginning.

    Soups of the day are usually pleasing, as we found with the creamy, pungent cheddar-bacon chowder ($3.25). A yummy Gorgonzola and walnut salad was studded with apples and poached chicken ($8.95), proof that the heart-healthy offerings are as tempting as the rest of the menu.

    Among the entrees, eggplant Florentine was worth diving into, with its spinach and mushroom stuffing. The marinara sauce added balance, with the light scent of garden fresh tomatoes.

    By comparison, the "chicken Briar Patch" ($10.95) was inexplicably slim on meat, so that the accompanying cream sauce disappeared into a mountain of angel-hair pasta. Artichokes and mushrooms were tossed generously into the mix, but that was scant reward.

    In the unlikely event that all else fails to please, the Briar Patch has one sure saving grace: awe-inspiring desserts. The ice-cream parlor at the front of the restaurant offers everything from milk shakes and malts, to old-fashioned egg creams, to the infamous "New Orleans Gold Brick Sundae" ($5.95). But we opted for an eye-popping, 10-inch-tall wedge of chocolate layer cake ($5.25) that was worthy of a Bon Appetit cover photo.

    Briar Patch sports the patina of a well-worn gathering place. Despite the occasional menu misses and service that inevitably slows down during peak periods, it remains a favorite dining spot for one really good reason: You can relax over breakfast, lunch or dinner, rather than think about it.

    Offbeat a.m.. fare ranges from a California vegetarian frittata to the meanest sausage-and-potatoes platter outside of Bavaria. Cheery, with generous portions and a limited lunch menu.

    Offbeat a.m.. fare ranges from a California vegetarian frittata to the meanest sausage-and-potatoes platter outside of Bavaria. Cheery, with generous portions and a limited lunch menu.

    Seasoned shoppers will tell you that if you plan to tackle the holiday madness in any of Orlando's major malls, a good pair of walking shoes is just as important as strict adherence to the 3 Ps ' patience, perseverance and pancakes. Yes, pancakes. Or waffles, eggs, cereal, yogurt ' whatever your breakfast meal of choice happens to be. A good start is critical, even essential, when the time comes to elbow a septuagenarian or two out of the way for that marked-down sweater at the Gap.

    So, if the Mall at Millenia happens to be your credit-leavener of choice, consider popping into this area brekkie joint for some pre-shopping sustenance, though judging from the quick closure of the previous tenant ' Mama Fu's Noodle House ' and the demise of the neighboring Storehouse furniture store and the Testa Rossa Caffe, you'd better hurry.

    The interior hasn't veered much from its Mama Fu's days; in fact, even some of the waiters are holdovers, as is the maddening '80s and '90s pop music playing overhead. The coffee-colored walls, suspension lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows tender a level of slickness a step above your local First Watch or IHOP, and the breakfast fare, though not dazzling, is properly satisfying.

    Where else to start but with the classic Belgian waffle ($5.59)? The signature from Brussels is light, crispy and simple. The lone square-shaped hotcake is a refreshingly minimalist breakfast portion, served in a square dish with an orange slice and a wee bowl of butter. But the only available liquid topping is table syrup, which is essentially super-thick high-fructose corn syrup. Is it too much to ask for a breakfast joint to serve real 100 percent maple syrup instead of this fabricated goop? Yeah, it's a tad more expensive, but if I'm paying six bucks for a waffle, I'll gladly foot a few extra cents for real maple syrup. Until that day comes, your only choice is to head over to your nearest supermarket, purchase some fancy grade-A Canadian maple syrup and carry it with you the next time you dine at this or any other pancake/waffle house. It'll make your meal considerably more gratifying and, really, it's no different than bringing your own hot sauce to a restaurant.

    My dining partner opted for the granola crunch waffle ($6.69). For $1.10 more than the Belgian waffle, you get a sprinkling of rolled oats and raisins along with a plate of whipped cream. I have to admit, it just didn't look very appetizing. Perhaps it was because the granola looked like chicken feed scattered over a subway grate, or that waffles and granola seem about as culinarily mismatched as foie gras and Cheerios. No matter, traditionalists can select from other, less health-food-y options such as chocolate chip, baked pecan and strawberries with cream.

    Similarly flavored pancakes are also offered, as are a range of omelets in time-honored ingredient combos, but I was more intrigued by the Florida french toast ($6.79). Though I expected to see wheat germ, bananas, strawberries and powdered sugar dusted over thick slabs of Franco-American-inspired toast, our austere waitress set down a plate of four fluffy slabs of regular french toast ($5.79). Though I was disappointed by the lack of Floridian embellishment, my frustration was tempered by the aesthetically appealing plating and the savory cinnamon-tinged eggy bread, which I ravenously devoured.

    The Florida Waffle Shop also has a selection of burgers, sandwiches, salads and other lunchtime faves on hand, all of which can be enjoyed until 3 p.m., and their 'you've got to love it guaranteeâ?� ensures customers are satisfied with their orders. But until I can pour real maple syrup on my griddled cakes, complete customer satisfaction will evade me. Guess what's on my shopping list?

    To celebrate their third birthday, House of Blues has strayed a bit from its Southern menu, introducing dishes that might be based on Delta traditions but have taken a few detours.

    First, some HOB dining secrets. After listening to the "30-minute wait" speech and getting a beeper from the hostess, you should stroll around back to the Voodoo Garden. It overlooks the lake, there's live music, and – best of all – there's often an empty table. Second: The Voodoo Garden music ends at 10 p.m., when it becomes a very peaceful place to dine. The last secret? Order extra rosemary corn bread – even at $3.95 – since it's moist, crunchy and satisfying.

    First, some HOB dining secrets. After listening to the "30-minute wait" speech and getting a beeper from the hostess, you should stroll around back to the Voodoo Garden. It overlooks the lake, there's live music, and – best of all – there's often an empty table. Second: The Voodoo Garden music ends at 10 p.m., when it becomes a very peaceful place to dine. The last secret? Order extra rosemary corn bread – even at $3.95 – since it's moist, crunchy and satisfying.

    The staple "seafood gumbo" ($3.95 a cup) has a flavorful soup base, which takes a lot of concentration to notice, since the slightly burnt taste of blackened seasonongs masks everything. With almost none of the promised ingredients showing up (andouille sausage, shrimp, oysters and crawfish are listed, but you couldn't prove it by me), it's not the enjoyable dish it could be.

    The staple "seafood gumbo" ($3.95 a cup) has a flavorful soup base, which takes a lot of concentration to notice, since the slightly burnt taste of blackened seasonongs masks everything. With almost none of the promised ingredients showing up (andouille sausage, shrimp, oysters and crawfish are listed, but you couldn't prove it by me), it's not the enjoyable dish it could be.

    Options for appetizers include "Caribbean jerk chicken wings in Pickapepper sauce" ($8.95) and "seared Gulf shrimp with Blackened Voodoo Beer" ($10.25). For the latter, six decent-sized shrimp come coated in a dark, spicy sauce, the deep flavor accented by a mound of radish sprouts. It's a good precursor of the interesting combinations of textures and flavors to follow.

    Options for appetizers include "Caribbean jerk chicken wings in Pickapepper sauce" ($8.95) and "seared Gulf shrimp with Blackened Voodoo Beer" ($10.25). For the latter, six decent-sized shrimp come coated in a dark, spicy sauce, the deep flavor accented by a mound of radish sprouts. It's a good precursor of the interesting combinations of textures and flavors to follow.

    For the "ahi tuna salad" ($10.95), rare slices of quickly seared tuna are wound around a heap of red cabbage and topped in a drizzle of wasabi mayonnaise. The fish is sushi-grade and splendid, and while the cabbage is a bit too oversoyed, the crisp texture offsets the buttery feel of the fish.

    For the "ahi tuna salad" ($10.95), rare slices of quickly seared tuna are wound around a heap of red cabbage and topped in a drizzle of wasabi mayonnaise. The fish is sushi-grade and splendid, and while the cabbage is a bit too oversoyed, the crisp texture offsets the buttery feel of the fish.

    Some of the so-called "Southern specials" come from South Elsewhere. I don't think any bayou cook has ever rustled up a mess of "chicken and penne pasta with wild mushroom cream sauce and Gouda cheese" ($14.95). The "grilled rosemary chicken" ($14.95) comes nicely charcoaled and juicy, along with mashed potatoes that are richly creamy and wonderfully lumpy at the same time, and perfect, tender sautéed asparagus.

    Some of the so-called "Southern specials" come from South Elsewhere. I don't think any bayou cook has ever rustled up a mess of "chicken and penne pasta with wild mushroom cream sauce and Gouda cheese" ($14.95). The "grilled rosemary chicken" ($14.95) comes nicely charcoaled and juicy, along with mashed potatoes that are richly creamy and wonderfully lumpy at the same time, and perfect, tender sautéed asparagus.

    Our attentive server recommended the "white chocolate banana bread pudding" (all desserts $5.95). CrÈme anglaise and dark-chocolate drizzles accent the muffinlike pudding, but by the time we got to the car I felt several pounds heavier. Try the "sweet potato cheesecake" for something lighter.

    Our attentive server recommended the "white chocolate banana bread pudding" (all desserts $5.95). CrÈme anglaise and dark-chocolate drizzles accent the muffinlike pudding, but by the time we got to the car I felt several pounds heavier. Try the "sweet potato cheesecake" for something lighter.

    HOB will always be a theme restaurant, but this theme has the food to back it up.

    The first thing that strikes you about Uncle Henry's is that it's a happy place. You're greeted with a smile from a man in a bright, button-down shirt, and your chair is pulled out for you when you sit. The plastic flowers that adorn the inside are colorful.

    This oasis of cheer, coincidentally enough, is nestled in the heart of the city's Parramore redevelopment effort, on the ground floor of the Hughes Supply building on West Church Street. All around this epicenter of development, there is poverty and a history of failed attempts to make things better. But Uncle Henry's is happy, so you want to be as well.

    This oasis of cheer, coincidentally enough, is nestled in the heart of the city's Parramore redevelopment effort, on the ground floor of the Hughes Supply building on West Church Street. All around this epicenter of development, there is poverty and a history of failed attempts to make things better. But Uncle Henry's is happy, so you want to be as well.

    The menu advertises "'The Best' Soups & Homemade Pies," so my companion and I ordered the soup of the day, black bean and rice, for an appetizer ($1.95 cup). The soup was hearty enough, thick with rice and beans, but the beans were a little too hard for my taste, almost crunchy, and the soup itself was ordinary.

    The menu advertises "'The Best' Soups & Homemade Pies," so my companion and I ordered the soup of the day, black bean and rice, for an appetizer ($1.95 cup). The soup was hearty enough, thick with rice and beans, but the beans were a little too hard for my taste, almost crunchy, and the soup itself was ordinary.

    For an entree, I decided to go for the "served all day" breakfast – namely, "The Cha Cha omelet" ($4.75) that our waitress suggested. ("Only the HOT want me!" the menu cautioned.) The Cha Cha comes with ham, Jack cheese, hash browns, green peppers and a "calypso sauce" that seemed to be nothing more than a moderately spicy salsa.

    For an entree, I decided to go for the "served all day" breakfast – namely, "The Cha Cha omelet" ($4.75) that our waitress suggested. ("Only the HOT want me!" the menu cautioned.) The Cha Cha comes with ham, Jack cheese, hash browns, green peppers and a "calypso sauce" that seemed to be nothing more than a moderately spicy salsa.

    The Cha Cha was delicious, though calling it spicy is something of a stretch. It was large enough that I couldn't finish the entire thing – and I have a healthy appetite – and sufficiently loaded with peppers and hash browns to keep my taste buds intrigued. My one complaint would be that the cheese wasn't melted enough, but next time I'll ask for it that way. The accompanying grits and rye toast were done right, and once I loaded the grits with salt – because, you know, grits need salt – and melted butter, it made for a wonderful, filling meal.

    The Cha Cha was delicious, though calling it spicy is something of a stretch. It was large enough that I couldn't finish the entire thing – and I have a healthy appetite – and sufficiently loaded with peppers and hash browns to keep my taste buds intrigued. My one complaint would be that the cheese wasn't melted enough, but next time I'll ask for it that way. The accompanying grits and rye toast were done right, and once I loaded the grits with salt – because, you know, grits need salt – and melted butter, it made for a wonderful, filling meal.

    My companion ordered the tuna salad sandwich ($4.75), which she found most excellent. The bread was properly toasted, and the tuna was fresh. The potato chips that came with it, on the other hand, were crumbled up. Again, however, the sandwich was more than enough to satisfy her appetite.

    My companion ordered the tuna salad sandwich ($4.75), which she found most excellent. The bread was properly toasted, and the tuna was fresh. The potato chips that came with it, on the other hand, were crumbled up. Again, however, the sandwich was more than enough to satisfy her appetite.

    So we left, full and happy – which, I gather, is exactly the idea.

    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.

    The last time I had breakfast at Heathrow, I was hurriedly downing steak and eggs in the airport's food court before a connecting flight to Cairo, Egypt, an act I considered quite brazen considering it was during the height of Britain's mad cow frenzy. But for the ensuing seven-odd hours, the two proteins waged an intestinal terror campaign at 36,000 feet. Needless to say, the terms 'breakfastâ?� and 'Heathrowâ?� hold a not-so-special place inside me, so when the opportunity arose to experience breakfast in Heathrow (Florida, not London), I could hear the psychosomatic rumblings.

    Furthermore, driving out to a suburban outpost for an omelet and a stack of pancakes seemed like a flight of fancy, but when I found myself being calmed by the café's bucolic lakeside view, a craving for, of all things, steak and eggs ultimately materialized. Given this was Saturday morning, satisfying that craving necessitated a 20-minute wait but, unlike the fare at the airport food court, it was well worth it. Besides, complimentary coffee in their anteroom served to stimulate the appetite while I waited.

    Everything ' from the big windows and lemon-colored walls to the clinking cutlery of diners seated in comfy high-backed booths ' plays up the café's rise-and-shine splendor. Quite a few starved souls even braved the heat by dining al fresco in the spacious covered patio, a scene I took in while sipping on peach tea ($2.75), one of only two items on the menu with the fuzzy fruit as an ingredient.

    I soaked the trio of fluffy Frisbee-sized buttermilk pancakes ($5.25) in ersatz syrup (Aunt Jemima, my waitress confided), but even that sugary goop couldn't ruin these monster hotcakes, which were neither rubbery, spongy nor dense. Why diners can't enjoy them with real maple syrup is beyond me. At the very least, breakfast joints should offer the real deal as an upgrade.

    French toast ($5.25) was a disappointment. The menu read 'six pieces of Texas toast dipped in our homemade batter,â?� but the triangular slabs were Colorado-thin, not Texas-thick, and nowhere near eggy enough. The cheese omelet ($6.29), loaded with melted cheddar, kept it simple, but breakfast potatoes, crisped on the outside and thoroughly cooked inside, were indisputably divine, maybe the best in town. The buttermilk drop biscuit was a delicate and flaky puck best enjoyed with the thick and meaty sausage gravy ($4.50), but it was the Philly steak'and'eggs Benedict croissant ($8.39) that really impressed. Perfectly poached eggs sat inside a buttery crescent roll along with juicy slivers of grilled beef, the lemony hollandaise sauce meshing well with the sweetness of onion and red bell peppers. A side of potatoes and a cup of fresh fruit rounded out the platter.

    Peach Valley Café is open daily until 2:30 p.m. (3:30 on weekends), and also serves an assortment of soups, sandwiches, salads, burgers and wraps. The menu's sweeter side pushes their sugary apple fritters ($3.50), but I opted for the subtler peaches and cream muffin ($2.10), most of which I enjoyed with a cup of coffee later in the day.

    The café, owned by the same folks who brought you the Stonewood Grill & Tavern, is everything a brekkie joint should be and more. But until early risers in Orange County catch wind of the place the way their Seminole County counterparts have, Peach Valley Café will continue frying under the radar.

    Tucked away on Edgewater Drive, the tiny cottage called Shakers has served its tried-and-true breakfast and lunch menu for ages without becoming outdated. It's the kind of place that can be counted on like clockwork, opening every morning at 7 a.m., except for Sunday.

    Named for the kitschy collection of salt and pepper shakers that contribute to a modest dŽcor that's part diner and part country kitchen, Shakers holds less than 20 tables and by 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, those tables fill up fast for the lunch crowd.

    Named for the kitschy collection of salt and pepper shakers that contribute to a modest dŽcor that's part diner and part country kitchen, Shakers holds less than 20 tables and by 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, those tables fill up fast for the lunch crowd.

    Now remember, breakfast is only served until 10:30 a.m., and the choices cover the gamut of familiar day-starters. A variety of three-egg omelets are offered, such as the "chef's omelet" ($5.25), filled with mushrooms, ham, bacon, tomato, potato and cheddar cheese. Add a small stack of blueberry pancakes ($2.75) or biscuits and gravy ($2.15), or choose from side items that range from kielbasa ($2.10) to grits (45 cents).

    Now remember, breakfast is only served until 10:30 a.m., and the choices cover the gamut of familiar day-starters. A variety of three-egg omelets are offered, such as the "chef's omelet" ($5.25), filled with mushrooms, ham, bacon, tomato, potato and cheddar cheese. Add a small stack of blueberry pancakes ($2.75) or biscuits and gravy ($2.15), or choose from side items that range from kielbasa ($2.10) to grits (45 cents).

    Lunch can be ordered all day, and the options are impressive. There's a full menu of "gourmet" salads, sandwiches, soups and quiches, along with daily specials that can be as fancy as fresh grilled fish (grouper $7.95, salmon $7.50).

    Lunch can be ordered all day, and the options are impressive. There's a full menu of "gourmet" salads, sandwiches, soups and quiches, along with daily specials that can be as fancy as fresh grilled fish (grouper $7.95, salmon $7.50).

    The slice of artichoke-broccoli quiche ($6.35) we ordered arrived with a fresh fruit salad. The thick quiche filling was topped with a layer of melted cheddar cheese – heavy but satisfying. The egg salad sandwich ($3.75) was a lighter item, but also amply loaded and dressed with crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes.

    The slice of artichoke-broccoli quiche ($6.35) we ordered arrived with a fresh fruit salad. The thick quiche filling was topped with a layer of melted cheddar cheese – heavy but satisfying. The egg salad sandwich ($3.75) was a lighter item, but also amply loaded and dressed with crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes.

    There's not enough space inside Shakers to satisfy their customers' demands, so they do a lot of takeout and catering business. Just go to the website, www.shakerscafe.com, for a listing of that day's specials, plus all the other details needed to place a mother of a takeout order. They handle mega lunch orders like clockwork, too.

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the TooJay's Deli on Colonial Drive.

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the TooJay's Deli on Colonial Drive.

    Modernized deli holds its own with regards to tradition, doing justice to chopped liver, matzo-ball soup and cheese blintzes. But the menu opens up to contemporary palates as well with California turkey wraps, garlic-chicken pasta, omelets and burgers. Don’t leave without a black-and-white cookie.


    Teaser: Gourmet deli holds its own with regards to tradition, doing justice to chopped liver, matzo-ball soup and cheese blintzes. But the menu opens up to contemporary palates as well with California turkey wraps, garlic-chicken pasta, omelets and burgers. Don't leave without a black-and-white cookie.

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