Locations in East with Kid Friendly

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    When looking for more than "a good loaf," you'll definitely find it at Au Bon Pain (pronounced ah-bahn-pahn). The high-end bakery-cafe chain with an outpost on every other corner in Manhattan has established its first local site in tourist territory in the Club Hotel at DoubleTree.

    The polished, Art Deco-styled bakery is stocked with its fresh-baked loaves including the famous tomato-basil variety, as well as consistently delicious roast-beef and brie sandwiches, soups in bread bowls, croissants stuffed with chocolate and raspberries, and a killer Boston clam chowder. Vegetarian, low-fat and low-sodium versions are available, too.

    The polished, Art Deco-styled bakery is stocked with its fresh-baked loaves including the famous tomato-basil variety, as well as consistently delicious roast-beef and brie sandwiches, soups in bread bowls, croissants stuffed with chocolate and raspberries, and a killer Boston clam chowder. Vegetarian, low-fat and low-sodium versions are available, too.

    Prices are high – 99 cents for a focaccia bagel, for instance. But there are plush sofas, laptop ports, televisions and plenty of reading material. Other sites in central locations are a strong possibility.

    Upon gazing at Brianto's stark white walls, ornamented with memorabilia and photographs of every Philadelphia Phillies baseball player that ever donned a red-pinstriped uniform, I asked the good-natured lad behind the counter a question that no patron had ever dared to ask, let alone in deadpan fashion: 'Why no photos of Joe Carter?â?�

    Record screech.

    In the moments that ensued, his bulging gaze met my squinting glare for what seemed like minutes, but when the hoagie virtuoso's eyes eventually regained focus, we were all able to (thankfully) laugh the moment off. 'You should've said that after you got your food,â?� he joked ' at least I think he was joking. Carter's home run off Phillies closer Mitch Williams to win the '93 World Series for the Blue Jays isn't exactly a high point in the city's sports history. So in a place where even the logo is a facsimile of their beloved Phillies', I was happy to have all my teeth after uttering the cheeky quip: teeth I needed in order to chomp down on their huge hoagies and cheesesteaks.

    They take their cheesesteaks seriously here ' I'm talking Amoroso's hearth-baked rolls and sliced rib-eye steak, flown straight in from the City of Brotherly Love. And they don't skimp on the chopped meat in the cheesesteak supreme ($5.99 for 6-inch; $8.99 for 12-inch; $12.99 for 18-inch), a beefy sub with the requisite onions, green peppers and mushrooms oozing with sharp provolone and Cheez Whiz. Be sure to Whiz it up, as the cheesesteak borders on bland without it, likely due to the meat not being seasoned ' or not strongly enough.

    For the same price, you can opt to make the very same cheesesteak a 'cheesesteak hoagie,â?� which means adding lettuce, tomato, raw onions and a splash of oil, vinegar and mayo. The hoagie comes without green peppers or mushrooms, but I was surprised at how much better it was than the cheesesteak supreme. Everyone at the table agreed that this was the best sandwich of the lot, and we picked the 18-inch behemoth clean. Also good was the Liberty Bell ($5.99, 6-inch; $8.99, 12-inch; $12.99, 18-inch), a cold hoagie stuffed to the hilt with ham, turkey and roast beef, and plenty of sweet and hot peppers to pack a punch. The hot meatball hoagie ($4.49, 6-inch; $7.49, 12-inch; $11.49, 18-inch) was endorsed by one of my Italian dining companions ' not so much for the sub itself, but for the well-seasoned meatballs. You'll also find other Keystone State faves such as crackling Herr's potato chips (59 cents, small; 99 cents, medium; $1.59, large), refreshingly crisp Hank's birch beer ($1.99) and sugary Tastykakes ($1.29). Junk food connoisseurs may disagree, but to me, the Tastykakes tasted just like Hostess cupcakes/Ding Dongs/Ho Hos.

    Brianto's may not satisfy pangs for the legendary cheesesteaks and hoagies cooked up at Pat's or Geno's in Philadelphia, but the guys here make every effort to bring a little Philly flavor to Central Florida. If they focused a bit of that effort in seasoning the beef, transplanted Philadelphians might flock to Avalon Park for some of their griddled gourmandizing.

    Then, like Joe Carter off a Mitch Williams fastball, they'll be sure to hit it out the park.

    Mildred Perez heard the lament often: There just weren't enough Puerto Rican restaurants in Orlando. Finally the island's descendant decided to take her friends' advice and do something about it. Not long ago Perez debuted Brisas del Caribe on Curry Ford Road, where she has enjoyed a steady flow of traffic ever since.

    Her homespun menu shares similarities with Cuban fare in the roast pork, chicken and fried-plantain staples. The difference between the two becomes clear in the flavorings, such as the extra garlic and cilantro that are rubbed into meats.

    Her homespun menu shares similarities with Cuban fare in the roast pork, chicken and fried-plantain staples. The difference between the two becomes clear in the flavorings, such as the extra garlic and cilantro that are rubbed into meats.

    And as for soups, rather than a traditional black bean, Perez favors richer stews fortified with plump, silky red-kidney beans.

    And as for soups, rather than a traditional black bean, Perez favors richer stews fortified with plump, silky red-kidney beans.

    "Puerto Rican is more European in its influence. We don't use so many hot spices, but we do use a lot of seasonings: garlic, olive oil, oregano and vinegar," explains Perez. "The island is so small that we also use a lot of seafood – it's one of our specialties."

    "Puerto Rican is more European in its influence. We don't use so many hot spices, but we do use a lot of seasonings: garlic, olive oil, oregano and vinegar," explains Perez. "The island is so small that we also use a lot of seafood – it's one of our specialties."

    Because Puerto Rican dinners are usually served in heaping portions, it's not necessary to start with appetizers at Brisas del Caribe. Many of them are included with entrees anyway. But we liked "yucca al mojo," a boiled, starchy vegetable that's fibrous like squash. All of the yucca's sweetness was brought out by a sticky garlic glaze, and it gained an entirely new character when dipped in a snappy red "mojo" sauce. It was a steal at $1.75.

    Because Puerto Rican dinners are usually served in heaping portions, it's not necessary to start with appetizers at Brisas del Caribe. Many of them are included with entrees anyway. But we liked "yucca al mojo," a boiled, starchy vegetable that's fibrous like squash. All of the yucca's sweetness was brought out by a sticky garlic glaze, and it gained an entirely new character when dipped in a snappy red "mojo" sauce. It was a steal at $1.75.

    Among entrees, my guest loved the bold freshness of pechuga al ajillo ($9.99), a boneless chicken breast that was sizzled on a grill, then smothered in a deeply flavored garlic sauce. The dish was served with red beans and rice, and fried green plantains that were golden on the edges, yet still moist and flavorful within.

    Among entrees, my guest loved the bold freshness of pechuga al ajillo ($9.99), a boneless chicken breast that was sizzled on a grill, then smothered in a deeply flavored garlic sauce. The dish was served with red beans and rice, and fried green plantains that were golden on the edges, yet still moist and flavorful within.

    Another fine choice was tripleta de mariscos ($15.99), a trio of conch, octopus and shrimp sautéed with a clean-tasting, vinegary sauce. The seafood creation had a delicate lightness that nicely contrasted against the heaviness of the fried plantains that were served on the side.

    Another fine choice was tripleta de mariscos ($15.99), a trio of conch, octopus and shrimp sautéed with a clean-tasting, vinegary sauce. The seafood creation had a delicate lightness that nicely contrasted against the heaviness of the fried plantains that were served on the side.

    As for dessert, we loved the luscious tres leches (three milk) cake ($1.75), a plain, blondish concoction served in a cup and masked by meringue. We prodded into it with a spoon, and three kinds of sweet milk spread luxuriantly over the cake, soaking into every crevice.

    As for dessert, we loved the luscious tres leches (three milk) cake ($1.75), a plain, blondish concoction served in a cup and masked by meringue. We prodded into it with a spoon, and three kinds of sweet milk spread luxuriantly over the cake, soaking into every crevice.

    Though Brisas del Caribe is too rambling and brightly lit to afford a sense of intimacy, after hours Thursday through Sunday the restaurant morphs nicely into a salsa/merengue club.

    Though Brisas del Caribe is too rambling and brightly lit to afford a sense of intimacy, after hours Thursday through Sunday the restaurant morphs nicely into a salsa/merengue club.

    Waiters take great pains to welcome newcomers, and the Perez's food is as warm and inviting as a home-cooked meal. Although dishes such as roast chicken and pork are not likely to win awards for innovation, count on leaving happy and stuffed.

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the Chipotle in Winter Park.

    When we first started business 10 years ago at Church Street," says Oscar Lagos, owner of Choo Choo Churros, "we had a small cart that we sold fried pastries from – churros. And since there was the train there, my wife named it Choo Choo Churros."

    From that small cart the Lagos moved to a little coffeeshop on Bumby Avenue, and then four years ago to Lake Underhill, always keeping the name. "Argentinean people and American people, they both ask, what does this name mean?" Lagos says. Well, to anyone who asks, in the universal language of food it translates into "good."

    From that small cart the Lagos moved to a little coffeeshop on Bumby Avenue, and then four years ago to Lake Underhill, always keeping the name. "Argentinean people and American people, they both ask, what does this name mean?" Lagos says. Well, to anyone who asks, in the universal language of food it translates into "good."

    Choo Choo has an affinity for small spaces, and there are barely nine tables in the room, with three more outside on a patio. Renovation is going on, but nothing will change the fact that Lake Underhill Road and the East-West Expressway are right outside. That seems to be the only negative Ã? unless you're a vegetarian.

    Choo Choo has an affinity for small spaces, and there are barely nine tables in the room, with three more outside on a patio. Renovation is going on, but nothing will change the fact that Lake Underhill Road and the East-West Expressway are right outside. That seems to be the only negative Ã? unless you're a vegetarian.

    Much of the food of Argentina and Brazil can be summed up in four letters – meat. Lots of meat, delicious big slabs of it, served in styles and from parts of beasts that some people, even carnivores, would rather not think about. So unless you know Spanish or aren't afraid to ask, you could order "morcilla" and end up with blood sausage, or be served a big order of lemon- grilled sweet breads because "molleja" is such a lovely word.

    Much of the food of Argentina and Brazil can be summed up in four letters – meat. Lots of meat, delicious big slabs of it, served in styles and from parts of beasts that some people, even carnivores, would rather not think about. So unless you know Spanish or aren't afraid to ask, you could order "morcilla" and end up with blood sausage, or be served a big order of lemon- grilled sweet breads because "molleja" is such a lovely word.

    What you might want to start with is "churrasco" ($12.95), a word that usually refers to an open-flame style of cooking rather than a cut of meat, but which in this case is a two-inch-thick skirt steak that is tender, juicy and unadorned. Here is a chef who doesn't have to season, flavor, dress up or disguise a piece of meat, but knows how to cook for the best effect. The mixed grill, or "parrillada" ($15.95 to $32.95, depending on the number of people) is a popular dish that features a little sample of everything on a sizzling platter.

    What you might want to start with is "churrasco" ($12.95), a word that usually refers to an open-flame style of cooking rather than a cut of meat, but which in this case is a two-inch-thick skirt steak that is tender, juicy and unadorned. Here is a chef who doesn't have to season, flavor, dress up or disguise a piece of meat, but knows how to cook for the best effect. The mixed grill, or "parrillada" ($15.95 to $32.95, depending on the number of people) is a popular dish that features a little sample of everything on a sizzling platter.

    If you need a break from beef, the sweet corn or ham-and-cheese empanadas – small and dense deep-fried turnovers ($1.50) – are great. There are a couple of chicken dishes "milanesa" (breaded) and a wonderful "Sierra fish" cross-cut steak (usually white fish, but on this occasion, salmon) that was firm but still juicy in a slightly spicy lemon and wine sauce.

    If you need a break from beef, the sweet corn or ham-and-cheese empanadas – small and dense deep-fried turnovers ($1.50) – are great. There are a couple of chicken dishes "milanesa" (breaded) and a wonderful "Sierra fish" cross-cut steak (usually white fish, but on this occasion, salmon) that was firm but still juicy in a slightly spicy lemon and wine sauce.

    Entrees come with a simple salad, good bread and the sounds of vintage tangos in the background, including some recordings that customers bring in to share from their own collections. (Mention Astor Piazzolla, and you're golden.) The owners are charmingly friendly. Mix in their well-prepared meals and cozy atmosphere and you have a winning combination, regardless of language.

    College students and cheap, ethnic eateries seem to go hand in hand. Where there's a school of higher learning, you'll usually find a stable of offbeat, funky restaurants where the young and impoverished can chart untried culinary territory.

    For sure, the University of Central Florida area needs more of these type of restaurants. But for the last nine years, while the surrounding area exploded with cookie-cutter subdivisions and food chains, the low-key Falafel Cafe has been dishing out a taste of the Middle East to students and others hooked on the culture's culinary favors.

    Falafel Cafe is quite small, with less than two dozen tables. There's no view to speak of, but an enormous painting dominates the entrance, capturing a scene from the Beirut waterfront. Back in the 1970s, that's where chef Hind Dajani perfected her recipes as a mother of four. Piped-in Middle Eastern music enhances the cuisine. And while service isn't always fast, it's usually friendly.

    Descriptions of each dish make the menu reader-friendly. And if you can't commit to any one item, skip the entrees and fill up on tapas-style appetizers, which are in the $2 to $5 range.

    Vegetarian dishes are a Middle Eastern strength, and Dajani is particularly deft with the namesake falafels ($3.99) – fried croquettes made with crushed garbanzo and fava beans, onions and a mixed bag of seasonings. They're delicious by themselves or dipped in the accompanying tahini sauce, a thick paste of ground sesame seeds. Kibbe balls ($4.99) are similar, except they're made with bulghur wheat and seasoned ground beef.

    Falafel Cafe's hummus ($2.49) is creamy and tempting, made with pureed garbanzo beans, sesame sauce, olive oil and garlic. A splash of lemon brings out the naturally nutty flavors. Baba ghanoush ($2.49) gets a similar treatment, made of eggplant mashed to a pulp and mixed with yogurt. Use it as a dip for pita bread, or better yet, ask for the garlic bread pita ($1.99), which is brushed with butter and minced garlic.

    The success of the simple "cedar salad" ($7.99) is in the fresh ingredients. Bright greens are topped with herb-crusted chicken kababs, olives and peppers. Pickled turnips add hot-pink color.

    When you're in the mood for warm, hearty Middle Eastern cooking, you'll find it here.

    Sad to say, there's not much of anything around lately that qualifies as genuine. Oranges are artificially colored, desserts are "naturally" sweetened, and don't get me started with the whole genetically altered deal. So finding an authentic eating place like Garibaldi's Mexican Restaurant is a treat.

    The restaurant is named after Plaza Garibaldi, both a tourist center and local gathering place in Mexico City, alive with an almost perpetual fiesta. Garibaldi's isn't quite that frenetic, but the constant traffic on North Semoran (near the corner of Colonial Drive) brings a steady flow of diners. By all means, even if the inside dining area is free, sit outdoors (since they opened a couple of years ago, they've added an oversized fountain that muffles the noise) on a balmy night and fantasize about even sunnier climes.

    The restaurant is named after Plaza Garibaldi, both a tourist center and local gathering place in Mexico City, alive with an almost perpetual fiesta. Garibaldi's isn't quite that frenetic, but the constant traffic on North Semoran (near the corner of Colonial Drive) brings a steady flow of diners. By all means, even if the inside dining area is free, sit outdoors (since they opened a couple of years ago, they've added an oversized fountain that muffles the noise) on a balmy night and fantasize about even sunnier climes.

    It's probably a credit to the research department of a certain fast-food chain that you will recognize many of the terms on Garibaldi's extensive menu: gordita, chimi-changa and chalupa all make an appearance. These ain't no Madison Avenue inventions but real food done in the traditional way. And perhaps that's the problem with "authentic" – it's generally not very flamboyant or exciting.

    "Fajitas de camerón" ($14) is just grilled shrimp, onions and peppers served with rice, beans, guacamole and tortillas for wrapping – not fancy but certainly tasty. "Flautas verdes" is nothing but corn tortillas rolled tightly around seasoned beef or chicken, then deep fried and topped with cheese and green salsa; it doesn't have fireworks or talking dogs, but it's $6.50 well spent.

    "Fajitas de camerón" ($14) is just grilled shrimp, onions and peppers served with rice, beans, guacamole and tortillas for wrapping – not fancy but certainly tasty. "Flautas verdes" is nothing but corn tortillas rolled tightly around seasoned beef or chicken, then deep fried and topped with cheese and green salsa; it doesn't have fireworks or talking dogs, but it's $6.50 well spent.

    Original dishes that do stand out are "fajitas Garibaldi" ($11), which adds chorizo sausage to a combination of chicken and beef on a sizzling iron pan, and "chile Colorado" ($7.95), a spicy beef and chili sauce platter. (And yes, it is served with beans – on the side). The selection of specialties is wide, but if you'd be happier with the standbys of tacos, burritos and enchiladas, there are 30 different combinations of same, along with chile rellenos and chalupas (all $6.50-$7).

    Mexico's Plaza Garibaldi is also known for strolling mariachi bands, and we were quite thrilled to see a band tuning up in the parking lot when we drove up. The band is there several nights a week (call ahead). Be aware that they don't "stroll" but, like their compatriots in Mexico City, charge $15 a song if you want them to play. If you enjoy the authentic, ask for a real folk song (I suggest "La Negrita"), the experience is unique and worth the price just as the food is worth the trip.

    Novelist Ernest Hemingway never owned a restaurant. While he did originate the line, "Paris is a moveable feast," I don't think he was talking about food. Still, he was known to frequent some of the finest restaurants in Italy, France and, of course, Cuba.

    I think he'd be just as likely to be found in the Hurricanes Bar at the sprawling Grand Cypress Resort as he would in the hotel's restaurant that carries his name. (He did say, after all, "I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure.")

    I think he'd be just as likely to be found in the Hurricanes Bar at the sprawling Grand Cypress Resort as he would in the hotel's restaurant that carries his name. (He did say, after all, "I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure.")

    Yes, Papa might have liked this Hemingways, a Key West-styled eatery overlooking a half-acre pool and surrounded by lush gardens and the enormous, 750-room hotel. (There's a golf course and an equestrian center, too.) One of six restaurants on the grounds, the multilevel and multiroom setup means that almost all of the 140 seats have a glass-walled view of the scenery. It's a comfortable space, with whitewashed walls and high ceilings, although I could have done without the nonstop Jimmy Buffet music. The hotel itself is full of impressive Buddhist and modern art, and it is worth a tour.

    Yes, Papa might have liked this Hemingways, a Key West-styled eatery overlooking a half-acre pool and surrounded by lush gardens and the enormous, 750-room hotel. (There's a golf course and an equestrian center, too.) One of six restaurants on the grounds, the multilevel and multiroom setup means that almost all of the 140 seats have a glass-walled view of the scenery. It's a comfortable space, with whitewashed walls and high ceilings, although I could have done without the nonstop Jimmy Buffet music. The hotel itself is full of impressive Buddhist and modern art, and it is worth a tour.

    Executive chef Kenneth Juran has worked in California, New York and France, and the widely influenced dishes are impressive, if expensive.

    Executive chef Kenneth Juran has worked in California, New York and France, and the widely influenced dishes are impressive, if expensive.

    But this is tourist territory, where prices don't seem to be an issue. A featured appetizer of lobster tail and angel-hair pasta had a subtle combination of flavors; but at $18.50, I was expecting the lobster to be more tender and the pasta less so.

    But this is tourist territory, where prices don't seem to be an issue. A featured appetizer of lobster tail and angel-hair pasta had a subtle combination of flavors; but at $18.50, I was expecting the lobster to be more tender and the pasta less so.

    My first reaction to the lobster and pumpkin bisque ($8) was to shut my eyes and enjoy. Meaty pieces of crustacean were immersed in pureed pumpkin and topped with roasted seeds, the deep tastes switching from sweet to smoky.

    My first reaction to the lobster and pumpkin bisque ($8) was to shut my eyes and enjoy. Meaty pieces of crustacean were immersed in pureed pumpkin and topped with roasted seeds, the deep tastes switching from sweet to smoky.

    Fish (served without any old men) is a specialty, available grilled, broiled or sauced. The red snapper ($26) was the big-gest piece I'd ever seen, yet still tender and flaky. I didn't quite know what to expect of shrimp and sweet-corn ravioli ($29), which turned out to be a wheel of shellfish chunks, corn and red peppers interspersed with less impressive pasta stuffed with a bland shrimp paste.

    Fish (served without any old men) is a specialty, available grilled, broiled or sauced. The red snapper ($26) was the big-gest piece I'd ever seen, yet still tender and flaky. I didn't quite know what to expect of shrimp and sweet-corn ravioli ($29), which turned out to be a wheel of shellfish chunks, corn and red peppers interspersed with less impressive pasta stuffed with a bland shrimp paste.

    A commendation must go to the sous chef who prepared the vegetables. The "smashed" potatoes (tender buds of buttery splendor), crisp broiled asparagus and shredded carrots (with a sweetness that filled the mouth) show an admirable attention to quality of preparation.

    A commendation must go to the sous chef who prepared the vegetables. The "smashed" potatoes (tender buds of buttery splendor), crisp broiled asparagus and shredded carrots (with a sweetness that filled the mouth) show an admirable attention to quality of preparation.

    As Hemingway would say, Let's get to the point. After the evening at Hemingways is over, you'll leave knowing you've had an enjoyable meal.

    Drive by Hot Dog Heaven at high noon, and the scene is eternally the same: Hordes of "red hot" lovers are hunched over baskets of dogs and fries on the patio tables, chowing down, generally oblivious to the noise and traffic fumes of Colonial Drive.

    Pull over by the landmark neon hot-dog sign to climb in line with the rest of the seekers, but be prepared to choose from among the three dozen variations – that's right, three dozen. There are Southern dogs heaped with slaw, Chicago dogs smothered with peppers, pickles, relish and tomatoes, and New York dogs topped with mustard and onions. And every variety is available in regular and jumbo size.

    For more than 10 years, owner Mike Feld, a native Chicagoan, has served the same brand of hot dogs he lived on for years in the Windy City. The Vienna Beef brand is made with lean bull beef, all-natural casings and no artificial fillers. Feld steams each hot dog to assure the most thorough cooking.

    We placed our order and then claimed our red plastic baskets brimming with fries. We took a seat at the only indoor space available, a small nook with bar seating, surrounded by Chicago photography and autographed pictures of radio hosts and a former Miss Florida. It didn't take long to devour the jumbo Reuben basket ($5.09), with the hot dog topped with Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese.

    We also liked the jumbo chili, cheese and slaw dog basket ($4.99), which comes with a choice of chili with or without beans. The beanless packed a punch, but wasn't too greasy or spicy. And the fries were the way fries should be: sizzling and crisp outside, steamy inside.

    With all the focus on hot dogs, it wasn't surprising to find that some of the side items we sampled were marginally acceptable. The potato salad and beans were completely forgettable, but the macaroni pasta salad was an improvement. The Chicago hot tamale (99 cents) was so overprocessed and spicy that we didn't dare take more than a bite.

    A much better go-with choice would be a root-beer float ($2.99). They also whip up some tall shakes ($2.99) with pumpkin and vanilla ice cream, or fudge swirl with cookies and cream.

    The aroma of dogs and fries hangs in the room, broken only by blasts of wind and traffic every time the door opens. While the setting may not be pretty, the Hot Dog Heaven is worthy of a visit the next time you need a frankfurter fix.

    To use the word "tacky" to describe the looks of Joe's Crab Shack is underkill. My friend summed it up as soon as we walked through the door of this wildly popular restaurant. "It looks like they have a toy store hanging from the ceiling in here," she said.

    It was true. It looked like a decorating team with multiple-personality disorders had swept through. Every square inch was plastered with dangling skateboards, dolls, Frisbees, in-line skates, teddy bears, model airplanes, Barbies and toy trains. A life-size replica of Jaws was suspended over the middle of the restaurant. The theme carried through to loud top-40 music and an army of waiters who were trained to drop everything and do the Hustle every so often -- many of them wearing T-shirts bearing the mantra "Peace, Love and Crabs."

    It was true. It looked like a decorating team with multiple-personality disorders had swept through. Every square inch was plastered with dangling skateboards, dolls, Frisbees, in-line skates, teddy bears, model airplanes, Barbies and toy trains. A life-size replica of Jaws was suspended over the middle of the restaurant. The theme carried through to loud top-40 music and an army of waiters who were trained to drop everything and do the Hustle every so often -- many of them wearing T-shirts bearing the mantra "Peace, Love and Crabs."

    "Come on, folks, have a good time!" seemed to be the message they were screaming. And the capacity crowd -- packed into booths and lined up out the door and into the parking lot -- was eating it up.

    "Come on, folks, have a good time!" seemed to be the message they were screaming. And the capacity crowd -- packed into booths and lined up out the door and into the parking lot -- was eating it up.

    Despite the decorative disarray, the kitchen is focused when it comes to delivering moderately priced chow fests on the double. There are more hits than misses on the menu -- presented in such a rambling fashion that it's like reading the classifieds -- and Joe's Crab Shack is probably the best choice for seafood if you're in the South Semoran Boulevard area, considering they stock many sea species.

    Despite the decorative disarray, the kitchen is focused when it comes to delivering moderately priced chow fests on the double. There are more hits than misses on the menu -- presented in such a rambling fashion that it's like reading the classifieds -- and Joe's Crab Shack is probably the best choice for seafood if you're in the South Semoran Boulevard area, considering they stock many sea species.

    There's shrimp (popcorn, rock, jumbo) and yellowfin tuna, lobster tail, north Atlantic salmon, mahi mahi, grouper, calamari and clams. And, as the menu reads, theres "crabs, crabs and more crabs" in the form of "crab balls," crab fingers, crab cakes and soft-shell crabs. Then you got your crab legs: snow, Alaskan king, Dungeness. Despite the sheer volume, dining adventurers won't find much to explore. Everything is safely fried, steamed, grilled and broiled, with little in the way of funky sauces or presentations to mess things up.

    There's shrimp (popcorn, rock, jumbo) and yellowfin tuna, lobster tail, north Atlantic salmon, mahi mahi, grouper, calamari and clams. And, as the menu reads, theres "crabs, crabs and more crabs" in the form of "crab balls," crab fingers, crab cakes and soft-shell crabs. Then you got your crab legs: snow, Alaskan king, Dungeness. Despite the sheer volume, dining adventurers won't find much to explore. Everything is safely fried, steamed, grilled and broiled, with little in the way of funky sauces or presentations to mess things up.

    "Crab balls" fritters ($4.99) have potential, but the ones we were served were too heavily breaded. A much better appetizer is the jumbo crab cake ($6.99), packed with lump meat and a hint of spices.

    "Crab balls" fritters ($4.99) have potential, but the ones we were served were too heavily breaded. A much better appetizer is the jumbo crab cake ($6.99), packed with lump meat and a hint of spices.

    Seafood mixed grill ($13.99) offers an adequate skewer of grilled shrimp, but you can get perfectly adequate shrimp at a hundred other restaurants. The garlic-steamed snow crab legs were more alluring, packed with tender white meat and plenty of clean flavor. But the main thing this plate has going for it is a moist, delicate salmon fillet -- ask for it to be prepared with the lemon-pepper seasoning.

    Seafood mixed grill ($13.99) offers an adequate skewer of grilled shrimp, but you can get perfectly adequate shrimp at a hundred other restaurants. The garlic-steamed snow crab legs were more alluring, packed with tender white meat and plenty of clean flavor. But the main thing this plate has going for it is a moist, delicate salmon fillet -- ask for it to be prepared with the lemon-pepper seasoning.

    The shrimp platter ($12.99) offers a big, messy tumble of the staple, the best of which are jumbo sized, fried in a shredded-coconut batter and served with barely sweet plum sauce. The medium-size fried Gulf shrimp and popcorn shrimp are fine, but they pale in comparison. Skip the snoozy shrimp cocktail in favor of the coconut-shrimp dinner ($9.99), which is cheaper.

    The shrimp platter ($12.99) offers a big, messy tumble of the staple, the best of which are jumbo sized, fried in a shredded-coconut batter and served with barely sweet plum sauce. The medium-size fried Gulf shrimp and popcorn shrimp are fine, but they pale in comparison. Skip the snoozy shrimp cocktail in favor of the coconut-shrimp dinner ($9.99), which is cheaper.

    Service was friendly, but it was so sporadic that we finally resorted to flagging down a staff member who wasn't our waiter in order to ask for the check.

    Service was friendly, but it was so sporadic that we finally resorted to flagging down a staff member who wasn't our waiter in order to ask for the check.

    As we exited into the night, we knew our table wouldn't stay empty for long. Joe's Crab Shack may come up short in a couple of areas, but a lack of customers is definitely not one of them.

    Though Peruvian food hasn’t quite made it to the haute cuisine circuit, restaurants offering the South American fare have cropped up all over Orlando; Limeña Chicken in the Winter Park area offers one of the most exhaustive all-Peruvian menus in Central Florida.

    Selections cover the gamut of Peruvian food, from aguaditos ($7), a hearty cilantro-based soup brimming with chicken or fish, to a melting amber-hued tamale ($4), stuffed with earthy black oil-cured olives and shreds of spiced chicken, to the ubiquitous Peruvian lomo saltado ($8.75), a stir-fry of thinly-sliced beef, tomatoes and scallions piled atop French fries. Limeña’s lomo left much to be desired – it was served lukewarm and the meat was tough. The accompanying rice, however, was aromatic and perfectly portioned.

    It’s advisable to prime your digestive system for a few days prior to visiting if you plan to order the jalea ($13), a heaping mound of deep-fried fish and shellfish. It’s not exactly diet food, either, so if you’re counting calories, head instead for one of the ceviches ($10 for fish, $12 for mixed seafood).

    Finish the meal with a small cup of lucuma ice cream ($2), apricot-colored with the fragrance of raisins and honey and a radiant aftertaste that lingers long after the ice cream has been demolished.

    Limeña Chicken is quiet on the weekdays, but Friday and Saturday the band walks in and plays until 2 a.m. The service is friendly, though a bit leisurely. Be prepared to remain flexible: On any given day they may not have what you order, but rest assured, whatever your order, it will be Peruvian.

    Massimo Trattoria's menu offers distinct Italian flavors as the cuisine explores Italyâ??s versatile regions. Northern Italy is represented by the selections of soups and risottos. The Central region boasts flavorful cream sauces and lasagna. Pizzas and marinara sauces round out the menu and encompass the Southern regionâ??s cuisine.

    An interesting statistic: In the United States, the incidence of heart disease is almost four times higher than it is in Colombia. I mention this fact because when I opened the menu of Colombian dishes at Oh! Que Bueno, I swear I could hear my mother yelling, "If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll get sick!"

    Housed in a small, nondescript fast-food makeover off fast-traveled South Semoran Boulevard, the family spot was formerly the Sunrise Restaurant, a schizophrenic endeavor that served omelets for breakfast, Chinese food for lunch and Vietnamese at dinner. No such confusion at O!QB ... the bill of fare is so constant it doesn't vary from morning to 10 p.m. close.

    Housed in a small, nondescript fast-food makeover off fast-traveled South Semoran Boulevard, the family spot was formerly the Sunrise Restaurant, a schizophrenic endeavor that served omelets for breakfast, Chinese food for lunch and Vietnamese at dinner. No such confusion at O!QB ... the bill of fare is so constant it doesn't vary from morning to 10 p.m. close.

    There's not a veggie among the listings of tipicos (traditional dishes), platos (combination plates) and bocaditos (appetizers; literally "little mouths"), unless you count corn, rice and red beans. Don't look for anything green. How do the fit and sound people of Colombia go through the day without their hearts attacking them? Maybe Mom was wrong and taste does count for something.

    There's not a veggie among the listings of tipicos (traditional dishes), platos (combination plates) and bocaditos (appetizers; literally "little mouths"), unless you count corn, rice and red beans. Don't look for anything green. How do the fit and sound people of Colombia go through the day without their hearts attacking them? Maybe Mom was wrong and taste does count for something.

    Take, as an example, the "bandeja campesina" ($9.95), a "farmers meal" that's half dinner, half breakfast. White rice, savory red beans, a thick link sausage and a large slice of fried pork skin (more like thick bacon than the crunchy snacks) join a typical morning repast of steak, fried eggs and corn cake. There's enough food to last most of the day, and each bit tasted as authentic as the presentation. And I tell a slight lie -- there was green in the form of a creamy slice of avocado.

    Take, as an example, the "bandeja campesina" ($9.95), a "farmers meal" that's half dinner, half breakfast. White rice, savory red beans, a thick link sausage and a large slice of fried pork skin (more like thick bacon than the crunchy snacks) join a typical morning repast of steak, fried eggs and corn cake. There's enough food to last most of the day, and each bit tasted as authentic as the presentation. And I tell a slight lie -- there was green in the form of a creamy slice of avocado.

    The "mariscos" menu offers fried red snapper (frozen rather than fresh), mojarra, a small tropical fish, and various shrimp dishes. I tried camarones al ajillo ($10.95) and was rewarded with several plump shrimp swimming in a garlic and butter sauce liberally spiced with cilantro and excellent when spooned over the rice. Green plantain fritters -- CD-sized disks of fried cooking bananas -- were surprisingly moist and tasted great dipped in the garlic.

    The "mariscos" menu offers fried red snapper (frozen rather than fresh), mojarra, a small tropical fish, and various shrimp dishes. I tried camarones al ajillo ($10.95) and was rewarded with several plump shrimp swimming in a garlic and butter sauce liberally spiced with cilantro and excellent when spooned over the rice. Green plantain fritters -- CD-sized disks of fried cooking bananas -- were surprisingly moist and tasted great dipped in the garlic.

    The bites of sweet plantains ($2) were fried almost to caramel without turning to mush, and a sugary delight. I have yet to really acquire a taste for arepas, the flat, grilled corn cakes that are like a thick tortilla and are served with everything from shredded beef to a slice of bland queso blanco, but they're available in all their permutations. A popular treat for carnivores is the morcilla black sausage ($2.50), like German blood sausage or English black pudding with a hot-pepper kick.

    The bites of sweet plantains ($2) were fried almost to caramel without turning to mush, and a sugary delight. I have yet to really acquire a taste for arepas, the flat, grilled corn cakes that are like a thick tortilla and are served with everything from shredded beef to a slice of bland queso blanco, but they're available in all their permutations. A popular treat for carnivores is the morcilla black sausage ($2.50), like German blood sausage or English black pudding with a hot-pepper kick.

    Service is polite and prompt, and protein fans will shout, "Oh! Que bueno!" for the ethnic cuisine.

    When you think of deep-fried squid, the word "beautiful" doesn't usually come to mind. But what we saw at Olympia Restaurant changed our minds. Sitting before us was a simple platter of what the Greek refer to as kalamari: a delicate, undulating tangle of generously carved squid steaks. They were lightly fried with a lacy batter and presented with lemon wedges, fried onions and peppers.

    We could almost taste the Greek elements -- sunshine, earth and sea -- that inspired the food which kept coming out of the kitchen on the night we visited. While this restaurant is elegant in a gently worn way, the setting is decidedly humble on Colonial Drive, east of Goldenrod Road. Like a hardy olive tree that's rooted deep, Olympia Restaurant has been serving authentic Greek cuisine since 1979.

    Although it's been nearly 40 years since the Vasiliadis family left Greece for America, they make regular pilgrimages back to the islands for culinary inspiration, from the tiniest fishing villages to the streets of Athens. Then they bring their impressions back to Orlando and work them into the menu, which is made up of old family recipes which have been tweaked through the years.

    In addition to the kalamari ($6.95), we also had a feta saganaki appetizer ($5.95), which was a satisfying platter of steamy pita wedges arranged around a pot of warm dipping sauce, made of melted feta cheese, olives, pepperoncinis.

    The "Hercules platter" ($13.95) is an easy way to sample the menu, featuring roast lamb and gyro meat. There also were dolmathes, marinated grape leaves wrapped around a stuffing of spiced beef, onions and rice, spanakopita, a delicate spinach pastry wrapped in flaky phyllo dough, and tsatsiki, a mild dipping sauce of yogurt, cucumbers and garlic. There also was a taste of moussaka, which my guest ordered as a full entree ($8.95). That's hearty but mild dish built of layers of sliced and fried potatoes on the bottom, fried eggplant and spicy ground beef in the middle, and a light, creamy béchamel sauce on top.

    Our waitress was attentive and thorough, yet she gave us our space. This is a pleasant spot for a leisurely dining respite. And on Friday and Saturday nights, the setting includes traditional belly dancing shows at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

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