Locations in Orlando with Smoking Prohibited

Clear Filters
Loading...
167 results

    As Einstein said, time is relative. It can be measured in dog years, Internet years and restaurant-in-Central-Florida years. Using that gauge, being around for almost two years makes 310 Park South an area veteran.

    The restaurant, glass doors open wide on to the hustle of Park Avenue, can be called what few others in the area can: cozy. The long room, with tables out on the sidewalk and a piano to the back, felt quite comfortable to me, and judging by the unrestrained conversation in the room, to everyone else as well. You have to applaud any restaurant that can generate real atmosphere.

    Chef Angel Pereira grew up in the family food business in Spain and trained in Italy, and the influences show in dishes like "grilled grouper with linguine in a black-olive pesto sauce and artichoke hearts" ($11.95). Some choices are quite ordinary: the chicken piccata ($10.95) is prepared very traditionally in a white wine and garlic butter; while others like "horseradish encrusted salmon" ($17.95), a thick pillow of flaky fish under a horseradish and whole-grain mustard shell, are eclectic in design. All are a pleasure to eat.

    However. not every dish hits the mark. The exercise afforded by chewing the fairly rubbery fried calamari appetizer ($8.95) is certainly cheaper than a facelift but not much more enjoyable. I will give an enthusiastic thumbs up to the "gator tail," sautéed 3-inch medallions under mustard sauce that will give you a new appreciation for lizard – and no, it doesn't taste like chicken.

    If the place is crowded, as it was the night we were there, resign yourself to the fact that you'll be in line. Our 15-minute wait turned into 30 before we were seated, and our server was very long in coming for our orders and even longer to serve.

    My companion had one of the evening's specials, a venison steak ($20.95). The good news is that the meat, which can be very easy to cook badly, was superbly done; fork-tender, moist and flavorful, a true credit to the capabilities of the chef. The bad news is that she didn't ask for the venison. After a 45-minute wait for the main course, the prime rib that was ordered had transformed into Bambi. Good Bambi, yes, but our server's reaction ("Gee, it would take a very long time to redo it.") put an unfortunate taste in both our mouths. Good service is a big part of enjoying a meal, and the quality of service at 310 Park South is a real failing.

    Take note that 310 Park South participates in the overlooked and very welcome Winter Park Valet parking on the next corner (New England Avenue), and is a darned sight better than cruising for parking. Save that time for waiting for a table.

    With stints at Antonio’s La Fiamma in Maitland and Terramia Winebar in Longwood, Adriatico chef Marco Cudazzo has played a significant role in pleasing local palates with a penchant for pasta and rustic dishes from the old country. Now, along with his charming wife Rosetta, Cudazzo brings the flavors of his native Abruzzo, a coastal region shoring the Adriatic, to College Park’s savvy denizens, most of whom are no strangers to authentic Italian cuisine.

    Not surprisingly, Adriatico’s menu slants toward the sea, not the Abruzzo’s mountainous interior, where lamb, mutton and diavolicchio peppers typify the Abruzzese style. No, it’s all about the seafood here, and the calamaretti alla Napoletana ($8.50), ringlets and tentacles of small, tender squid sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce, is an antipasto worth diving into. The meat is faultlessly firm and doesn’t suffer from the rubbery texture that results from overcooking, while the sauce is an ideal lure for the complimentary bread.

    I took great pleasure in listening to my waiter’s thick, rolling lilt, though I’m sure he felt like driving his giant fist into my skull after I asked him to repeat the evening’s special three times. When I finally understood that the white striped bass ($27.50) was pan-fried with portobello mushrooms, and not pot-bellied monsoons, I couldn’t say no. The enormous platter contained a thick fillet garnished with baby romas, yellow tomatoes and two crunchy jumbo shrimp in addition to the ’shrooms, all slicked in a garlic white wine sauce. The flavors worked well, but I would’ve enjoyed the fish more had it not been served tepid.

    Terrestrial items also get a chance to shine, and the indisputable freshness of the creamy tomato soup ($5.50) made it a bowl full of magical slurps, with heavy cream and basil adding texture and pungency to the ruddy orange bisque. Carciofini “mamma mia” ($8.50), baby artichokes sautéed in olive oil, garlic and mint, were tender for the most part though a few stringy stragglers found their way into the garlicky sauce. The astringency of the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, unfortunately, overpowered the essence of mint, making the dish a slight disappointment.

     

    A comforting main like gnocchi della casa can be enjoyed with a choice of three sauces: marinara ($11.50), meaty Bolognese ($14.50) or gorgonzola cheese ($16.50). No matter the sauce, the potato dumplings were perfectly pillowy, and if you opt for the gorgonzola, the rich sauce is as aromatic as it is fulfilling. Italian-imported lemon sorbetto ($7) bests house-made tiramisu, partly for its refreshing tang and partly for its lemon-peel shell, though
    either will ensure your meal ends on a sweet note.

    Wine racks, exposed brick walls and the glow of candlelight on fresh linens create an oasis of calm, though the serene ambience also extends outside, where patrons can dine by the light of tiki torches along Edgewater Drive. Service is purposefully friendly and leisured, but can seem a little too leisurely when glasses are left unfilled and when lags create uneven pacing. Nevertheless, the trattoria’s genuine charm ultimately wins over the hearts of diners, and the competent execution of the seafood-leaning menu is sure to make Adriatico a fixture in the neighborhood.

    A much-awaited renovation gives an updated look and feel to this downtown establishment hidden away on Church Street. Blissfully undiminished is the quality of the food ' seaweed salad that crunches just right and sushi so fresh it needs no adornment (though the elaborate rolls are delicious).

    No one should have to make up their mind about lunch while listening to Pat Benatar belt out "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." But we gave it a try at the new Baja Burrito Kitchen at Colonial Marketplace. Standing in the "place your order here" spot by the counter, our attention ricocheted between burritos, enchiladas, soft tacos and quesadillas. And we hadn't even gotten to the salsa bar yet.

    Looking past the neon lighting, beach-scene murals and picture windows overlooking the parking lot, we wanted to imagine ourselves on the rugged Pacific coastline. That's where the cuisine takes its cue, from the deadly-hot chilis that grow wild in the desert and the seafood that's plucked from the surf. The menu is not that rustic but has more of a "Cal-Mex" spin: Soft tacos are stuffed with fish, burritos are packed with healthy grilled meats, and beans are stewed, not refried.

    Looking past the neon lighting, beach-scene murals and picture windows overlooking the parking lot, we wanted to imagine ourselves on the rugged Pacific coastline. That's where the cuisine takes its cue, from the deadly-hot chilis that grow wild in the desert and the seafood that's plucked from the surf. The menu is not that rustic but has more of a "Cal-Mex" spin: Soft tacos are stuffed with fish, burritos are packed with healthy grilled meats, and beans are stewed, not refried.

    After placing our orders, we chose seats and waited just a few minutes for delivery. The "Baja burrito" ($4.95) is a popular item, and it's a chunk of a meal – a steamed flour tortilla wrapped around a juicy conglomeration of char-grilled steak, black beans, onions, cilantro, cheese and sour cream. It was even better after a trip to the salsa bar, which features six ways to pack heat. Our favorite was the "fire roasted chipotle" salsa, a medium-strength version with blackened Roma tomatoes. Do heed the warnings on the labels. The formidable "habañero" salsa glows orange, and one drop is all it takes.

    After placing our orders, we chose seats and waited just a few minutes for delivery. The "Baja burrito" ($4.95) is a popular item, and it's a chunk of a meal – a steamed flour tortilla wrapped around a juicy conglomeration of char-grilled steak, black beans, onions, cilantro, cheese and sour cream. It was even better after a trip to the salsa bar, which features six ways to pack heat. Our favorite was the "fire roasted chipotle" salsa, a medium-strength version with blackened Roma tomatoes. Do heed the warnings on the labels. The formidable "habañero" salsa glows orange, and one drop is all it takes.

    We loved the grilled soft tacos so much that we plan on getting to know each and every one. The best on this day was the "fish taco Baja style" ($2.75), a grilled soft flour tortilla crimped around a fried fillet of cod, topped with shredded cabbage and drizzled with creamy cilantro-lime sauce. Running a close second, "spicy steamed shrimp" ($2.75) were mildly seasoned and fresh.

    We loved the grilled soft tacos so much that we plan on getting to know each and every one. The best on this day was the "fish taco Baja style" ($2.75), a grilled soft flour tortilla crimped around a fried fillet of cod, topped with shredded cabbage and drizzled with creamy cilantro-lime sauce. Running a close second, "spicy steamed shrimp" ($2.75) were mildly seasoned and fresh.

    Unfortunately, the "Baja Kitchen combo" ($6.25) was having a bad day – the grilled chicken strips were dry and uninspired. Had they not been overcooked, they would have set off the rest of the dish, which was a hot and flavorful collection of stewed black beans, seasoned rice and soft flour tortillas.

    Unfortunately, the "Baja Kitchen combo" ($6.25) was having a bad day – the grilled chicken strips were dry and uninspired. Had they not been overcooked, they would have set off the rest of the dish, which was a hot and flavorful collection of stewed black beans, seasoned rice and soft flour tortillas.

    While Baja Burrito Kitchen's cooking is formulaic, its freshness is without question. Everything is cooked to order. The restaurant is a welcome addition to the Colonial-Bumby area, whether for a quick pit stop after shopping or for takeout.

    From the shores of Brooklyn comes Bayridge Sushi, one of the newest entries in metro Orlando's crowded Japanese-restaurant market.

    Not that Brooklyn isn't also teeming with sushi and sashimi. Bay Ridge is a tiny neighborhood right on the New York Bay, and to succeed there, you have to be darn good.

    Not that Brooklyn isn't also teeming with sushi and sashimi. Bay Ridge is a tiny neighborhood right on the New York Bay, and to succeed there, you have to be darn good.

    Owner and sushi chef Ben Lu was trained by a venerable Manhattan sushi master for many years, and says he moved his restaurant here for the "business opportunities."

    Owner and sushi chef Ben Lu was trained by a venerable Manhattan sushi master for many years, and says he moved his restaurant here for the "business opportunities."

    Bayridge Sushi is in an odd, slightly cowboy-looking building on the outside, but inside it's thoroughly Far East, with paper screens and blond wood surrounding intimate tables, and the sushi bar up front. There is even a tatami room for those nimble of knee.

    Bayridge Sushi is in an odd, slightly cowboy-looking building on the outside, but inside it's thoroughly Far East, with paper screens and blond wood surrounding intimate tables, and the sushi bar up front. There is even a tatami room for those nimble of knee.

    Unlike a lot of local Japanese eateries, the menu isn't numbingly extensive, but it narrows the hot dishes down to teriyaki, noodles and tempura, focusing instead on sushi and rolls.

    Unlike a lot of local Japanese eateries, the menu isn't numbingly extensive, but it narrows the hot dishes down to teriyaki, noodles and tempura, focusing instead on sushi and rolls.

    I liked the slightly expensive but convenient a la carte sushi menu, from which you can order single pieces that show off Lu's talents.

    I liked the slightly expensive but convenient a la carte sushi menu, from which you can order single pieces that show off Lu's talents.

    The white tuna (shiro, $4.25) is an absolute order; hold the morsel in your mouth and let the buttery fish slowly cook on your tongue.

    The white tuna (shiro, $4.25) is an absolute order; hold the morsel in your mouth and let the buttery fish slowly cook on your tongue.

    Eel (unagi, $4.25) is my weakness, prepared here with less of the obligatory sweet sauce to let the flavor shine through.

    Eel (unagi, $4.25) is my weakness, prepared here with less of the obligatory sweet sauce to let the flavor shine through.

    The tuna is bright pink to dark red, depending on the cut ($3.95 to $4.45), and it tastes of clear water.

    The tuna is bright pink to dark red, depending on the cut ($3.95 to $4.45), and it tastes of clear water.

    My only complaint was the "crab stick" ($3.25) which, like the crab-dumpling appetizer ($4.50) was not real crab, but surimi – you know, that formed whitefish stuff.

    My only complaint was the "crab stick" ($3.25) which, like the crab-dumpling appetizer ($4.50) was not real crab, but surimi – you know, that formed whitefish stuff.

    A better choice is the slightly pickled mackerel with its bracing vinegar bite (saba, $3.25).

    A better choice is the slightly pickled mackerel with its bracing vinegar bite (saba, $3.25).

    The appetizer that was particularly pleasing was the nasu ($3.25), a small jewel of a Japanese eggplant, split and broiled with a topping of miso and ponzu sauce for a sweet contrast to the deep eggplant flavor.

    The appetizer that was particularly pleasing was the nasu ($3.25), a small jewel of a Japanese eggplant, split and broiled with a topping of miso and ponzu sauce for a sweet contrast to the deep eggplant flavor.

    I'm actually not a fan of rolls, but there's a wide selection of not-too-bizarre combinations. The "rainbow," "California" and "dragon" rolls are all here (and not much different from other local concoctions), but I did like the taste and texture variations in the "Bayridge roll" of tuna, salmon and avocado ($8.95).

    I'm actually not a fan of rolls, but there's a wide selection of not-too-bizarre combinations. The "rainbow," "California" and "dragon" rolls are all here (and not much different from other local concoctions), but I did like the taste and texture variations in the "Bayridge roll" of tuna, salmon and avocado ($8.95).

    Bayridge Sushi is a long way from the Brooklyn shores, but in its new Florida digs is a smart choice for tasty, well-prepared sushi.

    In 1967, the Beatles released "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band," and a small chain of fast-food sandwich joints opened in Orlando. Called Beefy King, they were going to give the Arby's and MacDonald's of the world a run for their money.

    It didn't work out; after peaking with six local outlets, Beefy King faltered and began to close up shops. Eventually, only one remained, stranded on Bumby Avenue, cut off from any franchise network. But in a spirited display of entrepreneurial hardheadedness, this Beefy King refused to die. It went private, expanded its menu and thrived, becoming a local legend blessed with the kind of dedicated following usually reserved for Apple computers and Volkswagens.

    It didn't work out; after peaking with six local outlets, Beefy King faltered and began to close up shops. Eventually, only one remained, stranded on Bumby Avenue, cut off from any franchise network. But in a spirited display of entrepreneurial hardheadedness, this Beefy King refused to die. It went private, expanded its menu and thrived, becoming a local legend blessed with the kind of dedicated following usually reserved for Apple computers and Volkswagens.

    What's the Beefy King secret? I say it's their steamers. Every time a Beefy King sandwich is ordered, the meat is seasoned and heated over a steam vent, which serves to moisten the meat and bring out its natural juices. The sandwiches are then wrapped and served immediately, so there's no wait under an intense heat lamp.

    What's the Beefy King secret? I say it's their steamers. Every time a Beefy King sandwich is ordered, the meat is seasoned and heated over a steam vent, which serves to moisten the meat and bring out its natural juices. The sandwiches are then wrapped and served immediately, so there's no wait under an intense heat lamp.

    All the sandwiches are served hot on a freshly baked sesame-seed kaiser roll, which also benefits from the steaming process. And because the steam method is so effective at coaxing out the flavors in any meat, it's rarely necessary to add ketchup or barbecue sauce – though both are available.

    All the sandwiches are served hot on a freshly baked sesame-seed kaiser roll, which also benefits from the steaming process. And because the steam method is so effective at coaxing out the flavors in any meat, it's rarely necessary to add ketchup or barbecue sauce – though both are available.

    This made-to-order system is slower than the prefabricated strategy that takes place at most big-name fast-food chains. Beefy King makes up for the time with a large and highly efficient crew, who shame the dunderheads serving burgers at those places. No doubt, corporate experts would cringe upon seeing the Beefy King counter folks writing out all orders by hand on paper, but the lines appear to move as fast or faster than any.

    This made-to-order system is slower than the prefabricated strategy that takes place at most big-name fast-food chains. Beefy King makes up for the time with a large and highly efficient crew, who shame the dunderheads serving burgers at those places. No doubt, corporate experts would cringe upon seeing the Beefy King counter folks writing out all orders by hand on paper, but the lines appear to move as fast or faster than any.

    Rightfully reigning at the top of the Beefy King food chain is roast beef, cooked fresh daily and simply delicious. Also on the standard sandwich menu are ham and cheese, turkey breast, pastrami and cheese, corned beef, barbecue beef and barbecue pork. Prices range from $2 for a junior to $4 for an extra large.

    Rightfully reigning at the top of the Beefy King food chain is roast beef, cooked fresh daily and simply delicious. Also on the standard sandwich menu are ham and cheese, turkey breast, pastrami and cheese, corned beef, barbecue beef and barbecue pork. Prices range from $2 for a junior to $4 for an extra large.

    Along with the roast beef (which I adore with melted cheese), my favorites are the savory pastrami and cheese, and the turkey breast, which is a revelation. When I can't make a choice, I order junior sandwiches of all three.

    Along with the roast beef (which I adore with melted cheese), my favorites are the savory pastrami and cheese, and the turkey breast, which is a revelation. When I can't make a choice, I order junior sandwiches of all three.

    The barbecue options are all OK, but it's easy to get barbecue this good at other places, too.

    The barbecue options are all OK, but it's easy to get barbecue this good at other places, too.

    On the side, choices are limited: unexceptional salads, "Beefy spuds" (tater tots) and onion rings. The spuds are fine, but your best bet is to just order another sandwich and revel in the beauty of this mighty little sandwich shop that has survived for 33 years by doing it better than all the big players. Simple, focused quality – now there's a lesson everyone should learn.

    Sushi and noodles are all the rage at this cool lunch spot. Handsomely presented "torch rolls" with conch, scallops, salmon, tuna and sriracha are luscious, while spicy red tobiko proffer a proper pop. Bento boxes run the gamut and a bonanza of boba awaits tea-totalers.

    OK, I'm going to come right out and admit it. When I first heard of a 24-hour Mexican takeout restaurant, I shuddered. Having been out of college for many years, the idea of fast-food-grade tacos before sunrise made me just a little bit queasy.

    And then we went to Beto's, near the congested crossroads of State Road 436 and U.S. Highway 17-92, and I now humbly apologize. There's an old joke about Mexican food being nothing but meat, rice and cheese with different names, and I can tell you that the joke doesn't hold true here. Beto's does not churn out your typical drive-through meals.

    And then we went to Beto's, near the congested crossroads of State Road 436 and U.S. Highway 17-92, and I now humbly apologize. There's an old joke about Mexican food being nothing but meat, rice and cheese with different names, and I can tell you that the joke doesn't hold true here. Beto's does not churn out your typical drive-through meals.

    Look at the "Beto's special carne asada fries" ($5.50), thick-cut french fries smothered in guacamole, sour cream and chopped steak -- not ground meat but real pieces of steak. Or "carnitas" tacos, soft corn tortillas stuffed with roasted pork ($2.25).

    Look at the "Beto's special carne asada fries" ($5.50), thick-cut french fries smothered in guacamole, sour cream and chopped steak -- not ground meat but real pieces of steak. Or "carnitas" tacos, soft corn tortillas stuffed with roasted pork ($2.25).

    I don't usually associate Mexican cooking with potatoes, and, in fact, the "Mexican potato" is actually jicama, a crunchy, sweet tuber much like a water chestnut. (The sweet, syrupy Pina drink that's served is made from jicama; also try Horchata, a traditional rice, almond and cinnamon drink.) So I wasn't expecting the Southwestern influences of the "Texano" burrito ($2.95), filled with rich dark-meat chicken, sour cream, cheese and potatoes, a filling and satisfying combination. I guarantee you will not eat it all at one sitting; likewise the "California" burrito ($3.05), grilled steak, pico de gallo and potato, an old-fashioned meat-and-potato meal in your hand.

    I don't usually associate Mexican cooking with potatoes, and, in fact, the "Mexican potato" is actually jicama, a crunchy, sweet tuber much like a water chestnut. (The sweet, syrupy Pina drink that's served is made from jicama; also try Horchata, a traditional rice, almond and cinnamon drink.) So I wasn't expecting the Southwestern influences of the "Texano" burrito ($2.95), filled with rich dark-meat chicken, sour cream, cheese and potatoes, a filling and satisfying combination. I guarantee you will not eat it all at one sitting; likewise the "California" burrito ($3.05), grilled steak, pico de gallo and potato, an old-fashioned meat-and-potato meal in your hand.

    Still on the burrito kick, the fried-fish-and-tarter-sauce one was exceptional, with crispy fried fish and sharp pico de gallo (spiked with lime) for a West Coast-flavored delight ($2.95). The combination platters ($4.25 to $5.95) are enormous servings of extremely well-executed traditional dishes, using shredded beef (machaca) in enchiladas and chorizo with tortillas. I wish there were more seafood offerings than just fish, but perhaps that will come.

    Still on the burrito kick, the fried-fish-and-tarter-sauce one was exceptional, with crispy fried fish and sharp pico de gallo (spiked with lime) for a West Coast-flavored delight ($2.95). The combination platters ($4.25 to $5.95) are enormous servings of extremely well-executed traditional dishes, using shredded beef (machaca) in enchiladas and chorizo with tortillas. I wish there were more seafood offerings than just fish, but perhaps that will come.

    And then there's breakfast. Never contemplated a stuffed taco in the morning? Beto's serves breakfast burritos unlike any other: giant two-fisted tortillas wrapped around ham and eggs, shredded beef and vegetables, or a steak and egg burrito stuffed with grilled meat, fried eggs, cheese and potatoes. Go very early, because you won't be hungry again for quite a while after finishing one of these.

    And then there's breakfast. Never contemplated a stuffed taco in the morning? Beto's serves breakfast burritos unlike any other: giant two-fisted tortillas wrapped around ham and eggs, shredded beef and vegetables, or a steak and egg burrito stuffed with grilled meat, fried eggs, cheese and potatoes. Go very early, because you won't be hungry again for quite a while after finishing one of these.

    Beto's won't be winning any prizes for its decor, but the interior of the nondescript building (which at various times was a roast-chicken stand, a bagel place and a Chinese takeout) is immaculately clean and comfortable enough for a not-so-quick eat-in, any time of the day or night. Be prepared to bring half home.

    Orlando isn't exactly known for its bike-friendly thoroughfares, what with the lack of good public transportation clogging up streets with sedans and SUVs of every conceivable size. In the early '90s, in fact, the city was consistently voted as one of the worst in the country for cyclists ' I've personally known two people who were hit by careless drivers while enjoying a ride on our mean streets. And while things have improved in recent years (more bikeways, bike racks, bike awareness), the gains aren't worth an ache in the undercarriage if motorists remain oblivious to pedal-pushers. So, given this city's less-than-stellar rep for cycling I, naturally, opted to drive to Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux, a cute little neighborhood café in Audubon Park and a haven for urban bikers.

    The night I visited, a hobbling chap sporting a crutch (a motorist-related mishap, perhaps?) walked in to unwind with a few of his cycling buddies, giving rise to a cacophony louder than a roomful of yellow jerseys. A place for quiet conversation it's not, even when half-full, but the space, decorated in an understated modern style, proves owners Jen and Darrell Cunningham have good taste. For that matter, so did a glass of Marqués de Griñón caliza ($10.50), the blend of Spanish syrah and graciano getting the meal off to clean start. (In honor of the Vuelta a España, or Tour of Spain, there were a few Spanish selections on the wine list.) A thick smoothie of peanut butter, banana, milk, yogurt and honey ($3.95) made for a far more sluggish beginning.

    But the pace picked up again with the sandwiches, many named after famous cyclists. (A suggestion, if I may: the Steve Bauer-y Bum, with slices of rump roast, pearl onions and banana peppers.) The Rasmussen ($6.95), named after Danish cyclist Michael 'The Chickenâ?� Rasmussen, is everything a chicken salad sandwich should be: creamy, crunchy and subtly sweet, thanks to the inclusion of grapes. The café's focus on health means sandwiches are served with your choice of carrot sticks or Flat Earth vegetable chips, as well as a small bag of Jelly Bellys. The caprese panini ($6.95) was perfectly pressed and not a palate-shredder, with just the right ratio of mozzarella-to-tomato-to-basil. But sampling the broccoli cheddar soup ($3.95) was akin to having your bike chain slip off its sprocket. Too runny and devoid of chunkiness, the soup brought the proceedings to a screeching halt. I did get my fill of the thick, wonderful hummus ($6.95), circled by 'spokesâ?� of celery, cukes, carrots, tomato, zucchini and squash.

    Don't expect to have your order taken tableside. The idea is to place it at the counter, after which the meal will be brought to you. I made the mistake of waiting for my order to be taken, and Jen was kind and gracious enough to oblige, but that isn't the norm. It's easy to make that assumption, as the place just looks like it has full table service. I made sure to get off my seat when it came time for dessert, and it's a good thing, too, as both the Nutella cupcake ($1.85) and the chocolate-coconut-butterscotch brownie ($2.95) were finish-line favorites. A cup of Jittery Joe's coffee ($1.45) offered an appropriate kick-start.

    Riding your bike to B3 is encouraged ' just keep your eye on the racks outside, lest you inadvertently re-create a scene from a Vittorio de Sica film. The restaurant business, after all, has always had a cyclical nature.

    For many years, Woodlands restaurant on Orange Blossom Trail monopolized South Indian cuisine in this city. Not that their domination was a bad thing ' Woodlands' kitchen has always been consistent and their peppery all-veg fare gratifying. But in recent years, others have come to challenge Woodlands' supremacy; namely, Udipi Cafe in Longwood, and now Bombay Café, housed inside the Laxmi Plaza directly across the street from Woodlands. Go inside and traipse to the back of the building past the Indian grocery, fashion boutique and video store and there, on the right, a pleasant and pungent sanctuary awaits.

    The ordering system isn't complicated: peruse a menu and order at the counter, take a number, have a seat and the food will be brought out to you. Thing is, the menu is somewhat daunting, so diners tend to seat themselves, then examine the menu, then head back to the counter, place their order, get a number and take their seats again (assuming they weren't taken by another party). The place really calls for table service, but it's a small hassle given the rewarding dishes the kitchen churns out.

    Several chaat dishes offer a texturally diverse start to the meal: peanuts and puffed rice lend a marvelous crunch to gut-burning bhel puri ($3.95); creamy aloo tikki's ($3.95) potato base is punctuated with chickpeas and sweet and spicy chutneys; and the Bombay special ($4.95) offers the works ' fried lentil beans, chickpeas, sev, cilantro, tomato, onions and yogurt atop potato fritters. I wasn't all too impressed with diminutive potato vada ($3.50) dumplings (I'm partial to Woodlands' ample potato bonda), though midsize samosas ($2) were seasoned to satisfaction. Dosas are synonymous with South Indian fare, and traditional masala dosa ($5.99), with a potato and onion filling, is a crepe of comfort.

    For me, pooris and baturas (fried poofy breads resembling blimps) offer the ultimate comfort. Sample the poori bhaji ($6.45), with seasoned potatoes, or the chole bathura ($7.45), a chickpea curry, and you'll concur. A friend of mine is hooked on garlic naan ($1.99), more of a Northern Indian delicacy, which she enjoys with saffron-tinged biryani mixed with paneer, peas, bell peppers and cauliflower.

    The heady vegetable makes another appearance in sweet and hot gobi Manchurian ($7.99), only here the cauliflower is battered and lightly fried, served with an optional soy-based sauce. I prefer it with the sauce, though you can always get it on the side. Cheese cubes are tandoori-marinated in the thick paneer tikka ($9), a dish similar in taste to chicken tikka masala. My favorite curry, however, is the infernal dum aloo chettinad ($8.95). The neck-sweat'inducing dark potato gravy is redolent with cumin seeds, green chilies, tomato and ginger slivers, and best enjoyed with whole wheat chapati ($2.45).

    With the blaze of spices, seasonings and chilies circulating through your bloodstream, there are, thankfully, plenty of coolants to help temper the heat. The mango or mixed-berry milkshake ($3.95) soothes while you eat; sweet, milky payasam ($2.50) with raisins, almonds and cashews effectively puts out the fire. (Use any leftover poori to scoop it up.)

    A quote by Gandhi ' 'Be the change you want to see in the worldâ?� ' hangs on the wall behind the counter. It's a fitting maxim given Bombay Café's resolve in initiating a change of the guard.

    Sometimes bad things happen to good restaurateurs. Take Mark Dollard for example: The well-traveled chef responsible for bringing us Absinthe Bistro was booted from his space inside the gorgeous Bumby Arcade thanks to Lou Pearlman's kiddy-fiddling, grown-up-swindling ways, only to return at the behest of slimeball developer Cameron Kuhn ' who stipulated the new restaurant serve pizza instead of fancy French fare. So after taking a pecuniary hit for Absinthe, Dollard licked his financial wounds and, ultimately, swallowed his culinary pride and constructed an open kitchen complete with two different ovens: a brick pizza oven for deep-dish, and a wood-fired oven for hand-tossed pizza (thus the name 'Brick & Fireâ?�).

    But Dollard managed to sneak a few gourmet items and pasta dishes onto the menu, a welcome sight given dining on pizza in the scarlet-lit cellar room seems a bit like watching a T-ball game in Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, a leaky ceiling precluded any underground dining on this visit, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the baked ziti ($12.25), advertised by my well-meaning waiter as 'mac and cheese for adults.â?� Tubular bridegrooms baked with cream, blanketed with strips of brie and crisped with seasoned bread crumbs made for a stellar start, but I curbed my enthusiasm as there were more dishes on the way. Good ol'-fashioned London broil ($18.75) seemed an unusual, albeit impeccably executed, starter. The wonderfully tender strips of flank steak were served medium-rare, and sliced across the grain; wood-oven roasted potatoes and vegetables accompanied the dish.

    And then came the pizza. There are scores of specialty/gourmet/artisan pies offered (not to mention the option to create your own), but being a sucker for a robust curd, I couldn't resist the goat cheese pizza ($16.75), a 10-inch, hand-tossed pie with a respectable crust and a liberal crumbling of chèvre. The cheese's tart flavor was balanced by the inclusion of sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed spinach, basil and toasted pine nuts. An added bonus: The pizza held up under the weight of all the toppings.

    When the enormous pulled-chicken calzone ($9.75) finally arrived, its lustrous sheen nearly offset the waiter's absentmindedness (he forgot to put in the order), though I couldn't help but wonder why so many waiters forgo pen and paper. Dollard, nonetheless, forgoes the traditional half-moon shape for a circular one, fills it with roasted chicken, julienned portabella mushrooms and gouda, then tops it with plenty of tomato sauce for a little supplementary indulgence.

    The Dessert Lady's decadent cakes beckoned next door, but my crusty disposition wouldn't waver when it came time for a sugary finale, and the flaky shell of the hot apple pie ($5.25) didn't disappoint. Baked and served in a cast-iron skillet, the deep-dish dessert was crowned with a dollop of vanilla-bean ice cream and a caramel drizzle, and was plenty big enough to share. My only complaint was that it was served tongue-scaldingly hot, and after waiting 10 minutes for it to arrive, I just wanted to dig in.

    Still, you've got to hand it to Dollard for suffering through all the setbacks and shenanigans that have plagued the Church Street entertainment complex in recent years. The pace could be quickened and service could use some polishing, but Dollard's display of resolve and perseverance in the kitchen only underscores his never-say-die attitude. With that sort of determination, good things will (eventually) come to those who wait. `EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this review, Brick & Fire has moved to South Orange Avenue.`

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

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the Bubbalou's on Conroy Road.

    If you want to have a quiet, relaxed Italian dinner for two, stay clear of the new Maitland mecca Buca di Beppo – but I mean that in a good way.

    Only one month after opening on the former Bubble Room site, Buca di Beppo is a neighborhood magnet. Few people know that the name loosely translates as Joe's Basement, but they quickly understand the eatery's eclectic nature: bright and busy, bustling with an army of waiters.

    Only one month after opening on the former Bubble Room site, Buca di Beppo is a neighborhood magnet. Few people know that the name loosely translates as Joe's Basement, but they quickly understand the eatery's eclectic nature: bright and busy, bustling with an army of waiters.

    One oddity is that everyone who enters Buca di Beppo is marched through the kitchen, where a tag team of chefs is in constant motion. The dining area is busy in a different way. Much like the Bubble Room before it, every inch is garishly festooned with Christmas lights and souvenirs, including a reproduction of the Mona Lisa in neon curlers.

    One oddity is that everyone who enters Buca di Beppo is marched through the kitchen, where a tag team of chefs is in constant motion. The dining area is busy in a different way. Much like the Bubble Room before it, every inch is garishly festooned with Christmas lights and souvenirs, including a reproduction of the Mona Lisa in neon curlers.

    Visitors are encouraged to roam around the dining room to check out the billboard-style menus. (Regular ones are provided as well.) Also like the Bubble Room, be careful not to over order. The kitchen turns out pizzas as big as counter tops and meatballs the size of baseballs. We ordered an appetizer, two dinners and dessert, and ended up carting leftovers home in a grocery sack with handles. "Thank you for shopping with us," manager Tim Dean sometimes says as the full waddle out.

    Visitors are encouraged to roam around the dining room to check out the billboard-style menus. (Regular ones are provided as well.) Also like the Bubble Room, be careful not to over order. The kitchen turns out pizzas as big as counter tops and meatballs the size of baseballs. We ordered an appetizer, two dinners and dessert, and ended up carting leftovers home in a grocery sack with handles. "Thank you for shopping with us," manager Tim Dean sometimes says as the full waddle out.

    Bruschetta ($6.95) is a fine meal-starter, created from a loaf of country bread sliced in half and broiled with garlic vinaigrette. The bread has a puffy, crispy, oily quality that is tantalizing, especially when topped with the lush mixture of tomatoes and red onions.

    Bruschetta ($6.95) is a fine meal-starter, created from a loaf of country bread sliced in half and broiled with garlic vinaigrette. The bread has a puffy, crispy, oily quality that is tantalizing, especially when topped with the lush mixture of tomatoes and red onions.

    Nine-layer lasagna is such a big deal to prepare that it's presented as a special event every week or two. (It's worth calling ahead to time a visit accordingly.) At $21.95 and nearly a foot in length, the Buca version sizzles with secret seasonings in the marinara and is loaded with meat, ricotta and provolone cheeses; super-fresh basil adds further appeal.

    Nine-layer lasagna is such a big deal to prepare that it's presented as a special event every week or two. (It's worth calling ahead to time a visit accordingly.) At $21.95 and nearly a foot in length, the Buca version sizzles with secret seasonings in the marinara and is loaded with meat, ricotta and provolone cheeses; super-fresh basil adds further appeal.

    One of the favorite pizzas is the "arrabbiata" ($18.95), featuring a 2-foot-long cracker crust brushed with spicy oil, topped with thick slices of tangy fennel sausage, pepperoni and caramelized onions.

    One of the favorite pizzas is the "arrabbiata" ($18.95), featuring a 2-foot-long cracker crust brushed with spicy oil, topped with thick slices of tangy fennel sausage, pepperoni and caramelized onions.

    They were out of the "Buca bread pudding caramello" ($8.95), studded with chocolate chips, raisins and cinnamon cream, and smothered with caramel sauce. So we diverted our attention to a trio of "chocolate cannoli" ($8.95) packed with chocolate chips and candied pistachio nuts, and served in a puddle of chocolate-licorice sauce.

    They were out of the "Buca bread pudding caramello" ($8.95), studded with chocolate chips, raisins and cinnamon cream, and smothered with caramel sauce. So we diverted our attention to a trio of "chocolate cannoli" ($8.95) packed with chocolate chips and candied pistachio nuts, and served in a puddle of chocolate-licorice sauce.

    For now, Buca di Beppo is open only for dinner. On weekends, reservations are not just a good idea, they're essential – unless you don't mind spending an hour or two in the equally animated bar.

    Ah, progress. It seems whenever something new appears (the downtown Mini dealership for example), something old and treasured gets shoved aside. Such was the case with Café Annie, a neighborhood breakfast and lunch staple that occupied the corner spot on Jefferson Street and North Orange Avenue -- spiffy new cars in, gyros for lunch out.

    So it was a great pleasure for downtown dwellers to see Café Annie return, displaced one door over. The spot, a cavernous storefront that was occupied by the Tin Can Alley restaurant for about five minutes, affords owner and chef Nazih Sebaali a large space for his Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes ("A bit of everything," he says) that have more to do with flavor than flair.

    The food has a feeling of health and simplicity. Baba ghanoush ($2.95), a smooth paste of roast eggplant and garlic, sits on the plate simply adorned with a drizzle of olive oil, imploring you to eat. When you order a roasted chicken ($4.99), that's what you get, a dark or white quarter, oven-brown and juicy, served with two side dishes.

    And what side dishes they are. Greek fasolia salad (butter beans stewed with tomato), snappy crisp green beans, or vinegary vegetarian stuffed grape leaves ($1.95 each) share a table with hummus ($2.95) and the best garlic mashed potatoes I've had in ages ($1.75, order extra).

    The chicken kebab ($5.95) is charred and slightly lemony, and is available pressed in a pita, as is the gyro, a broiled beef and lamb combination with tomato, lettuce and a yogurt dressing ($4.25).

    Specials change day to day; that afternoon it was richly seasoned lasagna and a salad for $5.50. How can you beat that? The point should be clear by now that if you don't like garlic, this might not be a good destination, but the thick roasted-garlic and tomato soup, loaded with savory chunks of tomato and rice, was worthy of nearby high-priced restaurants, and only $1.95 for the cup.

    Breakfast starts at 7 a.m.; eggs, bacon, sausage, croissant sandwiches are joined by "Annie's eggpita" ($4.25) a dense Mediterranean omelet in pita bread.

    Sebaali came to Orlando as an engineering student 25 years ago. When asked why he got into the restaurant business, he replied, "I don't really know how to answer that question." But despite his uncertainty, the previous home of Café Annie (named after his wife) stayed in business for 13 years. The revamped cafe opens for dinner starting this weekend, serving the same menu plus lamb kebabs, steak and seafood, with table service. I'll be going. How about you?

    Classic French cuisine, of the sort revered gastronome Georges Auguste Escoffier codified in his landmark 1903 publication Le Guide Culinaire, has never really turned my gastric crank. I'm referring to those elaborate dishes where the role of the saucier supersedes that of the chef, resulting in caloric juggernauts heavy on béchamel and light on, well, nothing. Having been raised on a diet bordering on the infernal, I've often found myself veering away from haute and gravitating toward hot.

    But Café de France, a low-key boîte ensconced on high-profile Park Avenue, shuns the weighty and complicated for traditional nouvelle cuisine ' simple, light and with an emphasis on preserving natural flavors, not saucing them into submission. They've been doing so for nearly a quarter-century; chef Benjamin Schrank has defied gastro trends and maintained a focus on the straightforward, while adding a touch of finesse to his Gallic presentations.

    Escargots à l'ail ($9), for example, was a fine plating of succulent shelled snails bathed in herbed garlic butter and served with a small phyllo pastry shell. A couple of gritty gastropods were cause for concern, but I'd likely order it again. Same goes for the Bloody Mary bisque ($7), the soup du jour that should be available toujours. An airy puree of tomatoes and horseradish blazed a trail down the esophagus, but finely diced celery provided a cool crunch while a dollop of avocado mousse assuaged the palate. French onion soup ($6) was a textbook study of the classic starter, with a gossamer broth, subtly sweet onions and a generous layer of nutty Gruyère.

    Competent mains vary from rack of lamb ($29) to veal osso buco ($30), but the grilled ostrich ($30), a special for the evening, proved too tempting to pass up. Medium-rare slices of the lean, slightly gamy bird were served on a rectangular plate along with a splash of rosemary beurre-rouge, potatoes confit and stalks of broccolini. The dish's simplicity epitomizes Schrank's style, and the European-sized portion was also a welcome sight.

    The pan-seared filet ($30) was, in a word, outstanding. The side, a mix of corn, shallots and diced Peruvian potatoes in a roasted red pepper coulis, brought out the flavor of the beef, while an accompanying glass of Chateau Le Conseiller Bordeaux ($9) made an ideal pairing.

    Surrender yourself to the 'soft heart� chocolate soufflé ($8), a ramekin-shaped bonne bouche with a molten center of Belgian dark chocolate sided with fresh raspberries. I also found myself succumbing to the indulgence of the profiteroles ($8) ' the puff pastries filled with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate were neither overly sweet nor excessive.

    Surrender yourself to the 'soft heart� chocolate soufflé ($8), a ramekin-shaped bonne bouche with a molten center of Belgian dark chocolate sided with fresh raspberries. I also found myself succumbing to the indulgence of the profiteroles ($8) ' the puff pastries filled with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate were neither overly sweet nor excessive.

    The interior is reminiscent of a French country manor and exudes an air of austerity, as does the service, which, for the most part, is efficient and professional. I did get a chuckle when a pair of Rollins College students, one wearing a 'Save Darfurâ?� hoodie, walked in asking if they could get takeout. They were met with a polite non, but I felt bad they couldn't take a $30 filet or $32 roasted mallard duck in a paper bag back to the dorm.

    Then again, the restaurant's proximity to Rollins will, at times, see famished college students walk through its French doors in search of a classy nosh. And it's just as well considering that over the past 25 years, Café de France has been in the business of schooling its competition.

    From the outside, Cafe Trastevere seems a little too perfect. It's almost as if a grand, old Italian villa fell out of the sky and landed on Magnolia Avenue, across the street from the First Union office tower.

    Yet when we stepped inside this new "Roman Italian kitchen" – the sister establishment of Trastevere Ristorante in Winter Park – on a recent Saturday evening, we found a very casual atmosphere and a smart, postmodern interior.

    Yet when we stepped inside this new "Roman Italian kitchen" – the sister establishment of Trastevere Ristorante in Winter Park – on a recent Saturday evening, we found a very casual atmosphere and a smart, postmodern interior.

    Seated at one of the last available tables downstairs, we found ourselves nearly elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors. To the left, a group of 40-somethings discussed Winter Park real-estate rumors. To the right, a table of Generation Xers held forth on the latest crop of super-models. The music included old jazz ballads, along the lines of Billie Holiday. Then someone in the kitchen turned on the radio, and we were listening to "Car Wash."

    Seated at one of the last available tables downstairs, we found ourselves nearly elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors. To the left, a group of 40-somethings discussed Winter Park real-estate rumors. To the right, a table of Generation Xers held forth on the latest crop of super-models. The music included old jazz ballads, along the lines of Billie Holiday. Then someone in the kitchen turned on the radio, and we were listening to "Car Wash."

    Most items on the dinner menu can be had for $10 to $16. The selection includes some of the finest pasta dishes and classic Italian entrees you'll find in town – chockablock with fresh seasonings and flavors and absolutely delicious. The proof is in the flock of cars usually crowded around the building.

    Most items on the dinner menu can be had for $10 to $16. The selection includes some of the finest pasta dishes and classic Italian entrees you'll find in town – chockablock with fresh seasonings and flavors and absolutely delicious. The proof is in the flock of cars usually crowded around the building.

    We started with eggplant capponata ($4.95), a dish of chopped eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, plum tomatoes and capers. It was served with a soup spoon and toast points, which we used to build bruschettas – very saucy, warm and tasty. The traditional paste e fagioli soup ($2.95) was dominated by cannellini beans, but the tomato broth was warm and thick, and quite good.

    We started with eggplant capponata ($4.95), a dish of chopped eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, plum tomatoes and capers. It was served with a soup spoon and toast points, which we used to build bruschettas – very saucy, warm and tasty. The traditional paste e fagioli soup ($2.95) was dominated by cannellini beans, but the tomato broth was warm and thick, and quite good.

    Among the entrees, filet porcini is highly recommended. At $19.25, it was worth every penny. The filet mignon was butterfly-cut and grilled, and so tender that it hardly required a knife. It was topped with a dark sauce of cabernet and wild porcini mushrooms just rich enough to enhance the meat.

    Among the entrees, filet porcini is highly recommended. At $19.25, it was worth every penny. The filet mignon was butterfly-cut and grilled, and so tender that it hardly required a knife. It was topped with a dark sauce of cabernet and wild porcini mushrooms just rich enough to enhance the meat.

    My guest's pesto capellini ($14.95) featured Gulf shrimp seared in garlic, then tossed with angel-hair pasta in a light pesto sauce. Although the flavors were fresh, the shrimp were medium –not jumbo, as the menu advertised.

    My guest's pesto capellini ($14.95) featured Gulf shrimp seared in garlic, then tossed with angel-hair pasta in a light pesto sauce. Although the flavors were fresh, the shrimp were medium –not jumbo, as the menu advertised.

    Cafe Trastevere also has a more spacious dining area upstairs that affords more privacy. But wherever you choose to be seated, expect a great meal in a classy, stimulating atmosphere, without having to spend a fortune.

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2019 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation