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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.

Judging from the line snaking out of the Four Rivers barbecue shack on Fairbanks Avenue, we knew that the joint had to be churning out some damn fine 'cue. So after spending an inordinate amount of time looking for parking [ed. note: this review was written for the original location at 2103 W. Fairbanks; they've since moved to a spot down the street with more parking], we joined the queue, inhaled the smoky air and covetously ogled the piled-high platters of meat being carried by salivating customers to the benches out back. In the meantime, a chirpy server came by with samples of pulled pork to hold us over – a shrewd ploy from a restaurant that already seems to have outgrown its space. Crowd control may not be this smokehouse's strong point, but serving the finest brisket in the region more than makes up for the inefficiency in the ordering process. So long as their food remains worth the wait, folks'll endure the lines and do so in happy anticipation.

When we finally made it to the counter and saw our sublime slab of smoked-to-perfection brisket ($12.99 with three sides) being sliced, gathered and plopped onto a paper-lined tray by the Elvis/Michael Madsen look-alike, we could barely contain ourselves. Then came the selection of heady sides – smokehouse corn relish (an absolute must), Texas corn bread laced with jalapeños, thick, glistening macaroni and cheese – and finally the selection of one of the daily-changing desserts. We couldn't pay quick enough, anxious to dash out to the benches with our food and dig in.

And it didn't disappoint. Rich, juicy and wonderfully smoky, the ample serving of Black Angus brisket was ridiculously good, the thin blackened crust an added bonus. Squeezing spicy barbecue sauce over the meat, while nice, wasn't necessary, and the accompanying lardy biscuit didn't really impress me. The mound of pulled pork ($10.99 with three sides), shredded into tangy submission, worked better as a sandwich ($6.99), while the burnt-ends sandwich ($6.59) offered the best of both worlds – brisket and pulled pork under one hefty bun. The moist half-chicken ($9.99 with three sides) requires a shout to have someone pluck it out of the smoker. (If you opt to splurge a couple of extra bucks to add a second meat to the meal, pass on the lackluster smokehouse prime rib.) The sides, it bears mentioning again, are what sets Four Rivers apart from other barbecue joints in town – sweet and meaty baked beans, salty crinkle fries and Southern green beans are all wonderful. Smoked jalapeños filled with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon are a truly original, if outright over-the-top, side. In keeping with the over-the-top theme, the towering block of "chocolate awesomeness" dessert ($3.99) is impossible to devour in two sittings, let alone one. I preferred the cup of divine banana dream pudding ($2.25) with coconut and Nilla wafers.

4 Rivers is the brainchild of John Rivers (not to be confused with local barbecue maven Johnny Rivers), who led a successful corporate life before following his backyard passion for Texas-style barbecue. A line of sauces, a catering company and, now, a popular restaurant are all signs that Rivers' business skills are just as sharp as his cooking skills. So, given the long lines and high demand for his product, my sincere hope is that 4 Rivers mimics the bellies of its patrons and expands.

If you've ever lived south of the East-West Expressway, in the vicinity of Lake Davis, you probably remember El Rincon, a beer-in-a-bag kind of market at the corner of Mills Avenue and Gore Street. If your timing was good and you caught the place when it was open, which was frustratingly rare, you might find a loaf of white bread and a copy of the paper to go with your tallboy. But only the foolhardy would actually order a sandwich from the place.

How things have changed since Jim Ellis and Nick Massoni took over in September. El Rincon is now the 903 Mills Market, and it is the heart of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. The once-dark grocery with bars on the windows is now brightly lit and inviting. You can have lunch or a beer at one of the outside tables and watch the traffic on Mills whiz by. Or sit inside and chat with neighbors as they come and go.

How things have changed since Jim Ellis and Nick Massoni took over in September. El Rincon is now the 903 Mills Market, and it is the heart of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. The once-dark grocery with bars on the windows is now brightly lit and inviting. You can have lunch or a beer at one of the outside tables and watch the traffic on Mills whiz by. Or sit inside and chat with neighbors as they come and go.

903 Mills serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the food is worth a stop. I have yet to eat breakfast there, but the sandwiches are creative, tasty and huge (the "Grateful Bread," a combination of turkey, blue cheese, stuffing, onions and cranberry mayo on sourdough is a personal favorite); the dinner blue plates don't disappoint, and there's always a kettle of soup on.

903 Mills serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the food is worth a stop. I have yet to eat breakfast there, but the sandwiches are creative, tasty and huge (the "Grateful Bread," a combination of turkey, blue cheese, stuffing, onions and cranberry mayo on sourdough is a personal favorite); the dinner blue plates don't disappoint, and there's always a kettle of soup on.

Tipplers will appreciate what has to be one of the best beer selections in town. I've never seen He'Brew, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog and White Hawk together in one place before, let alone in a single cooler in a tiny neighborhood store. Wine heads (as distinguished from winos) will dig the monthly tastings.

Tipplers will appreciate what has to be one of the best beer selections in town. I've never seen He'Brew, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog and White Hawk together in one place before, let alone in a single cooler in a tiny neighborhood store. Wine heads (as distinguished from winos) will dig the monthly tastings.

In the age of the 7-Eleven, community grocery stores are a rare and wonderful thing, and this one is a gem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True to form, in the Artist Point restaurant, Disney does it up big – from the size of the room, to the size of your plate, to the size of your food portion, to the size of your bill, which, in this instance, is justified.

And they do it beautifully.

And they do it beautifully.

Located in the jaw-dropping magnitude of the Wilderness Lodge, in the Magic Kingdom resort area, the restaurant follows the Northwest theme both in decor and menu. Half-a-dozen starters from the woods, rivers and fields offer exotics such as the sautéed elk sausage that's served with braised potatoes, onions and mushrooms ($5), or shrimp and chicken saté marinated and grilled on a rosemary skewer and served with sea grass and dipping sauce ($8.25).

Located in the jaw-dropping magnitude of the Wilderness Lodge, in the Magic Kingdom resort area, the restaurant follows the Northwest theme both in decor and menu. Half-a-dozen starters from the woods, rivers and fields offer exotics such as the sautéed elk sausage that's served with braised potatoes, onions and mushrooms ($5), or shrimp and chicken saté marinated and grilled on a rosemary skewer and served with sea grass and dipping sauce ($8.25).

The Northwest salmon sampler ($9) featured smoked pepperlachs and cured gravlachs (both are cuts of salmon) and pan-seared salmon presented with a relish side of onion, sweet peppers and capers – a generous and successful combination. However, smoky pepperlachs and pork nearly overpowered the pot-au-feu, a hearty soup combining lentils, potatoes, pork and elk sausage in a saffron broth ($4). The Oregon sampler of marinated wild berries, pickled asparagus, bleu cheese and duck confit ($7.25) delivered enough vinegar to lock even my vinegar-loving jaw, and the fowl was typically greasy. But the creamed onion soup ($3.50) was light, perfectly seasoned and garnished with chive strips and freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

The Northwest salmon sampler ($9) featured smoked pepperlachs and cured gravlachs (both are cuts of salmon) and pan-seared salmon presented with a relish side of onion, sweet peppers and capers – a generous and successful combination. However, smoky pepperlachs and pork nearly overpowered the pot-au-feu, a hearty soup combining lentils, potatoes, pork and elk sausage in a saffron broth ($4). The Oregon sampler of marinated wild berries, pickled asparagus, bleu cheese and duck confit ($7.25) delivered enough vinegar to lock even my vinegar-loving jaw, and the fowl was typically greasy. But the creamed onion soup ($3.50) was light, perfectly seasoned and garnished with chive strips and freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Five seafood entrees ranged from a rainbow trout pan roasted with pancetta with a lentil and red pepper side ($15) to a line-caught wild king salmon from Alaska ($19.50). The latter was marinated in whiskey and oven-roasted with julienned winter squash and couscous enhanced with plump raisins and pine nuts. The huge salmon steak was perfect – flaky but moist with delicate seasoning.

Five seafood entrees ranged from a rainbow trout pan roasted with pancetta with a lentil and red pepper side ($15) to a line-caught wild king salmon from Alaska ($19.50). The latter was marinated in whiskey and oven-roasted with julienned winter squash and couscous enhanced with plump raisins and pine nuts. The huge salmon steak was perfect – flaky but moist with delicate seasoning.

From a meat list that included espresso bean barbecued chicken ($15.25); a 16-ounce porterhouse ($21) and a lamb-pheasant dish ($19.50), my companion chose a smoked prime rib ($17.50) that was generously marbled and served with red potatoes he deemed delicious. All entrees are served with a delicious tri-lettuce salad, nicely chilled and tossed with just a whisper of raspberry vinaigrette. There's also a freshly baked hazelnut bread loaf and sunflower seed rolls.

From a meat list that included espresso bean barbecued chicken ($15.25); a 16-ounce porterhouse ($21) and a lamb-pheasant dish ($19.50), my companion chose a smoked prime rib ($17.50) that was generously marbled and served with red potatoes he deemed delicious. All entrees are served with a delicious tri-lettuce salad, nicely chilled and tossed with just a whisper of raspberry vinaigrette. There's also a freshly baked hazelnut bread loaf and sunflower seed rolls.

This is a thoughtful menu, innovative and prepared with care – an amazing feat when you consider that this place can accommodate 206 people (and often does). And our service was as spectacular as the setting – although next time, we plan to take our coffee outside, by the magnificent lobby fireplace.

I wasn't really expecting big things on my first visit to Athena Cafe. But then they started bringing out the wealth of Greek cuisine: humus, dolmans, moussaka, spanakopita. As I sampled my way from one dish to the next, I decided that in the next life, I'm going to ask to come back as a Greek. It really was that good.

Although my revelation at Athena was partly due to the vibrance and depth of Greek cuisine as a whole, it's mostly a tribute to the culinary skills of the Said (Sah-eed) family, who emigrated from the region to America 12 years ago, bringing along their favorite recipes.

Everything was delicious on the day I visited, but especially the dolmades ($3.50), which, translated from the Arabic, means "something stuffed." Marinated grape leaves were wrapped around fillings of rice, lean beef and onions. The deep green leaves were glassy and translucent, firm enough to bind yet giving easily to the bite. They were best when swished through the accompanying tzatziki sauce, a stiff mixture of sour cream, cucumber, garlic and parsley.

Hummus ($3.25) was almost enough for a meal. A warm, nutty spread of pureed chickpeas was smoothed across a small plate, moistened with olive oil and dusted with spices. On the side was a basket of pita bread, sliced into wedges. These you folded into halves, tucking them with dollops of hummus, diced tomatoes and onions.

Among the house specialties, moussaka ($3.75) was a full-flavored casserole that could almost be likened to lasagna. Layers of eggplant and sliced potatoes were baked with lean beef, feta cheese, onions and garlic. On top was creamy béchamel sauce, which had become firm from the baking.

Spanakopita ($3.75), more commonly known as spinach pie, was a hearty pastry, sliced into a generous rectangle and served warm. Dozens of layers of phyllo dough were stacked and baked in a batter of eggs, spinach, onions and feta cheese.

Warm, spicy and honey-sweet, the traditional baklava ($1.50) was worthy of a dining excursion in itself. Sheets of phyllo were stacked, soaked with butter and syrup, then layered with nuts and baked.

Athena Cafe isn't open for dinner, but its modest atmosphere is perfect for a casual breakfast or lunch. Popular for its breakfast gyros and Greek omelets in the $3 to $4 price range, this is a busy stop in the morning hours.

It's a Friday night and Bar Louie is packed with an oddball mix of middle-aged golfers, nuclear families and metrosexual man-cougars on the prowl. Its walls are lined with photographs evocative of jewelry adverts, accentuated with the eyes and teeth of models reflecting a bourgeois ideal steadfastly preserved by this raucous joint. It being happy hour lent to an increased decibel level, primarily centered in the periphery of the sizable rectangular bar where said patrons gaped at plasma screens and sloshed down draft beer ($3), wine ($4) and cocktails ($5) at happy-hour prices. Others sat in the patio overlooking the Rialto's scenic parking lot while some, like my guest and I, opted for a table in the center of the airy dining room in which to enjoy the array of half-priced small plates.

Bar Louie's reputation for serving above-average food certainly preceded it ' the eatery is run by Restaurants America, a Chicago-area-based consulting group operating more than 60 upscale restaurants covering 10 different concepts around the country. (The only other local representative is the Red Star Tavern at Orlando Fashion Square mall.) Given the chain's credentials, I wanted to believe the hype, but the dishes we sampled were for the most part ordinary and fell well short of inspiring.

As avenues to sobriety, however, the dishes exceed expectations, particularly the doughy Bavarian pretzel sticks ($3.50) with cinnamon butter, queso and honey-mustard dips, which even lucid diners will enjoy. As avenues to drunkenness, several libations can help facilitate the condition ' we sampled a smooth and sweet 'kokomojitoâ?� ($5), splashed with pineapple rum, and a more offensive, lime-heavy caipirinha ($5) served on the rocks. Cocktails are taken quite seriously here, and bibulous barflies can opt for a variety of signature drinks, martinis, margaritas, cosmopolitans and mojitos. Bruschetta ($3.50), served in an obnoxiously large martini glass, acts as a booze sponge with grilled country bread surrounding a mound of chunky pomodoro. But the cup of New Orleans chicken gumbo ($1.50) was an insipid mush, and the macaroni and cheese ($9.99) could've been replicated by college kids with some Velveeta and bread crumbs. The congealed, gluey consistency of the four-cheese concoction made it immediately forgettable. The Blue Moon'battered fish sandwich ($9.99) fared a bit better ' the tilapia cut was wonderfully mild and fleshy, but the overdone beer batter wasn't golden-brown as promised. While the accompanying side of fries was satisfactory, we both reacted adversely to the not-at-all-tart tartar sauce. Another very ordinary item from the bill of fare: the blackened chicken muffuletta pizza ($9.99), layered with an olive mix and Cajun seasoning. The flabby crust was a disappointing feature ' it had the taste and texture of Pillsbury dough, not proper pizza dough.

This may seem like a harsh indictment of Bar Louie's kitchen, but it's fair given that they cater to a sophisticated clientele with sophisticated palates in a sophisticated neighborhood. From a diner's perspective, the food doesn't raise the bar by any means; but from a drinker's perspective, it certainly holds water â?¦ and hooch.

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.

You can tell that size matters to Bobby Moore. The local restaurateur seems to believe that good things come in big, sometimes gargantuan, packages. Step inside the Big Fin Seafood Kitchen ' his 11,000-square-foot behemoth of a seafood emporium ' and you'll see that philosophy in action: It's an imposing space with a centerpiece globe dangling from the high ceiling and large murals reading 'Best Tails in Townâ?� and 'We've Got the Crabs.â?� Classy. Then again, Big Fin is a perfect fit amid the grandiose environs of the Dellagio Town Center. Ample square footage appears to be a requisite for tenancy here ' a requirement Moore was more than happy to satisfy after the economy and the tax man harpooned his previous venture, Beluga, in Winter
Park Village.

Still, finding refuge in this enormous and clamorous fish tank is possible ' just ask for a table in the carpeted Atlantic Room and conversations can be had with your dining comrades. 

You'll certainly hear cries of disappointment if they run out of crab legs (as was the case on the Saturday evening we visited), murmurs of dissatisfaction after slurping the 'ya ya gumboâ?� ($5.95) and exclamations of joy at the shrimp cocktail ($9.95) and can't-eat-just-one flash-fried potato chips ($7.95), served with a roasted garlic-horseradish gorgonzola fondue. Yellowtail nigiri ($4.95) had us nodding our heads, yes, yes; room-temperature tuna sashimi ($4.95), not so much. The steakhouse roll ($6.95), with shaved prime rib, asparagus, horseradish mayonnaise and arugula, was different, but not different enough. 'It was almost innovative,â?� one of my dining partners remarked.

When the mains arrived, we were hopeful for a better effort from the kitchen. Blue crab crusted grouper ($29.95), served with a light beurre blanc, lived up to all expectations. Both the fish and the crab pancake were perfect. Garlic mashed potatoes, sadly, were dry to the point of being crumbly. Queen snapper en papillote ($24.95) was a letdown not because of its flavor, but because it was unevenly cooked. The same lapse plagued the pan-seared mahi mahi piccata ($22.95), an otherwise flavorful fillet topped with lemon, capers and again with the beurre blanc.

The pound-and-a-half broiled Maine lobster ($26.95) fulfilled the restaurant's assertion of serving the best tails in town. Unfortunately, the rest of the crustacean's flesh was zapped of its succulence due to overbroiling. Indeed, parts appeared blackened ' not browned ' and no measure of melted butter could've salvaged this
charred invertebrate.

But dessert provided sweet redemption. A homemade New Orleans-style bread pudding ($5.95) was given a delightfully airy rendering, with caramelized banana slices, vanilla ice cream and amaretto sauce. The big finale came in the form of the 'Big Fin dessert� ($14.95), a rich, decadent milk chocolate brownie cup drizzled with caramel sauce and speckled with pecans. It was big enough to finish off a table of four and helped erase the slightly bitter memory of the mains. 

The fresh catch, the service and even the soaring space put Big Fin in an enviable position. If it shores up the kitchen, it should do swimmingly.

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.

In a previous life, I spent a lot of time traveling for business, which brought me to a lot of hotel restaurants, usually alone (sniff). Being perched at a noisy, dimly lit table trying to read a book and eat affords ample time to experience the food, and let me tell you, it was usually a bad experience.

So my hopes for Bistro 1501, the slightly upscale restaurant at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary, weren't high, although I always go into an establishment hoping for a fabulous meal. This time, my hopes were answered.

So my hopes for Bistro 1501, the slightly upscale restaurant at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary, weren't high, although I always go into an establishment hoping for a fabulous meal. This time, my hopes were answered.

The room isn't overwhelmingly large, and sitting at the high, cushy banquettes is like having your own private little dining area. I liked the décor -- wood walls and gorgeous glass accents -- and the casual attentiveness of the staff. The food was damn good, too.

The room isn't overwhelmingly large, and sitting at the high, cushy banquettes is like having your own private little dining area. I liked the décor -- wood walls and gorgeous glass accents -- and the casual attentiveness of the staff. The food was damn good, too.

Scott Dickenson, former executive chef for the Church Street Station complex, is behind the stove at Bistro, turning out his own recipes of what management calls "American food," which means that the influences are from everywhere.

Scott Dickenson, former executive chef for the Church Street Station complex, is behind the stove at Bistro, turning out his own recipes of what management calls "American food," which means that the influences are from everywhere.

Half the menu features seafood. The fish arrives whole in the kitchen and is filleted there.

Half the menu features seafood. The fish arrives whole in the kitchen and is filleted there.

My fried-oyster and spinach salad ($7.95) was a huge bowl of tender leaves dressed in a lemony vinaigrette and accompanied by crisp, flattened, fried oysters, sort of shellfish fritters. If you only order this dish, you'll be happy.

My fried-oyster and spinach salad ($7.95) was a huge bowl of tender leaves dressed in a lemony vinaigrette and accompanied by crisp, flattened, fried oysters, sort of shellfish fritters. If you only order this dish, you'll be happy.

A simple bowl of seafood chowder is far from simple here, a $3.95 feast of grouper chunks, shrimp (a little overcooked, but delectable) and crabmeat in a thick tomato and corn base with perhaps a bit too much salt.

A simple bowl of seafood chowder is far from simple here, a $3.95 feast of grouper chunks, shrimp (a little overcooked, but delectable) and crabmeat in a thick tomato and corn base with perhaps a bit too much salt.

The cream of asparagus "carpe diem" soup du jour ($3.50) didn't suffer from a salt problem and came out rich and marvelously green tasting.

The cream of asparagus "carpe diem" soup du jour ($3.50) didn't suffer from a salt problem and came out rich and marvelously green tasting.

The "Captain's grouper" ($19.95) is a guilty pleasure. Topped with lump crabmeat, the perfectly sautéed fish is coated in what tastes like a richly caramelized breading, but is actually a crust of pulverized Captain Crunch cereal. Yes, it sounds disgusting but, heaven help me, it's delicious. And you won't have to eat breakfast the next morning.

The "Captain's grouper" ($19.95) is a guilty pleasure. Topped with lump crabmeat, the perfectly sautéed fish is coated in what tastes like a richly caramelized breading, but is actually a crust of pulverized Captain Crunch cereal. Yes, it sounds disgusting but, heaven help me, it's delicious. And you won't have to eat breakfast the next morning.

Over on the carnivorous side of the menu, the 12-ounce New York strip ($20.95) comes to the table glistening from the grill and basted in a red wine reduction. The steak was a bit fatty and not tough, but resistant ... but that's a NY strip after all. The taste was worth it.

Over on the carnivorous side of the menu, the 12-ounce New York strip ($20.95) comes to the table glistening from the grill and basted in a red wine reduction. The steak was a bit fatty and not tough, but resistant ... but that's a NY strip after all. The taste was worth it.

Dessert choices are varied and unique, including a must-have apple caramel custard pie, and a very strange-sounding "cheesecake burrito" that I just couldn't get myself to order.

Dessert choices are varied and unique, including a must-have apple caramel custard pie, and a very strange-sounding "cheesecake burrito" that I just couldn't get myself to order.

All in all, the surroundings, service and bill of fare makes Bistro 1501 well worth the drive up I-4.

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