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    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.

    Slick and boisterous Orange Avenue sup-spot offers expertly prepared dishes like lobster fritters spiked with jalapeno and red snapper with lobster risotto cake, proof positive of the kitchen's competency. The din can be deafening, but the joint's got that asphalt-jungle verve that trendsters dig.
    Weighing more on the healthy than the vegetarian side, Green Day is nevertheless quite veggie-friendly. Patrons can opt to global-warm chicken, turkey, tuna or veg wraps on a grill, or make them green by leaving out the sauce and cheese. A side of broccoli crunch, flecked with sunflower seeds and subtly sweetened with raisins, nearly upstages the wraps.

    Years after the landmark San Francisco diner shut its queer-friendly doors at the turn of millennium, Hamburger Mary's has re-emerged in cities across the country, finding new life through franchising, while continuing to market its fare to 'open-minded people.â?� And given Orlando's rep as a gay-friendly hamlet, setting up shop in the heart of Church Street seems like a perfect fit for this ol' burger queen. Sure, it's a campy retread of a '50s-style diner, and the swaths of bright turquoise, hot pinks and lime greens make you feel like you're dining inside an acid-drenched Beatles flick directed by Paul Lynde, but at no point can you say the place is dull. Not when a waiter shoots a bit of sass your way, or when their plasma screens air videos from Nu Shooz followed by Ladytron; it all serves to enhance the mood, as does the lively cocktail scene. (Hamburger Mary's is fully licensed.) Still, diners with toddlers and hetero carnivores will feel as welcome here as the nanciest of patrons ' while diversity is key to Mary's clientele, her menu is unquestionably all-American.

    A variety of finger foods, comfort staples and (what else?) burgers dominate the offerings here ' nothing particularly fab, but all sufficiently satisfying. Mary-mac & cheese balls ($7.95) were more triangles than orbs, but addictive little buggers nonetheless. In keeping with the kitsch, the menu is replete with cutesy names ' this particular 'appeteazerâ?� came with a tangy 'Mary-naraâ?� sauce. Crispy caramel chicken salad ($5.95) will 'leaf you greenâ?� (my words, not theirs). The caramel drizzle on the fried chicken was sweet enough, but lathering the mixed greens in ranch dressing created a clash as resounding as Charles Nelson Reilly's wardrobe.

    Ranch dressing reared its creamy head once again in the 'spicy Maryâ?� burger ($8.95), this time meshing well with the melted jack cheese, jalapeños and mojo sauce. The lower bun proved too weak to sustain the gloppy half-pound Angus beef patty; the top bun, flecked with sesame seeds, was fabulously poofy, however. The side of seasoned fries was better than average, and much better than the runny mashed potatoes. Mary's meaty meatloaf ($10.50) can be had as an entree or as a sandwich ($7.95), and if you're a meatloaf lover, you'll be pleased with the slabs of turkey-beef mix. I chose the latter, with a side of onion rings ($4.95) that came with a ramekin of that ubiquitous ranch dressing, this time spiked with chipotle that was just plain awful.

    Desserts here are caloric juggernauts. If you're the type to test your ticker at meal's end, fried Twinkies ($5) will vitrify your ventricles; one bite was certainly enough for me. An enormously dense square of banana-nut bread pudding ($5) had plenty of hot nuts, but it was big enough to share among the group. Mary Tyler S'mores ($6.95), roasted tableside, will turn your world on with a gooey, sticky smile.

    If, at any point during your meal, you feel the room resonate, chances are the source is a passing train, though a parade of bellowing drag queens isn't out of the question. (Should it be a choo-choo, $3 tequila shots will be tendered, a la PR's Taco Palace.) In keeping with the restaurant's flamboyance, the campy coup de grâce arrives in the form of a red patent-leather shoe containing the check, allowing diners, gay or straight, a chance to foot the bill in style.

    This November, Kres gets its proverbial star on the Red Meat Walk of Fame when it joins the ranks of other Orlando steakhouses celebrating 10 years in the business of beef. Quite the accomplishment for a high-end chophouse that a) opened in the heart of a bar- and club-infested strip, and b) had the audacity to shun the established practice of possessive nomenclature. In the world of Ruth’s and Linda’s, Morton’s and Charley’s, Christner’s, Shula’s and Vito’s, Kres is the odd man out, and that suits this downtown boîte just fine.

    From the onset, Kres looked to draw a more urbane and sophisticated clientele, and, save for the smattering of pre-clubbing 1-percenters, this tactic, even 10 years later, appears to have worked. The turn-of-the-21st-century decor feels slightly dated and perhaps a redesign is in order, but Kres is still worthy of being housed inside one of downtown’s most architecturally revered buildings – not just for its bill of fare, but also for its throwback focus on customer service. From our initial phone call to make reservations to the genial farewells on our exit, the staff here made us feel prized – as prized as, say, an expensive foie gras. No: foie gras crowning a tenderloin of elk! Yes. And that just so happened to be one of the dishes in which we indulged: an 8-ounce cut ($35), to be exact. Cooked to a perfect medium-rare, the lean elk loin was made instantly rich with that buttery tiara of foie ($13). Nary a hint of gaminess; no dental-displacing sinews; just a perfect cut married perfectly with that buttery epicurean delight. Our prime 18-ounce rib-eye steak ($39) may have been a tad undercooked, but that just made the leftovers all the better the following morning in their rebirth as steak and eggs. The rib-eye’s marbling was sublime, and its flavor more so. Steaks and chops are served a la carte; our choice of greens and starch sides were grilled asparagus ($8) and cheddar-rosemary mashed potatoes ($7). Though both served their respective purpose, we would’ve rather ordered another side of foie.

    Prior to all that luxurious richness, we started with an old-guard staple – oysters Rockefeller ($15), baked with a properly herbaceous butter sauce. Our impeccably trained server also suggested a nontraditional starter to break up our Gatsbian feast, namely “Aegean style” lamb ribs ($14). The ribs are marinated in kalamata olive oil, spicy mustard and herbs, then braised to a soft succulence before being zested with caramelized lemon wheels. It’s a difficult dish to eat delicately, but then again, steakhouses don’t exactly play to the genteel side of dining.

    Our server’s suggested wine pairings were admirable, though in-house sommelier Rob Christie patrols the red-velveted space offering recommendations for serious wine drinkers. Red velvet didn’t find its way to the dessert menu, but white chocolate bread pudding ($9) did. The meal-capper was sumptuous, ample enough for two, and hooched with enough panther sweat to bring back the Jazz Age.

    As you exit the restaurant and take in the grand space, the original art, the triple-crown and dentil-crown molding, one thing becomes exceedingly clear: Kres naturally exudes a verve and panache that other steakhouses can’t match. If flair is as important as your filet, Kres is the place.

    It may not have the sophisticated ritz of a SoBe nightclub, and some of the clientele look like characters right out of Andy Warhol's Trash, but the unpretentious vibe is precisely why the sprawling Parliament House Resort is widely lauded as the premier GLBT ' and, some would even argue, straight ' night-life destination in town. The clubs and bars scattered throughout the complex attract throngs of revelers and come Gay Days, it's raining men.

    But even bear cubs and chicken hawks get peckish, and if you've ever traveled the North OBT thoroughfare, you know the pickings, insofar as food is concerned, are slim. So, as you'd expect from any decent resort, an on-site restaurant offers the kind of satisfaction only a full-service kitchen can provide.

    And in keeping with the resort's fraternal and down-to-earth disposition, the Rainbow Café's humble digs are as relaxed as its waitstaff. The walls of scarlet stucco and the soft red hue imbuing the square space have something to do with it, as does the fare, which is on-par with dishes served up at any big-box eatery.

    This isn't a place to dine on foie gras and sauternes; it's a patty melts'and'buffalo wings ($5.50) kinda place, the latter being a satisfying-enough appetizer ' moist and saucy, but with too vinegary a finish to qualify it as outstanding.

    I didn't know what to expect from the cheeseburger chowder that accompanied the chicken marsala ($9.95), but it proved to be a comforting bowl of thick, creamy goodness, with plenty of beefy morsels. The chicken marsala, however, looked like it could've been served straight out of a Stouffer's frozen dinner. The edges of the shrunken breast halves were hardened, likely because they were sautéed too long, and the side of veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and carrots) tasted as though they had just recently been thawed out of a bag.

    At $15.95, the 8-ounce filet mignon was a decent value, but the circular slab was served more medium-well than the desired medium, and those bland veggies just put the dish closer to the Perkins end of the flav-o-meter. Admittedly, though, I picked my baked potato clean.

    Mirrors on three of the restaurant's walls, I soon came to notice, are conducive to man-peeping, which serves to liven up the atmosphere as eyes, sometimes sheepish, sometimes gazing, dart from mirror to plate, then back to mirror. Taking in this reflective exercise can be interesting, if not entirely voyeuristic, so when my waiter entered the scene, I peeled my eyes away from the mirror just in time to see a plate of the bartender salad ($7.95) set before me. The strips of teriyaki chicken on a bed of field greens completed my chicken three-way for the night (cue the gasps), but alas, the teriyaki sauce was too sugary for my liking, and the soggy greens didn't help elevate the dish in my eyes.

    Swoon-worthy chocolate cake ($2.95), served with a dollop of cream, was gooey-fabulous and one of only two desserts on hand, the other being carrot cake.

    Beginning on the Wednesday prior to Gay Days weekend, the café is expected to be 'slamsville,� as my waiter put it, with the restaurant staying open 24 hours from Friday to Monday evening.

    Apologies if I came across sounding like a dining diva, but I couldn't help it � the Rainbow Café brought it out in me.

    It was a snack bar before it was Terrace on Lake Eola, 903 CitySide, Erik's on Eola or, as it's currently known, Relax Grill, but the one facet that's drawn patrons to the site on the northwest corner of Lake Eola is, well, the site itself. Towering oaks, dog-walkers, joggers and feathered quackers offer enough lakeside distractions and amusements to keep the courtyard seats filled, as does a modest selection of beer and wine. The food has never really wowed, no matter the café's name, but the view is unprecedented in the city, and for al fresco diners, that aspect, like the fare, carries a lot of weight.

    Take the Mediterranean veggie combo ($11), for instance. The two-platter appetizer came with healthy portions of hummus, tzatziki, red pepper'nut dip, tabouli, pita and a trio of bulbous falafel, not to mention slices of cucumber and tomatoes. All items lived up to expectations, but my fave was the garlicky red pepper dip. The falafel, though good, lacked the sort of moistness I've come to expect, and the absence of tahini was an unconscionable omission, particularly given the chef's Syrian roots (thus the restaurant's emphasis on Mediterranean fare). A deep pool of balsamic vinaigrette was the only sour note to an otherwise fresh and crisp Greek salad ($7), a complimentary offering with any of the entrees.

    But after gawking at a few pooches and watching a pair of fattened ducks waddle onto the path then fearlessly honk at startled couples out for a stroll (highly amusing), we turned our attention to the fattened chunks of the chicken kebabs ($11). The skewer of meat was simply seasoned, yet flavorful, and sat atop a bed of fluffy yellow rice with grilled seasoned peppers and onions. They're not the finest chicken kebabs in town ' that title belongs to Kabbab House in MetroWest ' but they made for an enjoyable nosh. A mediocre big burger ($9) proved that the kitchen was far more adept at the Mediterranean dishes than domestic ones. Furthermore, the limp crinkly fries on the side lacked any semblance of crisp.

    It was far easier to stomach the hot apple dumpling ($6) than it was the live jazz of smooth variety, though both were equally syrupy. The menu said a light, refreshing fruit parfait ($5) was to come with strawberries and blackberries, but the latter were entirely absent from the cream-filled glass.

    Relax Grill is a three-partner venture led by Sam Chatah, who managed Erik's on Eola before it ceased operations. The fact that the city of Orlando is charging Chatah a paltry $1,000 per month in rent should help his efforts in keeping the open-air café financially viable.

    Admittedly, after hearing complaints of slow service, I thought perhaps the 'Relaxâ?� in Relax Grill was being used as an excuse to justify a sluggish disposition, but in my experience, the service was leisured and friendly and the fare certainly respectable. For now, Relax Grill seems to have all its ducks in a row.

    Self-described "gastropub" brings a locavore credo to the downtown core along with an urban-farmhouse vibe. The rustic menu focuses on locally farmed and raised ingredients, but not obsessively so. Best: tapenade-stuffed eggs, coffee-rubbed culotte steak and grown-up s'mores. There's a small, but decent, selection of craft beers, signature drinks and wines as well. Live music on weekends. Open daily.

    The slightly funky location at Orange Avenue and Wall Street rescues this streetside eatery from too-calculated hipness. Basic Tex-Mex fried favorites are heaped with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream and are absolutely delicious. Salads and grilled sandwiches round out the offerings


    Teaser: The slightly funky location at Orange Avenue and Wall Street rescues this streetside eatery from too-calculated hipness. Basic Tex-Mex fried favorites are heaped with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream and are absolutely delicious. Salads and grilled sandwiches round out the offerings.

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