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Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s FEATURES

49 PLANT-FORWARD RESTAURANTS Vegan, vegetarian, health-focused, juice bars


Call that mixed drink zero-proof, spirit-free or just nonalcoholic, but please don’t call it a mocktail


Cupcakes, doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, pie



Places where the food is just as compelling as the drink

Not your everyday ice cream treats



The fascination of pitch-black foods

Shells, fins and scales



An undressed dog is an unhappy dog – four places for over-thetop toppings

Meat, glorious meat



Colombian, Cuban, Mexican, Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Tex-Mex

When you can’t decide what you want to eat, don’t



Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese

Our favorite tastes around town right now



The perfect pour and lovely leaves

Food halls around town plus a couple worth a drive

80 FOOD TRUCKS Meals on wheels


We’re proud to present our annual BITE Award to chef Kathleen Blake

83 ITALIAN RESTAURANTS Some specialize in pizza, some don’t


86 INDIAN RESTAURANTS Specialties of the subcontinent



Barbecue, burgers, sandwiches, tacos


Greek, Lebanese, Persian, Syrian, Turkish

A creative spin on the plate, with a focus on local ingredients and innovative technique



Comfort-food classics given the deluxe treatment

Save the date! A calendar for foodies



French, German, Russian, Spanish

Every restaurant in this guide, listed by neighborhood

Advertisers’ names are highlighted

$$$$ $$$$ $$$$ $$$$

$10 OR LESS $10-15 $15-25 $25 OR MORE

Our price range designation generally reflects the average cost of one dinner entree. Bakeries, ice cream shops, etc. reflect the cost for one item.

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BITE editorial





Editor Jessica Bryce Young Writers Faiyaz Kara, Lindsey Thompson, Jessica Bryce Young Photographer Rob Bartlett Designer Melissa McHenry Contributors John Forson, Holly Kapherr, Annie Spratt

Florida Group Publisher Graham Jarrett Editor in Chief Jessica Bryce Young Editorial Staff Writers Monivette Cordeiro, Xander Peters Calendar Editor Thaddeus McCollum Music Editor Matthew Moyer Digital Content Editor Colin Wolf Editorial Interns Larissa Hamblin, Paola Perez, Megan Scavo Advertising Director of Sales Jeff Kruse Major Accounts Specialist Leslie Egan Senior Multimedia Account Executive Dan Winkler Multimedia Account Executives Scott Navarro, Scotty Spar Classified and Legal Rep Jerrica Schwartz Account Manager Danielle Lebron Marketing and Events Marketing and Events Manager Rachel Hoyle Events and Promotions Coordinator Kevin Ruane Creative Services Art Director Melissa McHenry Production Manager Daniel Rodriguez Graphic Designer Justin “SKIP” Skipper Production Intern T’mara Morrow Business Operations Manager Hollie Mahadeo Business Assistant Allysha Willison Circulation Circulation Manager Collin Modeste Euclid Media Group Chief Executive Officer Andrew Zelman Chief Operating Officers Chris Keating, Michael Wagner VP of Digital Services Stacy Volhein Digital Operations Coordinator Jaime Monzon euclidmediagroup.com National Advertising: Voice Media Group 1-888-278-9866, vmgadvertising.com Orlando Weekly Inc. 16 W. Pine St. Orlando, Florida 32801 orlandoweekly.com Phone 407-377-0400 Fax 407-377-0420 Copyright notice: The entire contents of Orlando Weekly are copyright 2018 by Euclid Media Group LLC. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher is prohibited. Publisher does not assume any liability for unsolicited manuscripts, materials, or other content. Any submission must include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. All editorial, advertising, and business correspondence should be mailed to the address listed above. Subscriptions: Additional copies or back issues may be purchased at the Orlando Weekly offices for $1. Six-month domestic subscriptions may be purchased for $75; one-year subscriptions for $125. Periodical Postage Pending at Orlando, FL POSTMASTER: Send address changes to ORLANDO WEEKLY 16 W. Pine St. Orlando, FL 32801.

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Ag a i n s t t h e G ra i n Some people never drink; some people just aren’t drinking this month (or nine?); some may have had too much to drink the night before – but whatever the reason or the timing, many find themselves in a festive or fine-dining environment without a proper beverage with which to toast the moment. A fancy tasting menu at a fine restaurant isn’t quite as nice when paired with just water. Hanging out at a party or a bar sucking down Coke after Coke gets old, too. And no grown-up wants a Shirley Temple. Calling a ginger ale with a dash of cranberry juice a “mocktail” is pushing it, particularly when you have to pay real-

cocktail prices. And finally, bartenders – a group who knows better than any other the perils of excessive drinking – are doing something about it. Across the country, bars are serving alcohol-free drinks that offer the complexity of a cocktail – the balance of tart or bitter with sweet or herbal – but at zero proof, using fresh cold-pressed juices, herbs and bespoke syrup blends. So what do you call these beverages? Can’t we just call them drinks? “Well, no, that doesn’t quite convey the complexity of the drinks we’re talking about,” says Southern food writer Julia

Bainbridge. “A drink could reference a cold-pressed apple juice or a lapsang souchong tea or, hell, a glass of water. I tend to use ‘non-alcoholic cocktails’ when I’m at a bar. No one likes the word mocktail, but we need something to signify that this is more than just a Coke or a cranberry-seltzer,” she says. “Not only does the word ‘mocktail’ make me cringe, but also, there’s the negative connotation that comes with ‘mock.’” While taking some time off drinking, Bainbridge says, she noticed that “things have gotten a lot more sophisticated in the N/A beverage world.” She’s writing a book on the topic, to be published by Ten Speed Press, and traveling the country to sample various bartenders’ zero-proof elixirs. In Orlando, we haven’t found a bespoke N/A cocktail menu yet, but enough bars carry local Smiling Goat Shrubs that it’s relatively easy to order a shrub and seltzer. Until then, you might see us bellying up to the bar with an Angostura and soda, maybe even with a Luxardo cherry garnish … but don’t call us Shirley. —JBY

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We scream

for ice cream

Over are the days of a single scoop atop a plain cone, or worse, plopped sadly in a dish. Today’s ice cream treats are rich with sprinkles and sparkles and incredible flavors. Here are some places to find the very best. The Greenery Creamery

They get a lot of attention for their black ice cream (including from us; see page 14), but we really love Greenery Creamery for their equal attention to vegan flavors – and their sparkly crystal toppings. If Jem & the Holograms were an ice cream cone, they’d be a strawberry-rose and cherry-almond double dip with house-made crystals and sprinkles. 420 E. Church St., 407-286-1084, thegreenerycreamery.com

Midnight Sun Ice Cream Sandwich Co.

How do we love thee, Midnight Sun? Let us count the ways. Midnight Sun’s ice cream sandwiches are huge, and the flavor combinations are, well, insane – like Parmesan-medjool

date ice cream, or strawberry-pine nut macarons, or malted vanillachocolate chunk-bacon buttercrunch ice cream on coffee-potato chip cookies. Whew. Check schedule at midnightsunicecream.com


The latest Asian sensation taking over the nation (well, Orlando anyway) is Thai rolled ice cream, and J-Petal serves it up with gusto. Their “Green Hulk” tops rolled sheets of Oreo-banana-matcha ice cream with candied walnuts and brûlée marshmallows. Multiple locations, jpetal.com

DaJen Eats Vegan Café & Creamery

Jenn’s “Rum Raisin’ the Roof” Irie Cream is so crazy-creamy it’s converted non-vegans. (And the raisins are soaked in rum for three weeks.) If her tiny spot’s not open, find Irie Cream at Valkyrie Doughnuts and Peterbrooke Chocolatier. 4845 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-2864983, dajeneats.com

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Heart of Darkness What is it about inky-black foods that fascinates us so? Is it a frisson at forbidden fruit, or an atavistic fear of the dark? Maybe it’s just the rarity of naturally occurring black edibles that makes us wary yet intrigued. In the first century A.D., the Roman emperor Domitian hosted an all-black feast in an all-black room, with each guest’s place setting marked by their name engraved on a tiny tombstone. J.K. Huysmans’ classic narrative of decadence, À Rebours, featured a lessfrightening but equally melodramatic scene of an all-black feast: “Russian black bread, ripe olives from Turkey, caviar, mulberries, coffee, porter and stout.” Here are three locals serving pitch-black edibles in more casual surroundings.

Squid-ink fettuccine, Trevi Pasta The black version of Trevi’s soft, toothsome fresh-rolled pasta has a faint briny aroma from the cetacean ink. You can choose your cut, but we like ribbons of fettuccine, topped with Trevi’s funghi bianca: a light, creamy white sauce seasoned with white wine and lightly studded with chopped mushrooms. 2120 Edgewater Drive, 407985-2577, trevipasta.com

Black ash coconut ice cream and black ash cone, the Greenery Creamery It may look alarming, this most heavy-metal of desserts, and it will for sure turn your teeth and tongue zombie-gray. But the flavor is as mild and sweet as you’d expect from any palehued coconut ice cream or waffle cone. 420 E .Church St., 407-2861084, thegreenerycreamery. com

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Morcilla, Oh Que Bueno If you’re not acquainted with blood sausage, aka morcilla – aka blood pudding in the U.K. – give the pitch-black delight a taste before you inquire into the ingredients. This may be one case where, truly, you don’t want to know how the sausage gets made. 1125 S. Semoran Blvd., 407447-5026, ohquebueno.com

Hot diggity dog

An undressed dog is a sad dog. Here are four places where you can get over-the-top toppings for your very good boy, er, snack. Cotton Candy Dog from Sausage Shack Sometimes it’s all about coulda, not about shoulda. That had to be the case the first time the staff here wrapped a smoked kielbasa in blue cotton candy and drizzled it with sweet-hot mustard, but you know what? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. 400 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-576-9552, sausageshackwp.com

The Fat One from Fat One’s Hot Dogs & Italian Ice Fans of the former *NSYNC boy came out in hordes when Joey Fatone opened Fat One’s in the Florida Mall, co-opting the self-deprecating moniker he’s been known by for years. The brick-and-mortar has since closed, but you can still find the Fat One around Orlando – just track the truck on their Facebook page. We’re fans of the Fat One, the signature foot-long hot dog topped with fries, corned beef, mozzarella, cheese sauce, green onions and pepperoni. facebook.com/fatonedogs

Wild Style Dog from Doghouse You’re welcome to pick your wiener at the Doghouse, which shares a space with ice cream joint the Soda Fountain: Hebrew National, Certified Angus Beef or a vegan pup. There are more than a few wild combos here, but the Wild Style surpasses them all, we think: bacon, sriracha, crushed Fritos and ranch dressing. 2527 Edgewater Drive, 407-412-5409, doghouseorlando.com

Holiday Dog from the Vegan Hot Dog Cart For about 10 years, the Vegan Hot Dog Cart has provided cruelty-free comestibles to club-goers on Orange Avenue. The veggie dog VHDC uses is perfectly smoky and satisfying, and we like the Holiday Dog toppings set best: fried sweet onions, homemade cranberry sauce, Carolina mustard barbecue sauce and parsley. 65 N. Orange Ave., facebook.com/ theveganhotdogcart —JBY

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Mezze Madness

Ever feel like the best choice is, well, a little bit of everything? Here are three places to indulge in the art of sampling. Because happiness is knowing you can have the labneh and the muhammara. And pickles. Maraya Restaurant If owner Violette Haddad is in the kitchen, she’ll fashion the best falafel in the city and plate it along with hummus, tabbouleh and, depending on what she has on hand, any combination of baba ghanoush, kibbeh, muhammara, shanklish, pickles and if you’re really lucky, her silky, swoon-inducing labneh (pictured above). 8100 Crystal Clear Lane, 407-856-8155; marayarestaurant.com

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Flame Kabob We’ve long been fans of Rafat Hamdeh’s Palestinian delights (particularly the beef kebabs and rice), and his mezze platter of hummus, baba ghanoush, grape leaves, tabbouleh, kibbeh and falafel is an absolute take-home fave. 7536 Dr. Phillips Blvd., 407-248-2280, kaboborlando.com

Cedar’s Restaurant If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of driving along Sand Lake Road in Dr. Phillips, you’d do well to pop into Cedar’s and sample the first-class sampler of hummus, tabbouleh, baba, spinach pie and falafel. Plus you’ll get some of the best freshbaked pita anywhere. 7732 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-351-6000, orlandocedars.com.com —FK

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No sh Pi t Our favorite tastes around town right now

Grilled Artichokes, Hillstone Carbon footprint aside, these beautifully charred Red Label heirloom ’chokes from Castroville, California, come served with a craving-inducing remoulade. Get ’em now before they’re gone (which will be soon). 8215 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-740-4005, hillstone.com

Crispy Smoked Duck, Ravenous Pig It’s half a duck – breast with wing, and leg with foot – aired, smoked, and fried to create a superbly crisp skin and flesh as tender as can be. 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-2333, theravenouspig.com

Khao Soi Gai, Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen Anything you get from the Bangrak folks will be as authentic as any dish you’ll find in Bangkok, and this Northern Thai curry chicken noodle soup with pickled mustard greens topped with fried wheat noodles is their signature. Facebook.com/ bangrakthaistreetkitchen

Vegan Tlacoyo, Hunger Street Tacos Think wee Mexican calzone: a thick cake of fried masa flour stuffed with garbanzo beans, topped with black beans, guacamole, cabbage and squash-blossom salsa. Tends to sell out, so be an early bird. 2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321-444-6270, hungerstreettacos.com

Water-Boiled Spicy Fish Filet, Chef Wang’s Kitchen Order the dish, then ooh and ahh over the immaculate display of ingredients; the infernal broth of Sichuan peppercorns, tien tsin peppers and jalapeños; and the yielding flesh of whitefish. This is lifegiving food at its best. 5148 W. Colonial Drive, 407-930-3188 —FK

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sponsored content

Orlando Food Department Co. Puts Out Hunger Fire With Homemade Meal Prep


eekly meal delivery services are a convenient option for busy lifestyles. However, the ease of popping a prepared meal into the oven often comes at the expense of creativity, ingredient quality and nutrition. Fortunately, Orlando residents have a local option that offers hand-delivered, fresh food for meat eaters and vegans alike — the Orlando Food Department Company. Orlando Food Department Company was born out of necessity: after living abroad in Saudi Arabia and being unable to find American favorites, Robert Grebic and his wife Dunya took matters into their own hands and started creating their own condiments and hometown favorites, like corned beef and chili. Word of their culinary talents spread, and soon they were catering the U.S. embassy in Riyadh and the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, as well as parties for Marines and other events at Westernized compounds. The overwhelming positive reception inspired them to open a meal prep and catering company, and when they returned to their hometown of Chicago they sought out a brick and mortar location to serve up their international fare. They kept on cooking after they

Hunger Response team. Their weekly food delivery service features only the freshest farm-to-table ingredients with no antibiotics or hormones. The meals are hand delivered, so they’re never frozen, and their heat and eat meal prep The company’s name is a nod to options make it easy to stay on Robert’s background as a Chi- track with a clean eating diet if you’re low on cago Firefighter. time. OFD also They seek to accommomaintain a redates all spelationship with cial requests, firefighters, and like substitutes with their busior allergen reness expanding strictions, and they’re looking they’re offering to recruit firea new vegan fighters to help menu for Orlanwith deliveries do’s adventurand earn some ous omnivores. extra money on their days off. The company Their fresh, preoffers more made meals are especially useful for people with than 15 different meal options per demanding, unpredictable jobs week, with a variety of global cuilike firefighters: “You never know sines available. Some of the comwhen you get to eat,” says Grebic. pany’s standout dishes include “You could get ready for dinner the Truck 11 Chicken, a Windy and get called out for something. City-inspired dish, Andrew’s AirWe try to feed the firefighters as force Chicken, a recipe inspired often as possible and thank them by North Iraq and named after for what they’re doing — I know one of Robert and Dunya’s closest air force friends, and Tapsi, a what it takes.” Middle Eastern dish modified to Orlando Food Department Com- make it vegan-friendly. “We offer pany seeks to be America’s Best you a trip around the world each moved to Florida and branded their business’s second location the Orlando Food Department Company to forge a bond with the community and get locals interested in global cuisines.

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week and try to offer a dish from every region,” says Robert. One of the best parts of ordering from OFD is their flexibility: they don’t make you sign a contract for their weekly meal delivery service. “We want you to order because you love the food and you want to come back. We want the food to speak for itself,” states Grebic. You can taste the company’s homemade cuisine at several charity events: they recently participated in an American Cancer Society benefit, and they’re making an appearance at Taste! Central Florida, a charity event that benefits the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank, in September. They’re setting up shop at Downtown Orlando’s Fourth of July fireworks at the fountain, too. Whether it’s American meatloaf prepared with grass-fed beef or Middle Eastern vegan dishes like dill rice, Orlando Food Department’s got your taste buds covered every week. You can check out their contract-free rotating menus on their website, orlandofooddepartment.com.

Food trucks had their big moment in Orlando (and we wouldn’t count them out anytime soon), but in our climate, a roof over some cooled air is a big plus when eating. Food halls satisfy the desire to flit from dish to dish like a honeybee in a garden, while protecting your precious banh mi or ice cream sandwich from the elements. Here are a few well-loved local spots, a couple of sumptuous Tampa halls that are well worth the drive and a promise of good things to come in North Orlando.

Market Futures

Above: Armature Works; right: Hall on Franklin. (Photos by Lindsay Thompson)

MEET THE LOCALS: East End Market (3201 Corrine Drive): Orlando’s first true communal food market is nearing its five-year anniversary. Local favorites like Lineage craft coffee and the uber-popular Gideon’s Bakehouse cookies can be found here, among other more health-focused options. What makes this market stand out is that it serves as an incubator for other businesses that don’t necessarily have stalls. Many local food purveyors seen at farmers markets around town use the facilities to make their product. Prices are moderate; even East End’s popular sit-down restaurant, Domu, won’t break the bank.

Plant Street Market (426 W. Plant St., Winter Garden): When small-town charm meets a food hall, you get Winter Garden’s Plant Street Market. The space includes its own brewery, 20 food vendors and hand-made artisanal products. On any given weekend you’ll find the expansive patio packed with locals and live music. The food boasts more sophistication with wood-fired pizza, sushi, Raclette cheese wheels, a local bakery, craft coffee, cold-pressed juice and vegan dishes.

Market on Magnolia (150 S. Magnolia Ave.): This is the only food hall in downtown; it’s small in size but mighty in taste. This two-story space serves up flavorful poké bowls, Neapolitan pizza, and an array of sandwiches and other easily shared bar food. The full bar serves 75 craft beers (40 of which are on tap), making MOM a thirst-quenching spot for a weekday happy hour or pre- and post-downtown event fun.

ROAD TRIP! Hall on Franklin (1701 N. Franklin St., Tampa): While food halls don’t often have a dress code, one step inside the Hall on Franklin and you may feel the need to ditch your flip-flops. There are seven stalls that serve craft coffee, seafood, hearty melts, Korean and Vietnamese food, poké and local baked goods. This elevated food hall experience comes with a hostess

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and servers that attend to your every need, with a shared area for laptop working or lounging. Prices are moderate, with no single regular item going beyond $15, and they do celebrate happy hour. Armature Works + Heights Public Market (1910 N. Ola Ave., Tampa): With 14 food options (and more to come), the Heights Public Market inside Armature Works is without a doubt the most robust market we have to visit within a bearable driving distance. An overwhelming feeling of indecision will take over as you walk down the long corridor with different smells and sights drawing you in multiple directions. Whether you choose Mexican, Cuban, Asian or American fare, take it slow and get small tastes of everything. Parking is easy thanks to the on-site garages that work on a voucher and validation system.

Communal seating is plentiful, but you’ll also find cozy corners to enjoy with a laptop and a craft coffee.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Henry’s Depot (henrysdepot.com): The soon-to-open Henry’s Depot in Sanford will convert a historic train depot going back to the late 1800s into a local food hall, which will add to the growing foodie scene. The already-established Dixie Dharma and the Nutty Peanut will bring vegan-friendly options among other tastes including wood-fired pizza, Greek food and a full bar. It’s right off the main drag downtown on First Street, so parking options surround the location, and its proximity to Lake Monroe for an after-dinner, scenic lakefront stroll a block away at Veterans Memorial Park is an added bonus. —Lindsey Thompson

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AWA R D 2018

Kathleen Blake

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the local culinary community, Orlando Weekly is pleased to announce the recipient of our annual BITE Award: Chef Kathleen Blake.

The Rusty Spoon

You can take the girl out of Iowa, but you can’t take the Iowa out of the girl. Kathleen Blake’s Midwestern roots run deep, but long before she opened the Rusty Spoon, her exceptional downtown restaurant for which she’s received four James Beard Award nominations, Blake was learning the basics of cooking inside her grandmother’s kitchen. Growing up in a farming community in Dyersville, Iowa, Blake’s earliest memories of cooking involved hyperlocal sourcing, even if she didn’t know it at the time. Her father sold farm equipment and developed a rapport and camaraderie with farmers, so by the time Blake moved to San Francisco at the age of 17, tapping into the community’s cultivators and cooking seasonally was old hat. Working under and alongside such Bay Area legends and mentors as Joyce Goldstein (Square One), Judy Rodgers (Zuni Café) and Barbara Tropp (China Moon), Blake immersed herself in the

innovative world of California cuisine while honing her skills as a chef, and those 13 years proved formative. In 2001, through a Women Chefs & Restaurateurs scholarship, Blake landed in Washington, D.C., and, naturally, found herself working as chef de cuisine at the country’s first certified organic restaurant. Restaurant Nora, by legendary chef and 2017 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award winner Nora Pouillon, aligned with Blake’s approach and ethic so much that by the time she moved to Melissa Kelly’s Primo at the J.W. Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes in 2003, she’d already garnered a reputation for her fierce dedication to serving fresh, local, sustainable and seasonal fare. While it may sound cliché now, in 2003, she was one of just a handful of chefs ensconced in farm-to-table cuisine, and it’s a commitment she’s carried through to the Rusty Spoon.

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C asu al R es t au rants

Edgar Massoni, Eliot Hillis & Seth Parker

728 Virginia Drive 407-598-0700 orlandomeats.com

Orlando Meats Edgar Massoni, owner and proprietor of Orlando Meats, isn’t one to let accolades, honors and titles go to his head. After he opened his nose-totail butcher house and restaurant on Virginia Drive last year, the praise started pouring in. Early-adopter patrons duly Instagrammed many of their favorite dishes, only to find them off the menu on a subsequent visit. It’s all part of Massoni’s purposeful vision and not some mercurial ploy to keep guests guessing. “Except for a few staples, most of our menu constantly changes and evolves,” Massoni says. “It’s already becoming known that our menu changes all the time and we’re not afraid to kill crowd favorites. It’s the best way to utilize all of our proteins efficiently, stay truly seasonal and maintain relevancy in a creative space.” It seems to be raising awareness of Orlando Meats, and given the meathouse has only been open for a year, awareness is precisely what Massoni hopes to garner. “It’s really important for us now,” he says. “However, we’ve dedicated ourselves to never defining borders or parameters, and our cooks are encouraged to explore and experiment with

whatever excites them.” No doubt Massoni, head butcher Raul Rubero, chef Eliot Hillis and sous chef Seth Parker have fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole more times than they can count, but, Massoni says, “It’s worked very well for us in the creativity department.” That passion for innovation was nurtured after Massoni was introduced to former Txokos sous chef and current Luma chef de partie Peter Summers, who schooled the budding chef-restaurateur. “He recognized I had drive and desire, but saw I had bad habits and no real direction. He showed me what cooking with finesse could be and how to harness self-destructive behavior and transform it into something positive and productive,” Massoni says. He’s come a long way since those “self-destructive” days and now happily plays the role of teacher to anyone who has a curiosity and a drive to learn: “Throughout my career, I’ve tried to be a resource of information and an example that there is freedom and joy in hard work. I’m not sure you can teach everyone to have the palate of a talented cook, but you can show that an iron work ethic pays off more often than not.”

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Casual 4 Rivers Smokehouse

numerous sides and starters – candied yams, creamed corn, stewed okra, fried green tomatoes and pimiento cheese, to name just a few. Save room for pie. Closed Sundays. 610 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, 407-843-2667; $$

It’s all about the smoked-to-perfection Angus beef brisket at this popular Texasstyle barbecue joint; be prepared to wait in line. Heady sides set them apart from the rest: smoked corn relish, sweet and meaty baked beans, and cream-cheesestuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon. Closed Sundays. Multiple locations, 4rsmokehouse.com; $$

Duffy’s Sports Grill

AJ’s Press

First Watch

You’ll be, ahem, hard-pressed to find a better sandwich than the ones served up at the Longwood outpost of AJ’s Press. Mexican bolillo and telera rolls are weighty enough to hold the porky mélange of smoky ham, smokier Cantimpalo chorizo and slow-roasted pork in the Cuban; a less filling ham-andcheese option is just as solid. Our fave: a beer-braised brisket sammie with pickled jalapeños. Closed Sundays. 182 W. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-790-7020; $$

Bad As’s Sandwich

This Milk District sandwich joint gives lunch reason to live, thanks to chefowner John Collazo’s mighty fine sammies – like the El Anormal #3 with adobo-roasted pork and peppery sausage gooeyed up with chipotle jack cheese on soft, subtly sweet egg bread. Simpler sandwiches, like the Mafioso with thinly shaved beef and the Ninja with crispy fried pork belly, shouldn’t be overlooked. Closed Sundays. 207 N. Primrose Drive, 407-757-7191; $

Beth’s Burger Bar

Being pigeonholed as a late-night pit stop is inevitable when you stay open until 3 a.m. on weekends, but Beth’s Burger Bar is worth a visit even during sober daylight hours. Beth’s takes a down-to-earth approach, eschewing the trend for designer burgers with a thousand toppings in favor of an oldschool menu with old-school pricing. 24 E. Washington St., 407-650-4950; also 5145 S. Orange Ave; 407-888-1190; $

Big Kahuna’s Island Style Bowls

This welcoming Winter Springs poké joint does it right with fresh seafood options (ahi tuna, hamachi, salmon, shrimp and octopus) and a bevy of marinades, sauces and toppings from which to choose. Skip the set bowls on the menu and have fun experimenting while customizing your bowl. 1450 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs, 407543-3700; $

The Coop

Best bring a growling stomach to John Rivers’ shrine to Dixie dining, where you’ll feast on American-sized portions of fried chicken, meatloaf, pot pies, pork chops and the like. You’ll also find

This South Florida chain has outposts in Lake Mary, Altamonte and the Mall at Millenia. The menu consists mainly of pub grub favorites like ribs, wings, burgers and sandwiches, perfect for pairing with drinks and sports on their many, many televisions. Multiple locations, duffysmvp.com, $$

Popular with both the post-church crowd and the party-all-nighters, our local outposts of breakfast specialists First Watch mostly offer a spread of classics – omelets, salads and sandwiches, and the like. But dig into the seasonal menus for new twists like a crab and asparagus omelet or a barbacoa benedict. Multiple locations; $


The Texan burger chain with a funny name, long a tourist sector staple, turned heads this year when it opened an outpost north of the 408 on Colonial Drive. Burgers are king here, with several different sizes and topping combinations. Or get exotic and try a buffalo or elk burger. Multiple locations, fuddruckers.com, $$

Fuel BBQ

The barky velour of the brisket is the undoubted star, but don’t pass on the ribs, pulled pork or burnt ends either. Sides are no mere afterthought – great care has gone into perfecting the fried okra, collards, baked beans, and mac and cheese. 120 S. Park Ave., Sanford, 407328-4848; $$

Gator’s Dockside

With all kinds of wings, tenders, sandwiches and burgers, Gator’s is family-friendly, perfect for an office lunch out, dinner with the kids, or a respectable place to watch the game. Multiple locations, gatorsdockside.com; $

Graffiti Junktion American Burger Bar

Prodigious patties for the post-grad set seems to be Graffiti Junktion’s function; the crowd is young and the digs run to frathouse-chic. Skip the salad and chili and head straight for the beefed-up burgers, served on homemade buns. A full bar keeps the scene lively and the din uproarious. Multiple locations; $$

Hamburger Mary’s

While diversity is key at this gay-friendly burger joint, the menu is unquestionably all-American. Hefty, gloppy burgers satisfy, as do triangles of addictive fried mac-and-cheese, and meatloaf is a must. Desserts like fried Twinkies and Mary Tyler S’mores will test your ticker. 110 W. Church St., 321-319-0600; $

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country-style skillets and three-egg omelets as main attractions. Sandwiches and salads await the lunch crowd. Multiple locations, peachvalleycafe. com, $

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa Kings Dining & Entertainment

Known primarily for their high-class bowling lanes, Kings also offers a food and drink menu that goes far beyond the usual bowling alley offerings, including Nashville hot chicken, vegan meatballs and gourmet personal pizzas. But make sure to save room to top it off with an oh-so-Instagrammable overloaded sundae or shake. 8255 International Drive, 407-363-0200, $$

Kona Dog Food Truck

This fan-favorite food truck pops up around town to serve up Hawaiianthemed takes on hot dogs, sandwiches and fries. Visit their website for times and locations. Multiple locations, gokonadog.com, $

Market on Magnolia

The former Frank & Stein’s now houses three fast-casual concepts. Da Kine Poke serves up signature and custom poke bowls; 081 Wood Fired Pizza’s pies are stellar; and finally, we have a downtown outpost of Gnarly Barley’s tacos, sandwiches and salads. Also, find a full row of local and regional microbrews along the north wall flanked by sportsball-spewing TVs. 150 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-412-9230; $$

Omelet Bar

This UCF-area newcomer offers creative takes on more than just omelets – though that Bostonian omelet, topped with lobster bisque, is certainly a standout on the menu. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with a variety of confectionery waffle arrangements. And an expansive drink menu makes this a hot spot for collegiate Sundays Funday. Open daily. 12250 Strategy Blvd., 407704-1597; $$

Orlando Meats

Part butchery, part eatery, this Virginia Drive meat house offers all the interesting cuts flesh-starved gastronomes crave, as well as a menu showcasing locally procured meats. Burger purists ought to try their hefty medium-rare burger (the juice will fly), while sausage hounds will have a field day with any of the available offerings, be it the currywurst, chicken nugget or, our fave, twin venison sausages stuffed inside a New England roll. Bonus: They open for breakfast too. Closed Mondays. 728 Virginia Drive, 407-598-0700; $$

Peach Valley Café

This breakfast and lunch concept from the Stonewood group is slowly but surely spreading across the state. The menu offers something for everyone, whether you like your breakfast savory or sweet, with fresh apple fritters,

Pig Floyd’s brings a sense of humor and quality barbecue to Mills 50. Everything from luscious brisket to succulent St. Louis-style ribs to flavorful pulled pork impresses; even moist spice-rubbed chicken is worth coming back for. Given owner Thomas Ward’s Latin heritage, the sweet plantains, fried yuca, and rice and beans make sense (and don’t disappoint). Good beer selection. Open daily. 1326 N. Mills. Ave., 407-203-0866; also 9680 Narcoossee Road, 407-7307376; $$

Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria Want interesting sandwiches (Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving is a cult classic, and the yellow curry chicken salad is just plain classic), unusual tea (raspberryrose, tiramisu rooibos), killer desserts (lavender-peppercorn crème brûlée), and a cheery, art-filled atmosphere? Find it all here at this Milk District pioneer. Open 24 hours Friday and Saturday. 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-0865; $

Teak Neighborhood Grill This chill hangout developed a loyal following for its hefty half-pound burgers and craft brews, and it’s no wonder. Purists can indulge in the “Plain Jane” with American cheese, Bibb lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun, while braver souls can feel the heat with the peppery “Wholey Hell!!!”. 6400 Time Square Ave., 407-313-5111; also 901 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-335-4835; $$

Toasted Toasted deserves high praise for their braised brisket-and-fontina and fig-andgoat grilled cheese on artisan bread as well as for the house-made vegan cheese and burgers. 1945 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-3922; also 10783 Narcoossee Road, 407-930-8682; $

Too Much Sauce This Mills Park spot gives patrons the option to build their own bowls or choose from a list of signature combinations. Top the Luau Pork bowl with a fried egg for a Big Island-inspired brunch. Sample a flight of hot sauces from the 11 on offer – carrying planks are provided to make the trek to the table easier. 1430 N. Mills Ave., 407-270-7747; $

Yellow Dog Eats The popular Gotha eatery now has a New Smyrna Beach location, where they continue to serve their signature barbecue and unique sandwiches (try the pulled pork with jalapeño-fig sauce) as well as tacos, nachos, salads and veggie items. 147 Canal St., New Smyrna Beach, 386-410-4824; also 1236 Hempel Ave., Gotha, 407-296-0609; $

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Mod ern R es t au ra nts

Loren Falsone & Dominick Tardugno

8060 Via Dellagio Way 407-985-2972 thepharmacyorlando.com


The Pharmacy, a restaurant disguised as a throwback speakeasy disguised as an apothecary, is as fun as it is food-focused. For Dr. Phillippians looking for a change of pace from the pedestrian offerings along Sand Lake Road, there’s really no better place. Chefowner Loren Falsone, who was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2000, keeps things fresh at the Pharmacy, even amid the restaurant’s yesteryear motif. “We try to be forward-thinking in everything we do,” says Falsone. “The Pharmacy is a modern take on a speakeasy – an ode to one of the most iconic time periods in history – but we strive to introduce new techniques and ideas in both our food and beverage offerings to keep things exciting for our guests.”

creative dishes, an unquestionable draw. “We love to think out of the box,” Falsone says, “and we try to adopt trends, then adapt them, to make them feel on-brand and genuine to who we are.” Much of what she learned came from an eight-year stint at Al Forno, the legendary Italian restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. The restaurant’s owners, Johanne Killeen and George Germon, “were two of my greatest mentors,” Falsone says. “I began working with them at Al Forno when I was 20 and I try to carry on their teachings by putting education at the root of everything that I’m doing here.” And that includes teaching respect. “It’s at the core – respect for the industry, respect for peers and respect for guests. We’ve taught our team to honor these practices, but our biggest blessing is that our

Dominick Tardugno is the man behind the Pharmacy’s cocktail program, and his stiff hand-crafted poisons are, like Falsone’s

staff truly believes in all these practices.” Amid a rapidly changing industry, Falsone’s ethos amounts to a healing prescription.

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1921 by Norman Van Aken Reflecting the culinary tradition of Florida old and new, 1921 dazzles with art, decor and menu focused on the flora and fauna of the Sunshine State. Dumplings filled with a mousse of spiny lobster and rock shrimp in a country ham dashi, or pan-roasted duck breast with mole poblano, or whole Cape Canaveral white shrimp with Anson Mills grits, spiced ’nduja vinaigrette and ramp butter spiked with pickled gooseberries – it’s all staggeringly good. 142 E. Fourth Ave., Mount Dora, 352-385-1921; $$$$

The Edison The Disney offshoot of the famed downtown L.A. restaurant/nightclub is dazzlingly decorated and dishes are creatively presented (like the slabs of bacon hung on a mini clothesline). Flashes of menu brilliance come in the form of corn dogs and fiery lamb meatballs in harissa, and a Rocky Road shake served inside a big-ass beaker is kitschy fun. Disney Springs, 1570 E. Buena Vista Drive, 407-560-9288; $$$$

Garp & Fuss Winter Park restaurant in Park Avenue’s Hidden Garden pleases with its pub grub (great wings, burgers, boiled peanuts!) as well as more sophisticated fare like delicate crab cake bites or butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and fried sage. Handhelds range from fried chicken to Chicago-style Italian beef sammies. The Key lime pie in a jar is a worthy meal-capper. 348 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-5560; $$$

Luma on Park Chef Brandon McGlamery attracts all the glamorous foodies to his Park Avenue destination. There’s a great wine selection, a creative cocktail menu, and the smaller plates encourage sharing. Menus change daily and seasonally, but any fish entrée is always a fabulous and Florida-centric bet here. The atmosphere is lively, especially at the chef’s table. 290 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-5994111; $$$

Market to Table Restaurant There’s no questioning the skill and technique used to fashion the dishes served at this Winter Garden resto. Chef Ryan Freelove has the chops to pull off proficiently braised lamb shank over truffle gnocchi, and crackling golden tilefish with a succotash of corn salsa

and spelt. The menu is seasonal, with a focus on fresh, local and sustainable ingredients (some grown on the roof). Closed Monday and Tuesday. 146 W. Plant St., Winter Garden, 407-395-9871; $$$$

Pharmacy Pharmacy places an emphasis on creativity in the kitchen, as well as behind the bar. Start with one of the many “elixirs” – stiff, hand-crafted potions – before diving into such shareable options as roasted bone marrow with oxtail and chili-strawberry preserves or fried green tomato nuggets served over creamy corn curry. Mains vary by season. Dinner only. 8060 Via Dellagio Way, 407-985-2972; $$$$

The Ravenous Pig The frills are as sophisticated as the fare at this Winter Park gastropub. Scallops with caramelized cauliflower puree, roasted foie with cinnamon ice milk and rabbit rillettes with pea tendrils underscore creativity and talent in the kitchen, as do mains like a lamb trio of loin, bacon and sausage. Desserts are uniformly rich and rave-worthy. 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-6282333; $$$

The Rusty Spoon This 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 decent selection of craft beers, cocktails and wines as well. 55 W. Church St., 407-401-8811; $$

Slate Seasonal dishes are best bets, but oakfired pizzas are also worth a look, as is the gnocchi with short rib Bolognese. On our visit, succulent flatiron steak served with crisp green beans, marble potatoes and smoked butter was nice, and sticky toffee pudding made for a saucy ending. Open daily, and you won’t find a more appetizing brunch in town. 8323 Sand Lake Road, 407-500-7528; $$$

Soco Greg Richie’s imaginative versions of Southern classics have made Soco one of Orlando’s premier dining destinations, thanks to such renditions as cassoulet of duck confit with boiled peanuts, molasses-glazed hanger steak with smoked brisket hash browns, and hotsmoked cobia with buttermilk potato cakes. 629 E. Central Blvd., 407-8491800; $$$$

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American Traditional Restaurants

Nat Russell

125 W. First St., Sanford 407-942-3977 thetennesseetruffle.com

Te n n e s s e e Tr u f f l e

“The way I stay relevant is by cooking food that means something to me,” says chef Nat Russell of Sanford’s Tennessee Truffle. Given his experience with French, Italian, Japanese and Southern cuisine, there’s a lot that inspires him, and it’s what makes his restaurant one of the best in the Bokey. “If you put love into it, no matter the dish, and use quality ingredients and the proper technique, it’ll have potential,” Russell says. Potential is precisely what Russell has exhibited since working his first restaurant gig at Japanese-fusion joint Sekisui in his hometown of Memphis. After attending the vaunted Culinary Institute of America, Russell honed his chops at Winter Park’s Luma and the now-shuttered Boathouse before settling in as Café de France’s executive chef. Along the way, he says he’s collected many mentors, one of whom showed him the importance of showing respect with

a handshake and a simple “Good afternoon, chef!” Establishing a respectful workplace became a priority. “Harassment and inequality for women, or any person, is unacceptable and, frankly, abhorrent. I’m making a conscious effort not to assume my employees or patrons always feel safe and respected, but rather to stay acutely aware.” But he sees his adopted community of Sanford as especially conducive to the success of a new business. “Whether it’s patrons or other local business owners, I’m blessed to continually feel the support of patrons and other local business owners, learn from their experiences, and collaborate on ways that contribute to our collective success,” Russell says. “I [want] to nurture an environment where guests and employees feel at home and can experience a human connection while eating great food.”

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Luke’s Kitchen and Bar

American Traditional

Canvas Restaurant & Market Dishes like burrata with caramelized stone fruit, Floribbean grilled shrimp salad, and succulent apple-bourbon braised short ribs steal the scene. A burger fashioned from short rib and brisket is extraordinarily moist. A respectable wine list warrants careful perusal, and Key lime pie with toasted meringue is a must. 13615 Sachs Ave., 407-313-7800; $$$$

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Celebrity chef Art Smith returns to Disney with his aptly named restaurant showcasing all that’s good about Southern fare. His near-legendary fried chicken (get it with house-made doughnuts), shrimp and grits, fried catfish, chicken and dumpling soup, and pimiento cheese keep the masses at Disney Springs fat and happy. A few bites of that hummingbird cake will definitely slow the pace of your park perambulations. There’s a nice selection of moonshine cocktails, too. Open daily. Disney Springs, 1602 E. Buena Vista Drive, 407-560-0100; $$$

Hash House a Go Go The hash slung at Hash House a Go Go will shock those not accustomed to colossal plates and cast-iron skillets full of country-style food. From the stack of fried green tomatoes to the stuffed meatloaf to the sage fried chicken Benedict, everything looks ample enough to satisfy a family of four. 5350 International Drive, 407-370-4646; $$$

Hard Rock In a city with so much to see and do, a big attraction for locals as well as tourists is Hard Rock Café Orlando – the biggest HRC in the world. With statuesque pillars, it stands majestically as a Roman Coliseum of rock, and boasts more pieces of rock & roll memorabilia than any other location. The site includes not only a vast, multilevel café, but also Hard Rock Live Orlando, a 3,000-person concert venue – and it’s a winning combination. 6050 Universal Blvd., 407351-7625; $$

There’s nothing so novel at James Beard Award nominee Brandon McGlamery’s Maitland resto, but there’s plenty that’s so, so good – from the design to the cocktail program to such dishes as diver scallop ceviche, flavorful bone-in ribeye, and stellar swordfish. Comfortingly, proteins are mostly plonked atop starches and veggies here. More goodness: peppery (though expensive) crab cake and the au poivre burger, which is our new favorite. Open daily. 640 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-6742400; $$$$

Maxine’s on Shine Neighborhood jewel offers an eclectic Italian-esque menu in a casual, intimate atmosphere. Pasta and fish dishes are deftly executed; the nutrient-rich kale in the Cobb salad offsets the decadent bacon, egg and blue cheese. Wine list is ample and studied, and a cocktail selection was just added. 337 N. Shine Ave., 407-674-6841; $$

Muddy Waters Cajun and Crescent City eats come to South Eola. From the gumbo to the smoked trout beignets, the food here is worthy of NOLA. Po’boys are fashioned from bread shipped in from Gambino’s in Metairie (get one with a side of chicken and sausage jambalaya); the shrimp and grits are damn near perfect; and the Cedar Key clams in a white wine sauce with pancetta are worth getting extra bread for sopping. The banana bread pudding will put you under its spell. Open daily. 101 S. Eola Drive, 407-8439676; $$

The Polite Pig Local notables James and Julie Petrakis of the RavPig are joined by James’ brother Brian to bring the flavor of proper Southern ’cue to the international masses at Disney Springs. Of note: luscious brisket and pork shoulder; smoked chicken wings; crispy Brussels sprouts; and the sausage hoagie. Our baby back ribs were a tad dry, even after a trip to the sauce bar. Cask & Larder brews, as well as a bourbon bar stocked with Pappy Van Winkle, will properly wet the whistle. Disney Springs, 1536 Buena Vista Drive, 407-938-7444; $$

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American Traditional

RusTeak Restaurant & Wine Bar Don’t let the scary-long menu fool you – most of the dishes created by the proficient kitchen of this gastropub are top-notch. If the lamb porterhouse is ever offered as a special, pounce on it. They also know how to cook fish to perfection. Other highlights: Tuscan steak flatbread and the hefty halfpound RusTeak burger. 1568 Maguire Road, Ocoee, 407-614-3765; also 2625 Edgewater Drive, 407-540-1100; $$

Stir Ivanhoe Village restobar serves elevated yet classic American grub. A puff pastry of pork cheek is nice to start with; there’s a decent coulotte steak salad, and the stout braised short ribs are thoroughly comforting. The bone-in pork chop gets Southern charm with a serving of collards and grits on the side. Definitely end with the banana-chocolate cake. Open daily. 1409 N. Orange Ave., 407723-8976; $$$

The Strand Cozy Mills 50 gem packs them in, thanks to a food-first ethic and dedication to local and seasonal sourcing. Enjoy a craft brew with the roasted red snapper hash, a breakfast item available as a dinner appetizer. More substantial items of note include the fried Cornish hen with mustard mashed potatoes and wilted greens, as well as the grilled mahi atop roasted-vegetable tabouli. The olive oil cake with mascarpone cream is already a fan favorite. 807 N. Mills Ave., 407-9207744; $$

The Stubborn Mule The folks who brought us RusTeak are behind this casual Thornton Park eatery where dishes veer towards the weighty, and beverages toward crafty. Fried Wisconsin cheese curds and equally addictive pork belly slicked with an “Asian” sticky sauce make fine starters, while burgers, Reuben tacos, and the catch of the day make fine entrée choices. Ending with a cronut topped with vanilla bean ice cream will only cement your decision to return. Closed Mondays. 100 S. Eola Drive, 407-7303400; $$

Tap Room at Dubsdread Historic dining destination on the grounds of Orlando’s oldest public golf course offers simple, impeccably prepared dishes. Pot roast makes an ideal meat-and-potatoes nosh, fish and chips are simple comfort food, and homemade Key lime pie is a must. 549 W. Par St., 407-650-0100; $$$

The Tennessee Truffle Southern fare and French technique fuse together at chef/owner Nat Russell’s down-home Sanford resto. His biscuits and gravy might be the best in Central Florida, though the same could be said of his maque-choux and creamed corn. Biscuit sandwiches, like the BLT and chicken salad, are wholly satisfying. A scoop of house-made ice cream (brown butter and buttered popcorn is a favorite) is the way to end. Breakfast and lunch only. Closed Sundays and Mondays. 125 W. First St., Sanford, 407942-3977; $$

The Waterfront The fare coming out of the kitchen of this lakeside bar/restaurant isn’t just a notch above its Julie’s Waterfront days, but downright impressive. Korean pork belly with house kimchi, sesamecrusted ahi tuna with seaweed salad, and tuna poké bring a faint Asian bent to the menu, yes, but fish camp classics like blackened catfish and stellar fish (haddock) and chips are the real deal. The cheeseburger is a knockout. Open daily. 4201 S. Orange Ave., 407-8660468; $$

Winter Park Village Both a daily and a destination shopping and dining Mecca for Orlando and Winter Park, the Village boasts a wide range of entertainment options. Once you’re done shopping at the new REI or seeing a movie at the Regal Cinema, take your pick of nourishment from the high end (like Ruth’s Chris Steak House,) to the casual (Crispers, Menchie’s) to all the delicious in-between (Another Broken Egg, Brio, Cheesecake Factory, the Hangry Bison, P.F. Chang’s, Pizzeria Valdiano and Sakari Sushi). 510 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-5712700; $$

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European Restaurants

Wendy Lopez

8441 International Drive 407-226-2929 tapatoro.restaurant

Ta p a To r o

Executive chef Wendy Lopez, a child of restaurateur parents, has been messing around professional kitchens since she was 3 years old, and in all that time, not much has changed. Lopez helms the kitchen at one of the city’s finest Spanish restaurants, Tapa Toro, and as much as she wants to immerse paying customers in a gastronomic experience of her liking, she’s fully aware that paying heed to feedback is key to survival. “When I first crafted the menu at Tapa Toro, it was full of dishes I liked, but not necessarily dishes everyone else liked,” says Lopez. “So I’ve listened to what our guests thought about the menu, and I’ve evolved it over the last three years – all the while keeping the guests in mind.” That’s quite a mature posture for a 29-year-old chef who says relevance is a by-product of passion. “If I’m passionate about cooking

it, it’s relevant. If guests are passionate about eating it, it’s relevant.” She’s keen on making Tapa Toro a place where cooks can hone their skills, yet she does so in a manner that fosters synergy. “I surround myself with people who push me to be better, but I really make it a point to mentor the people who work in my kitchen,” Lopez says. “I’ll give them a random ingredient, like soft-shell crab or fresh melon, and ask them to imagine what they can do with it. Sometimes these kitchen experiments end up on our menu. Sometimes we burn eight pounds of peaches.” As a woman in the kitchen, Lopez has been burned in other ways, but the #TimesUp movement has empowered her to take action when boundaries have been crossed. “I’ve witnessed harassment in kitchens before,” she says, “and a lot of kitchens haven’t valued women’s opinions. Now I can put a stop to it in my kitchen.”

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Europe an

Ararat Euro Food & Bistro Portions are generous and prices reasonable at Ararat, specializing in dishes from Russia, Armenia and all points in between. Specialties from the Caucasus region worth sampling are many, including Russian-style dumplings (pelmeni) and baked buns (pirozhki). For mains, consider crispy butterflied Cornish hen and lamb kebabs. 7540 Universal Blvd., 407-351-3131; $$

Bauern-Stube In a lively German setting, enjoy an extensive spread of very filling dishes. The moist and tender sauerbraten is a specialty, featuring sliced roast beef with a deep, dark gravy of bay leaves and cloves. But don’t miss the spaetzle, sauerkraut and Black Forest cake. 8015 S. Orange Ave., 407-857-8404; $$

Bulla Gastrobar South Florida Spanish joint serves up some mighty fine tapas and tipples. Chef Felix Plasencia gets it going with marvy croquetas, stellar octopus salad, and pintxos of charcoal-fired cuminmarinated pork. For more substantial plates, consider the seafood paella, arroz marinero cooked with plankton, and the red snapper fired up in a charcoal oven. Torrijas (Spanish-style French toast) drizzled with honey and served with turrón ice cream is our choice to end the meal. Open daily. 110 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 321-214-6120; $$$

Café Linger Coffee, breakfast and brunch with a Continental spin in a brand-new takeover of what used to be a College Park pizza joint. Virtuous overnight oats, housemade granola and avocado toast face off against decadent creamy leek crêpes, steak frites and caramel crunch chicken and waffles. 2912 Edgewater Drive, 407930-0473; $$

DoveCote It’s hard to find a clunker on this downtown brasserie’s menu of approachable French cuisine, whether you’re downing starters like French onion soup (a specialty), tomato-water risotto or Vietnamese seafood stew, or entrees like steak frites, moules frites or vermouth-braised pork cheeks. Partake in their progressive cocktail program, or enjoy one of the many French wines offered by the glass. 390 N. Orange Ave., 407-930-1700; $$$$

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe Homey gasthaus in Sanford’s historic downtown district offers bier, wursts, spaetzle, strudel and some of the finest sweet red cabbage you’ll eat, but the talent extends well beyond the food: Oompah music, dancing and downing “das boot” (about a yard of beer) are crowd-stirring must-dos. 205 E. First St., Sanford, 407-321-2204; $$

Le Coq au Vin Incredible French cuisine is the hallmark of this South Orlando landmark. Graceful perfection distinguishes dishes such as “grouper bronzé aux dix épices,” a fillet encrusted with toasted pecans and spices and bathed in citrus beurre blanc, and the center-cut black Angus steak, served with a dollop of peppercorn sauce. Closed Monday. 4800 S. Orange Ave., 407-851-6980; $$$$

Santiago’s Bodega Key West transplant serves a bevy of pan-Mediterranean small plates. Locals in the know cannot stop gushing over the fantastical brunch spread – giant crab legs, bottomless Bloody Marys, unforgettable French toast – and tapas like beef tenderloin carpaccio, yellowfin tuna ceviche, patatas bravas, and short ribs coated in a cherry-hoisin glaze. The extensive wine list impresses, as does the $28 carafe of red sangria. 802 Virginia Drive, 407-412-6979; also 1185 S. Spring Centre Blvd., Altamonte Springs, 407960-2605; $$$

Tapa Toro Tapa Toro has the looks and the dishes to match, no bull. Expertly crafted Spanish fare makes it well worth the drive to sample vibrant gazpacho, perfect pulpo a la plancha, or pan rustico with a spread of Medjool dates and goat cheese. Plush skewers of beef tenderloin please and, apart from the lack of crusty socarrat, the paella with chicken, chorizo and lamb chops was utterly brilliant. 8441 International Drive, 407-226-2929; $$$

Tartine Wine Bar & Eaterie College Park’s paean to all things pain focuses on the tartine, of which the roast beef and mixed mushroom varieties are quite gratifying. Other French-leaning dishes – middleneck clams in a spicy white wine broth, escargots baked in a croissant shell and the tallow candle – are worth a look. Pastries are always worth saving room for, the chocolate mousse on a crunchy hazelnut praline in particular. French beers and a small yet interesting wine list are offered. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. 2445 Edgewater Drive, 407-845-0016; $$

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Plant-forward Restaurants

Shaun Noonan

Market on South 2603 E. South St. 407-613-5968 dixiedharma.com

Dixie Dharma

Shaun Noonan, one of Orlando’s most well-known proponents of veganism and the man behind Dixie Dharma at Market on South, is poised to spread the gospel of plant-based eating even farther. Soon, another Dixie Dharma outpost will open inside Henry’s Depot, the food hall taking shape in Sanford, and his high-end veg resto/art gallery concept Curate opens soon in the Milk District. While Noonan cites three non-vegan chefs for making him the restaurateur he is today, don’t hold that against him. “My mentors weren’t all sunshine and pats on the back, but I try to pass along the positive parts and look for moments in every day where I can pay it forward,” Noonan says. “Chef Michael Carlson of [Chicago’s] Schwa taught me more than this magazine has space to list but, most importantly, acceptance. Chef Graham Elliot taught me patience, and chef Kevin Clark of Atlanta’s Home Grown GA taught me how to take all that Michelin-star knowledge

and tone it down.” That’s when things really came together for Noonan as a chef who, very early on, learned to pay no heed to the ephemeral aspects of the business. “All that trendy flash and dazzle comes and goes. Remember when everyone thought it was ground-breaking cuisine to cook a pig? Chefs running around with pig tattoos? If anything, relevance comes by looking at the current trends and doing the polar opposite. Respect your food, respect your staff, respect your customers and the rest comes naturally.” Indeed, the issue of respect in the industry, or lack thereof, has been given a long-overdue spotlight lately. Noonan, for one, says it’s high time. “I’ve been disgusted with the level of chauvinism in the industry since I started over 20 years ago. Finally these creeps are being held accountable and it’s fantastic to watch.” And for the scores of workers who’ve fallen victim to these “creeps,” Noonan has some advice: “I’d recommend a well-placed, firm, and highly professional punch to the jaw of whoever is harassing you. Then shoot me an email … we’re looking to expand this summer!”

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The Cookery The specialty grocer stocking sundry locally made, organic and all-natural foods, pastries, sauces, spices, beverages, botanicals and more has opened on South Street, just down the street from Market on South. There’s a plethora of vegan “meats” and “cheeses” to be had, as well as stroopwafels and ice cream sandwiches from Gezellig Cookies. 2705 E. South St., 407-4589230; $$

DaJen Eats Vegan Café & Creamery Jamaican vegan fare makes this Citgo on North OBT the most unique gas station in town. Dishes ranging from rice & peas with sweet and spicy cauliflower bites and crispy fried chick’n seitan to “loona toona” sandwiches are offered. Eight different varieties of vegan ice cream fashioned from coconut milk are also sold. Note: DaJen Eats will close its Citgo location this summer and move into a permanent location in Eatonville. 4845 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-286-4983; $

Dandelion Communitea Café Socially conscious teahouse is a gathering ground for nonconformists, neo-cons and everyone in between. A predominantly vegan menu of wraps, salads and an outstandingly hearty chili will satisfy even the most ravenous of carnivores. Start with garlicky hummus with hemp seeds and finish with the fluffernutter sandwich – a sweet proposition. 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407362-1864; $

Ethos Vegan Kitchen Satisfying meatless fare is the norm at this all-vegan restaurant. Mac and cheese is gratifyingly gooey, and segues nicely into sheep’s pie with its generous heaping of fluffy mashed potatoes. The Winter Park space offers a sophisticated bar and a wide-ranging menu. Sunday brunch is a welcoming and tasty gathering for all palates. 601-B S. New York Ave., Winter Park, 407-228-3898; $

Florida & Co. Chef/owner Emily Rankin uses the relationships she’s forged with area farmers, producers and purveyors to bring delectable bowls fashioned from local meats and produce. The cilantrolemongrass bowl with brown rice,

pickled radish, greens and a soft-boiled egg is as photogenic as it is delicious. A bowl of stone-ground grits, garlic kale and pulled pork smothered in a sauce of datil peppers and kumquats ain’t pretty but sure is good. Don’t overlook bracing red snapper ceviche. Accompanying plantain chips are addicting. Open daily. 3201 Corrine Drive, 407-790-7758; $$

Loving Hut The environmentally friendly Loving Hut offers a win-win proposition: Along with more classically healthy options like “noble rice” and “saintly stir-fry,” the menu is stocked with snacks like cheesecake, “golden nuggets” and “happy dogs,” but it’s all vegan. Don’t miss the lemongrass rice vermicelli or the taro “milk”shake. Closed Tuesday. 2101 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-5673; $

Market on South At this gathering ground for herbivores and omnivores alike, lines can run out the door for Valhalla Bakery’s delicious pastries and Dixie Dharma’s victuals – tasty tacos, BBQ pulled jackfruit and fried green tomatoes, for example – day and night. Humble Bumble kombuchas are also offered, as are Quantum Leap wines and rotating draft beers. 2603 E. South St., 407-613-5968; $$

Roots Raw Juice Bar With locations in Sanford and Lake Mary, this Seminole County juice bar offers up a wide array of juice blends and smoothies, along with kombucha on tap. For those who hunger for something more substantial, açai bowls, salads and wraps are available. Multiple locations, rootsrawjuicebar.com, $

The Sanctum Plant-based eatery deftly disproves the antiquated notion that meatless and wheatless equates to tasteless with boldly flavored green, grain and pasta bowls. A kale Caesar is anything but one-dimensional, and the harissa-spiced “Mo’Rockin” bowl with cauliflower, beets, candied walnuts and sultanas is faultless. Smoothies and pastries are available for sating the sweet tooth, and beer and wine for the stressed. Note: Dairy and gluten options are available. 715 N. Ferncreek Ave., 407-757-0346; $$

Sweet Tomatoes This successful chain – known elsewhere as Souplantation – lets patrons eat as much as they want from several buffet stations. In addition to the classic salad bar, Sweet Tomatoes has an array of classic soups, hot pasta dishes and the ever-popular dessert bar. Multiple locations, souplantation.com, $

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Stuart Whitfield

276 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park 407-500-2253 theglassknife.com

The Glass Knife

When the Glass Knife opened late last year, the plush patisserie brought some high-class swank to South Orlando Avenue, thanks to the deep pockets and haute tastes of owner-founder-tech CEO Steve Brown. But beyond the 2,100-pound gold-hued light fixture, the diamond-patterned terrazzo floors, the 18-seat table carved from American walnut and the pricey porcelain cups from New Zealand, the Glass Knife is meant to evoke memories of familial comfort. “It’s a place that’s intended to feel like home,” says Brown. “Our recipes … remind you of a favorite memory, taste or flavor.” Executive chef Stuart Whitfield echoes that sentiment: “Part of being a chef is storytelling,” Whitfield says. “I wanted to re-create time-honored recipes reminiscent of dishes from a family gathering or the fun sweet treats packed in childhood lunches. It’s more than a cake, a

chicken pot pie or an oatmeal cream pie. It’s all about honoring the past while creating new memories, with every offering.” The sense of home and family infuses all facets of the Glass Knife’s operation. Inclusivity, says Brown, is at the forefront. “We subscribe to the belief that diversity is the common thread that makes us one. It’s even woven into the design details, like our communal table, which encourages customers to come together to break bread.” No surprise that Brown cites his parents for inspiring him. “They exemplified what it meant to work hard, how to bring creative solutions to problem solving, the importance of treating everyone with respect, and approaching each and every task with your absolute best,” he says. It’s clear Brown has done just that with the Glass Knife.

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Sweets Andy’s Frozen Custard This popular chain opened its first Florida outpost this March on International Drive. In addition to a wide selection of frozen sundaes and concretes (like a Blizzard, but not copyrighted), guests can take home a pint or two of frozen custard to snack on at home. 5381 International Drive, 321236-7850; also 4625 St. Johns Parkway, Sanford, 407-548-6858; $

Better Than Sex Dessert-only restaurant sexes things up with a menu of cakes, pies and beverages, most of which will have you moaning in satisfaction. Rimmed drinks, be they wine or coffee, can leave a sticky mess, while desserts like the “Cookie Nookie Pie,” “Morning After” and “Missionary Crisp” are meant to indulge. Chocolate lovers need look no further than the “Twist & Stout” – a girthy chocolate cake with a tart chocolate center and a glaze of dark chocolate stout. Reservations are strongly recommended, as seats fill up quickly. 1905 N. Orange Ave., 407-761-8949; $$

Blue Bird Bake Shop Here at one of the first local outposts for the artisanal cupcake craze, real butter and fresh fruit are among the superior ingredients the bakers use to create their amazing pastries, baked fresh in small batches every day. In addition to traditional favorites, Blue Bird also creates unique flavors like chocolate Guinness or vanilla black pepper, as well as scrumptious, sharing-size brownies. 3122 Corrine Drive, 407-228-3822; $

Buttermilk Bakery Whether you’ve got a full set of sweet teeth or you’re a salt-and-butter fiend to the end, skipping a trip to Buttermilk Bakery would be a big mistake. The “morning buns” crafted by the Rebroff family turn any morning into a celebratory occasion – tipping-over tall and sticky with sugar granules, with a hint of orange or cardamom. Croissants are shatteringly crisp and insanely buttery, filled with sweet almond paste, rich chocolate or savory combos like smoked cheddar and charred jalapeño. 1198 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 321422-4015; $

Gideon’s Bakehouse Over-the-top soft “cookies” are roughly a half-pound of cookie dough solidly bedazzled with chips, basic (chocolate chip) and not-basic (triple-chocolate salted Andes mint) varieties. Cake slices are also offered, and whole cakes are available by special order (try the peanut butter cup cake). Get there before closing time; they sell out most days. East End Market, 3201 Corrine Drive; $$

The Glass Knife Luxe patisserie offers a gorgeous line of cakes, cookies, doughnuts and specialty pastries to satisfy the sweetest of tooths. Coffee from Onyx Coffee Labs (with whom they have an exclusive partnership) makes a perfect pairing, be it drip, pour-over, nitro cold brew or espresso-based. Savory items are served throughout the day – the cheddar biscuit sandwich and chicken pot pie prove gratifying. There’s a sizable covered outdoor patio, and it’s dog-friendly. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 276 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-5002253; $$

Jeremiah’s Original Italian Ice It’s like a sorbet, only more slushy. It’s not a snow cone, although it does come in a cup, in not-too-sweet and refreshing flavors such as mango, kiwi, tangerine, watermelon, red raspberry and passionfruit. Multiple locations, jeremiahsice.com; $

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream The brick-and-mortar version of the popular food truck sits in Audubon Park, serving inventive ice creams like Mexican chocolate, maple bourbon bacon and sweet potato casserole. Can’t make up your mind? Indulge in a flight, a muffin tin filled with four waffle-cone dishes of whatever you like. 3114 Corrine Drive, 321-226-8685; $

P Is for Pie Bake Shop You won’t find Crisco, gelatin or any processed ingredients here. What you will find is strawberry-raspberry cobbler, chocolate peanut butter sea salt cuties, light and airy banana cream Mason jar pies, and their signature flaky-crust caramel pecan hand pies – all guaranteed to tug on your Southern heartstrings. Closed Sunday and Monday. 2806 Corrine Drive, 407-745-4743; $$

Se7enbites The brainchild of local chef Trina Gregory-Propst, this bakery and eatery had to move to bigger digs last year to meet demand. And once you taste their sweet and savory confections or ribsticking comfort food, you’ll see exactly why they needed the extra elbow room. You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted the famous salted-caramel dark-chocolate hand pie. 617 N. Primrose Drive, 407203-0727; $

Valhalla Bakery Celine Duvoisin’s crazy-popular vegan Valhalla Bakery at Market on South serves up butter tarts, cinnamon rolls, mini fruit pies, cookies and more. The famous vegan doughnuts are made over in her UCF Valkyrie shop these days, but at Valhalla you can still score a baked treat – whether to end a meal from market-mate Dixie Dharma or simply to revel in that sweet, sweet sugar. 2603 E. South St., 407-613-5968, $$

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Pubs, Wine Bars, Taprooms

Rob Chase & Brian Kerney

1215 Edgewater Drive 407-426-7510 facebook.com/digresswine

Digress Wine

If you’ve had the pleasure of popping by College Park’s Digress Wine, then you’ve likely experienced the genuine hospitality of owners Rob Chase and Brian Kerney. A friendlier pair of vino-isseurs you never will meet, and both have been in the game long enough to know that hospitality counts for everything in nurturing strong customer relationships and building long-term success.

they entered, and it’s critical for return business.” And, certainly, customers aren’t the only beneficiaries of their magnanimity.

All the more so when you consider Chase and Kerney took over a community mainstay – Cavanaugh’s Fine Wines. “It’s our biggest asset,” says Kerney.

“That extends to all parties – customers, employees, supplier partners, and our community at large. If we strive to take such good care of our guests, and we know how much can be gained from acting in a positive manner, shouldn’t we at least be extending the same amount of care toward ourselves and our colleagues for the benefit of our collective physical health and mental well-being?” Can’t argue with that.

“Great hospitality is that perfect combination of casual comfort, seamless execution and personal connection. It’s what leaves the customer feeling better on leaving an establishment than when

“The most important initiative, and one that’s within the control of every restaurant owner, is to foster a culture of gratitude, diversity, and mutual respect for one another,” Kerney says.

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Pubs/Wine Bars DeVine Wine & Grill Unlike the scores of enomatic dispensers found at other wine bars, the 32 offered at this Oviedo drinkery keep the attitude to a minimum, while the kitchen delivers bar fare that’s well-executed – anyone will relish the burger and the beet salad. 15 Alafaya Woods Blvd., Oviedo, 407359-5016; $$

Digress Wine A pair of experienced wine distributors open up their own spot, a wine bar and shop that sells artisanal bottles from around the globe. The casual, welcoming vibe extends from their mood-based system of recommendations to their embrace of fun food like barbecue, doughnuts and raclette served on the homey patio. 1215 Edgewater Drive, 407426-7510; $$

The Gnarly Barley A roadhouse that just so happens to serve great food, the Belle Isle brew pub features 10 beers on tap and a menu full of hangover preventers (or cures) like the “Snack Attack,” a mound of kettle chips buried under shredded chicken, blue cheese and salsa, and the “Johnnie Mac ’n Cheese” sandwich, a bombshell take on the French dip. Closed Monday. 7431 S. Orange Ave., 407-854-4999; $

The Hammered Lamb A gorgeous patio with a full bar and 16 beers on draft offers views of Lake Ivanhoe on one side, and the roar of the train tracks on the other (but don’t worry, when the locomotive goes rushing by, the bartender hands out train shots). If you start to feel peckish while you party, peruse a menu full of creative sandwiches and wraps. 1235 N. Orange Ave., 407-704-3200; $

M Lounge As yet the food offerings are slim at this brand-new Ivanhoe rooftop bar – a veggie antipasto plate or a charcuterie board – but the swanky cocktails and wide-ranging wine and beer list are already attracting the beautiful people. 2000 N. Orange Ave., 321-430-1140; $$

McGinnty’s Irish Pub Located in Edgewood, right near where Orange and Hansel avenues merge, McGinnty’s Irish Pub is the newest Irish pub in the area. Though the atmosphere is a bit more American sports bar than Dublin boozer, the menu includes Old Sod faves like shepherds pie, fish and

chips, and Irish sausage rolls. Along with plenty of Guinness, of course. 5406 Hansel Ave., 407-704-8828; $

Orange County Brewers/ Orlando Pizza and Wing Co. The downtown core’s sole craft brewery sets the bar high with a nice selection of beers (try the Green Tea IPA and Percolator Milk Stout) alongside a worthy offering of Neapolitan-style pizzas and some of the best smoked jumbo chicken wings in the city. 131 N. Orange Ave., 407-914-2831; $$

The Parkview While not as sprawling a space as the Wine Room, nor as packed as Luma, the Parkview has the unpretentious, comfortable air that its neighboring Park Avenue haunts lack. Plus, the menu goes well beyond boring charcuterie and cheese plates to create highly edible pairings – roasted bone marrow, braised beet carpaccio and more – to match an intriguing selection of wines. Brunch served Saturday and Sunday. 136 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-9103; $$

The Porch Winter Park sports bar can get cacophonous at times, but the crowd seems to enjoy it – and the fact is that the food here is more than decent. Bison meatballs are nice for sharing, while hefty burgers served with even heftier onion rings are ideal booze sponges. For a more substantial nosh, consider their Sunday brunch, offering an all-youcan-eat sampling of their menu. 643 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-571-9101; $

The Smiling Bison For the food-obsessed, Smiling Bison is a home where the gastronomes roam. Meat matters to chef Josh Oakley, a fact made clear after just one bite of the bacon fat biscuits or the smoked kielbasa gnocchi. The deceptively substantial duck lovers’ pizza (with duck confit, duck ham and a duck egg) is not to be missed. There’s a great selection of craft brews and cocktails. 107 S. Magnolia Ave., Sanford, 407-915-6086; $$

Sanford Brewing Co. A relative newcomer to Sanford’s bustling beer scene, Sanford Brewing stands out for its creative food menu to pair with their wide selection of house-brewed beer. Highlights include the Steak & SBC Ale – sliced steak over fries with a house-made ale sauce – and the Make Your Own Mac & Cheese menu, offering a wide assortment of cheeses, proteins and toppings to create your own cheesy combination. 400 S. Sanford Ave., Sanford, 407-732-6419, $

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Seafood Restaurants


Lombardi Family

1888 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park 407-628-3474 lombardis.com

Lombardi’s Seafood

While Lombardi’s Seafood has been around for 57 years, they’re a relative newcomer to the city’s restaurant scene. Their café, in fact, opened just three years ago serving fresh, sustainable, simply prepared seafood, much of it snagged from the market under the same roof. It’s a winning formula, but that doesn’t mean the Lombardi clan is stuck in its ways. “We’ve tried to avoid the ‘hot new trends,’” says Mike Lombardi (above center), “but we’ll be adding some new items, like poké, to our menu. It’s a dish that’s caught on well in Orlando and it’s very much in our wheelhouse.” Changing with the times is a necessary evil, no doubt, but some things within Lombardi’s haven’t changed a bit – namely, the women behind the family-run operation. “My grandparents, Tony Senior and Angie Lombardi, started the business in 1961, and my grandmother was just as instrumental as

my grandfather in making the business a success, so in that regard things haven’t changed,” Lombardi says. “My mother, Terri Lombardi, has been in the business for many years with my dad, Tony Junior, and contributed immensely to its success. Today my wife, Toby, and two sisters, Denise and Maria, are also pertinent to the current success in the different areas they run.” After graduating from the University of Florida with degrees in finance and risk management, Mike helped out at Lombardi’s for six years before leaving to work in pharmaceuticals. He rejoined the family business after 12 years, and, as a third-generation owner, spearheaded the creation of the café. He credits his parents for luring him back. “I’ve looked up to and respected the hard work ethic and moral compass both of them showed me growing up,” Lombardi says, and for a whole new generation of seafood lovers, that’s good news.

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Se a fo od

Blu on the Avenue The chef knows what he’s doing with such dishes as grouper with tomatillo succotash, mussels frites and lobster Cobb salad, and the owner is also an expert pastry chef, so don’t pass up the peanut butter pie. Plus there’s primo Park Avenue people-watching. Reservations recommended. 326 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-3778; $$$

The Catfish Place of Apopka Florida-style fish house is the place to go when you’re in the mood for downhome fried seafood. The boneless catfish is superb; the house-special coleslaw is crisp, sweet and tart; and the service is warm. Closed Sunday and Monday. 311 S. Forest Ave., Apopka, 407-889-7980; $$

Eddie V’s Prime Seafood You get what you pay for and, for the most part, this pricey Dr. Phillips fish house delivers. Both the steak and lobster tartare and the jumbo lump crab make a splash as starters. Though it’s primarily a seafood place, you’ll be hardpressed to find a better steak than their 22-ounce USDA Prime bone-in rib-eye. 7488 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-355-3011; $$$$

King Cajun Crawfish A host of seasoning choices, topnotch sides and cut-rate prices make this Cajun dive a real draw for diners craving crawfish boils. Other NOLA staples are hit (catfish po’boy) and miss (gumbo). End with a strong cup of Café du Monde coffee. 924 N. Mills Ave., 407-704-8863; $

Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar An unfancy place with 50 years of experience. The pound of hot or cold shrimp has a slightly spicy flavor, and the fish-dinner platters come with heaps of fries. But the fresh, sweet oysters (raw or steamed) are the focal point. For the full effect, sit at the bar and settle in with a bucket of them. 5621 Old Winter Garden Road, 407-293-3587; $$

Fresh, sustainable food is what’s on tap at the Gaylord Palms’ newest restaurant. Look for the 60-foot-tall sailboat mast to find this “harbor of hip,” which features New World Floridian cuisine served by a chef from Key West who brings an island-style atmo. 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee, 407-586-1101; $$$$

The Oceanaire Seafood Room A budget-busting bounty of unparalleled freshness awaits fish lovers at what is arguably Orlando’s finest seafood house. Up to 25 varieties of fish, lobster, crab and mussels, and 12 varieties of oysters are flown in daily from around the world. Family-style sides are available, though not necessary. Save room to share the enormous wedge of caramel brownie. Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive, 407-363-4801; $$$$

Paddlefish This three-story floating fortress is the best place for seafood in Disney Springs, though the prices may have you abandoning ship. Still, the palatable fare – lobster corn dogs, fried green tomato crab cakes, striped bass en papillote, and delightful seafood boils – makes the prices easier to stomach. Strawberry shortcake and a chocolate-bourbon tart with candied bacon also help. Some rooms can be louder than others, so don’t hesitate to request a quieter spot if desired. 1670 Buena Vista Drive, 407934-2628; $$$$

Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen & Bar This steadily improving fish house has a lot going for it, notably owner Fred Thimm’s commitment to great service and zeal to make the venture a success. Also successful: a bracing ceviche of shark, snapper and hogfish; panko-breaded roasted oysters; and a quartet of fried green tomatoes atop zesty roasted pepper vinaigrette. There’s also plenty of fried goodness for the fish camp lover in you. Closed Mondays. 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-543-3474; $$$

Winter Park Fish Co. The mostly-from-Florida seafood served here will get you hooked. They’ll make a gratifying fish and chips from scratch with almost any fish they’ve got in-house (your choice!), and fresh local produce is a nice healthy touch. Expect a bit of a wait. Closed Sunday. 761 Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-6112; $$

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Gabriel Massip Capa 10100 Dream Tree Blvd., Lake Buena Vista 407-313-7777 fourseasons.com

This sanguine Frenchman helming the kitchen of the Spanish steakhouse inside a Canadian luxury hotel chain wouldn’t have it any other way. Gabriel Massip has worked in eating establishments from Bora Bora to Sun Valley, Idaho, but it’s at Capa Steakhouse on the 17th floor of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando where the talented young gun is coming into his own as a chef. Traveling the world has had an impact on his evolution as a cook, and it’s certainly made him more confident running a kitchen. “I know flavors and I know cooking,” Massip says, “and I love working with a team to provide the highquality dining experience that makes Capa one of the best restaurants in Central Florida.” Massip readily admits that social media plays a role in maintaining Capa’s innovation: “I read a lot and analyze food trends from season to season, but I also follow a lot of chefs on Instagram, and exchanging news and information with them is helpful.” Some of those chefs are ones Massip has worked with in the past and considers mentors, a role in which he currently finds himself. “I learned a lot of different things with each and every one of them,” he says, “and I try to round up all their different styles and adapt them to situations at work – how to teach a technique, how to explain why a recipe is the way it is, why it’s important to respect the steps, et cetera. Most important is how they taught me to interact with individuals depending on their behavior and personality.” That’s a lot of responsibility to shoulder, particularly for a 35-year-old helming the flagship restaurant at the finest resort in Orlando, but Massip is clearly up – way up – to the task.

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Steakhouses Capa Sexy rooftop resto at the Four Seasons shows off its style with Basque- and Spanish-inspired specialties and USDA Prime steaks. It’s hard to go wrong with any dish, but you’ll go right with hamachi crudo to start. If big beef is your craving, the bone-in filet is sublime, though it’ll set you back $69. Nice. Four Seasons Resort Orlando, 10100 Dream Tree Blvd., Lake Buena Vista, 407-313-7777; $$$$

Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster There’s no confusion over what to order: USDA Prime steaks and chops and primo cold-water lobster, plus old-school steakhouse sides like potatoes au gratin and creamed spinach, all served in a delightful maze of dark wood-paneled rooms. 729 Lee Road, 407-645-4443; $$$$

Choo Choo Churros From empanadas to authentic openfire-grilled steaks, this is a good but unpretentious Argentine steakhouse in the shadow of the East-West Expressway. Closed Monday-Wednesday. 5810 Lake Underhill Road, 407-3826001; $$

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse Be prepared to spend a little more on this experience. First, order the Wagyu tomahawk ribeye ($89). Next, allow a sommelier to help pair your beefy investment with a bottle worthy of it. Whatever you do, trust the chef when your server tells you he prefers to cook it to medium – it’s highly marbled and needs a moderate amount of cooking to melt that lusciousness into its full potential. The steak is 32 ounces, making it perfect to share, and quite a value once you start pricing out the other options. 9150 International Drive, 407-351-5074; $$$$

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar Fleming’s offers aged, hand-cut beef in huge, thick-as-a-brick servings and family-style side dishes, giant seafood entrees and enormous desserts. Big and beefy. 933 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-699-9463; also 8030 Via Dellagio Way, 407-352-5706; $$$

Fogo de Chão A shrine to beef. Juicy skirt steak, saltcrusted rib-eye and meltingly tender filet are standouts, but accoutrements

like deep-fried polenta squares, baconstudded rice and beans, and thick spears of chilled asparagus will also wow. The impressive wine list leans toward South American malbecs and rioja; the high ratio of staff to diners means service is equally impressive. 8282 International Drive, 407-370-0711; $$$$

Kres Chophouse Downtown chophouse brings an element other steakhouses don’t seem to have – Jazz Age flair and impeccable service. The prime cuts of meat are damn fine too, be they rib-eye steaks or foie grastopped elk tenderloins. An in-house sommelier roams the space proffering sagacious wine advice. Desserts, like white chocolate bread pudding with whiskey sauce, also cater to epicurean sensibilities. 17 W. Church St., 407-4477950; $$$$

Linda’s La Cantina No matter how you slice it, Linda’s La Cantina serves a superb steak and has been doing so for more than half a century. Sit in the Fire Fountain Lounge sipping a grasshopper while you’re waiting for your checked-tablecloth table in the dining room – and keep in mind that on most nights, reservations are recommended. All steaks are cut in-house, including the monster 2-pound T-bone. Closed Sunday and Monday. 4721 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-4491; $$$

Ruth’s Chris Steak House Weighing in heavily on the masculine side of the top-dollar dining spectrum, the ambience here is powerful. The New Orleans-based chain serves only aged meats from corn-fed Hereford cows, so tender a knife isn’t necessary. For expense accounts and special occasions. Multiple locations; $$$$

Tony Roma’s In a late-2016 revamp, Tony Roma’s updated their decor, bar program and most importantly, their food – and it’s shockingly good. So if you thought you knew this restaurant, give it another whirl. From new classics like chicken lollipops and beef short rib to edgier fare like lamb ribs, “pork-strami” ribs and Buffalo ribs, this menu has shaken off the dust. 8560 International Drive, 407-2480094; $$$

Vines Grille & Wine Bar Steaks and seafood straight from an open charcoal grill are what you’ll find in a surprisingly intimate spot in the heart of Sand Lake’s restaurant row. The upscale fare includes perfect tenderloins and crunchy flatbread pizzas, and there’s live music nightly. 7533 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-351-1227; $$$

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Mexican & Latin Restaurants

Joe Creech

2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park 321-444-6270 hungerstreettacos.com

H u n g e r S t r e e t Ta c o s

We have Joe Creech’s rebellious streak to thank for the chingón eats at Hunger Street Tacos. As the son of missionaries in Guadalajara, Joe paid heed to his father’s warnings about Mexican street food and its seeming intestinal dangers, but not so when he returned to Mexico City as an inquisitive 20-something. After reveling in those roadside bites, Creech now makes it a point to deliver a true taste of the calles to Winter Park. “Our mission is to faithfully represent the street food found in Mexico City, and we spend a great deal of energy defining what that is to our customers,” says Creech. “Thankfully, we have a huge palette of options from which to choose, given the food scene in Mexico City is just so vast.” Hunger Street’s fare reflects the diversity of the megalopolis, and diversity for Creech and his brother David is integral to the business. “It’s so important for us. We do a lot to make sure that we’re hiring

a mixed group of people. Each one of us comes from different circumstances and has different interests, hopes, and dreams, and we stress in all of them to respect each and every one – in word and deed,” Creech says. It’s an ethic instilled by his father. The Creeches also cite John Rivers (of 4 Rivers Smokehouse) as a mentor. “He was the first person we met with when we started Hunger Street as a pop-up, and it’s no coincidence our restaurant is in the original 4 Rivers location. We wouldn’t be here if not for his friendship and counsel.” The pair hope to help others in a similar fashion, but until then, Creech says, they’re working with several up-and-coming food businesses on a monthly pop-up experience at Hunger Street called “Cooking With Friends.” No doubt it’ll help raise awareness for those nascent operations and allow the Creech brothers to share their road, or street, to success.

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Mexican/ Latin Agave Azul The cool blue decor belies the spicy fare served here. Tequila is the aperitif of choice, but all good drinks lead to food, and the Tex-Mex dishes served here are done right. Chunky guacamole, plato grande (a hungry man’s dish of skirt steak, picadillo enchilada and a superb chicken tamale slathered in mole), and the pastel de piña are all recommended, as are reservations. 4750 S. Kirkman Road, 407-704-6930; also 900 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park; $$

Bartaco Tacos are on the small side, but when corn tortillas are filled with such succulent meats as duck confit in tamarind glaze, rotisserie pork pastor, and soy-, sesame- and srirachamarinated Angus ribeye topped with kimchi, substance tends to trump size. Vegetarian options (falafel, cauliflower, portobello) abound, but don’t overlook other items like grilled corn rolled in lime, cayenne and cotija. Cocktails please even when desserts don’t wow. Open daily. 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., 407-801-8226; $$

Black Bean Deli After dishing out homespun favorites since the mid-’80s, Winter Park’s Black Bean has gained a new vitality. Now there’s a Colonial Drive location, beautifully designed and offering beer and outdoor café tables. Lunch platters are a bargain; tender roast chicken has a citrusy tang, pork is marinated and slow-cooked and the avocado dressing is pale-green magic. 325 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-0294; also 1835 E. Colonial Drive, 407-203-0922; $

Black Rooster Taqueria Tacos at this Mills 50 taqueria are carefully constructed, with bracing epazote in the vegetarian taco, pickled chile poblano and Oaxaca cheese in the beef-and-bacon asada, and earthy achiote in the pork taco. A texturally brilliant kale salad is out of the norm, but well worth ordering, as is a stew of beef shoulder achiote with aji panca. The chocolate-chipotle flan will leave a lasting impression. Closed Mondays. 1323 N. Mills Ave., 407-601-0994; $$

Bocas Grill Pan-Latin restaurant spins a bit of Asian influence into the mix with stellar wokfried rice, but arepas are king here. The

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pabellón criollo arepa holds the holy trinity of shredded beef, black beans and sweet plantains, along with plenty of white cheese. Milkshakes are towering and ridiculous, but so is the torta tres leches served with a vanilla ice cream cone and a syringe of condensed milk. Be still my beating (for now) heart. 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., 407-723-8351; $$

Border Grill This MetroWest taquería is a real find, and once found, a treasure trove of tacos, tortas, gorditas, burritos and caldos awaits. Consider starting with fresh guac and ending with homemade flan, no matter how stuffed you feel. Salsas can be downright infernal, but Mexican Coca-Cola and various aguas frescas prove effective extinguishers. Closed Sunday. 5695 Vineland Road, 407-352-0101; $

Chela Tequila & Tacos Tacos are, of course, the main event, but we also liked shareable dishes like the roasted cauliflower with Indo-Mex flavorings and corn on the cob with a smoky, cheesy, peppery finish. Creamy guac is bright but not too bright, and the chicken-jicama slaw makes a worthy, if safe, main. If you must have dessert, choose the choco taco to close. If you want corn tortillas instead of flour, just ask. Open daily. 183 S. Orange Ave., 407985-5272; $$

Cocina 214 Haute-Texican cuisine gives good cause to visit this industrial-chic Park Avenuearea resto. From skillfully rendered shrimp piri-piri to pollo pibil to duck confit tacos, the kitchen employs a mix of traditional and contemporary methods. Brunch here is one of the few places in town you’ll find authentic migas and chilaquiles. 151 E. Welbourne Ave., Winter Park, 407-790-7997; $$

Cuba Libre A festive Cuban restaurant and rum bar, serving all your favorites: ceviche, ropa vieja, corn cakes and more. Can’t decide what to eat? Try the chef’s tasting menu, featuring 15 items, including appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts, for $40 per person. Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive, 407-226-1600; $$$.

El Buda Chef Roberto Treviño’s dishes fuse Latin and Asian flavors and the results are nothing short of remarkable, be they dumplings of pork and plantains; ropa vieja bibimbap; churrasco with ho fun noodles, or edamame frito. On most days, Treviño will improvise off-menu dishes, and if dumplings con coco or

sushi-grade tuna in Sichuan-pepita sauce make an appearance, order it. Either way, don’t pass on the duck breast with misohoney potatoes. Desserts lean toward the Latin. Closed Mondays. 116 W. Church St., 407-203-8171; $$$

Four Rebels American Taco Kitchen & Bar At this Mills Park taco joint fillings can be interesting, including inventive takes like fried green tomato, mojo pork, fried chicken and ribeye. Elotes slathered in avocado crema and nachos with crispy chips are worth an order. There is a full bar, and a rooftop patio on which to enjoy a margarita and a taco. Open daily. 1618 N. Mills Ave., 407-203-8171; $$

Gringos Locos Downtown taquería is a boon for latenight revelers offering standard tacos, burritos, chimis and quesadillas. The sizable girth of the chimi and “1 Night Slam” burrito make them ideal alcohol sponges, and crisp, flaky empanadas are great grab-and-go items. Skip bland guacamole and overdone fish tacos. Multiple locations, gringoslocos.com; $

Hunger Street Tacos The gourmet taco trend gains traction at Hunger Street Tacos, named after the famed Mexico City strip. Brisket, chorizo and chicken tinga tacos are twice-tortillaed in proper fashion. Vegan (sautéed hibiscus taco) and vegetarian options (squash blossom quesadilla; vegetable tinga) will please the meatless crowd. Desserts like chocoflan and Key lime pie with toasted meringue are more than just mere afterthoughts. Closed Sundays. 2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-545-5998; $

Reyes Mezcaleria True flavors from various regions of Mexico come out in such dishes as duck breast with mole negro, tostadas with yellowfin tuna or braised short rib, wonderfully moist tamales and fried yuca with carnitas. Don’t pass on veg chile rellenos stuffed with beans, queso Oaxaca and grilled corn, or red chile enchiladas with short rib and pumpkin. Open daily. 821 N. Orange Ave., 407-8689007; $$$

Saint Anejo Mexican Kitchen Saint Anejo’s south-of-the-border fare is better than your average Tex-Mexeria’s. Two superbly flavored (and flattened) ribeyes in the carne asada, for example, or a sweet and smoky (but not too sweet and not too smoky) mole rojo, are populist favorites. A sizable selection of margaritas, sangrias, cervezas and cocteles are also offered. Open daily.

5248 Red Bug Lake Road, Winter Springs, 407-636-3600; $$

Super Rico Colombian Bistro Food truck fans may remember them as Que Rico Colombian Fast Food, but wheels or no, the Colombian specialties flying onto your table will keep you in your seat. Beef and grilled oniontopped patacones (somewhat similar to tostones), pintxos (grilled meat skewers) and bright-yellow cheese empanadas are tasty; the arepa burger is not to be missed. Closed Sunday. 57 W. Central Blvd., 407-426-7007; $

Tako Cheena An eclectic offering of tacos, burritos and arepas stuffed with mostly Asian (but also Indian and African) fillings sets this taquería apart from the rest – along with the loud music and edgy art. Empanadas are a must to start, then dive right into the sublime panko-crusted cod taco. Burritos are substantial – don’t pass up the African braised beef, with corn, potatoes and quinoa – and the sauces, especially sweet chili with smoked ghost pepper, are sublime. Multiple locations, mytakocheena.com; $

Taste of Yucatán No-frills Mexican joint serves up a taste of Yucatán cuisine with a grand selection of tacos, salbutes (deep-fried tacos) and panuchos (salbutes stuffed with refried beans), as well as tortas, quesadillas and rice bowls. Fillings you’ll fancy: cochinita pibil, al pastor, barbacoa and vegetarian rajas poblanas. Closed Mondays. 1375 S. Semoran Blvd., 407-704-2248; $

Tin & Taco Hearty and filling tacos are the calling card for this bustling downtown taqueria. Eight bucks scores your choice of two tacos, or the same ingredients in a burrito, in a rice bowl, or tossed in a bag of Doritos. Stick to the tacos – the tortillas are sprinkled with cheddar and fried before being stuffed with sundry meats. A nice selection of craft beer and sodas by Caleb’s keep things appropriately crafty. Closed Sundays. 40 W. Washington St., 407-425-4340; $

Zaza New Cuban Diner The new location and name have proven to be just as popular as the original Yaya’s (now closed), which served classic renditions of Cuban comfort food in a tiny ’70s-style building. Zaza still serves affordable, bountiful dinner plates and some of the finest café con leche north of Key West. Flaky, buttery homemade guava-and-cream cheese pastries make a sweet finish. Multiple locations, zazacubandiner.com; $

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Asian Restaurants

Chau Trinh

310 W. Mitchell Hammock Road, Oviedo 407-542-5975 sushipoprestaurant.com

Sushi Pop

Any conversation about the finest sushi restaurants in town will inevitably turn to the innovative cuts at Chau Trinh’s Sushi Pop. The talented itamae has carved out a niche in Oviedo with his spirited, anime-themed eatery, and will soon slice out his share of Winter Park at his outpost opening there later this summer. But growth, Trinh says, needn’t be a threat to innovation: “As a chef, I’ve always struggled with what I want to serve versus what people will buy, so when I encounter a creative block, I’ll go and stage at restaurants.” He’s completed short stints at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin and under executive chef Ronny Emborg at Atera in New York City, which he says he finds motivating. “It helps reaffirm who I am as a chef, cures any form of food stagnancy, and gives me ideas and techniques to help fuel Sushi Pop’s progression.” It also helps to have his mom

working the line and keeping him in check. “She keeps an eye on everyone – she’s the real boss!” he says, and for someone who wasn’t classically trained, finding insight and inspiration from the women in his life was essential. “My grandmother was an amazing cook. She cooked with great balance and it’s woven into the backbone of my cooking now. Mom is a great cook, too, and we’re currently collaborating on recipes for ChauHaus,” Trinh says, referencing the special lunch pop-up Trinh will debut at the Winter Park location. “I can’t wait for everyone to try her cooking – her pho is definitely last-meal worthy,” Trinh avows. Neither can we, though we’re hoping that first bite isn’t our last.

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BBB Tofu House You won’t find a better bowl of soondubu, the fiery Korean tofu soup, anywhere else in the city. Red and rippling with fumes from chili powder and paste, the heady broth is simply magical. Seven soups are offered, or ordering any combo meal will score you a bowl of the house soondubu with shellfish. Don’t overlook the bibimbap – it’s also spectacular. Closed Wednesdays. 5140 W. Colonial Drive, 407-723-8299; $$

Bonchon One of South Korea’s most successful fried chicken chains, Bonchon is a prime example of the peninsula’s extra-crispy, double-fried take on chicken wings, strips and drumsticks. But their menu offers plenty of other Korean dishes as well, including bibimbap, japchae and tteokbokki. 5475 Gateway Village Circle, 407-270-8565; also 504 N. Alafaya Trail, 407-930-2035; $$

Chef Wang’s Kitchen Beijing-born chef Jian Hua Wang serves Northern Chinese and Dongbei specialties, as well as Sichuan classics – don’t pass on an infernal bowl of “water boiled spicy fish filet” or the veg-friendly “spicy napa heart wok.” Other hits: beef chow fun and sturdy pan-fried beef knishes – dumplings reminiscent of Shanghainese sheng jian bao. Closed Tuesdays. 5148 W. Colonial Drive; 407930-3188; $$

Chuan Lu Garden For those who prefer their Chinese cuisine on the invigorating side, Chuan Lu employs plenty of fiery stimulants in their authentic, real-deal Sichuan fare. An order of cumin lamb, laced with tien tsin peppers and aromatic Sichuan peppercorns, is a must. Mains are ample. 1101 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-8966; also 11891 E. Colonial Drive, 407-2823388; $$

Domu Popular ramen joint lives up to the hype, offering near-perfect bowls of tonkotsu, shoyu, miso and curry ramen. But don’t overlook other soupless options like crackling-good Korean fried chicken, rich uni pasta, and Sichuan cucumbers. 3201 Corrine Drive, 407-960-1228; $$

Hawkers Asian Street Fare The sheer variety and low price point of the assorted dishes makes this hub of

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pan-Asian small plates a popular draw. The menu attempts to replicate the feel of a Singapore street-food market with an array of tiny, tasty Chinese, Malay, Viet and Indian dishes. 1103 N. Mills Ave., 407237-0606; $$

J-Petal Fresh, veggie-stuffed Japanese crepes and silky Thai ice cream in exotic fruit flavors make J-Petal a must-stop for the health-oriented hedonist. Try the “Girl’s Best Friend” – strawberry and banana rolled ice cream topped with popcorn. Multiple locations, jpetal.com; $

Jimotti’s Restaurant Humble izakaya does its part to elevate, diversify and expand the palates of the good folks of Sanford with trad renditions of Japanese classics. Kurobuta sausages are nothing short of Japanese guilty pleasures. A broth teeming with gossamer-green cha soba noodles is outstanding, as is the sushi (try the nigiri of gizzard shad), in which chef-owner Junichi Takazoe takes great pride. 2545 S. French Ave., Sanford, 407-952-3329; $$

Joyful Garden Those with a sense of the adventurous will dive headlong into the seafoodheavy options at this West Colonial restaurant. There are live critters like crystal crab, lobster, baby pomfret, striped bass, eel and more for the taking, as well as plenty of Hong Kong-style fare. The menu is vast, but if you’re in a group, consider sharing a pricey portion of geoduck sashimi. Open daily. 5210 W. Colonial Drive, 407-270-8810; $$$

Kadence From the trio that brought us Kappo comes Kadence, a nine-seat stunner serving superlative multicourse omakases. Ingredients are ever-changing and are flown in twice, sometimes thrice, weekly from Japan; what they do with them is why a visit here is a must for any Japanophile. Sushi-only lunches go for $61-$75 and feature 12 pieces, soup and dessert. 1809 E. Winter Park Road; $$$$

King Bao Soft, doughy buns stuffed with kimchi fried chicken, Korean short rib or braised pork belly – or tofu or sweet potato croquette, for the veggies – will induce cravings leading to multiple visits. 710 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-0013; $

Kabooki Sushi From plating sublimely fresh cuts of sashimi to searing amazingly gratifying escolar splashed with kimchee vinaigrette, chef Henry Moso knows sushi; non-sushi items like crisp hamachi

collar and tender wagyu yaki are just as expertly rendered. 3122 E. Colonial Drive, 407-228-3839; $$

KrungThep Tea Time This Thai teahouse and sandwich joint has a stark, yet soothing, simplicity. The chicken gra-prow will be on your regular sandwich rotation, as will the gooey hot-and-cold brick toast desserts and the plethora of hot or cold teas. 1050 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-7333561; $

Magic Wok Pass on the American Chinese menu and ask for the bill of fare listing authentic Shanghainese dishes. The daring will want to dive into the plate of stinky tofu. Fowl fiends should consider the simply prepared crispy duck, a less glamorous rendition than its Peking counterpart but suffused with ducky essence. 6700 Conroy Road, 407-522-8688; $$

Mamak Asian Street Food Mamak brings a semblance of Malaysia’s food-stall culture to Mills 50 with panAsian noodle soups, wok-fired delicacies and small plates. From seasoned cod in black bean sauce to char kway teow and kari mee, the dishes here are exemplary and thoroughly gratifying. 1231 E. Colonial Drive, 407-270-4688; $

Morimoto Asia Throngs clamor inside this palatial Disney Springs resto for a Morimoto sighting, but ultimately settle for pricey, well-executed, pan-Asian eats. Rock shrimp tempura, braised black cod, duck ramen and sticky ribs wow. While sushi doesn’t have a starring role here, spicy yellowtail rolls and ethereal otoro are wonderful. Disney Springs, 1600 E. Buena Vista Blvd., 407-939-6686; $$$$

Peter’s Kitchen China Bistro From the man that brought us Tasty Wok and Ming’s Bistro comes Peter Leung’s namesake house of Hong Kong delights. Dim sum carts are a popular draw on weekends, but dim sum can also be ordered daily for lunch: chicken feet, turnip cakes, custard buns or stellar eggplant stuffed with fried shrimp. Less adventurous palates will gravitate to the buzzy orange chicken. Open daily. 3922 E. Colonial Drive, 407-895-8174; $$

Pho 88 One of the first Vietnamese noodle shops in Orlando and one of the best, specializing in gigantic bowls of eerily delicious pho: very thin rice noodles and various cuts of beef submerged in delicately seasoned broth. 730 N. Mills Ave., 407-897-3488, $

Rasa Asian Street Food Rasa’s focus is the best dishes from Malaysia’s hawker stalls and, for the most part, they succeed with such dishes as kari puffs and hakka noodles. The inviting bar begs for a cocktail program, though the sake, craft beer and wine crowd don’t seem to mind. 7730 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-930-0402; $$

Saigon Noodle & Grill Arguably the best pho broth in town, family-owned SNG has all the usual suspects on the menu, but the bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup) is the stand-out favorite. Karaoke every night, too. 101 N. Bumby Avenue, 407-5327373; $$

Seito Sushi The Baldwin Park sushi joint is refreshed and revitalized, and a weekend-only izakaya menu is worth a look. Ramen impresses, as does the chef’s selection of sashimi. A roll fashioned from lobster, American wagyu and truffle aioli will cater to the bon vivant in you. 4898 New Broad St., 407-898-8801; $$$

Soupa Saiyan Dragon Ball Z-themed noodle house is a real draw for freaks and geeks, but noodle hounds will appreciate their attention to crafting a fine bowl. “Korean Fire Noodles” with fried egg and barbecue pork may not be a tonguescorcher, but it’ll turn your chopsticks red. Add seared foie gras if you’re feeling fancy. 5689 Vineland Road, 407-3624669; $$

Sticky Rice Lao Street Food Within the spectrum of flavors at the city’s sole Laotian eatery, you’ll find the familiar flavors of sweet and spicy along with flurries of funky, fermented and fishy. Popular dishes include pork tapioca dumplings, sticky chicken wings and lemongrass beef jerky; the cucumber salad and papaya salad offer a blast of umami courtesy fermented crab, crab paste and shrimp paste more suited to advanced palates. 1915 E. Colonial Drive, 321-800-6532; $

Sushi Pop Don’t let the fuchsia hues and J-popthemed decor fool you – Sushi Pop takes its fare seriously. Stellar sushi and sashimi complement a variety of rolls, entrees and whimsical desserts flourished with notes of molecular gastronomy (blue cheese powder or liquid nitrogen ice cream, anyone?). Sake fans have the privilege of consulting an in-house expert. Closed Monday. 310 W. Mitchell Hammock Road, Oviedo, 407-542-5975; $$$

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Coffee | Tea

Michael Brito & Christina Gribkowsky

2912 Edgewater Drive 407-930-0473 cafelinger.com

Café Linger

College Park’s newest coffee shop is also the neighborhood’s homiest, which is probably not all too surprising seeing the place is called Café Linger. Sofas, bookcases, hutches and such lend to the café’s welcoming, stay-for-a-while aspect, and it’s all an effort by owners (and Johnson & Wales grads) Michael Brito and Christina Gribkowsky to endear themselves to their new community. “Café Linger is our home away from home,” says Brito, “and we make it a priority to make sure everyone feels completely comfortable and appreciated while they’re here.” And that sentiment extends to everyone they hire, he adds: “We’re dedicated to helping our employees in any way we can, whether personally or professionally.” That their families are the ones who mentored them throughout their careers also comes as no surprise. “They’ve always supported and

encouraged us to chase our dreams, but they also reminded us to always be humble and never forget where we came from and where it all started.” Humble they may be, but meek they’re not. The two aim to keep ahead of current crazes and become trend-setters in a market that’s becoming increasingly saturated. Brito says, “Christina and I are always looking for new ideas to incorporate into Café Linger’s concept; listening to our customer and the market is key. We poll our guests, solicit honest feedback and glean ideas for improving every aspect of the experience.” Brito and Gribkowsky are clearly out to set the coffeehouse standard, so lend them your ears, College Park.

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Austin’s After the sun sets, Austin’s is less about fair trade and fresh roasting and more about moderately expensive microbrews. Squeeze between anarcho-hipsters for live bands, independent film screenings, spoken word and stand-up comedy open mics. Free Wi-Fi is a plus, as are the wildly painted (by late local artist Morgan Steele) restrooms. 929 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-9753364; $

Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen The flagship location of the longtime Central Florida favorite is still serving elegant coffee beverages as well as breakfast, lunch and brunch on Park Avenue. The pour-over station offers a smooth cup, and we come back for the truffled grilled cheese and shakshuka again and again. 118 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-629-0042; $$

Downtown Credo Espresso drinks (lattes, macchiato, cappuccino), pour-overs and coldbrews are served in three different spaces – College Park, Florida Hospital and downtown’s North Quarter – all as sleekly simple as the menu. The erstwhile misnomer of a College Park café with “Downtown” in the name has been rectified with the addition of an actual downtown location in the Nora building. The pay-what-you-will model is intriguing, and it seems to be working out for them. Multiple locations, downtowncredo.com; $

Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar Meat, though present on the menu, takes a backseat to healthy vegan and vegetarian fare at this urban coffeehouse. Chewy Anzac biscuits partner well with the Mojo Jojo, an instantly addictive coffee drink with cinnamon and sweetened condensed milk. Keeping it simple? Try a cup of their own roast, black, no sugar. 444 N. Bumby Ave., 407-893-4994; $

Foxtail Coffee Co. Nothing less than total world domination seems to be the goal of the rapidly expanding local coffee chain, and from the tiniest cortadito to the showiest siphon brew, Foxtail imbues its coffee with an appropriate level of drama. Foxtail roasts their own beans, and they

serve the expected espresso drinks, as well as cold brew, pour-overs, presses and siphons; less expectedly, they offer as many as six different cold brews on tap, with at least one nitro at all times. Multiple locations, foxtailcoffee.com; $$

Lineage Coffee Roasting The Lineage staff goes deep, experimenting endlessly with roast times and brew techniques to bring out the very best from each single-origin, limited-edition bean. When you outgrow caffeinated milkshakes topped with whipped cream, Lineage will show you how their passion pays off in the intense flavor and silky texture of the most cultivated cup of coffee Orlando has to offer. 3201 Corrine Drive, 407-205-8096; also 1011 E. Colonial Drive; $$

Infusion Tea Some special places offer more than what’s on the table, and while the many, many teas and the creative snacks are wonderful here, just as much nourishment comes from the “third place” environment created by Christina and Brad Cowherd. If they’re on the seasonal menu, don’t miss cauliflowerchickpea tacos. 1600 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-5255; $

New General This modern, minimal coffee counter wedged into the front of an exquisitely curated general store is an utterly soothing space. Try the honey latte with oat milk and the adaptogenic of your choice. 155 E. New England Ave., Winter Park, 321-972-2819; $

Stardust Video & Coffee Over the years, the Audubon Park stalwart has morphed to serve the changing desires of the community. Among its many functions (work and study spot, café, farmers market) and despite its ramshackle air, the ’dust is prized by anyone looking for a quality lunch, a late-night snack, or a nice buzzy glow, whether from caffeine or liquor. 1842 E. Winter Park Road; 407-6233393; $

Vespr Craft Coffee & Allures Across Alafaya Trail from the circus of Waterford Lakes Town Center is Vespr, a minimalist storefront peddling single-origin Joe and using madscientist-worthy brew methods like the Japanese Hario siphon method, to produce the smoothest cup of java. 626 N. Alafaya Trail, 407476-3093; $

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Fo o d T r u c k s

Jimmy Nguyen & Chau Vo facebook.com/hotasianbunsfoodtruck

Hot Asi a n B u n s

Jimmy Nguyen and his wife Chau Vo are the delightful pair behind the wheel of one of the most popular, and cheekily named, food trucks in the city. Hot Asian Buns, as the name suggests, specializes in bao – handmade bao – which they make in small batches using all-natural ingredients free of preservatives. It’s a five-hour process from start to finish, but that sort of dedication to quality comes naturally to Nguyen, a Le Cordon Bleu Orlando graduate. After honing his skills under the tutelage of Kathleen Blake at the Rusty Spoon and Henry Moso at Kabooki Sushi, Nguyen set out on his own with his wife, who left the corporate world for the food truck life – and they both couldn’t be happier, or more committed. “We’re trying to bring back a sense of what a food truck should be,” says Nguyen. “We felt the true essence got a little lost in the city’s food truck scene over the years, but we know it’s got to be food you can’t find in

most restaurants. It should be exclusive, affordable and taste good on the street.” If you’ve sunk your teeth into their KFC bao with gochujang, nori, scallions and a creamy slaw, you know their food tastes damn good on the street, or anywhere else for that matter. There’s an undeniable sense of craftsmanship and direction in their approach, and Nguyen gives praise to one person in particular who helped influence his style and ethic – our 2018 BITE Award winner, the Rusty Spoon’s Kathleen Blake. “She really shaped who I am today as a chef,” he says. “I started as an amateur line cook fresh out of culinary school and worked my way up to sous chef in the three years I was there. She taught me how to respect ingredients, farmers, techniques, and instilled a sense of discipline and leadership in me.” It’s no wonder Blake is considered one of our finest culinarians and Nguyen, arguably, is well on his way.

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Food Trucks

Caro-Bama BBQ Caro-Bama is a blend of Carolina and Alabama style barbecue, and since it’s common knowledge that Southerners take barbecue super seriously, it’s safe to say Caro-Bama does too. They’re best known for their five specialty sauces, which you can slather on any of their basic sandwiches. Their ribs aren’t so bad either. Facebook.com/ carobamabbq; also at the North Quarter Downtown Credo, 885 N. Orange Ave.; $

Chicken Waffle Grill There are plenty of places to get chicken and waffles – not only has the dish been around in Southern kitchens for like ever, even its trendy moment has passed. However, there are not so many places to get boneless fried chicken atop a redvelvet cake waffle. Nor are there a lot of food trucks serving superlative gravy for sopping. Chicken Waffle Grill does both and more. Chickenwafflegrill.com; $

Hot Asian Buns Bao are, undeniably, hot right now, so we assume that’s the genesis of the name. The sweet doughy buns come stuffed with all kinds of creative combos – brisket with kimchee and horseradish cream; pork asada with chicharrones, even a few vegan options. Just like in the good old days of Orlando’s food truck scene, these chefs are taking a humble street food and elevating it sky-high. Facebook.com/hotasianbunsfoodtruck; $

Korean BBQ Taco Box

chocolate with sea salt. A kale-and-apple side salad is a refreshing accompaniment to their rich stuffed creations. Facebook.com/laempanadafoodtruck; $

Midnight Sun Ice Cream Sandwich Co. You think you know ice cream sandwiches? You know nothing, Jon Snow. Midnight Sun’s creations are unlike any ice cream sammie you’ve seen or tasted before – hefty handfuls of ice cream and pastry in ever-changing flavor combos like Parmesan-medjool date ice cream on walnut shortbread or miso butterscotch ice cream on black-sesame cookies. Midnightsunicecream.com; $

Monsta Lobsta There’s nothing like a real New England lobster roll – hunks of sweet, fresh lobster meat tossed with just a bit of mayonnaise and loaded into a buttery, toasted hot dog bun. The next best thing to being there can be found at this traveling roadside lobster shack, which keeps the lobster roll as basic and authentic as possible. Facebook.com/ monsta.lobsta; $

SwedeDish Sorry, IKEA, but SwedeDish’s Scandinavian savories beat yours into the dust. Viveca Averstedt’s traditional Swedish meatballs are topped with creamy gravy and sided with ultrabuttery mashed potatoes, lingonberry relish and a fragrant cucumber-and-dill pickled salad. The less well-known but also traditional Viking Dog is a messydelicious assemblage of all-beef frank, crab salad and mashed potatoes, topped with crunchy fried onions and rolled up in a flatbread. Extra napkins advised. Facebook.com/swededishfoodtruck; $

KBBQBox was one of the first food trucks to take off in Orlando, and it’s still one of the best. You never know for sure what you’re going to get with your order, but whatever they toss in the box to accompany your main dish of choice (soft tacos filled with lightly spiced pork, a galbi sub with sweet marinated beef short rib, or savory bulgogi with rice), it’s sure to make dining here an adventure. We’re especially fond of their newer addition of Korean fried chicken. Facebook.com/kbbqbox; $

Sushi and Seoul on the Roll

La Empanada

There’s nothing like a real, hand-made tamale (don’t even talk to us about those salt-lick monstrosities that come in a jar or can) and the Tamayos of Tamale Co. will do you right. Their sweet, steamed corn masa dough comes wrapped around any of a dozen fillings – including vegan ones, which are not so easy to find. Tamaleco.com; $

This truck takes the canny approach of super-specialization. Empanadas are the only “main” they serve – some baked, some fried – filled with a smart mix of classic, sweet, and ever-more-inventive flavor combinations like chicken banh mi, sweet potato-and-chèvre and truffled mac and cheese, or dark

Sushi … from a truck … in Florida? Sounds like a dicey proposition, and it’s true that Sushi and Seoul is one of the few sushi food trucks in Florida. But skip their menu at your own peril, because it’s superior. Besides rolls, S&S also sells Korean-inspired eats like pork belly doughnuts, pot stickers, barbecue buns and the most amazing tempura avocado. Facebook.com/sushiandseoul; $

Tamale Co. Mexican Street Food

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I talian Res tau ra nts

Joe Roberti

2751 S. Chickasaw Trail 407-634-0041 pizzeriaroberti.com

Pizzeria Roberti

Joe Roberti and pizza go way back. At the wizened age of 9 he sold his first pizza; then, a few months before Roberti started high school, Calogero “Charlie” Ciaccio gave the 14-year-old his first shot in the kitchen of an Avalon Park pie joint. Ciaccio, sadly, passed away at the age of 37, but he clearly had an impact on Roberti. “He really gave me a foundation of the basics,” Roberti says. “He always looked out for me, exposed me to a lot of realities in life, and played a big part in hardening me to pursue a career in the culinary industry.” Now the 25-year-old is eager to pass on some of the wisdom he gleaned from Ciaccio. “Always show appreciation for those who helped you on the journey of achieving your dreams,” Roberti says. “Recognition goes a long way. Don’t leave any words left unsaid.”

For someone who considers himself a private person, Roberti isn’t shy about expressing his opinions on matters he deems important. “I no longer follow the news, but I can say that I have a passion for the role politics plays in sustainable agriculture and how that affects the economy, healthcare and education. On a national level, it’s the single biggest issue in our society right now, and no one’s talking about it. Everything else is a distraction.” When he’s not pondering matters macroscopic, he’s busy developing his business, he says. “I don’t worry too much about what’s trending or who my competitors are. I focus on telling my story and the story of the brand and that’s it. I expect my co-workers to work hard and I put a lot of pressure on everyone equally whether they’re a man, woman or space alien.” It’s no surprise, then, that the pies at Pizzeria Roberti are out of this world.

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It a l i a n

Anthony’s Pizzeria Located in historic Thornton Park in a breezy building washed with bronze colors and a Tuscan atmosphere, the café’s two dozen tables – inside and on the courtyard – are a comfortable spot to enjoy traditional Italian subs, pizzas and pasta entrees. 100 N. Summerlin Ave., 407-648-0009; $$

The Pie Orlando The Pie offers Roman-style pizza al taglio (by the slice) to the fortunate denizens of College Park, so if you’re in the area, pop by for a squarish slab of potato pie (our fave), or a proteinpacked “meat lover” with pepperoni, sausage, meatball, mortadella and prosciutto. Slices vary from day to day, but pies are also available in personal size (four slices) or large (eight slices). The margherita, a go-to takeout order, is stellar. Open daily. 2429 Edgewater Drive, 407-757-2426; $

Antonio’s Ristorante This Maitland mainstay has been around for nearly three decades but it’s better than ever, thanks to creative and artistically plated dishes courtesy of executive chef Patrick Tramontana. Long-stem artichokes wrapped in crispy prosciutto and stuffed with goat cheese are as magnificent to eat as they are to behold. Entrée masterpieces include the braised lamb shank served with Parmesan-sweet pea risotto and oak wood-grilled mutton snapper with mushroom risotto and basil-pesto crème fraîche. 611 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-645-5523; $$$

Antonella’s Pizzeria Pizza and pasta house run by the daughter of noted Italian restaurateur Stefano LaCommare is small in stature but grand in flavor. Traditional staples like the meatball parm and eggplant rollatini are plates of comfort, while New York-style slices are perfectly textured for the fold-and-scarf set. Stay for the cannoli. Closed Mondays. 360 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-6365333; $$

Lazy Moon Pizza Size matters, and Lazy Moon delivers with astronomically huge slices. They also meet the needs of the broke with the Boxcar Willy special – a giant slice of cheese pizza and a PBR – but better beers by far are to be had: 15 beers on tap and almost 50 more by the bottle, plus cocktails in the new Mills 50 location. 11551 University Blvd., 407658-2396; also 1011 E. Colonial Drive, 407-412-6222; $

The Meatball Stoppe Small Azalea Park eatery serves up (what else?) meatballs in six different varieties, which can be enjoyed three different ways – on top of a starch, smashed inside a ciabatta roll, or “alone” (over greens). 7325 Lake Underhill Road, 407-270-6505; $

Pizza Bruno Arguably Orlando’s most popular and buzzed-about pizzeria entices with “neo-Neapolitan” pies: fermented dough and creative flavor combinations fired in a Ferrari-red Pavesi oven. Traditionalists can have a field day here, for sure, but the adventurous can enjoy such ingredients as hot honey, charred peaches, blueberries, maple syrup and the like on their fast-blistered pizzas. Garlic knots with “too much garlic” are practically a must. Online ordering is available for those who’d rather not eat in. 3990 Curry Ford Road, pizzabrunofl.com; $$

Pizzeria Roberti Proprietor and pizzaiolo Joe Roberti takes great pride in his dough and in-house fermenting approach, which results in a crust that’s thin and bubbly, crisp yet yielding and, above all, flavorful. No matter the pie – simple margherita, or comforting short rib with caramelized onions, or fanciful foie gras – you won’t be disappointed. Also not to be missed: the arancini (stuffed and fried rice balls). Closed Sundays. 2751 Chickasaw Trail, 407-634-0041; $$

Prato You might have to battle crowds to get a seat at this Park Avenue “it spot,” but once inside, the rustic Italian creations will justify the body-checking. Start with house-cured bresaola, then indulge in Bolognese bigoli enriched with foie gras butter or simple oven-roasted yellowtail snapper. Italian wine aficionados will swoon over the list. Valet parking. Open daily. 124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407262-0050; $$

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I nd i an R es t au ran ts

Kartik Palapandi

535 W. New England Ave., Winter Park 407-636-7055 myntorlando.com

M ynt Fi n e I n di a n C u i si ne

Sunny Corda has been responsible for some of the city’s finest Indian restaurants. His chefs at Saffron, Rasa, Southern Spice and Mynt – where Kartik Palapandi, above, mans the line – each offer their own unique takes on Desi cuisine, tinkering with everything from traditional Mughlai and South Indian fare to Indo-Chinese and contemporary Indian cuisine. That diversity has its merits but, for Corda, it also helps maintain a position of culinary supremacy in a ruthless market. “There’s a lot of competition in town and it’s important that we stay leaders in the community,” Corda says. “We want to be leading the pack and setting the standards, and I don’t ever want to look dated in what we’re doing.” No one would accuse Corda’s restaurants of being dated – not with their modern interiors, plating and food renditions – and that’s precisely the image Corda wants to project. “We’re always looking to the future,” he

says, “and how we’re going to be better than we were before is key.” That forward way of thinking has roots in the time Corda spent working for a couple of superstars in New York City back in 2008 and ’09: Thomas Keller and acclaimed Indian chef Peter Beck. Corda served as chef de partie at Keller’s Per Se as well as sous-chef at Beck’s Tamarind, and the experience proved invaluable. “Not only were both of them my mentors, but they were instructors and father figures. They taught me various cooking techniques for sure, but they also taught me about values and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I’ve paid that forward and instill those same principles to my front of house staff and the cooks in the kitchen,” Corda says. Flashes of Peter Beck-like brilliance can be seen at Corda’s restaurants, and if anyone is going to fill the vacuum left when American Gymkhana – the most innovative and inventive Indian restaurant to ever grace Orlando – closed its doors in 2015, Corda is the man to do it.

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with flaky lacha paratha. 535 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-6367055; $$$

Bombay Café

Saffron Indian Cuisine

This sanctuary of South Indian fare gives Woodlands a run for its money with infernal vegetarian curries, enormous dosas and comforting flatbreads. Chaats (crunchy snack mixes) offer textural diversity with varying levels of heat. Lunch thalis are available Monday to Sunday. 1137 Doss Ave., 407-240-5151; $

West Sand Lakers get their fill of South Indian staples in this stylishly decorated space. Salmon seared on a hot stone and tandoori lamb chops marinated in ginger juice and rum are among the more noteworthy dishes in the sea of standards. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 7724 W. Sand Lake Road, 407674-8899; $$$

Bombay Grill Inside one of the city’s most popular Indian grocers sits a grill serving up fresh-from-the-butcher meats at prices that can’t be beat. Grilled lamb chops are sublimely succulent, and plush beef kebabs and flavorful minced lamb are just as exceptional. But there’s not much here for the meat-free crowd. 11741 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-856-1780; $

Gateway to India The distinctive roofline of a former Pizza Hut remains, but inside a world of Indian specialties awaits. Chicken tikka masala and malai kofta are creamy and mildly spicy; chili naan will make your scalp tingle. Soothe it all down with a dish of cardamom-kissed rice pudding. 790 E. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-3399996; $$$

Southern Spice There’s plenty to sample from the stacked menu of southern Indian fare. Dosa lovers will heartily indulge in that mainstay’s puffy cousin – kuzhi paniyaram – while those with a propensity for more intense flavorings will want the veg Chettinad curry (cooked in no less than 28 spices!). For a taste less charged, kola urundal comes spiked with a sprig of fried curry leaves and magnificent little fried lentil “kofta” lolling in the thickened swell. Whole marinated pompano coated with semolina and pan-fried is a must. Open daily. 7637 Turkey Lake Road, 321-2512244; $$

Tabla Indian, Chinese & Thai

Most people come to this humble vegetarian hideaway for the cheap lunch buffet – well-stocked with five different curries – but the real star is the selection of savory Indian snacks. Can’t-miss offerings: enormous, not-at-all-greasy dosai masala and addictive bhel puri. Wash it all down with a Limca, the official soft drink of the subcontinent. 852 W. Lancaster Road, 407-888-2147; $

After an extensive renovation, a new menu and some new personnel in the kitchen, this revamped Indian restaurant hasn’t missed a beat. It’s added a few, in fact, in the form of Chinese and Thai dishes. Skip tamarind-sweetened pad Thai, and opt instead for stellar gobi Manchurian and lemon-coriander soup. Kebabs, be they lamb, chicken or otherwise, are some of the best in town. Desserts can be hit or miss. Closed Mondays. 5827 Caravan Court, 407-2489400; $$

Moghul Indian Cuisine

Tamarind Indian Cuisine

Tried-and-true standards define Moghul’s kitchen, especially superb chicken tikka and seekh kebabs. Ghee-slicked peshawari naan are buttery, nutty and delightfully sweet wonders. Beware, hotheads: “Indian hot” is truly infernal. 401 N. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park; 407599-9001; $$

Tamarind’s familiar, fiery and focused dishes are worthy of subcontinental food cravings. Samosas and sizzling tandoorfired lamb chops are the way to start; end with exotic falooda kulfi, ice cream made of condensed milk, rose syrup and crushed pistachios. 501 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 321-207-0760; also 12309 E. Colonial Drive, 407-237-0920; $$


Mynt Understatedly elegant Indian joint unexpectedly located in Hannibal Square. There are plenty of sophisticated versions of the classics on the menu, ranging from fish to lamb to chicken and vegetarian dishes. Tandoori dishes come out in clay pots. The lamb vindaloo is infernal, but creamy, subtly sweet lamb pasanda makes for easier eating, along

Woodlands Pure vegetarian Southern Indian delicacies hit every part of the tongue with equal splendor. Go straight for the thali specials for a bit of everything, or savor Tamil specialties like enormous, crispy, masala-stuffed dosas. Closed Mondays. 6040 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-854-3330; $$

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Mediterranean Restaurants

Nazih Sebaali

1780 Jake St. 407-440-3603 mezaorlando.com


Nazih Sebaali, the owner of the venerable Café Annie which stood in the heart of downtown Orlando for 29 years, is now serving Mediterranean fare in the heart of Baldwin Park. His restaurant, Meza, occupies a gleaming space on Jake Street. But, for all the spanking newness, Meza’s menu highlights enduring classics of Sebaali’s native Lebanon, and, judging how strong a following Annie’s falafel garnered, that’s a good thing. The restaurant is the culmination of a year and a half’s worth of buildout and renovations. When you consider Sebaali came to the U.S. as an engineering student 40 years ago, his success in the cutthroat restaurant biz is all the more remarkable. “I worked in the hospitality industry so that I could help my parents pay for my college,” says Sebaali. “I loved the restaurant business

so much, I decided to stay working in it.” Much to the chagrin of his parents, no doubt, yet for Sebaali, it’s his father he most wants to emulate. “He’s my mentor. My father worked hard all his life to ensure that we had everything we needed. He sacrificed his life to better ours, and that’s exactly what I want to do for my children.” Like Café Annie, Meza promises to become a Baldwin Park institution – at least, that’s the hope, and Sebaali knows the winning tack. “In this business, you need to tap into what matters most to your customers – what’s important to them. So I hire people who are qualified, and who care. We Lebanese, we’re known for our hospitality, and this is the image I want to project in my restaurant.” Meza sits next door to another institution – Seito Sushi, one of the city’s finest Japanese restaurants – so here’s hoping some of Seito’s brilliance rubs off on the new kid on the block.

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Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine Bosphorous serves delightful fare with many lamb, eggplant and yogurtcentered dishes. Not only is the food superb, it’s also a nice place to sit while smoking scented tobacco from their water pipes or enjoying a glass of Turkish wine. 108 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407644-8609; also 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., 407-352-6766; $$$

Cedar’s Restaurant Their spin on traditional Lebanese food has a lightness of texture and flavor that is both refreshing and inviting. Use the hot, puffy house-baked lavash bread to scoop up baba ghanoush topped with pickled walnuts and fabulously crunchy kibbeh. Top off your meal with a hookah on the patio. 7732 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-351-6000; $$$

The Greek Corner The view of the downtown skyline is spectacular from this nook on Orange Avenue across from Lake Ivanhoe. Dining outside is a must, as is the hearty meze platter, with a sampling of enough Greek specialties – baked feta, gyro meat, braised lamb and traditional salads melitzanosalat and taramosalata – to satisfy the gods on Mount Olympus. 1600 N. Orange Ave., 407-228-0303; $$

Maraya at Sabrina’s Restaurant This gem by the Florida Mall doesn’t compromise on quality, and that’s reflected in the prices. All ingredients are brought from Lebanon. Don’t miss the off-menu labneh (Lebanese cream cheese), chicken with whipped garlic sauce and transcendent falafel with tahini sauce. 8100 Crystal Clear Lane, 407-856-8155; $$$

Mediterranean Blue Familiar South Orlando Greek spot has been spruced up a bit and stocked with eco-friendly wares. The menu is deceptively simple, but nearly everything is a winner. The Provence sandwich is a delicious trip across the salty-savory spectrum, and falafel gets extra points for fresh, soft pita and house-made tzatziki sauce. Closed Sunday. 435 E. Michigan St., 407-422-2583; $$

Mediterranean Deli An oasis of authenticity, complete with odd decorations, exhilaratingly exotic smells and hearty but inexpensive meals. You’ll find perfect hummus, superior kibbeh and superb gyros, not to mention one of the best spinach pies around. A top spot to eat for $10 or less. Closed Sunday. 981 W. Fairbanks Ave., 407-5392650; $

Oh My Gyro! Family-run eatery in Longwood follows in the food-cart tracks of NYC’s Halal Guys offering platters of yellow turmerictinged rice with chicken, gyro, and falafel along with pita bits, salad, and a drizzle of the requisite white sauce (an infernal red sauce is also offered on the side). One thing OMG! has that its halal cart brethren don’t: a selection of below-thefold Indian fare, including a killer mango lassi. Closed Sundays. 1150 W. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-960-4496; $

Shiraz Grill Filet mignon and chicken kebabs steal the show, but perfumed plates of barberry-jeweled pilaf with luxuriant Persian stews are also outstanding. A smoky starter of pureed aubergines drizzled with cream of whey is as dipworthy as any hummus. Get closure with a glacial orb of syrupy-sweet falooda. 6427 Westwood Blvd., 407-284-1273; $$

Shiraz Market Some mighty fine kebabs can be had at this Persian market and eatery in Longwood. Of note are ground beef koobideh kebabs, chicken kebabs fashioned from thigh and breast meat, and ghormeh sabzi, an herbaceous stew. Peruse the shelves of spices, oils and pickles, then make your way to the freezers for frozen desserts (get a tub of faloodeh and bastani), cheeses and beverages while you wait. A display case of sweets is hard to overlook – grab a few Persian cream puffs to take home. Open daily. 185 S. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood, 407-951-8084; $

Turkish Bar and Grill Stellar Turkish fare, be it doner kebabs, chicken shish or lamb adana, truly impresses, as do lamb chops and even some less meat-forward fare, like stuffed white cabbage braced with mint, parsley and garlic and filled with ground beef and rice. Spinach and feta pide – as doughy and delectable a flatbread as you ever will eat – is a must, as is ending with the best kunefe in town. Open daily. 260 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, 407-869-5555; $$$

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Delicious Events

hosted by Orlando Weekly

Tacos & Tequila

July 14, 2018 | Cheyenne Saloon & Church Street, 128 W. Church St. | tacosandtequilaorlando.com Tacos & Tequila is Orlando’s biggest event celebrating the city’s latest, tastiest, creative culinary creation: TACOS. Sample & vote on your favorite among competing food trucks, taco shops & restaurants.

United We Brunch

Sept. 8, 2018 | The Orchid Garden, 126 W. Church St. | unitedwebrunch.com Orlando’s best breakfast and brunch spots come together to offer an array of delicious tastes paired with unlimited mimosas and bloody marys.

Big Gay Brunch

Oct. 13, 2018 | The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive | orlandoweekly.com Before the Orlando Pride parade, come eat and drink with us and check out surprise performances.

Orlando Beer Festival

Nov. 10, 2018 | Festival Park, 2911 E. Robinson St. | orlandobeerfestival.com Featuring 200 different craft beers from local and regional breweries, a wine and whiskey tasting experience, incredible live music, an adult play zone, food trucks and so much more, making this the beer festival of the year!

Sweet & Savory

Dec. 1, 2018 | Location TBD Sip seasonal drinks including ciders, stouts, porters, cafe de olla, champurrado, spiked hot cocoa, hot toddys, teas, candyrimmed cocktails and coffee. Feast on delights from Orlando’s best chocolatiers, bakeries and patisseries. Satisfy your sweet tooth with favorites like macarons, churros, cookies, cakes, donuts, milkshakes, ice cream and more!

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United We Brunch

March 2019 | The Orchid Garden, 126 W. Church St. | unitedwebrunch.com Orlando’s best breakfast and brunch spots come together to offer an array of delicious tastes paired with unlimited mimosas and bloody marys.

Whiskey Business

April 2019 | Cheyenne Saloon, 128 W. Church St. | whiskeybusinessorlando.com At this upscale and sophisticated event, guests have the opportunity to sample their way across continents to discover the best scotches, bourbons and whiskeys and take their taste buds on an exploration of wheat and rye.

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Altamonte Springs/ Casselberry/Longwood


Gateway District


Fuddruckers, page 31

Bonchon, page 76

Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar, page 65

AJ’s Press, page 31

Kabooki Sushi, page 76

Choo Choo Churros, page 69

Teak Neighborhood Grill, page 33

Duffy’s Sports Grill, page 31

Linda’s La Cantina, page 69

Taste of Yucatan, page 73

First Watch, page 31

Peter’s Kitchen, page 77

Zaza at MCO, page 73

Foxtail Coffee, page 79

Sweet Tomatoes, page 53

Gateway to India, page 87

Milk District Bad As’s Sandwich, page 31

Hunters Creek /Lake Nona

The Cookery, page 53

Canvas, page 41

Drunken Monkey Coffee, page 79

Gators Dockside, page 31

Gringos Locos, page 73

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

Conway/Curry Ford/ Belle Isle

Oh My Gyro!, page 91

Bauern-Stube, page 47

Graffiti Junktion, page 31

Market on South, page 53

Santiago’s Bodega, page 47

Beth’s Burger Bar, page 31

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

Pom Pom’s Sandwicheria, page 33

Shiraz Market, page 91

Foxtail Coffee, page 79

Pig Floyd’s Barbakoa, page 33

Saigon Noodle & Grill, page 77

Sweet Tomatoes, page 53

Gnarly Barley, page 61

Toasted, page 33

Se7enbites, page 57

Turkish Bar & Grill, page 91

Le Coq au Vin, page 47

Zaza New Cuban Diner, page 73

Mediterranean Blue, page 91

International Drive

Graffiti Junktion, page 31

Valhalla Bakery, page 57

McGinnty’s Irish Pub, page 61

Andy’s Frozen Custard, page 57

Audubon Park

Mills 50

Pizza Bruno, page 85

Cuba Libre, page 72

Black Bean Deli, page 72

Blue Bird Bake Shop, page 57

Pizzeria Roberti, page 85

Del Frisco’s, page 69

Black Rooster Taqueria, page 72

Domu, page 76

The Waterfront, page 43

Fogo de Chão, page 69

Chuan Lu Garden, page 76

Hash House a Go Go, page 41

Dandelion Communitea, page 53

Florida & Co., page 53 Gideon’s Bakehouse, page 57

Disney area

J-Petal, page 76

First Watch, page 31

Kadence, page 76

4 Rivers Smokehouse, page 31

Kings Dining & Entertainment, page 33

Four Rebels Taco Bar, page 73

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, page 57

Capa, page 69

The Oceanaire, page 65

Hawkers Asian Street Fare, page 76

Lineage Coffee, page 79

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’, page 41

Ruth’s Chris, page 69

King Bao, page 76

P Is for Pie, page 57

The Edison, page 37

Sweet Tomatoes, page 53

King Cajun Crawfish, page 65

Stardust Video & Coffee, page 79

Fuddruckers, page 31

Tapa Toro, page 47

Lazy Moon Pizza, page 85

Moor, page 65

Tony Roma’s, page 69

Lineage Coffee, page 79

Azalea Park

Morimoto Asia, page 77

Meatball Stoppe, page 85

Paddlefish, page 65

Ivanhoe Village

Mamak Asian Street Food, page 77

The Polite Pig, page 41

Better Than Sex, page 57

Orlando Meats, page 33

Sweet Tomatoes, page 53

Downtown Credo, page 79

Pho 88, page 77

The Greek Corner, page 91

Pig Floyd’s Barbakoa, page 33

Baldwin Park Gators Dockside, page 31

Loving Hut, page 53

Meza, page 89


The Hammered Lamb, page 61

The Sanctum, page 53

Seito Sushi, page 77

4 Rivers Smokehouse, page 31

M Lounge, page 61

Sticky Rice Lao, page 77

Beth’s Burger Bar, page 31

Santiago’s Bodega, page 47

The Strand, page 43

College Park

Chela Tequila & Tacos, page 72

Stir, page 43

Tako Cheena, page 73

Cafe Linger, page 47

DoveCote, page 47

DaJen Vegan Eats, page 53

Downtown Credo, page 79


Digress Wine, page 61

El Buda, page 72

Antonio’s Ristorante, page 85

Downtown Credo, page 79

Foxtail Coffee, page 79

First Watch, page 31

Graffiti Junktion, page 31

Graffiti Junktion, page 31

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

Infusion Tea, page 79

Gringos Locos, page 73

Luke’s Kitchen, page 41

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

Hamburger Mary’s, page 31

Teak Neighborhood Grill, page 33

The Pie Orlando, page 85

Kres Chophouse, page 69

Mediterranean Deli, page 91

Market on Magnolia, page 33

RusTeak, page 43

Orange County Brewers/Orlando

Taproom at Dubsdread, page 43

Pizza & Wing Co., page 61

Tartine Eaterie, page 47

Reyes Mezcaleria, page 73 The Rusty Spoon, page 37 Super Rico Colombian, page 73 Tako Cheena at Stonewall, page 73 Tin & Taco, page 73

Too Much Sauce, page 33




Gators Dockside, page 31

Foxtail Coffee, page 79

RusTeak, page 43

Gators Dockside, page 31 Gringos Locos, page 73


Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

DeVine Wine & Grill, page 61

Peach Valley Cafe, page 33

First Watch, page 31 Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

South OBT

Sushi Pop, page 77

Bombay Cafe, page 87 Bombay Grill, page 87

Pine Hills

J-Petal, page 76

BBB Tofu House, page 76

Khasiyat, page 87

Chef Wang’s Kitchen, page 76

Maraya at Sabrina’s, page 91

Joyful Garden, page 76

Woodlands Indian Cuisine, page 87

Sand Lake/Dr. Phillips/ Windermere

Thornton Park

Agave Azul, page 72

Graffiti Junktion, page 31

Bartaco, page 72

Maxine’s on Shine, page 41

Bocas Grill, page 72

Muddy Waters, page 41

Bosphorous, page 91

Soco, page 37

Cedar’s, page 91

Stubborn Mule, page 43

Anthony’s Pizzeria, page 85

Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, page 65 First Watch, page 31

UCF/East Orlando

Fleming’s Steakhouse, page 69

Bonchon, page 76

Gators Dockside, page 31

Chuan Lu Garden, page 76

Pharmacy, page 37

Duffy’s Sports Grill, page 31

Rasa Asian Street Food, page 77

First Watch, page 31

Saffron Indian Cuisine, page 87

Gators Dockside, page 31

Slate, page 37

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

Vines Grille, page 69

Lazy Moon Pizza, page 85

Yellow Dog Eats, page 33

Omelet Bar, page 33 Tamarind Indian Cuisine, page 87


Valkyrie Doughnuts, page 57

Fuel BBQ, page 31

Vespr Craft Coffee, page 79

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree, page 47

Zaza New Cuban Diner, page 73

Jimotti’s, page 76 Root’s Raw Juice Bar, page 53 Sanford Brewing Co., page 61 The Smiling Bison, page 61 The Tennessee Truffle, page 43

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Universal area

KrungThep Tea Time, page 77

Ararat Bistro, page 47

Lombardi’s, page 63

Border Grill, page 72

Luma on Park, page 37

Duffy’s Sports Grill, page 31

Moghul Indian Cuisine, page 87

Fuddruckers, page 31

Mynt Indian Cuisine, page 87

Hard Rock, page 41

New General, page 79

Magic Wok, page 77

The Parkview, page 61

Peach Valley Cafe, page 33

The Porch, page 61

Shiraz Grill, page 91

Prato, page 85

Soupa Saiyan, page 77

The Ravenous Pig, page 37

Southern Spice, page 87

Reel Fish, page 65

Tabla, page 87

Ruth’s Chris, page 69 Tamarind Indian Cuisine, page 87

Winter Park

Toasted, page 33

4 Rivers Smokehouse, page 31

Winter Park Fish Co., page 65

Agave Azul, page 72

Winter Park Village, page 43

Antonella’s Pizzeria, page 85 Austin’s Coffee, page 79

Winter Springs

Barnie’s Coffeekitchen, page 79

Big Kahuna’s Island Style Bowls, page 31

Black Bean Deli, page 72

Gators Dockside, page 31

Blu on the Avenue, page 65

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

Bosphorous, page 91

St. Anejo Mexican Kitchen, page 73

Bulla Gastrobar, page 47 Buttermilk Bakery, page 57 Christner’s, page 69

Road trip!

Cocina 214, page 72

1921 by Norman Van Aken, Mount

The Coop, page 31

Dora, page 37

Ethos Vegan Kitchen, page 53

Market to Table, Winter Garden,

First Watch, page 31

page 37

Fleming’s Steakhouse, page 69

The Catfish Place, Apopka, page 65

Foxtail Coffee, page 79

Yellow Dog Eats, New Smyrna Beach,

Garp & Fuss, page 37

page 33

The Glass Knife, page 57 Hunger Street Tacos, page 73 Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, page 57

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Orlando Weekly Bite 2018  

Orlando Weekly Bite 2018