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ORLANDO WEEKLY’S FREE DINING GUIDE 2 0 1 4

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General Manager Graham Jarrett Executive Editor Erin Sullivan

EDITORIAL Editor Jessica Bryce Young Associate Editor Ashley Belanger Creative Director Adam McCabe Contributors Holly Kapherr, Faiyaz Kara, Christopher Kretzer Photographer Robert Bartlett Copy Editor Thaddeus McCollum Web Editor Jaime Monzon Interns Fred Lambert, Shannon Scheidell ORLANDO WEEKLY’S FREE DINING GUIDE 2 0 1 4

TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S 7 Star grazing: Local notables

35 Steakhouses

77 Asian: Chinese, Japanese,

share their favorite places to grab a bite

39 Seafood

Sushi, Korean, Pan-Asian, Thai, Vietnamese

9 Modern: A creative spin on

43 Food to Drink By: Brew

traditional dishes, with a focus on local ingredients and innovative techniques

pubs, English pubs, Irish pubs, taprooms and wine bars

81 Latin: Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Tex-Mex, Colombian, Peruvian

53 European: French, German,

86 Foodpreneurs: The vendors

15 Highlight on: Romanesco 17 Healthy: Vegan, vegetarian,

smoothies, juice bars 21 Highlight on: Local cookbooks

of Audubon Park’s East End Market

Polish, Spanish   55 Highlight on: frog legs

87 Highlight on: microgreens

57 Italian/Pizza 65 We are what we eat: An

23 American traditional: Comfort-food classics given the deluxe treatment

interview with Kevin Fonzo about the Edible Schoolyard Project

27 Highlight on: grits

Turkish, Middle Eastern

29 Casual: Barbecue, burgers, delis, diners, hot dogs, salads, sandwiches

71 African

67 Mediterranean: Greek,

73 Indian

89 Coffee, tea & sweets: Coffeehouses, teahouses, bakeries, ice cream 93 Highlight on: Nagami

kumquats

U N L E S S N OT E D :

ISSUE PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROB BARTLETT

ADVERTISING Advertising Director Matthew Gull Account Manager Jerrica Schwartz Senior Sales Exec Dan Winkler Retail Sales Execs Jon Bowers, Sandy Coppola, Dave Freedman, Matt Whiting Classified Line Exec Jerrica Schwartz Classified Account Exec Shannon McIntyre Marketing/Promotions Andreina Icaza Interns Haleigh Neel, Carly Self PRODUCTION Production Manager Shelby Sloan Graphic Designers Alex Clark, Sean Villegas BUSINESS Manager Elizabeth Hubbard Assistants Alma Hill, Veronica Solorzano CIRCULATION Manager Fabio Aranguibel EUCLID MEDIA GROUP Regional Publisher Michael Wagner COPYRIGHT 2014, ORLANDO WEEKLY, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Orlando Weekly is a wholly owned subsidiary of 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 1505 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL, 32803.

ORLANDO WEEKLY INC. 1505 E. Colonial Drive, Suite 200, Orlando, FL 32803; 407-377-0400 • 407-377-0420, fax • 407-377-0415, classified orlandoweekly.com

Our departed friend Tony Adams (he’s not dead, just relocated – these days the chef heads up the kitchen of the Boarding House, a seafood restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard, and those islanders might not know what hit them) had a slogan for his Big Wheel Provisions empire: “Local is lovely.” We’ve tried not to simply lift it from him, but it’s hard, because those three little words encapsulate so much of what’s good about Orlando’s food scene: the amazing climate that allows us access to wonderful products almost year-round; the dedicated scenemakers who’ve built things like the Audubon Park Community Market, the Local Roots farm system and the Food Truck Bazaar; the proud food writers and bloggers who’ve sounded our praises in the wider world for years; and the creative chefs who might have oppportunities to leave us for that wider world but choose to stay and cultivate this ground. Local is lovely.

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All gushing aside, this year’s BITE magazine is bigger and better than ever. We’ve got everything you need to eat in Orlando like an expert: the favorite restaurants of some local tastemakers, interviews with notable local chefs, highlights on some of our lovely local foods and of course, dozens of BITE-sized reviews. Be sure to check out BITE online at orlandoweekly.com, where we’ve embedded a playlist of our chefs’ favorite songs to cook by. And be sure to start planning for BITE: 30, Orlando’s 30-day restaurant “week,” coming in June.

Happy eating! Jessica Bryce Young Special thanks to Emily Rankin of Local Roots, Bob Morris of Story Farm and Tony Adams, Big Wheel.

READ IT RIGHT!

B BEER/WINE L LIQUOR O OUTDOOR DINING T TAKEOUT ADVERTISERS = PRINTED IN GREEN

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

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

**The price range generally reflects the average cost of one dinner entree. Bakeries, ice cream shops, etc. reflect relative cost for one person.

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Star grazing Local notables share their favorite places to grab a bite

“It is very hard to pick a favorite, because we are fortunate to have so many options. But some I tend to frequent most are, for a power lunch, Citrus; my old time favorites are Le Coq au Vin, Dubsdread and K Restaurant. Some newer favorites are Hawkers, Santiago’s Bodega and Chai Thai in SoDo.”

Kaitlin McGavock, co-owner of Lil Indies and creator of Daughters & Co. bitters: “Being in Mills 50 pretty much on the constant, we love Noodles & Rice – their soups are amazing. And of course Tako Cheena and the Strand. … When we want to have an adult dinner date, we like to sit at the bar at Cask & Larder.”

Eddie Huang, chef, restaurateur, author, TV show host, cultural provocateur and Orlando native: “I still love Black Bean Deli for the pan con lechon. Tortilleria [la Mexicana, on

Kaitlin McGavock

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Goldenrod Road] is amazing, and I like Cedar’s in Dr. Phillips.”

Jameer Nelson, point guard, Orlando Magic: “One of my favorite restaurants now is Eddie V’s – it’s really good. And I like Roy’s. I like the Sand Lake restaurant row.”

Garry Jones, president, Full Sail University: “The good folks at Kabooki Sushi do an amazing job of combining some of the freshest fish in town with original sauces and chef-made complements. “Scratch is one of the most unique environments with interesting and delightful ambience. … Every meal is a culinary exploration. The Smiling Bison is new to me; I was delighted at the bold flavors that combine with well thoughtout recipes. Sleeping Moon Café (on Aloma Avenue): good salads combined with paninis that are either vegetarian or traditional sandwich fare. Their pressed sandwiches as well as their wraps combine

Buddy Dyer

Amy Galpin, newly appointed curator of Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College: “I think my favorite restaurant is Fresh Café in Winter Park. It has the charm of being located just off Park Avenue in Hannibal Square, and I love the small, cozy space. The food is wonderful, too.”

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY CHRISTOPHER KRETZER

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer:

traditional meat fillings with interesting garnishes and creative augmentations that make for delightful bites. Sleeping Moon is also Full Sail staff member-owned and run.”

Matthew Peddie, news manager of WMFE, 90.7-FM: “The restaurant I go to most often is ’Kesh, just around the corner from the WMFE studios. I usually eat fast, and the chef, Jerry Helminski, has a nice take on street food. … I once ate some stellar donuts from ’Kesh. I think they had chili in them or something unexpected. I like Japanese comfort food, too. Hanamizuki on I-Drive is a good spot for it. The katsu don (pork and egg on rice) or the curry rice both fit the bill. The sandwiches at Benjamin French Bakery in Thornton Park are pretty amazing. Good fuel for a wander ’round Lake Eola.”

Mark Baratelli, event producer and publisher of TheDailyCity.com: “I event-manage 10 Food Truck Bazaars a month every month and without fail, I order Tastebuds Truck’s tostones topped with ropa vieja. The tostones are crisp and chewy, the meat is tender and the portion is huge. The owner, Maria, is super nice and her truck is orange: one of my three favorite colors.”

Jameer Nelson

Eddie Huang

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MODERN

Kathleen Blake The Rusty Spoon

This proudly self-described gastropub brings a locavore credo to the downtown core, along with an urban-farmhouse vibe. Chef Kathleen Blake’s rustic menu focuses on locally farmed and raised ingredients, but not obsessively so; Blake is passionate about sustainability and community growth, but also about having fun: “I want my guests to know that all parts of an animal can be delicious, that veggies can be fun, and that dessert is absolutely necessary!” Despite the great care and attention to detail evident on each plate, the Rusty

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Spoon’s rustic, simple approach should make you feel right at home, rather than intimidate. Blake says, “I hope [our customers] leave with a full and happy belly, and that they were relaxed and enjoyed every bite.” Our favorite bites? House stuffed eggs, coffee-rubbed culotte steak and grown-up s’mores, as well as the small but snappy menu of house cocktails. 55 W. Church St., 407-401-8811; $$

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MODERN

CASK & LARDER

LUMA ON PARK

With a commitment to nose-to-tail cookery and a fine selection of accessible-but-atypical cuts, this “Southern public house” has already reached legendary status. C&L serves terrific nouveau-Southern fare – grilled lamb heart, ethereal pork belly, foie gras-stuffed quail and a country-ham tasting flight, to name just a few. Pair your meal with a brew from in-house cicerone Ron Raike or a craft cocktail. 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321-280-4200; $$$

Foodies are hot for the innovative fare at this Park Avenue star. There’s a great wine selection, a creative cocktail menu, and the smaller plates encourage sharing. Or go for one of the fabulous entrees, such as red snapper with English peas, watermelon radish squash and black quinoa. The atmosphere is lively, especially at the chef’s table. 290 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-599-4111; $$$

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THE RAVENOUS PIG

CRESS RESTAURANT Beard award-nominated mathematician-turned-chef Hari Pulapaka has the formula for success: fusing traditional and multicultural approaches with organic ingredients. The delicately crisp roasted-vegetable bisteeya is beautifully executed; a bacon-wrapped Kurobota pork chop is a delicious Everest to scale. Desserts are simple to a fault. 103 W. Indiana Ave., DeLand, 386-734-3740; $$$

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BLT The frills are as sophisticated as the fare at this Winter Park gastropub; diners swoon over the Gruyère biscuits. Scallops with caramelized cauliflower puree, roasted foie with cinnamon ice milk and 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. 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-2333; $$$

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SANTIAGO’S BODEGA

CROOKED SPOON GASTROPUB Crooked Spoon’s progression from food truck to brick-and-mortar has elevated Clermont’s dining scene, thanks to a steady focus on local sourcing and deft execution of downto-earth gourmet dishes. Crunchy duck confit tostadas, Indian-spiced chicken and waffles and a manageable portion of bacon-wrapped meatloaf are pleasing enough to draw diners from Orange County. The burgers are just as good as they were in the food truck days. 200 Citrus Tower Blvd., Clermont, 352-404-7808; $$

Deeply attractive dining room serves a bevy of tapas and small plates. While prices are ponderous, many dishes – like beef tenderloin carpaccio, yellowfin tuna ceviche, patatas bravas, and short ribs coated in a cherryhoisin glaze – are as accomplished as they are pricey. The extensive, expensive wine list impresses, but so does the plain old house red. Don’t miss out on the bread pudding fashioned from croissants. Open late. 802 Virginia Drive, 407-412-6979; $$

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SCRATCH TAPAS

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FRESH Intimate, down-to-earth cafe offers a nightly changing menu of globally inspired fare comprising ingredients sourced from within 150 miles. For the most part, dishes are well-executed – on our visit, we enjoyed a local poussin and a lamb ragu – and salads aren’t your garden variety. The close proximity of tables makes it conductive to impromptu conviviality. Closed Mondays. 535 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 321-295-7837; $$

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A big-city feel permeates the small space, and the ambitious dishes coming out of chef Dustin Haney’s kitchen set a high standard, be it roasted beet carpaccio or deftly grilled, crispyskinned branzino. Splitting a small plate of luscious pork belly adobo over black rice could be a trying exercise – no one will want to share – but polishing off dark chocolate torte and vanilla bean crème brûlée is effortless. 223 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-325-5165; $$

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K RESTAURANT The restaurant tucked into a cozy bungalow reaches a grand level of food and service; chef and owner Kevin Fonzo (the “K”; see page 65) creates dishes that are both simple and elegantly delicious, often using ingredients from the garden behind the kitchen. From salad to starter to main course, everything hits the right note, surpassing the restaurant’s already sterling reputation. 1710 Edgewater Drive, 407-872-2332; $$$

Chef-owner Edgar Cruz raises the bar for restaurants in Winter Springs, but has the capacity and talent do so much more – and with less truffle oil. His gnocchi and lamb loin starters showcase the kitchen’s skill, as does the plush dry-aged New York strip served over roasted peppers. Wildly competing flavors in the burger bring things down to earth, but it’s an issue of balance sure to be sorted out soon. 158 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs, 407-327-1600; $$

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ROMANESCO If you can’t take a bite before snapping a shot of your food, get that camera ready, because this striking veg will have all your Instagram followers double-tapping their screens. Related to both broccoli and cauliflower, this edible flower grows naturally in a Fibonacci

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fractal (a spiral pattern, if you’re not a math nerd) and features a neonchartreuse hue and spiky minaretshaped florets. It’s prepared similarly to cauliflower – equally happy steamed, roasted, or thinsliced and dressed in a strong sauce or vinaigrette – but the psychedelic

Romanesco is crunchier and nuttier than its cruciferous cousins. Sample Romanesco on the Smiling Bison’s spring vegetable harvest plate, a veritable Pride flag of high-end seasonal produce that also includes rainbow carrots, purple potatoes and cheddar cauliflower.

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HEALTHY

Krystal Edwards Skyebird Juice Bar & Experimental Kitchen

Cold-pressed juice, kombucha and kale chips are just a few of the raw concoctions you’ll find at the Skyebird stall at East End Market – all made from organic, non-GMO produce. The business was named after owners Devin and Krystal Edwards’ daughter Skye, with a mission to raise community awareness of healthy, unadulterated, nutrient-rich foods. The end goal: to educate kids about eating real food and staying healthy for life. Krystal visits schools in the area to give presentations and tastings to kids in the hopes of spreading the juicy news.

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“We use all-glass containers. There are no additives. Everything is produced in small batches of about a gallon. It’s a passion project,” says Krystal. The menu changes every day, depending on what’s available. “We get produce in, whatever’s in season, and we start to play. Our chef, Jessica, shares our mission and our vision. We collaborate and create,” she says. The lavenderscented kombucha is a favorite, as well as the avocado salad, served in Mason jars with a generous pile of the housefermented kimchi. 3201 Corinne Drive, 407-758-9311; $$

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CafE 118 The raw-food movement sprouts at Cafe 118, where uncooked vegetables, nuts and seeds supplant all manner of cooked comestibles. Nut-based “cheeses” are central ingredients in crunchy chiles rellenos and refreshing basil purses, while portobello steak takes on the appearance of tenderloin, right down to the “pan juices.” Fresh fruit-and-vegetable juices, like beet and green apple, are splendid, and desserts, especially the chocolatehazelnut tart, are sublime. 153 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, 407-389-2233; $$$

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CAFE 118 inquire if interested in more than just a cup of joe. 10730 W. Colonial Drive, Ocoee, 407-656-7676; $

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Loving Hut

Dandelion Communitea CafE More than 30 organic loose-leaf teas are offered at this socially conscious teahouse that’s become 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, “roll or bowl” a variety of veggiegrain combos, and finish with the fluffernutter sandwich – a sweet proposition. 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864; $

Formerly a dark cave of a Vietnamese restaurant, the tiny building has been transformed into a sparklingwhite temple of oddly delicious vegan dining. The environmentally friendly Loving Hut offers a win-win proposition: Along with more typical Asian 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 fresh spring rolls or the “coconut delight.” 2101 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-5673; $

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Power House CafE

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Ethos Vegan Kitchen Creative, 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. Their second location offers more room, a sophisticated bar and an expanded menu. Sunday brunch is a welcoming and tasty gathering for all palates. 601-B S. New York Ave., Winter Park, 407-228-3898; $

Founded in 1970, the simple eatery with an active lunch counter is what used to be called a “health-food restaurant.” A Middle Eastern focus shows in the fattoush, tabbouleh and shawarma on offer, but the menu is mostly skewed toward healthy, natural proteins and salads, along with the delicacy that single-handedly revived the blender – the smoothie. 111 E. Lyman Ave., Winter Park, 407-645-3616; $

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The Smoothie Room

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Garden CafE The creative kitchen works exclusively with meatless options to create satisfyingly deceptive Asian dishes like orange chicken and salt-andpepper “ribs.” Some fool the taste buds while others need a die-hard vegetarian’s appreciation, but you won’t find a more satisfyingly toothsome stir fry than the Hong Kong style “eel” or satay “lamb” anywhere. 810 W. Colonial Drive, 407-999-9799; $$

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House Blend CafE Lattes and cappuccinos aren’t the only items worth sampling here. Above-average café fare includes burritos, sandwiches and waffles, not to mention freshly made desserts. All of HBC’s profits go toward community service projects in Orange County and around the world. Customers are encouraged to help out, so be sure to

Experience fresh, no-additives vegetable-and-fruit juices and smoothies without having to get out the peeler or clean the juicer. Whether you think fresh juice offers health benefits or just like the way it tastes, raw foodists, vegans, vegetarians and omnivores will all find something to love at this art-filled SoDo hangout. 25 W. Crystal Lake St., 407-250-4894; $

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Vitality Bistro Smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices please the hard-core health enthusiast, but there’s something for everyone at this cheery café. Veggie burgers, soups and pastas fill the extensive menu; Sunday brunch is extra festive, with pancakes, French toast, breakfast burritos and even mimosas stirred up with organic champagne and organic OJ. 301 N. Baker St., Mount Dora, 352-735-8411; $$

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9 Courses

by Brandon McGlamery (Story Farm)

Bring it on home

The culinary roots of the James Beard-nominated chef of Luma and Prato are exposed in this thoughtfully written and beautifully designed volume, which is available at those restaurants or online at lumaonpark.com or prato-wp.com. Pure eye candy.

Local chefs share their secrets in cookbooks and memoirs We are all about going out to eat here at BITE, but some foodies are adventurous enough to try and re-create the restaurant magic in their own home kitchens. Others are just curious about the mind and the making of a chef, and hope that reading cookbooks and chefs’ memoirs will help them gain insight into our local geniuses. Whichever your desire, these books will help you get there.

No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken by Norman Van Aken (Taylor Trade)

Anthony Bourdain’s cover blurb reads, “Norman Van Aken is the Jimmy Page of his profession – a man who was there at almost every important moment in its history.” Do you really need any more of a recommendation? Available in bookstores and online.

The Ravenous Pig: Seasons of Florida

The Southern Cowboy Cookbook

by James and Julie Petrakis (Story Farm)

by John Rivers (Story Farm)

The genial local barbecue and fried-chicken expert with the golden touch shares tips for home cooks. Southern Cowboy is available in 4 Rivers Smokehouse restaurants or at 4rsmokehouse.com.

A love of local products and people shines through in dozens of recipes and stories from the chef-owners of the groundbreaking Winter Park gastropub. Here’s hoping their other place, Cask & Larder, gets the same treatment soon. Available at theravenouspig.com or at their restaurants.

Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan

Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs and Artisans

The charming owneroperator of Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly proves that not all cupcakes are sweet; this book helps home cooks turn out adorably miniaturized versions of everyday favorites. Available in bookstores and online.

This impressive book surveys 75 Florida farms and food producers and a couple of dozen chefs, covering the state in a comprehensive locavore manual. If you live and cook in Florida, there’s no reason not to buy this book immediately. Available in bookstores and online.

by Hollis Wilder (Stewart, Tabori and Chang)

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by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand and Heather McPherson (University Press of Florida)

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AMERICAN TRADITIONAL

Joe & Alda Rees The Strand

The owners of this cozy new spot don’t see the “parking and space issues” that come with their Mills 50 location as limitations. Owner-chef Joe Rees says they see this part of urban living “as a positive, especially with a lot of folks willing to get out of their cars and onto their bikes or the sidewalk. … To us, that’s all part of the experience.” Rees modestly describes the Strand as “a nice little neighborhood spot in the city,” but we see it as a new classic on the Orlando scene, with a food-first ethic and an un-showy dedication to local and seasonal sourcing. Plates like the “picnic basket,” a fried Cornish hen with mustard mashed potatoes and wilted greens, demonstrate Joe and Alda’s mashup of new techniques with old favorites. “Our food is pretty simple, and

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hopefully there is something for everyone,” says Rees, “but it’s our hope that they consider trying a dish or beverage outside of their comfort zone. Fortunately, we’re living at a time when people are interested in expanding their horizons with food and taste. Both Alda and I believe that this awareness starts early, so it is particularly exciting to us when we see young kids in the restaurant eating coleslaw with kale, or fried Cornish game hen, or a slice of cake made with olive oil and rosemary.” By the way, that olive oil cake with mascarpone cream is already a fan favorite; don’t miss it when you stop in. 807 N. Mills Ave., 407-920-7744; $$

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AMERICAN TRADITIONAL

ALFRESCO

HAMILTON’S KITCHEN

There’s no questioning the unparalleled freshness with which each dish at this Winter Garden resto is infused. A dedicated focus on local ingredients gives rise to remarkable dishes like chicken spiedini atop fattoush salad and pan-seared cobia over Israeli couscous. Add a bit of salt to the cavatelli with plush braised short ribs and you’ll find true comfort. To end, opt for luscious chocolate tres leches cake. 146 W. Plant St., Winter Garden, 407-654-5889; $$$

CITY DINER

Inside the impressive Alfond Inn sits this equally handsome kitchen, serving a focused (and pricey) selection of Florida-inspired creations. Seafood, like skin-on monkfish atop a wondrous corn succotash or delicately fried Kumamoto oysters, complements black truffle-kissed Buckhead Beef filet and a damn fine lacinato kale Caesar. Make room for indulgent butterscotch pudding infused with 12-year-old Macallan scotch, or a less-heavy fresh fruit en fata. Interesting wine list. Alfond Inn, 300 E. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-998-8089; $$$$

411 N. Magnolia Ave., 407-316-8111; $

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DEXTER’S The three restaurants in the Dexter’s family, longtime favorites of the Orlando brunch and happy-hour scenes, share a flair for giving comfort-food ingredients – pastas, sandwiches, killer sweet-potato fries – an exciting twist in an ambience that’s just right for friends, food and conversation. 808 E. Washington St., 407-648-2777; 558 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-629-1150; and 950 Market Promenade Ave., Lake Mary, 407-805-3090; $$

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HASH HOUSE A GO GO Big flavors, a big menu and great big portions of “twisted farm food” are what you’ll find at this I-Drive destination. Breakfast is the star here – the signature tower of chicken and waffles is a miracle of engineering, as well as a comfort-food classic – and you can get it all day, but don’t overlook tasty lunch and dinner. 5350 International Drive, 407-370-4646; $$

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HILLSTONE A short menu compensates with huge portions, especially desserts. Pork ribs, steaks, chicken and a fish

of the day (and a very popular grilled artichoke) are served in a woodaccented, masculine setting with a lake view from every seat. You’ll likely spend some time on the lovely tree-dotted lawn if you don’t make a reservation – but that’s OK. 215 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-740-4005; $$$

comparatively speaking, to boot. Richly flavored roasted duck legs and an above-average crab cake are wonderfully executed, as are Med-leaning flatbreads and a weighty Bangkok red snapper over mashed potatoes. Cakes are towering and made for sharing. 155 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, 407-740-4040; $$$

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MCCOY’S BAR & GRILL

RUSTEAK RESTAURANT & WINE BAR

A sanctuary above the OIA’s main terminal, this modern bar and grill is a must-stop for savvy travelers. Cool digs and a focus on local sourcing were part of a recent makeover, but the recipe for their signature crawfish chowder hasn’t changed, thankfully. The traveler’s trio (three small plates) makes an ideal pre-flight meal, as does their signature burger (the bacon is sublime) or mac & cheese with roasted poblano. Don’t get lost indulging in the frozen soufflé and brownie silk pie – you might miss your flight. 9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., 407-825-1240; $$$

Don’t let the scary-long menu fool you – most of the dishes created by the proficient kitchen of this Ocoee 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 half-pound RusTeak burger. 1568 Maguire Road, Ocoee, 407-614-3765; $$

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NOPA GRILL With a still-heady wine list and desserts to satisfy all tooths, this former wine/dessert bar has transformed into quite the inviting resto – and it’s an ambitious menu,

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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; $$$

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COARSE-GROUND GRITS These are nothing like the instant stuff you nuke for breakfast when you’re late – that’s just mush. Coarse-ground grits are the real Southern deal, and they take time (and lots of stirring). The texture of the meal is what’s worth it, not to

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mention the truly corny flavor that comes from the grinding technique, which incorporates both the endosperm and the germ of the corn kernels. Don’t be fooled; grits ain’t just for the a.m. – the Low Country shrimp & grits at John Rivers’ newest

venture, the Coop, uses them as a bed for tender shellfish in a tomatobased gravy. If you’re game to try cooking them yourself, find yellow or white stone-ground Bradley’s Country Store grits at the Local Roots Farm Store in East End Market.

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Shantell Williams, the affable proprietor of this stylish Sanford soul-food joint, has words for you: “Put down the remote and come join me for dinner! Just one bite and you’ll feel the love.”

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Williams is all about the love – “Do what you love and it will love you back. Our goal here is to share just a little of that love with the world,” she swears – and her culinary career was born from that love; her daughter was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 2, and that led Williams to the kitchen. “No one should have to forgo the magic of comfort food, so we offer delights for the diabetic and mealplanning for those with special dietary needs without sacrificing any of the love.” Or the flavor, to be sure: Shantell’s sells a 1-pound burger that’ll knock your socks off, as well as perfectly executed chicken and waffles, fried flounder and fried okra. Some items, like a mac-and-cheese-topped portobello mushroom, are atypical but nonetheless noteworthy. Desserts change daily, but whatever Shantell’s got, get it. 406 S. Sanford Ave., Sanford, 407-732-7728; $$

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B&B Junction

Greens and Grille

Local grass-fed beef and a farm-totable approach is the hook, which seems to be working. The bison rules, but be sure to order it “pink.” The No. 6, with an infernal coat of ghost-pepper cheese, is a hellaciously good choice. For vegetarians, there’s a house veggie patty and some stellar grilled cheeses; craft beers on tap and house-made desserts make for very happy endings. 2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-513-4134; $

The salads and sandwiches assembled here are luxurious versions of everyday basics. High standards of quality are apparent in the dressings made from scratch, super-fresh salad ingredients and natural, hormonefree meats grilled to order. Don’t miss the balsamic-braised portobello mushroom or the rich, gooey homemade macaroni and cheese; accompany your meal with a glass of wine or a craft beer. 4104 Millenia Blvd., 407-770-1407; also 11325 University Blvd., 407-373-0123; $$

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Beth’s Burger Bar Being pigeonholed as a late-night pit stop is inevitable when you’re situated in the downtown core and 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 to patty-stacking, eschewing the trend for designer burgers with a thousand toppings in favor of a straight-up, old-school approach with old-school pricing. 24 E. Washington St., 407-650-4950; $

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Cave Inn BBQ Caveman-themed barbecue joint executes the necessities to keep Winter Garden ’cue hounds in check. “Extra saucy” is how they do, but we didn’t care much for the hoisin-barbecue slather on the riblets, the vinegary steak sauce on the rib-eye, nor the mango-chili baste on the chicken wings – but that doesn’t mean you won’t. On the plus side, the brisket was wonderfully tender, the sweet potato tots crisp and the tea sweeter than the stuff you get in Georgia. 13848 Tilden Road, Winter Garden, 407-614-8328; $$

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Giraffas Brazilian Steaks & Burgers Brazilian-style burgers and steaks leave much to be desired at Giraffas, but try telling that to the throngs of Brazilian tourists looking for a taste of home. We found steaks to be overcooked, and burgers didn’t compare to their American counterparts. But marinated chicken ribs and desserts were much better, ensuring a spicy-sugary high. Open daily. 5415 International Drive, 407-226-9191; $$

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Hamburger Mary’s While diversity is key at this gayfriendly 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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Hard Rock Cafe With its pillar-studded facade, HRC stands majestically like a Roman Coliseum of rock, boasting more pieces of rock & roll memorabilia than any other Hard Rock. Not only is there a vast, multi-level cafe, but throw in Hard Rock Live Orlando, a 3,000-person concert venue, and you’ve got a winner. 6050 Universal Blvd., 407-351-5483; $$

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Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop Fast-casual College Park eatery places an emphasis on quality with a focused offering of falafel and spit-fired meats. Rib-eye/lamb shavings are perfect in pita pockets, as is the turmeric- and paprika-rubbed chicken, though both can be enjoyed in salad or hummus bowls; for the vegans, lentils with caramelized onions are a toothsome protein. Start with fried cauliflower in “Lilly” sauce; for a light capper, the lemon slushy is good sweet fun. 3405 Edgewater Drive, 407-985-5841; $

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’Kesh Restaurant

Prodigious patties for the post-grad set seems to be Graffiti Junktion’s function; the crowd is young and the digs run to squatter-chic embellishments. 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. 900 E. Washington St., 407-426-9503; also 2401 Edgewater Drive, 407-377-1961; $$

Eclectic UCF-area resto offers a mishmash of delights to in-the-know patrons, many of whom come for gourmet tacos, stand-out sandwiches, plump Chicago-style hot dogs and home cooking. The Taylor Street beef sandwich and the pork soft tacos with mole and house-made queso crumbles are stellar. If the grilled cornbread is available, order it. Desserts vary, but handspun milkshakes in flavors like rose petal, spicy chocolate almond and peanut butter and ginger are out of the ordinary. Closed Sundays. 11768 E. Colonial Drive, 407-203-0801; $

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HUBBLY BUBBLY Falafel Shop Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria

That One Spot

Want interesting sandwiches (Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving is a cult classic, and the yellow curry chicken salad is just plain classic), unusual tea (raspberry-rose, 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; $

The drolly named That One Spot is a hipster burger joint right down to the graffiti mural, but that hasn’t scared off the suburbanites. Crowds line up patiently for the spectrum of 13 burgers comprising red meat, other meats and two veggie options. The curry chicken burger has a surprising flavor burst, and the crunch burger was an absolute beauty – it’s the one you’ll be hankering for until your eventual return. 10968 W. Colonial Drive, Ocoee, 407-877-7575; $

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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. Brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday. 337 N. Shine Ave., 407-674-6841; $$

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Red Eye Bar & Grill Ocoee bar and grill keeps the focus on barbecue, and rightfully so, though perfect steaks and enormous grilled wings give the robustly smoked brisket a run for its money. Dollars are less wisely spent on starters like the fish dip and crab-corn chowder, but bananas Foster is a blissful mealender. 2594 Maguire Road, Ocoee, 407-877-0003; $$

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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. 932 N. Mills Ave., 321-236-7457; $

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Toasted Appealing to the basic human need for cheese and bread, Toasted deserves high praise for their simple, albeit sleep-inducing curds wedged between grilled artisan bread. The braised brisket-and-fontina and figand-goat are grilled cheese options worth enjoying, as is the herbaceous “holy basil” burger. Even vegans can get in on the fun with house-made vegan cheese and burgers. Open daily. 1945 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-3922; $

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Toojay’s Gourmet Deli Gourmet deli holds its own with regard to tradition, doing justice to chopped liver, matzo-ball soup and cheese blintzes. But the menu opens up to contemporary palates as well with wraps, pastas, omelets and salads. Don’t leave without a big black-and-white cookie. Multiple locations, toojays.com; $

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Yellow Dog Eats The charming, dog-friendly Gotha garden spot has grown, but still serves sophisticated sandwiches like the Yellow Dog club (pioneer bread with Cointreau mayonnaise, honeymesquite turkey, smoked Gouda, bacon and red-leaf lettuce), creative veggie options and killer pulled pork. 1236 Hempel Ave., Windermere, 407-296-0609; $

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Since 1947, this steakhouse and local institution has occupied a spot on Colonial Drive, as big-box stores and strip malls have grown up around it. Sixty years later, the only omnivore’s dilemma is which juicy cut to order. Owner Karen Hart feels passionately about preserving her grandfather’s dream, and wants her diners to come away with that feeling as well. “We do everything almost exactly like it was done in the ’40s and ’50s. No POS systems, no outside management group. We are employees first and owners second,” she says. 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 inhouse, including the monster 2-pound T-bone, which sports both the strip side and filet side. “It’s increasingly difficult to get the size we have in the past, but we make it happen every day. We’re far from perfect, but we strive to make every meal just right,” says Hart.

STEAKHOUSES

Karen Hart Linda’s La Cantina Steakhouse

4721 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-4491; $$$

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THE CAPITAL GRILLE You’ll pay dearly for the extraordinary service and posh atmosphere at this chain steakhouse. You might come away wondering if you ate your money’s worth, but the steaks are really very good. Multiple locations, thecapitalgrille.com; $$$$

STEAKHOUSES INDIAN whiskey sauce, also cater to epicurean sensibilities. 17 W. Church St., 407-447-7950; $$$$

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NELORE CHURRASCARIA

This old-school establishment answers traditional meat-eaters’ cravings with some of the best cuts in town. Stick with the steak, though; everything else is just a distraction. 8255 International Drive, 407-363-0228; $$$$

Park Avenue churrascaria offers up an awesome 40-item salad bar, comprising crisp vegetables, fish, soup and more, but it’s the all-youcan-eat-meat extravaganza that packs ’em in. Our advice: stick to the sirloin cuts (top sirloin and picanha) and avoid the lamb. Consider a pitcher of sangria to enjoy with your meal. Scrumptious Brazilian desserts are made in-house. 115 E. Lyman Ave., Winter Park, 407-645-1112; $$$$

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CHOO CHOO CHURROS

RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE

From empanadas to authentic open-grilled steaks, this is a good but unpretentious Argentine steak house in the shadow of the East-West Expressway. Order a delicious mixedmeat grill from parts of the beast that some people, even carnivores, would rather not think about. 5810 Lake Underhill Road, 407-382-6001; $$

Weighing in heavily on the masculine side of the top-dollar dining spectrum, the ambience, menu and service here are powerfully delivered. The New Orleans-based chain serves only aged meats from corn-fed Hereford cows, seared on an 1,800-degree grill – so tender a knife isn’t necessary. For expense accounts and special occasions. Multiple locations, ruthschris.com; $$$$

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CHARLEY’S STEAK HOUSE

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FLEMING’S PRIME STEAKHOUSE & WINE BAR

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Paul Fleming, the “P.F.” in P.F. Chang’s, brings another high-end steakhouse to Winter Park, with an emphasis on wine. Typically wood and leather in styling, Fleming’s offers aged, handcut 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; $$$

SHULA’S 347 GRILL

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FOGO DE CHAO

Part sports bar, part trendy steakhouse, this hotel restaurant scores big with a small selection of steaks and fresh seafood. The scene and clamor may not suit all tastes, but the cowboy steak, a 16-ounce bone-in rib-eye, certainly will. Same goes for the grouper, simply grilled and served with balsamic-drizzled asparagus and smashed potatoes. 2974 International Parkway, Lake Mary, 407-531-3567; $$$$

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A shrine to beef, with heavenly tableside service to boot. Juicy skirt steak, salt-crusted rib-eye and meltingly tender filet are standouts, but accoutrements like deep-fried polenta squares, bacon-studded 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; $$$$

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KRES CHOPHOUSE

VINES GRILLE & WINE BAR

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 gras-topped elk tenderloins. An in-house sommelier roams the space proffering sagacious wine advice. Desserts, like white chocolate bread pudding with

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; $$$

One price buys overindulgence at this richly styled all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrascaria, serving 15 cuts of charcoal-grilled meats on large skewers that are delivered to your table until you tell ’em to stop. The salad bar is a country in itself, with a wealth of fresh vegetables and Latin standbys, as well as gourmet specialties like shrimp salad, ceviche and artichoke-feta melange. 5259 International Drive, 407-355-0355; $$$$

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When we first reviewed Cityfish in 2008, we noted that the fish and chips were “good enough to make Maritimers swoon with nostalgia, while the peppery tilapia fillets in the tortilla salad are about the finest you’ll have.” Praise indeed, but times change, and so do restaurants. Greg Richie, formerly of Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, has taken over the kitchen of Cityfish, and diners can expect big changes to both the menu and the room. In place of the previous casual comfort food offerings, Richie’s newly tweaked menu makes clear his twin interests: sticking to responsible food ethics – “especially in relation to seafood, which can be affected by unprincipled fishing and harvesting practices” – and giving his guests the best possible experience. “We’re sourcing a better variety of seasonal fresh fish and we’re expanding our oyster selection, as well,” says Richie. “We want to show our guests how different oysters can be. Much like a fine wine or cheese, the texture and flavor of each oyster can be influenced by the terroir, as well as the species.” But his kitchen also puts a focus on fresh, local ingredients: “Equally important to me is sourcing as many of our products as possible from local purveyors, especially the fish that our Florida waters have to offer.”

SEAFOOD

Greg Richie Cityfish

617 E. Central Blvd., 407-849-9779; $$$

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SEAFOOD INDIAN

BLACKFIN

OCEAN PRIME

640 S. Orlando Blvd., Maitland, blackfinflorida.com; $$

There’s plenty of style and swank at this Art Deco supper club to keep the Sand Lake set happy, but a little more focus in the kitchen and front of the house will make this good restaurant great. Aside from the premium seafood, don’t miss the Berries & Bubbles cocktail – spookily smoky from a cube of dry ice – and the truffled deviled eggs. 7339 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-781-4880; $$

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BLU ON THE AVENUE Chef Tony Kreuger knows what he’s doing with such dishes as ovenroasted snapper and pan-roasted duck breast. Owner Joanne McMahon is also an expert pastry chef, so don’t pass up sweet endings like peanut butter pie. Reservations recommended. 326 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-3778; $$$

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THE CATFISH PLACE OF APOPKA Florida-style fish house is the place to go when you’re in the mood for down-home fried seafood. The boneless catfish is superb; the housespecial coleslaw is crisp, sweet and tart; and the service is warm. 311 Forest Ave., Apopka, 407-889-7980; $$

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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 hard-pressed to find a better steak than their 22-ounce USDA Prime bone-in rib-eye. 7488 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-355-3011; $$$$

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FISH ON FIRE Part roadhouse, part fish camp, FOF offers Florida-style eating in a south Orlando neighborhood without many other options. You can’t go wrong with the barbecue, the fried catfish is a study in simple excellence, and the Key lime pie is very tasty. Cold beer and a pool table seal the deal. 7937 Daetwyler Drive, 407-812-6881; $

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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. 914 N. Mills Ave., 407-704-8863; $

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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; $$$$

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TODD ENGLISH’S BLUEZOO Prices won’t make celebrity chef Todd English’s place a weekly destination for most folks, but splurging whenever you can afford to is great way to feel like king of the sea. Ambience and service are pampering and not pretentious, and match up to slap-thetable delectables like the miso-glazed Chilean sea bass and “fish grilled simply.” Disney’s Dolphin Resort, 1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista, 407-934-1111; $$$$

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VICTORIO’S OYSTER BAR Fresh oysters from Apalachicola and Louisiana help this Old Florida restaurant bust out of its shell, while seasoned shuckers do their best to please patrons jonesing for mollusks. A dozen will run you $12.99; a bucket, $28.99. Snap-happy clusters of snow crab legs, fried shrimp and assorted fish underscore the restaurant’s seafood chops. Given its locale (across from the dog track and next to a church), the clientele provides plenty of entertaining distractions. 300 Dog Track Road, Longwood, 407-834-9800; $$

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WINTER PARK FISH CO.

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; $$

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The seafood with a conscience served here will get you hooked. Of particular note: wild coho served with crisp green beans and pearl couscous. Alaskan ling cod makes for gratifying fish and chips, and fresh-out-of-thefryer hush puppies are sublime all by themselves. Expect a bit of a wait. 761 Orange Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-6112; $$

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Contrary to popular opinion, the Smiling Bison isn’t named after the herd animal, but for chef Josh Oakley’s hometown of Buffalo, New York. “Serving a bison burger just happened by popular demand,” he says. We’ll take it. The resto is open for lunch now, too, so you can sample the gastropub fare for 12 full hours – until midnight, a blessing in a town lacking in quality late-night comestibles – and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Serving primarily locally sourced, artisanally produced foods, the Smiling Bison’s minimalist dining room speaks to the real star of the show: the food. “Responsibly made foods, prepared by people who care, will always taste better and make you feel better,” says Oakley. “We introduce our diners to new ingredients and cooking techniques they may not have seen before. It’s always fun when a guest steps outside of their comfort zone and ends up falling in love with a dish they didn’t expect to like.” What do we like? Addictive poutine with raw milk cheese curds and maitake mushrooms, a killer Scotch egg, and a duck-lovers pizza topped with duck confit and a duck egg. Take that, Pizza Hut.

Josh Oakley The Smiling Bison

745 Bennett Road, 407-898-8580; $$

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FOOD TO DRINK BY An Tobar Every bit of An Tobar, from the 60-foot-long wood bar to the tables, chairs and bar stools, was procured in Dublin, disassembled and shipped here – where it was all put back together by Irish workers. With that level of authenticity in your surroundings, you might expect an equally traditional menu – but in fact, you’ll find fried pickle chips with “spicy leprechaun sauce” and an Irish take on poutine consisting of steak fries topped with cheese sauce, ground beef and Jameson whiskey. Slainté! 600 N. Destiny Road, Maitland, 407-551-7627; $$$

B LW T

Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar Stylish resto adds to steadily growing list of tapas joints along Orlando Avenue, though Carmel forgoes tradition in favor of “modern Mediterranean” fare that suits all tastes. Addictive chickpea fries, bold Tunisian chicken, spiced crab cakes and lamb-and-veal sliders make praise-worthy sharing plates. Beet salad with pistachios and a peppery mac & cheese will gratify vegetarians. 140 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-513-4912; $$

B LW OW T

The Church Street Tavern We love the Rust Belt vibe of the menu at this Pittsburgh-inspired spot downtown on Church Street. Such hearty fare as kielbasa sliders, Cincinnati chili (that’s five ways, for you Southern folk), cheesesteaks, chili fries and pierogis are the foundation of the menu, but for those who prefer to eat lighter (and, OK, healthier), there are salads, a seasonal fish dish and a sandwich or two that’ll be more to your liking. For the rest of us, though, there are five different kinds of fries to choose from. Five. Different. Kinds. 120 W. Church St., 407-353-4231; $$

B LW OW T

Cricketers Arms After stints at the Mercado and Festival Bay, this pub gives the good folks of Dr. Phillips a healthy dose of Brit pride. On our visit the chips were below par, but the fish (crispybattered cod) was spot-on – and the bangers and mash were right proper. Don’t overlook sausage rolls or savory pies. Bread pudding is so rich it makes downing a pint of Guinness seem like sipping Perrier. 7563 Sand Lake Road, 407-730-2111; $$

B LW OW T

Don Jefe’s The food at this massive downtown bar/restaurant is modern Mexican – fish tacos, tortilla salads, nachos and chicken wings with ancho chili jam – and the atmosphere is ripe for a big old party. With four bars, more than

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100 tequilas, and craft-cocktail and specialty margarita menus, it’s a onestop shop for everything you’ll need for a good night out in downtown Orlando. Don’t miss Taco Tuesdays – $3 tacos from 4 p.m. until the kitchen closes. 41 W. Church St., 407-203-0873; $$

B LW

Eola Wine Company A true and very welcome wine bar that offers its wares by the glass or in 2-ounce sampler flights. If something grabs your fancy, racks of bottles line the walls. Eola Wine hops until midnight most nights, with a menu of grapes and brews that changes, along with a few small plates and desserts. 430 E. Central Blvd., 407-481-9100; also 136 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-9103; $$

BW O

Fiddler’s Green Draft ales, lagers and stouts, plus traditional Irish fare (corned beef and cabbage) and more ambitious offerings such as grilled salmon with champagne sauce. This pub proves that a focus on flavor, presentation and service can spell “gourmet” for Irish cuisine. 544 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-645-2050; $$

B LW T

Frank & Steins Hot dogs and craft beer (franks and steins, get it?) are the signature menu items at this fun and somewhat quirky taproom. There’s an entire menu dedicated to signature franks (spicy Cubano dogs, classic Coney Island dogs, Polish sausages and veggie dogs, among others), as well as a build-your-own option. If hot dogs aren’t your thing, they’ve also got flatbreads, sandwiches, salads and snacks, as well as 300-plus beers to pair them with. 150 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-412-9230; $

B T

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. 7431 S. Orange Ave., 407-854-4999; $

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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

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FOOD TO DRINK BY menu full of creative sandwiches and wraps. 1235 N. Orange Ave., 407-704-3200; $

B LW OW T

Harry Buffalo The sprawling menu at this downtown hang includes gourmet Kobe and bison burgers, tacos, wings and sandwiches, as well as classic main courses like prime rib, bourbon whiskey steak, barbecued ribs and grilled chicken and shrimp. Check ahead for specials – every night Harry Buffalo offers a deal on one of their signature items, like wings on Mondays and a fish fry on Fridays. 129 W. Church St., 407-422-6656; $$

BW OW T

Kiwi’s Pub & Grill This laid-back sports pub hasn’t earned its reputation as a great place to catch a game for nothing – in addition to the neighborhood-bar vibe, it also boasts an inviting bar-food menu that includes such delectable munchies as sweet-corn nuggets, fried pickles and an Italian sausage sub. The $4.99 lunch specials change daily, and even if you come in after lunch is over, the price is still a sweet deal at just $6.25 for select sandwiches, salads, pizzas and more. 801 W. State Road 436, Altamonte Springs, 407-788-0223; $

B LW OW T

Marlow’s Tavern Marlow’s offers tavern favorites for slightly more discriminating palates. Asparagus fries lay the foundation for ambitious dishes like shrimp and grits slathered in a roast tomato beurre sauce or the well-composed “Everything and the Kitchen Sink” burger. A handful of craft and local brews keeps beer connoisseurs happy. Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive, 407-351-3627; also 1008 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-351-3627; $$

B LW OW T

Nona Tap Room The 50 beers on tap pack this humble Lake Nona bar and grill, but it’s the welcoming vibe and above-average pub grub that keeps area residents coming back. Start with baconwrapped jalapeño poppers and “fire-hot” wings – burgers, be they Guinness-marinated half-pounders or proper-thick turkey variants, are above average and worth sampling with a(nother) brew. A beer club awards members who down 50 or 100 different beers. 9145 Narcoossee Road, 407-440-4594; $

BW OW T

Oblivion Taproom One of the city’s better beer bars sits, unexpectedly, on a forgettable strip of Colonial Drive, with 40 beers on tap and more available by the bottle – but

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the meaty bar bites, inventive burgers especially, are what sets this place apart from the rest. Don’t overlook crisp battered-and-fried items or tots with house-made ketchup. Vegan and vegetarian options are plentiful. 5101 E. Colonial Drive, 407-802-4800; $$

B T

Ollie’s Public House Ollie’s has a robust array of sandwiches and salads – and though you’ll need to ask for your tableside jar of pickles, you can order a pickleback shot from the bar. The beer menu isn’t vast, but there’s enough to slake any average thirst. As for dessert, grilling s’mores at the table can make for some interesting moments in a bar. 3400 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-8934; $

B LW OW T

Rogue Pub More than 100 beers to choose from – craft brews and the more massmarket kind – mean this is a place no one will go thirsty; pool, darts, and the most complex jukebox we’ve seen mean it’s a place no one will get bored. 3076 Curry Ford Road, 407-985-3778; $

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Sea Dog Brewing Co. Sea Dog has the beers to impress, but the kitchen needs to catch up. Certain items, like the grindhouse burger, clam chowder and chicken wings, are worth considering, while others – overly spicy fish dip, a bland lobster roll and the saddest-looking fish and chips – should be passed over. 8496 Palm Parkway, 321-329-5306; $$

B LW OW T

Shakai Traditional Japanese cuisine and inventive sushi share the menu with steaks, duck and seafood in this gorgeous restaurant that transforms into a hopping lounge with bottle service and champagne after dark. Hit up happy hour on weekdays for drink specials, $3 and $5 sushi rolls, $3 appetizers and $2 sashimi, or come later on the weekends for DJs, ladies night and specials on bottle service. 43 E. Pine St., 407-423-2688; $$$

B LW T

Therapy Brew Bar Let the menu at this craft-beer bar/ wine lounge in downtown Orlando be the antidote to your long, frustrating day. A wide selection of brews and fine wines and a simple but satisfying selection of flatbreads, sandwiches, salads and light bites are perfect for happy hour. Think house-made sweet and spicy beer nuts, smoked salmon carpaccio and muffuletta paninis, with Guinness chocolate pudding for dessert. Yum. 111 E. Washington St., 407-601-7578; $$

B LW OW T

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Chef Henry Salgado is nothing if not pragmatic. “I try to use organic, local, and sustainable foods as much as possible,” he says, “though it doesn’t always work out.” Maybe that no-BS attitude is the product of 15 years spent running the wildly successful Spanish River Grill, the bustling New Smyrna Beach mainstay he owns with his wife, Michele. But don’t mistake practicality for a lack of passion – Salgado has based his new venture, Txokos Basque Kitchen (that’s pronounced “cho-kos”) on the private Basque dining societies known as txokos, and one senses the same gastronomic zeal just under the surface with this chef. However, Salgado’s new baby is no solemn gathering of culinary showoffs. “I don’t really want to teach, but rather enlighten guests so that they leave knowing traditional food can be delicious, beautiful and hip.”

EUROPEAN

When we ask him what he wants guests to know before they sit down at his table, he proclaims, “They don’t really need to know anything other than how to eat! They’ll need to bring an empty stomach as well.” With a menu jammed full of Spanish specialties like Manchego and figs with sherry, stewed piment d’Espelette chilis and baby squid stuffed with chorizo, that’s sound advice. 3201 Corrine Drive, 321-972-8852; $$$$

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Henry Salgado Txokos Basque Kitchen

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EUROPEAN

100 MONTADITOS

LACOMKA BAKERY & DELI

The Spanish franchise offers a good selection of Spanish tapas such as warm olives, patatas bravas and a nicely assembled cheese plate, but the montaditos are the thing to order. And there really are 100 different fillings for your mini sandwich – from traditional tastes such as Serrano ham, calamari, chorizo and piquillo peppers to meatballs, tuna salad and “Philly steak.” 417 N. Alafaya Trail, 407-384-9040; $

The mix of foods from Russia includes whole smoked herrings so tender that they spread like pâté and potato dumplings and borscht worthy of a stay at the Summer Palace. On your way out, pick up a box of Czar Nicholas Royal Tea. 2050 Semoran Blvd., Winter Park, 407-677-1101; $$

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407 CAFE Charming Lake Nona mainstay serves panini, salads, gelato, coffee and pastries in a sleek, modern setting – but the real reason to visit is the crepes, served in more than 40 choices of sweet and savory combinations. 9161 Narcoossee Road, 407-658-6733; $

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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 centercut black Angus steak, served with a dollop of peppercorn sauce. 4800 S. Orange Ave., 407-851-6980; $$$$

B T

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BENJAMIN FRENCH BAKERY

150 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-371-9476; $

A stellar new bakery in the heart of Thornton Park turns heads. Sandwiches and quiches are worth stopping in for, but the baguettes, croissants and other sugary delights are what linger in your mind long after you’ve left. Shelves toward the back of the bakery are stocked with groceries from France. 716 E. Washington St., 407-492-1533; $

B T

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IZA TAPAS BAR Cozy Thornton Park tapas bar comes up big on flavor and portions, and small on pretense and scenesterism. A mix of pan-Med and pan-Latin dishes might make tapas purists squirm, but you don’t need paella and sherry to enjoy small plates. Get a glass of sangria and sample anything from lamb sliders to marinated olives to flank steak skewers served with papas bravas. 712 E. Washington St., 407-999-0199; $

BW OW T

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 a crowd-stirring must. 205 E. First St., Sanford, 407-321-2204; $$

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LA CASA DE LAS PAELLAS

MI TOMATINA PAELLA BAR Hannibal Square tapas bar impresses with a lineup of hot and cold small plates and rice dishes. Mushroom caps stuffed with Serrano ham, authentic tortilla con chorizo, and vegetarian paella full of meaty wild mushrooms spark the palate. A nice selection of Spanish wines and sherries ensures authenticity. 433 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 321-972-4881; $$

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MIMI’S CAFE The former NOLA-themed comfortfood haunt is now a destination for lovers of French cuisine. While a makeover of the decor can’t come soon enough, the coq au vin and rustic bouillabaisse are competently fashioned. Servers, at times, can take on the blasé disposition of their Parisian counterparts, but consider it growing pains during the transition. 4175 Millenia Blvd., 407-370-0333; $$

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PARIS BISTRO Fine French fare comes to the northern end of Park Avenue with a roll call of bistro classics. Canard aux peches, ballotines de volaille and beef burgundy are standout mains, and a tableside dessert cart is a nice touch. 216 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-671-4424; $$$

BW OW T

Seafood is actually most prominent on the vast menu, but paella fiends can choose from seven variations. Paella marinera teems with fish and shellfish, but we lamented the lack of the characteristic crisp bottom crust. Make it a point to start with crunchy, juicy chicharrones de pollo. 10414 E. Colonial Drive, 407-736-9880; $$

POLONIA POLISH RESTAURANT

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Diners with bored palates will find revived appetite at this traditional Polish restaurant. Chicago cold cuts and homemade desserts bracket slow-cooked stews and crispy potato pancakes; many dishes are prepared from family recipes. 750 S. Highway 17-92, Longwood, 407-331-1933; $$

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Frog legs Yes, they taste like chicken, but it’s more like a free-range, swampdwelling chicken. The meat is white, tender, mild and lean, but much more succulent than a yardbird. It’s not abnormal for Floridians to nosh on these shapely suckers

fried golden and doused in hot sauce, but some Francophile spots around town, including Paris Bistro on Park Avenue (bien sûr), serve them in the classical Provençal preparation, lightly floured then sautéed in an assload of butter and

garlic and sprinkled with chopped parsley. The French brought them to Southeast Asia during colonization, so don’t be surprised to see them on Vietnamese menus around Mills 50 every once in a while as well.

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If you salivate at the thought of eating fresh-made pasta, then consider this quaint family-run eatery your own personal Pavlov. “Everything is made from scratch daily,” says owner Vanessa Falcone, who fashions, cuts and rolls everything from strozzapreti (literally, “priest stranglers”) to paccheri to fusilli in house. Her aim? To show patrons how her paesano enjoy all the pleasing permutations of pasta. “I want to show them the true taste of fresh pasta as it’s prepared and eaten in Italy. There are so many variations, from sizes, cuts, to infused pasta, to even dessert pasta. In fact, I make a pasta with red pepper and one with chocolate.” Falcone’s dad handles the antipasti, and her mom makes a variety of homemade sauces (the marinara is a simple wonder). No surprise, then, that Trevi is already a popular after-work stop for College Park residents looking to cook a speedy and, according to Falcone, “healthy” meal to enjoy at home. “People have a misconception about pasta being fattening and it’s just not true. We make our pasta with durum wheat semolina, not processed white flour.” Portion size, Falcone says, is what people need to control. Given how good everything here is, the irony is that the undisciplined also happen to be her best customers. 2120 Edgewater Drive, 407-985-2577; $

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Armando’s Cucina Italiana & Pizzeria Trendy Hannibal Square hotspot lures a diverse crowd for primo Italian standbys and wonderfully blistered pizzas, care of a custom-built brick oven. The egg-topped San Giovanni pizza is a crowd fave and ideal for sharing, but don’t overlook carpaccio with shaved Parmesan and pear slices. Pastas and secondi are simply presented, and shine because of it. Reservations strongly recommended. Patio dining available. 463 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-951-8930; $$

B L OT

Big Italy 5700 International Drive, 407-345-5566; $$

BLT

Brick & Fire Pizza and Wine Co.

ITALIAN/PIZZA INDIAN relocated, this fiercely beloved east Orlando spot holds its own as a haven for the anti-Budweiser legions who want craft suds with their slice. 11551 University Blvd., 407-658-2396; $

BT

Mellow Mushroom The quasi-hippie vibe at this Atlanta mainstay means you can get tofu on your pizza and it still tastes good; a menu of hoagies and superb salads, as well as more traditional pizzas, make this a chain you don’t have to feel guilty about loving. Try the Maui Wowie, a Hawaiian pizza with pesto, bacon and banana peppers. 2015 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-6577755; also 11680 E. Colonial Drive, 407-384-4455, and 18221 U.S. 441, Mount Dora, 352-735-8257; $

B OT

Ex-Church Street pizza joint is strictly upper-crust. Specialty pizzas like the Greek (gyro meat, feta, artichokes) and the duck confit (with arugula, pears and Gruyère) shine; baked ziti with Brie provides mac-and-cheese comfort for grown-ups. The deep-dish brownie with caramel sauce is big enough to share. 1621 S. Orange Ave., 407-426-8922; $$$

Metro Espresso Pizza CafE

BT

O’Stromboli

Enzo’s on the Lake Beautiful and sophisticated, the lakefront setting is as much of a draw as the culinary excellence of this Longwood mainstay. Along with the buzzing ambience comes occasional service pauses, but the kitchen makes up for them with Italian delicacies including fresh pasta and the best carpaccio in town. 1130 S. Highway 17-92, Longwood, 407-834-9872; $$$

BLT

Fratelli’s 373 N. Orange Ave., 407-422-5500; $$

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Il Pescatore Former owner Stefano LaCommare and family have moved on, but in this simple atmosphere their dishes live on, true Italian through and through. Seafood specialties make this bustling spot unique; pizza makes it familyfriendly. Choosing between all the huge pasta entrees is pleasingly difficult. 651 N. Primrose Drive, 407-896-6763; $$

BT

Lazy Moon Pizza Size matters to the throngs of underand post-grads here, and Lazy Moon delivers with astronomically huge slices. They also meet the needs of the broke with the Box Car 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. Recently

Trusty takeout joint on the ground floor of the Post Parkside building takes care of its Eola Heights neighbors with pizza and meatball subs, as well as the owner’s memorable lasagna and pasta dishes. 417 E. Central Blvd., 407-422-5282; $

B OT This family-friendly Italian restaurant has occupied the same Audubon Park spot for years, serving locals redsauce classics. It’s the neighborhood go-to for pizza, calzone and fantastic garlic knots; parking is tough, but delivery and takeout are offered. 1803 E. Winter Park Road, 407-647-3872; $$

B OT

Peperoncino Cucina New trattoria on the Dr. Phillips block is schooling patrons and area restaurants in the way of Italian cuisine. The narrow space is reminiscent of eateries in Italy, but chef Barbara Alfano’s menu proffers enough new ideas to give the Old World-inspired bill of fare a refreshing breath of life. The menu changes daily, but pastas are perfetto and secondi, like branzino cooked in parchment, truly impressive. Reservations are necessary as the small space fills up quickly. 7988 Via Dellagio Way, 407-440-2856; $$$

B OT

Pizza Xtreme On the fringes of the tourist sector lies this hard-to-find gem dishing out some damn decent pie. The sauce is made from scratch, the dough is hand-stretched and tossed, and toppings are cut fresh, resulting in the quintessence of pizza. Stick to the circular pies for better consistency and flavor; if you’re pinching pennies, there are plenty of specials. 7250 S. Kirkman Road, 407-226-3333; $

BT

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WOLFIES PIZZAMIA

Prato

Siro Urban Italian Kitchen

You’ll battle crowds to get a seat at Brandon McGlamery’s Park Avenue “it spot,” but once inside, the rustic Italian creations of chef Matthew Cargo will justify the body-checking. Start your meal with an apéritif, move on to house-cured bresaola or meatballs lolling in cipollini-sweetened sauce, then indulge in ricotta gnudi richened with Meyer-lemon confit or Idaho trout with sunchoke puree. Mascarpone pound cake and brown-butter panna cotta are proper endings. 124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-262-0050; $$

Siro brings farm-to-fork dining to the tourist corridor, and does it with aplomb. Seasonal small plates like roasted bone marrow, spicy lamb sausage, crisp baby artichokes and cheese mezzaluna with sage brown butter are well worth the drive, more so if you happen to be in the area. Their staunch commitment to sourcing local should be applauded. World Center Marriott, 8701 World Center Drive, 407-238-8619; $$$$

B L OT

Neighborhood trattoria is drawing aficionados of wood-fired pizza. Thin crust, perfectly blistered and wonderfully doughy pies are as good as any you’ll sample in the city, and the house chicken soup is a must for anyone feeling under the weather. Italian-imported desserts and wines lend to Tartini’s authenticity. 6327 S. Orange Ave., 407-601-2400; also 625 Rock Ridge Blvd., Apopka, 407-814-7474; $$

Ragazzi’s Pizza This College Park sports bar-slashpizzeria pleases families and sports fans alike. Hang out and watch the game, or grab a quick family meal (eat in or to go) – the pastas, salads and subs are great renditions of America-Italian menu classics. But the pizza crust is where Ragazzi’s shines: perfectly crisp but not shattering, bendable but not doughy. 3201 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-9973; $

B L OT

Ravalia’s Pasta Bar It’s hard to say “basta” to the pasta when you can get a heaping plate of house-made cavatelli with zesty sauce and a garlic breadstick for about seven bucks. Six house-made pastas and six sauces allow for plenty of mixing and matching, but don’t overlook the Tuscan rotisserie items and the grinder sandwiches. With all this and gelato too, you may need to break out the fat pants. 3950 U.S. Highway 17-92, Casselberry, 407-571-9912; $

B OT

BLT

Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria

B OT

Terramia Wine Bar & Trattoria It’s out with the old and in with a new brick oven at this Altamonte mainstay that moved into new digs earlier this year. The perfectly blistered artisanal pizzas are a top-notch draw, as are the gratifying plates of pasta – particularly the wonderfully briny squid ink pasta. Chantilly cream-filled profiteroles were ridiculously good, but tiramisu lacked the espresso jolt. Closed Sundays. 1150 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, 407-774-8466; $$$

B L OT

Wolfies Pizzamia

A polished yet comfortable interior and a range of regional Italian fare is sure to delight discriminating diners with such singularly pleasing dishes as the golden-crisp veal Milanese and the linguine frutti di mare. Even simple herb-grilled chicken is impeccably prepared, and desserts, such as creamy tiramisu and dense, milky gelato, are heavenly. 400 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-644-7770; $$$$

Ivanhoe Village artisan pizzeria upstages its sister restaurant, White Wolf Café, with house-cured charcuterie, hand-tossed pizzas and a dedication to time-honored techniques. The salumi platter, a bowl of split-pea soup and arugula salad is a primo way to commence, followed by any one of their pizzas (try the signature Wolfies with fennel, blue cheese and dry salted beef) or housemade pastas (do yourself a favor and get the spaghetti and meatballs). 1905 N. Orange Ave., 407-237-0921; $$

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Rocco’s Italian Grille

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We are what we eat With his Edible Schoolyard Project, chef Kevin Fonzo gives Orlando kids tools for living FOR 13 YEARS, Kevin Fonzo has been at the helm of one of the first chef-owned and chefdriven restaurants in the city – K Restaurant in College Park. Always a staunch supporter of local farms and food sources, Fonzo is now focused on educating the youth of the city on sustainable farming methods, nutrition and food preparation through his Edible Schoolyard Project at the Orlando Junior Academy. (OJA’s program is affiliated with the national Edible Schoolyard Project, founded by revered California chef Alice Waters.) In 2010-11, Fonzo spent the entire school year serving healthy lunches at OJA’s cafeteria, and he helped establish the Edible Schoolyard garden at the school. I chatted with Fonzo about the program and his role as a mentor-advocate to today’s youth. – Faiyaz Kara

How do you view your role as a chef? I believe a chef’s role is that of a teacher. Whether you’re teaching line cooks, prep cooks, sous-chefs, we have a lot of knowledge, which we need to share. I’m most passionate about teaching our youth. My platform has been the Edible Schoolyard at Orlando Junior Academy. We bring the garden, and kitchen, into the school classroom. It’s important for our youth to understand nutrition, take the mystery out of cooking, know how to eat right and learn where the food on their plates comes from. It’s critical they understand that there are other options out there besides fast food. How do you go about bringing the garden and kitchen into the school classroom? The Edible Schoolyard program is structured so that the whole class, from start to finish, revolves around the garden and kitchen. We harvest what we grow in the school

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garden with the help of our gardener, Brad Jones, a parentvolunteer who maintains OJA’s garden. Then chef Sarah Cahill and I incorporate what we harvest, along with food donations from Whole Foods Winter Park and local farmers, into the day’s lesson. The kids are taught how to read a recipe, measure properly, prep the food and expedite the recipe. Do they get their hands dirty in the garden? Absolutely. Part of the program is that they learn how to grow their own produce. They start from seeds, nurture the plants, harvest them, after which they’re taught how to prepare them. We use the sciences, math and history while we’re teaching in the garden and try to incorporate the whole school curriculum by getting other teachers involved. What sorts of foods have you made with the students? We’ve done everything from making homemade pasta,

tomato sauce, pesto and homemade cheese. We’ve made homemade peanut butter, jams, jellies, breads, even homemade pickles. The kids are also taught how to set a table properly, converse at the dinner table, and how to serve each other. They’re also responsible for cleaning up after themselves! Do you lecture in the classroom? Yes. Lecturing and guest speakers are a vital part of the class day. We’ve had many local farmers and artisans visit the class – farmers like Dale Volkert from Lake Meadow Naturals and distributors like Emily Rankin from Local Roots. We’ve had specialists from Florida Hospital talking about high blood pressure, allergies and diabetes, and, of course, yours truly talking about life as a chef. We also take the kids on trips. The last trip was to East End Market. John Rife (EEM), Shannon Talty (Olde Hearth Bread Company) and Devin Edwards (Skyebird Juice

Bar) have all been to the Edible Schoolyard. How long have you been a mentor-advocate to students? I‘ve been associated with OJA for six years now. I took over the cafeteria before [Chefs Move to Schools] was Michelle Obama’s platform. I knew it was a very important thing to do. Three years ago, chef Sarah Cahill, Brad Jones and I started the Edible Schoolyard Project at OJA after a trip to the first Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, Calif., where we met chef and ESY founder Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. We are coming up on our fourth year! Are there any upcoming Edible Schoolyard ventures we should know about? Some very exciting things are happening right now with partnerships with some famous people. We’re in the process of building a new kitchen classroom with a real working kitchen and a much bigger community garden. Stay tuned!

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As the SoDo section of town has rejuvenated, the ’70s-style edifices have taken on new life, including the little azure building that houses Mediterranean Blue. Run by brotherand-sister team Bob and Gail Givoglu, the place is an homage to their mom, a fantastic cook who treated the sibs to Northern Greek cuisine and inspired their more than 36 combined years of restaurant and cooking experience. “We want to give our diners a taste of the cooking we grew up with. The red sauce is totally our mom’s recipe, and we’ve tweaked other family recipes to work for a high-production kitchen,” Bob says. The result is food like Yíayía used to make – creamy, melty pastitsio, the Greek take on lasagna; gyros stuffed with juicy shavings from the self-basting spit, topped with housemade tzatziki and ripe tomato; flaky spanakopita – modernized just enough to feel fresh.

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They make an effort to eliminate waste and choose non-GMO produce when possible, too. “At our price point, it’s difficult to do, but when we can, we make it happen,” he says. “We also try to buy in season as much as possible from a local radius.” Call ahead during lunch hours – the place can get busy quick. 435 E. Michigan St., 407-422-2583; $$

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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 and/or enjoying a glass of Turkish wine. 108 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-644-8609; also 7600 Doctor Phillips Blvd., 407-352-6766; $$$

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Cappadocia Turkish Cuisine Cappadocia aims for a true Turkish experience and, for the most part, delivers with its variety of Ottoman dishes. There’s plenty for the average kebabophile (adana kebab) and the phyllo-file (borek), but don’t pass up their sautées. Baklava comes drenched, not flaky, though the kunefe is the house specialty. Turkish tea and coffee is the best way to end the meal. Open daily. 565 N. Semoran Blvd., 407-985-2668; $$

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

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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; $$

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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. 981 W. Fairbanks Ave., 407-539-2650; $

Mediterranean cucumber salad garlicky enough to ward off the undead. 8100 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-855-6555; $

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Nar Mediterranean Grill Create your own meal: Choose a protein and stuff it in a sandwich, layer it on top of rice and two sides, or have it atop a salad. Those proteins include possibly the best falafel in Orlando, doner kebab, and lamb, beef and chicken kofte. Of the several side-dish choices, pass over the unremarkable roasted vegetables and go for cumin-seasoned bean salad or lemony tomato-cucumber salad. Portions are gigantic, but don’t skip dessert: Turkish rice pudding or buttery baklava. 3402 Technological Drive, 407-277-4774; $

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Pasha Taverna and Lounge Spot-on Moroccan staples finally get their Millenia moment. Pasha’s seductive atmo should play right into the Conroy Road crowd’s tastes, not to mention the full bar, live music and belly dancing. But the food, from nourishing harira soup to lamb tagine to flaky bisteeya, is the real attraction. Moroccan mint tea is a must, as is the creamy “Pasha delight.” 4104 Millenia Blvd., 407-730-3222; $$$

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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; $$

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Taverna Yamas A festive atmosphere – fire dancers, belly-dance performances, hookah bar – animates this large space in the heart of the tourist shop and hotel district. The huge menu contains Greek meze and specialties, like moussaka and pastitsio, but mostly encompasses the type of thing you want to eat after a day out in the sun: grilled fish, crisp cold salads, charcoalbroiled steaks. 7500 International Drive, 407-203-0960; $$

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Middle East Market & Deli OBT spot is equal parts specialty grocery store, hookah supply, deli (all sorts of ready-prepared foods to take away) and lunch counter (fresh hot sandwiches sliced to order). A gaggle of smiling, gregarious women serve some of the best shawarma in town, sided with refreshing tomato-and-

Head into this tiny spot for the superbly seasoned fried chicken – everyone else does. But the lamb gyros, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel and other Syrian/Greek standbys are just as worthy. Prices are dirt-cheap and everything is seasoned to perfection. 2952 Curry Ford Road, 407-849-0810; $

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AFRICAN Ermias Hailab Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

In our opinion, there are a few things that a city must possess in order to be great, and one of those requirements is a good Ethiopian joint. Orlando’s ethnic dining scene is healthy, but Nile is our lone Ethiopian restaurant – we give thanks for it often, and we steer friends who find themselves in the tourist zone to Nile just as frequently. “There are no utensils used in Ethiopian food,” says chef-owner Ermias “Muka” Hailab. “All of our diners use their hands, and this is probably the most fun and unusual part of the experience.” But the magic isn’t in the intensely spiced stews served on a

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communal platter and the sour-spongy injera bread you use to scoop them up; it’s not in the tej (honey wine similar to mead) and the coffee brewed in a long-necked clay pot; it’s in the way the whole experience brings you together with your friends. Hailab says, “We want our diners to have an Ethiopian experience. From the variety of dishes to the cultural music playing in the background to the authentic coffee ceremony, we want our diners to take a little piece of Ethiopia home with them.” 7048 International Drive, 407-354-0026; $$

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You may need to read the next sentence a couple of times before you can believe your eyes. “Unlike many other Indian restaurants, I like to tailor my dishes to the customer’s taste. I don’t believe a dish has to be hot. I grind my own spices, so I can easily make a dish that’s traditionally hot, mild.” That’s right – Azhar Baig, chef-owner of Longwood’s Sizzling Grill (formerly Apna Café), doesn’t feel the need to force a fiery-hot curry on a customer who can’t handle it, nor does he hesitate to alter the customary heat level, a rare and welcome attitude. Baig’s indefatigable spirit animates Sizzling Grill with an infectious joy. The chef says, “I love the fragrance of biryani, and when I inhale the aroma, I feel like I’m in seventh heaven. And when I see the same reaction in other people’s faces, it takes away all the fatigue and weariness of the day.”

Azhar Baig Sizzling Grill

Patience pays off at Sizzling Grill: “My focus is that the food here is prepared fresh to order. It may take longer to prepare, but I believe it’s well worth the wait,” says Baig. We agree; the made-from-scratch curries (particularly a superb karahi gosht) are impressive. 1150 W. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-260-6062; $

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Kurry & Kabab Express

It’s hard to beat the cost and variety of favorite dishes in the daily lunch buffet, even if it’s not a quick stop. Dinner is pleasant and highlights the Northern Indian cuisine, but this strip-mall eatery is for filling up, not atmosphere. 5748 International Drive, 407-370-9830; $$

Humble UCF-area kebaberie is small on space, but their tandoor-fired dishes are big on flavor. Chapli kebabs are popular, so if they’re available, get them. (Also worthy are the ground chicken seekh kebabs.) There are plenty of goat curries for those who like a bit of fatty lusciousness, and buttery naan and paratha are perfect for dipping. Skip the gulab jamun and opt for a mango lassi – to go. 10725 E. Colonial Drive, 407-273-2254; $

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Aroma Indian Cuisine Aroma places a focus on customer service and offers the fortunate denizens of Lake Mary some of the finest Indian food in the Orlando area. Kebabs sizzling from the tandoor are a must, while vegetarians need not look past the puri and okra curry. Looking to raise your cholesterol? Consider the house specialty butter chicken, then cap it off with creamy frozen kulfi. 4275 W. Lake Mary Blvd., Lake Mary, 321-283-0242; $$

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New Punjab Indian Restaurant Authentic Indian standby on International Drive offers refuge from the bright lights and fast-food franchises. Take a tour through the classics – curries, fried breads, chutneys and tasty tandoori dishes. 7451 International Drive, 407-352-7887; $$

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Bombay CafE 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; $

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In Raga, Indian fine dining has, arguably, arrived on Sand Lake Road, but instead of novel dishes, flavor experimentation and solid execution, diners are left with the same old tune, at elevated prices. You’ll find more than a few Indo-Chinese specialties, which tend to up the spice levels. Service is proficient and professional, be it at lunch or dinner. 7559 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-985-2900; $$$

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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. 11301 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-856-1780; $

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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, 407-399-9996; $$$

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Tabla Bar & Grill Sajan Prem raises the bar for Indian cuisine in Orlando with a lengthy menu of inspired Indian-fusion dishes. Chili pakoras trump jalapeño poppers; kesari murgh marries homemade pesto and saffron sauce; and lamb do piazza’s heady curry is both assertive and aromatic. Desserts, like toffee pudding cake and chocolate samosas, continue the razzle-dazzling. 5827 Caravan Court, 407-248-9400; $$

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Tamarind Indian Cuisine Tamarind’s familiar, fiery and focused dishes are worthy of Subcontinental food cravings. Samosas and sizzling tandoor-fired 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; $$

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, notat-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; $

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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. 6040 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-854-3330; $$

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Henry Moso Kabooki Sushi

“I want customers to know how creative our dishes are, and how much art we incorporate into our food,” says chef Henry Moso, whose youthful looks belie his seriousness and strong focus. There’s no danger of guests missing the creativity on display at Kabooki, the sushi restaurant named for the elaborately stylized Japanese theater. That same sense of drama is inherent in Moso’s plates, from seared escolar with kimchi vinaigrette, Chinese sausage and avocado puree to tiny “sailboats” fashioned of Scottish salmon, blue crab and Fuji apple.

But theatrics don’t extend to the atmosphere, which is staunchly un-stuffy. “I love when customers sit at our sushi bar and view our chefs in action in our open kitchen. I can feel the customers pick up on how much fun we have while we make our dishes,” Moso says. “I believe our chefs’ tasting menu (omakase) gives them the opportunity to get a feel for the Asian culture, and to see the variety of my favorite techniques.” Orlandoans who are passionate about sublime sushi have met their match in Moso. 3122 E. Colonial Drive, 407-228-3839; $$

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Anh Hong There are hundreds of items on the menu at this Mills 50 mainstay, where No. 146 – fried tofu stir-fried with lemongrass and chili – reigns supreme over the many vegetarian options that round out meat and seafood. There are salads, subs (banh mi), and various neon-colored surprises in the takeout refrigerator case. 1124 E. Colonial Drive, 407-999-2656; $

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Avenue Thai and Sushi Can’t decide between pad thai or a spicy tuna roll? You won’t have to at Avenue Thai and Sushi, where you’ll find all the classics of both cuisines. Tofu red curry and tempura cheesecake are fan favorites. 525 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-3993; $$

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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. For sharing, consider a platter of double-cooked pork and the bowl of Lanzhou-style beef soup with noodles. Mains are ample, but if you’re keen on starters, the spicy pork ear and a plate of thin-cut roast beef, tripe and tendon with chili sauce will get the fire started. 1101 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-8966; $$

ASIAN sitting down to a trad meal. 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. The place packs ’em in, so call ahead or risk waiting. 1103 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-0606; $$

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Hotto Potto Fresh ingredients, genial service and sheer variety help make this Winter Park hot-pot joint an option for these looking for a change in their restaurant routine. Meats aren’t too out of the ordinary, though live blue crab, lobster, shrimp and bass keep it interesting. Soup base and spice levels can be adjusted according to taste, and a wide array of house-made sauces seal the deal. Open late Fridays and Saturdays. 3090 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-951-8028; $$

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Lac Viet Bistro Orlando has some of the best Vietnamese food in the nation, and you’ll find some of it at Lac-Viet, a longtime favorite right across from the huge Phuoc Loc Tho supermarket on Colonial Drive. With a sense of style, they serve old standbys as well as fresh inventions – their bun cha ha noi (rice vermicelli with grilled pork and pickled vegetables) is not to be passed up. 2021 E. Colonial Drive, 407-228-4000; $$

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Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi Lounge Dressed to impress, this posh spot’s menu is a swarm of small plates. From spectacular sashimi to sublime grilled meats (try the short ribs and yellowtail collar), it’s hard to pick a dish that misses. Consider a swig from their modest sake menu and end with a simple scoop of red-bean ice cream. 7972 Via Dellagio Way, 407-370-3359; $$

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Hanamizuki Japanese Restaurant Deceptively situated in a bland I-Drive strip mall, this elegant sushi restaurant combines minimalist decor with a menu of surprising depth and intrigue to create a flawlessly integrated and refreshing experience. Don’t miss the unexpected ginger fried rice, lunchtime ramen bowls or, when offered, the chawanmushi (savory mushroom custard). 8255 International Drive, 407-363-7200; $$$

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Hawkers Asian Street Fare The sheer variety and low price point of the assorted dishes makes this hub of pan-Asian small plates a popular draw, but it’s better for snacking and drinking beer with a group than

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, while anyone will revel in a saucy bowl of pork belly and preserved Chinese greens. Noodle dishes like Shanghai-style rice cake and beef chow fun, a Cantonese specialty, are also worth sampling. 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; $$

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Ming’s Bistro Hard to spot, but well worth seeking, Ming’s specializes in the a la “cart” scarfing extravaganza known as dim sum, though spicy beef hot pan with vermicelli and ginger scallion fish fillets are also worthy dishes. Menu descriptions are terse, so be sure to ask your red-vested server about the ingredients. 1212 Woodward St., 407-898-9672; $

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Noodles and Rice Cafe Noodles, be they hot, cold, soupy or stir-fried, are the, ahem, mein attraction at this Mills Avenue resto, so whether it’s ramen, udon, soba or

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ASIAN lo mein that bubbles your bowl, you’ll find it all right here. Don’t overlook the Hong Kong style barbecue (duck is surprisingly absent) or the Korean short ribs. Hot pot tables also draw a loyal following. It’s BYOB, but you’ll have to tithe to the chef. Open daily. 813 N. Mills Ave., 407-895-8833; $

of them, and the sushi chefs and kitchen staff have room to move. The stone-bowl bulgogi bibimbap is still spicy-crunchy-steamy-good, and the flaming Magic Roll is still toted precariously throughout the crowded dining room. 2902 Corrine Drive, 407-898-5652; $$

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Sushi Pop

You won’t need burgers for a fastfood fix once you find this Vietnamese noodle shop. Specializing in gigantic, weirdly addictive bowls of very thin rice noodles and various cuts of beef submerged in delicately seasoned broth, they also serve the usual exotics of shrimp paste and grilled pork – but the soup’s the thing. 730 N. Mills Ave., 407-897-3488; $

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. 310 W. Mitchell Hammock Road, Oviedo, 407-542-5975; $$$

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SEA Thai Yet another Asian entry on the eastern edge of the ViMi district, SEA Thai’s menu is also edgy (ha); pleasing house specialties include a jazzedup “South East Asia pad thai” with prawns, and pineapple duck curry offers crispy boneless meat covered with pineapple and red curry-cream sauce. 3812 E. Colonial Drive, 407-895-0985; $$

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Sapporo Ramen Banish all thoughts of salty plasticwrapped bricks: It isn’t that kind of ramen. This West Colonial noodle house is bent on spreading the foodie cult of ramen, and after sampling richly flavored bowls of tonkotsu, shio, miso or shoyu ramen, you will be too. Udon and soba noodles are also offered, as are curries and gyu-don, both of which are worth ordering. Starters (overdone edamame and mushy octopus fritters) are best skipped. Ramen rules here. 5080 W. Colonial Drive, 407-203-6777; $

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Shin Jung Exotic Korean cuisine served in an intimate and recently remodeled space. A 10-item barbecue list offers stalwart diners authentic choices such as unmarinated beef tongue; the less skittish might try hawe nang myun, a cold noodle dish served with hot-spiced stingray. If you’re inexperienced with Korean cuisine, let the servers steer you. 1638 E. Colonial Drive, 407-895-7345; $$

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Sushi Lola’s The sushi-and-bibimbap joint has moved a few slots down into a larger Corrine Drive space, but very little has changed. The room is still jammed with close-set tables (expect to share your dinner conversation with neighbors, which is part of the fun) but now there are a lot more

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Taipei 101 Unlike heavily spiced Hunan or Sichuan dishes, the cuisine of Taiwan is considerably simpler. At this UCFarea joint, the natural flavors of such dishes as beef noodle soup, threecups chicken and lu rou fan – braised pork belly over rice – are fresh and inexpensive. “Snack” items to consider: turnip rice cake, fried tofu topped with kimchi and gua bao – steamed buns stuffed with pork belly. 3050 Alafaya Trail, Oviedo, 407-542-1528; $

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Tasty Wok You’ll be saying “thank you” repeatedly to your quick-to-educate servers at this modest corner barbecue and noodle house. Singapore rice noodles are a don’t-miss, and roast duck and chicken offer a proper juicy-to-crisp ratio. The real deal. 1246 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-8988; $

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Wasabi Modern Japanese Cuisine Conveyor-belt sushi comes to the Florida Mall offering a slew of mostly ho-hum rolls. Nothing’s particularly noteworthy; the technology seems to captivate diners (and onlookers) more than the food. When the novelty wears off, you’re left ungratified and thoughts veer to leftover pizza in your refrigerator. 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-859-3940; $

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Yum-Mi Sandwiches Bright, fresh and modern banh mi counter aims to please the masses with variations on the iconic Vietnamese sandwich. Specialty options like pork belly (“Miss Piggy”) and Asian-marinated beef cubes (“shimmy shaker”) stuffed inside fresh-baked baguettes are hits. Fresh fruit slushes and boba teas are must-try treats. 1227 N. Mills Ave., 407-894-1808; $

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Ruben Perez Zaza New Cuban Diner The building, the menu, the decor – it’s all bright red and orange, and the flavors are just as bold at this enclave of casual Cuban comfort food. If you’re lucky on weekend mornings, you’ll score a seat. If not, snag a chair by the front door and wait a couple of minutes. It won’t be long. “Our customers are our amigos. We have to take care of them first,” says owner Ruben Perez. “Every guest should feel at home. This is the food I grew up with, and now, as a third-generation Cuban restaurateur, I wanted to bring it to the community.”

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Not only is the food comforting, it’s homemade, down to the twisty quesito pastries that pair perfectly with a cup of high-octane cafe con leche, made from beans roasted in Longwood. “It’s about putting freshness first. Every cup of coffee is made with beans roasted fewer than five days ago,” says Perez. Your cuppa is included in one of the best breakfast deals in town: two eggs with bacon, sausage or ham and fresh-baked Cuban toast for less than six bucks. 3500 Curry Ford Road, 407-228-0060; $

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LATIN 8-8 Panda Neighborhood takeout joint specializes in chifa, a niche cuisine of Peruvian-style Chinese fare that draws a loyal patronage of Latin Americans and expat Limeños. They come for the chaufa, lomo saltado and comforting soups, but those new to the culinary movement will find the roast duck and roast pork dishes gratifying. 500 E. Semoran Blvd., Casselberry, 321-207-0388; $

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Agave Azul A cool blue interior belies the spicy fare served at this trendy taquería. With 100 brands on hand, tequila is the aperitif of choice, but all good drinks lead to food, and the TexMex dishes served here are done right. Chunky guacamole, the 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; $$

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Azteca D’Oro A great big menu hits all the MexicanAmerican highlights: queso dip, fried taquitos, quesadillas and a plethora of platters. A good place to take a group

for margaritas, sangria and plenty of cheese-covered delights. 12403 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-826-9191; also 11633 University Blvd., 407-737-8388; $

the watermelon) prove effective extinguishers. Open daily. 5695 Vineland Road, 407-352-0101; $

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Cafe Tu Tu Tango

Black Bean Deli After dishing out homespun favorites since the mid-’80s, Winter Park’s Black Bean passed from aunt to nephew and gained a new vitality. Now there’s a new 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; $

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Border Grill Fresh-Mex This MetroWest taquería is a real find, and once found, a treasure trove of tacos (pibil, chorizo and grilled chicken are our faves), tortas, gorditas, burritos and caldos awaits. Consider starting with fresh-made guac and ending with homemade flan, no matter how stuffed you feel. Homemade salsas can be downright infernal, but Mexican Coca-Cola and various aguas frescas (get

B T Artists work while you eat in what’s essentially a mini-gallery, where the mood is festive, even outrageous, and the service is always impressive. Entree portions are intentionally small; diners are encouraged to order several and swap around the table. 8625 International Drive, 407-248-2222; $$$

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Cocina 214 Haute-Texican cuisine with Portuguese flourishes gives 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; $$

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Colibri Mexican Cuisine Upscale Baldwin Park taquería has honed its act in the kitchen. The mole is bueno, as is luscious chipotle

pepper-cream sauce lathered over plump shrimp. Tres leches cake is a decadent capper. 4963 New Broad St., 407-629-6601; $$

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El Buzo Ceviche is the specialty of this tiny Peruvian cocina, but be sure to start with excellent mussels on the half-shell, dressed with a tangy salsa jacked with aji limo peppers. Grilled beef heart and traditional lomo saltado are worthy turf selections, if you’re not into surf. For dessert, soufflé-like bavarois de guindones is ethereal. Open daily. 1436 N. Semoran Blvd., Casselberry, 407-673-0237; $

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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. 20 E. Washington St., 407-841-5626; $

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ROCCO’S TACOS comely mermaid-themed taquería hardly makes a splash with its TexMex dishes, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself lured in anyway. An inviting patio and sizable bar keeps patrons coming until the wee hours on weekends, when live musicians play outside on the patio. 118 S. Palmetto Ave., Sanford, 407-391-3955; $$

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Oh! Que Bueno A small Colombian café that specializes in protein: meat, chicken, sausages, seafood. And unless you count rice, corn and red beans, not a veggie in the place. The carneteria offers authentic traditional dishes done well, as well as enormous combination plates of beef, pork, sausage and the occasional egg. 1125 S. Semoran Blvd., 407-447-5026; $

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Rincon Cubano Cafeteria Down-home Cuban cooking awaits those who take the drive down Forsyth Road; Maria Alfonso brings her diner to life with welcoming exuberance. Empanadas are a must (if they haven’t sold out); meatlovers will revel in the steak palomilla, churrasco and pork-topped mofongo. Breakfast and lunch only. 3327 N. Forsyth Road, Winter Park, 407-679-5600; $

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Rocco’s Tacos Top-shelf tequila and thumping music make this Dr. Phillips taquería more bar than restaurant, but there are pockets of goodness to be found on the mostly Tex-Mex menu. Tableside guac is tasty; chorizo, spicy beef and mushroom tacos are chomp-worthy; cheesy corn on the cob and pulled pork enchiladas warrant a try. 7468 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-226-0550; $$

Paxia Alta Cocina Mexicana & Tequila Lounge

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College Park spot leads the charge to bring worthy Mexican cuisine to this city. Tangy cactus stems highlight the nopalitos salad; chipotle lends black bean soup an understated bite; and mole poblano and char-grilled skirt steak are worthy of signature-dish status. 2611 Edgewater Drive, 407-420-1155; $$

Super Rico Colombian Bistro

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Q’Kenan

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 onion-topped patacones (somewhat similar to tostones), pintxos (grilled meat skewers) and bright-yellow cheese empanadas are tasty; the arepa burger is not to be missed. 57 W. Central Blvd., 321-345-7426; $

Among the timeshares and hotels on the southern end of I-Drive, this unusual family Venezuelan joint peeks out of the overwhelming fast-food dining scene. It’s part restaurant and part grocery store and there’s not much ambience, but the authentic arepas, empanadas and cachapas are top-rate. Try the mixed mountain grill (parrilla tepui mixta) for a heartier entree. 8117 Vineland Ave., 407-238-0014; $

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Wall Street Cantina The slightly funky location at Orange Avenue and Wall Street rescues this streetside eatery from too-calculated hipness. Basic Tex-Mex fried favorites are heaped with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream and are absolutely delicious. Salads and grilled sandwiches round out the offerings. 19 N. Orange Ave., 407-420-1515; $

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FOODpreneurs The vendors of Audubon Park’s East End Market

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ast End Market was immediately the place to be for foodies upon opening in 2013, and it’s still gaining ground. This two-story monument to local and artisanal food is a self-evident boon to people already onboard with those movements, but for casual eaters (yes, they exist), the market’s usefulness may need a little explanation. (I like to think of it as the cupboard and fridge to ransack for the best picnic ever.) Here’s an annotated guide to the culinary vendors of the EEM. – JBY

France, Spain, Italy and other countries where fromage is taken seriously … including the good old U.S. of A.

Fatto in Casa Elisa Scarpa has expanded her catering company to include this tiny brick-and-mortar spot, where she serves ready-to-eat Italian specialties alongside killer desserts and dishes to reheat and serve at home.

Local Roots Farm Store

Olde Hearth Bread Co.

The first thing you see when you walk in the front door, Local Roots is the heart of the market. With a slinky wood bar hewn by local artist Maxwell Hartley, Local Roots Farm Store sells locally brewed/ bottled beers and wines by the glass, locally farmed meat and produce, and even locally produced grooming and cleaning products.

Orlando’s original artisan bread baker has been in business since 1998, but being able to choose your own carb-venture in their very own space is oh so delicious.

Your one-stop shop for coldpressed juices and raw foods to go; for more, see page 17.

The best new source for Spanish specialty provisions (like preserved tuna or Marcona almonds), fresh or pre-marinated seafood, or just a quick fish taco, La Bretxa is another venture of Henry and Michele Salgado, who also own Txokos.

Houndstooth Sauce Co.

La Femme du Fromage

It started as a sauce brand, but Houndstooth now provides tasty grilled sandwiches and soups to hungry EEM visitors.

Not local exactly, but definitely artisanally produced, the cheeses sold by Tonda Corrente Nazario hail from

Txokos Basque Kitchen

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Skyebird Juice Bar & Experimental Kitchen

La Bretxa

Txokos serves an edgy, authentic Spanish menu; for more on chef Salgado, see page 53.

Lineage Coffee Roasting The folks behind the shiny white bar are very serious about every aspect of coffee, and after a sip or two, you’ll see how that pays off in intense flavor and silky texture.

Whisk and Bowl Upstairs from the market, find a trove of beautiful and thoughtfully sourced baking and cooking tools.

Bookmark It Also upstairs, Orlando’s newest independent book store stocks volumes on gardening, cooking, eating and the local food economy.

Cuisiniers Catering Chef Jamie McFadden’s wellestablished company is the in-house caterer here; if you rent EEM’s rustic-chic Audubon Park Exchange event space for a party, Cuisiniers will do the food. W

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It seems like every vegetable comes in a “baby” variety these days – from artichokes to zucchini – and baby lettuces, known as microgreens, are no exception. Like many other awesome things, they started showing up on menus in the ’80s (a trend

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attributed to the late, great Chicago chef Charlie Trotter), because a hint of something green, unobtrusive and edible is sometimes just what a plate needs. Many of the sprouts are just 14 days old when they’re picked, so they’re super-tender, but surprisingly

assertive – not just a pretty garnish. Ranging from sweet to spicy, find them dressing Kabooki Sushi’s lobster Dainamite roll, sprinkled over the beet carpaccio at Scratch, or scattered on beautiful plates all over town, really.

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The sudden explosion of artisanal sweet shops in Orlando hasn’t gone unnoticed by us – nor unappreciated. One of our favorites of this sugary new crop is Tara Gould’s P Is for Pie in Audubon Park. The rapid success of Gould’s new venture, not even six months old, may be traced to her single-minded drive for excellence.

Tara Gould P Is for Pie Bake Shop

“We strive for perfection with everything we offer. That may sound simplistic, but P Is for Pie was founded for the sole purpose of providing scratch-baked, classical American desserts with a modern Southern flair,” Gould tells us. “Everything is made in-house. Although our menu changes regularly, we do our best to have our customer favorites available every day. If someone requests something and it’s in season, we’ll bake it for them. All they have to do is ask.” Gould is a staunch “from-scratch” purist, so you won’t find Crisco, gelatin or any processed foods here. What you will find is strawberryraspberry cobbler, chocolate peanut butter sea salt cuties, light and airy banana cream Mason jar pies, and Gould’s signature flaky-crust caramel pecan hand pies – all guaranteed to tug on your Southern heartstrings. 2806 Corrine Drive, 407-745-4743; $$

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COFFEE, TEA & SWEETS B Cupcakes Made fresh every morning at 6, B’s cupcakes are offered in intriguing flavors – we think the sweet potato cupcake, with its nutmeg hints and cinnamon cream cheese, is a symbol of all that’s good with the South. Side your ’cake with a glass of flavored 2 percent, soy or almond from the milk bar. 127 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-660-2253; also 3030 E. Semoran Blvd., Apopka, 407-788-2253; $

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to be working out for them. 706 W. Smith St., 407-250-4888; $

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Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar Meat, though present on the menu, takes a backseat to healthy vegan and vegetarian fare at this urban coffeehouse. Of note: liquid-gold soups and hearty vegetarian burritos. Chewy Anzac biscuits partner well with the Mojo Jojo, a coffee drink with cinnamon and sweetened condensed milk. 444 N. Bumby Ave., 407-893-4994; $

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Backhaus It means “bakehouse” in German, so delete any mental images of a backyard shack. Backhaus replaces the Orlando outpost of Yalaha Bakery briefly sited here on Orange Avenue, and offers a cornucopia of true traditional German breads, pretzels, and sausages and cured meats – not to mention a mouthwatering array of decadent sweet pastries. 1213 N. Orange Ave., 321-800-5212; $$

Infusion Tea

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Jeremiah’s Original Italian Ice

Blue Bird Bake Shop Real butter and fresh fruit are among the superior ingredients the bakers at Blue Bird use to create their amazing cupcakes, baked fresh in small batches every day. In addition to traditional faves, this shop also creates unique flavors: Try the chocolate Guinness or vanilla black pepper for a change of pace. 3122 Corrine Drive, 407-228-3822; $

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Caffe Divina The spot Caffé Divina occupies is bright and cheery, and the service is gracious and neighborly, if a bit too relaxed at moments. Still, the lobster bisque is rich, with a forward seafood essence and small chunks of lobster meat, and the iced coffee is perfectly dark and needs no improvement. 1811 N. Orange Ave., 407-802-0205; $

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Dimples Delights Dimples specializes in custom cakes and dessert catering, but owner Lindsey Nolder hasn’t forgotten her food-truck roots. These days she bakes special creations to help celebrate a wedding, baby shower or any special occasion, and can cater to gluten-free and vegan needs as well. 1830 Longwood Lake Mary Road, Longwood, 407-967-6936; $

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Downtown Credo Espresso drinks (lattes, macchiato, cappuccino), pour-overs and straightup drip coffee are served in a room as simple as the menu, with clean lines, comfortable modern furniture and just enough embellishment to make the space appealing. The pay-what-youwill model is intriguing, and it seems

Some special places offer more than what’s on the table, and while the teas and creative vegan and vegetarian snacks are wonderful here, just as much nourishment comes from the “third place” environment created by Christina and Brad Cowherd. 1600 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-5255; $

BW OW T 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. 6864 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-679-2665; $

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The Pop Parlour A rotating menu of flavors including mimosa, coconut-rum-chocolate, and Nutella with Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale makes it clear that the pop-crafters here (formerly part of the Hyppo chainlet) take fun seriously, and their commitment to organic and local ingredients where possible bears that out. 431 E. Central Blvd., 321-348-7677; $

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Se7en Bites On any given weekend, the tables inside will be occupied and the line to get into this Milk District bakery will be out the door. Once you’ve come to terms with that inevitability, you can go about enjoying some of the finest baked goods in the city. Don’t skip the sweet that started it all, the phenomenal salted caramel dark chocolate pecan mini pie. 207 N. Primrose Drive, 407-203-0727; $$

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The Soda Fountain Ice Cream and Gifts The vibe at this ice cream store is undoubtedly eclectic, and that’s precisely the intent of owners Brad and Christina Cowherd (who also own Infusion Tea). Patrons are encouraged to draw on the chalkboard walls as they enjoy their sundaes, floats, shakes and egg creams. 2525 Edgewater Drive, 407-540-1006; $

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Nagami kumquats There are just two words to describe these little darlings: flavor bombs. These tiny orange gems thrive in our climate, like most citrus, so if you’re looking to plant an edible landscape, consider the Nagami varietal – the tasty fruits are more than just nice

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lawn ornaments. (Dade City even hosts a kumquat festival every January that’s worth the drive.) You can eat the thin-skinned fruit whole or slice it up, but either way, don’t peel it; the slight bitterness of the skin counterpoints the sweet, juicy

fruit. In local restaurants, you’ll find them candied for desserts, made into jams and preserves, or, as at downtown power spot Citrus Restaurant, juiced for a sweet-tart vinaigrette over thin-sliced red snapper crudo.

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