Saturday, December 29, 2007

Kohinoor - dj

249 State Road 436 West #1093
Ethan Allen Plaza
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
“Fine Indian Cuisine”

Kohinoor has been a staple for Indian food in the Altamonte Springs area for at least the last 15 years, probable more. The food is always good here. I remember when this place opened it was decorated with the chairs and tables from the closed Darbar Indian restaurant down off of Sand Lake Road near I-Drive. They now have new tables and chairs and the dining room looks quiet nice.

We usually come here on the weekend to have the buffet ($8.00). It is always good. Today they had the usual fare; Butter Chicken, Curry Chicken, Channa Masala – chick peas cooked with onions, potatoes, and a variety of spices. There was also yellow dal fry and many other things to choose from. It was all excellent. The salad area had riata, onions, onion chutney, and the hottest little green peppers. We topped our meal off with a sweet lassie a yogurt drink.

The Gulab Jamun for dessert is always fabulous. It is a pastry ball that is made from fat free milk and fried and then is soaking in a honey rose water syrup. It is so good I always have to go back for another.

The dinning experience is always a good one here.

Rating: ****
Service: ***
Price: fare

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Udipi Café - dj

1275 S. Highway 17-92
Longwood, FL 32750
“Authentic South Indian Vegetarian Cuisine”

The Udipi Café is the latest reincarnation in the old Clay Oven on 17-92 in Longwood. The building looks tired. I would have thought that the new owners would have spruced the place up a bit, but sadly they have not. The ceiling has a myriad of things hanging from it; a fancy chandler that looks out of place, ceiling fans and more chandlers. We were the only Caucasians in the restaurant and it was full at 2PM on a Sunday afternoon, usually a good sign. We observed one of the customers coughing over the buffet without the slightest concern for turning away from the food or covering her mouth.

Since we were here and a buffet was available we had the lunch buffet $9.95. The food from the buffet was good, but I felt there was not enough selection. The basmati rice was dry and crunchy. Our waiter brought around a dosai that was also very good. It was stuffed with the usual curried potatoes.

For desert I had the Gajar Halwa. It was the best thing that I had at this restaurant. It is made of grated carrots and milk that is cooked down till it forms a dry mixture.

Next time I visit I’ll chose from the menu and get just the items that I want.

Rating: **
Service: ***
Price Weekend Buffet: $9.95

What others are saying:
Scott Joseph
Orlando Weekly

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cubans on the Run – dj

481 N state Road 434 Suite 101
Altamonte Springs, FL
Monday – Saturday 10:00am – 9:00PM

Cubans on the Run is a humble little Cuban restaurant near the corner of 434 and 436 in Altamonte Springs. You walk up to the counter and place your order. There are about 10 little tables with plastic chairs. The counter person was very cheerful and happy. She took my order and I had a seat by the window. About half of the customer that came in placed there orders to go. Next to the order station there was a hot station that had various hot meals that included roast pork, beef stew, and Ropa Vieja (shredded beef).

My order was called from the counter in about 7 minutes. I had the Turkey breast sandwich “Turkey, Swiss Cheese & Mayo grilled to perfection!!” I would have to agree with this description it was cooked perfectly. The bread was crisp on the outside and warm in the inside. The side of Black Bean Soup was also very good. Their black bean soup had a scoop of rice on the bottom, then a scoop of beans, and another scoop of bean juice. It was topped with chopped onions.

Rating: ***
Service: ***
Price: 7” Sandwich 4.50, Black Bean Soup 1.69.

Angel’s Bananas Foster Cheese Cake

Just before we all headed out for the Christmas break DT pulled out the Bananas Foster Cheese Cake that Angel had made. It was very good. It had a chocolate cookie crust and chocolate syrup drizzled on top. The cheese cake itself was creamy banana. Some of the comments were “One of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth” and “I could tell it was good just as the spoon neared my mouth”. It was the perfect Christmas gift.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wilfredos Restaurant - dj

1421 N. Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32804

It was a special occasion night; I wanted a little place with lots of atmosphere. Wilfredos was the natural choice, a little Italian restaurant with good food and waiters in tuxes. I called for a reservation the night before. The window seat that I wanted had already been booked with a large party, so we got the other window. It was almost like being there by ourselves, tucked away from the rest of the patrons.

There was a long list of specials, maybe 5 choices. We ended up choosing from the menu; an eggplant parmesan and chicken picatta. The house salad was topped with purple lettuce for a different look and the house dressing was just right. Our dishes arrived in good time and looked fabulous. The eggplant was topped this mozzarella cheese and a meaty tomato sauce. The chicken picatta was served with a lemony butter sauce topped with capers and a side of fresh mixed vegetables. This was also excellent.

We finished off the meal with a perfect tiramisu with two spoons.

In summary, if you are in need of a special occasion dining spot you can’t go wrong with Wifredos. This restaurant occupies the location that use to be Gargi’s. They moved across the street next to Lake Ivanhoe, Gargi’s may have a better view of the lake, but the food at Wilfredos beats the view across the street any day. After the meal you can stroll along the Lake Ivanhoe for a view of the City Beautiful.

Rating: ****
Service: ****
Price: entrée 16.00-24.00, tiramisu 5.95.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pho Hoa Noodle House - dj

649 N Primrose Drive
Orlando, FL 32803

Pho Hoa is a franchise restaurant, out of Sacramento California, that does not taste like a chain. It is located on Primrose next door to Il Pescatore Italian restaurant. The dining room is your standard fare, disco ball included.

The menu has 112 items listed. This includes a section that explains the how and why of Pho. There are soups for beginners all the way up to the Adventurer’s Choice. As you go up the scale the ingredients become more exotic.

I choose my standard Vietnamese dish a Bun, rice vermicelli with grilled chicken. I also ordered a vegetarian summer roll. The summer roll was very good packed with ingreadients; the peanut sauce that comes with it was not quite as good as some other places I have eaten. The noodle dish had lots of julienned carrots and cucumbers. The chicken was boneless but did not seem to be breast meat. It had been chopped but I had to pull the pieces apart. The flavor was good but the presentation was lacking.

Rating: **
Service: **
Price: $11.00

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Punjab Indian Restaurant - dj

7451 International Drive
Orlando, Florida 32819

We have not visited the Punjab Restaurant in a while, but we were in the Disney area and decided to make a return visit on the way home. The Punjab has always been one of our favorite Indian Restaurants. It turns out that our visit coincides with the eve of their 20th anniversary. The restaurant opened in 1988 at this location. There use to be a good landmark, to find the restaurant on I Drive it was behind the Dunkin Donut shop. Now it is behind the Everything for 1.99, not such a good landmark on I Drive.

The restaurant has changed little over the last 20 years, including the food. But they might just have the best Indian food this side of Brick Lane in London. We started our meal with Vegetable Samosas – crispy fried patties stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas. They were delicious; they were not a bit greasy, even though they were deep fried. Many years ago we ask the owner at what temperature they cooked them to get them that way. He just said “not to hot and not too cold just right”. We had Mango Lassi’s to drink. They were so thick that you could not drink them through the straws provided. They were to die for. For the main course we had our usual at the Punjab. Mater Panir – Homemade Cheese cubes cooked with fresh Peas in curry sauce and Aloo Gobi – Cauliflower and Peas cooked with Herbs and Spices. The food was fabulous it is amazing that it could be so consistent over all these years.

We had a conversation with the owner’s wife about our 17 year old children. There was a couple over in the corner that we would swear had been coming to this restaurant for the last 20 years as well. They also appeared to have a 17 year old son.

This restaurant might be a bit hard to find, but it is well worth looking for this diamond in the rough.

Rating: *****
Service: *****
Price Entrée: 12.95
Lassi: $3.50
Vegetable Somosa (2): $3.00

Saturday, December 15, 2007

IKEA Orlando – dj

4092 Eastgate drive
Olrando, FL 32839

The IKEA restaurant is located on the second floor half way through your voyage through IKEA. As you enter the store be sure and pick up a map, you will need it to find the short cuts so that you can go directly to the restaurant. If it’s your first visit you might want the full experience of following he arrows on the floor and going through the entire store.

We were visiting on a Saturday night when we heard the restaurant was closing in 30 minutes at 8:30 PM so we decided to go over and have a bite before we went home. The menu consists of 6 special things. Tonight it was Swedish meat balls, Apple Salmon, Chicken Marsala among other things.

I had the Apple Salmon. The plate was first covered with vegetables; Carrots, Yellow Carrots, and Snow Peas. The salmon was nice and flakey the sauce did not have much taste. The vegetables had that spongy feel of frozen vegetables. They were not bad but were not quite warm enough. I also had a Pomegranate sparkling drink which was very nice.

The restaurant really a café had a very European feel. The lighting was from IKEA of course. The glasses were Anchor Hocking made in the USA. I ask in the cookware section if they sold these glasses they did not.

This was a welcome break from the rigors of shopping in IKEA, and quite cheap.

Rating: **
Service: Self-serve
Price: Entrée 5.99, Drink 1.59 Total $8.12

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Los Charros - dj

946 W. State Road 436
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

This is my favorite Mexican Restaurant in the Orlando area. I go here at least 3 times per month. It is located in a building that has had several failed restaurants; Miami Subs, and some sort of ice cream shop most recently. Los Charros has been in the building for the last 2 or 3 years. It is painted bright orange and yellow on the outside and located across 436 from Kohl’s. The inside is nicely decorated with paintings of a Charros a Mexican cowboy on a horse. There is a fountain on the center of the dining room that creates a nice white noise. Of course there is also the ever present Mexican music playing over the speaker system.

I usually find a dish in a restaurant that I like and stick with it. But at Los Charros every dish I have had is good. The chicken flautas verdes are crisp and not greasy perfectly fried. The enchilada verde is excellent, the dish is hot and tangy from the tomatillo/chili sauce and topped with lettuce cheese and sour cream. The soft chicken tacos made with shredded chicken and thick meaty corn tortillas are heavenly. There are 7 or so vegetarian item to choose from including a potato burrito that is quite good.

For lunch there are 14 specials from $5.50 to $6.50.

Tonight I had the House Enchilada Special. Three chicken enchiladas topped with a white cheese sauce with rice and a small salad with sour cream on top. The Mexican rice is always good at Los Charros. The enchiladas were packed with shredded chicken topped with a creamy white cheese sauce. This is a favorite of one member of my family. I’m still not sure which item is my favorite. I’ll go back again next week to try and figure that out.

Rating: ****
Service: ****
Price: $8.50

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tony's Po-Boy Restaurant - SN

434 E Judge Perez Dr.
St Bernard Parish, La.

In the ghost town that is St Bernard Parish after hurricane Katrina there is at least one bright spot Tony's Po-Boy restaurant. The person that made this visit said the just looking at the pictures here makes his mouth water. The first photo is a Oyster Po-Boy that was very spicy and good. The second was a roast beef Po-Boy that was also excellent.

Rating: ***
Service ***

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tubby's Tank House - dj

115 E. River Street
Savannah, GA 31401

On our way back for Gatlinburg for Thanksgiving we passed through Savannah, so I thought no time like the present to try our luck with a downtown Savannah restaurant. So we exited I-95 and shot into Savannah. We came down MLK Blvd till we got to St. Julian Street it was a pedestrian street with lots of lights and restaurants. We walked down the street and nothing seemed quite right. Three blocks north was River Street so we went over there. It happened to be the Savannah Boat Parade which was very nice. We walked down River Street and checked out the available restaurants. Tubby’s seemed like a promising place.

We went up the stairs to be greeted by the hostess with a look of surprise when we ask for a table for 4. One was available right away so not sure what the face was about except that maybe she had to go and clean the table.

I had the Grouper Finger Dinner with Hush Puppies, baked potato and salad. The House Salad Dressing was a creamy cucumber; it was very good possible the best think I had here. The salads took a while to come out, especially since the waitress said “I’ll be right back with your salads”. Our meals came out not much later. My Grouper did not have much taste. It was not greasy, but it also was not hot and was soggy. The baked potato was slightly overcooked, a little gray inside. The Hush Puppies were very strange they were slightly sweet and were made of yeast dough instead of cornmeal. It was almost like they that made yeast rolls and deep fried them.

Of the 4 items we had only one in our party said that there dish was good. They had the Fresh Grouper Sandwich, which was blackened.

On my next trip to Savannah I’ll be sure and miss Tubby’s Tank House. For a place “famous for their Grouper Fingers and their signature seafood” I’d say they missed the mark.

Rating: *
Service: **
Price for 4 $60.00 with tip

What others are saying:
Yahoo! Travel

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sabor A Mexico - dj

891 S Orange Blossom Trail
Apopka, FL

Located in a strip mall near the corner of 441 and 436 in Apopka the Sabor A Mexico (Restaurant Mexicana) was not exactly a hopping place at 6PM on a Monday night. There were only three of the 30 tables occupied. One of these had 3 paying customers the other had three relatives of the managers and the third had the three children of the managers. There were three TV’s two were on but turned to different stations one to the typical Spanish station the other one in the back turned to Sponge Bob. It really didn’t matter because the sound emanating from the juke box drowned out both TV’s. Above the tiny bar the disco ball was spinning.

We were told we could sit anywhere. We decided to sit close to the front of the cavernous restaurant. Half of the dining room had the chairs turned upside down on the tables. I'm not sure if they ever have enough customers to fill the dining room.

The menu seemed quite large until it was pointed out to me that there was a column in English and a column in Spanish. The fare was what you would expect from a Mexican Restaurant. I choose the enchilada plate with 3 chicken enchiladas. There was a choice of 5 types of sauces; chili, cheese, ranchero, tomatillo, and I forgot the 5th one. I choose the tomatillo sauce.

The food seemed to take a long time to come especially considering the crowd in the dining room. The plates were very hot as you would expect with a dish cooked on the plate. The tomatillo sauce was a bit over powered by the amount on lime juice on the sauce, but it was still good. The chicken in the enchilada was shredded and in a chili sauce. The corn tortilla was very good possibly home made. The rice seemed a bit greasy. The beans were passable. The meal was OK but the experience of dining in this restaurant left much to be desired.

Rating: **
Service: **
Price: $7.00

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Amigos Restaurant & Cantina - dj

494 N Semoran Blvd
Winter Park, FL 32792

I eat at the Altamonte Springs location on the first week Amigos was open in the Orlando area in 1988. The old Mr. Gatti’s Pizza on Westmonte Drive was the first location. That first week not much had changed except for the makeshift sign out front. It didn’t take long for the Texas license plates to start going up. Nell was there to greet you on every visit and make sure you felt at home. I still have her cook book from 1995 with illustrations by Jake Vest. The name was "If Ya Ain't a Little Fat, Ya Momma Didn't Love Ya!" it is a little corny but it has some good recipes. The competition was fierce for Mexican food on that corner in Altamonte Springs. There were 3 other big Mexican chain restaurants within a stones through (Casa Gallardo, El Torito, and Taco Bell) only Amigos is left.

Over the years my love for Amigos has come and gone. They expanded out to as many as seven restaurants I would guess. There are now 5 listed on their web site of which I think only 3 are currently open. Maybe this is a more manageable number as the food on this visit to the Winter Park outlet seemed to be better than on my last visit to the East Colonial store that is now closed. On that last visit to East Colonial the food was just bad. Today is was not bad.

I have fond memories of the Altamonte Springs store. This was the first restaurant my son went to when he was 2 weeks old. He is a senior in high school now. Where has all the time gone? Marisole “our waitress” use to treat us special when our little family came in. We always sat at the same table around the corner from the cash register. We finished our meal with Texas Pralines purchased at the cash register for a dollar (sadly no longer available). They can be ordered from . I happen to have one at my desk back at work and this was the perfect finish to my meal.

Today I had the Texas Special from the lunch menu. It was an adequate serving not the giant plate they may have had in the past few years. It consisted of one cheese enchilada and one chicken taco, with rice and beans topped with a sprinkling of cheese. This was not a heavy lunch in fact it was just right. The food was very good today. I hope this signals a turnaround for Amigos. I will definitely give them another visit.

Rating: ***
Service: ***

Monday, October 22, 2007

El Portro Mexican Restaurant #27 – dj

501 N Orlando Drive – 217
Winter Park, FL 32789

EL Portro was one of the early true Mexican Restaurants in the Orlando area. They have occupied this space in the K-Mart Plaza for over 8 years. There are four El Portro’s restaurants in the Orlando area. Their web site shows that they have restaurants as far away as Brunswick and Valdosta Georgia.

At lunch time there is a fantastic buffet for $7.50, which will leave you wanting a siesta all afternoon. They also have a full menu and a 14 item lunch menu with 6 items under $5.00. The lunch menu is available 11 am to 4 pm Monday thru Saturday.

My mission today was to eat for less than five dollars and not feel stuffed. I had the Speedy Gonzales – 1 taco, 1 enchilada, and rice. The rice here is some of the best Mexican rice I’ve ever had. The cheese enchilada was excellent the sauce has a slightly sweet taste. The chicken in the taco was moist and tender. I think I achieved my mission of getting a good Mexican meal for under five dollars.

On my next trip I think I’ll get the Tacos de Pollo it’s listed under the most Mexican in character section of the menu. “Chicken tacos seasoned to perfection, served on soft corn tortillas, with cilantro, onions, & salsa verde $5.45 for 3”. It sounds really good to me.

Here is a picture from another visit that included the buffet. Chicken Enchilada and taco. Beans and rice and fried potato slices. This was the first trip to the buffet.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price Lunch special/water $4.79

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Woodlands - dj

6040 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32809

The Woodlands is a south Indian restaurant that caters to the vegetarian Hindu tradition. One of the main areas of the menu is dedicated to Dosai’s. These a giant crepe like pancakes probably 24 inches round, they are filled with a potatoes or other savory items and then loosely rolled up like a burrito.

We arrived on a Sunday morning at 11:20, the place was deserted but by 11:30 when the restaurant was set to open people started to arrive. We have been here on a special occasion day like Mother’s Day and there be a two hour wait. There were 4 of us here today so we split 3 dishes and 2 orders of Somosa’s.

Today we had:
Vegetable Samosa - Crispy Flaky Crust Stuffed with Potatoes & Peas.
Mutter Paneer - Peas and Cheese Cooked with Tomatoes, Onion and Indian Spices.
Vegetable Korma- Garden Fresh Vegetables Cooked in Spices and Coconut Milk.
Paper Masala Dosai - Thin Crispy Rice Crepe Filled with Potatoes & Onions.

The Samosa’s are always good, but one of ours was cool inside on this visit. Everything else was perfect. The Paneer a type of homemade cheese in the Mutter Paneer is always good. The Sweet Lassi was sweet yet sour and smooth. The side dish of Raita a cooling yougart salad is always nice to cool down for the flame form the curry.

We always have a nice meal at The Woodlands.
Closed on Monday
Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price: $42.00 for four

What others have said:
Orlando Weekly in 2003

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Shake Pit

3801 Manatee Avenue west
Bradenton, Florida 34205

On a cool fall night there is no better place to go in Bradenton than the Shake Pit for a really good old fashioned ice cream. The sign says it’s been around since 1959 and the quality of the service and the ice cream will take you back to the good old days. I had a vanilla malt that was so thick it could not be sucked up the thick straw provided, it was necessary to use a spoon to eat.

I arrived with a bus load of 30 high school students so we maxed out the line as soon as we arrived. The staff was calm and efficient and it did not take long at all to get the orders placed and delivered to the pickup window. There was a small area inside for dinner seating, about 8 stools that were all full when we arrived at 9:45PM. Debbie was working orders in the Kitchen and came out to say hello to us. Outside there is a covered area with nice about 10 picnic tables to enjoy your treats.

Even as we left there was still a brisk business at the order window and half of the tables outside were full.

Rating: ***
Service: ****

What Others are saying:

The Shake Pit was even featured in a Marvin Cartoon on September 3, 2004 See below:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que - dj

1470 Lee road
Winter Park, Fl 32759

It was a beautiful day out in Central Florida so we went to Bubbalou’s and sat outside. Bobbalou’s has been around since 1986 and the Lee Road store is the original. They have won the Orlando Sentinel’s readers poll for the best BBQ 14 year consecutively. They have also been awarded the best dine in BBQ in America by the Food Network. I recently read an article in the Orlando Sentinel about Clarence Wheeler and how he has been working in their oak pit for more than 20 years. So the BBQ must be good!

As we arrived to the packed parking lot the smell and sight of smoke coming from the restaurant greeted us. The line inside and starting to form outside is what greets you on a typical weekday lunch. The dish that I usually get is the Smoked Turkey BBQ Basket. I get it on a regular bun rather than the garlic toast and I substitute coleslaw for the baked beans. I need the creamy slaw to cool down the killer hot sauce that I spread over the fries and sandwich. The smoked turkey with its salty smoked flavor was great as usual. They have 3 versions of their BBQ sauce; mild, hot, and killer. I usually use a mixture of hot and killer. They had a the addition of a mustard sauce today, I did not try it.

We sat outside on one of the picnic tables overlooking Lee Road, and enjoyed the cooler weather. I would agree with the awards that Bubbalou’s has obtained, when I want BBQ it’s at Bubbalou’s.

Rating: ****
Service: ***
Price Meal/Tea $8.72

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Brio – dj

Winter Park Village
Winter Park, FL
Motto: “To eat well is to live well”

Brio is an Italian chain restaurant that has pretty good food. The atmosphere is that of an open kitchen, that is so popular with many trendy restaurants. The dining room is loud with the chatter of the other diners, but you can still carry on a conversation with your table mates. The lunch menu has a large selection of Italian dishes. I have tried several on other visits. The Pasta Brio is a good classic penne pasta dish, the Pasta Fr Diavolo is also good it is just a little spicy, and the Bistecca Insalata is one of my favorite salads. It is a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a tangy blue cheese dressing.

Today I tried the “Chicken ‘Under the Brick’ Our classic with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables”. It was very good but the first bite had an overpowering taste of garlic. The chicken was moist and tender it was topped with mushroom gravy that was perfect. The small portion of mashed potatoes was also perfect. The roasted vegetables were good; I think that was where all the garlic was located. They consisted of baby zucchini, parsnips, a red carrot, butternut squash, red peppers, and shallots.

I had a taste of some one else’s Romano crusted tomato form their order of wood grilled salmon. This was very good. The tomato had been coated in Romano cheese and then deep fried, I would think. It was crispy on the outside and the tomato was warn and soft on the inside.

For chain Italian restaurant Biro’s does a good job. It is a little pricey for the average lunch but for a special occasion it would be a good choice.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price Meal/Soda : $12.95

Monday, October 8, 2007

Thai Place – DJ

501 North Orlando Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789
“Step into our world of exotic Thai Cuisine”

The Thai Place has been under new ownership for about 5 months now. We went right after the change over and were disappointed but recently I heard that they had a new menu and has redecorated the dining room, so I thought we should try it again.

We arrived at 12:30 and were able to be seated right away even with a party of 6 now necessarily a good sign. The redecoration of the dining room was nice. The walls had been repainted a dark brown there were new table tops and new lighting. The room was now quiet attractive. It looked as though there were a few things still left to be done.

The new menu had several new item including a “Salmon Lover” item that could be fixed three ways; with Hot & Sweet Chili Sauce, Fresh Hot Basil, or Curry Sauce. The person that ordered this dish said it was very good. The lunch dishes were all $6.95 except that the Salmon which was $7.95. The Dinner menu items were mostly $9.95.

So that I could get a true comparison of the old Thai Place to the new Thai Place I ordered my old standby Ginger (Pad Khing). The meal started with the usual salad with peanut sauce. The salad was good; the lettuce was just a bit watery. The peanut sauce was about the same maybe it had a bit more peanut flavor. The Ginger stir fry was also good but it was a bit dry there was not very much of that delicious sauce that I cannot duplicate at home. Over all the meal was a good one. The overall experience of having Boon there was missing; he was always so friendly and made each visit a special one.

Rating: ***
Service: **
Price: Lunch/Salad $7.45

black bean deli - DT

Caution – This review is full of hyperbole and I mean every word. black bean deli at 325 South Orlando Avenue has been around for a long time. Andres, the owner, talks to me like an old friend and tells me this is their 25th year. I remember my first visit to black bean about 12 years ago. I sat at one of their 3 or 4 stools at the window with my Cuban platter and Havana cola and it was awesome. Every time I go it’s awesome and everyone I know says black bean is awesome. I like to bring it back to the office so when the other geeks smell the hot roast pork and start prairie dogging, I just say “black bean” and they all just nod like I had made a wise decision and slowly sit back down. One thing you will not find here is a complex lunch decision. The menu offers a perfectly adequate choice of Cuban favorites like: papas rellenas and pan con lechon. Today I grabbed the Cuban platter again. Cuban sandwich served with black beans, yellow rice, simple salad and maduros. The beauty of the Cuban sandwich is its simplicity. Sweet ham, roast pork, swiss and pickle pressed hot on a six inch stretch of Cuban roll. The only thing missing from my black beans and yellow rice is that touch of Tabasco (I carry my own) and fresh minced onion (I forgot to ask for some). I do not look for much from a salad. It’s just a reason to taste their splendid house dressing. This vinagarette offers that little extra facet of avocado to an otherwise ordinary part of the meal. It’s that same feeling you get when you pick up that old shirt and find a buck in the pocket. The final course in this “dream lunch in a bag” is the maduros. Nothing tops off a meal like deep fried sweet plantains. That’s it. This blog is meant to showcase the culinary charms of Winter Park and the black bean deli is indeed charming. Next time, I’m getting the medianoche!

Service: Friendly
Quantity: I’m full
Cuban platter: $6 plus the one I found in my shirt.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mitchell's Fish Market

One Levee Way
Newport On The Levy
Newport, KY 41071

Under 3 after 4 was a great way to sample Mitchell's great seafood. I had the Old Bay Peel and Eat Shrimp which was as the name said Old Bay seasoned peel and eat shrimp. I got 14 large shrimp for the 2.95 very surprising. I also had the Kung Pao Fried Calamari which was also very good and the portion was surprising for the price.

Please join us for our "Under 3, After 4" happy hour, available in our bar after 4:00 p.m.
Enjoy delicious small plates, all priced at $2.95:

Codwich Slider with Cheddar Cheese
Vegetable Fries with Chipotle Ketchup
California Blackened Fish Taco
Pan Roasted Wild Blue Mussels
Kung Pao Fried Calamari
Hoisin Glazed Chicken Wings
Buffalo Shrimp and Blue Cheese Slaw
Old Bay Peel & Eat Shrimp

Jefferson Hall @ Newport on the Levee -RB

1 Levee Way
Newport, Ky 41071

I had a Quesadilla sitting on the deck overlooking the Ohio river from the Ketucky side. The Quesadilla was veggy styl stuffed about 3/4" thick, very filling. Doing some research I found that many places at Newport on the Levee have half priced or greatly reduced price menus for happy hour. This was my first stop.

Rating: ***

Service: ***

Price with discount: >$3.00

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Luigino’s at Heathrow - dj

120 International Parkway
Heathrow, FL

We went to Luigino’s with a group of 25 people for a friend’s birthday party. The staff was very efficient in seating us in our own room and getting our orders taken. They told us that there were 3 large groups at the restaurant that night and since we were the first if we got our orders in we would be the first to be served. They made it clear that they were now trying to rush us and that the room was ours for the night.

The room had warm lighting and was nicely appointed. There were many in the group that were vegetarians, but there were not many options on the menu that were vegetarian. I think that in the end everyone was satisfied. Several people got the Buffalo Mozzarella salad, which looked good. I had the “Chicken Marsala - Breast of chicken sautéed in a Marsala wine sauce with shiitake mushrooms, shallots and demi-glace, served over fettucci”. The dish was good the chicken was moist and tender. The noodles were homemade and perfectly cooked. The sauce was rich and slightly sweet. The accompanying house salad with creamy Italian dressing was also nice.

A fellow diner had the “Eggplant Rollatini - Fried eggplant rolled with a ricotta cheese blend, topped with pomodoro sauce and melted mozzarella cheese, served over angel hair pasta”. Her comment was that it was not really to her liking and that the salad was the best thing she had besides the dessert.

For dessert we had the chocolate lava cake topped with vanilla ice cream. This would be worth the trip. The dark chocolate inside was warm and luxurious. The ice cream and whipped cream were the perfect finish for the chocolate.

The service was excellent especially with such a large group. The pricing was a bit high I thought, but if you are in the mood for a quite Italian meal in an intimate romantic setting or a special occasion this would be a nice choice.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price Entrée / Desert: $34.00

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seito Japanese Restaurant - DJ

510 N. Orlando Avenue, #104
Winter Park, FL 32789

We went to Seito Japanese Restaurant today for lunch. It is located in the Winter Park Village next to the theater. The menu has quite a few sushi options. I choose the Salmon Teriyaki Lunch Box “Grilled fresh salmon served with teriyaki sauce served with salad, rice, beef dumplings, and half a California roll.” I also ordered an Asparagus Roll.

The restaurant was very busy during the lunch hour we were there. I think that every table was full. The restaurant is nicely decorated with Japanese touches, like rice paper lamps and overheard lighting.

My meal started with Miso soup, which had a stronger salter flavor then most Miso that I have had. It was still good though. My box lunch had 5 separate containers. There was a carrot ginger salad, sticky rice, 3 dumplings, a California roll, and the salmon which was on a bed of stir fried vegetables. Everything was good. My side dish of asparagus roll was also very good.

Rating: ***
Service: ***
Price Box lunch/sushi roll: $12.50

Other Reviews:

Orlando Weekly

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Grain Chain at FH - DJ

Scofield Drive
Orlando, FL

There was a new menu item at the Grain Chain today it was “Fresh Salmon with Scalloped Potatoes and Mixed Veggies”. We had been saving this day to try this new item. It was actually quite good; the salmon was not over cooked and was seasoned nicely. The scalloped potatoes were steaming hot even after we got back to our desks. The vegetables were frozen carrots, peas, lima beans, and green beans.

I think for the money this was a very good meal. I hope they have it again.

Rating: ***
Service: ***
Price with discount: $4.92

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hatsuhana Japanese Restaurant - DJ

Hatsuhana Japanese Restaurant
3340 E. Semoran Blvd
Apopka, FL 32703

Hatsuhana is the place to go for a quiet Japanese meal with friends. The atmosphere is very inviting, although sometimes it can be very cold in the dining room. The dining room is tastefully decorated with Japanese touches; rice paper screens, silk paintings, etc. The place is filled with regulars they all seem to know the staff and sushi cooks. There is a brisk trade in takeout orders as well.

My favorite dish here is the Teriyaki Salmon and that is what I had today. The meal starts with a warm Miso soup and a carrot ginger salad. The Miso is very good with its chunks of tofu and squares of nori. The carrot ginger salad has a slight kick to it thanks to the ginger. We supplemented our meal with one roll of avocado sushi, which was excellent.
The main course consisted of the Salmon Teriyaki, a mound of sticky rice, and potatoes. The potatoes had been fried then coated with a sweet sauce. The salmon was excellent but slightly dry today; usually it is cooked to perfection.

The dining experience at Hatsuhana’s is always a good one. This is my neighborhood Japanese restaurant.

Rating: ****
Service: ****
Price - Salmon/sushi: $20.00

Monday, September 17, 2007

Steak in the City - DJ

1012 West State Road 436
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
407-788-steak (7832)

If you are in the mood to gorge yourself at an Argentine steak house this is the place. There are 3 menu choices: Option A Mediterranean Salad Bar, Argentinean Grill, and drink $13.99, Option B adds 2 drinks and dessert $20.99, Option C is salad bar only $9.99. They have a tired pricing structure with prices about two dollars higher on the weekends and two dollars more at dinner on week nights.

The salad bar had an array of items to choose from. These included such things a Russian potato salad, cheese, Couscous salad, tuna salad, carrot salad, and about 15 other items. The items that I sampled were all good.

We were there with a party of about 30 people. So we got special treatment. Usually you have to go up to a window and order you food. They brought us platters of food out. There were two chimichurri sauces to accompany the meat, both were excelent. The first platter was twice baked potatoes; this was probably the best thing I had here. They had been stuffed with sour cream and topped with cheddar cheese that had been melted under a grill. Next out came some thinly sliced beef that I thought was a bit tuff. Next came some overcooked chicken that was very dry. Sweetbreads arrived that I passed on. Next were ribs. I cannot remember all the things that were brought to the table. Most people that I talked to thought the meat was either tuff or overcooked. I tried ordering a few things from the window, the salmon was almost unidentifiable. The flavor of the meat was overpowered by the marinade that it had been cooked in.

This is a place best left to a special occasion; they had no problem accommodating our group of 30 even giving us a special price. I heard at least two other parties singing happy birthday. I would not recommend it for a casual lunch on a busy weekday.

Rating: **
Service: ***
Price: $13.99

What others are saying:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Powerhouse Café - DJ

111 E Lyman Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789

We were on our way to the Lotus Café in Winter Park in fact we could smell the curry before we could see the door. When we arrived the door was locked. I hope not for good.

So we walk back up Park Avenue to the Powerhouse. It was hopping when we arrived at noon, we got the last table. In a few minutes there were 10 people standing around the door. The restaurant decorated in 70’s green and yellow was bright, with the full front side facing the street being windows. One wall was full of pictures of their customers.

The menu consists of salads, wraps, and pita sandwiches. I chose a falafel pita. It was a good choice. The wait was a little long but it was a busy lunch time crowd. When the pita arrived it smelled and tasted good. The tahini sauce was very good; it did not have the overpowering taste of lemon that I have had other places. The only thing missing was a fork to scrape up the things that fell out of the pita.

The overall experience was a good one.

Rating: ***
Service: **
Price pita sandwich/water: $6.50

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Café Annie’s - DJ

131 N Orange Ave Suite 102
Orlando, FL

I was at Downtown Mini visiting my car which was not quite ready to be picked up from the service department. So I went next door to Café Annie’s for lunch. Café Annie’s was formally in the store front that is now occupied by Downtown Mini. They had to move back in 2002 when Mini came to town.

When you walk in the door you know this will be a good meal. The smells coming from the cafeteria style line entice you to the back of the restaurant to place your order. I arrived at an off moment and there was no line, but as I finished there were 15 people in line.

Today I choose a platter which comes with a meat and two sides. I had the chicken kabob, with a side of buttery corn, and garlic smashed potatoes. The chicken pieces were grilled to perfection; they had been smothered in a garlic/oil sauce. The corn which was of the frozen variety was sweet and buttery. The Smashed potatoes had large pieces of potato still intact, but they were still smooth. The potatoes had lots of black pepper and just a hint of garlic.

You can always count on Annie’s for a good Greek meal.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price Platter/drink: $9.48

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Spice Café - DJ

7536 Dr. Phillips Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32819

Spice Café located in the Dr. Phillips area prides itself as offering “Innovative North and South Indian Cuisine”. This little Indian restaurant is located in an out building of the Dr Phillips Marketplace just a stone’s throw from the old Darbar Indian Restaurant. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

The restaurant is nicely decorated with a modern color scheme. The seating area has about 20 tables inside and 5 wrought iron tables outside. There is a display case at the back of the restaurant where the daily specials are awaiting your selection. There were about 10 items to choose from. The meat dishes included Tandoori chicken, Lamb Shahi Korma, and Chicken Tikka Masala. The vegetable dishes included a Dal Special, vegetable curry, mushroom curry, and spinach curry. There was Basmati rice to go with each platter. There is also a full menu that can be ordered as well. The menu has the traditional Dosas from South India and all the other appetizers, breads and drinks that you would expect to find at an Indian restaurant.

I chose to get the lunch platter which consists of 2 side dishes, rice and Nan for $6.95. They also offer a larger platter that adds a Dal to the mix. My dishes were Tandoori chicken and Curried mixed vegetables. The Tandoori Chicken had the delicious smoky flavor that only a tandoori oven can provide. The mixed vegetable curry was of average flavor. The Nan was warm and buttery. One person in our party had the mushroom curry and Chicken Tikka Masala Lunch Platter Special which looked good. The other person had the Butter Chicken ordered from the regular menu. This was served in a tandoori red cream and butter sauce.

If you are in the Dr. Phillips area and are hungry for Indian this is a place that should definitely be considered.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price lunch special: $6.95
Other Reviews:
Orlando Weekly
My City Eats

Monday, September 10, 2007

Spice Cafe - DT

7536 Dr Phillips Blvd.
This could be the beginning of a curry phase for me. I told DJ that other than my wife’s curry dressing and the curry chicken wings at the church potluck this weekend, I had never been to an Indian restaurant. Several people within earshot piped up simultaneously “Spice Café”. I guess it must be good. It’s difficult to keep my expectations in check when it comes recommended by the crowd. I have nothing to compare this to so I truly did not know what I was about to experience.
Located across from the Albertson’s on Sand Lake and Dr. Phillips (I know, it’s not Winter Park), you will find this store in an upscale shopping strip. For lunch you can order from the menu or choose from several dishes already prepared at the counter. I had no idea what to get so I pointed to the chicken in a tomato cream sauce and hot mushrooms and onions in a dark broth. I determined later that I must have ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala. Lunch is served with basmati rice and toasted pita bread or “nan”. I was able to sample the Butter Chicken, another tomato and cream basd chicken dish as good as the Masala. I sat eating my meal thinking how will I describe this. I just have no idea how it was prepared. I can’t even compare this to another Indian restaurant. So I just let go and enjoyed. The mild tomato cream sauce is a busy mixture of spices and flavors that I couldn’t even begin to inventory. The mushrooms and onions were cooked in a broth of garlic and curry and… other stuff… resulting in a rich, medium spicy complement to the chicken and rice. So for not knowing what to order, I threw the dart at the Spice Café menu and I was not disappointed.

Service: friendly
Portions: plenty
Atmosphere: clean, comfortable
Chicken Masala, vegetable, rice, nan, water: $7.40

Potluck - DT

Potluck. Love it or hate it, I’m usually not disappointed. You could say I’m just easy to please or I have friends with eclectic culinary skills. Either way, we had a potluck lunch at church on Sunday and I discovered something remarkable and simple that I wanted to share. While helping clean up after the meal, there was left over fried chicken sitting next to what was a crock pot full of Curry Chicken. After considering how much I had already eaten, I decided I had room for one more so I poured some of the remaining curry stock over a chicken wing. OMGoodness! The curry stock is simple:
½ cup of butter
1 cup of honey
2 tsp salt
2 Tsp yello curry
Just simmer this in a small saucepan then pour over a pot of fried chicken wings, cover and shake. I plan to tweak this recipe a little so please let me know if you try this at home. I’d love to hear how you improve on this.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

JB Wings & Things - DJ

16 St Johns Avenue
Palatka, FL 32177

After the streets are rolled up in downtown Palatka there is still a good place to go for Fish and Fries. JB’s located next door to the DQ had a brisk business for 9:30 PM on a Saturday night. The specialty seems to be wings and ribs (the BBQ ribs are only available on the weekends). But I wanted to try the fried fish. They had whiting and catfish. I chose the whiting.

While our order was being prepared we chatted with the owner. He had recently taken over the management of the restaurant. The item that most people were ordering seemed to be the wings. The owner proudly told us that they had 12 flavors of wings. The flavors were: fried, mild, medium, garlic, lemon pepper, teriyaki, BBQ, Hot BBQ, sweet and sour, honey BBQ, honey mustard, and hot. The latter flavors we were told was very hot. If you need to cater a party you can get 100 wings for $58.00. Most if not all the business that night was takeout. If you don’t want to wait in the little dining room call your order in before you come.

Our order arrived piping hot. There was a bed of fries with two pieces of fish on top. The fish was coated with a light corn meal breading. Although slightly greasy it was delicious. The batter had a slight lemony taste. I shared the dish with 4 friends and it was gone in no time. We had mixed feeling on the fries some would have liked the fries to have been more crispy other enjoyed them slightly soft as they were.

So if you find yourself in the middle of the Ocala forest there is a good meal waiting for you in Palatka.

Rating: ***
Service: ***
Cost diner/soda: $7.00

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fish and Chips Restaurant - DJ

1146 West SR 436
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

What a welcome surprise this little restaurant is. It may not be anything to look at from the outside, located in a strip mall in Forest City, but once inside it is warm and friendly. The staff is very efficient and helpful. There are 6 4-top tables and 5 seats at the bar. While I was there the bar was occupied by a takeout customer. The flat panel TV above the bar was on the Food Network.

The menu consists of fish dishes as well as burgers and crab cakes. This being my first visit I had to try the fish and chips. I choose the Grouper. It came on a green ceramic plate with steak fries and a side of coleslaw. The fish was fried in a light batter. The grouper was firm yet tender with a delicious taste and not greasy. The coleslaw was excellent. It was sweet and creamy, yet not drowning in sauce.

Midway through my meal the owner Chef Ray came out to make sure everything was to my liking. I assured him that it was.

One my next visit I think I’ll have the salmon “Grilled perfectly with our own blend of spices. Tender and full of flavor” (as described in the menu) sounds good.

Rating: ****
Service: ****
Cost Meal/Soda: $11.45

Closed on Monday

Orlando Sentinel review

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pannullo’s Italian Restaurant

216 South Park Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789

Pannullo’s Italian Restaurant occupies a space on Park Avenue next to Bank of America and across from Central Park. The restaurant has occupied this space since 1993. A nice history of the building is provided on their web site. There is nice outdoor seating available for the cool days ahead. This space is also dog friendly in case you need to go somewhere with your pooch.

Today I had the lunch special “lightly breaded chicken breast sautéed in a wine sauce, on top of penne pasta” this also came with a salad bar. The salad bar was low on lettuce but was good beside this problem. The special was good the chicken tender and the pasta ala denté. The dish I had was sized correctly for lunch. I did not feel stuffed when I was finished. The atmosphere at Pannullo’s is nice the lights slightly dim. There was a TV over the bar with the Food Network on.

I was there for a business lunch so was unable to take a photo, this was a perfect place to conduct business luncheon.

Rating: ***
Service :***

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Alberto's Italian Restaurant - SJ

3907 Wekiva Springs Rd
Longwood, FL 32779

After taking a look at the outside menu and deciding that this would have to do, I stepped into the cold, dark ghost town named Alberto’s. With faded murals of Italian towns on the walls the atmosphere couldn't have been more lifeless. After standing at the front door a few minutes, a single living person emerged from the back rooms. He told me that it was not “his turn” to seat customers. Not telling me I could sit where ever I wanted he made some kind of noise which I figured meant he wanted to know what we wanted to drink. We decided that we weren’t going to wait for him to tell us we could sit down because that might be a longer than our legs wanted to stand up. We weighed out options and chose a booth. I almost fell through the seat one spring poking my rear end and the other one nonexistent. We decided to move to a table next to the window.

Our waters arrived and the waitress took our orders. A few minuets later she arrived with three small rolls coated in a pasty looking garlic sauce. The bowl towered over the three small rolls buried within it. Not that long afterwards we heard shouting in the back of the store and then our pizza emerged from the rear. Now that we were staring at the pizza on our table we could eat. The cheese was watered down and tasteless, the bottom of the crust was wet, but hunger did not stop us from finishing it in a matter of minutes.

Rating: *
Service: *
Cost Pizza/Water for 2: $8.95

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bikkuri Sushi - DJ

1915 E. Colonial Dr.
Orlando 32803

Today the question of lunch came up around 11:25, “where shall we go?” DT suggested Bikkuri Sushi so off we went in the mini. Bikkuri which means to be surprised, to be amazed, or to be frightened, occupies a small store front on East Colonial. The restaurant has about 5 tables. The chairs are amazing heavy they must be made out of cast iron. The restroom had a frightening looking add on bidet attached to the toilet.

The menu items are displayed in large picture format on the wall beside the counter where you place your order. I choose the Golden Chicken Curry and a Garlic Sushi Roll.

The curry was served in a bowl with a scoop of white rice in the center. The curry was golden brown in color it had broccoli, carrots, and chicken pieces. The carrots where crisp, the broccoli was slightly over cooked, the chicken was just right. The curry sauce was mild and did not over power the taste of the other ingredients.

The garlic sushi roll had crunchy bits of fried garlic that were surprisingly strong in flavor. The flavor was so strong that I basically could not taste anything else. I thought that the rice was mushier than most sushi rice that I have had, and I did not have the taste of vinegar that most sushi has.

Rating: **
Service: ***
Price- Curry/Sushi roll: $9.25

What others are saying:
Orlando Weekly
City Beat

Bikkuri - DT

“I’m telling you the sushi is cheap.” My friends all laugh, “Are you sure you want to eat raw, discounted fish?” Hmm. I personally have never been ill from eating sushi so I still have sushibravado (the opposite of sushihumility). My Japanese friend taught me a new Japanese word the other day, sakoi - (loosely translated) Bring it! Put your pectorals away, the food here is quite good. I have been here once before and they serve other dishes as well. My friends can attest to the Teriyaki Beef with Vegetables and the Golden Curry with Chicken. Both are served in a bowl with rice and carrots and broccoli. They report overall taste and quantity were very positive. Today I had the lunch special, your choice of two maki rolls. The choices are mundane: California, Philly, Spicy Tuna, Eel or Vegetable. I chose the Cali and Philly while my friend opted the Eel and Spicy Tuna. We chose to eat half then swap so we were each able to sample four different rolls. Each roll is eight pieces so sixteen pieces was plenty for lunch. The ingredients were fresh, the fish was cold and not mushy and the seaweed was the seaweediest. DJ ordered a Garlic roll. Cucumber, cream cheese and crispy fried garlic. We think they should call it the Garlic Bomb. Tasty, but I do not recommend you eat this one all by itself and don’t let it be the last thing you eat before you leave. If you do, they serve Bubble Milk Tea for desert. I think I’ve made up enough words for the day. Lastly, don’t plan on having the office party here. They have a significant focus on take-out so seating is limited. Actual seating occupancy is around fourteen.
Bikkuri is located at 1915 E. Colonial Drive, about 3 blocks west of Bumby.

Quantity: good
Service: good
Atmosphere: take-out
Lunch special/water: $6.50

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sorrento’s - Jocelyne's - IL Pescatore by DJ

651 N Primrose Dr.
Orlando, FL 32803

IL Pescatore is a place that I have rediscovered in the last few months. We use to go to Sorrento’s once a week for the manicotti lunch special, our visits trailed off as the restaurant changed hands and became Jocelyne’s in 1995. The lunch specials ceased and so did our weekly visits. The restaurant became IL Pescatore in 2000. I suggested that we revisit about 6 months ago and I glade we did.

Last night I got my standard dish at Sorrento’s/ IL Pescatore the manicotti and a salad with the house dressing. The house salad comes to the table accompanied with fresh baked garlic bread. The house Italian dressing – oil and vinegar with crushed spices is excellent. This is the restaurant I hold as the standard for manicotti. I preferred it when the 2 manicotti’s came out in au gratin dishes straight from the oven, but they are just as good presented on a plate. The tomato sauce is tangy and the cheese has a crusty surface. Top it off with crushed red peppers and this is all you need for a great meal.

Another member in my party had the Baked Ziti which is a huge bowl full of ziti topped with sauce and cheese then baked, how can you go wrong. I looked back over at the plate in a few minutes and it was gone. It must have been good. Other members had Fettuccini Alfraido, Ravioli, Eggplant Parmesan, and Eggplant Rollatini. All seemed pleased.

It was my birthday so I was also presented with a small cannoli which left me wanting more. The evening with friends in an Italian family restaurant was most enjoyable.

Rating: ****
Service: ***
Cost Entrée/Water: $11.50

Other Reviews:
Orlando Weekly
Orlando Sentinel

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

PR’s Mexican Restaurant - DJ

499 W. Fairbanks Ave.
Winter Park, Florida

We went to PR’s today because I thought they could handle a big crowd (14) for lunch. We got everybody at the table, but two they set at the bar right next to our table. PR’s has been a Winter Park tradition for at least 25 years. It is the place to go for lunch on Fridays if you are in the mood for fajitas. The restaurant looks just the same as I remember it when I moved to Florida in 1982. It just has more graffiti and the bike made from copper tubing is missing from the wall there are TV’s in its place. The building still rattles when trains go by on the track a few feet from the corner of the building.

The food at PR’s has been pretty consistent since those early days. PR’s is Tex-Mex with lots of cheddar cheese. Today I had one of the combination lunch specials. I choose one Enchiladas, one taco and rice. I had chicken on both the enchilada and the hard taco. The chicken was all white meat which had been shredded. The enchilada was topped with a savory ranchero sauce and then capped with cheddar cheese that was melted under the salamander. A bed of lettuce was placed under the taco which kept it from becoming soggy with the juicy from the enchilada. The other end of the plate had rice which was topped with a red sauce as well. The presentation was nice. The meal was very good.

Vegetarians can eat well here too, as the list of filling include spinach, mushrooms, veggies, and guacamole.

The thing you have to remember at PR’s is don’t fill up on the chips and endless soda before your meal arrives. I’ve learned over the years to sit at the bar because your meal will arrive sooner and you aren’t as tempted to eat the whole bowl of chips.

Rating: ***
Service ***
Price: Combo/Soda $8.50

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Caffé Positano - DJ

3030 E. Semoran Blvd.
Apopka, FL 32703

I went with a group of friends to Caffé Positano over the weekend. It is located in a shopping plaza across Hwy 436 from Hunt Club Blvd. in Apopka. I have eaten at Caffé Postitano many times over the last fifteen years or so. I enjoyed most of the meals, some more that others. Today was a good day.

I chose the Manicotti. The meal began with a salad, with the house dressing on the side. The house dressing has always reminded me of “swill from Lake Eire” a reference from an old SNL episode with Bill Murray. The dressing has a thick consistence and has unknown items suspended in the mixture. Even with that said I like it. The manicotti was perfect today, the cheese inside was cooked but still firm to the fork. The sauce was excellent. The waiter topped the dish off with parmesan cheese which was pre-shredded; it added a nice nutty taste.

Our waiter Mike was funny as usual and quite entertaining. After I placed my order and the waiter had gone, I suddenly remember my last visit to Caffé Potitano. I had ordered manicotti on that occasion as well and it had been very bad. The ricotta cheese inside had been very bitter almost to the point of not being eatable. Someone else that day had the same thing but they thought theirs had been good. I should have sent mine back that day.

Today my experience was good at Caffé Postiano, leaving me with an “I want to go back there feeling”.

Rating: **
Service: *****
Price Meal/Water $9.25

Monday, August 20, 2007

AzTex Mexican Restaurant - DJ

745 Bennett Rd.
Orlando, FL 32803

I spotted an ad in the Orlando Weekly for the Aztex Restaurant while waiting for a table at the Thai House last weekend. A new place for us to try next week!

I could not remember where a restaurant could be located on Bennett Road, except for the possible location of a old strip club. Turns out it was called Club Quest. The transformation has not quite been completed. The outside has been repainted, but the inside still looks like a former bar.

The wait staff was friendly and efficient, the chips and salsa flowed from the bar. There were two kinds of salsa: red and salsa verdé. Both were good but the red sauce had a bit of a bitter taste at first.

I ordered the Enchilada Dinner – Chicken and Cheese. The plate came with rice, pinto beans and pico de giao. The rice and beans were both ok. The enchiladas were topped with cheddar cheese. The chunks of chicken inside were large and had a good flavor. The portion was way too large for lunch. I could not finish it. I guess I should have tried the Tacos or something a bit smaller.

The overall experience was a good one. Although I don’t think it will top Paco’s on my list.

Rating: **
Price- Dinner/water: $8.49

Aztex Mexican Restaurant - DT

Aztex Mexican Restaurant at 745 Bennett Road just north of Colonial is “Mexican food with heritage and pride”. The best part about being an amateur food critic has to be trying a new restaurant and liking it. I try to have no expectations before a visit to minimize any bias. The neat thing about Aztex…the décor actually lowers your expectations. I’d call it “Post naval station watering hole goes mexican”. While we waited for our meal, the chips and salsa kept coming. While I prefer my salsa chunky, they offered a tasty red pureé. After trying the red, our waitress offered us something a little more spicy. The green. You have to watch this stuff pour out of the pitcher to again, achieve the proper expectation for minimal bias. Don’t get me wrong. For lunch, this place rocks. The service was great. They treated us like we were the only ones there. OK maybe we were close to the only ones there but hey it’s Monday and they were very nice to us. I ordered the Chicken Chimi. This fried burrito contained chicken, refried beans and cheese, topped with the red sauce, more cheese and served with sour cream and chopped lettuce, tomato and onion. I always eat everything, except today. I thought it tasted great but the portion was big enough for me to take some home. In summary, the taste, portions, cook time service and value are all good. As far as the atmosphere, if you have been looking for that perfect combination of Freddie Fender, poker night and cervesa, I give Aztex a big thumbs up!

Service: Rocks
Fresh ingredients: Yes
Atmosphere: Plenty
Chips and a Chimi big enough for two: $8.49