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