Last Call for Wildside in Thornton Park

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Wildside exterior

Wildside Bar and Grille, the downtown Thornton Park barbecue hangout, will have one last blowout on Saturday night before turning over the keys to the corrugated steel-sided building to Graffiti Junktion. Graffiti currently slings its burgers a couple of blocks away at the junktion of Washington Street and Hyer Avenue. No word yet on who they’ll be turning to keys over to other than the building’s landlord.

Wildside did not open as Wildside. Its first name, when it started smoking meats, in September 2001, was Wildfires. But owner Rosario Poma got one of those warm and cuddly Cease and Desist letters that attorneys love to send that said a Chicago restaurant had claim to the name Wildfires. So he changed it. (Before Poma moved in with Wild Whatever the space was home to Out of Hand Burrito Stand, a restaurant I had completely forgotten ever existed.)

For at least the first couple of years, Wildside was the winner of my Critic’s Choice Foodie Award for best barbecue, mainly because of its pulled pork. Good stuff, that.

Poma told me that his decision to turn the space over to Graffiti Junktion was “a good business decision right now.” He is focusing on opening Texas-style barbecue restaurants in the Middle East and will open a Wildside this fall in Janabiya, Bahrain. For those of you who are worried you won’t be able to have the barbecue again, take heart — the Kissimmee Wildside will continue to operate. (It might be easier to go to the one in Bahrain.)

Besides keeping control of the property, Poma is joining Graffiti’s owner Greg Peters as an investor in the Thornton Park burgery.

Wildside will have one last blowout with a party themed “Graffiti on the Wildside” at the restaurant at 700 E. Washington St., Orlando, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Live music, drink specials and, one hopes, some of the pulled pork that made them famous.

Who's the New Guy at Planet Hollywood Observatory?

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Planet Hollywood rendering

When the refurbished Planet Hollywood reopens this fall at Disney Springs as Planet Hollywood Observatory, it will feature a new menu, including a special section designed by the chef and television personality Guy Fieri.

Fieri was approached by Planet’s founder and ceo, Robert Earl, to add some flair to the menu. Fieri’s offerings will feature specialty sandwiches and burgers, including the Prime Time American Kobe-Inspired Burger and the Turkey Pic-a-nic Sandwich, the latter sure to be a favorite of that famous Hollywood star Yogi Bear.

Planet Hollywood is undergoing a massive redo as part of the Disney Springs redevelopment. The original structure, a huge, multi-story globe, is being retrofitted to resemble an astronomical observatory with star-searching telescopes (rendering of new entrance lobby shown at top). Hollywood, observatory, stars — get it?

It will be interesting to see how Fieri’s food fares at PHO. His Times Square restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, was given a “poor” rating from New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells in a scathing review in 2013. The critique, written as an open letter to Fieri started : “Guy Fieri, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square? Have you pulled up one of the 500 seats at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations?”

Reading the review from a critic’s standpoint, I couldn’t help thinking that Wells had a blast writing it. I’ll keep an open mind, but I’m always up for a good time.

You Can Get a Fat One Beginning Sept. 10

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Fat One sign

Turns out I've been pronouncing it right all along.

Joey Fatone, original *Nsync-er and Orlando local, is going into the food business with the psyco-sexually named Fat One's, which will, of course, sell hot dogs.

Fat One's will open at Florida Mall on Saturday, Sept. 10, with a special event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During that time, Fatone is scheduled to hand out samples from the menu, which will feature 100 percent beef weenies in styles that include the Cuban. the Johnny Pizza, the Gone Hollywood and the Boy Bander. That last one features five mini wieners, about which I have no comment.

The opening celebration is being billed as family friendly and will include DJ entertainment and, for some reason, stilt walkers.

Fat One's will operate from a kiosk near the Dining Pavilion bewteen Madeleine's Country French Cafe and Five Guys, which I assume sells normal sized burgers.

I don't know much about the rest of the menu, but if Fat One's hasn't partnered with Better Than Sex for its desserts, they're missing out on a marketing coup.

Orlando Taste of the Nation is Saturday; the Last One?

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Orlando Taste of the Nation

Unfortunately, It’s time once again for Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation, the event that each time it comes around I find myself hoping it’s the last one.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine event. It features about 65 area restaurants and beverage professionals dishing up tasty representations of their menus’ best and serving wines, beers and cocktails to go with it. It’s a walkabout event, so you can wander around and nibble and sip wherever you wish. You can even keep going back to the ones you like the most.

It takes a venue the size of the grand ballroom at Orlando World Center Marriott to hold it all, and it’s big enough to still have room for a sprawling silent auction display and a stage with live entertainment.

It’s all a lot of fun, and I wish it would stop.

The purpose behind Taste of the Nation is to benefit No Kid Hungry and to end childhood hunger in Central Florida. The mere fact that this event has been going on for nearly three decades demonstrates that the problem of childhood hunger persists. Every dollar raised stays right here in the community and benefits the Coalition for the Homeless, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Florida Impact. Tickets are $150 per person, a pittance considering all of the fine restaurants that are participating, but I’m going to tell you how to get a couple of tickets for less. Read on.