Oley's Kitchen and Bar-b-que

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Oleys ribs interior

I had a perfectly pleasant lunch recently at Oley’s Kitchen and Bar-b-que, on Rio Grande Avenue near the corner of Michigan Street. It isn’t anything special or fancy, just plain, good food.

The woman who greeted me seemed to be the only one working there at the time, but she was handling all the duties just fine. She graciously offered me the menu and something to drink, then returned a few moments later to take my order.

Oley’s specializes, according to its menu, in both Southern/soul and Caribbean cuisines, so of course I had to have some of each. From the former I got the barbecued ribs, from the latter, stew chicken, not to be confused with chicken stew.

Rincon Latino

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Rincon Latino exterior

For many years I’ve had a little favorite Cuban cafe on Forsyth Road called Rincon Cubano. I’ve been recommending it to people for a long time, and I always hear back from those I’ve sent there how much they liked it, too.

So I was a little concerned when I was driving by recently and saw that the name had changed to Rincon Latino. I figured I’d better stop in and give it a try. My fears worsened when I walked inside and found the small dining area empty of any other guests, even though it was the height of the lunch hour (and the cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch). But I also noticed something else: the place was tidier than I remembered it. And the pleasant young woman who stepped up to take my order at the counter allayed any lingering worry when she assured me that even though the name had changed, “It’s still the same food.”

It might actually be better.

Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Outpost bar

The College Park neighborhood has a new eatery that even includes that word in its name. The Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen is charming and has a rustic mien that belies its newness. It isn't perfect — few restaurants are right off the starting block — but most of its shortcomings are from trying too hard, and that is something i'm hesitant to suppress.

I like the menu because it does not try too hard to be more than it should be. Fried or roasted chicken, pulled pork sandwich, a meatloaf melt — nothing haughty or overwrought, all very approachable. That makes sense for a restaurant that wants to cultivate a clientele of neighborhood regulars.

Taboon Bistro

Written by Scott Joseph on .

taboon decor

I'd been in this space before, five years ago when it was known as Wa Restaurant. Then, I spent a goodly amount of the first part of the review of Wa discussing the hidden location in a corporate sort of building on the west side of the Universal Orlando campus. I mentioned the beautiful decor of the restaurant and the very good, upscale Asian food, but also noted that most of the rest of the spaces in the building appeared to be unoccupied. I concluded that it was a hidden gem that was worth looking for. Not enough did, or succeeded in finding it, and Wa went away.

Little seems to have changed with the physical aspects of this address. If any of the other spaces in the building are occupied it was not evident in the early evening when my guest and I arrived to visit Taboon Bistro, the current culinary tenant. As with Wa, the decor of the restaurant is lovely, an upscale, modern Mediterranean design with moody lighting (and inappropriate and inappropriately loud music). As with Wa before it, Taboon is hidden, but a gem? No.

Scratch Brunch

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Scratch brunch

I've been an unapologetic fan of Scratch, the moody small-plates restaurant on Fairbanks Avenue, since I first visited, even as I sometimes wondered if the folks involved in it knew what they were doing right. There is bona fide talent in the kitchen, and the laid back attitude in the front of the house (though really there isn't much separation between front and back here — even the kitchen is out front) seemed right with the overall feel of the place.

But on a recent brunch visit everything fell apart, and I was left wondering yet again whether earlier enjoyable visits were only flukes.

Spoleto

Written by Scott Joseph on .

spoleto exterior

Pasta shouldn't be complicated. Spoleto, a new concept that opened recently near UCF with other locations coming soon, makes it so. That isn't to say that what it offers isn't good. In fact, I liked my food — and other aspects about the experience — at Spoleto a lot. I just wish it weren't so confusing. And it doesn't have to be, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Spoleto is another in the growing list of assemblage concepts, the quick-serve restaurants where diners select the ingredients from various columns to be assembled by a worker behind the counter as you watch. And in the case of Spoleto, while you wait, too. Spoleto calls this "Culinary Freedom." Keep in mind that freedom isn't free, but in this case it is reasonably priced.

The Osprey Tavern

Written by Scott Joseph on .

osprey kitchen

Word had come down that the Osprey Tavern, a new and splashy addition to Baldwin Park, had completed a soft opening, invitation only dinners and was ready to open to the public. March 17 was the official date, so I was surprised when 10 days later my guests and I were presented with menus emblazoned with "soft opening" at the top. At what point do you commit and just say "we're open"?

The menu now available through the restaurant's Facebook page (the official website is "coming soon," though I don't think soon still qualifies) does not say soft opening, but it also doesn't look like a complete menu, either. Like the one I was presented, it has only three entrees, or plates, as they're referred to here, if you don't count the two pizzas, and I don't.

Let me just say right off that I liked Osprey Tavern overall, though, as is the case with most just-opened restaurants, some tweaks and adjustments are needed. But I find the atmosphere lively and fun, the service more than serviceable, and the menu, limited as it is, off to a good start.

Memories of India South Orlando

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Memories ext

Ah, memories.

I remember a wonderful restaurant called Memories of India that still lights the corners of my mind. It was part of Restaurant Row, though it officially resided in Bay Hill Plaza on Turkey Lake Road. It closed last year and will soon become a Grafitti Junktion.

Memories of India was my perennial pick for best Indian. It had its quality dips, as most places do from time to time, and a second restaurant that it opened in Lake Mary never quite rose to the same good food and service found at the original.

DeVine Wine & Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

devine wine

In a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, staff writer Kyle Arnold noted that some of Greater Orlando's bedroom communities are bemoaning a dearth of good places to dine. The article was headlined "Some cities ask: Where are our restaurants?"

I propose a followup article: "Restaurateurs ask: Why don't you people who complain about not having good restaurants in your community support them when they open?"

I may need to work on the headline.

But take a look at one of Arnold's example cities, Oviedo. Then consider South + York, the charmingly creative farm to table restaurant that was critically acclaimed but closed after only 13 months. By rights, the community should have embraced this business and encouraged its survival with its patronage.

Shantell's Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Shantell ext

If you were to just show up at somebody's house and ask to be fed, you probably wouldn't be surprised to be made to wait while something was thrown together for you. Even if you showed up during what might be considered a normal meal time, you might have to cool your heels while your friend found something to cook for you. Assuming you pulled this stunt at a friend's house and not a strangers, because then you might find yourself arrested.

Even if you were to show up at a restaurant on an off hour you may experience a longer than ideal wait time. Kitchens tend to put foods away and break down service stations. If guests come in before or after that process, it may take a while to get things resituated.

But when you show up at a restaurant at 1 p.m., which to most people is still the heart of lunchtime, you sort of expect more prompt service. Especially when only two other tables — a total of three people — are occupied and waiting for food.

I waited over 45 minutes for my food to arrive at Shantell's Cafe, a well-regarded restaurant in Sanford that recently moved to a new location not far from its original home. It's not like I ordered something out of the ordinary. I selected the chicken and waffles, a dish considered to be so much a signature that it's written in the front window.