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World of Beer Downtown

WOB interior

Why did they have to call it World of Beer?

Yes, I know, that's the name of the franchise, so when it opens a new location, it tends to use that name.

But if ever there was a name that screamed Joe Six-Pack, it's World of Beer. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but for an establishment that has taken over what was for decades the jewel of the downtown dining scene, you'd expect something a little more extraordinary.

The location in question is the former Lee's Lakeside, which overlooks Lake Eola and its multicolored fountain and Orlando's downtown skyline beyond. Long one of the city's favorite special occasion restaurants, it closed a couple of years after owner Lethia "Lee" Rose, the restaurant's heart and soul, died in 2003. In 2009, Manny Tato, who had taken over Rose's other restaurant, Lake Eola Yacht Club (now Spice Modern), opened Pesca in the moderately remodeled space. But that restaurant never found a following and closed after a brief period.

RusTeak College Park

Rusteak ext

There isn't much on the outside of the boxy structure at 2625 Edgewater Drive in College Park that indicates RusTeak lives there. Maybe that has to do with the seemingly hasty move to take over that building at the last minute instead of the previously announced location down the street. It takes time to deal with sign makers in this town, I've heard.

But RusTeak is definitely inside, and so is a more attractive decor, though I can't for the life of me figure out what a painting of Edgar Allen Poe (or big-eyed bees, for that matter) has to do with the brand. Oh well, the food is good and the service is, too. In fact, the servers could tone it down just a bit, but I'll come back to that.

I stopped in for a recent lunch visit and looked over the overwhelming menu — 34 mains and 17 starters or salads. I settled on an appetizer of shrimp fritters and a burger, while my companion chose the Californication sandwich.

Soco

soco ext

The latest buzz generator in downtown Orlando restaurants is Soco, the first "from scratch" restaurant from Thornton Park Restaurant Group. TPRG also has Cityfish, which it acquired from Urban Life Restaurant Group. Soco — the name means Southern contemporary — is also the first restaurant where Greg Richie can claim top billing. Richie is a partner in TPRG and is also Soco's executive chef (Cityfish's, too, but more about that another time). Previously, he was leading the kitchen at Emeril's Tchoup Chop for celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and before that he opened the Restaurant Row Roy's, named for Roy Yamaguchi.

Although both of those restaurants might be called chef driven, Soco is the first where Richie is clearly behind the wheel.

But let me stop here. As I've mentioned in previous articles about Soco, TPRG is a client of Scott Joseph Company's consulting services, and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to offer a review. So here's what I've done instead: At the annual gala for the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, I was auctioned off to the highest bidder. Actually, dinner with me was the auction item. And there were three bidders who matched the "buy it now" price. For its part, Soco donated the dinners.

My dinner companions on the first visit were Arlen and Diane Chase, archeologists with UCF. On the second visit I was joined by John and Rita Lowndes and Mike and Marian Peters. John, of course, is the Lowndes of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor and Reed; Rita is the force of nature behind Orlando Shakes. Mike is the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who draws the Mother Goose and Grimm strip. I recorded their comments through the dinners.

Supper Club Redux: Eddie V's Prime Seafood

Eddievsc dining

Eddie V's was the site of the October edition of our Supper Club, and the Sand Lake Road seafood and steak house showed the assembled clubbers why it has become a Restaurant Row favorite in such a short time.

In fact, our October 24 dinner coincided with the first anniversary for the Orlando location of Darden's premium brand, and the evening couldn't have been lovelier. We began by sipping our first wine on the patio overlooking the lake at sunset. All of the wines were provided by Rioja through an arrangement with Wine on the Way. We started with a Vina Herminia Rosado, which is not yet available commercially in the United States. Several people who tried it are waiting for the day it will arrive.

EddievSC taco

It went perfectly with the first course of Maine Lobster Taco, a signature appetizer on Eddie V's regular menu. It featured sweet lobster meat and grilled corn on a tortilla made in house.

Wassabi Asian Fusion

Wassabi Sushi

A lot of you young'uns won't remember that there was once a time when a Thai restaurant was a hard thing to find around these parts. One of the first was a restaurant called Bangkok, which occupied a pagodalike building in Altamonte Springs. It was a favorite of many people because they didn't have a larger survey of what Thai food should really be, so they didn't know that what Bangkok was serving was pretty mediocre. Once more Thai restaurants began to open in the area, people realized they didn't have to settle. Bangkok eventually closed.

The same thing happened with sushi bars and Japanese restaurants. Once hard to find, they are now quite common. And I mean common in more ways than one.

Now Wassabi Asian Fusion, featuring sushi and Japanese cuisine, has taken over the old Bangkok space, and unfortunately a bit of the mediocrity has apparently rubbed off on the new tenants.

Monday, 24th November 2014

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