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You may have read that the newest Chicken Guy, the first to feature drive-through service, will open Thursday. But I just left the Winter Park location where the crew is furiously working to open for dinner service this evening (Wed., Dec. 1).

Chicken Guy, which is a partnership between Robert Earl’s Earl Enterprises and celebrity chef Guy Fieri, took over a former Steak ’n Shake building. There was an existing drive-through lane but CG added a second. There is also indoor and outdoor onsite dining.

Chicken Guy features a roster of fried chicken sandwiches – think Chick-fil-A that you can get on Sundays – served with 22 sauces curated by Fieri. The first Chicken Guy opened in Disney Springs in 2018. The Winter Park restaurant is the seventh, though several more franchises are expected to open soon.

The newest Chicken Guy is at 818 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park.

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Best New Restaurant logo

Here are the nominees for the 2019 Best New Restaurant Foodster Award. Because we did not have an award for 2020, eligibility has been expanded to restaurants that opened within the past two years. Foodster Awards are for independent restaurants with three or fewer locations; chains are not considered.

To vote for your favorite newcomer, check the box next to its name and then click the VOTE button. You may vote only once.

After you make your choice, leave a comment below telling us why you think your favorite should be recognized. Be sure to mention the name of the restaurant in your comment or we won't know which one you're commenting on – we can't see who you voted for back here.

Voting will continue through Dec. 23. The winners will be announced on Dec. 29.

Here are the nominees:

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Itsa ext

You’d think Itsa Chicken would be a sufficiently self-identifying name for a restaurant. But it’s actually a little too succinct. Maybe Itsa Chicken Sandwich would be better, or Itsa Fried Chicken Sandwich, because that’s essentially what this new Milk District eatery offers.

And before we go any further, I feel compelled to mention that the logo for the business includes the apostrophe that makes the name more grammatically correct. But all other references on the business’s web and Facebook pages are Itsa, so it’s how I’ll refer to it here. Grudgingly.

Itsa Chicken is a hole in the wall, literally. It occupies a corner of Whiskey Lou’s Lounge, a longtime cocktail slinger from pre-Milk District designation days. A window was punched out for walkup orders. There are a few stools at a railing overlooking Bumby Avenue, and Lou’s, which recently went smoke-free (perhaps you saw the headlines about Hell freezing over), put in a back patio, so I assume chicken sandwich eaters would be welcome there as long as they’re also drinking from Lou’s. Heck, you may even be allowed indoors with the nonsmokers as long as you’re imbibing. But walking your sandwich across the parking lot to the new Milkhouse food hall would be bad form.

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Samba Room matches

Samba Room was one of the earlier tenants of Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. It occupied the space where Rocco’s Tacos currently resides and was next door to Timpano, which was an Italian steakhouse of sorts. (Eddie V’s is where Timpano’s building stood.)

Both Samba Room and Timpano were brands of TGI Friday’s parent company, Carlson Worldwide, which eventually sold them to Orlando based E-Brands. E-Brands was eventually acquired by Tavistock Group. Although both chains had several locations, none seem to have survived. (Correction: A Timpano still exists in Tampa's Hyde Park; h/t Matthew Mervis.) (The Fort Laurderdal Samba Room, which existed for several years after Orlando's, closed in 2010.)

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Rahman checkOrlando's Evette Rahman receives check after winning dessert competition at the World Food Championship in Dallas earlier this month. (Photo: WFC)

You may have had some great desserts at your Thanksgiving feast, but you probably didn’t have world champion quality desserts. Unless, of course, you ordered your holiday pies and cakes from Sister Honey’s on Michigan Street in Orlando.

And you didn’t have Sister Honey’s pies and cakes at your holiday feast unless you ordered them before October 1. That’s when the small bakery’s reservations for Thanksgiving filled up.

And sometime between then and D-Day (the D is for Dessert), Sister Honey’s owner Evette Rahman traveled to Dallas to compete in the dessert category at the World Food Championship.

And she won. Again. In fact, it was Rahman’s third time taking first place at the competition, something no one else has ever done.