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FD Italian bar

I counted myself among the skeptics when it was announced that a developer planned to revitalize the area at Curry Ford Road and Bumby Avenue with new restaurants, brewpubs and other boutique businesses, unofficially dubbing it the Hourglass District. There was encouragement when Claddagh Cottage relocated the popular Irish Pub to one of the blocks. And a Foxtail Coffee bar moved into a small strip mall, but heck, Foxtail seems to be following a Starbuckian business model with plans to put them everywhere.

And there were initial signs of hope when a pizza restaurant, Peppino’s Organic Italian Pizzeria & Kitchen moved into a freestanding building that had been home to a long line of short-lived culinary concepts, most of them Latin American focused, that couldn’t make the inexpensive menu and low number of seats a successful combination. A pizzeria made sense because it supplement its dine-in business with takeout or even delivery.

But Peppino’s closed faster than many of those Latin restaurants — less than six months — due, I’m told, to the owner’s health (though mediocre food and stunningly dismissive service didn’t bode well for its longevity).

Then the people at F&D Kitchen in Lake Mary announced they would take it over, also with a pizza concept. I was skeptical again. My experiences with F&D have been mixed. The original F&D Kitchen brought only a shrug. I had a wholly unpleasant experience at its Mexican concept, F&D Cantina, when it first opened in Waterford Lakes, but then quite enjoyed the food, service and surroundings of its second location, also in Lake Mary. (The original Cantina closed.)

So what would I find at F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen? A cozy atmosphere, an exuberant staff, and a well-thought-out Italian menu that goes beyond basic pizza with pastas and even full entrees.

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Attic Door

Laurie and Kevin Tarter, owners of the wildly popular Chef’s Table at the Edgewater and companion restaurant the Tasting Room, have acquired a third Winter Garden venue.

The couple will take over the Attic Door, a wine bar and live music venue, from current owner Lori Gibson. In a Facebook post, the Tarters said that Gibson “has decided to move onto the next phase in her life and has chosen us to be the caretakers of her legacy.”

Speaking by phone Tuesday, Laurie Tarter said they had been friends with Gibson for many years because when they opened the Chef’s Table restaurant there wasn’t a lot going on in Winter Garden. “We played really well together,” Tarter said. Today, of course, Winter Garden is a vibrant community of restaurants and nighttime venues.

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Bauern stube

Bauern-Stube, the longtime German restaurant, has apparently closed. The restaurant had been in business since 1987, originally in the strip mall on South Orange Avenue at Hoffner Avenue, then for the past several years in a former Pizza Hut hut on Orange Avenue just north of Sand Lake Road.

The restaurant was owned by Barbara Hutto, a German native, who oversaw all aspects of the business. Attempts to reach Hutto Tuesday were not immediately successful.

Bauern-Stube specialized in Old World German dishes, from simple Currywurst to Sauerbraten and Wienerschnitzel. It was also known for its eclectic and chaotic interior, decorated with German gewgaws.

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Fairbanks exterior

It isn’t quite old enough to qualify for our ongoing series of the area’s classic restaurants, those 25 years or older, but Fairbanks Restaurant can boast of exceptional longevity in its 23 years of service.

Its name is Fairbanks Restaurant but I always think of it as Fairbanks Diner because it has all the trappings of one. The interior is a little worn. The booths, with cushions covered in plastic, are a bit creaky. One of the freestanding tables has metal folding chairs pulled up to it. Some tabletops have ad-splashed mats with menu items and the message that there are “No fancy napkins here, just good home style cooking.”

And that’s likely the reason for its longevity.

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bull and bear 1

Bull & Bear Steakhouse, the upscale restaurant at the upscale Waldorf Astoria Orlando, has been named one of OpenTable’s 100 Best Restaurants in American for 2018. Bull & Bear was the only Central Florida restaurant on the list and one of only four in the state. Other Florida restaurants cited are: Buccan, Palm Beach; Kyu, Miami; and La Nouvelle Maison, Boca Raton.

OpenTable, which for many years has been one of the top online reservation systems, compiles the annual list based on reviews of more than 28,000 restaurants submitted by over 12 million verified diners.

The list is presented in alphabetical order and not by rankings. The Bull & Bear entry notes that was recommended by 93 percent of the people who had dined there after making a reservation through OpenTable. It is also listed as Best Overall in Orlando. (Bull & Bear is one of the finalists for our 2018 Best Overall Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants. It was also a winner of our 2017 Best Steakhouse category.)

Bull & Bear is a second location for the original restaurant at the original Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Notably, the Manhattan steakhouse was not cited on the list. A couple of restaurants on the list of 100 do note multiple locations, such as The Capital Grille.

You can see the full list of OpenTable’s 100 Best Restaurants in America here.