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gift certificate copy

So gifting season has finally arrived. For those hard-to-please people on your list, the ones who annoyingly buy things for themselves instead of giving you hints, consider a gift certificate to a restaurant – everyone appreciates a nice meal out.

And it’s also a way to support local businesses.

If you need a recommendation, just take a look at the banners at the top and down the sides of this page. Only restaurants that meet our quality requirements may advertise on SJO, so you know they’re already highly recommended. Any of them would be happy to sell you a gift certificate.

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salsas int

Took a trip out to Oviedo one recent very rainy evening and took refuge in Salasa Cocina Mexicana & Cantina, a popular Eastside restaurant.

It’s a lively place with a colorful interior that features bright paintings and Mexican star light fixtures hanging over the tables and booths.

In the American tradition of Tex-Mex restaurants, a bowl of tortilla chips and dish of salsa was offered when my guest and I were seated. I sipped on the house margarita, which was flavorful with its Gran Gala, triple sec and orange juice but did not affect my ability to drive after.

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Fusionfest togo

If Thanksgiving is this week and [checks calendar] yep, there it is, on Thursday (weird, pretty sure it was on Thursday last year, too), that means that FusionFest is this weekend.

FusionFest, the multicultural celebration, is in its fifth year and will once again take over Orlando’s Front Yard, the plaza between city hall and the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. It will feature musical performances, dancing, cultural heritage displays and, most notable for our purposes here, an international food court of restaurants and food trucks representing a variety of cuisines.

The event is on Saturday, Nov. 26, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Nov. 27, from noon to 6 p.m. It’s free to attend, with food and beverages available for purchase.

FusionFest is a project of the Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs office, which also sponsors the monthly Diversitastic! Dining Experiences throughout the year.

Find out more at the FusionFest website.

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Credo Logo

Downtown Credo, the name-your-price coffee shop with locations in Health Village and North Quarter, will take over the cafe space in the Downtown YMCA that was long held by Tropical Smoothie.

Tropical Smoothie always seemed to do a good business with Y members – and even people who would stop in just to visit – selling not only smoothies but sandwiches and other foods. A lot of members would stop in after a workout to get something to eat.

Downtown Credo isn’t known for its food. It serves pastries, which isn’t exactly a post-workout meal. Perhaps this will be the first one to venture into more prepared foods? No one at DC or Y could be reached, but a whiteboard on an easel in front of the cafe space announced the new tenant would be offering Americanos, lattes, cappuccinos, tea, pastries “and more.” We’ll just have to wait to see what the and more entails.

Publix is adding a feature called Publix Pours to select supermarkets. Essentially bars, the Pours will feature coffee, kombucha on tap, açai bowls, smoothies and beer and wine. Limited locations currently, including Ecco Plaza in SoDo; Clermont Town Center; and Publix at Halifax in Ormond Beach. And yes, you can stroll through the grocery aisles with your beer or wine if you like.

Publix, Where Getting Sloshed is a Pleasure.

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Naan Stopp top

As an ardent aficionado of the art of restaurant naming, I appreciate the multi entendre’d Naan Stopp, the extraneous extra p notwithstanding.

It’s whimsical, pun-ish, and instantly communicates that this is an Indian restaurant. It could only be more appropriate if it were a 24-hour cafe. And while the name might convey whimsy, the food is seriously good.

Naan Stopp occupies the small space in the shops of Windermere Village that was originally home to Humbl, the plant-based fast food concept that didn’t quite, um, take root. The structure of the brightly lit room is the same, though it sports new wall coverings and art. The long counter that was part of the fast food concept is still there, even though NS is a full-service restaurant, with, not incidentally, a very attentive staff. And three televisions on the wall behind the counter that were once menu displays now show loops of Bollywood dance extravaganzas.