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Boston’s Fish House and I both made our Orlando debuts in the same year, 1988. The restaurant opened in February and I rode in to town in May. We didn’t meet each other until that November, but it was instant love, at least for me.

As someone who had moved to Florida from the desert Southwest, I expected that every other restaurant I would be reviewing in my new job at the Orlando Sentinel would specialize in seafood. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It may seem odd now (actually, it seemed odd then) but despite Central Florida’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean their bounties made it into few of its restaurants. Instead, fish offloaded onto local docks were immediately boxed and sent flying to other parts of the country to restaurateurs who appreciated fresh seafood.

What made this doubly ironic was that it took a family from Massachusetts to move to town to demonstrate that Central Floridians do indeed appreciate good seafood. Want triple irony? The family was flying in its seafood from New England.

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Se7enbites shortcake 768x768 copySe7en Bites

If you start to notice a lot of culinary-savvy tourists finding their way to the Milk District, it’s probably because they’re looking for Trina Gregory-Propst’s bakery and eatery, now known succinctly as Se7en Bites.

It opened nine years ago, first in a small former sandwich shop (which is a sandwich shop again: Bad As’s) before moving to its more spacious current location. In that time, it has earned numerous accolades and national recognition. Se7en Bites was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — though it’s really none of those — and recently was recognized as a Bib Gourmand recommended restaurant in the first Florida Michelin Guide.

All the praise is well deserved, and Gregory-Propst’s delicious pastries are the reason why. In the current issue of The Community Paper, she shares her recipe for Perfect Florida Strawberry Shortcake in my Local Flavor column.

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Black Rooster Taqueria, the popular Mills 50 restaurant, opened its second location, in the Curry Ford West District, last November, and when I visited it in late December I found that it wasn’t quite up to the standards of the original. Opening in a pandemic, supply-chain issues, staffing problems – who knows? Whatever the issues were back then seem to have been overcome or corrected, and based on a recent revisit, the Curry Ford West Rooster is proving itself to be a fine addition to the area.

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This should have been a banner year for Orlando Meats, the boutique butcher and cafe that started on Virginia Drive in Orlando in 2017 and last year moved to a larger space in Winter Park’s Ravaudage Plaza and in June was named one of the area’s Bib Gourmand recommendations in the Michelin Guide’s inaugural Florida edition.

Instead it has closed permanently.

Things apparently began to fall apart when Orlando Meats’ culinary director, Eliot Hillis, and its chef de cuisine, Seth Parker, announced they would be leaving to start a new restaurant called Red Panda Noodles. That restaurant is expected to open later in the year in a still-unannounced location.

No word on what will move into the Ravaudage space.

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407 Food Fair logo

  • The next is a series of sorta monthly events celebrating local foods is Saturday, Aug. 13, from noon to 7 p.m. at Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company. The 407 Food Fair will feature more than 20 independently owned local food purveyors selling their wares, including Pass Kitchen, Royal T Tapas and the eagerly anticipated Red Panda Noodles from the former Orlando Meats guys. The 407 Food Fair is usually the second Saturday of each month but there are two events scheduled for November.
  • The owners of Big Fin Seafood (formerly known as Big Fin Seafood Kitchen) will soon open a restaurant in the Villages called Little Fin. It will be similar to Big Fin in concept but, you know, smaller.