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Amso pbj

I love the beginning of the year when people make resolutions to eat less and go on diets and even do a Dryuary, where they give up drinking for the month of January.

I don’t participate in such things, mind you, but I love that people do because it means less crowding at fun happy hours. And speaking of fun happy hours, American Social.

AmSo, or AmSosh, as I like to call it, is the South Florida sports bar and grill that moved into the Orlando market last year, taking over a former Bar Louie spot on Sand Lake Road and immediately improving the neighborhood.

American Social is big on its happy hour, which runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with $4, $5 and $6 drink specials and and great deals on shareable plates of chef Freddy Figuera’s food.

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Tasty Wok exterior

I enjoy going to a restaurant where the staff greets me warmly when I come through the door, serves the food with an easy smile and thanks me for my business when I leave.

I hope to visit a restaurant like that soon, but for today I’m at Tasty Wok BBQ & Noodle House.

Tasty Wok is a new/not new Cantonese restaurant in the Mills 50 district. The location is new but the business is not. For many years it had been on the corner of Shine Avenue and Colonial Drive, but late last year it moved across the street, presumably for more seats and to be closer to across-the-lot sister restaurant Ming’s Bistro. (More parking, too, without patrons having to co-opt the spaces in Publix’s lot.)

On my most recent visit to the new space, I was...well, greeted isn’t the right word. I was noticed, eventually, by an unsmiling woman who pointed to a table that she presumably wanted me to sit at. This dour person turned out to also be my server. She brought me a menu and put down a plate with a paper napkin and a fork on it. (I’d have to flag someone down later for some chopsticks.)

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Old Jailhouse interior window

Old Jailhouse opened in February. I reviewed it, favorably, here in April. And then, in May, its owner Anthony Sirica was arrested and charged with attempted sexual battery and indecent exposure. The allegations and resulting news stories had an immediate and negative effect on the restaurant’s business.

Still, Old Jailhouse has remained open and has earned further accolades, including being voted Best New and Best Overall in our 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

The announcement of the awards caused a resurfacing of the owner’s legal woes. Some readers questioned whether the Sanford restaurant should even have been nominated let alone “allowed” to win. (Foodster Awards are voted on by the readers.)

It made me wonder about the status of the charges and whether there has been any resolution. So I contacted Sirica’s lawyer, Longwood attorney David Webster, who spoke to me by phone Monday.

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Jaleo exterior

Here are some of the highlights from 2019:

Significant openings (with links to their reviews): MX Taco opened in the Milk District with authentic regional tacos. By mid year, owner Ryan Manning would open a second location in Waterford Lakes and announce a third for 2020...Tamale Co. joined the expanding Hourglass District...The long-anticipated Delaney’s Tavern debuted and proved to be worth the wait...Wolfgang Puck returned to the area after an extended absence with Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at Disney Springs...Jaleo by José Andrés also opened in Disney Springs (coincidentally in about the same spot that Wolfgang Puck Cafe had previously occupied)...City Pub moved into the former North Quarter Tavern space...The H Cuisine brought a New York style meathouse to the Dr. Phillips/Restaurant Row district...Old Jailhouse opened in an old jailhouse in Sanford, bringing the culinary talents of Bram Fowler back to the dining public. The restaurant was voted Best New and Best Overall in our 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants...Trina Gregory Propst and Va Propst opened Sette Italian in the Ivanhoe Village...Mykonos, the popular Greek restaurant, returned to Longwood following a long absence forced by a lost lease and move...Toledo started serving from the top floor of the newly opened Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs...Chef’s Table and Tasting Room owners Laurie and Kevin Tarter took over Winter Garden’s Attic Door, expanded the menu and increased their culinary kingdom...American Social, a South Florida sports bar, took up residence on Restaurant Row...Hook & Reel started reeling in seafood fans in West Orlando...Tori Tori Pub, from Domu’s Sonny Nguyen, forever changed the notion of what bar food should be...Alex’s Fresh Kitchen changed the notion of what a cafe should be...And Proper & Wild and Hungry Pants fuel the plant-based cuisine craze.

Notable Revisits

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Tornatore and WolfeFrom left, Denny Tornatore, Jason Wolfe and Eric Freadhoff

Tornatore’s Pizzeria, the College Park Italian restaurant, has hired Jason Wolfe as its chef de cuisine. In a Facebook post announcing the hire, owner Denny Tornatore also said that Eric Freadhoff has been hired as sous chef.

Wolfe had previously been chef de cuisine at Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events and sous chef at K restaurant. He had initially joined the culinary team at Dexter’s New Standard, the relocated and re-versioned Dexter’s of Winter Park, with fellow K alum Ryan McLaughlin prior to its opening but said recently that “it wasn’t a good fit.”

Freadhoff was a former sous chef at the Stubborn Mule in downtown Orlando and line cook at Prato. He also lists a stint with the Pie Car, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus’s kitchen wagon.

Tornatore’s, which was previously known as Caffe Positano, was featured in 2015 on the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible, a reality show that attempts to rescue struggling restaurants. In his Facebook post announcing the new hires, Tornatore also teased the opening on an Italian market next to the restaurant at 3818 Edgewater Drive, Orlando.