Lakefront dining has returned to Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe. You’ll recall that when Russell’s and company took over the former Mesa 21 and Gargi’s Lakeside space they enclosed the outside patio overlooking the lake, incorporating those seats into the main dining room. Now, outside dining has been restored with the addition of new tables and chairs. Should be a perfect place for weekend brunching.

Got a press release about Ava, the restaurant that will be moving into the former Luma on Park space. Not a whole lot of details, but renovations have begun and it appears the basement space will be turned into a bar and VIP lounge with a secret entrance, much like the restrooms at Luma. The press release included a couple of photos, but it turns out those are of ChristnersPrimeSteakAndLobster.com, a sister (or perhaps brother) restaurant in South Florida. I was told the design will be similar. Still, that’s sort of like announcing you’re pregnant and showing pictures of your other kids because the new one will probably look like these. One encouraging note: the release did not refer to Ava’s cuisine as MediterrAgean as a previous announcement did.

It’s been days since a chicken chain announced that it would be moving into the area. That long dry spell is over with word that Slim Chickens, an Arkansas business, wants in on Central Florida’s fowl phenomenon. Interesting name. Most chickenmongers tout their birds as big and plump. Not for Slim Chickens, apparently. They must be proud of their puny poultry.


Chicagodog sign

Portillo’s, the Chicago hot dogger and beef sandwich chain currently in soft opening in the new O-Town West development, has been getting the attention of local frankfurter freaks. Even though the grand opening isn’t until the middle of June, people are waiting in line now just to get their wiener on. Portillo’s is next door to White Castle, which is also boasting long lines. I guess there’s just something exciting about a new chain in town.

But for those who don’t need their sausages to come with a corporate stamp, you can get a Windy City wienie at Chicago Dog & Co. in Altamonte Springs.

Frankly, frankfurters don’t do much for me, but I don’t ascribe any any Freudian facets to their aficionados. And the Chicago style dog I had at Chicago Dog & Co. provided some pleasant, if few, bites.


Big Fin Grouper Piccata still

Since taking over the Big Fin Seafood Kitchen in 2020, executive chef Eric Enrique has been making changes to the menu. One of the additions has been his Grouper Piccata, a take on the classic Italian preparation usually done with veal or chicken. Enrique has tweaked it for fish and for added flair deep fries the capers that garnish it. When I recently reviewed the restaurant, this dish was easily my favorite.
In this episode of Scott’s Kitchen, Enrique walks me through the steps to make the dish. This is definitely one that will impress your dinner guests.
Watch the video below then find yourself some good grouper and give it a try.


Maki tuna

The best thing I had at Maki Hibachi, a new sushi and Japanese restaurant uniquely situated in a self-storage complex in Downtown Orlando, was something called Drunken Tuna.

It featured loosely chopped raw tuna on wafers with a slice of avocado in between. Atop the tuna were dollops of spicy mayo and a bit of fish roe along with artistically placed micro greens. The tuna was cool and fresh and the wafers – menu called them crackers but these were less crispy – added a different texture. And although I couldn’t detect anything that would warrant the drunken designation, I liked the bit of spiritedness in the spicy mayo. It was a delicious appetizer.

Unfortunately, what followed was mostly mundane.


Isla whaoo ext

Head south on Route 1 out of Miami and you’ll pass through Homestead and Florida City and soon after that you’ll be in the Florida Keys. For most people, this is the beginning of a scenic, if long, drive to Key West and the Southernmost Point in the U.S. But Islamorada, one of the Upper Keys is worth at least a stop if not the final destination.

Not that fine dining abounds here, though Atlantic’s Edge at the chichi Cheeca Lodge is an exception. And some of the best seafood that many people will eat here is whatever they’ve caught during a deep-sea fishing charter. Many restaurants advertise their willingness to cook up whatever you catch.

But the majority of the restaurants are more rustic, shantylike, which is fine with most people searching for a Keys vibe.