Southern Moon logoYou might say that Bryce Balluff has come to a fork in the road.

The chef was one of the owners of the Fork in the Road food truck and, more recently, opened Southern Moon Smokehouse, a creative barbecue restaurant on Curry Ford Road in Orlando. Now, Balluff has left the business to his partners, Nelson Hom and Anthony Briante.

Speaking by phone, Balluff said that he and his partners had different customer service and hospitality theories. Financial issues were also part of the reason for his leaving, according to both Balluff and Hom.

Hom said that Balluff "had some differences of how we were running the business. We didn't ask him to leave, he did it on his own."

Briante, whose restaurant resume includes Stonewood and Peter Scott's, will continue to manage the culinary side. Balluff said that he didn't expect the food to alter in any way under Briante's direction.

On of the problems that Southern Moon encountered was the inability to use all of the space that they have under contract in the Winn-Dixie plaza space. A large space was to be a brewery, but there is an issue regarding a sprinkler system -- or, apparently, the lack of one -- that prevents them from moving forward. Indeed, a staff member who was hired to be the restaurant's master brewer also left.

The Fork in the Road food truck continues to operate, successfull, according to Hom. "The food truck is actually keeping a lot of things afloat," he said.

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See below to learn how you can win a three-course dinner for four at Barnie's CoffeeKitchen's flagship cafe on Park Avenue.

It's pretty clear that Barnie's CoffeeKitchen is getting more serious about the Kitchen part.

Barnie's has been known for decades as the area's homegrown specialty coffee and tea provider. Then, in 2011, the brand was refreshed and CoffeeKitchen added to the name to reflect its new direction, which CEO Jonathan Smiga said at the time would celebrate coffee as a specialized food ingredient.

Now the focus on food is a bit more refined. Camilo Velasco is proof of that. Velasco is Barnie's executive chef, and his resume highlights include stints as chef de partie at Victoria & Albert's and chef de cuisine at Norman's at the Ritz-Carton Orlando. The man definitely has kitchen cred.

NQT logo

North Quarter Tavern, a neighborhood tavern with a chef-driven menu, is slated to be part of the just-opened Nora apartment complex at 861 N. Orange Ave., just north of downtown Orlando (the North Quarter, if you will).

The new restaurant, which will be located on the ground floor of the new apartment building, will be owned and operated by the same team that runs the nearby Citrus Restaurant. Matt Wall, chef at Citrus, will lead the kitchen at NQT. Wall has been at Citrus for five years. 

No details yet on timing. The splash page for the North Quarter Tavern website says only that it will open in 2015. Stay tuned.

Spice burger burger

Burgers, burgers, burgers, burgers, burgers, burgers, burgers, burgers, burgers.

Tired of hearing about burgers yet? (Just wait.) Smashburger, which I first told you was coming to town in august, has opened in the former Boardwalk Fresh Burger space on Colonial Drive across from Fashion Square Mall.

But before we visit Smashburger, let's take a look at another new pattie pusher, this one a nonchain (so far) and from a local restaurateur, Manny Tato, owner of Spice Modern.

That restaurant lends its name, if not all of its vowels, to Spice Burgr, which has opened in the ground level of the Plaza highrise in downtown Orlando. It's similar to a number of other burgeries that dot the landscape these days, from Five Guys to BurgerFi to Burger 21. It's a fast casual concept: place your order at the counter then take a seat (or standby for takeout) and your food will be delivered when ready. (If you take a seat, avoid the booths, which for some reason were designed to prevent diners' feet from touching the floor.)

hhsc chefChef de Cuisine Mark Jeffers gives the rundown for the evening's meal at the H&H Supper Club in November.

As I told you when I first reviewed Highball & Harvest Kitchen and Bar, the Southern-inspired restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, the name is partly a reference to a railroading term that means to go at high speed. To continue that analogy for our recent Supper Club there, H&H's engineer (chef de cuisine Mark Jeffers), conductor (manager Matt Cristi), and all the porters who cooked and served the meal had us at full-steam-ahead all night long. It was one enjoyable journey.

We started with a reception on the covered terrace overlooking the grounds of the resort on one of the most gorgeous evenings we've had lately. There the bartenders were shaking one of the lounge's signature cocktails, the Doc Holliday, which features Tito's vodka, ruby grapefruit juice and house-made ginger beer, plus blueberry jam. The jam gave me caution the first time I tried this cocktail, but it all comes together nicely, and everyone loved the copper mugs it was served in. We nibbled on pimento cheese and smoked fish dip before heading into the adjacent dining room for supper.