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Diva brunch

Estefan Kitchen, the new Cuban restaurant at the Promenade at Sunset Place, has instituted a drag-themed brunch. This is not to be confused with the car shows that take place at the Prom – this is a different kind of drag. Every Sunday from now on, the Diva’s Dining Performance will take the stage from noon to 3 p.m. to entertain diners as they feast on such things as open-faced Cuban egg sandwiches, omelets, French toast, steak & eggs, and tres leches. Doesn’t sound like a drag at all. Reservations at the restaurant’s website.

Pom

Kudos to Pom Moongauklang whose Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria is celebrating its 15th anniversary. From now until Sat., Jan. 9, will offer specials, promotions and giveaways. On Tues., Dec. 29, 15 percent of lunch proceeds will go to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. If you’re more altruistic, you may prefer Mon., Dec. 28’s $1.50 local beers. Check out more at Pom Pom’s Facebook page.

Gideon springs

Gideon’s Bakeshop has opened at Disney Springs, a big step up from its original stall at East End Market. Does a larger space mean larger cookies? Not sure that’s even possible. Interesting marketing choice in announcing the opening with the tagline, "The Weight Begins." Timing might be off for all the resolutionists but everything else has been wacky this year, who knows? Also, as you can see in the photo, the sign says the shop was established in 1898, which is pure hooey. Obviously it will feature into whatever cockamamie backstory has been invented by the Disney Springers. 

If you’re still looking for a restaurant to enjoy a special New Year’s Eve dinner (note: New Year’s Eve is on Dec. 31 this year), check out the choices in our Holiday Dining listings. Good optoins including JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek; Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe; Big Fin Seafood Kitchen; and the Promenade at Sunset Walk.

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Nurturing Day

Bad As’s, the award-winning sandwich shop, plans to give away takeaway sandwiches Wed., Dec. 23, for what it is calling Nurturing Day.

Owner John Collazo said that he’s offering the giveaway as a thank-you to customers that have supported him and his restaurants over the past several months.

The prepacked meals – meant for those facing food insecurity but no one is asking questions – will be handed out at the Milk District location, 207 N. Primrose Drive, only beginning at 5 p.m. and continuing through 8 o’clock or until the food is gone. The initiative is supported by sponsors and donors, including Se7enbites, Valhalla Bakery, Foxtail Coffee, Robo Candelario, Alers Law Firm, Latin American Pawn Shop, Alfredo Kierszman, and the Milk District.

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LaCampana ext

I don’t know why – maybe it’s the years I spent in the Southwest prior to moving to Orlando – but I crave Mexican or Tex-Mex food this time of year. So I figured I’d indulge myself by visiting La Campana Mexican Restaurant, which opened on Lee Road a year and a half ago.

And it all would have been first rate if not for the chicharrones in guacamole. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

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Kona Poke Express Mills 50 Photo 1 copy

  • Chef Hackett       Caribe Royale has a new executive chef. David Hackett, who most recently was the executive chef at the Four Diamond Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland, has joined the Disney-area resort whose restaurants include the estimable Venetian Chop House. Hackett, who has also worked at properties owned by Marriott, Kessler, Starwood, Biltmore and Walt Disney World – he’s obviously a hotel man – has one multiple culinary awards, including the Brillat-Savarin Medaille de Merite. You know an award is prestigious when you can’t pronounce it.
  •        Disney has announced a flock of new restaurants for its under-development Flamingo Crossings Town Center and boy does it sound like just about every other strip mall in town. You’ve got your Wendy’s, your Domino’s, a Firehouse Subs, Five Guys, PDQ and other chains. There will be a Pieology Pizzeria, another franchise with its first Central Florida location. (That Domino’s didn’t have an exclusive pizza clause in its lease agreement is surprising.) Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ, an Ocoee and Clermont restaurant, will open its third location at Flamingo Crossings – whose portmanteaunic name may or may not become Flam-ings – as will Persimmon Hollow Brewing, the DeLand beer maker that opened recently in downtown Orlando in the former Lake Eola Panera location. Nice that Disney included a couple of local businesses, but they’re growing fast enough to soon qualify as chains, too.
  •        Kona Poké, which has become its own little chainlet, opened its first Orlando Kona Poké Express, seen at top, last weekend outside Quantum Leap Winery in the Mills 50 district. Why does Poké Express sound like a contradiction in terms?
  •       The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that restaurant workers be in the third group of Americans in line for a Covid-19 vaccine. So servers, bartenders, cooks and dishwashers will have to wait, unless any of them are over 74 years old, which is one of the criteria for the second group to receive the shots. When the shots can be given depends on the availability of doses and how many people who qualify for early vaccinations get them. The guidelines are only recommendations and the final say on prioritization is being left up to individual states. That doesn’t sound encouraging, does it, Florida?
  •      Now would be a good time to suggest that if you have a favorite restaurant you should consider buying gift cards – as many as you can – to help a struggling business with some cash flow. And believe me, if a restaurant is still open, it’s struggling. Normally my advice on gift cards is to use them immediately because you never know when someone will go out of business. This year I’m recommending that you buy as many as you can and just sit on them until the pandemic is over. Then pass them out to all your vaccinated friends and have them meet you at the restaurant for a big party.
  •        If you still need dining information for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, check out our Holiday Dining listings.

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christmas table

Every year, we compile a list of restaurants that will be serving on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Why should it be any different this year just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic?

The good news is that while many of the restaurants on this year’s list are offering in-house dining – following recommended occupancy and distancing guidelines – many are also making their menus available for takeout. In fact some on the list, especially for Christmas Day, are taking preorders for pickup before the 25th and plan to be closed that day.

You can take a look at the Holiday Dining lists here. For Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, we’ve listed only restaurants that are offering special menus on those nights. The Christmas Day list includes all restaurants – those who have notified us – that they will be open on Dec. 25 whether they’re offering a special menu or not.

Among those you may want to consider are:

The restaurants at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek, especially the new and excellent Sear + Sea, which is offering a menu of sharables as well as its regular menu;

The new Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe, with a three-course dinner for $55 per person (can also be prepared to go with reheating instructions);

Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, where you can check out the new chef, Eric Enrique, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, the latter with a four-course meal;

Taverna Opa and Tapa Toro for Greek and Spanish takes, both Christmas Eve and Day;

Tabla, where both locations will be serving its wonderful Indian menu plus a special Christmas table d’hote;

And Mia’s Italian Kitchen, which is offering Christmas to-go packages that can actually be picked on on Christmas Day if you prefer.

Whether you’re dining out, getting food to-go or staying in and doing the cooking yourself, have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It’s got to be happier, right?