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Grisham coverIt’s always exciting when there’s a new John Grisham novel. But it’s even more exciting when there’s a little bit of local color included.

Grisham’s latest, "The Guardians," takes place in Florida and at one point the protagonist sets up a rendezvous with a woman who suggests a place for them to meet. “There’s a place called Christner’s on Lee Road. Let’s meet there. And Dutch treat.”

That would be Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster. Co-owner David Christner showed me the passage when I was having dinner there recently and said he had no idea the popular steakhouse would have a cameo in the book or how it came about.

One would assume Grisham visited the restaurant for research. After all, he knew enough about to place to have the character suggest sharing the bill.

Grisham passage

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Highland Manor

Dubsdread Catering has signed a deal to continue providing catering services for the Highland Manor when it becomes part of the Apopka Town Center.

According to Dubsdread principal Steve Gunter, the agreement with developer Taurus Southern Investments is to provide catering and event management support to the Victorian property and to the hotel under construction nearby. Highland Manor is a favorite wedding site, and the hotel, a Hilton Garden Inn, will have 10 bridal suites.

Dubsdread Catering was two years into a five-year contract when the two sides agreed to renegotiate. The new contract term is for eight years with an option to extend another five to 10 years.

Dubsdread Catering operates out of a facility owned by the City of Orlando at Historic Dubsdread golf course, which is also home to the popular restaurant Tap Room at Dubsdread.

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Kavas Logo copy

The owners of two popular International Drive restaurants – the Greek Taverna Opa and the Spanish Tapa Toro – will add another restaurant to their portfolio.

Katerina and Vassilis Coumbaros have announced that KAVAS Tacos + Tequila will open in September 2020 at Pointe Orlando, where Taverna Opa is located. KAVAS, which is a portmanteau of their two first names, will occupy the spaces that previously held Minus5 Ice Bar, Johnny Rockets and other retail space.

“We are excited to bring KAVAS Tacos + Tequila to the locals and travelers alike and are grateful to be able to open our doors once more in Pointe Orlando, where we have already been providing quality hospitality and entertainment for over a decade,” said Katerina.

The restaurant’s menu will pay tribute to Mexico’s rich culinary history and will feature tableside experiences. The bar menu will offer tequila flights and classic margaritas.

The new restaurant will offer dining for 400 guests, inside and outside, and will have private rooms for events.

As with Taverna Opa and Tapa Toro, KAVAS will offer nightly entertainment, encouraging diners to get up and dance.

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, including late night hours on weekends.

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Don Julio dining room

It would seem that the place to be on a Friday night if you live in the area of Chickasaw Trail and Lake Underhill Road is Don Julio’s Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar. At least it seemed that way the Friday evening my companion and I stopped in. The restaurant in the aptly named Rio Pina Plaza was jumping like veritable frijoles saltarines.

It was so crowded that people waiting for tables were standing around on the sidewalk outside the strip plaza storefront. The only seats available, the young woman at the host stand told us, were at either of the bars, the tequila bar in the title or the ceviche bar on the other side of the room.

That suited us just fine because it was the ceviche bar that drew my attention to this particular D. Julio’s over the one in Lake Mary or the other location in Waterford Lakes. That’s because the ceviche bar is under the direction of chef Roberto Treviño, a former contestant on variations of the Iron Chef cooking competitions who previously owned El Buda, the Latin and Asian fusion restaurant in an ill-fated (and well hidden) Church Street Station space.

But even with Treviño’s credentials, his association with the Mexican restaurant is not touted very highly. In fact, I didn’t spot his name anywhere on the multipage menu.

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alexs top

Stopped by a pleasant little breakfast and lunch spot in Casselberry the other day called Alex’s Fresh Kitchen.

The Alex of Alex’s Fresh Kitchen is Alexander Diaz. His restaurant is a small storefront in the same compact group of businesses that also holds Palma Maria Italian restaurant and Aladdin’s Middle Eastern Cuisine.

The menu, like the restaurant, isn’t large but has an even balance of morning and noon items, including pancakes, granola and egg croissant for the former and salads and sandwiches for the latter.