Charleys rendering

Talk of the Town Restaurants is planning to open another location of its flagship brand, Charley’s Steak House. And this one won’t be in the tourist sector.

TOTT’s senior operating partner, Seth Miller, told me that the new steakhouse will be in Winter Park at the corner of Lee Road and Orlando Avenue. If you’re trying to picture what’s already at that intersection, let me help you out: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. You know, the one just a couple of blocks from Ruth’s Chris Steak House. And two miles from Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster. The exact location of where the foundation will be laid has not been determined, so you may also read that to mean that it won’t be opening anytime soon. But suffice to say that when it does, that corner of Winter Park will become one of the most well meated areas of town. (A rendering of what the building will look like is above, courtesy of Talk of the Town Restaurants.)

Talk of the Town has three existing Charley’s: one the group refers to as being in Celebration, even though it’s in Kissimmee; one on International Drive; and another in Tampa. It closed its original Charley’s on Orange Blossom Trail a few years ago and replaced it with a new brand, Charley’s Wildfire Grille, just three years ago. It closed two years ago. There was talk from Talk that it would reopen the Wildfire Grille on property it has in the Lake Buena Vista area, but that has not occurred.

Of course there’s also the little issue of a lawsuit filed by Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises against Talk of the Town Restaurants and Ron Woodsby regarding the use of the word Wildfire.


Taproomgrille burger

I just happened to visit Tap Room Grille in Waterford Lakes on National Burger Day, one of the few made-up holidays not invented by the greeting card industry. I don’t go in for these marketing ploys. I don’t need a special day to remind me to eat lasagna, pickles or, in this case, a good burger.

And Tap Room Grille makes a good burger. It should be noted right off the top that this Tap Room is not related to the Tap Room at Dubsdread, which also makes a good burger — arguably one of the best in town — but it is associated with Nona Tap Room in Lake Nona, which I reviewed in April of 2012.

Then, as now, I went straight for the Loaded Burger, which features the basic Tap Room burger but with bacon and mushrooms added to the tomato, onions, lettuce and cheese choice toppings.


Shaan pakora

I’ve had enough negative experiences with Lake Mary Indian restaurants that having a mediocre one seems a move in the right direction.

A recent meal at Shaan was no more nor less than that. It manages somehow to take one of the world’s most complicated cuisines, one that is characterized by myriad spices, multilayered and complex, and turn it into an offering so bland that Darden could market it to the masses.

My guest and I started with an appetizer of the mixed pakora, assorted vegetables frittered and fried using chickpea flour and, according to the menu, “cholesterol free oil.” I’d have been willing to take the responsibility of having my cholesterol spike a point or two in exchange for some flavor. We did have fun, though, trying to identify the vegetables under the breading.


Divas Chipotle Corn

Introducing a sizzlin' hot side to perfectly complement fajitas, tacos or a thick, juicy steak hot off the grill. The divas are taking our beloved fresh corn off the roasted cob, the caramelized sweet kernels kicking flavor over the top.

A creamy chipotle reduction simmers while the ears roast, adding a mix of creamy, smoky sweetness to the corn, with a topping of nutty grated parmesan. You could stop right there and await a well-deserved standing ovation, or add a sprinkle or freshly minced cilantro. Pass with juicy lime wedges for added sparkle.



TOULOUSE - It’s hot in Toulouse.

Temperatures in this southern France city have been regularly hitting the upper 80s and even into the 90s. (That’s Fahrenheit, of course, even though folks in this part of the world prefer Celsius, which, granted, sounds a bit cooler when you hear it.)

But whether you’re talking 88 F or 31 C, we can agree that it is, in the words of Cole Porter, too darned hot.

I think we can also agree that on sultry evenings, one does not usually seek out dishes that are associated with wintery nights. Cassoulet would be among them.