Poke Hana bowl

Poke popularity proceeds apace.

Poke, pronounced poh-kay but not spelled with an accent mark, because Hawaiian, is the meal in a bowl option that usually features fresh raw fish as its prominent protein.

Poke Hana is one of the more recent entries among the the local poke providers. It occupies a rather spartan but colorful spot in a storefront on East Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district. One supposes the decor is meant to approximate a beachside shack somewhere in Hawaii. There are long narrow tables (too narrow, really, for two people to sit across from one another) with yellow and white metal chairs that no one would ever look at and think, "Boy, those sure look comfortable." Touches of neon, ceiling fans with a rattan look, and a projector splashing a video of surfers on one of the walls completes the Maui-like mien.


WDW Swan and Dolphin Causeway FW Classic

It's time for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic, the annual event that capitalizes on the popularity of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival but has the good sense to wait until the weather cools a bit.

This year's Classic is Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. both nights, and takes place largely on and around the causeway that connects the two large hotels.

This is the ninth annual Classic and as in years past it entails eating, with samples of food from the many restaurants housed at the two resorts -- Il Mulino, Shula's Steakhouse, Todd English's bluezoo and Kimonos among them; drinking, with wine, beer and cocktails from around the world (but not from around the World Showcase); and even education if you feel guilty about indulging in the other two without bettering yourself as a human being.

Actually, the educational events mostly involve eating and drinking, too. There are seminars on wine blending, pasta making and sushi and sake, among others. You should note that the seminars start at 4:30 p.m., so that's an exemption to the 5:30 starting time I listed above. Also, there's a Sunday brunch option, too, so just forget what I said about this being on Friday and Saturday.



The restaurants listed in the poll below have advanced from the nominating phase and are the finalists for Best Italian in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

You may vote for only one restaurant, and please vote just once.

After placing your vote, leave a comment below telling us why you like your selection (be sure to mention the name of the restaurant in you comment otherwise we won't know which one you're talking about). We may use your comments when we announce the winners.

Please note: All the votes received during the nominating phase have been zeroed out. You must vote in the finals for your choice to count.

Voting ends Nov. 7. The Winners will be announced in the Nov. 8 edition of Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide's eletter. To subscribe, text SJO to 66866.


Jinya black

With the popularity of ramen at a height, it was only a matter of time before we'd see a chain noodle its way into town. It happened with Vietnamese, it's happening with poke, so why not ramen?

Jinya Ramen Bar is the company with a new franchise in Orlando, its first in Florida (oddly, the website lists the names of the cities for locations in other states but the Florida listing is Thornton Park). It took over and remodeled that space in Thornton Park Central that had briefly been Verde Cantina and, before that, a Tijuana Flats.

Jinya kitchen 1

As with many chain operations, Jinya's corporate connections bring advantages and disadvantages. It brought money to turn the space into a moody urban noodle bar with an open kitchen inside the front door, a central bar with seating on three sides, and a sunken dining room at the back.

Nothing I sampled at Jinya on my two visits was less than acceptable. Some things were delightfully better than I expected, some less so.



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It's time for a Taste of Dr. Phillips. No, not the actual person; that wouldn't be palatable.

We're talking about the area of Orlando known as Dr. Phillips, which as you know incorporates Sand Lake Road's Restaurant Row. And with so many good restaurants in the area (if there weren't I wouldn't have dubbed it Restaurant Row in 1995), a Taste of Dr. Phillips starts to sound a lot tastier.

This will be the 12th annual ToDP, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dr. Phillips Foundation, Inc. It takes place on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Dellagio, which is a terrific venue for an event like this.

This, of course, is a walkabout event where attendees, um, walkabout and visit the various restaurant cooking stations. Our friends from Big Fin Seafood Kitchen and The Whiskey are among this year's participants.

They'll be joined by such estimable names as Eddie V's, Roy's Hawaiian Fusion, Pharmacy, Slate, Seasons 52, Peperoncino Cucina, Vines Grill and Wine Bar, Capital Grille, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, Urbain 40, Dragonfly Sushi and more.

And there will also be wine and beer to go along with all the tasty food. Also, a silent auction will be involved.

Tickets are just $75 per person with proceeds going to the many local charities supported by Dr. Phillips Rotary. You can find out more details and purchase your tickets at the official 2018 Taste of Dr. Phillips website.