Ruby baba

Baba's Orlando Mediterranean Grill, which we reviewed here just one year ago last week, is no longer falafeling  downtown diners, but it hasn't exactly gone away.

Instead, it has changed its name to Ruby's Mediterranean Grill. The change, apparently, occurred in December. The sign on the building still says BaBa's, but a sandwich board on the sidewalk reads Ruby's, as do the embroidered shirts the staff were wearing recently. They were doing a brisk lunch business so it wasn't convenient to chat them up about the change.

The corner space was previously known as WhiteWood Mediterranean Grill. 

Ruby's -- or whatever it might be called by the time you read this -- is at 1 S. Orange Ave., Orlando.

OldCuban bar

There’s a new Old Cuban Cafe. It’s similar to the old Old Cuban Cafe, though I admit I haven’t been to the oldest Old Cuban Cafe.

The newest is on Colonial Drive, east of Alafaya Trail, in eastern Orlando. It’s much bigger than the one I visited on North Goldenrod Road four years ago (there’s another location on South Goldenrod; I don’t know which is the older Cuban). This is the same strip mall where Kreyol Kafe & Bakery is located.

Nagoya sashimi

Nagoya Sushi is the winner of the 2017 Foodster Award for Best Sushi.

Second place goes to Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi on Restaurant Row and third place to Baldwin Park’s Seito Sushi.

Nagoya has two locations: 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando; and 5661 Red Bug Lake Road, Winter Springs.

In casting her vote, Gabriella Serralles said: “Nagoya sushi has the tastiest, most beautifully prepared sushi and sashimi I've ever had, both in Orlando, and anywhere else in the world! They also boast an amazing non-sushi menu, and the friendliest most helpful staff ever. They make coming back time and time again a real treat.”


Voting is now live for the Foodster Award for Best Hotel Restaurant. 

It wasn’t that long ago that hotel restaurants weren’t anyplace a proper food lover would deign to visit. For years, they were little more than glorified coffee shops that existed only for the hotel guests who were too tired, rushed or intimidated to venture outside the hotel’s front door to find a proper place to eat.

But that’s changed. Now some of the area’s finest restaurants can be found inside the many hotels and resorts that serve Central Florida. And hotel guests find themselves competing with locals for choice reservations.

The list of nominees below was complied by SJO staff and includes restaurants known for their fine quality and their reputation within the culinary community.

Write-in candidates are allowed. However, please verify that the restaurant is not a chain and that the name isn’t already included in the original list. Restaurants with more than three locations worldwide and duplicates will be eliminated from the ballot.

Also please note: You may vote only once. If you've voted in this category previously, the VOTE button will not appear.

And be sure to leave a comment telling us why you voted for your selection -- I might quote you when the winner is announced (be sure to say which restaurant you voted for in your comment or we won't know who you're talking about). Click this link to go to the Foodster Awards page.

PHO pirate

I didn’t think it was possible but Robert Earl has outdone himself.

The newly rebranded Planet Hollywood Observatory is a theme restaurant of Cecil B. DeMille proportions. The massive dining venue is on three open levels — think orchestra, mezzanine and balcony — and is dominated by a huge, towering curved screen where videos and other images are projected from various angles. It’s a little bit like dining in an IMAX theater.

The restaurant reopened last month after a year-long renovation that took the 22-year-old original structure — a massive globe, which was pretty impressive on its own — and reimagined it as an observatory to fit in with the overall theme of Disney Springs (itself a rebranding of Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island).