Lobby Bar bar

The one thing that was missing from the grand Ritz-Carlton at the Grande Lakes Resort was a grand lobby bar. There was a place for cocktails or a glass of wine but it wasn’t exactly a place you’d want to linger and soak in the luxuriousness of the hotel and its grounds. It was more a place to meet.

But now following a big renovation, the Ritz-Carlton has the Lobby Lounge, an appropriately resplendent space worthy of the hotel’s brand.


taproom corner

As has become an annual tradition, I participated as a silent auction item at the Orlando Shakes gala. The prize is for a couple to join me at a restaurant and help me review it.

And as has also become a tradition, the successful bidders were John and Rita Lowndes. And so we gathered at Tap Room at Dubsdread, whose owner, Steve Gunter, had graciously donated the meal to benefit the theater company.

We gathered at the restaurant on a Thursday evening and found it at full capacity, but our reserved table was waiting for us. Tap Room at Dubsdread has been known as a place for power lunches with the city’s movers and shakers gathering to see and be seen as much as to have a good meal.


christmas table

All of us at Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide would like to wish you a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas – Kwanzaa, too. In other words, Happy Holidays.

If you’re cooking dinner for family and friends, I hope everything comes out just right and that your guests appreciate the hard work that goes into such a meal.

If things don’t go right, you may be able to join others who will be dining out instead of cooking in. Here are links to restaurants serving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

If you are dining out, please be extra kind to the staff members who are giving up their holidays to serve you.

Best wishes,




La Luce2015 final 243x300 copyFor those of you who are able to look past the next few days and are already anticipating events in the New Year, consider the first wine dinner of 2020 at La Luce at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creet.

The five-course dinner is Saturday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. and will feature pairings with Brancaia Wine. Cost is $175 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 407-597-3675 or emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And here’s an intriguing twist. According to information from the hotel: “During the evening’s wine experience, a small portion will be conducted via Virtual Reality goggles using YouTube technology. We ask that you come with the YouTube application downloaded on your smartphone in preparation of the festivitites.”

That certainly piques my curiosity.

Here’s chef de cuisine Alberto Navarette Arias’ menu for the evening:


BullandBear dining room

Note: This article has been amended to show that Kim Wu Chinese Restaurant has not yet closed; it will close on Jan. 30, 2020.

  • Orlando’s Bull & Bear Steakhouse has been named to OpenTable’s 2019 Top 100 Restaurants list. The Waldorf Astoria fine dining restaurant had a 92 percent recommendation from more than 2,029 reviews. Bull & Bear is a finalist for the 2019 Best Restaurant Overall Foodster Award.
  • Chris Vitanza has been named executive pastry chef of Rosen Shingle Creek. Vitanza, a native of Philadelphia, has baked for presidents and was previously executive pastry chef at The Franklin Plaza Hotel, Hershey Hotel, Union League of Philadelphia, and Bookbinders Restaurant. He also owned a dessert restaurant called The Painted Parrot Cafe in Philly’s Old City. Vitanza replaces David Ramirez who left the resort earlier this year to focus on his popular David Ramirez Chocolates.
  • Simply Gyros on Sand Lake Road is complicating its menu with the addition of empanadas, arepas and other South American dishes.