Toledo interior

So it turns out that Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí were good friends. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

In 1945 the two began a collaboration on an animated short film called Destino. It went unfinished until Disney’s nephew, Roy, completed and released it in 2003. It’s a little over six minutes and can be viewed on YouTube.

It’s phantasmagorical and classically surreal with plenty of Dalí trademarks, including several things that melt. At one point, a hole opens in the palm of the main character and ants crawl out, then the ants morph into men riding bicycles with baguettes on their heads. Disney and Dalí must have had a lot of fun planning the film. Or at least, ahem, getting in the mood for it.

As I said, it’s a little over six minutes but that’s enough to inspire the Gran Destino Tower, a 16 story, 545 room addition to the Coronado Springs Resort, and to provide the backstory for the new top-floor restaurant, Toledo, and the adjacent Dahlia Lounge. Pronounce the name of the restaurant like the city in Spain, toh-LAY-doh, and not the one in Ohio. Otherwise the lounge would be called Dayton.


City Diner lot

  • City Diner, which probably owed much of its life to its proximity to the Orange County Courthouse and being a convenient lunch spot for lawyers and jury duty hostages, is gone. Like, really gone. It had been “closed for renovations,” as they say, but recently the entire building was bulldozed. I guess that qualifies as extreme renovating. The land will presumably be used for a planned hotel to replace the also-now-gone Travelodge that was next to it.
  • Mon Petit Cheri, the Park Avenue French cafe, has closed but the building it was in is still intact. MPC was formerly known as Palmano’s and was the winner of Orange County’s search for “Orlando’s Signature Dish” in a 2017 contest. Chef/owner Catherine Delrieu’s Honey Nougat Glacé was named the winner by a panel of judges, on which I served. (For the record, I voted for one of the other entries.) Nearly two years later, the Honey Nougat Glacé still has not caught on as THE dish to order in Orlando.


Lafogata exterior

La Fogata saved my Friday night recently.

My destination was another restaurant in the complex on the southwest corner of South Orange Blossom Trail and West Sand Lake Road, across from the Florida Mall. It was an obscure place, but when you write about restaurants you look for the obscure finds, listen for leads, go hunting on a hunch.

This time it didn’t work out. My companion and I walked into the intended restaurant and were greeted with a glare by a staff member holding a microphone and tending to a very large party just inside the front door. His look made it clear that if we weren’t part of this group we didn’t really belong there that night. Although another staff member offered to show us to a booth — just a few feet away from the party and its amplified host — we said we’d come back another time and left.

Just across the way, I saw the sign for La Fogata and said, Let’s give it a try. It was delightful.


Ragazzi interior

College Parkers seem to be rediscovering lunch.

In recent weeks, we’ve learned of a couple of previously dinner only places that have started offering nooners, including K Restaurant and the Local Bar & Grill. K, of course, has gone through many changes in the past few years since Kevin Fonzo, the chef who leant his initial to the restaurant’s name, sold the business. Last year his replacement chef was fired. The restaurant’s website now lists new owner Chad Phelps as the executive chef and Barry Czekaj as the sous chef. Apparently things have settled down enough to start offering lunch hours again, albeit Tuesdays through Fridays. (The restaurant is open on Mondays but for dinner only.

The Local started out as more bar than grill but over the years had added some food elements. Perhaps it was inspired to start serving lunches by the success of our friends next door at Ragazzi’s Pizza & Restaurant.


Rusty Spoon interior

The Rusty Spoon, one of the area’s premier restaurants, has been sold by William and Kathleen Blake to Michelle Lagerweij.

The name of the restaurant will change in the coming weeks to Elize. Lagerweij, who is from the Netherlands, owns a restaurant called Cafe Elize in Utrecht. The menu is expected to change along with the name.

Reanna McNamara, who has been a chef at Rusty Spoon for some time, will take over the kitchen and the Blakes will stay on to assist in the transition. William Blake said Friday that he expects them to be around for three to four weeks.

Blake said they had been looking to sell the restaurant for a while and were introduced to Lagerweij by a broker. He said that he and Kathleen were very happy about the sale and were looking forward to having some time off. He added that they plan to stay in the area and will remain involved in the local culinary community.

The Rusty Spoon opened in 2011 and was an immediate critical hit. Kathleen Blake had previously been with Primo by Melissa Kelly and was one of the early proponents of the farm to table movement. Over the years she has established herself as one of the most celebrated and important local chefs.