JJs burrito sign

Here's another entry in the assemblage category. This time, refreshingly, it isn't a chain restaurant, the people are friendly because they want to be, and the food is better than average.

It's JJ's Grille, a small storefront in a Winn-Dixie plaza on Curry Ford Road in Orlando. The sign claims "grilled fresh food" without being more specific than that. It would seem that it wants to be world fusion, though such generality is seldom a good idea. The website tab says Mexican, the owner is Venezuelan, and there is a Lebanese rice dish. But beyond that, it's a pretty basic unfused menu.

As with other assemblage concepts — Moe's, Chipotle, Italio, etc. — guests choose the ingredients and direct the staff member behind the sneeze guard who puts it all together into what one hopes will be a conglomeration that doesn't suck. Here you can choose a burrito as your food container, or perhaps a pita pocket, or maybe just a bowl to hold it all.


shop-small logoAfter Thanksgiving and the crazy shopping days that followed, including Small Business Saturday, it got me thinking about what it means to Shop Small with regards to the retail wine business. It's just fermented grape juice in a glass bottle, right? Wrong! All wines are not made equal. The wine regions and winemaking processes all vary so widely, which can be confusing. So this poses the question: How do you know which wines are well made and which aren't?

The Farm-to-Table food movement has exploded, and I think the same principles apply to wine. If you want to know what farm your steak or carrot came from, wouldn't you want to know who makes the wine you are going to drink? If you only eat seasonal organic produce, don't you want to know where the wine comes from and what farming practices they use?


Divas DinnerOK, then, let's try this.

Mills Brewpub & Eatery, the FMI Restaurant Group concept that opened in July, is now Divas Dinner Theatre. All previous Internet and social media links for Mills Brewpub now go to divasorlando.com, although the Facebook page still says Mills Brewpub, albeit under a photo of the Divas logo and next to a picture of a drag queen, presumably one of the divas.


olv back

Olv, the Sodo restaruant that closed suddenly in October, will reopen Saturday according to owner Enrique Auvert. The oddly named cafe will open for dinner only at first and add lunch and brunch hours in a couple of weeks, said Auvert.

So what's different now from the circumstances that caused the shutdown?

"Basically there was a shakedown in the ownership," Auvert said. "had to pay some of the debts and penalites for taxes."

Olv will reopen with the same menu as before, but the management is all new. And, he added, "We know that we have to work a little harder in service."

H/T to Mike Cherry for the photo above announcing the reopening.

Olv is at 25 W. Crystal Lake St., Orlando, in the Sodo center.


Southern Moon logoYou might say that Bryce Balluff has come to a fork in the road.

The chef was one of the owners of the Fork in the Road food truck and, more recently, opened Southern Moon Smokehouse, a creative barbecue restaurant on Curry Ford Road in Orlando. Now, Balluff has left the business to his partners, Nelson Hom and Anthony Briante.

Speaking by phone, Balluff said that he and his partners had different customer service and hospitality theories. Financial issues were also part of the reason for his leaving, according to both Balluff and Hom.

Hom said that Balluff "had some differences of how we were running the business. We didn't ask him to leave, he did it on his own."

Briante, whose restaurant resume includes Stonewood and Peter Scott's, will continue to manage the culinary side. Balluff said that he didn't expect the food to alter in any way under Briante's direction.

On of the problems that Southern Moon encountered was the inability to use all of the space that they have under contract in the Winn-Dixie plaza space. A large space was to be a brewery, but there is an issue regarding a sprinkler system -- or, apparently, the lack of one -- that prevents them from moving forward. Indeed, a staff member who was hired to be the restaurant's master brewer also left.

The Fork in the Road food truck continues to operate, successfull, according to Hom. "The food truck is actually keeping a lot of things afloat," he said.