Paddlefish exterior

Finally made it in to Paddlefish for a proper, sit-down dinner. I had visited previously for a media event, but that was a walkabout affair that served food but didn’t allow one to experience it as a restaurant. I’m happy to report that Paddlefish, with a culinary team led by chef Mark Boor, offers a very nice dining opportunity and is a good addition to the growing list of Disney Springs venues.

Paddlefish, of course, is the reimagined Fulton’s Crab House (née Empress Lily), on the nonfloating structure made to resemble a vintage paddlewheel river boat.

It’s less vintage-y with the recent renovation, which gave it a modern look, both inside and out (though the frozen-in-place paddles remain).

This is a huge facility, but it features several smaller dining rooms that keep it from feeling like a large main feeding room on a cruise ship.

Best Breakfast plaque

Shakers American Cafe is the winner of the 2017 Best Breakfast Foodster Award. The readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide chose Se7en Bites Bake Shop for second place and Winter Park’s Briarpatch for third.

In casting her vote, Lucy Minnie Schnauzer (probably not her real name; just guessing) wrote “Shakers American Cafe always has fresh, creatively plated breakfast entrees. The new owners make it a friendlier place to go.”

Chris Huff wrote, “Seven Bites! The whole menu is fantastic.”

Shakers, the small diner on Edgewater Drive in College Park, is named for the myriad salt and pepper shakers that decorate the space. “We love College Park,” said Terry Granda, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Greg, who also serves as the chef. The Grandas bought the restaurant three years ago because, said Terry, it reminded her of the sort of neighborhood restaurant she grew up with in the sixties and seventies. “It’s a unique little place.”

Shakers opened in 1993 in a space that at one time was a Carolina BBQ. The address is 1308 Edgewater Drive, Orlando.

Se7en Bites Bake Shop is somewhat newer, and its current location, 617 Primrose Drive, Orlando, even more recent.

Briarpatch, 252 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, is another old-timer, dating back to 1980.

The Foodsters are an ongoing program to recognize and celebrate culinary excellence in Central Florida. The Foodsters are open to any restaurant with three or fewer locations -- no chains.

Visit the Foodster page to vote in other categories.

Best Irish Plaque

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide have named Raglan Road the Best Irish Pub in the Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

Fiddler’s Green received the second highest number of votes and downtown’s Harp & Celt was third.

Raglan Road, of course, is the authentic Irish pub at Disney Springs that features the cuisine of celebrity chef Kevin Dundon. Each year it hosts its Mighty St. Patrick’s Festival with an expanded entertainment schedule. You can find this year’s roster at

Raglan Road and Fiddler’s Green share something in common, I mean beyond both being Irish. They also have decor and constructural elements that were imported from actual pubs in Ireland. Fiddler’s Green is at 544 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park.

Harp & Celt pours pints and serves stews to downtown’s Irish fans at 25 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando.

All three will have St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (March 17 is the official date, though the festivities will go on through the weekend.)

Here is some advice from the Foodster winner, Raglan Road.

JBF Logo 2017

The finalists for the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced Wednesday. The two Central Florida chefs nominated for the Best Chef South category, Kathleen Blake of the Rusty Spoon and Brandon McGlamery of Luma on Park, did not advance to the finals.

I had to double check the list to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally been sent last year’s list of finalists — three of the five nominees were also on the 2016 short list. They include: Slade Rushing, Brennan’s, New Orleans; Jose Enrique, Jose Enrique, San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar, Oxford, Miss.

The other two nominees, both, not surprisingly, of New Orleans, are Rebecca Wilcomb, Herbsaint, and Nina Compton, Compère Lapin.

Although several Central Florida chefs have been semifinalists for the prestigious award, none has ever advanced to the final ballot.

The winners of the 2017 James Beard Awards will be announced at a gala ceremony at Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 1.

The full list of nominees can be seen at this link.

Maialino vanity

Here’s how a good manager can turn a bad situation around. Sort of. Potentially.

Maybe not.

On a recent trip to New York, I did something I don’t often do: I went back to a restaurant I had already visited. I seldom do that because there are always new and interesting restaurants to check out. A trip to the city offers only so many dining opportunities, why waste one on a known commodity?

But every now and then I like to relax and enjoy myself. So I made reservations for Maialino, the Danny Meyer restaurant in the Gramercy Park that I had enjoyed in the past. The homey Italian cuisine and comfortably bustling atmosphere of the popular restaurant was just what I wanted.

But the Roman-style trattoria, which opened in 2010, was showing signs of fatigue, both physically and emotionally.