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Vietnomz pho

Here are your finalists for the 2019 Best Vietnamese Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants. You may choose just one favorite. Click the circle next to its name then click VOTE at the bottom of the list.

Note: No votes were carried over from the nominating phase. All finalists start with zero votes, so even if you voted for your favorite as a nominee, you must vote again in the finals.

After you’ve made your selection, leave a comment mentioning the name of the restaurant you voted for, telling us why you think it’s the best. We may use your comment when the winner is announced. (Be sure to say who you're commenting about because we can't see who you voted for.)

Voting will continue through July 24.

Here are the finalists:

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Felipe door

Of all the restaurants that have occupied the space at the corner of Washington Street and Hyer Avenue in downtown’s Thornton Park, Felipe Rodriguez Tequila House + Kitchen feels the most permanent.

That may be because for the first time the main dining part of the restaurant has an actual hard roof. Before that it had an elaborate tent-like structure to keep out the elements, and before that it had nothing. The elements were everywhere.

But there’s more to the commitment of a real roof and all the other cosmetic and structural redesigns inside. It shows a dedication to this concept. Even more, the people involved in the restaurant seem to understand that the food needs to be more than an afterthought. On my two visits to the restaurant, I was surprised to find the food as good as it was.

I don’t mean for that to be a backhanded compliment. But let’s face it: Any place in downtown Orlando that calls itself a tequila house isn’t a place you’d expect to spend much time on food. Fortunately, that’s not the case here.

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Ponte pop

I was at Disney Springs one recent sweltering day — I know, that doesn’t narrow it down much — so I decided to pop in to Pizza Ponte for a pop.

I’d say I stopped in for a popsicle, but Popsicle® is actually a brandname. The generic term is ice pop, though I’ve never heard anyone say, “Hey, I could sure go for an ice pop right about now.” But the brand became so identified with the genre that they’re interchangeable. Sort of like, “Hand me a Kleenex®, would you? This Popsicle® is running down my arm.”

But in any event, I stopped eating popsicles a long time ago. Ice pops, too.

But a frozen device on a wooden stick fashioned out of sangria can certainly get my attention. So that’s what I was at Pizza Ponte to try.

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Rocco castello

Rocco Potami, the chef and owner of Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar in Winter Park, is hosting a Castello di Querceto wine dinner on Tuesday, July 9, and it’s looking to be the dinner deal of the summer.

The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m.with a welcome sparkler of Rotari Brut 2014 and will be followed by a five course dinner, each paired with a wine from Castello di Querceto's portfolio. And the cost is $85 plus tax and gratuity.

If you know the quality of Potami’s food — and you should — you’ll know that that’s an amazing value, even without the wines. His Veal & Beef Ravioli in a white truffle sauce, which happens to be the second course, is enough to get me to sign on. But there’s plenty more good stuff on the menu. I got a sneak peek of it and I’ll share it with you below.

To reserve your space for the dinner, call the restaurant at 407-644-7770. Seating is limited, so don’t wait too long on this one. Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar is at 400 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park.

Here’s the menu:

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bad ass plaque

I stopped in recently to present the Foodster Award for Best Sandwiches to Bad As’s, the Milk District restaurant.

Accepting the award were Danielle Linares and Yevgeniy Ignatov.

And this is a reminder that we’re in the nominating phase for Best Vietnames. Head over the the Foodsters page and place your vote. Nominations will be accepted through July 9 and the finalists will be named on July 10.