The readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide have voted Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster Best Steakhouse in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants. Longtimer Linda’s La Cantina was second and Bull & Bear at the Waldorf Astoria came in third.
Christner’s recently celebrated its 25th anniversary (though its first 20 years were as Del Frisco’s) and was the subject of a review in November. “Best steaks in town,’ wrote Tomas DeAddio. “Love Bull but it's about the steak and Christners is number one.”
It’s fun to have a place like Disney Springs to take visitors to, just to walk around and gawk.
There’s the majestic expansiveness of Morimoto Asia and Maria & Enzo’s, the jaw-dropping emersiveness of Planet Hollywood’s observatory-like projections, and the amusement of watching cars drive into the lagoon next to the Boathouse. The Edison has all sorts of distractions, Raglan Road is always a foot-stomping good time and Wine Bar George is great for a sip and a nosh.
And all are good places to dine, too.
But following a quiet cocktail in the underground lair of Enzo’s Hideaway (plus a nosh of some delicious Meatball Sliders), my visitors and I thought we’d just get a quick bite for dinner at Pizza Ponte just upstairs. I had never eaten at the little quick-serve next to the entrance to Maria & Enzo’s, and a slice of pizza sounded just right.
I was surprised to find that while one can indeed get a slice of pie — and delicious pie at that — one may also find some really good sandwiches.
Wolfgang Puck is back in town after a very long absence.
And by that I mean a lot longer than just the closing of the former Wolfgang Puck Cafe. That was the big, two-story restaurant that opened in 1996 in Downtown Disney’s then-called West Side, about the same time as House of Blues and Bongos. Puck was one of the first celebrity chefs to have a presence in Central Florida, and the first iteration of his cafe was quite good, especially the dining room on the second level that was supposed to be an approximation of his Beverly Hills hangout Spago, although it couldn’t be called that because of licensing restrictions.
Oh, here’s a fun bit of trivia: When the Ritz-Carlton was in development to open at Grande Lakes, it approached Puck to open a restaurant there. But because of a noncompete clause in his agreement with Walt Disney World Resort he was unable to consider it. So instead, the Ritz pursued a Miami chef who had recently won a James Beard Award to recreate his popular Coconut Grove restaurant. Norman Van Aken accepted, and that’s how Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton came to be. (The Coconut Grove restaurant closed many years ago.)
At the height of Puck’s popularity, he sold the cafe concept to Chicago’s Levy Restaurants, and the quality of the Disney restaurant plummeted dramatically. After I wrote an updated and largely negative review of Wolfgang Puck Cafe in 2004, I had occasion to speak to Puck by phone on another topic, but I brought up the quality of the local restaurant. He was aware of it and told me that at one point he considered asking the owners to remove his name.
Which brings us now to Disney Springs, the dining, entertainment and retail project that subsumed Downtown Disney, Pleasure Island, Disney Village and the former West Side, and one of the newest restaurants to open there, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill.
It’s Appetite for the Arches, a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida, and it will be Saturday, March 2, at Rosen Shingle Creek, from 7 to 10 p.m.
This is a walkabout food and beverage event like many others, with food stations featuring some of the area’s top chef talent set up around a ballroom, each paired with a wine or cocktail vendor.
But this one has a big twist: All of the chefs have been challenged to create dishes using one or more ingredients found on the menu at McDonald’s. But remember, we’re talking about some really creative culinary talent, so expect something more than McNuggets a la king.
Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, officially begins Tuesday, Feb. 5. Each year is associated with an animal, and 2019 (on the western calendar) is the Year of the Pig, arguably the tastiest of all the Lunar calendar animals. Next year is the Year of the Rat, which you could have guessed because it’s an election year. To celebrate, go to your favorite Asian restaurant and order your favorite foods. (Japanese don’t observe it, but if that’s your favorite Asian food, go for it.) If you order long noodles, you must slurp them without cutting them or you’ll have bad luck. And, just so you know, on the first day of the New Year it’s considered bad luck to sweep or clean, lest you sweep away good luck. I like that one.
Yum Brands plans to open one of its Taco Bell Cantina restaurants, notably different from other TB’s because it serves alcohol. That should help cut out the middle man for many of Taco Bell’s regulars because I assume most of them only go there after a night out of drinking.
The organizers of the first Orlando Wine Festival and Auction, March 15 though 17, have announced the initial list of participating wineries, and it’s a stellar lineup.
The bulk of the 26 wineries are from Napa and Sonoma counties in California, but don’t look for any of the names you’d see on the wine shelves at your local supermarket. They include Accendo Cellars, Lail Vineyards, Peter Michael Winery and Rudd/Edge Hill. Bordeaux wineries Château Cos d’Estournel and Haut Medoc Selection will also be pouring. (Click Read More for the complete list.)