You’d think Itsa Chicken would be a sufficiently self-identifying name for a restaurant. But it’s actually a little too succinct. Maybe Itsa Chicken Sandwich would be better, or Itsa Fried Chicken Sandwich, because that’s essentially what this new Milk District eatery offers.
And before we go any further, I feel compelled to mention that the logo for the business includes the apostrophe that makes the name more grammatically correct. But all other references on the business’s web and Facebook pages are Itsa, so it’s how I’ll refer to it here. Grudgingly.
Itsa Chicken is a hole in the wall, literally. It occupies a corner of Whiskey Lou’s Lounge, a longtime cocktail slinger from pre-Milk District designation days. A window was punched out for walkup orders. There are a few stools at a railing overlooking Bumby Avenue, and Lou’s, which recently went smoke-free (perhaps you saw the headlines about Hell freezing over), put in a back patio, so I assume chicken sandwich eaters would be welcome there as long as they’re also drinking from Lou’s. Heck, you may even be allowed indoors with the nonsmokers as long as you’re imbibing. But walking your sandwich across the parking lot to the new Milkhouse food hall would be bad form.
I have just enough time to induct the Catfish Place of Apopka into our list of Orlando Classics before it goes away forever. After 38 years, the restaurant has been sold and will soon change its name to Nauti Lobstah.
Michael Rumplik and his wife, Cara, along with Christine Gonzalez purchased the landmark eatery from Bob Johnson last month. Rumplik’s name should be familiar to longtime readers as the executive chef at Rosen Centre, where he oversaw Everglades restaurant. So he knows seafood (though one of my favorite Rumplik dishes is his focaccia-crusted lamb).
But devoted Catfish Placers should take heart: Rumplik says that although he’s adding to the menu – a live lobster tank is now on premises and he’s featuring more oysters and clams – he has no intention of deleting the erstwhile eponymous items. Translation: Catfish will still be available. “I kept many of Bob’s recipes and favorites on the menu,” Rumplik told me by phone. “I want to keep everybody happy and content.”
Orlando's Evette Rahman receives check after winning dessert competition at the World Food Championship in Dallas earlier this month. (Photo: WFC)
You may have had some great desserts at your Thanksgiving feast, but you probably didn’t have world champion quality desserts. Unless, of course, you ordered your holiday pies and cakes from Sister Honey’s on Michigan Street in Orlando.
And you didn’t have Sister Honey’s pies and cakes at your holiday feast unless you ordered them before October 1. That’s when the small bakery’s reservations for Thanksgiving filled up.
And sometime between then and D-Day (the D is for Dessert), Sister Honey’s owner Evette Rahman traveled to Dallas to compete in the dessert category at the World Food Championship.
And she won. Again. In fact, it was Rahman’s third time taking first place at the competition, something no one else has ever done.
Openings: Food halls, taqueria and Florida kitchen
Openings, we’ve got openings.
The Hall on the Yard, the long-anticipated food, beer and cocktail space, opened Thursday in Ivanhoe Village at 1460 Alden Road, Orlando.
The hall has nine restaurants, with a few more spaces yet to fill, three bars and private event spaces.
Opening restaurants include: Humbl, the quick-service plant-based eatery; Spice Affair, Indian; Pasion, Mexican; the Poke Rose (poke is pronounced po-kay, so is rose pronounced ro-say?); The Chef & I, American fusion; Fork & Hen, Southern; Daily Bread Bakers; True Island, Caribbean; and Wabi Sabi, Japanese.
Hall on the Yard will be open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, opening 9 a.m. Sundays.
HOTY is the second food hall to open in recent weeks. Milkhouse, in the Milk District, naturally, has two concepts from Bruno Zacchini, owner of Pizza Bruno, and neither involves pizza. Instead there’s Bagel Bruno and Cicchètti by Bruno. Ravenous Pig Brewing Co. is on tap and Foxtail Coffee Co. is there, too. Fittingly for a pace called Milkhouse, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream is there, too.
Here are the nominees for the 2019 Best New Restaurant Foodster Award. Because we did not have an award for 2020, eligibility has been expanded to restaurants that opened within the past two years. Foodster Awards are for independent restaurants with three or fewer locations; chains are not considered.
To vote for your favorite newcomer, check the box next to its name and then click the VOTE button. You may vote only once.
After you make your choice, leave a comment below telling us why you think your favorite should be recognized. Be sure to mention the name of the restaurant in your comment or we won't know which one you're commenting on – we can't see who you voted for back here.
Voting will continue through Dec. 23. The winners will be announced on Dec. 29.
Update: Use promo code SCOTT and save $100 per person if you reserve before Dec. 15.
I’m getting really excited about the trip to New York City I’m hosting in conjunction with Art In Voyage – Beyond Travel. It’s just two weeks away and I’m anxious to see the city in all of its holiday splendor again and to share it with others.
And I’m even more excited to announce that because this trip proved to be so popular, we’ve already scheduled another New York trip for December 2022.
Samba Room was one of the earlier tenants of Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. It occupied the space where Rocco’s Tacos currently resides and was next door to Timpano, which was an Italian steakhouse of sorts. (Eddie V’s is where Timpano’s building stood.)
Both Samba Room and Timpano were brands of TGI Friday’s parent company, Carlson Worldwide, which eventually sold them to Orlando based E-Brands. E-Brands was eventually acquired by Tavistock Group. Although both chains had several locations, none seem to have survived. (Correction: A Timpano still exists in Tampa's Hyde Park; h/t Matthew Mervis.) (The Fort Laurderdal Samba Room, which existed for several years after Orlando's, closed in 2010.)