foodWelcome to Scott Joseph's Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

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

Winners are chosen by you, with your vote. Make your selection in each category carefully -- only one vote is allowed per person.

You may nominate a restaurant for an appropriate category, but make sure it isn't already in the list of nominees. And remember: independent restaurants only.

Old Jailhouse Voted Best New Restaurant for 2019

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Old Jailhouse extrior

The Old Jailhouse, the Sanford restaurant that brought the talents of chef Bram Fowler back to the dining public, has been voted Best New Restaurant in our 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

Fewer than 10 votes separated the second and third place winners, with Toledo, the Spanish restaurant on the top floor of the newly opened Gran Destino Tower, besting Terralina Crafted Italian restaurant at Disney Springs.

Old Jailhouse [review] opened earlier in 2019 in a building that indeed had been the Seminole County Jail from 1914 until 1959. More recently it had been home to Sanford Dry Cleaners and the Seminole County Health Department. Fowler first earned accolades with his restaurant Journeys, which opened circa 2004 at Longwood Village Shoppes, moving to Alaqua Country Club in 2009 and closing there when it lost its lease. Fowler’s last head chef position was with Park Plaza Gardens, signing on there just before the landmark restaurant went into a “temporary” closing that eventually became permanent.

At Old Jailhouse, Fowler is again showing his creativity with such dishes as pork belly on buttermilk cornmeal with house-made pickles and braised creole lamb shank.

Toledo [review], which opened in the summer in the new tower at Coronado Springs Resort is lead by chef Robby Sayles, who moved over from Tiffins at Animal Kingdom. The menu features tapas, steaks and seafood, all served in a grand space with commanding views from the 16th floor.

Terralina’s chef, Justin Plank, also has a connection with Park Plaza Gardens. In fact, in the early 2000s the name of the restaurant was changed to Chef Justin’s Park Plaza Gardens. When it opened, in late 2018, Terralina’s menu was under the direction of Tony Mantuano, the award-winning Chicago chef, who hand-picked Plank to serve as executive chef. Mantuano is no longer associated with the restaurant. Indeed, last month he not only ended his association with parent company Levy Restaurants and Spiaggia, the Michelin-starred restaurant he has helmed for 35 years, he left the country and moved to Italy.

That won’t have any affect on Terralina [review] – the restaurant has clearly been in Plank’s able hands the whole time.

Congratulations to all the winners and to the other worthy nominees. It’s encouraging that talented chefs and restaurateurs continue to open exciting new restaurants throughout Central Florida.

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