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.

2021 Best New Restaurant Foodster Award

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Russells exterior

Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe was the runaway favorite of voters for the 2021 Best New Restaurant Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants. The Pinery and The Monroe tied for second place.

Other top vote getters included Tabla Winter Park and Saffron Indian Cuisine.

Because no Best New Restaurant Foodster was awarded last year, the eligibility for the 2021 award was extended to restaurants that also opened the previous year.

Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe opened in late October of 2020. It took over and remodeled the space that had previously been Mesa 21 and, before that, Gargi’s Lakeside. It is owned by the same team that has the estimable Big Fin Seafood Kitchen and the menu is under the direction of chef/partner Emmanuel Clement.

The Monroe is the newest restaurant from Good Salt Restaurant Group (Osprey, Reyes Mezcalaria) and opened in downtown’s Creative Village last summer with Josh Oakley, formerly of Smiling Bison, in the kitchen.

The Pinery, which is across the street from Russell’s and also has a pineapple theme, also opened in the summer. It is operated by Carol Sizer Holladay, a former manager at Tap Room at Dubsdread, with Naomi Freeman as executive chef.

It was interesting to see a good showing from Tabla and Saffron, proving that high quality Indian restaurants are award-worthy, too.

Don’t forget to place your vote for Best Restaurant Overall. Voting ends Dec. 31.

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