graffiti thornton

I popped in to the new Thornton Park location of Graffiti Junktion the other day — just ahead of an afternoon downpour — to check out the newest location for the oldest store in the GJ chain.

And it is officially a chain. Franchises available, even. And to think it all just started a little over eight years ago. And two blocks away.

It was December 2008 when I wrote about driving by the corner of Washington Street and Hyer Avenue and noticing a new eatery about to open. This was the space that had been Midnight Blue, Rocco’s, La Fontanella di Nino and Thornton Park Cafe. I may have forgotten one or two.

Anyway, the new eatery turned out to be a place called Graffiti Junktion. It was unapologetically grunge in its manner, with a decor that matched its name and with raucous noise provided by the sound system and the customers. But it served big, fat juicy burgers, so everything was OK.

Today there are 10 Graffiti Junktions, including the original, which moved down the block recently to take over the former Wildfire barbecue restaurant.

It was a good move, literally and figuratively. There’s more space, bigger, even multiple bars, and a corner spot that affords diners a better view of one of downtown’s livelier neighborhoods.

Snowbirds 2016 Rose Bottle NB

Jamie McFadden, local chef and co-owner of the in-demand Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events, has added winemaker to his resume. He is the owner of Snowbirds Vintners, a whimsically named business that celebrates Florida’s favorite flock. But while the name and labels are playful, the wines themselves are quite serious.

It’s a Florida enterprise, and the wines are produced right here in Orlando, but the good news is that the grape juice comes from away.

Far away, in the case of Snowbirds’ newest release, a 2016 Rosé. McFadden sourced the grapes from Lake Chelan in the Columbian Valley of Washington.

Santiago Foodster Award

In one of the most hotly contested categories to date, the Best Brunch Platinum Foodster Award for Best Brunch goes to Santiago’s Bodega. Taking the Gold Award is Two Chefs Seafood and Oyster Bar.

Only a few votes behind, Tap Room at Dubsdread came in third with Soco even closer for fourth place.

In all over 1200 votes were cast.

In placing his vote for the winning brunch, Mark Hirsekorn wrote: “Santiagos Bodega is hands-down the best! Best: food/drinks/ambiance/service!”Santiago's Bodega

But many other voters were just as passionate about their favorites. You can read some of the comments that were left on the Best Brunch Foodster page — they might entice you to try something new.

And ready, set, go to start voting for our next category: Best Barbecue. But before you say to yourself that this one is a slam dunk, remember that the Foodster Awards are open only to restaurants with three or fewer locations. So as much as it is liked locally, 4 Rivers Smokehouse has grown out of Foodster eligibility. Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-b-q, too, is ineligible.

But there are several good local ‘cue-ers who do qualify, and they’re worth your attention. Not familiar with some of them? Get busy and start checking them out. Then come back and place your vote here.

Voting will continue through midnight July 19; the winner will be announced in the July 20 edition of Scott Joseph’s e-letter.

Citricos appetizers

This has always been one of the more troubling restaurant spaces at Walt Disney World. Not that Citricos hasn’t offered good (sometimes very good) food in the past. On the contrary, the quality of the food here has always been fine. And over its 20 years in existence, it has been served by some excellent chefs, including Roland Muller, Gray Byrum and Phillip Ponticelli. After Ponticelli left, in 2015, to take over the kitchen at Golden Oak, Dominque Filoni was hired as the restaurant’s fourth chef de cuisine.

(Full disclosure: In 2015, Scott Joseph Company’s consulting division was hired by WDW to perform a guest experience analysis. Those findings are not included in this review.)

What has made this a troubling restaurant is its relative lack of proper identity. Considering that most restaurants at Walt Disney World, especially those we see opening at Disney Springs, come with a legend or backstory that explain their existence, Citricos has no such history.

Long-timers will recall that the restaurant was originally called Flagler’s when the Grand Floridian Resort originally opened, in 1988. Although it had the name of a historical Floridian figure, it was an Italian restaurant, which didn’t make much sense.

And when it was rebranded, in 1997, as Citricos, it kept a Mediterranean mien.

That apparently isn’t going to change. But if the restaurant itself doesn’t have focus, Filoni certainly does. I can tell you that the quality of the food has never been better than it is now.