Bistro de Paris Named Theme Park Insider's Best Restaurant of 2010

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bistro de Paris, the upstairs cousin to Les Chefs de France at Epcot, has been named the best theme park restaurant by readers of Theme Park Insider. The Web site's publisher, Robert Niles, made the announcement Friday following weeks of voting. Runners up were Chefs de France and Mythos, both past winners. The roster also included Garden Grill, the rotating restaurant at Epcot's Land pavilion, and Tokyo Dining, the serene sushi place at the Japan pavilion (you probably could have figured that out).

As with last year, Niles asked me to write some comments about the finalists. In my review of Chefs de France and Bistro, I mentioned that fans of the Bistro may want to revisit again soon because it may not exist this time next year. Nothing is set in stone, and who knows what changes in plans might occur due to economics. But there are some changes in mind. Sorry, can't share what I've heard just now -- sworn to secrecy, and all that. But if it goes through as I've heard, it's going to be huge news.

Grand Marnier Tasting Added to Line-up at Epcot's International Food & Wine Tasting

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Now here’s a tasting that really is Grand.

On the five Saturdays in October during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Grand Marnier will present a tasting of its full range of liqueurs, including the 100 and 150 year olds. After the tasting, guests will learn how to shake and muddle special Grand Marnier cocktails, then taste flambeed crepes Suzette and frozen souffle glace prepared by the chefs of Bistro de Paris. All of this for $45, which is probably less than a taste of the 150 year old Grand Marnier alone. The cost includes tax and gratuity, but not addmission to Epcot, which is required. Tastings will be at the Bistro from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Still no official announcement on ticket sales start date, but be sure to put this one on the top of your list. It's going to sell out fast.

(By the way, despite a little tease I gave you a few days ago that led some of you to think the Bistro is going away, it is not. But I stand by my original statement.)

Tap Room and Sam Snead's Partners Divvy Up

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Longtime partners Steve Gunter and Pat Casey have reached an agreement to essentially buy each other’s interest in their Sam Snead’s restaurants and Tap Room at Dubsdread. Casey, who developed the idea for what was initially called Sam Snead’s Tavern, will assume Gunter’s ownership in the Maitland and Port St. Lucie Snead’s they owned together. Gunter will buy out Casey’s interest in the Tap Room at Dubsdread.

Gunter and Casey took over the restaurant space in the Dubsdead clubhouse in 2002. A parade of restaurants had tried to operate there over the years but none could make a go of it. (One of the restaurants I suggested might want to change its name to Dubsdreadful.) Casey and Gunter did not recreate a Sam Snead’s concept with Tap Room, but they brought enough of the qualities to the space, including offering good food (the Tap Room Burger is one of the best in town), good service and a casual, no-attitude atmosphere.

In a letter that Gunter sent to friends and Tap Room guests, he said: “I told someone earlier today that I consider myself blessed in that every day I have the privilege of waking up eager to go to work.   I love what I do and who I do it with - and not many people get to say that.  Our staff at Dubsdread led by Barbara Teal, Cathie Ashby and Tom Stewart are a remarkably hard-working and loyal group and I simply wanted to be here every day as opposed to dealing with our three stores.”

Gunter told me that one of his plans is to expand the outside catering business. His banquet space is a favorite for weddings.

Dave & Buster's to Occupy Former Caruso's Palace, Race Rock

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Orlando Business Journal is reporting today that Dallas-based Dave & Buster's will move into the long-deserted structure on International Drive once known as Caruso's Palace. B&D is a bar and restaurant with an eclectic menu, and an entertainment space geared more toward adults than kids. There are no details on when the new tenants will move in, but given that the place has been vacant since 2007 it probably won't be real soon -- there's bound to be a lot of updating.

Now painted with a checkered flag roof, the wedding cake-like structure began, in February 1990, as Caruso's Palace, a project of Robert Earl's when he was still president of Mecca Leisure USA (soon after the company became Rank Leisure). Mecca was also the owner of Hard Rock Cafe and at the same time the company was trying to get its first HRC open at Universal Florida. Caruso's was a huge and ornate structure filled with statues of cherubs and Italianate paintings. There was a small balconey that looked out over the dining area under the rotunda. This was where singers were meant to perform. Earl told me at the time that he had hoped his father, a well-known performer in Great Britain might sing occasionally. My favorite description of the interior was supplied by a colleague who dined with me: It looks like a Fellini movie exploded in here.

After Caruso's closed, Bobby Moore purchased the building and opened Race Rock, a themed restaurant dedicated to all things fast and motorized. Race Rock eventually limped into that permanent pit stop in the sky. Moore is now the owner of the new Big Fin Seafood Kitchen on Restaurant Row.