Old Cuban Cafe East Orlando

Written by Scott Joseph on .

OldCuban bar

There’s a new Old Cuban Cafe. It’s similar to the old Old Cuban Cafe, though I admit I haven’t been to the oldest Old Cuban Cafe.

The newest is on Colonial Drive, east of Alafaya Trail, in eastern Orlando. It’s much bigger than the one I visited on North Goldenrod Road four years ago (there’s another location on South Goldenrod; I don’t know which is the older Cuban). This is the same strip mall where Kreyol Kafe & Bakery is located.

Planet Hollywood Observatory

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PHO pirate

I didn’t think it was possible but Robert Earl has outdone himself.

The newly rebranded Planet Hollywood Observatory is a theme restaurant of Cecil B. DeMille proportions. The massive dining venue is on three open levels — think orchestra, mezzanine and balcony — and is dominated by a huge, towering curved screen where videos and other images are projected from various angles. It’s a little bit like dining in an IMAX theater.

The restaurant reopened last month after a year-long renovation that took the 22-year-old original structure — a massive globe, which was pretty impressive on its own — and reimagined it as an observatory to fit in with the overall theme of Disney Springs (itself a rebranding of Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island).

Steak on Fire

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Steakonfire sandwich

Steak on Fire describes itself as “a Brazilian restaurant on bread,” something I have a hard time visualizing. But I suppose it’s better than describing itself as a Brazilian restaurant on fire.

Basically we’re talking about sandwiches. But big sandwiches. Maybe not so big that you could put a whole building on it, but pretty big nonetheless.

Steak on Fire is a quick-serve operation. You order your sandwich at the counter, take your tablestand with a number on it to one of the booths and then wait for someone to bring the order to you.

Delicious Disney Offered After-Hours Feast at Cinderella's Castle

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Magic Kingdom map menu

The Walt Disney World Resort culinary team reignited Delicious Disney: A Chef Series in a spectacular way last month with an exclusive after-hours dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

While many special events end with fireworks, the Delicious Disney dinner started with them, with guests gathered on the raised platform at the top of Main Street with a clear view of the castle at the other end. And we sipped cocktails during the show. Yes, real cocktails with actual alcohol in them. Very civilized.

MK DD fireworks

After the show, we were led to the castle through a backstage side passageway — no need to “salmon” our way upstream through the exiting throng. We gathered for a reception where we sipped on Dom Perignon and Ruinart Rose.

And what goes best with Dom Perignon? Why Spam of course.

Zora Grille

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Zora dining room

I’ve written a few times about the sixth sense that a critic develops over time, that feeling that you get when you walk into an unfamiliar restaurant and a voice in the back of your mind that says — no, screams — run!

But there’s a diametrical feeling — a seventh sense? — where you enter a restaurant and you know immediately that you’re going to like it. That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Zora Grille in Altamonte Springs recently. Just for a moment, I had that niggling feeling that something might be off. Perhaps it was the fact that the place had no customers even though it was the height of the lunch hour.

But the aromas of the charcoal grill in the back of the open kitchen soon enveloped me. And almost as immediately a young man stepped forward with a warm and genuine welcome. I took a seat.

Mia Supermarket

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Mia Market

This may be one of the best things to ever happen to a Winn-Dixie.

The W-D that had occupied the corner of East Colonial Drive and North Bumby Avenue was closed and has been taken over by an Asian food store called Mia Supermarket. It’s a fascinating place to wander about.

I first visited it when I decided I wanted to make kimchi. There were certain ingredients — kochakaru (Korean red pepper powder) and saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp) — that you just can’t find at your local Winn-Dixie. Or Publix for that matter.

I couldn’t even find those items at a couple of the older Asian markets in the Mills 50 district. So I gave Mia a try, and I’m glad I did.

Not only did they have the kochakaru and saeujeot I needed for my recipe, they also had a trove of fresh produce (including the daikon that the kimchi also called for) and aisle after aisle of exotic ingredients (at least to a typical Westerner) that had me thinking about trying other Asian recipes.

The Pie

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Thepie top

The Pie is the simplistic name for a new pizza joint in College Park. But the pizza here is different from your average pie.

It’s pizza al taglio (say TAH-lee-oh), which, according to a large sign on the wall inside the restaurant, is “Italian for pizza by the slice or ‘by the cut.’” The word taglio translates to shear, so sort of a cut.

It’s also made in rectangular pans and sold by the slice. This is a common type of pizza that you’d find in Rome and is sometimes sold by weight.

Luckily that’s not the case with The Pie because given the toppings that were on the slice I had I would have paid extra euros.

Luke's Kitchen and Bar

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Lukes kitchen dining room

Luke’s Kitchen and Bar has opened in the Maitland building that most recently, and ever so briefly, was occupied by Blackfin, though its provenance was a Steak & Ale. This opening has been anxiously anticipated — not that any restaurant opening that isn’t a Steak & Ale wouldn’t be — primarily because of the pedigree of the people involved.

That would be the team from Luma on Park and Prato, especially the duo of chef Brandon McGlamery and general manager Tim Noelke who have made their Park Avenue posts so popular.

This is their first off-Avenue project. (Slate, the Sand Lake Road restaurant, is often mistaken as a sister restaurant, but while it shares some ownership, it is not related.)

If you had managed to visit Blackfin during the five weeks of its existence, you’ll be surprised at the transformation of the space. The redesign, by the Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry, an Atlanta firm, has opened the first floor up so expansively that it causes one to wonder what’s holding the second floor up. The ceiling over the main dining area is made to feel lower with the addition of slatted beams. It is dark, with the exception of the glare from the open kitchen. And on that subject, it’s curious that the dishwashing station should be so easily seen as part of the show kitchen.

Supper Club Redux (and Farewell): Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen

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Chroma sign

We had a terrific time recently at our Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen Supper Club, the very last of our Supper Clubs (but more on that in a moment).

Chroma, of course, is the hot new restaurant in Lake Nona from the folks at Tavistock. It’s a small-plate restaurant where sharing is the style, and that’s how our dinner was served up. Except the plates were large.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Paramount falafel

Paramount Fine Foods is such a grand name for what is essentially a fast food restaurant. Quick serve at most.

Actually, I’m not sure that’s the name. I’ve also seen it refer to itself in various places at Paramount Middle Eastern Cuisine and Paramount Lebanese Kitchen.

Whatever, Paramount is a Middle Eastern eatery out of Ontario, Canada, that has recently moved into the United States with its U.S. headquarters on International Drive. A location there has been open for a while, but I stopped in to the newest store near UCF to give it a try.