Streetwise Urban Food

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Streetwise exterior

I stopped in the other day at Streetwise Urban Food, a small quick-serve on Hoffner Avenue that, despite listing its opening date as April, 2019, seems as though it’s just moved in.

There’s a temporary sign hanging in front of the strip mall space, and inside a clear-glass Pepsi cooler had only one lone bottle in it. Perhaps they were anticipating a delivery following a run on soda?

Not sure. When I entered the space it was eerily quiet and there was no one out front. But a young woman soon appeared from the kitchen space and greeted me, asking me what she could get me. I explained that I had only just arrived and needed to consider the menu.

Takumi-tei

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 Takumi exterior

After so many years of a trend leading away from fine dining and toward more casual, even quick-service, restaurants, it’s nice to see some more upscale restaurants come online recently. And Walt Disney World is responsible for a few of them, notably Toledo at the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort and the just-opened Topolino at the Riviera Resort.

Add Takumi-tei to that list. Opened in July, this elegant dinner-only occupies a previously under utilized space at the Japan pavilion in Epcot. As with the other restaurants at the pavilion, Takumi-tei is operated by Mitsukoshi, the Tokyo-based department store.

El Vic's Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

ElVics interior

Every now and then another restaurant will come up with the idea to serve a menu featuring “global cuisine,” with dishes cherry picked and compiled from cuisines from around the world. A little Italian, a little Latin, maybe some French.

It never works. No less a restaurant Midas than Manny Garcia tried it in 1988 with a concept called Latitudes, which had an airport lounge decor to suggest the diner could travel to faraway places through the menu. It didn’t work, and Garcia converted the restaurant into the Winter Park location of his already successful Pebbles.

Restaurants need cohesion and focus. It’s admirable to want to be all things to all people, but it’s better to be one thing to the people who want that thing, and to do it well enough that they’ll come back often.

El Vic’s Kitchen in College Park is the latest to make the “we are the world” mistake. (The name of the restaurant is another misstep, but I’ll come back to that.) And it’s unfortunate because the path the restaurant should take is obvious. And it would offer a much more satisfying dining experience.

Dexter's New Standard

Written by Scott Joseph on .

New Standard room

Is anyone accepting wagers on when Dexter’s New Standard will officially drop the first word in its name?

The name, of course, is homage to Dexter’s of Winter Park, one of what was once a quadruple of restaurants. The Winter Park location was the original, though it did not start out in the Hannibal Square space that it recently vacated. It began as a wine bar and retail shop, owned by Dexter Richardson, and expanded to become more of a restaurant. As other locations opened, Winter Park’s took on the identity of also being a venue for live music.

A little more than a year ago, all of the Dexter’s were sold to different entities. Only Dexter’s of Lake Mary remains, if you don’t count Dexter’s New Standard.

And I don’t. I suppose it made sense initially to keep the Dexter’s name as a connection to its roots, a tribute to the beginnings of what once was a beloved bôite. But the new moniker that was attached when the restaurant was moved to its current home in Winter Park’s Ravaudage plaza more than suggests a breakaway from the past – you can’t get any more succinct than New Standard.

But while there are certain echos of a Dexter’s past – popular menu items, though reimagined; a continued dedication to live music; and a renewed commitment to an ambitious wine program – this clearly is a new restaurant.

Babbi Babbi Korean Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Babbi exterior

Babbi Babbi Korean Kitchen wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be. In fact, I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed when I walked into the new eatery at Phillips Crossing and discovered it was a quick-serve (order at the counter) operation. Even more annoyed to discover that the classic dish Bibimbap was offered as an assemblage item, with the diner tasked with choosing type of rice, which meat and what toppings to enhance or possibly ruin this traditional rice dish.

But I found plenty of other dishes on the menu that didn’t require me to act as an inexperienced chef, and I soon learned that even though one orders the food at the counter, service is supplied throughout the meal. And even better, the food was quite good.

First Watch Unveils Seasonal Menu

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FWseasonal bowl wide

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Our friends at First Watch have a new seasonal menu and I stopped by the Mills Park location recently to give them a try.

Oh, before I go any further I wanted to let you know that First Watch will be taking over the former Cinco Tacos + Tequila building in Winter Park. And it will be one of the few First Watches to serve alcohol – not a full bar but with specialty cocktails for those in a brunching mood. Also good news: they’ll be removing the gaudy fake grass from the side of the building.

But back to Mills Park.

Taglish

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Taglish plate

“Hi, welcome,” said the man behind the counter at Taglish. “I’m Mike, I’m the owner.”

That was the pleasant beginning to a visit that got even better as it went along. Well, as pleasant as food-court dining can be, but we’ll come back to that.

Taglish is a Filipino-American stall in the food court at Lotte Market in West Orlando. The name is a portmanteau of Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines, and English. I’m not sure how that translates to the menu, which seems to have more fusions of Filipino and Spanish. But then if you combined those two you’d still come up with Taglish, so we’re good.

Todo Sushi

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Todo exterior

I don’t think a whole lot more could go wrong with my meal at Todo Sushi than it did.

First I ordered the Sashimi Combo and got the Sushi and Sashimi Combo. Because I had ordered only sashimi, or so I thought, I also ordered a separate yellowtail nigirizushi by the piece.

Regardless of which item I had ordered, or the server thought I had ordered, it was to come with both salad and miso soup. Neither arrived.

Kathi Rolls

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Kathi exterior

It wasn’t even a year ago that I told you about a new restaurant on Curry Ford Road called Forever Naan.

Unfortunate name, that.

It was doing full versions of classic Indian dishes – Butter Chicken, Lamb Curry – and doing them good enough, but for whatever reason it closed.

In its place now is Kathi Rolls, named for a food made popular by street vendors in Kolkata. A kathi roll, sometimes spelled kati though it’s pronounced kha-thee, is essentially a kebab served in a folded paratha. So it’s basically an Indian wrap sandwich. Or a subcontinental taco. As served at this eponymous restaurant, it’s also very good.

Happy Snapper Seafood Market & Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Happy Snapper exterior

I take it as a generally positive sign that after I order a bowl of clam chowder the first thing the cook does is grab a handful of fresh clams.

That’s what happened when I stopped in for lunch at Happy Snapper, a seafood market with a hot food menu in the Pine Castle area south of downtown Orlando.

It’s a small shop and the inventory of fresh fish, displayed in the counter on crushed ice, is limited. Don’t expect to find the array of a Lombardi’s or Bar Harbor. It’s more the type of place where you ask, “What’s fresh,” and plan your menu from there rather than go expecting to find a certain fish or shellfish for your evening’s dinner.

The menu is compact, as well, but offers a good representation of fruits of the sea.