Written by Scott Joseph on .

Slate interior

When Slate first opened, in 2015, I wasn’t much of a fan. It wasn’t that I couldn’t recommend the Restaurant Row newcomer, I just didn’t see any reason to.

All of the components seemed promising. The restaurant was the project of Atlanta’s Concentrics Restaurants, with several people involved with opening Luma on Park, though everyone was careful to point out there was no ownership connection; a decor by the Johnson Studio (now the Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry), which designed Prato (and more recently Luke’s Kitchen and Bar); and a charismatic and promising young chef, Dominic Rice, a Florida native who once worked at Luma on Park before adding some impressive New York restaurants to his resume and returning to Central Florida.

(Rice came back to the area to be the chef at Boca on Winter Park’s Park Avenue but left before that restaurant opened; Slate hired him right away.)

Omelet Bar

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Omelet Bar exterior

I’m sitting at Omelet Bar, a new restaurant across from the main UCF campus that specializes in breakfast and lunch. Or as its tagline says, “Breakfast. Munch. Lunch.” Those of you who associate the urge to munch with late night will be disappointed to know that OB is open only until 2:30 p.m. every day, so you’ll have to satisfy the munchie urge elsewhere.

And it’s not like the name implies other than morning meals, but the menu does feature more than carefully coagulated eggs. Once the lunch hour rolls around there’s an array of burgers, sandwiches and wraps from which to choose. And the early closing hour also doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink — everything from mimosas to bloodies to whiskey sours are yours for the sipping. (College proximity drives demand.)

An early morning appointment brought me to the east side of town, so I decided to stop in for breakfast.

Millenia 106

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Millenia106 exterior

Suite 106 may have finally found the sweet spot.

I’m referring to the business address in the strip of buildings at 4104 Millenia Blvd., at the corner of Conroy Road in front of the Mall at Millenia.

This same address has been home to short-lived concepts, such as Pasha, an unpassionate Mediterranean restaurant, and Figueira, a “Brazilian Grille & Pizza Bar” where the food was sold by weight (what could go wrong?).

Millenia106 dining area and kitchen

Now it’s Millenia 106, and while the name is ill-advised and uncreative (a misspelled common word and the mail slot number?), the restaurant itself is a pleasant surprise, an inviting and casually upscale decor with food to match.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Paddlefish exterior

Finally made it in to Paddlefish for a proper, sit-down dinner. I had visited previously for a media event, but that was a walkabout affair that served food but didn’t allow one to experience it as a restaurant. I’m happy to report that Paddlefish, with a culinary team led by chef Mark Boor, offers a very nice dining opportunity and is a good addition to the growing list of Disney Springs venues.

Paddlefish, of course, is the reimagined Fulton’s Crab House (née Empress Lily), on the nonfloating structure made to resemble a vintage paddlewheel river boat.

It’s less vintage-y with the recent renovation, which gave it a modern look, both inside and out (though the frozen-in-place paddles remain).

This is a huge facility, but it features several smaller dining rooms that keep it from feeling like a large main feeding room on a cruise ship.

Ataj Indian Restaurant

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Ataj with bread

I found myself in Kissimmee the other day, which isn’t nearly as sinister as it sounds. I mean, it’s not like I was hit over the head and thrown into a trunk of a car and woke up alongside US 192. There was no trunk involved.

But as I came to, I saw a new restaurant called Ataj Indian Cuisine. I dusted myself off and went inside.

Now, there’s no reason for us to get into a discussion of preconceived notions for restaurants in this part of town. Let’s just say that a disappointing number of businesses seem to ascribe to the theory that they don’t really need to try very hard to impress customers because, being in a tourist-dominated area, a new wave of customers comes in every week. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

The (New) Ravenous Pig

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Ravpig exterior

The new Ravenous Pig is quite different from the old Ravenous Pig. Not better, not worse, just different.

The new Pig is in the old Cask & Larder spot. (The new restaurant in the old Pig place is Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen & Bar; I’ll have a review soon.)

Ravenous Pig, of course, is the popular restaurant from husband and wife team James and Julie Petrakis. When it first opened at 1234 N. Orange Ave., in late 2007, it became an instant hit. The Petrakises earned, deservedly, widespread recognition, including multiple nominations for the James Beard Award’s Best Chef, South, for which they were jointly nominated.

The Pig took off, if not in actual flight then in terms of company growth. Cask & Larder became a second brand. Swine & Sons offered charcuterie and other comestibles in a grab and go format next to the C&L building. This summer, another porcine proximation, the Polite Pig, will open at Disney Springs. (The Petrakises are also consulting partners at DoveCote, in downtown Orlando.)

But back to RavPig. The reason we’re here is that Cask & Larder moved to the airport. So the Pig moved into the, um, emptied Larder.

Zeytin Turkish Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Zeytin sign

I love seeing culturally diverse restaurants pop up in varied areas of town. So I was pleased to see Zeytin Turkish Cuisine open on Edgewater Drive just east of Lake Fairview and within sight of the Orange County VFW.

Zeytin is a small buisiness in a free-standing building, the former site of Woody’s Italian American Grill and Woody’s Wings & Whatnot. Woody’s gone.

Zeytin has a menu that belies its size, with myriad hot and cold appetizers, assorted Turkish pides (flatbreads), kebabs and sautés. It looks like an ambitious set of offerings but most are variations on the same theme.

Market to Table

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Market2table dining room

Market to Table, a new restaurant that took over the AlFresco space in the Roper Building in Winter Garden, started in an actual market.

From a booth in Plant Street Market, Ryan Freelove sold stocks, soups and other products for home cooks before opening the restaurant last year. Don’t assume, as I did, that Market to Table is just another way of saying farm to table. Freelove freely admits that he sources some ingredients from more conventional means, including major distributors. (Though not exclusively; indeed some items come from as close as a rooftop garden.)

But that does not diminish the overall high quality of the food served here.

Hunger Street Tacos

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hunger Street sign

There’s brisket at 2103 W. Fairbanks Ave. again.

That Winter Park address, you’ll recall, was the site of the first 4 Rivers Smokehouse, before it outgrew the space and moved and multiplied.

In January of 2013, B&B Junction, a burger concept, moved in, and while it had its share of loyal fans, they apparently weren’t enough to sustain it. B&B closed late last year. Now it’s the home of Hunger Street Tacos.

Speaking of loyal fans, something else has returned to the corner of Fairbanks and Formosa Avenues: parking problems and teed off neighbors. As was the case when 4 Rivers had lines out the door, Hunger Street Tacos, too, is causing taco fanatics to cruise the surrounding blocks in search of parking, much to the consternation of the neighbors. (Printed signs on telephone poles and the windows of the restaurant admonish customers to not park in the surrounding streets, but what else are they to do?)

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.