Ford's Garage

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Fords Signature

I suppose it’s a good thing they didn’t call it GM’s Garage.

Ford’s Garage is a burger and beer brand born out of Ft. Myers and now headquartered in Tampa. You’d think Michigan, right? But there is a natural connection to the Sunshine State over the Great Lakes State: Henry Ford had a Winter home in Ft. Myers, less than a mile from where the first Ford’s Garage restaurant opened in 2012 (Henry did not attend).

Nearly all of the locations, just under a dozen so far, are in Florida, though one opened last year in Dearborn, Mich. The Orlando restaurant is in a freestanding building at the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue (it’s on the side with the Saks Off Fifth store).

As you might expect with a garage-themed restaurants, Ford’s is tricked out in a design that might be classified as early grease monkey. But except for the exterior, which like the rest of the mall structures is your basic faux Mediterranean-meets-Florida pale yellow stucco, it isn’t cheesy at all. In fact, there are a lot of nice details.

Nona Social Bar + Kitchen

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Nona Social burger

Nona Tap Room is gone and Nona Social Bar + Kitchen has taken its place. Except for the variation of the name, I can’t see a whole lot of difference between the two.

It’s still a neighborhoody place that is more bar than kitchen. Still a bit on the small, cozy side. It still features a menu that is burgercentric. And the kitchen still can’t cook a burger to a medium-rare temperature. Or perhaps just refuses to.

Too bad because the burger I had when I visited recently, the Bacon Bleu, was a good burger that could have been better if it had been cooked properly. The patty was a decent size and had a nice char. It was topped with a smear of blue cheese that was half melted, plus a couple of thick-sliced bacon rashers. The bun was plain but fresh.

The Hangry Bison

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Hangry Bison exterior

Hangry Bison, the new non-Italian restaurant from longtime pizzeria owner Joe Liguori, is doing a lot of things right with its burgers, bourbon and beer, the items that it lists as its specialties under that name.

That name.

Hangry is a portmanteau of the words hungry and angry and represents a condition wherein the need for food without any food foreseeable can cause a precipitous change in mood. It's a real thing. I myself am among the sufferers. We don't have a telethon.

But we have Hangry Bison to alleviate the symptoms.

Click below to see a video version of this review

Castaway's Sports Bar & Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Castaways ext

If you're not able to make the trip to Atlanta to watch UCF in the Peach Bowl on Monday, you might want to find a sports bar where you can watch the game with other fans.

Actually, it's officially the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, so thank God the game wasn't scheduled for Sunday.

If you're out Waterford Lakes way, consider stopping by Castaway's Sports Bar & Grill, which opened recently. The place has plenty of big-screen televisions -- is huge-screen tv a category? -- and enough room for everybody from section 102 of Spectrum Stadium.

Orlando Meats

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Orlando Meats burger

You could expect a boutique butcher that also sells prepared foods to have a good burger, but good doughnuts?

I pretty much knew what I wanted as soon as I scanned the small menu board over the ordering counter at Orlando Meats, a small butchery on Virginia Drive. As someone who always orders his burgers medium rare, I couldn't pass up one whose entry on the menu actually reads "Medium-rare Burger."

It was either the burger or the item called the Heartbreaker, which features fried pig heart. Tough sell. Maybe if they were called something else. Perhaps Orlando Meats should take a cue from the marketers who turned assorted glands into sweetbreads or bull testicles into Rocky Mountain oysters. Maybe Pig Beaters? Just a thought.

But where was I? Oh yeah, standing at the counter and ordering my Medium Rare Burger that I did not have to specify be cooked medium rare from a patient young man, who I later learned is the owner.

Graffiti Junktion Thornton Park

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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.

D-Luxe Burger

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D Luxe fries

Popped out to Disney Springs the other day to participate in a media presentation of some of the newer offerings. I’ll be telling you about all of them in the coming days, but today we focus on D-Luxe Burger.

DLB is a quick-serve operation. You place your order at the counter, take a pager, and then grab your food at the pickup counter when the pager goes off. Actually, that’s a little less quicker serve than other operations that have a staff member deliver your food to your table. (And for the record, someone came by and collected all of our pagers from our table in the back part of the restaurant and delivered our food to us.)

Pincho Factory

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Pincho Factory sign

I’m not sure what it means when the best thing served at a place called Pincho Factory is not a pincho. At least not in the traditional meaning of the word. If such a thing exists.

I guess some explanation is necessary.

Pinchos (pinchi?) are Spanish tidbits that originally consisted of a piece of meat served on a bit of bread and skewered with a cocktail stick — or toothpick, if you will. (In the Basque region they’re known as pintxos, because my god how the Basque love adding x’s to words.) You might be in a bar in Spain and notice the little bites on the counter and start helping yourself to them as you drink your rosado. You might also be surprised to find later that the bartender was keeping tally of what you ate by counting the toothpicks and added them to la cuenta.

At Pincho Factory, a South Florida restaurant that recently expanded to Orlando, the pinchos are different. Some have described them as kebabs but I think they more closely resemble the satays you might find in a Thai restaurant: chicken, beef or shrimp grilled on long wooden skewers.

And they have turned it into an assemblage concept where the guests chooses a base (wrap, bread, rice or greens) and a type of sauce to go with it.

But never mind all that. You’re not going to come here for the pinchos. You’re going to come here for a burger.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Wahlburgers burger

I finally got a chance to experience the phenomenon that is Wahlburger’s. I had been to the massive grand opening for the Orlando location that included appearances by Paul Wahlberg, who founded the burger franchise, and his brother Mark, the heartthrob actor. The restaurant was packed to overflowing that night.

Turns out that it’s just about as packed most nights, even on a rainy evening midweek, before the hordes of young people start descending on the nearby bars.

I waited inside the door while a young woman with a tablet device dealt with the people ahead of me. Visitors to Wahlburgers have the option of ordering at a counter or being seated for full table service. It didn’t seem that anyone was opting to order at the counter, and all were being told that the wait would be lengthy.

I was finally greeted by the young woman. No, greeted isn’t the correct word. When the couple in front of me moved out of the way, she looked at me, completely unsmiling and without a word of welcome. It was apparently up to me to initiate the conversation. (Everyone else I had contact with was friendly and helpful, so why they put someone so dour at the door is a wonder.)

I was given the standard wait time — don’t remember what it was but it fell beyond my tolerance level to wait for food. But then I was told I could take a single seat at the bar. Fine. I like sitting at the bar anyway.

Tap Room Grille

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Taproomgrille burger

I just happened to visit Tap Room Grille in Waterford Lakes on National Burger Day, one of the few made-up holidays not invented by the greeting card industry. I don’t go in for these marketing ploys. I don’t need a special day to remind me to eat lasagna, pickles or, in this case, a good burger.

And Tap Room Grille makes a good burger. It should be noted right off the top that this Tap Room is not related to the Tap Room at Dubsdread, which also makes a good burger — arguably one of the best in town — but it is associated with Nona Tap Room in Lake Nona, which I reviewed in April of 2012.

Then, as now, I went straight for the Loaded Burger, which features the basic Tap Room burger but with bacon and mushrooms added to the tomato, onions, lettuce and cheese choice toppings.