Back Room Steakhouse

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Backroom sign

Considering the name of the restaurant is the Back Room Steakhouse, I shouldn't be completely surprised that even after having dined there I'm still not at all sure where it is or exactly how I got there. (Thanks, for the directions, Siri.)

What isn't surprising is that it is located in a strip mall, nestled between a Beef O'Brady's and a Little Caesars pizza.

Once inside the ambience is a little more, um un-strippy, with a clubhouse decor that includes red leather tufted banquettes and wood floors. It's slightly more barlike than upscale. And by the way, despite the name, the restaurant is right up front.

The average check total is decidedly higher than the neighbors'. O'Brady regulars who might wander in and decide to try Back Room's beef might gasp at the $31 fee for a 14-ounce New York Strip. But folks who appreciate good steaks and know that a good quality cut, aged four weeks, costs a bit more will understand the cost once they take a bite.

Fig's Prime

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Figs int

I don't know if it's Figs or Fig's. I just know that the word Prime is also part of the name of this splashy, contemporary new restaurant in Altamonte Springs.

The restaurant's logo has a leaf -- let's assume it's a fig leaf -- where an apostrophe would be if the name is meant to be Fig's. This would be a rare case of a fig leaf revealing something rather than obscuring. But in postings on its Facebook page the restaurant refers to itself as Figs Prime, indicating more than one fig is involved. So I'm confused.

You probably think this is all just a niggle, but it's part of my job to pay attention to details. And if the people behind, um, FP paid more attention to that and other details, this could become a major player among restaurants in north Orlando.

Kres Chophouse

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Kres interiorPhoto: Kres Chophouse

I was walking around downtown Orlando with a friend recently when we passed Kres Chophouse. It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I’d dined there, so we popped in for dinner. I’m glad we did.

I don’t know why, but Kres hardly pops into my mind when I’m asked about recommendations for downtown dining. Maybe it’s because the last couple of times I had dined there I found it to be only so-so. But sitting at the bar on the other night, I was reminded about the long history of this space.

Well, a short history in the grand scheme of the location’s timeline. It occupies space in the Kress building and was originally part of the S.H. Kress chain of five-and-dime stores. I first dined in the space when Bailey’s, a popular islands-themed restaurant on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park opened Bailey’s Cityside there.

Jack's Place with Guest Critics

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jacs Place interior

We have a couple of guest critics for today’s review. John and Rita Lowndes were the successful bidders on a silent auction item to have dinner with me and to contribute to the review. The dinner was provided by the generous folks at Rosen Plaza and Jack’s Place, with chef Michael McMullen, and benefitted Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF.

Since the last time we reviewed Jack’s Place, the intimate dining room has undergone a sprucing up. The dozens of celebrity caricatures, drawn by hotelier Harris Rosen’s father, Jack, when he was employed by the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, are still the main decor element.

But the room now seems somewhat softer, more elegant. It’s a lovely oasis in the large convention hotel, a quiet escape for a pleasant meal.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Eleven deck

Things are looking up for area restaurants, at least in a physical sense.

There seems to be a renewed interest for top-floor dining. Recently, Hemisphere returned to the top of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport. At the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort Capa, um, resorted to the highest space. They join California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, and sometime next year, Circo will open on the top deck of an International Drive parking garage.

And there’s the subject of today’s review, Eleven, the restaurant at the Reunion Grande whose name indicates its position at the 11-story hotel.


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STK sign

I had visited STK at Disney Springs prior to it opening, and I was at the rather frantic grand opening event. But I was delighted to be invited back recently to experience it as a full, working restaurant.

Turns out it isn’t a lot less frantic on an average day. Your first clue to what the sound level will be is the DJ booth, which sits prominently, raised like a pulpit, at the entrance to the main first-floor dining room. Let’s just get this out of the way, folks: This isn’t a place for quiet conversation.

But the food is quite good, and the menu, under the direction of chef James O’Donnell, thoughtfully goes beyond the meat that the vowelless name would suggest.

Black Rock Bar & Grill

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Black Rock Bar & Grill, a restaurant whose shtick involves guests cooking their own foods on hot stones at the table, has opened its first location outside of its home state of Michigan in Orlando.

The local restaurant is at the corner of Conroy Windermere Road and S. Apopka Vineland Road, which is really more names than an intersection really needs. Black Rock takes over a space that has not seen any recent success stories. We were here last year when it was Fresh Made Kitchen. It started its life as a Perkins Restaurant & Bakery.

Black Rock wall

The Black Rock folks have removed all of the Perkinsianess and remodeled with stacked block walls and moody lighting. I was surprised to find it a much larger restaurant than it seemed when I visited Fresh Made Kitchen. But it is quite big, and I might as well tell you this right now: When it’s full, as it was when I was invited to attend a preview dinner, it is ear-splittingly loud.

As I mentioned, the gimmick here is tabletop cooking on stones that have been heated to 700 degrees. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, stick your tongue on it.

Venetian Chop House

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Venetian Chop House dining room

Breathe a sigh of relief.

If you were concerned, as I was, that the recent rebranding of the Venetian Room to the Venetian Chop House would mean that Orlando was losing yet another fine dining venue you can relax.

The signature restaurant at the Caribe Royale is still an elegant dining room, the service is still first rate, and, perhaps most importantly, the food is as high quality and well prepared as ever.

In fact, except for some tweaks to the menu, now under the direction of chef de cuisine Luis Taborda, working with the Caribe’s executive chef, Vincent Posada, and a more forward focus on steaks and chops and their accoutrements, you’d be hard pressed to find any substantive changes.

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Del Frisco ribeye

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House has come into the area in a big way, with an emphasis on the big. The new restaurant on International Drive is huge.

Technically, that should read that Del Frisco’s has returned to the area. The restaurant on Orlando’s Lee Road now known as Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster was previously Del Frisco’s Prime Steak & Lobster. Anyone who doesn’t already know the story behind the Del Frisco’s/Christner’s switchover can read about it here.

In my mind, the Double Eagle brand is new to Orlando, so I’m counting it as a newcomer. A welcome one, too.

The Golden Knife

Written by Scott Joseph on .

golden knife ext

At 7:30 on a Thursday evening, with a Broadway series show at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts a couple of blocks away nearing curtain time, pre-theater diners should have been pouring out of the Golden Knife.

But instead my guests and I encountered an eerily empty space. Was it so new that no one had found it yet? Or had others come before and found the experience to be as disappointing as we soon would?