Soupa Saiyan

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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If you’re not familiar with the terms manga, anime or Dragon Ball Z, you may find the surroundings at Soupa Saiyan a little odd. Actually, even if you know about those things you may find the surroundings odd. But you might understand them a little more.

Soupa Saiyin (pronounce it like you’re sayin’ sayin’) is a hole-in-the-wall noodle house, the wall in question being in a sketchy looking mini strip mall on Vineland Road. The decor is based on manga (either comic books or graphic novels depending on your level of devotion) and anime, the Japanese animation style, usually based on manga sources, used in films and television shows. One such show is a franchise known as Dragon Ball Z and images and merchandise from the series fill the place.

Lombardi's Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Lombardi’s has long been my go-to fishmonger. I always appreciate the variety of fresh fish even though I generally stick to a few usuals. (Swordfish steaks cooked sous vide is my current favorite.)

But I always try to get to the shop early, as soon as it opens, to get the best selection. And so I’m usually there too early to have something from the adjoining cafe. Plus, if I’m cooking fish that night I’m not likely to have seafood for lunch.

But I recently made a point of visiting during lunchtime and found the food to be mostly good even if the overall experience was less so.

Buttercrust Pizza

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BCrust pie

I could see where some purists might take umbrage with Buttercrust Pizza’s name. Not the Buttercrust part – that’s a perfect description of the taste.

It’s the word Pizza some might object to. That’s because Buttercrust’s does not fit the usual mold. And that includes the shape of the mold. I can see the point of the pizza snobs who won’t have anything but a New York style thin crust wedge you have to fold the fit in your mouth. I get it. But they should get over it and try Buttercrust because whatever you call it it pretty darned delicious.

4Roots Cafe

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4roots sign

I thought it was a nifty idea when 4Roots, an initiative from 4 Rivers Restaurants dedicated to teaching the connection to food choices and individual health, opened 4Roots Cafe at Orlando Science Center. Besides offering healthful food choices, including plant based and sustainable options, it was to include food exhibits and educational videos and even a display with a robotic arm that picks strawberries.

I was only mildly annoyed that access to the cafe was available only through the Science Center, which required the purchase of a ticket. Not that that’s unheard of – you can’t eat at a restaurant in Epcot unless you pay for admission. And OSC costs a whoooooole lot less than Epcot. And parking is cheaper, too.

But now the cafe is accessible to the public without an entrance fee (though it would still be a good thing to support the center if you can).

Nick Filet

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Nick logo

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Nick Filet sounds a lot like the name of a certain never-on-Sundays fast food chain. But there actually is a Nick behind the new fast-fooder, which recently opened a franchise in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips off Restaurant Row, and it specializes in filets, and even uses the proper spelling.

The Nick in question is Nick Kline, and he and his father, Keith, started Nick Filet not quite three years ago with the first restaurant in Paoli, just outside Philadelphia. The Orlando location is just one of four and the first outside of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Nick’s niche is simple: Instead of the ubiquitous chicken sandwich that every other franchise seems to specialize in, Nick’s offers a steak on a bun. It isn’t a unique idea. In fact, there’s a similar concept, Steak on Fire, just over a quarter of a mile away.

Bombay Street Kitchen

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Bombayst signs

I guess we’re still not over this obsession with street food. For some reason, there’s a strong attraction to any foodstuff billed as something that you might purchase from a vendor’s cart stationed on a curb in a large urban area someplace in the world. Of course, most of the restaurants that tout street fare are safely ensconced behind brick and mortar facades with the benefit of a fully outfitted professional kitchen. Frankly, I’m looking forward to when the trend is to tout “We specialize in foods commonly presented in full-service restaurants.”

The latest to jump on the street food bandwagon, wagonless as it is, is Bombay Street Kitchen, a rebranding of sorts from a business that used to be called Bombay Cafe and was located about a half a block away.

The menu may indeed have items associated with street vendors – as I recall, so did Bombay Cafe. But the menu here is more extensive than things you’d associate with eating on a curb (good thing, too, since the curb outside if Orange Blossom Trail).

The 808

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The Thornton Park space that for a quarter of a century was home to a Dexter’s finally has a new tenant: The 808. Yes, that’s its address on Washington Street but there’s more to it.

First, to recap, Dexter’s sort of imploded after the popular wine bar and cafe with four locations was sold off to different buyers a few years ago. Only the Lake Mary Dexter’s remains. The Winter Park restaurant moved to Ravaudage and renamed itself Dexter’s New Standard, though it seems to have (predictably) dropped the Dexter’s. The Windermere location is now Feather & Quill.

The buyer of the Thornton Park Dexter’s tried to keep it going under that brand and even brought back some old menu favorites. But in October of 2019 it was sold again to a bartender who had worked at Burton’s Bar across the street with plans to open a new, undisclosed concept.

Then 2020 happened. And new owners Todd Ulmer and Wendy Connor have taken over.

Loading...Gastrobrunch Dinner

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Loading interior

It doesn’t sound like a place called Loading...Gastrobrunch would be a place for dinner. And when the downtown St. Cloud restaurant first opened it served only breakfast and lunch.

But now dinner hours have been added, and new dinner items to the menu, too. So a friend and I were invited to stop in and sample.

I was at Loading last year for a lunchtime visit but at that time I was confining my dining to outdoor tables. So it was nice to experience the interior this time. It’s rustic, befitting its location in the historic Hunter Arms Hotel. Horizontal wood planks on one wall, a brick wall behind the bar and a fieldstone fireplace at the far end give the room a cabinlike feel. A mishmash of gewgaws give the decor an eclectic feel.

The Pinery

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pinery exterior

“What’s new and exciting?”

That’s the question I get asked most these days, more so than usual. I suppose it’s because over the past year or more we’ve been focused primarily on the businesses that succumbed during the pandemic rather than the ones that opened. To be honest, we lost a lot fewer restaurants than I expected us to. And we had a surprisingly healthy number open, several that I would include in the new and exciting category.

We had Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe and the Monroe in downtown Orlando. In Winter Park, BoVine gloriously reimagined the former Park Plaza Gardens space just as Knife & Spoon did with the old Norman’s at the Ritz. Recently, Illume brought high-end Japanese cuisine to the high-up rooftop of the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek, just upstairs from Sear + Sea, which also debuted mere months ago.

Now to the list of new and exciting add The Pinery, which opened last month in the newly constructed Lake House Apartments high rise. Like its neighbor Russell’s, it shares a view of Lake Ivanhoe and pays homage in its name and logo to the area’s past as a pineapple grove. (The western strip of lakefront was once known as Russell’s Point.)

AC Sky Bar

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ACSky negroni

AC Sky Bar is not a restaurant. That should be clear from the name, otherwise it might be AC Sky Cafe or AC Sky Bistro, which would make it sound more like an in-flight food option.

It’s not quite at cruising level, but it does sit higher than an aerie, on the 18th floor of the newly constructed SunTrust Plaza building at Garland Avenue and South Street. The bank occupies the lower floors; the hotel has the topmost eight floors. The 18th level serves as the hotel’s lobby and also has a breakfast nook, lounge and the aforementioned Sky Bar. Two-story windows and balcony seating offer unfettered views that confirm Florida’s flatness. One can see all the way to the attractions and beyond. Just below is a top-down view of the Amway Center.