Las Lomas Mexican Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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I think the last time I was inside this building, the vast, freestanding structure at 800 E. Altamonte Drive, it was a restaurant called Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse and the year was 1998. Seltzer’s was a low-end steakhouse that served a pretty good product. But it didn’t last long – its greatest claim to fame was taking on city hall over some fiberglass steers and cows that were set up in front of the restaurant. The city claimed they were attention-getting devices subject to the same rules as signage; Harold Seltzer, the owner, countered they were “amusing lawn ornaments.” Never mind that there wasn’t an actual lawn or that they weren’t particularly amusing.

I don’t remember how it was resolved, but the the cattle of discontentment were eventually driven away when Seltzer’s finally fizzled.

I’m sure there must have been other food businesses in the building in the past 24 years but none caught my attention. Not until Las Lomas Mexican Grill, and really only then because it was the end of the year and I was actively seeking Mexican food to fulfill a seasonal craving.

Black Rooster Curry Ford

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Black Rooster, the popular taqueria from the Mills 50 district, has opened a second location in Curry Ford West. It occupies an end unit in a repurposed and redesigned building that used to house an ABC Fine Wine and Spirits store (and onetime lounge) at the corner of Crystal Lake Drive and Curry Ford Road (but not West Curry Ford Road because such a designation does not exist).

I had enjoyed the original Black Rooster – indeed, it is a previous winner of the Best Craft Tacos Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants – so I was anxious to try the new location. Although it opened the second week in November, the Curry Ford location is still claiming soft opening status with limited hours (lunch is not currently offered and it’s closed both Sunday and Monday whereas Mills 50 is closed only Mondays and offers lunch each day it’s open).

It was offering a limited menu to begin, too, but it now seems as though the menu is the same at both locations. I clicked on the menu for the Curry Ford West store and proceeded to make an online order for pickup a couple of hours later. The online ordering form was easy to use and allowed for detailed changes – deletions, additions, sauce notations – but after I had entered my payment information and clicked to finalize the order, I received an email confirming that it would be ready for pickup – at the Mills 50 location.

No, no, no. That wasn’t convenient. And besides, I wanted to check out the new place.

Tabla Lake Nona

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Tabla, the independently-owned Indian restaurant with locations in Orlando and Winter Park, has opened a third location in Lake Nona with a modern decor and a show kitchen design that allows you to see the exceptionally good food being prepared.

The open kitchen is a change from the original Tabla, which opened near Universal Orlando in 2008 and in Winter Park in the Shops on Park arcade last year.

But all three offer the same menu of Indian specialties as well as some Thai and Chinese dishes.

Ziggie's Pizza

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Ziggie’s Pizza has replaced Perla’s Pizza. Actually, it’s less a replacement than it is a transformation. Christian Ziegler took over the business when he and pizza partner Mike Collantes dissolved the business, but it continues mostly the same.

Well, there’s one big difference: it no longer offers the pizza with bananas on it.

But it does offer some interesting and non-run-of-the-mill pies, such as the Ziggie’s Stardust, which has as its base a pistachio pesto instead of the red sauce that most mills have the run of, so to speak.

Ten Ten Seafood & Grill

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Entering Ten Ten Chinese Seafood & Grill, you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered into a wedding banquet instead of a restaurant. All of the tables are big and round, seating eight, and are draped with gold-tinged fabrics. The chairs, too, are wrapped in the same fabric and tied with a bow at the back, the type of feature that would be a separate line item on a caterers checklist.

But no, it’s just the style of Chinese dining Ten Ten presents, and you’re welcome to sit at the large table even if there are only two of you. You could even sit across from each other and pass food via the lazy Susan in the center.

Ten Ten is a second location for a Sunrise, Fla., restaurant. The Orlando restaurant is on the west side, where so many of the authentic Chinese restaurants have settled but, for a change, it is not in the repurposed strip mall known as Orlando Chinatown.

North Italia

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North Italia has taken over the space on Restaurant Row that has long been vacant after a fairly short residency by J. Alexander’s, a Hillstone-like restaurant that failed to make a go of it.

North Italia should do just fine there, if what I observed during my visit is any indication. The place was bustling and full with a largely young crowd enjoying the darkly moody atmosphere, finely crafted food and surprisingly good service.

I want to start with the latter because the quality of service has been a sore spot lately as so many restaurants are dealing with staffing shortages. There were service blips, to be sure, the sorts of things one expects from a new operation. What I found encouraging was how deftly those blips were dealt with and corrected. And I was even more impressed after finding that it was the first day on the job for our server. She showed that she had undergone proper training, and that is promising for the future of dining.

Brother Jimmy's

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I was standing outside Brother Jimmy’s earlier this week and as a group went in ahead of me, one of them said, “I am really excited about this.”

Mind you, this was the Brother Jimmy’s in New York’s Murray Hill neighborhood, not a place exactly teeming with barbecue restaurants. I had already visited the Brother Jimmy’s in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips and figured I should check out a New York location since the concept began there.This is the place with the slogan “Put some south in yo’ mouth.” There are indications that Manhattan had multiple Brothers Jimmy’s – the first was on the Upper East Side and another was on Eighth Avenue, but it appears that only the one on Lexington Avenue still exists.

In fact, when another Brother Jimmy’s opens at Icon Park, Orlando will have twice as many as Manhattan. Is that something to get really excited about?

Milkhouse

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Milkhouse certainly has a splashy presence. Located, as the name clues, in the Milk District, the area of town surrounding the T.G. Lee Dairy facility at Bumby and Robinson Avenues, its name is spelled out in a blaze of marquee-like light bulbs as though announcing the production of a lactose-tolerant Broadway musical.

It has the trappings of being another in our continuing line of food halls that have opened or are planned for the area, albeit a smaller one than most of the others. But Milkhouse operates more like a restaurant, with customers invited to have a seat at a table or at the bar and order food and drinks from a server.

The main food option, at least in the evenings, is provided by Cicchetti Kitchen, or Cicchetti by Bruno depending on where you’re looking. The Bruno in question is Zacchini, of Pizza Bruno, who also has a Bagel Bruno outlet here. (Zacchini had previously opened a Bagel Bruno inside a Foxtail Coffee Co. in College Park; Foxtail is also in residence at Milkhouse.) But for evening comestibles, only the Cicchetti menu was available – well, along with Kelly’s Ice Cream, a perfect choice for a place called Milkhouse.

Chicken Guy! Winter Park

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Chicken Guy!, the exclamation pointed partnership project between Orlando resident and global restaurateur Robert Earl and celebrity chef and tv host Guy Fieri, has opened its second area location.

They’ve taken over a former Steak ’n Shake structure on Orlando Avenue in Winter Park, removed all things cow and chickened the place up. (There are still shakes, but we’ll come back to that.)

Itsa Chicken

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You’d think Itsa Chicken would be a sufficiently self-identifying name for a restaurant. But it’s actually a little too succinct. Maybe Itsa Chicken Sandwich would be better, or Itsa Fried Chicken Sandwich, because that’s essentially what this new Milk District eatery offers.

And before we go any further, I feel compelled to mention that the logo for the business includes the apostrophe that makes the name more grammatically correct. But all other references on the business’s web and Facebook pages are Itsa, so it’s how I’ll refer to it here. Grudgingly.

Itsa Chicken is a hole in the wall, literally. It occupies a corner of Whiskey Lou’s Lounge, a longtime cocktail slinger from pre-Milk District designation days. A window was punched out for walkup orders. There are a few stools at a railing overlooking Bumby Avenue, and Lou’s, which recently went smoke-free (perhaps you saw the headlines about Hell freezing over), put in a back patio, so I assume chicken sandwich eaters would be welcome there as long as they’re also drinking from Lou’s. Heck, you may even be allowed indoors with the nonsmokers as long as you’re imbibing. But walking your sandwich across the parking lot to the new Milkhouse food hall would be bad form.