Shoufi Mahfi

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Shoufi view

Hey, what’s up?

Or should I say Shoufi Mahfi? Because that’s what’s up for today. And that’s the translation.

Shoufi Mahfi is a charming little Mediterranean restaurant in South Orlando near the intersection of Sand Lake Road and John Young Parkway. It’s a counter service operation, but the staff is so warm and welcoming you might think you’re dining in a full service restaurant.

Galeria

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Galeria exterior

What is it about the space at 4979 New Broad St. in Baldwin Park that prevents its occupants from being successful? Or should the space be blamed?

First there was Lago, an Italian restaurant whose owner seemed to be repelled by by his customers. It lasted from 2009 to 2012. Manny’s Original Chophouse moved in in 2018 and out in 2019.

Now it’s home to Galeria, with a confusing mishmash of styles, uneven food preparation and service that is spotty at best.

Smoke & Donuts

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Smoke donuts exterior

I guess the name Smoke & Donuts is now something of a double entendre. It started – and continues to operate – as a food truck, specializing in barbecued smoked meats and, as the name promises, donuts.

But now owner Ian Russell is offering his food truck menu in a non-wheeled environment in partnership with a Mills 50 business called Belicoso Cigars & Cafe. Hence the double meaning of smoke. We won’t get into any Freudian allusions that might arise from cigars and donut holes – sometimes a donut is just a donut. And sometimes it very much is not, but I’ll come back to that.

Elize

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Elize tuna

I’ll admit that I mourned a little bit when I first heard the news that Rusty Spoon had been sold. I considered it to be one of Orlando’s true gems and its chef/owner, Kathleen Blake, one of our culinary stars. Losing it and K Restaurant seemed like a double punch to the literal and figurative gut.

And hearing that Rusty Spoon’s name would change to Elize with a menu featuring cuisine from the Netherlands didn’t inspire bated anticipation.

But the food at Elize, though decidedly different from that of Rusty Spoon, is every bit as wonderful, and the dining experience is exceptional enough to place it not only on the list of downtown Orlando’s must-visit restaurants but all of Central Florida’s as well.

Twisted Root Burger Co.

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Twisted Root burger view

Twisted Root Burger Co. is an odd name for a burger joint, so you’d think there might be a logical explanation for it. But I’ll address that later. TRBC is a youngish chain out of the Dallas area with a hefty handful of locations. The one that opened recently on Aloma Avenue in Winter Park is one of 17.

Owners Jason Boso and Quincy Hart started the concept in 2006 after meeting in culinary school, where they both were seeking new careers after jobs in stock brokerages and telephone line repair. That first Twisted, in Deep Ellum, a Dallas neighborhood, caught the attention of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” television program, and, as has happened so many times before, it took off.

The newest Twisted is in the Grove at Winter Park shopping mall on Aloma Avenue at Old Howell Branch Road. The entrance sits under a marquee-like sign. You can spot the front door because it says “Get you buns in here” right next to it.

Stefano's Trattoria

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Stefano20 interior

I’ll admit to having some trepidation about a Stefano’s Trattoria without Stefano. The LaCommares sold the popular Winter Springs restaurant about five years ago to F. Alejandro Martinez and I worried that it was Stefano, his wife, Marie, and their children who added an extra ingredient that made it all so delicious and delightful.

But after a recent visit my qualms have been calmed. Stefano’s Trattoria is every bit as good as it was in the early days, the food is still expertly crafted with a satisfying homeyness and served by a staff that treats every guest like a member of the family.

Chi-Kin

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Chi Kin bowl

Menus don’t get much more succinct – succincter? – than the one at Chi-Kin, a new quick-server in the Mills 50 district.

It’s basically chicken, as you probably phonetically guessed, and Korean fried chicken to be more precise. (Preciser?)

Korean fried chicken, KFC, if you will, is known for being extra crispy and usually extra spicy. It’s been a popular breakout item on many Korean menus for the past several years and has even made its way on to otherwise American menus. For all its Southern contemporaneousness, Soco in Thornton Park has had KFC on its menu since its first day.

Streetwise Urban Food

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Streetwise exterior

I stopped in the other day at Streetwise Urban Food, a small quick-serve on Hoffner Avenue that, despite listing its opening date as April, 2019, seems as though it’s just moved in.

There’s a temporary sign hanging in front of the strip mall space, and inside a clear-glass Pepsi cooler had only one lone bottle in it. Perhaps they were anticipating a delivery following a run on soda?

Not sure. When I entered the space it was eerily quiet and there was no one out front. But a young woman soon appeared from the kitchen space and greeted me, asking me what she could get me. I explained that I had only just arrived and needed to consider the menu.

Takumi-tei

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 Takumi exterior

After so many years of a trend leading away from fine dining and toward more casual, even quick-service, restaurants, it’s nice to see some more upscale restaurants come online recently. And Walt Disney World is responsible for a few of them, notably Toledo at the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort and the just-opened Topolino at the Riviera Resort.

Add Takumi-tei to that list. Opened in July, this elegant dinner-only occupies a previously under utilized space at the Japan pavilion in Epcot. As with the other restaurants at the pavilion, Takumi-tei is operated by Mitsukoshi, the Tokyo-based department store.

El Vic's Kitchen

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ElVics interior

Every now and then another restaurant will come up with the idea to serve a menu featuring “global cuisine,” with dishes cherry picked and compiled from cuisines from around the world. A little Italian, a little Latin, maybe some French.

It never works. No less a restaurant Midas than Manny Garcia tried it in 1988 with a concept called Latitudes, which had an airport lounge decor to suggest the diner could travel to faraway places through the menu. It didn’t work, and Garcia converted the restaurant into the Winter Park location of his already successful Pebbles.

Restaurants need cohesion and focus. It’s admirable to want to be all things to all people, but it’s better to be one thing to the people who want that thing, and to do it well enough that they’ll come back often.

El Vic’s Kitchen in College Park is the latest to make the “we are the world” mistake. (The name of the restaurant is another misstep, but I’ll come back to that.) And it’s unfortunate because the path the restaurant should take is obvious. And it would offer a much more satisfying dining experience.