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During February, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide is featuring restaurants that are Black-owned or that have Black chefs in observance of Black History Month.

The most interesting thing I learned about Seana’s, a Caribbean and soul food restaurant in West Orlando, is that there is no Seana. Owner Joshua Johnson said that it was just “a name I’ve always loved; it just feels like a warm embrace.” That’s a pretty good description of the restaurant itself.

Seana’s occupies a small space in a little strip mall at the corner of Good Homes Road and Colonial Drive. A counter-service operation with the menu hand-written on a white board that also serves as a screen to the kitchen area, Seana’s gained some renown when it was chosen as one of the local restaurants to serve members of the National Basketball Association during its stay in a pandemic “bubble” at Walt Disney World Resort last season.

The teams ate well.

Viet-Nomz Downtown

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February 11 is Lunar New Year Eve, the celebration by Asian countries of the beginning of another calendar cycle and the beginning of spring. Each year of the Asian calendar is represented by an animal. This year is the year of the ox, or buffalo.

Last year, by the way, was the year of the rat, which so sums up 2020.

In Vietnam, the New Year celebration is called Tet, so I thought it might be a good time to try out Viet-Nomz’s new ghost kitchen operation west of downtown Orlando.

Actually, I came to visit the new operation circuitously. I was looking for another restaurant that had a West Pine Street address, but when I got there, no restaurant could be seen. Talk about a ghost kitchen. As I circled the block to head back home, I passed Dollins Avenue. That sounded familiar, so I pulled over and soon found that I’d seen the address in a post by Viet-Nomz.

I pulled into the parking lot at 18 N. Dollins Ave., searched for Viet-Nomz on my phone and placed my order online. It was simple, intutitve, I was able to prepay, with a tip, and when I finalized the order I received a text message saying it had been received and telling me to stay in my car until it was ready. It’s like they knew I was sitting right outside. Eerie.

Brick & Spoon

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During February, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide is featuring restaurants that are Black-owned or that have Black chefs in observance of Black History Month.

As coincidence would have it, Brick & Spoon opened its Maitland location almost exactly one year ago – on Feb. 11 and got a good several weeks in before the bottom fell out.

It has survived and is thrumming along, apparently attracting a loyal fanbase among Maitlanders.

Caribbean Sunshine Bakery

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During February, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide is featuring restaurants that are Black-owned or that have Black chefs in observance of Black History Month.

Caribbean Sunshine Bakery is much larger than it appears to be from the outside. At least the restaurant at John Young Parkway and W. Colonial Drive (there are two others in the area). There, it shares a strip mall with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, a Dollar Store, a couple of churches and various other businesses.

The front door would suggest a small fast food operation on the other side, but the inside is more vast, with a couple of different service counters and full service dining area. I stepped inside to pickup the order I had made online and was greeted warmly. After a short confusion regarding what name the order was under – one of several confusions caused by the online ordering system – I was on my way back downtown with my delicious smelling food.

Chicken Fire

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During February, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide is featuring restaurants that are Black-owned or that have Black chefs in observance of Black History Month.

Chicken Fire is really misnamed – the Fire ought to have top billing.

Chicken Fire is a restaurant singularly focused on serving Nashville hot chicken, a version of fried chicken that is marinated, breaded, deep fried and then coated in a paste fashioned out of molten lava. And it is wonderfully delicious.

Kwame Boakye began offering his heavenly bit of hell to Central Floridians from a mobile food van. Then, in December, he opened in a storefront location near the corner of Colonial Drive and Bumby Avenue. Such was the popularity of Boakye’s product that the weekend the new restaurant opened the kitchen went through one thousand pounds of chicken.

(It’s also so popular that it has no website and no published phone number. But more on the ordering process in a moment.)

Loading... Gastrobrunch

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It occurred to me as I was sitting on the front patio of Loading... Gastrobrunch on a recent afternoon that in my nearly 33 years in Central Florida I had never been to downtown St. Cloud. And after a year of no travel, I relished the feeling of visiting someplace new, or at least new to me. It turns out there’s a lot of history in St. Cloud, but I’ll come back to that.

And besides the allure of a day trip – albeit one only a 40 minute drive away – I was enjoying a nice brunch on a beautiful day.

Saffron Indian Cuisine

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I recently dropped off a long-overdue Foodster Award for Best Indian to Saffron on Sand Lake Road, and based on the lunch I also ordered, it is still deserving of the honor.

Saffron is part of the group of Indian restaurants that includes Madras Cafe, the all vegetarian and vegan restaurant, and the estimable Mynt in Winter Park’s Hannibal Square neighborhood.

Saffron, and its sister restaurants, has implemented a well-thought-out online ordering system that is easy to use. Its menu is a sizable one, however, so you’ll need some time to browse through all the tempting entries.

What the Chuck

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Just under the name What the Chuck and its big orange W logo (which was vaguely reminiscent of Whataburger’s) it says “A burger joint.” That pretty much sums it up.

Well, not entirely. I suppose you should also know that the burgers this joint offers are of the smash genre, wherein the patty is pressed down during grilling and flattened somewhat instead of being a thick and juicy hunk of ground beef oozing with red juices. Smashed burgers cannot be ordered, say, medium-rare because as soon as they’re smashed they’re pretty much beyond that point. Which is not to say such burgers can’t also be satisfying. You should just know before you go.

Il Pescatore

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As coincidence would have it, I first reviewed Il Pescatore, the family homey Italian restaurant on Primrose Drive, exactly 20 years ago this week. And now that it has reached that milestone, it can be declared an Orlando Classic.

It was Marie and Stefano LaComarre who purchased what was Sorrento’s Italian and renamed it Il Pescatore, or the fisherman. It was never meant to be a seafood restaurant, and in fact seafood was never its forte. The name was merely an homage to Stefano’s childhood on the waters of his native Sicily.

(The LaComarre’s, of course, eventually sold Il Pescatore and opened Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs, which they also sold and which still thrives today under the ownership of Alejandro Martinez. Lacomarre now cooks at his son’s Altamonte Springs restaurant, Nonno’s.)

Lacomarre’s influence is still seen on Il Pescatore’s menu today – I wonder how many menus in the area feature Tortellini di Stefano? But it reads, as it always has, as a stereotypical Italian American menu that you might find in any red-and-white checker-clothed trattoria. (It did, in fact, have such tablecloths in ’91 but they no longer drape the tables today.) But with an occasional surprise.

Eddie V's

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I love all the mom and pop restaurants, the little eateries serving sandwiches, barbecue, comfort foods and myriad cuisines of other countries and cultures.

But sometimes you want something a little more upscale, a special occasion splurge. So the other day I said to my Covid companion, “Let’s do Eddie V’s tonight.” It was a welcomed suggestion.

Eddie V’s, of course, is the upscale Darden brand on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row specializing in seafood. Fish is a tough thing to do for off-premises dining, but if anyone could pull it off I was sure Eddie V’s could.