Written by Scott Joseph on .

New restaurant occupies former Lee's Lakeside site

Pesca LakesodeAfter more than four years of lying fallow, the space that once held Lee’s Lakeside has finally been renovated and reopened as Pesca Lakeside, a new concept from local restaurateur Manny Tato (Spice Modern). Lee’s Lakeside was, for decades, one of Orlando’s premier dining spots, a favorite choice for special occasion celebrations for its choice location overlooking Lake Eola and Orlando’s skyline beyond.

Following the death of owner Lee Rose in January of 2003, Lee’s Lakeside began to decline. It finally closed for good in 2005.

I lost count of how many deals were proposed and even signed for the space over the past several years. Construction to redesign the interior had even begun when one of the deals fell through.

Paradiso 37

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Paradiso 37


I finally made it down to check out Paradiso 37, the newest restaurant in Downtown Disney in the area formerly known as Pleasure Island. This project is from E-Brands, the  Orlando company that also owns Timpano and Samba Room on Restaurant Row Orlando and Salsa at Florida Mall as well as other restaurants in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

Paradiso 37 is billed as serving “street foods of the Americas,” which conjures up an image of food carts roaming through the restaurant like an urbanized version of dim sum. Not so. It’s a full-service restaurant, no carts involved, although the menu does list from the collection of North American specialties the Street Cart Dog. Other choices are burgers, burritos, enchiladas and my favorite of all street foods, surf and turf.

E-Brands has a spotty history with its restaurants. Sometimes they’re very good, sometimes they’re not. My take on Paradiso 37 falls somewhere between the two extremes. The food was OK, so was the service, though neither was anything to rave about. The ambience? Well, we’ll come back to that.


Tavern on the Lake

Written by Scott Joseph on .

People who live and work in MetroWest are always complaining that they have a dearth of good restaurants in the area. Whenever they complain directly to me, I rattle off a few names of places I’ve enjoyed in the past. At the top of the list is Tavern on the Lake.

Johnny's Other Side

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I was sitting at the bar at Johnny's Other Side, the expansion of the hugely popular Johnny's Fillin' Station that opened up on the "other side" of the parkingJohnny's other side lot, when a couple of guys came through the door and started looking around the small space. Someone eventually asked if they were looking for the restroom. No, one of them replied, we're looking for the restaurant.

This is it, he was told.

Del Frisco's

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I finally had a chance to stop by Del Frisco’s to check out the renovations the high-end steakhouse underwent last year.del friscos

Basically, the two separate entities -- the main dining room and the lounge and piano bar next door -- were joined together as one with the addition of a cathedral-like foyer and main entrance. Walk through the front door and go to the right for the old dining room (the original entrance is blocked and the hallway is being used as storage) or go to the left to reach the bar and lounge. The night I visited more people were choosing the lounge than the dining room. But the nice thing is that the entire menu is available at the bar -- something that was not always possible when the piano bar was first added.

The other nice thing is that the food is still first rate.

Del Frisco’s has now been around for 16 years. When it first opened on Lee Road in mid 1993 it became an instant favorite, not only of mine but of Central Foridians who love great steak. When Florida magazine conducted its first annual Foodie Awards in 1998 it earned the award for best high-end steakhouse from both the readers and the critic. And it remained a favorite for several years even as competition in the high-priced meat market grew. We were willing to pay premium prices for Del Frisco’s steaks because the quality was unquestionable, they were cooked with precision expertise and the service was among the most professional in town. Dinner here was a special indulgence.

Nonno's Ristorante

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Update: Nonno's has closed.

What’s that phrase about not hiding your light under a bushel? I think Nonno’s Ristorante Italiano might be a case in point.Pizza

Nonno’s, a restaurant in the Hunter’s Creek section of South Orlando, features a fairly familiar list of Italian dinners, or at least Americanized versions of Italian dinners. Down at the bottom of the menu is a very small section labeled pizza. Consider the pizza Nonno’s light and the main menu the bushel.

Stone's Throw Bistro

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Don’t you find it a little strange that there are two restaurants in Sanford that once were homes to a newspaper publisher? Stone's Throw Bistrow

One of those restaurants is Two Blondes and a Shrimp, which once held the offices of the Sanford Herald. But the original home for that newspaper is just a stone’s throw away. Fittingly enough, that’s where you’ll find Stone’s Throw Bistro.

It isn’t hard to imagine that this structure is the oldest in town or that its initial purpose was other than as a restaurant. Its interior is rustic and rough, and some of the infrastructure appears jury-rigged. The tile floor is an obvious update, but the tin ceiling appears to be original.

My guest and I started our dinner with a bowl of the soup of the day ($4) , fashioned out of smoked yellow tomatoes with corn and crab, a thick and bisquey broth that had both smokey and spicy notes. Very nice.

Planet Hollywood London

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The new Planet Hollywood is a different world

This is the new Planet Hollywood. Call it PH.Plaent Hollywood Haymarket

Those are the letters on the outside of the London Planet Hollywood, which recently relocated from Trocadero to Haymarket. The PH follows a logo branding scheme that started when the Orlando-based company opened the Planet Hollywood Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.

But more has changed here than a mere logo.

The look and feel of the place is different, too. It’s more industrial and decidedly more casual. Yes, the old Planet Hollywood was casual, too, but the London version is casual almost to the point of being clinical. Part of that might have to do with this particular location, which appears to be a converted office or retail spot. It has a certain industrial look.

But it also seems to be a change in direction for the putatively movie themed restaurant chain. A manager told me the goal was to make the new Planet Hollywood more modern, more “adult.” Some of the changes make good sense.

Eastern Pearl Orlando

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I’ve always been a fan of Eastern Pearl, the casually upscale Chinese restaurant in Altamonte Springs. In fact, I awarded it numerous Foodie Awards for best Chinese while  I was the critic at the Orlando Sentinel. And plenty of readers agreed with me. One of the things that impressed me was that there wEastern Pearl logoas a window into the kitchen. I usually follow a don’t ask/don’t look policy when it comes to Chinese restaurant kitchens. It was refreshing to see Eastern Pearl’s so spotless.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Oh, brother.

When people talk about chain restaurants in a negative way, I think they’re talking about chains like O’Charley’s. The restaurant, one of more than 230 O'Charleyacross the country, opened recently in the center directly behind the Whole Foods store at the corner of Sand Lake Road and Turkey Lake Road. It’s the first Central Florida O’Charley’s from the Nashville-based company. If they’re all like this one, let’s hope it’s the last.