Takeout from the Aardvark

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Aardvark exterior

For as many years as I can remember, there was a sketchy looking business on Ferncreek Road just north of Michigan Street called Aardvark Beverages. It seemed to specialize in cold beer, especially those sold in hand keg sizes. It was undoubtedly of an age where a business’s position at the top of the Yellow Pages (ask your grandparents) was paramount. Now the most important thing is the algorithmic ranking (ask your grandkids). Although I probably drove past it thousands of times, I never felt the need to go inside.

Then, a couple of years ago, it started to change from a package beverage store to a boutique cafe (that also served packaged beer and still had kegs to go, because tradition). When I first visited the reimagined business, now called simply The Aardvark, I found it a charming place to have a bite to eat and a glass of wine or beer (both now on tap), but it didn’t seem fully baked.

The reason, I discovered, was that there wasn’t a real commercial kitchen, such as one with a certified fire hood, in the back, so the menu was limited to items that mostly could be cooked offsite and then assembled in the back. Sandwiches, flatbreads, yawn. I decided to wait a while to return.

Apparently it’s time because the new menu has more ambitious items, including some that couldn’t be pulled off from commissary cooking and onsite reheating.

Takeout from Rocco's Italian Grille & Bar

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I’ve always considered Rocco’s Italian Grille & Bar to be one of the area’s finest Italian restaurants, and I’m pleased to say Rocco Potami’s excellent food travels nicely.

I recently ordered some food to go from the full menu posted on Rocco’s website.

CFS Coffee

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It was a whim stop. Driving through Winter Park’s Hannibal Square, my companion and I spotted an isolated table outside Café Frustos Selectos, more commonly known as CFS Coffee. It was brunchtime, Sunday, and we were weary of takeout. So we took a chance on dining onsite.

But there being no table service, we did have to go inside to order our food (which we preselected from a paper menu outside the front door.

Vanbarry's Public House

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Vanbarry’s Public House, on a hill above Orange Avenue overlooking Lake Jennie Jewel, has always been a pleasant place to sit, especially with its beachy atmosphere. And it might be a good choice for those looking to transition to onsite dining – it has lots of outside seating and the indoor dining area feels like it’s outside, thanks to open walls that give good circulation.

But if you’re like me and still hesitant about venturing out, the food is takeout worthy; you just have to provide your own beachside mien.

Keke's Breakfast Cafe

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My but Keke’s Breakfast Cafe certainly has grown.

In just a little over 10 years it has grown from two Central Florida locations – first near the Mall at Millenia then on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park – to a franchise with nearly 50 restaurants throughout the state.

It didn’t start out as Keke’s, you may remember. That first restaurant on Conroy Road was originally called Florida Waffle House, and that opened more like circa 2007. But of course that name was eventually challenged. So the owners, brothers Keith and Kevin Mahen, took their shared first two initials and cobbled them into Keke’s.

I hadn’t visited a Keke’s since 2010 when I reviewed the one on Fairbanks Avenue (which had previously been Bakely’s). So when I decided recently that I wanted a big breakfast, including pancakes, but not the cleanup (or the trouble), I gave a call to the location at Conway Avenue and Curry Ford Road in Orlando.

Sixty Vines

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Update: Since this review was published it has come to light that a manager for Sixty Vines tested positive for COVID-19. According to another manager, Stephanie Jones, the person who tested positive has not been in the restaurant for 12 days. Jones also says they are confident the virus was not contracted at the restaurant. She noted that all staff are wearing masks and the restaurant has been properly cleaned. All other managers have been tested and the results have been negative, said Jones. Some other staff members had been tested but not all, according to Jones.

Talk about timing.

Sixty Vines, a Texas based concept, opened its fourth location, the first outside Texas, at Lakeside Crossing in Winter Park on March 17. That was, you’ll recall, the same day the state of Florida ordered restaurants to operate at no more than 50 percent capacity and just days before they were ordered to cease all on-premises dining.

I’ve heard of soft openings before but this one must have been positively flaccid.

Since that time I’ve focused almost exclusively on reviewing the takeout experience of restaurants that quickly adjusted to the new restrictions. But when I saw that Sixty Vines was open under the current Phase 2 guidelines – and I noticed it had some outdoor tables – I thought I would try onsite dining. I also liked that the restaurant was requiring reservations so as to limit occupancy.

However, I was not able to reserve an outdoor table. “First come, first seated,” I was told about the four tables in front of the restaurant. Without the guarantee of being seated outdoors, and not wishing to go inside, I reverted to ordering for curbside pickup.

Nikki's Place Southern Cuisine

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I got takeout recently from the wonderful Nikki’s Place, the southern restaurant on Carter Street, and came to the conclusion that Nikki either needs to decrease the portion sizes or get sturdier takeout containers.

I vote for the latter.

I ordered three meals for curbside pickup because I couldn’t decide on just two. I pulled up to the restaurant and before I could put the car in park someone, properly masked, was coming out the front door with my food in a plastic sack. She placed it in my trunk and I was on my way.

But when I got home, I discovered that the weight of the two dinners on top had crushed the foam clamshell container on the bottom, such was the heft of the food inside. A little gravy had spilled out from the crushed box, but most of it was still intact.

And there was no detriment to the quality of the food, which is as first rate as ever.

DaJen Eats

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I had been wanting to try DaJen Eats for a while and now seemed like the appropriate time.

DaJen is a Jamaican tinged vegan cafe in Eatonville, owned and operated by Jenn Ross, an ebullient and enthusiastic proponent of a vegan lifestyle and an irie outlook.

Irie, pronounced EYE-ree, is a word in Rastafarian and Jamaican dialect that means nice or pleasant. With that being the case, everything at DaJen Eats is perfectly irie.

Terralina Crafted Italian

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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As I said in my recent column about my observations on my visit to Disney Springs, whose reawakening is ongoing, I was excited to have my first experience at a restaurant in months that didn’t involve foam clamshells, aluminum foil trays and plastic takeout sacks.

I had set a low bar.

After strolling around the Springs and considering the dining options – we had agreed that we would select a restaurant with outdoor dining – my companion and I decided on Terralina Crafted Italian, a restaurant whose food and service I’ve enjoyed in the past, especially since the talented Justin Plank took over as head chef.

We were only mildly disappointed to be shown to a table at the outdoor bar at the front of the building instead of at the back, which overlooks the lagoon. But we accepted the table and took a seat.