Garp & Fuss

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Garp Fuss door

I don't know what Garp & Fuss is. I don't mean the name. Well, yes, I do mean the name, too. But I also mean that I don't know how to classify it as a restaurant.

The menu is kind of all over the place. There's a pasta dish right next to a schnitzel. Tacos, natch. Burgers, of course. A Cuban sandwich right above a Vietnamese Bahn Mi (though it's spelled on an online menu as bahni mi, which I thought might be a clever play on the French term bon ami, but apparently was just a misspelling because it is correct on the in-house menu).

There is a sandwich called Fuss that features fried chicken and another called Garp with Italian beef. Maybe I'm just overanalyzing it but I don't know what it all means.

Tiffins

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tiffins ext

When I think about the top tier restaurants at Walt Disney World Resorts I usually think of Flying Fish, Citricos and California Grill, though the latter has declined somewhat in terms of experience. After a recent visit to Jiko - The Cooking Place, I'm prepared to include that Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant in the upper echelon, too. (Victoria & Albert's is in a higher tier all by itself.)

What all of those restaurants have in common is that they are accessible without the requirement to purchase a ticket to one of the theme parks. Which is not to say there aren't good restaurants inside the parks. Certainly Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Monsieur Paul at Epcot's France pavilion offer a higher standard than a basic meal.

In that category of restaurants I now include Tiffins, a surprisingly adventurous and slightly upscale restaurant appropriately located inside Animal Kingdom. I was invited recently to dine with some WDW executives, so my experience wasn't the same as an everyday visitor, but I liked what I tasted, and what I saw going on at nearby tables.

Pannullo's Italian Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Pannullo interior

This seems to be the year of milestones, at least for area restaurants. Beefy King, of course, is getting a lot of attention, as it should, for hitting the half century mark. And Christner's Prime Steak & Lobsters has been touted for its 25 year anniversary, even though the first 20 were as Del Frisco's Prime Steak & Lobsters.

Quietly, Pannullo's Italian Restaurant is also celebrating its silver anniversary at its Park Avenue address. It's not the oldest along the avenue -- Cafe de France and Briarpatch outdate it -- but its 25-year achievement is worth noting.

Also worth noting: It may have been 25 years since I last dined there, or pretty close. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but knowing of the anniversary and needing a place to meet a friend for lunch, I decided to stop in.

Stir Restaurant & Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Stir sign

My most recent visit to the restaurant at the corner of Orange Avenue and Virginia Drive, just across from Lake Ivanhoe, had me thinking that the name should be Still instead of Stir. It was very quiet and largely unattended.

Actually, I think we're meant to present the restaurant's name as STIR. According to the About Us page on its website, the name is an acronym for Sip, Taste, Indulge and Relax. And you may do all those things at this restaurant and bar, which is located in the space that most recently was Nova (whose name was a syllabic abbreviation of North of Virginia). Whether you'll want to is another question.

The first time I went to Stir I did not intend for it to be a reviewing visit. I was meeting a colleague to discuss a business venture and the just-opened restaurant seemed like a convenient place to meet for drinks. As I often do, I ordered a negroni, the cocktail made with equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. What I was served tasted nothing like any negroni I've had before. And in fact when I mentioned this to someone, I was told that the bar did not stock Campari, so something was substituted.

Dear bartenders and beverage managers: You are not required to stock every bit of liquor, liqueur or mixer known to every drinking man or woman. And given your proclivity towards creativity, I understand your desire to play variations on a tippling theme. But for crying out loud, if you don't have the ingredients for a classic cocktail or your presentation strays from the original recipe, you might want to mention it to your customer ahead of time. "I don't have the ingredients for a negroni," you might say, "but I have something you might like instead." With that information at hand, I can either choose something else or go with your creative juices, so to speak.

Bulgogi House

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bulgogi House exterior

I'm not really big on places where the customers are expected to cook their own meals. I call that home. When I go out to eat, I want someone else to do the cooking.

I'm apparently in the minority with this thought. At least I was the first time I visited Bulgogi House, a Korean restaurant on West Colonial Drive between downtown and College Park. Each table has a grill set into it, and most of the tables were occupied with people happily turning over meats and vegetables as they sizzled in front of them. My friend and I looked at each other and thought, Nah, not tonight. (We headed up to Tap Room at Dubsdread and had a wonderful prime rib dinner, all of it prepared in the kitchen; didn't even have to do dishes.)

I returned to Bulgogi House at lunch time when most of the grills are left cold and more of the guests order off the menu.

Cafe 906

Written by Scott Joseph on .

cafe 906 interior

Exactly one month from today I will step off a plane in Paris, beginning a week of food, wine and more food and wine as part of a tour I'm co-leading with Kevin Fonzo and Art in Voyage - Beyond Travel. I can't wait -- it's been almost five months since my last visit to Paris. Luckily, I'll only have to wait three months after this trip to return.

I sort of like Paris.

One of the great comforts of Paris is waking up and strolling to one of the neighborhood boulangeries for freshly baked croissants, sitting in the flat on the balcony as the sun streams in, sipping coffee and nibbling on the croissant with just a smear of butter or jam.

I don't know why it should be so difficult to find suitable croissants stateside. But I found a pretty good one at Cafe 906 in Baldwin Park. In fact, with the exception of the atmosphere, which is a little too industrial, Cafe 906 is a very nice French cafe.

1803 Pizza/Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

1803 exterior

As coincidence would have it, earlier this week I told you about a guest column I wrote for Orlando Date Night Guide listing many of the area's oldest restaurants. I also noted that I had written a similar article, in 2005, for the Orlando Sentinel. In neither article did I list O! Stromboli.

I mention that because at one time the owner of O! Stromboli advertised that it was the oldest Italian restaurant in town. That was in 2007, and during my 19 years at that point of reviewing restaurants, it had been Ciotti's, Sandroni's and Farinacci's. Also during that time, there were several Italian restaurants that had been operating longer. When I asked the owner about it, he said that there had been an Italian market or restaurant at that address since the 1940s, albeit under different owners. Not exactly truth in that particular advertising.

The address in question is 1803 Winter Park Road, Orlando. The address lends its name to the new tenant, 1803 Pizza/Kitchen. It's Italian, so by some people's standards it's the oldest one in Orlando even though it opened just last week.

Hong Kong Alley's Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hong Kong Alley exterior

I'm sure the staff at Hong Kong Alley's Kitchen were just trying to be nice. They were effusive in their greeting when I walked into the strip mall storefront restaurant on East Colonial Drive. And the young man who took my order had a smile on his face at all times.

But no one could quite believe me when I told them, multiple times, I didn't need the fork they kept trying to place on my table. The chopsticks were fine, I said. Not showing off, I just think Chinese food tastes better when the proper utensils are utilized. And I eat less.

I had stopped in on a whim, noticing as I drove by the banner out front announcing Dim Sum, Roast Duck and Crispy Pork.

Claddagh Cottage

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Claddagh exterior

Was it ever really gone?

Any out-of-towners wandering into Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub in the last few weeks might be surprised to learn that it has been away for close to a year and a half. It thrums with the laughter and chatter of a full house, background to the lilt of traditional music, sometimes recorded, sometimes live. Despite its relative newness, it feels comfortably worn, familiar.

We in-towners know that this is a new location for Claddagh, which was forced out of its small strip mall spot to make way for a new Walgreens. (You can blame us aging Baby Boomers and our need to have a pharmacy close enough get to using a walker.) The original closed its door after a last New Year's Eve celebration Dec. 31, 2016.

Since then, owners Scott Vocca and Vicki Gish searched for a new location that wouldn't leave a loyal customer base behind, struggled with construction and permitting setbacks, and fought to get the taps flowing again.

They may not think it was worth it. I would guess if they could go back to that last New Year's Eve and were given the option to stay they would. But for all the woes and tribulations of moving and restarting, the new Claddagh Cottage, just a hair over a mile from the old spot, is better than the one it replaced.

California Tortilla

Written by Scott Joseph on .

California Tortilla ext

I find the name California Tortilla unmemorable. It's generic. Non descriptive. And the logo for the chain restaurant that opened recently in downtown Orlando isn't very helpful: it's an avocado. Also, the specialty is burritos. Oh, and despite the California designation there don't appear to be any locations in that state.

Then again, there isn't much else about the place that's all that memorable, either. Certainly not the staff, most of whom barely acknowledge a customer's existence.