Manny's Original Chophouse

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Manny's Original Chophouse was not what I was expecting. I'm not sure it was what Baldwin Park was expecting, either.

Manny's is a franchise operation that originated in Haines City. And before we go any further, it's necessary to mention that the Manny in the name is Nikolaidis, not Garcia. Nor Tato, for that matter, even though the latter at one time had a place called Manny's Chophouse on Markham Woods Road in Longwood. That was in 2006. According to the website for the new chophouse in Baldwin Park, Nikolaidis opened his first one in 2004, so apparently he has legitimate claim to the Original designation.

But back to expectations. I was expecting classy, I was expecting serene, both befitting the lakefront location in the upscale development.

Thai Island

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Today's review of Thai Island includes a right wing conspiracy. Or maybe it's left wing. Wings are definitely involved.

Thai Island is at the corner of Semoran Boulevard and Michigan Street. It sits next to Wingstop, a Buffalo wings chain, and a couple of doors down from Red Wing Shoes.

And as it turns out my favorite Thai appetizer, Angel Wing, is on Thai Island's menu. Angel wing is a chicken wing that has had the bones -- the humerus and the radius bones, as it were -- removed, with the resulting void filled with chopped chicken meat and clear noodles. The result resembles more of a drumstick. Why don't they just stuff a drumstick? you ask. I don't know, I'm just winging it here.

Sharon's Homestyle Cookin'

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Another in a series of looking back at Classic Orlando Restaurants.

We've been discussing some of the restaurants celebrating milestones this year. Beefy King at 50, for example, and several others including Christner's Prime Steak & Lobsters and Pannullo's Italian Restaurant at 25.

I was surprised to learn about another restaurant to reach the quarter-century mark: Sharon's Homestyle Cookin'.

Although it's been cooking, or cookin', if you prefer, for that long, it has only been in its current location for about three years.

Wine Bar George

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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This is not your average wine bar. But then knowing George Miliotes, no one would have expected it to be.

Miliotes is the George of Wine Bar George, the latest venue to spring up at Disney Springs. It's big, situated in a newly constructed two-level building with a balcony overlooking the walkway below and part of the lagoon just beyond.

Wine Bar George downstairs

Wine Bar George upstairs

Inside, there is a bustling bar on the first floor, filled with people who perhaps don't know there's a second level. Upstairs is another bar with couch seating as well as conventional tables, and another room for dining and sipping.

Wine Bar George glass

Wine, of course, is the main draw here, and the list, personally curated by Miliotes, is extensive and varied. He wisely included popular names, go-to wines that people order out of habit or because they're intimidated by some of the more obscure names.

But if Miliotes gets to those people before they place their order, chances are they're going to be trying something they've never heard of. And in all likelihood, they'll have a new favorite wine.

Enzo's on the Lake

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Photos from Enzo's on the Lake website.

I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our classic restaurants, venerable dining spots that have withstood the vagaries of the industry and the fickleness of the public to endure and even thrive. Today: Enzo's on the Lake.

Enzo Perlini opened the restaurant in 1980 along with his then wife Jo Anne. They bought a private home on Lake Fairy and converted it from a house to a restaurant. The couple divorced in 2000 but they remained business partners. When Perlini was diagnosed with leukemia, he relinquished day to day operations to Jo Anne. Perlini died in 2006 at the age of 61.

Jo Anne is still at the Longwood restaurant. So are a lot of servers who have been working there for decades. And Enzo's has maintained a loyal base of customers, many of who drive great distances to dine there. When I wrote Perlini's obituary for the Orlando Sentinel, I quoted a couple who said they drove to Longwood every weekend from Daytona Beach just to dine at Enzo's on the Lake.

Soco Brunch

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Soco Brunch cocktail

Brunch isn't new. The concept of something in between breakfast and lunch has been around a long time. The craze of making the meal an all-day affair is newer, but even that has been going on for years now. It almost seems inconceivable that a restaurant could open today and not offer a Sunday brunch. They've become so popular, especially among the younger set, that it's becoming common to see brunch offered on Saturdays and Sundays. In New York, I've seen some restaurants with weekday brunch menus.

Soco, the Thornton Park Southern contemporary restaurant, did not offer a Sunday brunch when it first opened more than three and a half years ago. But it soon joined the list of restaurants offering Saturday and Sunday brunch menus, and both days have become wildly popular.

And why not, with so many inventive things on the menu? I finally stopped in to try brunch (on a Sunday; I'm old school) and enjoyed my food very much.

Enjoyed my drink even more. There seem to be a lot of special brunch drinks and even pitchers of cocktails and bottomless mimosa options that... Ohhhhhhhh, now I get why brunches are so popular.

Willie's Pinchos

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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You would expect the pinchos at a place called Willie's Pinchos to be good. And they are. The barbecue skewers are impressively large, even before you consider the ridiculously reasonable three dollar charge. And the pork version that I had had a nice smoky flavor and a bit of sweetness from the barbecue sauce coating.

Willies pincho

It was rather plainly presented -- just the skewer of meat and some toasted Cuban bread. Apparently one is meant to either gnaw the meat off the skewer or pull it off using a slice of bread as a sort of potholder.

The pincho was good, but the Jibarito I also had was so much better, at least once I was able to find a way to eat it.

Garp & Fuss

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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 .

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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.