Juliana's -- do the math before making your selection

Written by Scott Joseph on .

With most of the restaurants participating in Orlando Magical Dining Month, the grouping of three courses into a juliana logoprix fixe menu where the prix is either $30 or $20 represents a savings. It’s sort of like the Rooms To Go concept that you’ll pay more if you buy the items separately. Buy the room -- or in this case the meal -- and you’ll save money. (Delivery charges are extra.)

But at Juliana’s, the mostly Italian restaurant in College Park, if you don’t order wisely you may be better off just choosing from the regular menu. Here’s why:

Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe today's Magical Dining Month feature

Written by Scott Joseph on .

For today’s Magical Dining Month recommendation, how about some German fare? Let’s go to Hollerbach’s Willow Hollerbach logoTree Cafe in lovely downtown Sanford.

As lover’s of German food know, we have an unfortunate dearth of restaurants that do it well, but Hollerbach’s is one of them. And the cafe’s MagDngMo menu is on the $20 list, which means you get three courses of hearty -- and filling -- food for a song sung to oom-pah-pah.

My recommendation is to start with potato pancakes, which come in two versions: basic, with sour cream and applesauce, or “gourmet” with smoked bacon and cheddar cheese.

For the entree, two of my favorites are among the choices. I love the wiener schnitzel, here made with a pork cutlet. But I also like the sausage platter. If those don’t appeal to you, have the sauerbraten or the Jaeger schnitzel.

Apple strudel or Black Forest cake are your choices for dessert. (There’s a cheesecake, too, but whoever heard of German cheesecake?)

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe is at 205 E. First St., Sanford. The phone number is 407-321-2204. You can view the restaurant’s Magical Dining Month menu here, or select another restaurant at the main Web site.

Highland Manor may be the deal of the month

Written by Scott Joseph on .

As you probably know by now, Orlando Magical Dining Month is a September special wherein participating highland manor logorestaurants offer a three-course menu at either $30 for fine dining or $20 for casual. As I mentioned at the beginning of this magical month o’ dining, some restaurants seem oddly placed in the $30 “fine dining” category.

But Highland Manor, the excellent Apopka restaurant I reviewed several weeks ago, may be the most oddly placed restaurant of the group in that it is lumped in with the $20 eateries. And that might just make it the most magical dining deal of all.

Double the magicality at Cala Bella and A Land Remembered

Written by Scott Joseph on .

cala bellaToday’s Orlando Magical Dining Month recommendation is a twofer: Both of the upscale restaurants at the elegant Rosen Shingle Creek are participating in the September event with three-course $30 menus. And both Cala Bella and A Land Remembered are places where the regular menu features entrees well above the price.

Flog search: Who has the best barbecue in Central Florida?

Written by Scott Joseph on .

It's time to find out who's smokin' when it comes to barbecue in Central Florida. This is always a hotly contested category.

One reason, of course, is that there are so many different styles of barbecue, a very regional food stuff. Then there's the favorite barbecue item. You've got ribs, pulled pork, chicken and various other things. And don't even get started about the different sauces.

But despite these variables, I think you'll agree that when you taste good barbecue you know it. So here's your chance to tell us where you've had good barbecue.

The 'cuers in the poll here were compiled by me and include several suggestions from readers. However, after the first week, I will drop out the restaurants with the fewest votes and place another in the poll. If you'd like to nominate a restaurant that isn't currently on the list, leave a comment below.

The initial list includes:

Cecil's Texas Style Bar-BQ
Blackwater Bar B-Q
Keller's Real Smoked Bar-B-Q
O'Boys Bar-B-Q
Brian's Bar-B-Q, Deland
Jack Benny's Barbeque, Minneola
Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ
Porky's Original BBQ, Apopka
Old Crow Real Pit Bar-BQ, Umatilla
The Smokehouse at Route 46, Sanford
Rockin' Ribz Smokehouse, Sanford


Voting will continue until October 4th. In the interest of fair play, I'm formally requesting that you vote only once. Want to campaign your customers to vote for you? Not a thing wrong with that. If you're not already registered, click this link to take you to the registration form. (It's quick and easy and I promise not to to sell your information or spam you.)

And after you vote, leave a comment below telling us why you think your barbecue joint is the best, and just what it is that you like about it.

So then, let the voting begin, and may the best 'cue win.

Time for a new review of Luma on Park -- Want to come along?

Written by Scott Joseph on .

luma logaToday’s featured restaurant for Orlando Magical Dining Month is Luma on Park, the chi-chi restaurant in Winter Park. As you probably know, the Park in the name is Park Avenue.

While chatting with chef Brandon McGlamery for his profile on the MagDngMo Web site, I realized that a lot has changed with the menu since I last dined there. That means it’s time for me to go back and do another review.

Wanna go with me?

Here’s the deal. I’m offering dinner for two with me at Luma on Park at silent auction at tomorrow evening’s Season Opening Gala for Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF. The winning bidder and a guest will accompany me to the restaurant on a mutually agreed upon date. We’ll have appetizers, entrees and desserts, we’ll discuss the atmosphere -- the lighting, the decor the music -- and evaluate the servers. I’ll ask you for your comments and use your quotes in a review here on the flog.

All you have to do is be the winning bidder. You can find information on attending the gala here.

If you don’t want to do that, you can always take advantage of Luma’s participation in the Month of Magical Dining and check out the restaurant on your own. The $30 menu includes a choice of soup or salad, one of three entrees, including fish (and read McGlamery’s profile -- he’s passionate about fish), and dessert, which includes an interesting popcorn ice cream selection.

Go, check it out and you can still come back here and write your own review at Luma’s listing.

To see Luma on Park’s Magical Dining Month menu, click here. Read about Brandon McGlamery and some of the other MagDngMo chefs here.

J. Alexander's offers its $21 prime rib for $20 -- plus two other courses; you do the math

Written by Scott Joseph on .

I wonder why prime rib is so hard to find in this town. And good prime rib even harder.j alexanders

When I reviewed J. Alexander’s, the Houston’s-like eatery that opened last year on Restaurant Row Orlando, I viewed the prime rib listing with skepticism. But of course I had to try it!

And I liked it. As I said at the time:
The prime rib was a pretty impressive slab for supposedly only 12 ounces. But more impressive than the portion was the tenderness -- exactly the buttery texture you expect from good prime rib, which in this case was more likely USDA choice. The plate included a cup of jus for dipping -- I preferred the creamy horseradish sauce that was served on the side -- and a massive mountain of loosely mashed potatoes that were more like a pile of potato lumps. They were, however, quite tasty.

K Restaurant Wine Bar gives locals and visitors a reason to smile

Written by Scott Joseph on .

k restaurant wine barAs you look through the list of restaurants participating in September’s Magical Dining Month, K Restaurant Wine Bar is one you should consider. Not only does it offer an opportunity to try one of Orlando’s best restaurants at a really good price, it’s also making some of chef/owner Kevin Fonzo’s best dishes part of the bargain.

I had the chance to visit K once again as guests of Orlando’s funnest couple, Kyle Post and Stacey Doornbos, the winners in the Orlando CVB’s 67 Days of Smiles campaign. Kyle and Stacey are finishing up their second week of experiencing all the fun they can stuff into 67 days. I sure hope they don’t run out of smiles. It sure wouldn’t be good if it turned out to be, say, 64 Days of Smiles and 72 Hours of Glum.

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine part of Orlando Magical Dining Month

Written by Scott Joseph on .

roy's restaurantThe Orlando Magical Dining Month restaurant of the day is Roy’s, the Hawaiian fusion on Restaurant Row Orlando. I just had lunch at Roy’s today, which isn’t easy to do considering the restaurant is open only for dinner.

But occasionally, Roy’s offers cooking classes at noontime, and I’ve been wanting to attend one for a long time. Today I finally got my chance.

Magical Dining Month Restaurant of the Day: los Generales

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Today’s featured Orlando Magical Dining Month restaurant is Los Generales, an authentic Mexican restaurant in South Orlando.

Los Gens has an extensive menu with all your favorite Mexican dishes and a few you may not be familiar with, as well. For Magical Dining Month, the Generals are offering a three-course menu for $20, and there are more options than you’ll find on a lot of other MagDngMo menus.

For a starters you can choose panchos (their version of nachos), queso fundido, the cheesy dip, or guacamole. I’d go for the fundido.

For a main course there’s bisteck al gusto, garlic shrimp, fajitas, or a combination of skirt steak and tamale. Dessert? The ubiquitous (at least for Mexican restaurants) fried ice cream, a delicacy I’ve never quite understood, churros, the little fried donutlike devices, or caramel crepes.

If there were an award for restaurant with the bulkiest furniture, Los Generales would win it hands down. The tables and chairs are massive pieces of wood, each crudely carved with lilies, grape clusters, a horse head or the stereotypical figure of a sleeping Mexican. Whichever is carved on the seatback is matched on the tabletop, inset under glass.

Walls, it must me noted, are nicely painted and don’t have any faux plaster cracks that so many Mexican restaurants have. There are the usual sombreros as well as horseshoes, flags and, on a wall between two seating areas, a large saddle, the stirrups hanging down in each room.

The staff was friendly and accommodating. There is a full bar and it should not go unmentioned that they make a mean Margarita.

If you go -- and I’m recommending you should -- be sure to ask for the Magical Dining Month menu when you’re seated. You can take a look at it here, or view the entire list of participating restaurants by visiting the Orlando Magical Dining Month Web site.

Los Generales is at 12200 Menta St., Orlando (it actually faces John Young Parkway and is just a bit south of the Grand Lakes Resort). The phone number is 407438-2472.