Redlight Redlight and Sushi & Seoul on the Roll

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Redlight beer

I had visited the original Redlight Redlight when it was on Bennett Road in the compact building that became the original home of the Smiling Bison and currently houses Blue Jacket Grille. (Redlight's original location was in Winter Park's Hannibal Square – before it was known as Hanibal Square – above what is now Mynt Indian restaurant. Thanks to the readers who reminded me.)

But for some reason I hadn’t visited the popular beer seller since it moved to its current location on Corrine Drive more than half a dozen years ago. Driving by with a friend on a recent Friday night, I decided it was time I stopped in.

The first thing that impressed me was the size of the place. It’s immense, so much more expansive that any of its surrounding neighbors, including Sushi Lola’s, P is for Pie and Junior’s Diner. Redlight squared occupies a former Carrier Air Conditioning sales and service facility, with double volume ceilings. Large velvet curtains in the back space give it a theatrical look, though you feel more like you’re backstage than out front.

The Mexican Camel

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Mexcam exterior

The young woman behind the counter at the Mexican Camel, responding to my question regarding how the concept works, said, “We’re sort of like Chipotle.”

Just as a matter of brand recognition, it may not be advisable to suggest you’re copying another restaurant. And if you do, maybe choose one that hasn’t been plagued in recent years with foodborne illnesses.

What she was trying to convey is that the Mexican Camel is yet another assemblage concept wherein diners choose the ingredients to be piled into a conveyance and thus take all responsibility if the melange sucks.

But Mex-Cam has its own unique spin to promote, and that’s that it combines Mexican and Mediterranean flavors in one dining excursion, making it possible to screw up your choices with two separate cuisines.

Kaizen Izakaya

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Kaizen interior

Amura, the sushi restaurant on Church Street in downtown Orlando, is now Kaizen Izakaya, and it’s not the first time this restaurant has changed names under the same owner.

When it first opened, more than 20 years ago, it was called Samurai. But, not surprisingly, another restaurant in the state already had claim to that name. So, perhaps to save on signage costs, the owner dropped the first and last letters from the word Samurai and came up with Amura.

What prompted the latest change I can’t say. An izakaya is basically the Japanese equivalent of a pub or tavern where the focus is more on the drinking and mingling with friends – the word means stay sake shop – and the food consists of small bites and nibbles.

Kaizen’s menu is just as robust as before with a full array of sushi and sashimi as well as noodle and rice dishes and other kitchen foods. And the surroundings here don’t exactly inspire one to linger, but I’ll come back to that.

Due Amici

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Due Amici exterior

The first time I visited Due Amici, a new Italian restaurant in College Park, it didn’t quite have all of its stuff together. It also didn’t have its beer and wine license. So one of my dining companions hiked over to Publix and brought back something for us to sip on. In fairness to DA, it had softly opened only a week earlier.

Two months later, its stuff is still a bit disarrayed, though the beer and wine issue has been resolved. But I was a tad flummoxed when I arrived at noon ahead of my lunch companion to find the doors locked, even though it clearly stated out front that the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. What’s more, I could see someone inside with her back to the door, and she did not respond to my knocking.

So I called, and the person who answered (the same one who didn’t answer my knock) was startled to learn that the doors were locked. (That might have something to do with a complete lack of business the first hour.) The music was a tad loud, which might have been why she couldn’t hear me knocking.

But even if the operation seems a bit scattered, the food is good. That was true even on that first visit in the early days.

Hook & Reel

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HookReel exterior

Hook & Reel has set up shop in a former Logan’s Roadhouse on the west side of town. It’s a restaurant company that started in Lanham, Maryland, but is now based out of Flushing, N.Y. Any restaurant based in a place called Flushing is just asking for it if it doesn’t serve good food.

Luckily, H&R does serve good food – seafood, in case you hadn’t already deduced – in a casual and relaxed atmosphere.

The menu is Louisiana accented. In fact, the sign out front declares “Cajun Seafood & Bar.” The highlight of the menu is a seafood combo that is served in a poofy, clear plastic bag that sort of looks like a transparent Jiffy Pop. I had to order one after seeing several go by my table. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Carrie's Winter Park Cafe

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Carries exterior

I had arranged to meet a friend at a Winter Park restaurant for lunch, but when we got there we discovered it was closed. Apparently its experimental lunch concept is no more, though no one felt the need to change the information on the website.

Luckily, I remembered a place I’d driven by a few weeks ago, so we hopped into my car and drove to Carrie’s Winter Park Cafe.

Carrie’s serves only breakfast and lunch, closing each day at 2 p.m. My friend and I made it in under the wire, and luckily one of us was in the mood for breakfast and the other wanted lunch.

Signature India

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Signature exterior

As we await the results of the 2019 Best Indian Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants, let me tell you about a new Indian cafe in South Orlando that you may want to give a try.

It’s called Signature India and it opened in April in a strip mall at 11352 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. The place isn’t heavy on decor. There are tomato red walls and oxblood red booth backs and pendant lights over the booth tables. The place is neat and tidy for the most part.

 

American Social

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Amso exterior

American Social Bar & Kitchen has set up shop in the former Bar Louis space at the Rialto plaza on Sand Lake Road. Amso, as it would like you to call it (though I think Ameri-Sosh has a nicer ring), is out of south Florida where it has two locations, the original, on Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, and in Miami overlooking the Miami River. There is another location in Tampa.

Amso – why does that make me think of cleaning products? – is a sports bar with a boisterous atmosphere. Think loud. No, louder. It features an “all-American” menu, so of course you’ll find hummus, Ropa Vieja Tacos and Steak Frites. That the Steak Frites is topped with chimichurri only makes it all the more American.

Notes on Magical Dining: Soco Thornton Park

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Soco magdine sign

As I mentioned the other day, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining restaurant promotion that was to end on Sept. 30 has been extended a week, through Oct. 7. The extension was ostensibly to make up for lost momentum – and revenue – from the threat of hurricane Dorian.

So quick, before Humberto becomes a thing, get out and dine magically some more.

One restaurant you may want to consider is Soco in downtown’s Thornton Park.

I stopped in to try chef Greg Richie’s Magical Dining menu and enjoyed what I tasted.

The Steer

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Steer exterior

Take a look at the menu offered at the Steer, a new steakhouse on South Orange Avenue, and you’ll realize this is not a restaurant gunning after the likes of Christner’s, Ruth’s Chris or even Linda’s La Cantina. When you can get a 12 ounce New York strip for $15, you’re probably not in the realm of fine dining.

The restaurant’s subtitle – Pioneer Steakhouse – might lend a clue, as well. Pioneers weren't historically known for refinement. The Steer occupies a former Pizza Hut hut that most recently, and for decades, was home to Bauern-Stube, a German restaurant noted for its eclectic and cluttered decor. Perhaps the best that can be said for the Steer is that its owner successfully un-Stubed the place.

But go back to the price point and you’ll find it easier to find other kind words.