Taste of Chengdu Baldwin Park

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Taste of Chengdu, the Sichuan restaurant that opened in west Orlando two years ago and quickly established itself as arguably serving the best Chinese food in town, has opened a second location in Baldwin Park.

It is technically in a soft-opening phase and the menu is currently limited – call it a taste of Taste of Chengdu – but the quality is every bit as good as the original.

True to its namesake province, Taste of Chengdu features dishes that use Sichuan peppercornss, the boa constrictor of seasonings. Take a bite of something with the pepper, perhaps dan dan noodles with a chili oil sauce, and you at first feel a warm embrace of your tongue, then a tingling effect, just before the real heat comes in for the kill.

But it’s a pleasant demise. And even people who find western chilies overwhelming might be pleasantly surprised at how tolerable the spiciness is. It isn’t heat for heat’s sake, it is a logical component of the dish as a whole.

Bosphorous Winter Park

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I wasn’t at all sure how it would travel, but I knew I had to have the lavas when I got takeout from Bosphorous, the Turkish restaurant on Park Avenue (and other locations).

Lavas, as anyone who has dined at Bosphorous knows, is the signature “hollow bread,” also sometimes called balloon bread because it poofs up with steam when it’s baked. The first time I saw it I called it Jiffy Pop bread because that’s what it reminded me of.

The reason I had to have the bread was because instead of two entrees, my companion and I decided to get just one main dish and then order the mixed appetizer platter. And because the meze includes such things as hummus, babaganoush and other dippy things, the bread was a must-have-too.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

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The space on Lake Eola now occupied by the curiously named Osphere – previously the home of Spice Modern and, more famously, Lake Eola Yacht Club – has one of the best patios in town, an even more covetous feature in these days of outdoor-preferred dining.

And even the interior seems suited to distancing. At least from what I remember – I visited the restaurant in early March.

Pio Pio Latin Cuisine

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I first visited Pio Pio Latin Cuisine on Semoran Boulevard in the middle of March and, as irony would have it, I ordered takeout thinking that I’d return in a week or two for an in-house visit. And we all know what happened next.

But seeing as I had a good takeout experience, I figured I might as well go ahead and tell you about it.

There are other Pio Pios (Piae Piae?) in the area and although it doesn’t say so on any of the restaurants’ websites, they are all related via ownership. The menus are similar, but, as a pleasant young man at the Semoran Boulevard restaurant explained, “We all serve the same food, but there might be subtle differences like in a sauce.”

Antonio's Maitland

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Antonio’s in Maitland, the two-story Italian venue, has always offered two distinct dining experiences – a casual cafe and market on the ground floor and an upscale ristorante above.

It continues to offer separate experiences in today’s restrictive dining atmosphere. The cafe is promoting its takeout menu while the upstairs dining room is open to limited-capacity dining in.

The two almost act as separate businesses: visit the parent website and you’ll be asked to choose between the two venues. The cafe, available for takeout only, has an online ordering form but the upstairs restaurant does not. After looking over both menus, I really wanted to order my takeout from the upstairs restaurant, and I was delighted to learn when I called that that would be just fine and that my order could be taken over the phone.

Side note: Antonio’s is participating in Magical Dining and even though its listing on Visit Orlando’s official website says the special menu is available only only for dine in, the young man who answered the phone told me it could be gotten for takeout.

Gateway to India

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I regret that I’m unable to show you a photo of the onion naan I got with my takeout order from Gateway to India, the popular Longwood restaurant. But once I had the order in my car, I reached in the bag and found the foil-wrapped naan and figured I would just have a nibble to sustain me on the ride home.

But one nibble lead to another, each savoring the mild onions, bits of cilantro and peppery powder, and soon it was all gone. It wasn’t that I was so hungry I couldn’t wait, the naan was just too good to stop. And I can only be grateful that I didn’t try to sneak a taste of the curry dishes because my car would have needed to be hosed out by the time I got home. The food here really is quite good.

Feather & Quill

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Timing is everything.

Feather & Quill, a “New American restaurant and craft cocktail bar, a more ambitious concept from the owners of Stubborn Mule and the Menagerie in downtown Orlando’s Thornton Park as well as RusTeak in Ocoee and College Park, opened in late February. It took over the space that had previously been Dexter’s of Windermere in The Grove shops.

I had peaked in while the space was under renovations and it appeared it was going to be posh place for upscale casual dining.

Of course, a month later restaurants were ordered to cease on-premise dining. That can be a real momentum killer for a new business.

But Feather & Quill is back open, and while I am unable to report yet how the interior turned out, I can give you some thoughts on the food I ordered for takeout recently.

Takeout from Se7en Bites

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Let’s get takeout for breakfast. No, having to drive someplace to get the food isn’t as nice as having breakfast in bed. But if the restaurant offers curbside pickup, you don’t have to change out of your pajamas and can hop back in bed when you get home.

Let’s go to Se7en Bites.

Takeout from Reyes Mezcaleria

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I had a really terrific takeout dinner from Reyes Mezcaleria recently. And I don’t mean to qualify that statement to mean “good for takeout food.” It was a wonderful meal and some of the best food I’ve had in months.

I needn’t have been surprised, chef Wendy Lopez has established herself as one of the area’s best chef regardless of the cuisine she’s cooking. But she does seem to shine when the menu features the foods of her native Mexico. (Michoacán, to be specific, where you’ll find an area known as Los Reyes.) Reyes Mezcaleria is owned by Jason and Sue Chin and falls under the umbrella of their Good Salt Restaurant Group, which also includes Baldwin Park restaurants Seito Sushi and the Osprey.

Brick & Fire Pizza & Pasta Parlor

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In the days after the Pulse massacre, several businesses on Orange Avenue found themselves within a secured perimeter, especially those between the nightclub and Orlando Health, where many of the victims were taken. Brick & Fire was one of those businesses that were essentially cut off and unable to open to the public.

But instead of just shutting down, chef and co-owner Mark Dollard went to his restaurant early that Sunday morning and made about 80 pizzas and put them out free for first responders.

During the current crisis, Dollard is offering a discount on all menu items all day every day for first responders and medical professionals. It’s a nice thing to do considering the restaurant’s proximity to the hospital. It’s likely a go-to for workers anyway, especially since it has such good food.