4Roots Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

4roots sign

I thought it was a nifty idea when 4Roots, an initiative from 4 Rivers Restaurants dedicated to teaching the connection to food choices and individual health, opened 4Roots Cafe at Orlando Science Center. Besides offering healthful food choices, including plant based and sustainable options, it was to include food exhibits and educational videos and even a display with a robotic arm that picks strawberries.

I was only mildly annoyed that access to the cafe was available only through the Science Center, which required the purchase of a ticket. Not that that’s unheard of – you can’t eat at a restaurant in Epcot unless you pay for admission. And OSC costs a whoooooole lot less than Epcot. And parking is cheaper, too.

But now the cafe is accessible to the public without an entrance fee (though it would still be a good thing to support the center if you can).

Nick Filet

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Nick logo

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Nick Filet sounds a lot like the name of a certain never-on-Sundays fast food chain. But there actually is a Nick behind the new fast-fooder, which recently opened a franchise in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips off Restaurant Row, and it specializes in filets, and even uses the proper spelling.

The Nick in question is Nick Kline, and he and his father, Keith, started Nick Filet not quite three years ago with the first restaurant in Paoli, just outside Philadelphia. The Orlando location is just one of four and the first outside of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Nick’s niche is simple: Instead of the ubiquitous chicken sandwich that every other franchise seems to specialize in, Nick’s offers a steak on a bun. It isn’t a unique idea. In fact, there’s a similar concept, Steak on Fire, just over a quarter of a mile away.

Bombay Street Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bombayst signs

I guess we’re still not over this obsession with street food. For some reason, there’s a strong attraction to any foodstuff billed as something that you might purchase from a vendor’s cart stationed on a curb in a large urban area someplace in the world. Of course, most of the restaurants that tout street fare are safely ensconced behind brick and mortar facades with the benefit of a fully outfitted professional kitchen. Frankly, I’m looking forward to when the trend is to tout “We specialize in foods commonly presented in full-service restaurants.”

The latest to jump on the street food bandwagon, wagonless as it is, is Bombay Street Kitchen, a rebranding of sorts from a business that used to be called Bombay Cafe and was located about a half a block away.

The menu may indeed have items associated with street vendors – as I recall, so did Bombay Cafe. But the menu here is more extensive than things you’d associate with eating on a curb (good thing, too, since the curb outside if Orange Blossom Trail).

The 808

Written by Scott Joseph on .

808 ext

The Thornton Park space that for a quarter of a century was home to a Dexter’s finally has a new tenant: The 808. Yes, that’s its address on Washington Street but there’s more to it.

First, to recap, Dexter’s sort of imploded after the popular wine bar and cafe with four locations was sold off to different buyers a few years ago. Only the Lake Mary Dexter’s remains. The Winter Park restaurant moved to Ravaudage and renamed itself Dexter’s New Standard, though it seems to have (predictably) dropped the Dexter’s. The Windermere location is now Feather & Quill.

The buyer of the Thornton Park Dexter’s tried to keep it going under that brand and even brought back some old menu favorites. But in October of 2019 it was sold again to a bartender who had worked at Burton’s Bar across the street with plans to open a new, undisclosed concept.

Then 2020 happened. And new owners Todd Ulmer and Wendy Connor have taken over.

Loading...Gastrobrunch Dinner

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Loading interior

It doesn’t sound like a place called Loading...Gastrobrunch would be a place for dinner. And when the downtown St. Cloud restaurant first opened it served only breakfast and lunch.

But now dinner hours have been added, and new dinner items to the menu, too. So a friend and I were invited to stop in and sample.

I was at Loading last year for a lunchtime visit but at that time I was confining my dining to outdoor tables. So it was nice to experience the interior this time. It’s rustic, befitting its location in the historic Hunter Arms Hotel. Horizontal wood planks on one wall, a brick wall behind the bar and a fieldstone fireplace at the far end give the room a cabinlike feel. A mishmash of gewgaws give the decor an eclectic feel.

The Pinery

Written by Scott Joseph on .

pinery exterior

“What’s new and exciting?”

That’s the question I get asked most these days, more so than usual. I suppose it’s because over the past year or more we’ve been focused primarily on the businesses that succumbed during the pandemic rather than the ones that opened. To be honest, we lost a lot fewer restaurants than I expected us to. And we had a surprisingly healthy number open, several that I would include in the new and exciting category.

We had Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe and the Monroe in downtown Orlando. In Winter Park, BoVine gloriously reimagined the former Park Plaza Gardens space just as Knife & Spoon did with the old Norman’s at the Ritz. Recently, Illume brought high-end Japanese cuisine to the high-up rooftop of the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek, just upstairs from Sear + Sea, which also debuted mere months ago.

Now to the list of new and exciting add The Pinery, which opened last month in the newly constructed Lake House Apartments high rise. Like its neighbor Russell’s, it shares a view of Lake Ivanhoe and pays homage in its name and logo to the area’s past as a pineapple grove. (The western strip of lakefront was once known as Russell’s Point.)

AC Sky Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

ACSky negroni

AC Sky Bar is not a restaurant. That should be clear from the name, otherwise it might be AC Sky Cafe or AC Sky Bistro, which would make it sound more like an in-flight food option.

It’s not quite at cruising level, but it does sit higher than an aerie, on the 18th floor of the newly constructed SunTrust Plaza building at Garland Avenue and South Street. The bank occupies the lower floors; the hotel has the topmost eight floors. The 18th level serves as the hotel’s lobby and also has a breakfast nook, lounge and the aforementioned Sky Bar. Two-story windows and balcony seating offer unfettered views that confirm Florida’s flatness. One can see all the way to the attractions and beyond. Just below is a top-down view of the Amway Center.

Jaber Lebanese Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jaber ext

Video screens inside Jaber Lebanese Cuisine in College Park were flashing photos of menu items, a helpful aid to people unfamiliar with labnehs, kibbehs and kaftas. But then the screens showed the restaurant’s name and logo, and underneath that “Since 1952.”

Hmmm, I thought. If Jaber’s been around since 1952 it hasn’t been in this space. Most recently this was the home of Peppy Bistro and before that, Paxia.

Junior's Diner & Mexican Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

juniors exterior

I was thinking that Junior’s Diner, a breakfast and lunch place in Audubon Park, had been there forever. But I was reminded that it has only been Junior’s since late 2006. Before that it was Roger’s Diner. Roger who, I couldn’t say, but then I never knew who Junior was, either.

Now there’s been another change at the small storefront space on Corrine Drive at Winter Park Avenue. It’s still called Junior’s Diner but “& Mexican Grill” has been added to the sign out front. And it’s not just a breakfast and lunch spot anymore, it serves dinner as well. And, as you can probably guess, Mexican dishes have been added to the menu.

Russell's on Lake Ivanhoe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Russellbrunch dining

I finally got a chance to dine inside Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe and to experience its Sunday brunch, and both experiences were as satisfying as I had hoped them to be.

As you’ll recall, Russell’s was one of the venturesome restaurants to open in the middle of the pandemic. During that time, I chose to limit my reviews to takeout offerings. And when I reviewed Russell’s, in October, I mentioned that it was one of the restaurants I would definitely return to once it was safe to do so.

Thank you, Moderna, for giving me the opportunity to fully experience Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe and the cuisine of chef/partner Emmanuel Clement.

A few friends and I visited on a recent Sunday and snagged a table at the front window with a great view of the lake. To be fair, there are good views of the lake throughout the restaurant, sort of like Hillstone’s but not as big and with a friendlier management staff.