Papa Llama

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Papallama dining room

If you were to compare Papa Llama to other area Peruvian restaurants based solely on their menus, you might conclude the new Curry Ford West restaurant was a little meagre in its offerings. Three small plates, or appetizers, and four main dishes isn’t exactly an abundancia of selections.

But just taste the avocado anticuchero with its sulky chili sauce or the arroz chaufa with chicken and overweight kernels of corn and you’ll wonder why the other restaurants bother with any other menu items.

Even the lomo saltado, which is something of a national dish and found on every Peruvian restaurant’s menu, is somehow more special here. Perhaps it’s because the menu is so uncluttered that the kitchen can give more attention to the quality of the few items it offers.

Whatever the reason, Papa Llama is a restaurant worth visiting, regardless of the specialized cuisine.

Taqueria Las Cazuelas

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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Ever since I first ate at Las Cazuelas, a small market and cafe on South Conway Road, it has been one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. Authentic food served in a cozy, spotless setting by people who seem genuinely happy that you’re there.

Now comes Taqueria Las Cazuelas, a storefront offshoot on Orlando’s east side. As the name indicates, it’s a taco-centric eatery, though there is no attempt to put a cazuela, or casserole, into a tortilla. Thank goodness.

FK Your Diet

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FK exterior

If you can get past the name, you’ll find some pretty good food at FK Your Diet, a Fort Myers/Cape Coral restaurant that recently opened an Orlando location in SoSoDo. It’s a breakfast and lunch eatery that features conventional dishes with creative twists served in copious portions.

But there is that name.

Technically, the F and K are meant to stand for Foster Kid. The concept’s owner, Doug Miller, grew up as a foster child and has dedicated his business to help children in similar situations, pledging a portion of the restaurants’ proceeds to the cause. Admirable.

But Foster Kid Your Diet doesn’t make any sense. FK Your Diet does as crude shorthand. This restaurant isn’t the only nor the first to resort to tongue-in-cheek uncouthness. The popular sandwich shop Bad As’s apparently thinks a well-placed apostrophe makes it more G-rated. And it’s not just independently owned local restaurants, either. The British owner of French Connection clothing retailer boldly uses FCUK as its logo. Not very subtle.

But I’m guessing it’s only those of us of a certain age, those who remember when television was scandalized the first time Johnny Carson said hell on The Tonight Show, will raise a prudish eyebrow.

And like I said, get past it and enjoy some good food.

Swine & Sons and Da Kine Poke

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I got a two-fer when I ordered a meal from Swine & Sons, the gourmet sandwich shop inside the Local Butcher & Market on Orange Avenue in Winter Park. I also picked up a poke bowl from Da Kine, which also shares space in the market.

And I could easily have scored a hat trick if I had chosen one of the smash burgers from S&S’s menu, which specifies it uses meat from the Local Butcher’s butchers.

But instead I was drawn to the Chicken Cordon Bleu and a Southernized Cuban sandwiches.

Naradeva Thai

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Naradeva duck

It hardly seems possible that it’s been almost 10 years since I reviewed Naradeva Thai, shortly after it opened in the Millenia area. (It replaced something called Bear Rock Cafe.) Not only am I surprised at the passing of a decade but also that the restaurant is still there.

I don’t recall being particularly whelmed by my experience. And Naradeva’s opening came at a time when Central Florida was seeing a wave of new Thai restaurants. I figured it would be consumed in the tide.

But it persisted. And it seems that its food has improved along the way, at least by my recent samplings.

Capone's Coal Fired Pizza

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The thing I like most about a coal-fired pizza is the crust. Not the thickness or the crispiness of the circumferential edge, though those are certainly important factors.

But what I really like about the crust of a coal-fired pizza is its blackened bottom, a fine bit of ashiness that gives the dough a delightful earthiness.

The crust was perfect on the pizza I sampled recently at Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza at the Promenade at Sunset Walk. It’s a second location for a Ft. Myers restaurant and a welcome addition to the entertainment complex.

My dinner companion and I dined recently at one of the well-spaced tables on the patio outside the restaurant. Inside, the decor is reminiscent of Prohibition-era Chicago, with red brick walls, tin-like ceiling and gilded light fixtures.

Stasio's Italian Deli

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Stasio exterior

When I first reviewed Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market, exactly two years and one day ago, I mused that the then-new business was still a work in progress and that the people behind might not be sure exactly what they wanted the place to be. It wasn’t exactly a restaurant and the market wasn’t very amply stocked.

Both those observations are true today. What’s more, Stasio’s doesn’t do a very good job of marketing. It still doesn’t have a website, and its Facebook page lacks basic information like hours of operation and a menu.

But damn does it make good food.

Uncommon Catering & Eatery

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Uncommon plated

When Uncommon Catering, a culinary service that started in 2015 using the incubator kitchen at East End Market, decided earlier this year to relocate to a storefront on Curry Ford Road, it added the words & Eatery to its name. The idea of owners Tara Vernau and Travis Smith was to offer a small dine-in space as well as foods to go while continuing to operate a catering business out of their very own kitchen.

Just as that vision was coming into focus, in late February, 2020 happened.

Russell's on Lake Ivanhoe

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Russells exterior

It’s going to be a while, I’m afraid, before I return to indoor restaurant dining. But when I do, I’m heading directly to Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe.

Although I didn’t dine in, I did step inside the front door to pick up my order, and I was able to see that the former Mesa 21 and Gargi’s Lakeside space has been transformed into a beautiful two-tiered space with a three-sided bar at the entry level and a step-down dining room with windows overlooking the lake. It’s casual but with that touch of elegance that tablecloths can provide. Comfortable, welcoming.

Hamburger Mary's

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I felt the need to visit Hamburger Mary’s, the bar and burger grill in downtown Orlando, recently. The reason was the death of Sam Singhaus, a local entertainer and popular personality who regularly entertained at Mary’s as his alter ego Miss Sammy. Sam, who was a friend and one-time neighbor of mine, died Oct. 12 after a recent diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor. He was 60.

Sam grew up in Orlando but moved to New York to break into show business. And did he ever. He landed a part in the original Broadway cast of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” a 1982 stage version of the 1954 film musical that played 15 previews and five performances before closing. (Considering the story line involves the titular siblings abducting young women to cook and do the housework for them in their backwoods home, it isn’t likely we’ll ever see a revival.)

But the following year, Sam was cast as one of Les Cagelles in the original Broadway production of “La Cage aux Folles.” (Search YouTube for the La Cage performance on the Tony Awards broadcast and you’ll see a closeup of Sam about 37 seconds in.)