Takeout Review: Shakers American Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Shakers logo

In recognition of current social distancing and voluntary isolation, Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide will be focusing on restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside pickup. Check here for a continuously updated list of restaurants offering to-go options.

Among the many things we’re being denied during the coronavirus shutdown is the pleasure of a leisurely breakfast at Shakers American Cafe, a Foodster Award winner for Best Breakfast.

But while we can’t all get together in the small College Park dining room we can still enjoy the excellent food through takeout or delivery.

Takeout Review: Big Fin Seafood Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bigfin togo bag

In recognition of current social distancing and voluntary isolation, Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide will be focusing on restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside pickup. Check here for a continuously updated list of restaurants offering to-go options.

Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, the popular Restaurant Row destination, has launched a special menu for curbside pickup.

It’s far from a limited selection and includes many of chef James Slattery’s most popular items.

Shining Spice

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Shining Spice exterior

Last week, before the implementation of social distancing guidelines and before the strictures placed on restaurants to limit occupancy to 50 percent so as to allow a proper distance between customers, I visited a restaurant in Winter Park called Shining Spice.

As you might infer from the name, it is a Chinese restaurant, and I deliberately chose it for that reason. Because the virus that is now disrupting our lives originated in a province in China, Chinese restaurants in the United States and elsewhere were experiencing unfounded bias. I wanted to show some support and to demonstrate that not everyone has a prejudice against an entire people without blame.

Plus, I was hungry for some Chinese food.

Mia's Italian Kitchen

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Mias interior

A whole Chargrilled Branzino isn’t the sort of dish I’d typically order at a place called Mia’s Italian Kitchen, a newcomer to the I-Drive collection of restaurants. But when one was placed in front of me to try, I found myself wanting to forsake everything else on the table. And just about everything else was worth eating, too.

Mia’s is owned by Alexandria Restaurant Partners of Alexandria, Va., which also owns the nearby Cafe Tu Tu Tango. (Remember when that opened in 1994 and we expected it to be a national chain one day? It’s the only remaining one.)

Shoufi Mahfi

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Shoufi view

Hey, what’s up?

Or should I say Shoufi Mahfi? Because that’s what’s up for today. And that’s the translation.

Shoufi Mahfi is a charming little Mediterranean restaurant in South Orlando near the intersection of Sand Lake Road and John Young Parkway. It’s a counter service operation, but the staff is so warm and welcoming you might think you’re dining in a full service restaurant.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Galeria exterior

What is it about the space at 4979 New Broad St. in Baldwin Park that prevents its occupants from being successful? Or should the space be blamed?

First there was Lago, an Italian restaurant whose owner seemed to be repelled by by his customers. It lasted from 2009 to 2012. Manny’s Original Chophouse moved in in 2018 and out in 2019.

Now it’s home to Galeria, with a confusing mishmash of styles, uneven food preparation and service that is spotty at best.

Smoke & Donuts

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Smoke donuts exterior

I guess the name Smoke & Donuts is now something of a double entendre. It started – and continues to operate – as a food truck, specializing in barbecued smoked meats and, as the name promises, donuts.

But now owner Ian Russell is offering his food truck menu in a non-wheeled environment in partnership with a Mills 50 business called Belicoso Cigars & Cafe. Hence the double meaning of smoke. We won’t get into any Freudian allusions that might arise from cigars and donut holes – sometimes a donut is just a donut. And sometimes it very much is not, but I’ll come back to that.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Elize tuna

I’ll admit that I mourned a little bit when I first heard the news that Rusty Spoon had been sold. I considered it to be one of Orlando’s true gems and its chef/owner, Kathleen Blake, one of our culinary stars. Losing it and K Restaurant seemed like a double punch to the literal and figurative gut.

And hearing that Rusty Spoon’s name would change to Elize with a menu featuring cuisine from the Netherlands didn’t inspire bated anticipation.

But the food at Elize, though decidedly different from that of Rusty Spoon, is every bit as wonderful, and the dining experience is exceptional enough to place it not only on the list of downtown Orlando’s must-visit restaurants but all of Central Florida’s as well.

Twisted Root Burger Co.

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Twisted Root burger view

Twisted Root Burger Co. is an odd name for a burger joint, so you’d think there might be a logical explanation for it. But I’ll address that later. TRBC is a youngish chain out of the Dallas area with a hefty handful of locations. The one that opened recently on Aloma Avenue in Winter Park is one of 17.

Owners Jason Boso and Quincy Hart started the concept in 2006 after meeting in culinary school, where they both were seeking new careers after jobs in stock brokerages and telephone line repair. That first Twisted, in Deep Ellum, a Dallas neighborhood, caught the attention of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” television program, and, as has happened so many times before, it took off.

The newest Twisted is in the Grove at Winter Park shopping mall on Aloma Avenue at Old Howell Branch Road. The entrance sits under a marquee-like sign. You can spot the front door because it says “Get you buns in here” right next to it.

Stefano's Trattoria

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Stefano20 interior

I’ll admit to having some trepidation about a Stefano’s Trattoria without Stefano. The LaCommares sold the popular Winter Springs restaurant about five years ago to F. Alejandro Martinez and I worried that it was Stefano, his wife, Marie, and their children who added an extra ingredient that made it all so delicious and delightful.

But after a recent visit my qualms have been calmed. Stefano’s Trattoria is every bit as good as it was in the early days, the food is still expertly crafted with a satisfying homeyness and served by a staff that treats every guest like a member of the family.