Sideward Brewing

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Sideward exterior

Have you noticed that there are a lot of microbreweries popping up lately? Just in the downtown area there’s Orlando Brewing, which is sort of the granddaddy of local beer makers at this point, newcomer Rockpit Brewing in Sodo, Ocean Sun Brewing on Curry Ford West, where Hourglass Brewing will soon open, Ten10 Brewing Company in Mills 50, and downtown’s Orange County Brewers, which can’t seem to hold on to a partner food provider.

Now comes Sideward Brewing to the Milk District, taking over the backend of the building at the corner of Bumby Avenue and Robinson Street that also holds Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market. Sideward is not the biggest local brewer when compared with some of the others mentioned above. But it has two things the others don’t.

One is a license to produce cider on the property as well as beer. (Cider production requires a winemaking license, for some reason.)

The other thing Sideward has to its advantage is some pretty good food to go along with the beers.

Jaleo by José Andrés

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jaleo exterior

For a video version of this review, click here.

Once you know the meaning of the word Jaleo, it all makes more sense. Commotion, uproar, din, jumble — all those translations could describe the new restaurant at Disney Springs. It can also mean revelry, defined as lively and noisy festivities, especially when alcohol is involved. Let’s go with that one.

Jaleo (say hah-LAY-oh) is a Spanish restaurant from José Andrés. In fact, the official name is Jaleo by José Andrés. Andrés has been a well-known chef for many years, but he has been particularly celebrated over the past year for his organization’s efforts in feeding the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and federal employees affected by the recent partial government shutdown in Washington, D.C., where he is based. He has been recognized as Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation and last year was named that organization’s Humanitarian of the Year. He has twice been on Time magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People.” The original Jaleo, which opened in Washington in 1993, is a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant in this year’s Beard Awards. He has also been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Disney Springs Jaleo is the chain’s fifth — others are in the D.C. area and Las Vegas — and the largest.

And it certainly is big. Occupying the lakefront space previously occupied by Wolfgang Puck Cafe, it is multileveled and sprawls over 22,000 square feet, with multiple bars and seating, both inside and out, for 543 people. (Puck recently opened Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill elsewhere at Disney Springs.)

Bangkok Thai Passion

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Bangkok Thai exterior

While I sat waiting for my food at Bangkok Thai Passion at one of only two occupied tables, a woman came rushing through the front door. She loudly expressed relief that the restaurant was open — she had tried to call in an order but the restaurant’s phone was not working. She apparently feared the worst.

I guess we all have different things that stir our passion. My experience at the Ocoee restaurant was more frigid. At least that’s what I felt from my server, who seemed desperate to be anywhere doing anything other than where and what she was. Clearly, waiting tables is not her passion. (This was in contrast to the genuinely warm welcome I had from someone I assume to be an owner when I first came through the door.)

Old Jailhouse

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Old Jailhouse extrior

Today we’re visiting the Old Jailhouse in Sanford, the area’s current hotbed of new and innovative restaurants and craft bars. But before we get started with the review, I want to make this pledge: I will not be making any puns about incarceration, and the only references to sentences will be the ones written here. Besides, most of the puns have already been made by the restaurant itself (see staff t-shirts that read “I serve more than thyme”).

Although I must say I’m surprised that, given the current craze for the Hawaiian dish of raw chopped fish, there isn’t an item on the menu called Pokey. And how could the bar not have a drink called the Hoosegow Hooch?

Slapfish

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Slapfish interior 1

The stated goal of Slapfish, a seafood franchise with a location in Waterford Lakes, is an admirable one: to get people to eat more seafood. I suppose if you owned a pizza franchise you’d likely set a goal to get people to eat more pizza.

Shortly after stating Slapfish’s goal in a statement on the website, the founder, whose name cannot be easily read in his signature (it’s Andrew Gruel), also says that people are disinclined to eat more fish because of “sensationalism in the media about contaminated seafood” with “mercury and this and that.” So, marketing apparently isn’t one of Andy’s fortes.

Further evidence: A logo that looks like a bloodied hand that has just done some serious spanking.

Coco Cucina

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Coco cucina wall

Is there any other restaurant space in Orlando whose short life has been so fraught with failure as the one mid-block in the Sanctuary condominium building?

It started out, in 2007, as Fifi’s Patisserie, then changed to Sanctuary Diner. Nick’s Italian Kitchen came next, in 2011 and closed in 2013. For three years after Nick’s closed, three concepts were proposed, including a champagne lounge to be called Pagne. None ever opened. Then Gaviota, a fine dining Peruvian restaurant, decided to give it a go in late 2016, and it lasted more than a year.

So we’ve had French, American, Italian and Peruvian in just 12 years.

Now comes Mexican in the form of Coco Cucina, a project from the owners of Oudom Thai, the restaurant next door. (That space has had its own multiple tenants.)

Coco Cucina is apparently striving for authenticity, and it certainly has an ambitious menu. You have to give them props for putting such things as braised beef tongue, huitlacoche (corn smut)quesadilla and cactus worms tacos on the menu. Those are tough sells even to people who live in Mexico, tasty as they may be.

Chianti's Pizza and Pasta Longwood

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Chianti pizza

Chianti’s Pizza and Pasta, the charming trattoria that opened in Sanford in 2012, now has a second location in Longwood. It has taken over the space in the Longwood Village Shopping Center that had previously been Carmela’s of Brooklyn and a Sbarro. So the walls should be sufficiently Italianized by now.

Of the two food genres in its name, Chianti’s seems to be more proficient in the pizza format. During a recent lunch visit, a flog associate ordered the Chianti Supreme Pizza, which featured slices of pepperoni and bits of sausage with mushrooms, red and green peppers and just enough mozzarella to give it some stringiness, all on a platform of a seasoned-just-right tomato sauce. The crust was just the right thickness, not too thin and crackerlike and not too thick and doughy. The edges of the crust had a decent char. And the 12-inch size is available as a lunch special for $8.99 with a beverage, to boot, a good deal for such a good quality pizza.

Le House

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Le House interior

The owners of a new Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Orlando named it Le House because they wanted customers to feel as if they were dining at their home. I can’t attest to that authenticity, but I can say that I certainly felt welcomed and accommodated on my visit, even if I wasn’t offered the guest room.

The menu here is more succinct than at other Vietnamese restaurants. Pho is available, as it must be at all local Vietnamese restaurants, apparently by law. But Le House’s menu has a manageable 10 entries instead of the three or four dozen you might be asked to negotiate elsewhere.

But pho is not a specialty of Le House. The young man who greeted me — welcomed me into his home, as it were — suggested two items under the Specialty banner: Nem Cuòn, a springlike roll with cured fermented pork; and Com Gà, or organic chicken.

The Nem was a must, I decided, but instead of the entree version, which comes as a build-it-yourself kit of ingredients, I opted for the no-assembly-required appetizer variety.

Columbia Restaurant Ybor City

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Columbia sign

Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City has been around for more than 114 years, longer than any other restaurant in Florida. The menu features an item called the 1905 Salad to commemorate the year it opened. Actually, when the restaurant was anticipating celebrating its centennial in 2005, the owners found documentation that it had really opened in 1902, but they decided to stick with the 1905 date. There would be the whole salad problem to deal with, after all.

A restaurant has to be doing something right to last that long. But if my recent experience is indicative of the way the restaurant operates now, it may not see another anniversary. It has a whole lot more problems than a misnamed salad.

Tre Bambine

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trebambine interior

I don’t suppose that technically there’s an absolute, written in stone recipe for Saltimbocca. After all, the word means “jump in the mouth” in Italian, and you could probably name a number of ingredients that you might like to have saltim your bocca.

But generally, in Italian restaurants, saltimbocca usually refers to a specific preparation, though even that is open to variations. I’ve had veal saltimbocca and I’ve had chicken saltimbocca. But until I visited Tre Bambine, a new restaurant in the former Spice Modern/Lake Eola Yacht Club space, I had never had meatloaf saltimbocca.

Mind you, it was veal meatloaf, but still. This culinary interpretation was completely lost in the translation.