seeking advice from the orlando hounds
hi florida hounds,
i'll be making a trip to the orlando area during late february, and am hoping you guys can give me that insider advice for orlando just as you've done for tampa in years past.
i'm piggy-backing off my wife's business trip, so while we'll be staying in the lake buena vista area, my days are my own, i'll have transport at my disposal, and i'm already planning on doing a bit of driving. i'm running into my usual planning difficulties due to the spawling nature of florida's cities, and the multitude of neighborhood names that comprise the larger metro area. orlando's wiki entry is pretty helpful, but nothing compared to the local 'hounds.
as i'm not really the corporate theme park type, i'm planning on going a bit far afield from south orlando. one day will be a daytrip to the tampa area to visit some old faves (ted peters here i come). another day will be spent on the atlantic coast. i haven't started searching the atlantic coast area too much, but i'll probably wind up somewhere between titusville and satellite beach. i've already come across recs for dixie crossroads (titusville) and dakine diego's burritos (satellite). any opinions on those two? anything else along that stretch of coast that does it for you? will rock shrimp be in season? any beaches you recommend (i'm not the crowded tourist beach type)?
aside from those two days, i'm pretty wide open. i tend to shy away from corporate chains & tourist-friendly places. i like pretty much anything else, but am specifically looking forward to vietnamese and puerto rican food. any recs along those lines? especially at the affordable (~$20/person) end of the spectrum.
i also need dinner recs for the area in which we're staying. it sounds like orlando has pretty bad traffic issues, and i'd rather not be driving across town at rush hour. price range doesn't matter, although we're most comfortable in casual places. again, anything ethnic is good. also, we might wind up having to do the corporate/entertain-the-clients dinner one night, so anything appropriate for that would be welcome. i found a rec for del frisco's steakhouse, and thought that might be good for the corporate thing, but haven't tracked down its location yet.
some other places i've run across that might fit the bill while i'm out and about are:
muffin & grill
the columbia (is it comparable to the tampa store?)
bonnie lee's fried chicken
the catfish place
yellow dog eats
tino's cuban food
it's a secret
any updates/opinions on the above? any additions?
thanks in advance for your help, and i'll definitely post back with the results.
Rolando's Cuban Restaurant in cassleberry is very very good. I haven't been in a few years. I am about 80% sure its still there though. Some of the best cuban in the city.
You may have come across my suggestion for dixie crossroads on other sites. You gotta go there. Its down home... really down home. If you get salad don't expect a large bowl of mesclin greens. I would get the shrimp soup. You can call ahead to see if they have rock shrimp that day.321-268-5000. And yes, that number is in my cell phone! hahaha.
The gossip about little saigon is great. I have personally never been.
I always suggest colorado fondue for anyone for anything. Its also in cassleberry, in fact you will pass it on your way to rolandos (well it depends on where you are coming from) i think it would make such a fun relaxed business atmosphere. especially if you are catering to good ole boys as it is a lodge theme inside. I think its better than melting pot because of the hot granite stone they have at your table for cooking on as well. the flavor off of it is fantastic and totally different than what most people would ever do. They have fantastic selection of beers. I know you said you didn't want to fight traffic in the evening, however if you leave to drive over there around 6:15-6:30 rush hour should be over and you should be there within 30 minutes.
I would highly recommend that you steer clear of Dixie Crossroads. It's gone so far down hill in the last 10 years that my family (who's been going there as long as I can remember) no longer eats there. The tour busses of DY's keep on piling in and the folks that work there don't seem to care about repeat business. It's a shame, that was always a landmark restaurant in the area.
The absolute best beach in the area is Playalinda. Located at the Canaveral National Seashore, just a stones throw from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, it is secluded and as pristine as they come. The north end of the beach is clothing optional, but those folks stay up at their end and don't bother anyone.
The best kept secret for food beachside is called Thai-Thai in Cape Canaveral.They have Thai and Japanese. Usually, these kinds of places don't do either very well, but Thai-Thai is an exception. It's the best sushi in the area. Get there early, they open for dinner at 4:30 and by 5, it's a wait to get in.
really appreciate the rec for the resto and beach.
i'm interested in those rock shrimp; does dixie crossroads still do those ok? i don't really care about getting anyhting with them, unless there's some traditional, must-have accompaniment. i'd even be willing to get them to go. is there any other place you'd recommend for them?
Their shrimp are seasonal. Different shrimp at different times of the year, whatever is fresh and running, since they catch a lot of the shrimp themselves.
Right now they are featuring white shrimp, a cold weather local shrimp that vary quite a bit in size. The winter also brings what they call hoppers, a pink shrimp that has a signature red dot on their body, very sweet. At other times you can get reds, pinks or
The rock shrimp, which have a very hard shell, are usually available year around. They taste like lobster or really good lagustinos, very sweet and succulent. The Thompson family, who founded the restaurant, has made a fortune by inventing a way to crack that shell mechanically and turn a trash catch into gold.
I'd recommend a call in advance during a slow time, before 11 a.m, after 3 and before 5, etc. and ask to speak to a manager. Ask them what is in season now and order accordingly. or check with your server when you are seated.
The place is a real tourist trap. Expect plenty of tour buses. Be prepared for a long wait if you go at a busy time. There's a large waiting area with a bar and a blaring speaker that is almost impossible to understand that calls out your name when your table is ready.
All that aside, the food is worth the wait. Cheap and fresh (think what you'd pay in Boston or New York for that meal). Get some of the hush puppies with corn kernels inside them and whatever ever fresh shrimp they have. It's caught on their boats and is probably among the freshest shrimp in Florida.
If I recall, their key lime pie is prety good also.
I only reccomend the original in Titusville, all other locations are franchises and don't have the same fresh quality.
Thai Thai is awesome!! I wouldn't worry about the crowded tourist beach scene in February. It does get a bit chilly here for a few months out of the year. Not likely that any beach will be over-loaded with anything but local surfers ;-)
If you are going to be in Orlando, but you are going to be visiting Tampa you will be driving by Haines City. There is a steak place called Manny's Chophouse that is really really good, but very very affordable. I would put their steak up against any of the expensive steakhouses that I have eaten at (Texas Steakhouse in Lakeland, Morton's in NYC or Michael Jordan's in NYC even Smith and Wollensky in Ohio). It is NOT fancy (almost like an Outback Steak) and the place opens at 4pm,if you are not there when they open (especially in season) you will have to wait. Usually the line is out the door. We take guests from out of town there to eat and they can't believe how good it is. Again....it is NOT fancy, but the steak and ribs and seafood are excellent!
Another place you should try is Cherry Pocket Fish Camp and Steak and Seafood Shak in Lake Wales on Lake Pierce. It is a unique place. It is out in the middle of nowhere, but people seem to find it. Some of the house specialties are the blackened deep sea grouper, (which is one of my favorites) and the carrot cake (so yummy)!
One last place since you are going to be in Orlando is Jockamo's New Orleans Kitchen on Sandlake Rd. If you want to eat delicious crawfish or shrimp etouffe or gumbo and delicious Po'boys this place is IT!!! Sometimes when it is in season they will have crawfish boils. It is a very small place and you walk up to the counter and order your food and it is brought out to you. It is on the corner of a stripmall. If you go...you will NOT be disappointed.
I thought about not posting my reply because I really don't want anyone going to my favorite places. They are crowded enough now!!!! But.....the food is great at all three places and they deserve to be recognized!
Well, I used to live in the southern part of orlando...and work within the jw marriot grande lakes property....it is marriots luxury brand of hotels. i know what you are thinking...i'm not gonna eat in a hotel, i understand. BUt let me tell you the restaurant i worked in at the hotel is called 'primo' and it is probably the best place i have ever worked or eaten at...ever. They have the absolute highest level of ingredients, sercice, china, glassware, silver and menu in all of florida at a price that is so worth the trip. The menu is one page and changes on a daily basis...the quisine is contemporary tuscan italian...which utilizes as many organic ingredients as possible, with aid of their onsite garden. The food is prepaird by chef kathleen blake and is orchistrated by james beard award winning chef melissa kelly. They have two other locations, Rockland Maine and at a jw marriot in scotsdale az I believe...Listen you really got to try it you'll never have food taste so good ever again! Let me know if you're going to serviously consider it and I'll tell you who to talk to, make server reccomendations and emphasis several staples on the menu that will never change...enjoy...
Lac Viet is a Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Orlando. Great food, good prices, and nice atmosphere.
Have been to Little Saigon only one time and was not impressed. Menus were dirty and immeidately that is a turnoff to me. Very noisy and we felt rushed.
Pho 88 is very good. Good prices.
If you like Indian Food, Memories of India on Sand Lake Rd. has excellent inexpensive lunches.
Taquitos jalisco is in a smal strip mall but don't let the location fool you..very good mexican food.
Manny's Chophouse is excellent.
Have a great time driving. Most of these places are all in opposite directions but that's the fun of exploring!
thanks for all the input so far.
a question regarding manny's chophouse. as i mentioned in my op, i will probably need a place for a business dinner. would manny's fit the bill? it looks like it's only 30 minutes or so from where we're staying. does anyone know how it compares with del frisco?
No comparison for a business dinner.
Del Frisco's by a mile. The steaks, the service, all the bling-bling in a wonderful atmosphere. It'll cost somebody, but if it's a dinner to impress a client, go with Del's -- and be sure you have a locked in resevation up front.
I order -- in that situation -- the shrimp apps, a mix of each of the three shrimp options -- I like the Green Godess salad -- the ribeye, the dutchess or chateau potatoes and the creamed spinach and either the orange cake or the bread pudding with Jack Daniels sauce.
If you are looking for just an "informal" place for just having dinner with business friends Manny's would be okay. The tables are close, and it can be noisy. People are always coming and going.
If you plan on doing business during dinner, I would recommend going elsewhere. Manny's turn there tables over rather quickly as there are always long lines of people waiting to be seated.
You may want to look into having a business dinner at Gaylord Palms. They have an italian restaurant called Villa de Flora which has a fantastic buffet. Great ambiance and food. It's close to the Beauna Vista area.
There are two locations of Taquitos Jalisco and both are simply excellent. A few days ago I had shrimp fajitas there and one of the shrimp was no enormous (at least 4") that I took a picture of it with my camera phone!
The original restaurant is in a shopping center at the corner of Highway 50 (West Colonial Drive) and Dillard Street in Winter Garden. The new one is in the Metro West shopping center on Hiawassee Road in Orlando.
DO NOT MISS this place if you like Mexican food!
I'm not ignoring your post, but since most of those reccs came from me or were endorsed by me I don't want to duplicate myself.
The only one on there I don't know is Tino's Cuban Food and I have no clue about them.
Regards Columbia and your question -- I'd say the food is comparable, but you cannot beat the original for its atmosphere and history.
Since you have some time before you visit, I wanted to see what others had to say about them as it's been a while for me since I visited some of the places listed.
My three or four top choices -- in addition to the obvious ones -- are Muffin & Grill, Beto's, Asia Bagus and It's a Secret.
It's a Secret is a very small, very plain restaurant hidden in a tiny strip mall behind a gas station just north of the intersection of Bumby Avenue and Curry Ford Road, facing Bumby. You have to look for the signs.
The address is 1427 S. Bumby Ave., 407-898-1833. She's closed on Sunday. The owner cooks off premise and brings the food in. She does two kinds of chicken, I prefer the Jamaican, as well as ribs, pork and some sides such as very good collards and good mac and cheese.
She also bakes pies, and when I'm waiting for her to fill my order it's not unusual to see a couple of folks come in and pick up a pre-ordered pie. But there's no signage to indicate what that part of the business is.
The secret really isn't the sauce. It's ok sauce, homemade of course, but nothing that will blow you away.
The secret is the prep and the high quality of the finished product, which is superb.
And very near my place, I hasten to add.
thanks so much for the info thus far.
now i have a bit of a poser (i'll start a new thread in a few days if this query gets overlooked). as i mentioned in my original post, i'll be spending a day at an atlantic coast beach. i've narrowed it down to playalinda and apollo beaches in cns. from the sounds of it, to get to the northern or southern end of those beaches respectively, and be assured of relatively close parking, one needs to arrive pretty early (i think the park gates open at 6:00a). plus, i just like to get up and go before the commuter traffic starts.
what i'm looking for is some kind of food i can get to go, probably in titusville as i'm leaning towards playalinda due to the shorter drive (but i have definitely not ruled out apollo beach if there's something really good up that way), that i can eat once i'm at the beach. breakfast would be great, but it doesn't have to be (i'm one of those types who will eat most anything at any meal). warm or cold doesn't matter. even something i could pick up the night before and stow in the cooler would be good.
so, any suggestions for good food between the lake buena vista area and playalinda that can be had during the early morning hours? any for cold food i could get the night before?