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Dec 12, 2006 05:52 PM

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:

johnson's diner
ba le
little saigon
pho 88
vietnem town
muffin & grill
the columbia (is it comparable to the tampa store?)
taquitos jalisco
mexico grill
bonnie lee's fried chicken
the catfish place
asia bagus
yellow dog eats
havana cafe
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.


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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bkhuna

        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?

        1. re: mark

          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.


      2. 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 ;-)

        1. 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. 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 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!

          1. Well, I used to live in the southern part of orlando...and work within the jw marriot grande lakes 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...