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New York Foodies in Orlando for Disney Marathon

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We are extreme New York Foodies in for Disney Marathon, staying in Orlando/Kissammee area for 7 days, with a car.

Would appreciate any suggestions and greatly appreciate recommendations for:

1/ garlic crabs, seafood
2/ vietnamese
3/ carribean
4/ barbecue ; soul food
5/ authentic floridian food
6/ good pasta place for carb-loading pre-marathon
7/ good steakhouse for post-marathon
8/ cuban
9/ spanish (could be argentinean, etc)
10/ other ethnic

Need not be fancy - just excellent food.

Would also appreciate menu suggestions at each recommendation (as we all know, sometimes it depends on WHAT you order). Much appreciated!

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  1. Without knowing which specific hotel, although that helps, are you nearer to Kissimmee or Orlando?
    Distance and drive time here can be a huge factor.

    Is price an issue?

    How far (time) will you drive for a good steak? Good Asian? Barbecue?

    You asked about:

    1/ garlic crabs, seafood
    Seafood is among the area's challenges, believe it or not. I send folks to Fulton's at Downtown Disney, Roy's on Sand Lake (Pacific Rim fusion), McCormick & Schmick at the Millenia Mall, BlueZoo by Todd English at the WDW Dolphin and Moonfish, also on Sand Lake.
    For the crabs, Crab Shack - there are several -- are as good as any close by.

    Seach this board (Orlando + "type of cuisine" and see what you can find. There's a fairly recent thread on this seafood topic.

    2/ vietnamese
    Most of the best are centered in the area north of downtown Orlando. Viet Garden, Little Saigon, Lac Viet Bistro, Pho 88 and Viet Town are comparable and all have their own partisans.

    3/ carribean
    All the authentic ones are in a downtown area that I don't like to send strangers to. Have you tried Bahama Breeze?
    Seriously, skip this category unless you are just hung up on it. The only place that might be safe and meet your culinary needs is the Paradise Island Café & Grocery, 377 W. Church St., Orlando, 32801, Phone: (407)841-8933. It's just off the Interstate. Only open until 9 -- and by 9 there usually isn't much left. Try for the buffet lunch and supplement off the menu if you want.

    4a/ barbecue
    Barbecue is pretty much different food from soul -- which you tried to lump together.
    I like Cecil's for Texas style, Blackwater for their meat and various styles, closer to kansas City than any other style, I suppose, Wildside's for their chicken and pork and Uncle Jones or It's a Secret for the ribs.

    4b/ soul food
    Most people will send you to Johnson's Diner in downtown Orlando. They just moved into big new space at Parramore and Church St. Still good, of course, they serve all the usual suspects -- I like their pork chops w/brown gravy and some collards, myself.
    I like Oley's Homestyle Cooking, 2720 South Rio Grande Ave., Orlando, 32805, Phone: (407)422-7288. Call and get directions. And order the lemonade, it's made from fresh squeezed key limes and sweetened with brown sugar. Looks like mud and tastes heavenly. Only open until 8 p.m.

    5/ authentic floridian food
    Two options I suggest are Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton, where Norman Van Aken, who helped invent Floribbean cuisine, presents a wonderful and very expensive style of this food. Or, try Black Hammock Restaurant & Fish Camp, 2356 Black Hammock Fish Camp Road, Oviedo, FL 32765,
    Phone: (407) 365-2201. Call and get directions as it is at the other end of the earth from Tourist World. On Lake jessup, old fashioned cracker food and plenty of good ol' boys to go with it.
    If you just want fried catfish and such, go to Bonnie Lee's or The Catfish Place in St. Cloud and they will fix you up.

    6/ good pasta place for carb-loading pre-marathon
    Pacino's Italian Ristorante, 5795 W Irlo Bronson Meml Hwy, Kissimmee, 34746, (407) 239-1134 is probably as good as any, although for finer dining try Ristorante Tuscany in the Marriott World Center.

    7/ good steakhouse for post-marathon
    Del Frisco's off Lee Road north of Orlando is the best. But there are several good ones on the other end of town. Vito's, Ruth's Chris, Schula's (in WDW Dolphin), Capital Grille, the Palm, etc.

    8/ cuban
    I just had a good meal at Rolando's, way up in Casselberry. You'll also hear about Numero Uno. I like Don Pepe's Habana Grill. It's also in Altamonte -- and also in east Winter Park -- and serves Latin food, good Cuban and more.
    I think that the Havana Cafe in Kissimmee is still open on 192, If so, they are pretty good.

    9/ spanish (could be argentinean, etc)
    There's always Texas de Brazil, for an all-you-can-eat grilled meat fest -- might even be more enjoyable than one of the steak places I mention because of the huge side and salad buffet and the 14 types of meat.
    The daily recently reviewed a place called Brazas Chicken which I have heard good things about. It's marinated grilled chicken with the typical Latin sides. 4797 S. Orange Ave., Orlando (corner of Gatlin Avenue), 407-582-0506. Only open until 7 p.m.

    10/ other ethnic
    Jiko and Boma are the two main restaurants at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. They serve African food. Jiko is dinner only, fine dining, Boma is lunch and dinner, served buffet style, Excellent, unless kids are an issue.
    Also, Asia Bagus in Kissimmee serves Indonesian food and is quite good and quite cheap.

    Hope some of this is helpful. Please take the time to search the board -- there are a lot of people who come here (Orlando) and all ask basically the same question. So benefit from their wisdom.

    Bob

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob Mervine

      Mmmmm, that Brazas Chicken sounds awesome. I so rarely get all the way into Orlando, the list of places I need to try is huge. It just got a bit longer:

      http://www.orlandosentinel.com/commun...

      1. re: Bob Mervine

        Dear Bob,
        Thank you for your comprehensive posting! We will be closer to Orlando, but for good food, as true foodies, we are willing to travel. Price is not an issue.
        Hopefully, we can do the same for you in New York City someday.
        best,
        d

      2. Bob wrote: "Barbecue is pretty much different food from soul -- which you tried to lump together."

        By the way, you are absolutely right. It is different. However, in NYC, sometimes barbecue is found at soul food restaurants - only because NYC is barbecue-deprived. Good smothered chicken would be wonderful....

        d

        10 Replies
        1. re: dec111

          I originally started to add the line, "Good barbecue can be found in many good soul food restaurants, but very little good soul food is to be found in barbecue restaurants."
          However I decided it was a little off point and probably a bit overstated.
          Since you brought it up, however . . .

          One of my Christmas presents to myself is the book, "Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country" by Lolis Eric Elie. His epic cross country jouney in search of the best barbecue is inspiring and informative and the photos by Frank Stewart are just awesome. This books defines how barbecue has grown out of many of what we call soul food retaurants better than any of my words can.

          Bob

          P.S. -- Netmover's note below about Cafe Tu Tu Tango is correct, but it really doesn't fall into any of your categories -- if you had listed small plate or tapas, that's where it would go along with Taste in College Park and Ole Ole in Winter Park.

          B

          1. re: Bob Mervine

            Thanks Bob.

            It is not too late to buy a Christmas present for myself so I will look for the book. Many, many years ago, I read a Calvin Trillin book, which I believe was a collection of essays from New Yorker mag, on his barbecue quest centered on Kansas City Barbecue (and other food adventures). Hopefully, it will be just as fun.
            P.S. Cafe Tu Tu Tango sounds too much of a modern version of what Trillin would describe as "continental" food - nothing specifically ethnic but a jumble of many different tastes, leading to mediocre food at best. I think he called it "La Maison de la Casa House" .

            1. re: dec111

              Trillin did coin the phrase and it has become a chowhound standard.

              Cafe Tu Tu Tango is not a restaurant that fits into that category by any stretch of the imagination.

              It is a small chain, two in Florida -- here and Coconut Grove -- Buckhead, upstate New York, Niagara Falls, LA and West Orange County.

              Check out the Website.

              http://www.cafetututango.com/

              I describe it as a clever combination of fun and food with a menu of small plate portions, some similar to traditional tapas and others with Latin, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern or Asian influences.
              Things like egg rolls stuffed with Cajun chicken, masa-dusted sauteed scallops or pepper-crusted tuna sashimi on crispy rice noodles with cold greens and a sesame-soy vinaigrette. The added attractions are bits of ongoing performance art auch as female impersonators, gypsy fortune tellers and tarot card readers, sword swallowers and belly dancers.
              The setting is in an art gallery with working artists and displayed art for sale, from hand-painted wooden eggs to traditional framed canvas to mosaics. Tu Tu is a great group experience because everyone can order 3-4 menu items providing the group with a wide range of choices. Add a couple of pitchers of sangria and it's a home run.

              Again, I didn't mention them because I was responding to your list -- although it could have gone under the last, misc. category. But I'm a big fan and your group sounds ideal for this one.

              Bob

              1. re: Bob Mervine

                Ok Bob, you got me on the masa-dusted scallops and the performance art, with pitchers of sangria. It is now definitely on the list!
                Many thanks! Will be looking for the book recommendation at B and N too.

                1. re: dec111

                  Cheers.

                  Feel free to post questions and updates, and definitely give us a recap when you return . . .

                  Bob

                  1. re: Bob Mervine

                    Thanks Bob. Will do.

                    Also, I surfed the website and found that Cafe
                    TuTuT does a cabaret show on friday nights. Is that worth going to? Will we lose the other experience you and the other folks have talked about?
                    Thanks netmover for letting me know about the NY location.

                    1. re: dec111

                      Can't say, as I haven't participated.

                      My guess, however, is that shifting the balance between food, group interaction and entertainment to to primarily entertainment would always have an effect on the other two components of the experience.

                      Two words. "Dinner theater."

                      I guess it depends on why you are going -- to eat or to be entertained?

                      Bob

                      1. re: Bob Mervine

                        Yes. Dinner theater is what I was concerned about but then
                        ( and obviously I have not been there yet), but it does sound very theme restaurant anyway with performance artists, etc. so I
                        figured why not. I'll let you know.

                        1. re: dec111

                          the food is consistent with or without the Friday night Theatre...it should be a good time along with some good food and drinks...enjoy!

                2. re: Bob Mervine

                  Great description! TuTuTango is a great place-period! The mix of tastes, music and live art come together nicely in this artist's loft cum cafe. As a matter of fact, they are just about to open an outpost in West Nyack, NY. So, if you love the O-Town version, you'll have one to look forward to when you get back to NY. Nyack is about a half hour to 45 minutes outside the city.

                  All plates are meant to be shared and although they are small (tapa sized) they will afford you the opportunity to savour many different flavours in the same sitting...something not so easily accomplished at your average app/entree joint.

                  This concept was on the verge of sweeping the nation when the owners made a couple of poor choices and lost millions putting the sweep in slow motion. I for one am glad to hear they are starting to spread their wings again...boring and mundane it ain't!

          2. cafe tu tu tango for all of the above! I-Drive

            1. Oh I didn't know you were driving down.

              1. Regarding Other ethnic:
                Ole Gourmet in Maitland is an Israeli Cafe.
                Their website is at http://www.kosherfoodinorlando.com/in...

                -Cheryl

                1. For New Orlean Food: Try Jockamo's (Sand Lake Road near Walmart) in Orlando. Their food was great! The staff was very patient explaining their menu to us northerns. We all had PoBoy sandwiches and we all really liked them. In addition, their prices are great. I had read about this restaurant on Chow Hound and it exceed my expectations.

                  1. I live in Tampa but get to Orlando from time to time- Jungle Jims across from universal is very good for a sandwich/florida type place, not to mention some fun mixed drinks. There is a sandwich with peanut butter and chicken that is simple but stunningly good. Emerils is amazing- in universal citywalk. And we went to Schulas in a Disney Hotel for my hubbies b-day- pricey but very good.