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My Orlando/Tampa Trip Report, April 2-12, 2012

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meghann May 18, 2012 01:49 PM

Hello folks, it's been a while since I got back from my Florida vacation but I've been meaning to make this thread ever since. I didn't make a thread asking advice before I went but I did get some great recommendations by browsing some of the older threads on here. We managed to have some great meals!

Jackson's Bistro, Tampa:
I decided on this place for our first dinner because we were in town for a Lightning game and wanted to treat my parents to a nice meal. This is a great place to eat before games because you can park in their garage (many free spaces when we were there) during dinner and then walk over to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, less than 5 minutes away. They'll validate your parking at the restaurant so it ended up being very cheap and we avoided the traffic around the forum. We had dinner on the outside patio with a lovely view. The food wasn't exactly fine dining but it was quite good. I had calimari for my appetizer and for my main I had a red snapper special. The fish was very nice and delicately favored, and the polenta that accompanied it was delicious. My dad had clam chowder and a steak, which he raved about. Mom had crab cakes and French onion soup. She talked about the focaccia they served before the meal for the whole trip! This isn't necessarily chow-worthy food but it was perfect for our purposes.

Garibaldi Mexican Cuisine, Kissimmee:
My parents are NOT Mexican food enthusiasts. My father has been known to comment "if I was born in Mexico, I'd have starved". My sister and I love it so we convinced them to check out Garibaldi one night. Everybody absolutely loved their meals. Portions were very large and very inexpensive, and the food was delicious. I had chilaquiles, while the others had fajitas, flautas, and burritos. My two year old nephew loved his quesadillas, as well as the music. We didn't feel out of place at all having him with us and the waitress was very good with him. We went on two-for-one margarita night and quite enjoyed those as well :)

Disney's Magic Kingdom:
Thanks everyone for the Dole Whip recommendation! It's almost enough to make a person want to go back there :)
We had breakfast that day at Crystal Palace Buffet so my nephew could meet Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore. Obviously we weren't expecting much but I was pleased to find the food better than your average breakfast buffet, with some healthier options (fruit, granola, yogurt) and not just bacon and waffles. We hadn't planned on sitting down for lunch but we desperately needed a break from the heat and crowds so we had lunch at the Liberty Tavern. The burger and fries were actually pretty good! My sister, on the other hand, did not enjoy her vegetarian burger with tzatziki.

Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Orlando:
Can't say enough good things about this restaurant. We went in on a busy Saturday evening with no reservation, and only had to wait probably 20 minutes for a table. The atmosphere is great and my nephew loved watching the artists working and the belly dancer who performed during our meal. This is the perfect place for small children because if they get excited and start screaming like he did, nobody notices because the noise of the other diners and music drowned him out. I can't remember exactly what we had but here's what I can remember: marinated olives with feta, hummus with pitas, some sort of spicy shrimp dish (my favorite), calimari, pot stickers, alligator bites with dipping sauce, pork tenderloin, pork ribs, and salmon sliders for the little guy. Everything was delicious and we ate every bite. The beer selection was impressive as were the mojitos. This place is a MUST as far as I'm concerned.

House of Blues, Downtown Disney:
Ate here with my sister before seeing a movie (parents and nephew stayed at home). We had planned on going to Raglan Road since it reviews well here, but decided on the HoB since we were nearby. I wasn't expecting much but the service was really friendly and attentive and I had a tasty shrimp and grits dish. My sister had a burger and fries and enjoyed her meal as well. This is pretty high quality casual dining with a good beer selection and I would go back.

Denny's, Cocoa Beach:
I tried with all my might to convince the family not to go there. The food was inedible. Some of the worst I've ever had in a restaurant. Avoid!!!

Steak 'n' Shake, Kissimmee:
My parents' suggestion. Cute diner decor, unremarkable burger & onion rings, tasty Butterfinger milkshake. We don't have those in Canada as far as I know so it's worth checking out if you want a chain type fast food place that isn't McDonald's.

Smokey Bones, Kissimmee:
We had lunch here one day because it was nearby where we had been shopping. Everyone seemed pleased and their "Bones Brew" beer was pretty good too. As far as those types of casual restaurants go, this place is one of the better ones I've been too.

All in all we ate better than I had expected, given the size and age range of our group and the fact that food wasn't one of the focus points of our trip. Thanks again Chowhound for your research and help!

  1. Sandwich_Sister May 19, 2012 07:36 AM

    Thank You for the report. We always love when people let us know how things with.

    I see you had some obstacles such as age differences and taste in food and I'm impressed you managed to get some good dining options in there.

    I agree that you should have skipped Denny's and Steak n Shake (The do have good milkshakes though).

    We take my huband's parents to Girabaldi's in Kissimmee, they love it.

    I probably would have done Fat Boys BBQ over smokey bones but like you said it was just nearby.

    Glad you got a chance to go to Cafe Tu Tu Tango though, great fun!

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      INDIANRIVERFL May 21, 2012 07:39 AM

      I am so sorry you went to Denny's in Cocoa Beach. Like most of the South, we take breakfast pretty seriously. But you won't find any recommendations on Chowhound as this area doesn't support the hand made hollandaise atop a white asparagus omelet crowd. Biscuits and gravy, ham and eggs, and grits or hash browns are another matter. Waitresses balance them on their arm because if they held them on the rim, the plate would break.

      If you had any other meal at Denny's, shame on you.

      Finally, thank you so much for a great trip report. And especially for browsing the old threads. Nice to see that the efforts put out by the stalwarts in Orlando are reaping some good.

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        andy huse May 25, 2012 08:55 AM

        i wonder if Garibaldi's has any relation to the restaurant in Tampa of the same name.

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