Food and DrinkBest of Orlando 2009 - Food and Drink
Blue Bird Bake Shop
available at Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria, Seven Sisters Coffeehouse, Trish’s Teas or through Foodie Catering
The cupcake trend is so over in L.A. and New York (doughnuts are the new thing, according to our informants), but you can rely on Orlando to cling to a trend well past its expiration date. Not past their expiration date are the fresh and delicious creations of Jeff Lambert’s Blue Bird Bake Shop, like Lime in d’Coconut (tart lime-coconut cake with coconut buttercream icing, rolled in toasted coconut), Grasshopper (chocolate-chocolate-chip cake with crème de menthe icing, topped with chocolate shavings) and Banana Remix (banana-chocolate-chip cake with peanut-butter icing, topped with salted peanuts). Old faves like red velvet and carrot cake are expertly executed as well.
Best vegan barbecue
Ethos Vegan Kitchen VBBQ
1235 N. Orange Ave.
Veggies got it rough: No standing around the grill licking their chops over delicious charred meats. (Boca Burgers and Smart Dogs just aren’t the same.) Ethos to the rescue! At their once-a-month weekend VBBQ, an all-vegan version of the classic American tradition, owner Kelly Shockley indulges his inner ’50s dad with seitan “ribs,” skewers and sloppy joes, baked beans, corn on the cob and watermelon. Also, there’s plenty of beer and live bands, all out on the shady tiled patio.
Best place to read at the table
El Coqui Mexicano
2406 E. Washington St.
The proximity of the Book Worm used bookstore (2400 E. Washington St., 407-898-7888; www.thebookwormoforlando.com) to our favorite new Mexican–Puerto Rican restaurant makes for an affordable bonanza of bad table manners. The recent afternoon on which we scored a used copy of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy at the Book Worm and then a plate of mofongo at El Coqui was a red-letter day; we don’t get out much.
Best place to put a spell on your dining partner
Arepas & More Cafe
207 N. Bumby Ave.
203 N. Bumby Ave.
To your left, Arepas & More’s Venezuelan delicacies (empanadas, arepas and arroz con pollo like abuela used to make). To your right, Botanica Obatala’s vodoun necessities (magical herbs, blessing candles, religious statuettes). Pity the fool who cuts in line while you’re ordering your chicken-and-avocado arepa; it’s straight next door to the botanica for a packet of Black Cat hex powder. On the other hand, if the sparks are flying in a good way, a Chango Macho or Come to Me candle might seal the deal.
Best fast track to self-loathing
6000 Universal Blvd.
Burger King’s Whopper sandwich is nearly perfect in its moody execution; it can be Angry, Dark or a Meat Beast (those last two only overseas). This year, Universal CityWalk took it one step further: They made it glamorous with the first BK “Whopper Bar.” Patrons can customize their burgers with any or all of the “premium” toppings, like A1 steak sauce, peppered bacon, porcini mushrooms and guacamole, or indulge in the exclusive Bourbon Whopper. Don’t worry, the booths are bigger here.
Andrea Quality Cheesecake & Café
6020 Edgewater Drive
Since 1983, Andrea has refused to judge us for our drive-time cravings. The little bakery with the pink door and its made-from-scratch concoctions is always there for you, whether you forgot a Valentine’s day present or you like a little Kahlúa with your cream cheese.
Best summer roll
Little Saigon Restaurant
1106 E. Colonial Drive
The $2.50-for-two summer rolls (not fried spring rolls) are next to godliness at established Vietnamese restaurant Little Saigon, particularly when dipped and wagged in the sacred peanut sauce. The silky rice wrap covers a perfect crunch of lettuce, rice vermicelli, shrimp, pork and herbs, plus that signature blade of garlic chive. The blend of thick, sweet brown goo and clean, fresh crispness makes for a yin-and-yang connection.
Bull & Bush
2408 E. Robinson St.
Guinness has a list of mildly pretentious rules for pouring their stout. Fortunately, Bull & Bush follows them all; it’s more habit than training for Heidi and crew at this British darts pub. The mother’s milk of beers is served only after the perfect amount of settling, standing like a tall, dark stranger with the logo on the glass toward the customer and a head so creamy they can draw a clover in it. Sucks when it’s gone, but they’re happy to pour another.
Best cheap-ass tapas
El Coqui Mexicano
2406 E. Washington St.
The idea behind tapas is to build a full meal out of a series of small items. The trouble comes when each item costs more than a blue plate special. El Coqui’s menu, a mix of Puerto Rican and Mexican dishes, might seem light until it’s sitting in your belly and you’re smiling at the check. Piled-high sopes and tortillas for $4.50 make this cheaper than your average Taco Bell trip, and light-years more digestible.
Best lamb on a spit
981 W. Fairbanks Ave.
Owner and chef Walaid Ali, a former weightlifter from Armenia, buys his lamb fresh and seasons and roasts it on a countertop rotisserie, so his home-style restaurant always smells of spicy seared meat. It feels kind of primitive when the well-muscled Ali, wearing his weight belt, carves off hunks of meat for the overstuffed gyros ($4.99), but customers receive the benefit of his generosity. The same devotion goes for Ali’s baklava, made fresh daily.
Best two-drink business breakfast
White Wolf Café
1829 N. Orange Ave.
Who knew that when esteemed local marble-table café White Wolf opened its doors to early risers, it would become the best place to shamelessly nurse your drinking needs at the crack of dawn? The festivities start at 7 a.m. on weekdays (which is like Wally’s-awesome) with rather inexpensive diner fare to absorb your Bloody Mary, then your Cape Cod. You can show up in a suit, talk about really important business things, get drunk and still smell of success (with a little bit of cologne, anyway). Stocks are down, so bottoms up!
Best place to repent your sins while eating pasta
The Pope Room at Buca di Beppo
1351 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland
Buca di Beppo is a slightly contrived chain restaurant known for “family-sized” portions of Italian fare, awkward kitchen tours with fake Italian accents, and a maze-like layout that guarantees you get lost every time you go to the bathroom. But there’s something charming about the inglorious religious kitsch of its signature “Pope Room.” There, in the middle of a lazy Susan atop a giant round table, sits the pope’s head sealed in glass. It’s not the real pope’s head, but the staff has at least made sure that it is a replica of the current pope’s head. Pope Benedict XVI just sitting there and staring at you while you gorge your face with manicotti is worth the heartburn alone.
Best vegan pancakes
Ethos Vegan Kitchen
1235 N. Orange Ave.
Ethos’ pancakes are like crack: one taste and you’ve got a decision to make. Do you throw it all over for a life of chasing that mind-bending first time? Or do you spend the rest of your days in denial? Choose wisely. You could end up slobbering over the very thought of brunch at Ethos, tapping on the table nervously until your flapjacks arrive. And they make them without eggs or milk!
Best mind control with your soup
2101 E. Colonial Drive
It starts with a singsong greeting when you walk in the door. Why are they so happy to see you? It continues as you munch on the (admittedly delicious) vegan fare. How can Sea Wonders be so wonderful without anything from the sea in them? Then you notice that all the TVs are tuned to the “Supreme Master” channel. “Bright House doesn’t carry that station,” you mutter. But it’s too late. Supreme Master Ching Hai has entered your subconscious. Soon you will renounce meat, alcohol and porn, and spend all your money buying her line of jewelry and clothing. And all you wanted was a steaming bowl of pho.
Best beer for a blackout
Heaven and Hell at Redlight Redlight
745 Bennett Road
Admission: We love Redlight Redlight. Problem: Every so often, when we’re contemplating a first-class bender, this world-renowned beer bar doesn’t have the two key components of this amazingly ass-kicking blackout-maker – Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA and World Wide Stout – in stock. But when it is, look out. The combination of the two high-gravity beers is both sweet and debilitating, and can leave you with both the world’s worst hangover and a hazy memory. Totally worth it.
Best antidote to Jimmy John’s
Philly Style Hoagies and Deli
223 N. Magnolia Ave.
What the hell is wrong with you people? Jimmy John’s shows up and downtown goes berserk for greasy cold cuts on white bread rolls. Yes, fast service and free delivery can cover for a lot of sins. But do yourself a solid and take the road less traveled to Magnolia Avenue, where you will find Philly Style. There the bread is fresh and crusty, the menu is creative, and each sandwich is lovingly assembled to order, not slapped together on a minimum-wage assembly line seconds after the order leaves your mouth. Fast does not equal good.
Best strip-mall Mexican
Tacos el Rancho
4433 Hoffner Ave.
You wouldn’t expect a little place in a strip mall by the airport to offer some of the best, most authentic Mexican food around. But it does. Try the marinated pork salad ($5.59), the carnitas burritos ($5.75) or the chips and homemade guacamole ($1.60) and tell us we’re not right.
Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar
444 N. Bumby Ave.
Soup helped Americans survive the Great Depression, and Drunken Monkey’s John Couch is doing his part to provide a little slurpy comfort to jobless, angst-ridden and down-and-out Floridians during these particularly troubled times. His soup cred is legendary, at least among in-the-know locals who’ve long sampled his brothy comestibles at the College Park and Lake Eola farmers markets. Vegan soups (like curry-infused split-pea dal, creole tomato, “cream” of spinach and artichoke, and hearty hari amavardi with sweet potatoes and carrots) are his specialty, but he makes sure never to exclude carnivores; his buffalo chicken soup is a palliative for the times.
Best drunk food
Panino’s Pizza & Grill
21 S. Orange Ave.
When grease joins alcohol for a midnight dip in a drunkard’s bloodstream, the pair seems to be a match made in heaven – until the realization that “heaven” is presided over by a porcelain god. But ignorance is bliss prior to spewing, and so are Panino’s calzones, strombolis and pizza slices, all of which are better than those of the other Orange Avenue–area pizza joints. The hearty fare satiates, lubricates and, for the fortunate, propitiates the angry tum. An added perk: Watching drunks descend the stairs from the second-floor seating area.
Best old school ice cream stand
11524 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Forget Cold Stone and Marble Slab creameries with their contempo digs and overpriced ice cream. Twistee Treat delivers cool confections with a scoopful of nostalgia, and with less than a handful remaining in the city, they’re a dying breed. Inside the iconic building shaped like a soft-serve ice cream cone are diligent disseminators of every imaginable frozen sweet: sundaes, shakes, malts, splits, slushies, fro-yo, ice crunch coffees, ice cream sandwiches and flavored freezers. Our fave: a vanilla-chocolate swirl dipped in chocolate and served in a waffle cone.
Best noodle house
Tasty Wok BBQ & Noodle House
1246 E. Colonial Drive
Restaurant inspectors may frequent Tasty Wok more often than we’d like, but when you master a cooking technique – noodles, in TW’s case – turning a blind eye for your mouth’s sake is well worth the risk. Be it crispy pan-fried threads of curry-infused Singapore rice noodles, or the swell of thick, flat chow fun noodles smothered with glistening beef, you’ll savor each and every lubricious bite. Noodle soups come in thin vermicelli, thick rice-noodle or egg-noodle varieties and are meals unto themselves.
Padrino’s Cuban Bistro
13586 S. John Young Parkway
When it comes to churrasco – that long, flat cut of char-grilled skirt steak – attaining a velveteen succulence is of paramount importance to enjoying the pan-Latin staple, and no one does it better than Padrino’s Cuban Bistro. The skirt steak is marinated in tangy chimichurri, grilled, propped on its side and folded around a mound of white rice for an aesthetic plating. It’s almost a shame to mar the presentation with fork and knife.
Gourmet Pastries, 3213 Curry Ford Road, 407-898-9561, www.charliesgourmetpastries.com
2nd: Publix Bakery, multiple locations, www.publix.com
3rd: Panera Bread, multiple locations, www.panerabread.com
Bodacious BBQ, multiple locations, www.bubbalous.com
2nd: Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q, multiple locations, www.sonnysbbq.com
3rd: O’Boys Bar-B-Q, 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-478-6269, 3138 S. Orange Ave., 407-447-7404, www.oboysbbq.net
1st: Five Guys Burgers and Fries, multiple locations, www.fiveguys.com
2nd: Johnny’s Fillin’ Station, 2631 S. Ferncreek Ave., 407-894-6900, www.johnnysfillinstation.com
3rd: Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille, 110 W. Church St., 321-319-0600, www.hamburgermarys-orlando.com
1st: Bahama Breeze, multiple locations, www.bahamabreeze.com
2nd: Caribbean Sunshine Bakery multiple locations, www.caribbeansunshinebakery.net
3rd (tie): Singh’s Roti Shop, 5812 Old Winter Garden Road, 407-447-3447
3rd (tie): Millie’s Jamaican Café, 12273 University Blvd., 407-382-3570
1st: P.F. Chang’s
436 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-0188, 4200 Conroy Road, 407-345-2888, www.pfchangs.com
2nd: Panda Bistro, 12014 E. Colonial Drive, 407-282-8333, www.orlandopandabistro.com
3rd: Garden Café, 810 W. Colonial Drive, 407-999-9799, www.gardencafevege.com
1st: Stardust Video
& Coffee, 1842 E. Winter Park Road, 407-623-3393, myspace.com/stardustvideoandcoffee
2nd: Starbucks Coffee, multiple locations, www.starbucks.com
3rd: Austin’s Coffee, 929 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-975-3364, www.austinscoffee.com
1st: Junior’s Diner, 2920 Corrine Drive, 407-894-8871
2nd: Christo’s Café, 1815 Edgewater Drive, 407-425-8136
3rd: Brian’s Restaurant, 1409 N. Orange Ave., 407-896-9912
1st: Le Coq Au Vin, 4800 S. Orange Ave., 407-851-6980, www.lecoqauvinrestaurant.com
2nd: Café de France, 526 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-1869, www.lecafedefrance.com
3rd: Chez Vincent, 533 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-599-2929, www.chezvincent.com
1st: The Greek Corner, 1600 N. Orange Ave., 407-228-0303, www.thegreekcorner.net
2nd: Taverna Opa, Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive, 407-351-8660, www.opaorlando.com
3rd: Athena Café, 1140 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, 407-830-0707
Best Ice Cream Shop
1st: Cold Stone Creamery, multiple locations, www.coldstonecreamery.com
2nd: Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, multiple locations, www.jeremiahsice.com
3rd: Marble Slab Creamery, multiple locations, www.marbleslab.com
Indian Cuisine, 6040 S. Orange
Blossom Trail, 407-854-3330
2nd: Memories of India, 7625 Turkey Lake Road, 407-370-3277
3rd: Kohinoor Indian Restaurant, 249 W. State Road 436, Altamonte Springs, 407-788-6004, www.kohinoorindianresaturant.com
1st: Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub & Eatery, 544 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-645-2050, www.fiddlersgreenorlando.com
2nd: The Harp & Celt Restaurant and Irish Pub, 25 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-481-2927, www.harpandcelt.com
3rd: Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub, 2625 Edgewater Drive, 407-835-7150, www.scruffymurphysorlando.com
1st: Il Pescatore, 651 N. Primrose Drive, 407-896-6763, www.ilpescatoreonline.com
2nd: Antonio’s, 611 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-645-1035, 7559 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-363-9191, www.antoniosonline.com
3rd: Bravissimo Italian Café, 337 N. Shine Ave., 407-898-7333, www.cafebravissimo.com
Best Late-Night Restaurant
1st: Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria, 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-0865, www.pompomsteahouse.com
2nd: Denny’s, multiple locations, www.dennys.com
3rd: Steak ’n Shake, multiple locations, www.steaknshake.com
1st: Black Bean Deli, 325 S. Orlando Ave.,
Winter Park, 407-628-0294
2nd: El Coqui Mexicano, 1406 E. Washington St., 407-601-4298
3rd: Numero Uno Restaurant, 2499 S. Orange Ave., 866-495-7187, www.numero-uno-restaurant.com
1st: Garibaldi’s Mexican Restaurant, 929 N. Semoran Blvd., 407-275-5035
2nd: Tijuana Flats, multiple locations, www.tijuanaflats.com
3rd: PR’s Taco Palace, 499 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-645-2225
Best Middle Eastern
1st: Tony’s Deli, 1323 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-6689
2nd: Bosphorus, 108 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-644-8609, www.bosphorousrestaurant.com
3rd: Cedar’s Restaurant of Orlando, 7732 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-351-6000, www.cedarsoforlando.com
1st: Anthony’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant, 100 N. Summerlin Ave., 407-648-0009, www.anthonyspizza.com
2nd: Mellow Mushroom, 11680 E. Colonial Drive, 407-384-4455, 2015 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-657-7755, www.mellowmushroom.com
3rd: Gino’s Pizza & Brew, multiple locations, www.ginospizzaandbrew.com
Best Southern/Soul Food
1st: Johnson’s Diner, 595 W. Church St., 407-841-0717, www.johnsonsdiner.com
2nd: Mama Nems’ Soul Food Restaurant, 805 S. Kirkman Road, 407-253-7744, www.mamanemssoulfood.com
3rd: Uncle Jones Bar-B-Que, 1370 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, 407-260-2425
1st: Del Frisco’s, 729 Lee Road, 407-645-4443, www.delfriscosorlando.com
2nd: Ruth’s Chris Steak House, multiple locations, www.ruthschris.com
3rd: Charley’s Steak House, 6107 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-851-7130, 8225 International Drive, 407-363-0228, www.talkofthetownrestaurants.com
1st: Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria, 67 N. Bumby Ave., 407-894-0865, www.pompomsteahouse.com
2nd: Infusion Tea, 1600 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-5255, www.infusionorlando.com
3rd: Dandelion Communitea Café, 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864, www.dandelioncommunitea.com
1st: SEA Thai, 3812 E. Colonial Drive, 407-895-0985, www.seaorlando.com
2nd: Thai House, 2117 E. Colonial Drive, 407-898-0820
3rd: Royal Thai, 1202 N. Semoran Blvd., 407-275-0776, www.royalthai-orlando.com
1st: Ethos Vegan Kitchen, 1235 N. Orange Ave., 407-228-3898, www.ethosvegankitchen.com
2nd: Dandelion Communitea Café, 618 N. Thornton Ave., 407-362-1864, www.dandelioncommunitea.com
3rd: Loving Hut, 2101 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-5673, www.lovinghut.us/florida
1st: Little Saigon Restaurant, 1106 E. Colonial Drive, 407-423-8539, www.littlesaigonrestaurant.com
2nd: Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant, 730 N. Mills Ave., 407-897-3488, www.pho88orlando.com
3rd: Viet Garden, 1237-1239 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-4154, www.vietgardenorlando.com
1st: Gator’s Dockside, multiple locations, www.gatorsdockside.com
2nd: Buffalo Wild Wings, multiple locations, www.buffalowildwings.com
3rd: Ker’s WingHouse Bar & Grill, multiple locations, www.winghouse.com
Best Dive Bar
1st: Wally’s Mills
Avenue Liquors, 1001 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-6975,
2nd: Bar-BQ-Bar, 64 N. Orange Ave., 407-648-5441
3rd: Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-5070, myspace.com/willspub
Best Drunken Hook-up Bar
64 N. Orange Ave., 407-648-5441
2nd: Independent Bar, 70 N. Orange Ave., 407-839-0457, www.independentbar.net
3rd: The Parliament House, 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-425-7571, www.parliamenthouse.com
Best Gay Bar
1st: The Parliament House, 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-425-7571, www.parliamenthouse.com
2nd: Pulse, 1912 S. Orange Ave., 407-649-3888, www.pulseorlando.com
3rd: Revolution Nightclub, 375 S. Bumby Ave., 407-228-9900, www.revolutionorlando.com
Best Happy Hour
1st: Antigua Nightclub, 41 W. Church St., 407-649-4270
2nd: Chili’s Grill & Bar, multiple locations, www.chilis.com
3rd: Eden Bar at Enzian, 1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-629-1088, www.enzian.org
Best Lesbian Bar
1st: Revolution Nightclub, 375 S. Bumby Ave., 407-228-9900, www.revolutionorlando.com
2nd: Faces (CLOSED), 4910 Edgewater Drive, 407-291-7571
3rd: Pulse, 1912 S. Orange Ave., 407-649-3888, www.pulseorlando.com
1st: Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-5070, myspace.com/willspub
2nd: Fiddler’s Green, 544 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-645-2050, www.fiddlersgreenorlando.com
3rd: O’Shucks Pub & Billiards, 7467 International Drive, 407-352-7892, www.oshuckspub.com
Best Sports Bar
1st: Miller’s Ale House, multiple locations, www.millersalehouse.com
2nd: The Clubhouse Sports Bar & Restaurant, 100 E. Pine St., 407-447-5225, 7572 W. Sand Lake Road, 407-363-9103, www.orlandoclubhouse.com
3rd: Buffalo Wild Wings, multiple locations, www.buffalowildwings.com
Best Wine Bar
1st: Eola Wine Company, 500 E. Central Blvd., 407-481-9100, 136 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-9103, www.eolawinecompany.com
2nd: The Wine Room on Park Avenue, 270 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-696-9463, www.thewineroomonline.com
3rd: Funky Monkey Wine Company, 912 N. Mills Ave., 407-427-1447, www.funkymonkeywine.com