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7/14/2005

Culture > Feature

Food and Drink
Writers' and Readers' Picks

 

BEST HAPPY HOUR
Club Paris

122 W. Church St., (407) 832-7409

Yes, we are talking about the otherwise un-noteworthy club at Church Street Station, namesake of a dingbat quatrillionaire whose claim to infamy is a lo-res porn vid that circulated on the Internet. But let me clarify: I'm not recommending Club Paris for late-night partying; I'm saying check out the Friday afternoon happy hour, 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For starters, drinks are four-for-one. And that's pretty much the only reason you go, to get liquored up fast and cheap before your real weekend activities begin. The music is … well … OK, I guess. The bad news is the people, who are pretty much exactly who you'd expect: muscle-bound guys who wish they were models scowling at anything passing by in a skirt. But there aren't many of them. Last time I went, the happy hour was pretty empty, making it a clean shot to the bar.

— Jeffrey C. Billman

BEST PLACE FOR LIGHTNING TO STRIKE YOUR COCKTAIL
"Meet Me at My House Before the Game – God" billboard

Near The Parliament House, 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail

In a perfect world – one where religion is communicated only through tacky, street-side advertising tools that mock the pitches of ointments and dairy products – this particular monstrosity would make perfect sense. In a perfect world, God would be a marketing genius. But by throwing this oversized invective in the middle of the gay fray on OBT, the God squad has crossed a line, and crossed its legs like a girlish boy. Like, what game are you talking about, God? And can't we just go to your place after a few, er, "games"?

Anyway, a previous attempt at converting the happy failed when the folks at Exodus International were forced (reportedly with some physical threat from the ownership) to rethink their "Rethink Homosexuality" billboard in the same spot. Instead, we get this innocuous blurb that makes little sense. What's next? Gays in church? Jeez.

— Billy Manes

BEST PLACE TO GET DUCKS' FEET
Lam's Garden

2505 E. Colonial Drive, (407) 896-0370

When you go into Lam's, you might not think there's anything too special about it, though it's clearly a cut above the numerous fried-rice joints around town, with the Lazy Susan tables and the slightly upscale décor, and the owners are some of the most friendly and helpful restaurant people in town. Open the green menu that's put in front of you, and you'll see a good selection of standards (you know, moo goo gai pan, "Imperial Jade Delight"), highlighted by occasional exotica like lychee duck and "Subgum Sizzling Worba." All of it's prepared wonderfully and any of the dishes will certainly make for a great meal. But ask for the other menu – the red one – and you'll have a completely different experience. Ducks' feet, steamed fish, water spinach and other sorts of fabulous and thoroughly un-Americanized dishes populate the red menu, and should you be intimidated by the choices, the staff at Lam's will be happy to guide you through it.

— Jason Ferguson

BEST SUB SHOP
Ba Le

1227 N. Mills Ave., (407) 898-8011

There are more than 25 Ba Le sandwich shops in Hawaii, and a couple dozen others scattered throughout North America. Thank God there's only one here, or I'd be a giant, fat pig. Literally. I try not to eat meat, and I especially avoid pork. But Ba Le – a Vietnamese/French bakery/sandwich shop; perhaps the oddest franchise idea ever – is the sort of place that makes you forget your pesky ethics. Well, maybe not the actual place, as its utilitarian deli cases full of headcheese and sausage, along with a frankly unappetizing photo-menu board, don't do much to whet the palate. But their lemongrass pork sandwich? Kill me now, because I could eat this thing all day, every day. Grilled pork with lemon sauce on it, stuffed into a fresh baguette along with fresh onions, sprigs of basil and bits of lemongrass, may be the best $3 sandwich in town. (Buy five, get one free!)

— Jason Ferguson

BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT FOR VEGETARIANS
Anh Hong

1124 E. Colonial Drive, (407) 999-2656

Just because you don't want to eat meat, it doesn't mean you want to eat boring. Like most Asian restaurants, Anh Hong reserves a section of their menu for vegetarian dishes, but unlike most, they offer more than the usual "tofu with mixed vegetables," "fried tofu with mixed vegetables," "stir-fried mixed vegetables," etc. Their veggie section is a hit list of actual dishes, with ingredients and seasonings chosen because they taste good, not just because they can't walk. No. 146's dense, chewy triangles of fried tofu tingle with lemongrass and chili. No. 157, the green papaya salad, is even better with more of that fried tofu topping the tart green strands mixed with basil and crushed roasted peanuts than with the traditional grilled pork (though that's awfully good, too). And No. 153, "crispy golden pancake," is a decadent, crunchy treat.

— Jessica Bryce Young

BEST COOKBOOK TO CONSULT DURING A HURRICANE
Raw: The Uncook Book

by Juliano Brotman and Erika Lenkert
Regan Books, $35

Raw foodarians are kind of a pain in the ass. They tout their regime with a missionary's zeal – not heating any of their fruits, nuts or vegetables over 120 degrees "allows all the delicate nutrients that are usually burned out of cooked foods to remain intact," claims Juliano Brotman. Whatever. All I know is, last summer's hurricanes wreaked havoc on my digestion and my complexion. Those weeks of living on packaged snacks and cocktails without ice were not something I want to repeat. So this year, I'll be going raw. Mango and avocado pizza, cinnamon-walnut turtles, lasagna made with zucchini "pasta" and macadamia-nut "ricotta" – not just yummy, but something to keep me busy all day while I'm trapped in the house. And while my neighbors end up gassy, pimply and chubby, I'll be bright-eyed, clear-skinned and chockful of antioxidants. I'll try not to gloat.

— Jessica Bryce Young

BEST CHAI
Honey Vanilla

Borders Books & Music
Multiple locations

If you're in the mood for a chai, you've already decided to get a wee bit closer to spice-rack indulgence than the basic coffee-bar fare can take you. But stick your snoot into the Honey Vanilla Chai available at any Borders location, and you'll know what liquid extravagance really is. The thickness. The richness. The caramel-esque goodness that clings to the back of your throat with delicious tenacity. Forget honey; that must be what spun gold tastes like. "This has to be a sin," you're thinking. And it probably is. So stop with the altar-boy routine and go with it. – Steve Schneider

BEST HANGOVER REMEDY
Hangover Tea at Tatáme Teahouse/Saké Lounge

223 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park,
(407) 628-2408

C'mon, it happens to everybody – one little drink leads to another and next thing you know, the sun is up but you're not. The creative minds at Tatáme Teahouse have created a warming and palatable remedy for that queasy stomach and sluggish liver: Hangover tea – $4 per cup, or $6 for a pot they'll keep refilling until you're back on track. It is made from a strong brew of oolong tea blended with ginseng for stimulating the circulation, and ginger honey to sweeten the deal and settle the tum-tum. Owner Maggie Lee says that the herbal solution can even kill an alcohol high. "It kind of evens out your body, and you won't even feel the buzz," says Lee, who has tried the tea on willing drunks. I've tried it when I was neither buzzed nor hungover, just in need of a hug from the inside out. It works.

— Lindy T. Shepherd

BEST ORLANDO FACSIMILE TO MY FAVORITE SOUL FOOD RESTAURANT
Brothers' Waffles 'n' Wings

6406 N. Orange Blossom Trail,
(407) 522-5508

My old hometown, Los Angeles, is a town of legendary movie-star restaurants. There's Musso & Frank, where William Faulkner and Scott Fitzgerald used to have 10-martini lunches and commiserate over their stalled screenplays; Chasen's, whose chili Liz Taylor loved so much she had it flown into Rome, where she was filming Cleopatra; the Brown Derby, where Clark Gable proposed to Carole Lombard.

But one L.A. restaurant caters to a different kind of royalty: the black aristocracy. My first house in L.A. was right around the corner from Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n Waffles, and even when all I could afford was a piece of corn bread and a side of greens, I'd be eating it back-to-back with Whoopi Goldberg or Robert Townsend or Magic Johnson. The combination of fried chicken and waffles on one plate seemed bizarre at first, but turned out to be delicious, and though I've kept an eye out for it ever since, I've never run across it again.

So imagine my delight when I drove past Brothers' last month. I was disappointed but not surprised that the only chicken they served was wings (barbecued chicken was added after my last visit), but I gave them a try anyway. The wings were substantial and juicy, slathered in hot sauce, and the waffle was crisp on the outside, tender inside. Collard greens and fried okra were also above average. I'll be back – it will have to do until my next trip to Roscoe's.

— Jessica Bryce Young

READER'S PICKS

Best martini
The Peacock Room

1321 N. Mills Ave., (407) 228-0048

Best margarita
Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville

CityWalk at Universal Orlando, 6000 Universal Blvd., (407) 224-2155

Best happy hour
Antigua

41 W. Church St., (407) 649-4270

Best dive bar
Wally's Mills Avenue Liquors

1001 N. Mills Ave., (407) 896-6975

Best stiff-drink bar
Wally's Mills Avenue Liquors

1001 N. Mills Ave., (407) 896-6975

Best sports bar
Orlando Ale House

Multiple locations

Best gay/lesbian bar
The Parliament House

410 N. Orange Blossom Trail,
(407) 425-7571

Best pub
Fiddler's Green Irish Pub & Eatery

544 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park,
(407) 645-2050

Best breakfast/brunch
First Watch

Multiple locations

Best outdoor dining
Sam Snead's Restaurant Downtown

301 E. Pine St., (407) 999-0109

Best late-night restaurant
Denny's

Multiple locations

Best doughnuts
Krispy Kreme

Multiple locations

Best bakery/desserts
Charlie's Gourmet Pastries

3213 Curry Ford Road, (407) 898-9561

Best ice cream shop
Cold Stone Creamery

Multiple locations

Best sub shop
Firehouse Subs

Multiple locations

Best coffeehouse
Starbucks

Multiple locations

Best smoothies
Planet Smoothie

Multiple locations

Best bagels
Einstein Bros.

Multiple locations

Best barbecue
Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ

Multiple locations

Best burger
Backyard Burger

Multiple locations

Best Caribbean
Bahama Breeze

Multiple locations

Best Chinese
P.F. Chang's China Bistro

436 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park,
(407) 622-0188;
4200 Conroy Road, (407) 345-2888

Best Cuban/Puerto Rican
Don Pepe's Habana Grill

2516 Aloma Ave., (407) 678-7001

Best diner
Brian's Restaurant

1409 N. Orange Ave., (407) 896-9912

Best French
Le Coq au Vin

4800 S. Orange Ave., (407) 851-6980

Best Greek
Athena Cafe

1140 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, (407) 830-0707

Best Indian
Woodlands

6040 S. Orange Blossom Trail,
(407) 854-3330

Best Italian
Carabba's

Multiple locations

Best pizza
N.Y.P.D. Pizza and Delicatessen

373 N. Orange Ave., (407) 872-6973;
2589 S. Hiawassee Road, (407) 293-8880

Best soul food
Johnson's Diner

692 W. Robinson St., (407) 841-0717

Best Japanese/sushi
Amura

7786 Sand Lake Road, (407) 370-0007

Best Korean
Shin Jung

1638 E. Colonial Drive, (407) 895-7345

Best Latin American
The Samba Room

7468 W. Sand Lake Road,
(407) 226-0550

Best Mediterranean
Mediterranean Deli

981 W. Fairbanks Ave.,
(407) 539-2650

Best Mexican
P.R.'s Mexican Restaurant

499 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park,
(407) 645-2225;
4750 S. Kirkman Road,
(407) 293-8226

Best Middle Eastern
Tony's Deli

1323 N. Mills Ave., (407) 898-6689

Best seafood
Red Lobster

Multiple locations

Best steakhouse
Ruth's Chris Steak House

Multiple locations

Best Southern
Crooked Bayou

50 E. Central Blvd., (407) 839-5852

Best Spanish
Café Aragon

(Closed)

Best Thai
Thai House

2117 E. Colonial Drive, (407) 898-0820

Best wings
Wing Shack

4644 E. Michigan St., (407) 381-4798

Best vegetarian food
Infusion Tea

1520 Edgewater Drive, Suite A,
(407) 378-4675

Best Vietnamese
Lac-Viet Bistro

2021 E. Colonial Drive,
(407) 228-4000

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