Café/Bistro in Orlando

37 results

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  • 310 Lakeside

    301 E. Pine St. Downtown

    407-373-0310

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  • 3in1 Cafe

    9401 W. Colonial Drive, Ocoee West

    407-601-6628

  • 903 Mills Market

    903 S. Mills Ave. Downtown

    (407) 898-4392

    If you've ever lived south of the East-West Expressway, in the vicinity of Lake Davis, you probably remember El Rincon, a beer-in-a-bag kind of market at the corner of Mills Avenue and Gore Street. If your timing was good and you caught the place when it was open, which was frustratingly rare, you might find a loaf of white bread and a copy of the paper to go with your tallboy. But only the foolhardy would actually order a sandwich from the place.

    How things have changed since Jim Ellis and Nick Massoni took over in September. El Rincon is now the 903 Mills Market, and it is the heart of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. The once-dark grocery with bars on the windows is now brightly lit and inviting. You can have lunch or a beer at one of the outside tables and watch the traffic on Mills whiz by. Or sit inside and chat with neighbors as they come and go.

    How things have changed since Jim Ellis and Nick Massoni took over in September. El Rincon is now the 903 Mills Market, and it is the heart of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood. The once-dark grocery with bars on the windows is now brightly lit and inviting. You can have lunch or a beer at one of the outside tables and watch the traffic on Mills whiz by. Or sit inside and chat with neighbors as they come and go.

    903 Mills serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the food is worth a stop. I have yet to eat breakfast there, but the sandwiches are creative, tasty and huge (the "Grateful Bread," a combination of turkey, blue cheese, stuffing, onions and cranberry mayo on sourdough is a personal favorite); the dinner blue plates don't disappoint, and there's always a kettle of soup on.

    903 Mills serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the food is worth a stop. I have yet to eat breakfast there, but the sandwiches are creative, tasty and huge (the "Grateful Bread," a combination of turkey, blue cheese, stuffing, onions and cranberry mayo on sourdough is a personal favorite); the dinner blue plates don't disappoint, and there's always a kettle of soup on.

    Tipplers will appreciate what has to be one of the best beer selections in town. I've never seen He'Brew, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog and White Hawk together in one place before, let alone in a single cooler in a tiny neighborhood store. Wine heads (as distinguished from winos) will dig the monthly tastings.

    Tipplers will appreciate what has to be one of the best beer selections in town. I've never seen He'Brew, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog and White Hawk together in one place before, let alone in a single cooler in a tiny neighborhood store. Wine heads (as distinguished from winos) will dig the monthly tastings.

    In the age of the 7-Eleven, community grocery stores are a rare and wonderful thing, and this one is a gem.

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  • Antonio's Ristorante

    611 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland Winter Park Area

    407-645-1035

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  • Belicoso Cigars & Cafe

    1618 N Mills Ave. Mills 50

    407-960-1899

    Cigar shop and café offering a full bar, full menu, and rooftop terrace
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  • Bites and Bubbles

    1618 N. Mills Ave. Mills 50

    407-270-5085

    Now, in addition to the Full Bites & Bubbles Menu, we have added Comfort Food Classics! Check our online order link and call us to order curbside or DoorDash for delivery.
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  • Brick & Spoon

    933 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland Winter Park Area

    407-790-4345

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  • Broadway Cafe and Arts Gallery

    127 Broadway, Kissimmee South

    (407) 870-2787

    Broadway Café is a quaint bistro and art gallery located in the heart of downtown Kissimmee. Not only a restaurant, the Café also allows you to dine surrounded by art that isn't just restricted to the walls! Every table is a one-of-a-kind painting depicting scenes ranging from the building in the 1920's to beautiful flora and local scenery. We also offers a variety of coffee drinks, homemade desserts and an ice cream bar! The motto of Broadway Café is â??Where the Creation of Good Food is an Art!â?� so if you enjoy the arts, irresistible food made with pride, and a unique dining experience, come visit us in Historic Downtown Kissimmee!
  • Café 34 Istanbul

    8255 International Drive I-Drive/Universal

    407-601-7712

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  • Café Linger

    2912 Edgewater Drive College Park

    352-895-0566

    Café Linger brings classic European cooking techniques to modern breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes. During the crisis, we keep you and your loved ones safe by offering limited-contact curbside pickup, delivery directly through us, or UberEats and Postmates.
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  • Cafe Trastevere

    825 N. Magnolia Ave. Central

    (407) 839-0235; (407) 839-1734 (FAX)

    From the outside, Cafe Trastevere seems a little too perfect. It's almost as if a grand, old Italian villa fell out of the sky and landed on Magnolia Avenue, across the street from the First Union office tower.

    Yet when we stepped inside this new "Roman Italian kitchen" – the sister establishment of Trastevere Ristorante in Winter Park – on a recent Saturday evening, we found a very casual atmosphere and a smart, postmodern interior.

    Yet when we stepped inside this new "Roman Italian kitchen" – the sister establishment of Trastevere Ristorante in Winter Park – on a recent Saturday evening, we found a very casual atmosphere and a smart, postmodern interior.

    Seated at one of the last available tables downstairs, we found ourselves nearly elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors. To the left, a group of 40-somethings discussed Winter Park real-estate rumors. To the right, a table of Generation Xers held forth on the latest crop of super-models. The music included old jazz ballads, along the lines of Billie Holiday. Then someone in the kitchen turned on the radio, and we were listening to "Car Wash."

    Seated at one of the last available tables downstairs, we found ourselves nearly elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors. To the left, a group of 40-somethings discussed Winter Park real-estate rumors. To the right, a table of Generation Xers held forth on the latest crop of super-models. The music included old jazz ballads, along the lines of Billie Holiday. Then someone in the kitchen turned on the radio, and we were listening to "Car Wash."

    Most items on the dinner menu can be had for $10 to $16. The selection includes some of the finest pasta dishes and classic Italian entrees you'll find in town – chockablock with fresh seasonings and flavors and absolutely delicious. The proof is in the flock of cars usually crowded around the building.

    Most items on the dinner menu can be had for $10 to $16. The selection includes some of the finest pasta dishes and classic Italian entrees you'll find in town – chockablock with fresh seasonings and flavors and absolutely delicious. The proof is in the flock of cars usually crowded around the building.

    We started with eggplant capponata ($4.95), a dish of chopped eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, plum tomatoes and capers. It was served with a soup spoon and toast points, which we used to build bruschettas – very saucy, warm and tasty. The traditional paste e fagioli soup ($2.95) was dominated by cannellini beans, but the tomato broth was warm and thick, and quite good.

    We started with eggplant capponata ($4.95), a dish of chopped eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, plum tomatoes and capers. It was served with a soup spoon and toast points, which we used to build bruschettas – very saucy, warm and tasty. The traditional paste e fagioli soup ($2.95) was dominated by cannellini beans, but the tomato broth was warm and thick, and quite good.

    Among the entrees, filet porcini is highly recommended. At $19.25, it was worth every penny. The filet mignon was butterfly-cut and grilled, and so tender that it hardly required a knife. It was topped with a dark sauce of cabernet and wild porcini mushrooms just rich enough to enhance the meat.

    Among the entrees, filet porcini is highly recommended. At $19.25, it was worth every penny. The filet mignon was butterfly-cut and grilled, and so tender that it hardly required a knife. It was topped with a dark sauce of cabernet and wild porcini mushrooms just rich enough to enhance the meat.

    My guest's pesto capellini ($14.95) featured Gulf shrimp seared in garlic, then tossed with angel-hair pasta in a light pesto sauce. Although the flavors were fresh, the shrimp were medium –not jumbo, as the menu advertised.

    My guest's pesto capellini ($14.95) featured Gulf shrimp seared in garlic, then tossed with angel-hair pasta in a light pesto sauce. Although the flavors were fresh, the shrimp were medium –not jumbo, as the menu advertised.

    Cafe Trastevere also has a more spacious dining area upstairs that affords more privacy. But wherever you choose to be seated, expect a great meal in a classy, stimulating atmosphere, without having to spend a fortune.

  • Cafe Tu Tu Tango

    8625 International Drive West

    (407) 248-2222; (407) 352-3696 (FAX)

    A starving artist could ill afford to dine at Cafe Tu Tu Tango and leave with a full tummy. A recent dinner for two at the recently opened avant-garde establishment cost close to $50.

    Entree portions at this cafe are intentionally downsized, and diners are encouraged to swap fare around the table. Nothing costs more than $8; the trouble is, you have to order at least four dishes to satisfy two normal appetites.

    Entree portions at this cafe are intentionally downsized, and diners are encouraged to swap fare around the table. Nothing costs more than $8; the trouble is, you have to order at least four dishes to satisfy two normal appetites.

    Ambience here is a curious yet entertaining blend of Mediterranean and artist's studio influences. There are actually artists at work while you eat in this minigallery, where art in various media decorates faux stucco walls and hangs from exposed overhead beams. A stilt walker and a female impersonator were sideshows during our meal. As one might expect, the mood is festive, even outrageous; the noise level loud.

    Ambience here is a curious yet entertaining blend of Mediterranean and artist's studio influences. There are actually artists at work while you eat in this minigallery, where art in various media decorates faux stucco walls and hangs from exposed overhead beams. A stilt walker and a female impersonator were sideshows during our meal. As one might expect, the mood is festive, even outrageous; the noise level loud.

    The multiethnic menu features chips, dips, breads and spreads, as well as soups, salads, fried delicacies, turnovers and Oriental rolls. There are brochettes and kabobs, pizzas, and an eclectic array of chicken wings, paella, barbecue ribs, seafood or quesadillas.

    The multiethnic menu features chips, dips, breads and spreads, as well as soups, salads, fried delicacies, turnovers and Oriental rolls. There are brochettes and kabobs, pizzas, and an eclectic array of chicken wings, paella, barbecue ribs, seafood or quesadillas.

    We began with a complimentary basket of triangular, pizzalike crusts dusted with garlic butter and herbs. Though the accompanying roasted red pepper butter was delicious, the bread would have been better warm. My corn and crabmeat chowder ($3,25) had a nice, rich flavor, though it contained more corn and potato than crab.

    We began with a complimentary basket of triangular, pizzalike crusts dusted with garlic butter and herbs. Though the accompanying roasted red pepper butter was delicious, the bread would have been better warm. My corn and crabmeat chowder ($3,25) had a nice, rich flavor, though it contained more corn and potato than crab.

    My husband's Oriental marinated steak skewer ($6) consisted of four generous and tender helpings of teriyaki seasoned skirt beef. It was paired with a delightful ginger-soy aïoli (garlic mayonnaise).

    My husband's Oriental marinated steak skewer ($6) consisted of four generous and tender helpings of teriyaki seasoned skirt beef. It was paired with a delightful ginger-soy aïoli (garlic mayonnaise).

    The Barcelona stir-fry ($8) was a colorful blend of shrimp, calamari, chicken, andouille sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and garlic. Accompanied by a side-order of rice ($1.25), it was slightly larger than appetizer size. (The rice also made the dish more filling.) Despite the presence of sausage, we were unable to discern any smoky flavor.

    The Barcelona stir-fry ($8) was a colorful blend of shrimp, calamari, chicken, andouille sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and garlic. Accompanied by a side-order of rice ($1.25), it was slightly larger than appetizer size. (The rice also made the dish more filling.) Despite the presence of sausage, we were unable to discern any smoky flavor.

    My chicken and poblano pizza ($6), baked in a brick oven, arrived last. There was plenty of melted cheese to complement a zesty marinara sauce, a healthy dose of peppers and a just-right thin crust. The chicken, however, was scant.

    My chicken and poblano pizza ($6), baked in a brick oven, arrived last. There was plenty of melted cheese to complement a zesty marinara sauce, a healthy dose of peppers and a just-right thin crust. The chicken, however, was scant.

    Dessert, likewise, was inconsistent. There were more silvered almonds and whipped cream than custard in my petite-sized almond and amaretto flan ($2.75), but the distinctive almond liqueur flavor was lovely.

    Dessert, likewise, was inconsistent. There were more silvered almonds and whipped cream than custard in my petite-sized almond and amaretto flan ($2.75), but the distinctive almond liqueur flavor was lovely.

    My husband's ice cream pie ($3.25) was gigantic by Tu Tu standards. Similar to a mud pie, the chocolate hazelnut and praline ice cream layers rested on a moist, chocolate spongecake crust. Topped with a cloud of whipped cream and thin, drizzled chocolate sauce, it was much better.

    My husband's ice cream pie ($3.25) was gigantic by Tu Tu standards. Similar to a mud pie, the chocolate hazelnut and praline ice cream layers rested on a moist, chocolate spongecake crust. Topped with a cloud of whipped cream and thin, drizzled chocolate sauce, it was much better.

    Service here was impressive; our server was efficient, accommodating and well-versed on food preparation. We especially liked the ice water carafe left on the table for self-serve refills.

  • Caffe Capri Ristorante

    31 E. Magnolia Ave., Eustis Elsewhere

    (352) 385-0449

  • Caffe Positano

    3030 E. Semoran Blvd., Suite 108, Apopka West

    (407) 774-8080; (407) 774-1014 (FAX)

    Until recently, Apopka was a town with an erratic dining scene, not exactly a place where you would go in search of an epicurean adventure, Italian or otherwise. Now two years old, Caffe Positano reflects the changing face of Apopka, with its fine food prepared with passion, appreciation and flair.

    Situated in an ordinary shopping plaza on Semoran Boulevard, Caffe Positano hums at lunchtime with sounds from the clamorous kitchen and echoes from customers filling up tables. Businessmen whip out cell phones while waiting for their orders, co-workers split pizzas, and suspended over it all is the aroma of spices, marinaras and thick, fresh-baked Italian loaves.

    Situated in an ordinary shopping plaza on Semoran Boulevard, Caffe Positano hums at lunchtime with sounds from the clamorous kitchen and echoes from customers filling up tables. Businessmen whip out cell phones while waiting for their orders, co-workers split pizzas, and suspended over it all is the aroma of spices, marinaras and thick, fresh-baked Italian loaves.

    The menu items were consistently excellent on our visit. The pasta e fagioli soup ($4) had a silky quality, spiked with cannellini beans and bits of pasta. We loved the aggressive, meaty flavor in the thick broth.

    The menu items were consistently excellent on our visit. The pasta e fagioli soup ($4) had a silky quality, spiked with cannellini beans and bits of pasta. We loved the aggressive, meaty flavor in the thick broth.

    An array of "pizzettes" may be one of Apopka's best-kept secrets. The "white pizzetta" ($6.25) was a standout with a touch of fresh garlic, and a fluffy bed of melted mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. We asked for spinach and broccoli as extras, and they added earthy textures and tastes without weighing it down. The crust was perfection, glazed with the sheen of olive oil and fired in the oven for a delicious crunch.

    An array of "pizzettes" may be one of Apopka's best-kept secrets. The "white pizzetta" ($6.25) was a standout with a touch of fresh garlic, and a fluffy bed of melted mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. We asked for spinach and broccoli as extras, and they added earthy textures and tastes without weighing it down. The crust was perfection, glazed with the sheen of olive oil and fired in the oven for a delicious crunch.

    All of the entrees come with a choice of soup or salad, and I recommend one of the light, buoyant salads, topped with shaved petals of carrots and tossed with a delicate, almost floral, Italian dressing. Among the entrees, "veal zingarella" ($12) wins applause for its lemony undertones. It's sautéed in butter and white wine, so naturally it's rich and juicy. The tangy quality is carried a step further with capers and plump, tender artichokes. We couldn't get enough.

    All of the entrees come with a choice of soup or salad, and I recommend one of the light, buoyant salads, topped with shaved petals of carrots and tossed with a delicate, almost floral, Italian dressing. Among the entrees, "veal zingarella" ($12) wins applause for its lemony undertones. It's sautéed in butter and white wine, so naturally it's rich and juicy. The tangy quality is carried a step further with capers and plump, tender artichokes. We couldn't get enough.

    "Chicken mama mia" ($8.50) holds its own against a sautéed sauce of balsamic vinegar and a bare hint of cream. Shiitake mushrooms are sliced evenly and tossed on top for a rich finish.

    "Chicken mama mia" ($8.50) holds its own against a sautéed sauce of balsamic vinegar and a bare hint of cream. Shiitake mushrooms are sliced evenly and tossed on top for a rich finish.

    For dessert, you can have the usual tiramisu or cannoli, but better yet try a tartuffo ($4.75), a baseball-sized scoop of chocolate and mocha ice cream, rolled in a crumbly blanket of chocolate cookies. It's served on its own dinner platter, surrounded by a zigzag necklace of chocolate syrup.

    For dessert, you can have the usual tiramisu or cannoli, but better yet try a tartuffo ($4.75), a baseball-sized scoop of chocolate and mocha ice cream, rolled in a crumbly blanket of chocolate cookies. It's served on its own dinner platter, surrounded by a zigzag necklace of chocolate syrup.

    Apopka isn't exactly the crossroads of Orlando, but Caffe Positano's menu is so appealing that it rates a special trip, if necessary.

  • Chez Vincent

    533 W. New England Ave. Winter Park Area

    (407) 599-2929; (407) (FAX)

    The stylish mural outside Chez Vincent looks worthy of a cover of Vanity Fair from the 1930s. A lady and gentleman, in profile, sip from the same glass of wine and hint at what awaits within: seductive French cuisine in a casual, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Just weeks old, Chez Vincent is a shining new arrival on the spiffed-up streetscape in a happening enclave two blocks west of Park Avenue in Winter Park, and it promises to become a contender among the finest local restaurants.

    The smart interior – done in olives, taupes and creams – was conceived and executed by chef/co-owner Vincent Gagliano, formerly of Cafe de France. With just 15 tables, Chez Vincent is a restful oasis for a midday meal of hors d'oeuvres, soups and salads, or an elegant dinner with entrees that include Gulf shrimp sautéed in cream dill sauce ($18.50) and venison with sun-dried cherries in port wine sauce ($22.95). There's also an ample wine list, with 13 varieties served by the glass.

    The smart interior – done in olives, taupes and creams – was conceived and executed by chef/co-owner Vincent Gagliano, formerly of Cafe de France. With just 15 tables, Chez Vincent is a restful oasis for a midday meal of hors d'oeuvres, soups and salads, or an elegant dinner with entrees that include Gulf shrimp sautéed in cream dill sauce ($18.50) and venison with sun-dried cherries in port wine sauce ($22.95). There's also an ample wine list, with 13 varieties served by the glass.

    We were impressed with feuillettè d´escargots au porto, ($7.50), a crisp triangular puff pastry stuffed with dark, fleshy, sautéed snails and fortified by a sweet port wine sauce. The soupe du jour, vegetable ($3.95), was remarkable mainly for its excellent broth that had been simmering for several days, we were told, to enhance flavors of veal, leeks, thyme and carrots. Entrees are preceded by house salads, but I recommend upgrading to the unforgettable goat cheese salad, served warm with roasted pumpkin seeds over mixed baby greens ($2.65).

    We were impressed with feuillettè d´escargots au porto, ($7.50), a crisp triangular puff pastry stuffed with dark, fleshy, sautéed snails and fortified by a sweet port wine sauce. The soupe du jour, vegetable ($3.95), was remarkable mainly for its excellent broth that had been simmering for several days, we were told, to enhance flavors of veal, leeks, thyme and carrots. Entrees are preceded by house salads, but I recommend upgrading to the unforgettable goat cheese salad, served warm with roasted pumpkin seeds over mixed baby greens ($2.65).

    Among everything we ordered, the most outstanding was rack of lamb with blue cheese sauce ($21.50). Superbly tender, juicy portions of the rib were carved into chops and criss-crossed along the plate. A still life of sweet baby carrots and snow peas were arranged around the border, with a single rosette fashioned out of roasted apple skins. My guest enjoyed paupiette de poulet à la moutarde ($16.95), a boneless chicken breast pounded flat and rolled around an aromatic mixture of shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers and Swiss cheese, with a country Dijon sauce.

    Among everything we ordered, the most outstanding was rack of lamb with blue cheese sauce ($21.50). Superbly tender, juicy portions of the rib were carved into chops and criss-crossed along the plate. A still life of sweet baby carrots and snow peas were arranged around the border, with a single rosette fashioned out of roasted apple skins. My guest enjoyed paupiette de poulet à la moutarde ($16.95), a boneless chicken breast pounded flat and rolled around an aromatic mixture of shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers and Swiss cheese, with a country Dijon sauce.

    For dessert, chilled Grand Marnier soufflé ($5.25) stood tall on a small plate, creamy with undertones of citrus. I appreciated the flavors more fully after waiting a bit for it to warm up. Bavarios de chocolate ($4.95) consisted of chocolate and raspberry mousse layers, surrounded by a pool of mango coulis.

  • Da Vinci

    107 Magnolia Ave. Sanford

    (407) 323-1388

    It's interesting watching the whole "back-to-downtown" movement, not just here but all across the country. I'm not sure if it's dissatisfaction with suburban sprawl or a far-reaching desire for community, but people all over the country are heading back into the hearts of cities large and small.

    We see it here, and the amount of renovation work going on in Sanford means we're not alone. Where downtowns flourish, restaurants can't be far behind. Case in point, Da Vinci.

    We see it here, and the amount of renovation work going on in Sanford means we're not alone. Where downtowns flourish, restaurants can't be far behind. Case in point, Da Vinci.

    Da Vinci's chef and co-owner Kenny Stingone has a long and impressive career of feeding folks in the area. He has chef'd (is that a word?) at Bistro Capuccino, had a stint at Park Plaza Gardens in the mid-'80s and held the chef's spot at Café de France a couple of times. Upon that firm pedigree rests this first place of his own, nestled in the slowly revamping Magnolia Square section of downtown.

    Da Vinci's chef and co-owner Kenny Stingone has a long and impressive career of feeding folks in the area. He has chef'd (is that a word?) at Bistro Capuccino, had a stint at Park Plaza Gardens in the mid-'80s and held the chef's spot at Café de France a couple of times. Upon that firm pedigree rests this first place of his own, nestled in the slowly revamping Magnolia Square section of downtown.

    Co-owner Holliday Stingone, who led me to a table under one of several massive crystal chandeliers, asked how I found the place, and I had to answer truthfully – with difficulty. Because of one-ways and construction, you can't really get to Magnolia Square without making a good number of right-and left-turn combinations. I'd suggest Da Vinci for lunch first, just to see how to get there. The space itself is an old colonial-revival building with very high tin ceilings and aged walls. It's fitting to house what Chef Stingone calls his "Mediterranean-inspired" cuisine.

    Co-owner Holliday Stingone, who led me to a table under one of several massive crystal chandeliers, asked how I found the place, and I had to answer truthfully – with difficulty. Because of one-ways and construction, you can't really get to Magnolia Square without making a good number of right-and left-turn combinations. I'd suggest Da Vinci for lunch first, just to see how to get there. The space itself is an old colonial-revival building with very high tin ceilings and aged walls. It's fitting to house what Chef Stingone calls his "Mediterranean-inspired" cuisine.

    The "inspired" part means that some dishes, like the hearty and generous zuppa di pesce ($17.95), with fish, calamari and shellfish basted in spicy tomato, are quite authentic. Other items take creative liberties. I was pleased to see a non-veal alternative to saltinbocca made with chicken ($15.95), which featured a tender fillet with mozzarella and heaps of spinach. Pleased, that is, until I tried to chew through the thick slab of prosciutto gracing the top. "Shrimp Adriatic" ($15.95) was a better choice, huge shrimp combined with spinach and spicy sauce, then topped with crumbled feta cheese that gave it a tang. A couple of the shrimp had seen better days, but it was a good dish. The "escargot fricassee" appetizer ($5.95), rich snails in crustini with lemon butter and cheese, reminded me of dark woods and was very satisfying.

    The "inspired" part means that some dishes, like the hearty and generous zuppa di pesce ($17.95), with fish, calamari and shellfish basted in spicy tomato, are quite authentic. Other items take creative liberties. I was pleased to see a non-veal alternative to saltinbocca made with chicken ($15.95), which featured a tender fillet with mozzarella and heaps of spinach. Pleased, that is, until I tried to chew through the thick slab of prosciutto gracing the top. "Shrimp Adriatic" ($15.95) was a better choice, huge shrimp combined with spinach and spicy sauce, then topped with crumbled feta cheese that gave it a tang. A couple of the shrimp had seen better days, but it was a good dish. The "escargot fricassee" appetizer ($5.95), rich snails in crustini with lemon butter and cheese, reminded me of dark woods and was very satisfying.

    Da Vinci's is almost exactly 20 miles from downtown Orlando, a trip that probably takes less time than the aggravating trek to Disney. If you have a gas-guzzling SUV, that's about $6 for fuel plus around $60 for dinner for two in a slightly funky, potentially wonderful, as yet undiscovered restaurant. Seems like a bargain to me.

  • Dexter's of Lake Mary

    950 Market Promenade Ave., Suite 1201, Lake Mary North

    (407) 805-3090

    Some of my greatest meal memories are from the original Dexter's in Winter Park. It was there that I discovered my love of sitting around a table for hours with friends, eating, drinking and conversing. The original Dexter's on Fairbanks Avenue was magnificent for this discovery, an absolutely pleasurable spot where you could linger and listen to music, sip wine and enjoy enlivening food.

    Then came Dexter's in Thornton Park, which became my morning-after remedy from long nights at the Go Lounge. I loved getting up and riding my bike over to Washington Street to have brunch. There was no better way to nurse a hangover than with a basket of sweet potato chips and a Dexter's "special" – a honey-cured mesquite-smoked turkey sandwich. When the original Dexter's moved to another location, in west Winter Park, I went a couple of times, mostly on dates before the movies or to grab a quick sandwich and tasty salad.

    I guess you could say that Dexter's and I have grown up together. Dexter's kind of supplied the comfort food of my early adult life, introducing me to such favorites as buccatini, jerk spice and smoked cheese. So when I heard Dexter's was growing again and moving north to the suburbs, I wasn't sure what to think. I mean, I'm not ready for the suburbs yet. And would it have the same cool warehouse-space feel? Would the food be just as simple and pleasing?

    The new Dexter's in Lake Mary suffers a little from what I like to call Multiple Growth Restaurant Syndrome, the pesky disorder that occurs when a restaurant has been getting it right for so long that they become formulaic. Don't worry, though. Dexter's is up and running and handling this minor affliction quite well. The first sign of MGRS is in the restaurant's sterile location in a spanking-new shopping plaza. To get to the restaurant, I had to navigate I-4 up to the Lake Mary exit, then pass by the marquee of a shopping mall and drive past endless rows of parking spaces. There's not much of a chance that I'll wake up on a breezy morning and hop on my bike for a ride over here. Each of the other Dexter's locations is unique in the way the business molds itself to the surroundings. The new entry offers a more manufactured ambience, but my friends and I still found the experience enjoyable in every way. This Dexter's was still the Dexter's I knew and loved.

    A beautiful glass wine-storage closet nestled in nicely by the bar, creating the fun, sophisticated flair Dexter's is so well known for. All of the comfort foods I crave were on the new menu, so I had to start with the basket of delicious "cha-cha" chips mixed with sweet chips ($1.95), which always kicks up my appetite.

    From the café menu, my friends ordered my beloved garlic buccatini with fresh pesto ($6.95), a delectable mix of Alfredo sauce, basil, pine nuts and thick, hollow egg noodles. We also tried the "low country crab cakes" ($11.95) and our resident Marylander gave them the thumbs-up – flaky and tender, packed with sweet crab flavor and piqued by plenty of fresh red pepper and onion.

    We tried some items from the chef's special menu and found them delicious, as well. The chef here has the familiar Dexter's flair for giving comfort-food ingredients an exciting twist. The "chipotle marinated pork tenderloin" ($17.95) was bursting with heady spices such as cumin and cilantro, complementing the smoky aroma of the chipotle pepper. The "grilled filet with Stilton-bacon-demi glace" ($22.95) was steak and potatoes at its best. The fillet, juicy and served medium rare, was compatibly married to the opulent flavors of bacon and blue cheese. All of the dishes were enhanced by the accompaniment of a reasonably priced bottle of Acacia pinot noir. To finish our dinner off, we virtually scarfed the very satisfying and solid crème brûlée ($4.50) and the decadently chocolate "two mousse brownie" ($4.50).

    When I got up from my meal I realized that I had, once again, passed a lively two hours with friends at Dexter's. So even if Dexter's has become a bit formulaic, hey, the formula works.

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  • Dexter's of Thornton Park

    808 E. Washington St. Thornton Park

    (407) 648-2777

    With an attractive wait staff, eclectic art and 30-plus wines and champagnes, Dexter's makes you feel cool even if you're not. The unique selection of international beers is popular at this wine bar and café; the concrete floor means it can get noisy as hell.
    2 articles
  • Dexter's of Winter Park

    558 W. New England Ave. Winter Park Area

    407-629-1150

    The new Dexter's in Winter Park no longer sells wine for retail, a practice left behind when the hot spot relocated to west Winter Park. Still, the reinvented landmark offers a more elevated wine experience than before, with a sommelier on staff to advance the "captain's list" of rare vintages, stored in a smart, white-washed Chicago-brick vault.

    With the oversized French doors open to the streetscape, the dining area is far more roomy. The butcher-block tables and stools have been replaced by low, cherry-wood tables with Art Deco chairs. And there's no shortage of parking (a problem that plagues Dexter's in Thornton Park). The dinner menu remains constant, and the "cafe menu" adds variety with seasonal items, such as the current hickory-smoked tuna tartare ($9.95). And from the buffed cement bar you can try 30 wines by the glass.

    4 articles
  • Extract Juice Bar

    101 S. Garland Ave. Downtown

  • Fredster's

    1720 Fennell St., Maitland Winter Park Area

    321-444-6331

    1 article
  • Genuine Bistro

    2 S. Charles Richard Beall Blvd., DeBary North

    (386) 320-0217

    People, like cheese, wine or steak, tend to mellow with age, and Barrie Freeman is no different. The woman responsible for shaping downtown Orlando's nascent dining and nightlife scene in the early '90s with such venerable (and still fondly recalled) haunts as the Yab Yum Coffeehouse (later Harold & Maude's Espresso Bar), Go Lounge, Kit Kat Club (ahh, the impromptu nakedness!) and the Globe has since withdrawn to the sedate pastures of Volusia County. But after about a decade of focusing on raising her children, Freeman is back at it, this time shaping the nascent dining and nightlife scene in ... downtown DeBary. Along with co-owners Carla MacKenzie and Laura Beardall McLeod, she's opened Genuine Bistro, a restaurant diametrically, philosophically and gastronomically at odds with the town in which it's situated. Tattooed servers shuffle between the bistro's retro-cool interior (the lighted wood ceiling is gorgeous) and the spacious, undeniably laid-back, outdoor patio positioned at the front of the restaurant. You'll find Freeman, pretty well-inked herself, serving plates and hobnobbing with diners ' her genuinely amiable and effervescent personality being just one of the reasons diners pack the place night in and night out. Live music, exceptional customer service and well-executed dishes are three more.

    We were enjoying some KFC, or "killer-fried calamari" ($8.95), on the patio when Freeman came over to chat. She spoke of the building and its former life as a bank, then left to get "before" photos of the space to show us. In the meantime, head chef Tommy Vitek popped by, snatched up our bowl of KFC and swapped it with a fresh order. Evidently, Freeman noticed the crumbly breading on the batch at our table, so had Vitek replace it. We were astounded, and that gracious act set the tone for the rest of the evening. Another starter, a superb steak and tomato flatbread, ($8.95) featured doughy bread holding thick strips of juicy sirloin punched up with fresh basil. The only blemish: a liberal drizzling of olive oil that collected at the bottom of the plate and soaked the garlicky bread.

    Before we knew it, and after we looked at the "before" photos, our entrees were laid before us (not after). A pleasant sweetness in the creamy sauce of the chicken frangelica ($15.90) gave rise to nodding heads and grunts of approval. The sauteed dish layered with capicola ham, baby spinach, peanuts and havarti-topped mushrooms was a hearty one, made all the more filling thanks to a side of crisp veggies and simultaneously creamy and chunky mashed baby reds. Perfectly broiled Chilean sea bass ($21.95) was given a marginal tang by a lemon-butter sauce, but the eco-conscious should take heed; Chilean sea bass is on Seafood Watch's "avoid" list. Desserts like creamy tiramisu ($4.95), vodka-laced black Russian cake ($6.95) and house-made Key lime pie ($3.95) aren't particularly mind-blowing, but all make decent enough endings.

    DeBary isn't the first place that comes to mind when considering a destination dining locale, but Genuine Bistro is well worth consideration. And if you don't know your way around this rural hamlet, fear not. The giant "G" ensconced on the wall inside the restaurant is big enough to serve as a beacon for those in search of a good meal. 

  • Haos on Church

    123 W. Church St. Downtown

    4072034099

    3 articles
  • Jamba Juice

    12513 State Road 535 Kissimmee

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