Orlando Eats and Treats
by David J. Cox
This visitor paradise has so much to offer that travelers sometimes forget that there is a local cuisine to be discovered. In Orlando, you can find some great unique options, as well as every chain restaurant and fast food option you can imagine. We tried a little of everything.
Authenticity is the name of the game at Coco Thai.
The menu is filled with colorful and flavorful creations, and the head chef ensured that the presentation that pleased the eye as much as the palate. For starters, we chose the basil rolls and steamed dumplings, both doing their job and whetting our appetite.
Our table’s entrées were a cross-section of the menu and included Thai favorites Vegetable Fried Rice, which was crispy and full of flavor, and a spicy Pad Thai (the national dish of Thailand) was perfect. A little more exotic were the Three Flavored Fish, a deep fried whole flounder topped with a delicious sauce and finally a potato, onion and peanut Masaman curry.
Though the food may be the reason to visit, the ambiance is also worth mentioning. Open since 2017, the restaurant is sleek, stylish and contemporary compared to most traditional Thai restaurants. Art in food preparation and in presentation!
This neighbourhood pub was welcoming, warm and friendly. The menu included traditional pub fare and some really odd and intriguing burgers, including the Cronie Burger, which is a French doughnut served with a half-pound Angus burger, topped with maple-pepper bacon, smoked Gouda cheese and an over-medium egg!
Our table decided on more traditional dishes. We started with some finger-licking BBQ wings and amazing loaded perogies that came smothered in a great siracha Alfredo sauce and fried onions.
Main courses were next-level good. Though none of us tried their Teak Challenge burger (2 pounds of beef, 24 slices of bacon and 18 slices of cheese…for starters), we did enjoy the Pig burger with smoked ham, bacon and pulled pork, a pesto chicken flat-bread sandwich, and both salmon with lemon dill Buerre Blanc sauce and a salmon served on a great Greek salad.
A great personal touch was the walls of fame and shame, which are a great tribute to the brave souls who have attempted to eat the Challenge burger!
Black Rooster Taqueria
The husband and wife team owners, John and Juliana Calloway, started this wondrous Farm to Taco concept restaurant in heart of the Mills50 District community after working in Mexico and falling in love with the food.
The recipes are based on authentic Mexican cuisine are made with fresh ingredients that make them simple and delicious. They are especially proud of the organic corn tortillas made to order right in front of the guests.
Though they do not have a “signature dish”, the menu contains a collection of unique and authentic choices that build on the traditional foods of Mexico. Their Achiote Pork Taco is cooked for over 36 hours and is filled with melt in your mouth pork, and the Black Rooster Taco with seared beef, Applewood bacon, Oaxaca cheese and smoked chile poblano is pure bliss.
Their appetizers, including a made to order guacamole and a Pozole Verde bowl are must haves. But leave room for dessert! Their two mouth-watering choices are the chocolate-chipotle flan with peanut butter and a Tres Leches cake.
This small gem is a must-visit for foodies who love authentic cuisine. The Taqueria is a small, intimate space that makes visitors feel like they are in the heart of Mexico.
The Orlando incarnation of this chain, that started in Philadelphia’s Old City in 2000, is a trip into Cuba’s intriguing flavors, music and culture. The restaurant is housed in a multi-flooruilding with classic architecture and an open concept. You feel like you are in the courtyard of a Cuban villa. It is something to see in person as words cannot do it justice!
Waiting for dinner, we were offered coconut mojitos, which were quite good with high-end rum and a smooth taste. Dinner started with some delicious appetizers, including the unique Crab Guacamole with fried plantains, some ‘traditional street Malanga snacks’ and some delicious Manchego cheese and spinach fritters.
Dinner would offer the best fish I have ever had, the Pargo Frito, which was a whole red snapper served with a red curry-mango mojito sauce. Other dishes sampled were a fully loaded seafood Paella, the Ropa Vieja with braised shredded and stewed brisket, and their Arroz Con Pollo, with rice, chorizo and a roasted piquillo pepper salad. All were well presented, tasty and perfectly spiced.
Desert was presented a la cart, with a selection of freshly made single serve dishes. Every night is different, and we enjoyed a blueberry cheesecake, crème Brule and a rum-infused tiramisu.
Wonderful ambiance and great food!
Terralina Crafted Italian
Terralina Crafted Italian offers a perfect vantage point to Lake Buena Vista as guests enjoy the simple yet delicious meals offered by this unique restaurant.
Starting with a fresh loaf of bread with a side of olive oil and pickled veggies for dipping, the meal was off to a good start.
Inspired by crafted Italian cooking, genuine flavors and authentic dishes, the kitchen uses its wood-burning oven for hand tossed pizzas and calzones. We shared a calzone for appetizer and then moved onto our individual meals.
The grilled vegetable panini was perfectly seasoned and the veggies were a blend with mushrooms, peppers, eggplant and onions. The chicken parmesan was also prepared to perfection with a delicate sauce that accentuated the chicken without overpowering it.
The spaghetti and meatballs and penne and shrimp were simply marvellous and noting the silence during the meal, we were all enjoying the meal so much we were rendered speechless!
A tasty experience boosted by the great stage offerings of live music.
The Tin Roof prides itself on giving musicians a place to play and customers a place to enjoy a good meal. We were treated to a great solo artist offering his renditions of varied artists like the Eagles and Elton John. As he played, we chowed down on an appetizer of their delicious Dixie biscuits which are fried biscuit sliders with house smoked brisket, bacon, peach jam and cheddar cheese.
Our dinners would be equally tasty. The Crazy Fish tacos were made to perfection with picked red onion and gochujang mayo, and their Garden Quesadilla was bursting with flavour, as onions, mushrooms, corn and peppers were stuffed into a perfectly grilled tortilla.
The others at the table enjoyed the Candy Pig Mac and Cheese, with its sweet and spicy sauce and the Voodoo shrimp plate, where the seafood was smothered in Creole sauce and fresh cream.
A great place for comfort food and good music!
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