Del Taco


**** (4 stars)

Del Taco consistently seems a bit more generous than Taco Bell, and the ingredients often seem a bit fresher, or at least more discrete. This location–a rarity in Central Florida–seems fairly friendly and efficient.

My wife and I have always disagreed about whether Taco Bell’s or Del Taco’s tostadas are better. There’s a philosophical argument about whether the cheese belongs underneath the lettuce, where it melts, or on top, where it imparts more flavor but falls off. More research is needed. I’m on it.

Del Taco
6855 Grand National Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-0738

Earls Kitchen + Bar



Dining room

Salt and pepper wings

Kung pao


*** (3 stars)

This is an absolutely stunning (and huge) space, that sports perhaps the best interior design of any restaurant in Orlando. Unfortunately the food doesn’t live up to the high expectations set by the design.

We tried the salt and pepper chicken wings (actually we wanted to try Leroy’s crispy ribs, but the waiter got the order wrong). They were the best thing we had, with a nice crisp skin, not too much oil, and a nice black pepper spice. The accompanying parmesan ranch dressing was also good.

We almost tried the Bronx Burger, and probably should have, because it seems like the strategy here is to stick with junk foods. But instead we tried the Hunan Kung Pao and the Bibimbap.

It’s a good rule to avoid Asian foods in non-Asian restaurants, and that was reinforced here. The Kung Pao didn’t offer any of the fresh, discrete tastes that make it special (although it looked very nice). The Bibimbap didn’t even look nice. By the time it was mixed tableside to get the raw egg to cook, the rice had turned into a gelatinous mess that was a pale imitation of a well-made bibimbap. I would definitely not order this.

Lunch for one, without appetizer or alcohol, but including soft drink and a tip will run you about $20.

Our waiter was well intentioned, but as he talked about how two weeks of soft opening had benefitted the staff since many had never worked in a restaurant, we became a bit worried. Getting the order right and splitting a check, and even tableside credit card processing were all part of the learning curve. Still, I will say that every employee we encountered (and there were many) were extremely friendly, outgoing, and obviously cared about making a good impression. I’m sure this will soon be a very well run operation. Now they just need to do something about the food.

Earls Kitchen + Bar
Mall At Millenia
4200 Conroy Rd, Unit H246
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 345-8260

Pizza Hut


Side Caesar

Hand Tossed Pepperoni Lover's Pizza

Hand Tossed Pepperoni Lover’s Pizza


**** (4 stars)

This is a counter service location with a small dine in area that includes a bar. There is the obligatory wall of sports-bar-like TV monitors.

Service was efficient, even on a bustling Saturday night. The side Caesar salad is a great deal at $2.50, and the individual hand tossed pepperoni lovers pizza was served piping hot from the oven and had plenty of toppings.

Pizza Hut
7970 Winter Garden Vineland Rd
Ste 100
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 909-4327

Jersey Mike’s Subs

** (2 stars)

I’ll confess I’m not a huge sub sandwich fan. I love sandwiches, but I regard subs as the bottom level of sandwich quality.

They used to be even worse, when Subway was the only game in town, but then Quizznos forced them to raise the bar with more breads and toasted options. Then Quizznos was forced out of our area by Jimmy John’s which specialized in speed of assembly, and Firehouse, which introduced better ingredients.

That leave Jersey Mikes in a neverland. They don’t have Firehouse’s quality or Jimmy John’s speed. They don’t even have Subway’s variety of bread.

What they do have–at this location, anyway–is a nice outside eating area that attracts a breeze to cool things off, even in summer.

The pastrami sub I had, prepared the default way, was pretty flavorless. But perhas the addition of some mustard and peppers could zest it up. Still, with a Firehouse a few blocks away, I’d probably go there instead.

Jersey Mike’s Subs
6700 Conroy Rd
Ste 100A
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 445-6453

Cafe D’Antonio Celebration

Quattro pizza


Caesar salad


** (2 stars)

This really should be a much better restaurant than it is, given its nice decor and great location.

Pizza crust is fairly flavorless and limp, and many of the toppings are obviously canned.

Beef Carpaccio was pretty much flavorless.

Ceasar salad was good.

Although very few tables were seated, both the kitchen and the service in general were slow.

There is a nice selection of wines by the glass at reasonable prices.

Cafe D’Antonio Celebration
691 Front St
Celebration, FL 34747
(407) 566-2233

Nona Blue Modern Tavern

Smoked salmon dip

Chicken tenders

House made salsa


**** (4 stars)

Nona Blue is a particularly nice sports bar. It has lower lighting levels and nicer decor than most, and the menu, while offering familiar dishes, adds a unique twist to most.

For example, the salsa is house made, filled with interesting herbs and onions, and served in a large dish that would easily service four people. (If you like it spicy you’ll need to ask for some tabasco to add some zip, as it’s quite mild). The accompanying chips were fresh and plentiful.

Smoked salmon dip was fresh tasting and flavorful. It contains quite a bit of egg white, so be aware if that’s not your thing.

The chicken tenders were exceptional. They aren’t the usual chopped up chicken, but were tender strips of white meat in a spectacularly crunchy, crisp, yet oil-free crust. We had them tossed in buffalo sauce rather than the standard BBQ or honey. Our waiter brought the other sauces to try, but the buffalo sauce was a great call. They were delicious.

Speaking of our waiter, he was very friendly and helpful. Service was definitely beyond expectations.

Nona Blue Modern Tavern
9685 Lake Nona Village Pl
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 313-0027

Carrabba’s Italian Grill



Zucchini Fritte

Sandwich and soup

Lettuce wraps

**** (4 stars)

I’ve always thought Carrabba’s is much better than other chain restaurants, and this visit reinforced that opinion. None of the food items taste like they are “formulated” in an industrial kitchen. Ingredients are fresh and flavors are discrete and complex.

I’m pleased that many Carrabba’s locations are now open for lunch, as it’s much more likely for me to visit then. It was quiet the rainy Thursday we stopped in but business was starting to pick up in the afternoon.

The interior of this location is particularly nice, more like an upscale steakhouse than a chain Italian restaurant.

We started with the zucchini frittes, which were like very light french fries. They were excellent, but we probably didn’t need them in addition to the lunch that was to follow. Still, we nearly finished them.

The Pick Three lunch deal is a great way to try several things. I chose the Caesar salad, lentil sausage soup and lettuce wraps.

I would ask for less dressing on the salad next time, but it was excellent.

The soup was good too, although so rich I could only eat half. The generous serving of sausage had a really nice fennel component.

But the highlight was the lettuce wraps. This “small plate” wasn’t so small, with three lettuce leaves filled with a chicken mixture that was an interesting combination of Vietnamese, Italian and other Mediterranean flavors. I could only eat one of these but took the other two home for dinner.

That was quite a lunch for the price!

Service was exceptional, both from our server, the attentive manager, and the friendly hostess staff.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill
8702 Vineland Ave
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 938-0015


Elvis green chili fried chicken (green chili festival)

Valley combo (green chili festival)


**** (4 stars)

This location of Chuy’s is a bit easier to get to than the one in the very crowded stretch of International Drive. The decor is the same funky coolness, but with different themes and pictures.

We went during the annual green chili festival, which offered some different menu items, although they didn’t have the promised complementary fresh green chilis.

The best thing to get at Chuy’s is the appetizer combo, which makes a great and economical meal for two people. Another excellent selection is the taco salad, one of the more healthful (as in “more healthful than extremely bad for you”) items. Get it with the creamy jalapeno dressing. You can also ask for that as a chip dipping sauce, which is delicious.

Speaking of chips, perhaps the very best thing about Chuy’s is the ultra-thin chips served when you sit down. They are always crisp, and despite their thinness they are sturdy enough to support a big scoop of salsa.

Margaritas are also excellent.

Our server here seemed like she was still learning, but she was a bit busy.

Overall a very good experience.

7913 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee, FL 34747
(407) 787-3545


Custom pizza and side salad

Custom bistro burger


Counter and touch screens


Redemption area

*** (3 stars)

This is probably the nicest McDonald’s you’ll visit. The downstairs is divided into several nice eating areas, and the upstairs contains a large play area and many redemption games.

I’m not a frequent fast food eater, and especially not at McDonald’s, but we went here to check out their touch screen ordering system. It worked great, and allowed us to customize our orders of Bistro Burgers and Pizza.

After selecting the desired ingredients, you select a numbered “hockey puck,” enter its code, pay (I used Apple Pay) and find a seat. Then your food finds you.

The actual food was no different then other McDonald’s. The burger had good ingredients, but the beef patty itself didn’t distinguish it. The pizza toppings were good but the crust was limp.

If you’re looking for a decent environment for a fast food meal, and want to entertain the kids, this is a good choice.

6875 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 351-2185

Tijuana Flats

Mexican pizza


**** (4 stars)

This chain’s food is consistent from location to location. This location is a bit larger than some of the others, and has more outdoor seating. The hot sauce bar here has more selections than the one on Kirkman.

If you order the Mexican pizza, ask for the red sauce on the side, as it is rather odd.

Because of its size, it can be quite noisy, especially at lunchtime on Taco Tuesdays.

Tijuana Flats
7560 W. Sand Lake Rd.
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 352-6113