Noe Restaurant and Bar

Popcorn chicken

Tuna tartare

**** (4 stars)

The bar here offers a delightful intimate atmosphere, with live piano music in the evenings, and a nice outside dining area with heaters. The menu is arranged from tinest to largest “small plates” with a wide variety of nibbles to something enough for a full dinner.

There is a small assortment of wines by the glass, and a lot of spirits.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Noe Restaurant and Bar
251 S Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 356-4100



Steak frites

Provencal plate

***** (5 stars)

This is a delightful spot to sit outside downtown, with no noise and a great view. There are heaters and a fireplace to keep warm in winter, and clear glass windbreaks all around.

The menu offers a nice combination of small plates and main dishes. We really liked both the tuna tartare and mussel starters, and my Provencal vegetable plate was excellent.

There is a medium sized list of wines, with about a fourth available by the glass. There is also an extensive spirits list.

Service is friendly and efficient, and pricing is reasonable.

448 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 802-1770

El Tenampa


Appetizer sampler

**** (4 stars)

This is a nicely decorated neighborhood restaurant with excellent service. The first impression is that it will be very authentic Mexican, and there are such items on the menu, but there is also a lot of Americanized Tex Mex.

We tried the appetizer sampler of quesadilla, guacamole, chicken taquitos, and nachos. The nachos were too much about refried beans for my taste, but the rest of the items were good.

Because the appetizer was very generous we just shared a taco plate. Three authentic tacos were served on soft corn tortillas. The beef was okay, and the carnitas was tender but not very flavorful. However the pastor was terrific, with lots of flavor and a slight kick. All were topped with fresh cilantro.

There’s a full bar. The margarita I had was heavy on agave flavor, but a generous pour. Prices are reasonable.

El Tenampa
11242 S Orange Blossom Trl
Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 850-9499

Coral Reef


Chargrilled octopus


Bailey’s and Jack Daniel’s Mousse

*** (3 stars)

When it first opened this was one of the best restaurants at Epcot. They offered a true upscale dining experience and a spectacular view of the fish tank at the Seas Pavilion.

The view of the tank is still there, but the upscale dining experience is long gone. The reason, as with most of the other restaurants at Walt Disney World, is the advent of dining packages. Because guests can now get the food as part of their lodging and admissions packet, it has had a leveling effect on all of the restaurants, where everything is somewhat uniform. It’s not that the food is bad, it’s just very similar, and none of it stands out.

This is particularly apparent at the Coral Reef, which despite its theming isn’t really even a seafood restaurant anymore. Chicken and meat dishes outnumber the few fish dishes on the menu.

I had the chargrilled octopus, which was good, and the scampi, which included a skewer of decent shrimp and scallops over a completely flavorless pile of unsauced spaghetti.

Dinner for four, with a bottle of wine and tip, was over $300. Service was friendly and helpful, and the view is great.

Coral Reef
Walt Disney World Resort
Epcot’s Living Seas Pavilion
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32856
(407) 824-4321

Samurai Blue Sushi & Sake Bar


Sashimi bento box

**** (4 stars)

This is a very cool space for an experience a bit different from the rest of Ybor City. The towering brick walls and exposed wooden rafters create a surprisingly pleasant ambiance for decent sushi. The lunch bento boxes are a good deal, and the sushi is good, if not particularly inspired. Service was pleasant.

Samurai Blue Sushi & Sake Bar
1600 E 8th Ave
Ste C208
Tampa, FL 33605
(813) 242-6688

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant




Smoked salmon poke with pineapple

Teriyaki tots

Pork sweet plantain dumplings

Scallion pancake quesadilla

Chimichanga eggroll

Edamame frito

Ropa Viejo Bibimbap a Gaballo

***** (5 stars)

Many restaurants call themselves “fusion” cuisine when all they’re really doing is serving two different cuisines. So I was delighted to discover that El Buda is serving a true blending of Latin and Asian cuisines, and some of the most creative food in Central Florida.

We tried a broad range of their small plates, and the combination of flavors in each was superb. I particularly liked the eggroll and the quesadilla. The only slight disappointment was I thought the ropa vieja was too salty.

Service was friendly but obviously inexperienced. This didn’t interfere with our enjoyment of the meal, though. It was great to find someplace still fully staffed and serving great food late on a Sunday night after a show.

This space has been many, many restaurants, probably because it doesn’t open directly onto Church Street, but instead faces the railroad tracks. This is by far the best restaurant that’s been here, and I hope it prospers, as it truly is among the most creative in Orlando.

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant
116 W Church St
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 203-8171

STK Orlando


Dining room

Pull apart bread

Small seafood platter

Truffle fries

Mini burgers

Crispy rock shrimp

Carmelito Bar

*** (3 stars)

If you’re looking for a steakhouse experience in Disney Springs, this is it. It’s not going to change your life, but it is fine.

You’ll find all the usual offerings, and not much outside the box.

We started with the seafood tower, which is expensive (well, everything is expensive) but included a generous portion of fresh, giant shrimp, the best thing we had. The most interesting component was the two jars, one of smoked mussels and the other ceviche, although I wasn’t wild about the marinade on either.

Complimentary “pull apart sourdough” is included, but you’ll find that it is more like Parkerhouse rolls with blue cheese butter on top.

We skipped the steak and tried a couple of other appetizers. My companion liked the mini burgers, but I couldn’t really deal with the uncooked center of the patty. Truffle fries were good, and a serving for four to six people. Crispy rock shrimp was essentially the same dish as the bang bang shrimp at Bonefish. It was fine, but I’d actually ordered the crispy rock shrimp salad (repeating the word salad twice to our waiter, who wasn’t very good at listening).

Our waiter was good at talking, though. He was one of those people who have to tell you everything they’re going to do: “I’m going to bring you fresh silverware”, “I’ll go get your bread” and even “I’m moving the candle to make room for your next course.” I wish he’d spent some time on refilling water glasses or pouring more wine, two things that didn’t seem to be on his list.

Speaking of wine, it’s expensive, especially by the glass. You’re looking at $16-$28 per glass. We opted for an $82 bottle of Chardonnay instead. If you can deal with the pricing, the selections are excellent.

The carmelito bar was an excellent dessert, with several layers of different flavors and an excellent caramel sauce.

I’m not sure Orlando needed another steakhouse rather than a truly interesting fine dining restaurant, but that seems to be the trend, and I guess Disney Springs didn’t have one. Now it does.

STK Orlando
1580 E Buena Vista Dr
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 917-7440

Zoës Kitchen


Salmon kabobs

***** (5 stars)

Zoe’s must have the most healthful cuisine of any quick-serve nationwide chain. I love everything on the menu, but my favorite is the salmon skewers. They’re always perfectly charred and very fresh. Get them with the harissa sauce to kick it up a notch.

My favorite accompaniments are the roasted vegetables, greek salad and the hummus.’

This location of Zoe’s can be a pain to get to because of traffic, but there is plenty of parking, unlike the one on Sand Lake Road, where parking is impossible.

Zoës Kitchen
4724 Millenia Plaza Way
Ste C
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 351-6050

Reyes Mezcaleria




Chips, salsa and guacamole


Tuna tostada

Carnitas taco

***** (5 stars)

It’s about time Orlando got a gourmet Mexican restaurant! When we travel I always enjoy trying Mexican places that are doing fusion cuisine, or thinking outside the box, like fine dining restaurants do in Mexico. The chef at Reyes is drawing upon Baja and other seacoast cusines, and says he was influenced by Rick Bayless’ (Frontera, Topolobompo) cooking, but I actually thought it was better than those places.

We started with chips and salsa, and guacamole, just to compare the old standards. The chips are obviously house-made, thick and sturdy, with a good corn flavor. The guacamole was good, enhanced by pickled onions on top. The salsas were outstanding: a fairly typical red, excellent green, and amazing chipotle. I’m not even a big fan of chipotle peppers, but I couldn’t stop eating that one!

The other appetizer we tried was the ceviche. My companion enjoyed it, but I felt like the fish was overcooked, either by the lime juice or perhaps actual cooking, I couldn’t tell.

For our mains we shared the tuna tostada and 12-hour carnitas tacos. Both were excellent. The tostada featured thin slices of tuna on a thin, flat fried tortilla, and the delicate fish wasn’t overwhelmed by the toppings. The carnitas are a house specialty, and I can see why, They are incredibly succulent and tender, and just needed a squeeze of lime to make a perfect soft taco.

The space is a remodel of the old Citrus restaurant, and has benefitted from being lightened up.

Service was attentive, except for an unexplained disappearing act when we were ready for the check.

The place is all hard surfaces, so I’m sure it can get noisy, but the back room seems quieter, and there wasn’t anyone else in there at brunch, so we enjoyed it very much.

Reyes Mezcaleria
821 N Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 868-9007

O’town Burgers N Wings

Lunch wings combo

Lunch 1/2 pound Angus burger combo



***** (5 stars)

Usually when a place tries to do too many things, they fail to do any one thing well. Fortunately, that’s not the case at O’Town. Not only do they have one of the best burgers in town, they also have terrific wings. Plus the gyros, shawarma, and other offerings look great, too.

We shared the lunch combo burger and the lunch combo wings. The burger was a generous 1/2 pound of Angus beef, perfectly seared with a bit of char on the outside, and with all my favorite toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion slice, pickles, and a mayo-based sauce. I added a bit of mustard and it was heaven.

I also really liked the wings, which were perfectly cooked, not fatty, and served with a delicious teriyaki sauce (many other sauces are also available).

Each special came with fries (thin cut) and a drink, and both were reasonably priced.

Service was friendly. It took a while because the food was cooked to order, but not too long, and when our food was delivered our drinks were refilled.

I’d definitely place this in the top burgers in town, and will definitely return.

O’town Burgers N Wings
6614 Old Winter Garden Rd
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 286-0515