Fat Kahunas

**** (4 stars)

If you’re looking for good food right at the beach in Cocoa, this is the place. It’s not just your typical fried fish hut, but an excellent restaurant with a range of offerings that is an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

We particularly enjoyed the coconut shrimp appetizer and the wedge salad. The entrees were also good, with a massive plate of “Malibu” chicken — chicken covered with cheddar cheese, bacon and mushrooms.  I was a bit surprised that there was no tartar sauce for the fish and chips. Side dishes, which come with the entrees, were also very good, especially the coconut rice and the cole slaw.

Pricing is extremely reasonable for the great quality and large portions.

Reservations are really important. This restaurant has only five inside tables, and two more outside, so plan ahead, or come at an off time!

Fat Kahunas
8 Minuteman Cswy
Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
(321) 783-6858

LoudMouth Grill

*** (3 stars)

This is the third incarnation of what we call “Naughty Perkins Sports Bar” in honor of its coffee shop history, when Tiger Woods picked up waitresses here. From coffee shop it transition to sports bar. Now LoudMouth is little changed from its days as MVP Sports Bar, except that the food has become even less healthful!

The featured item pretty much says it all: the LoudMouth Burger is a bacon cheeseburger served not on a bun, but between two grilled cheese sandwiches. If this sounds incredibly greasy, well, it is. Of course, I felt obligated to try it. It wasn’t bad, but the beef patty was its weak point. The grilled cheese sandwiches and bacon were delicious. The burger was accompanied by excellent waffle fries and a chunk of dill pickle.

We also tried a Ceasar salad that was okay except for a couple of bits of rancid crouton.

Service was friendly and attentive, but the employees outnumbered the patrons for weekday lunch, so I’m not sure of the prospects for this incarnation.

LoudMouth Grill
8965 Conroy Windermere Rd
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 217-6877

Bistro CloClo



***** (5 stars)

Authentic French Bistro food and sidewalk cafe ambience, too. Just as cafes spill out onto the sidewalks in Paris, CloClo spills out onto the sidewalk at the Dr. Phillips Marketplace, but it is considerably more weatherproof than a Paris cafe, a good think on a rainy Orlando afternoon!

The lunch menu offers the starters and lighter fare one would expect in Paris, including “Croque” sandwiches, a quiche of the day, and crepes. For me the highlights are the starters, including the smoked salmon, pates, and especially the mussels, which were perhaps the best I’ve had anywhere, finished in a delicate wine and cream sauce with a touch of herbs and a much lighter garlic dose than most places.

The white sangria, a house specialty, was an unexpected surprise, and very refreshing. There are also a variety of Champagne cocktails.

At night the sandwiches disappear and a few more entrees are added, but it’s largely the same menu.

The wine list is a bit scatterbrained at the moment, although there are plenty of interesting offerings. and it’s in the process of an upgrade.

This space was problematic when it was Press 101 because of an awkwardly placed ordering counter and bar. That has been corrected, and there is now an elegant indoor dining room in addition to the sidewalk area.

Food and beverage pricing is very reasonable.

Bistro CloClo is a great addition to Southwest Orange County, which really needed an authentic French restaurant. The fact that is it a Bistro with great ambience is a real plus.

Bistro CloClo
7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 745-5045


**** (4 stars)

Orlando needs more restaurants with great ambience, and Txokos certainly leads the pack. The main dining room with its wood grill and chef’s bar seating are particularly nice, and the subdued Euro-inspired soundtrack is perfect.

All of the food we had was good, but several items were particularly noteworthy, and they weren’t necessarily the ones we’d have guessed. Standouts were the manchego cheese and figs on skewers and the grilled spring onions. Both were reasonably priced, in contrast to the expensive and uninspired charcuterie plate.

There are some excellent Spanish wines on the list, including a very reasonably priced Tondonia Rioja.

Service was very attentive, and there are a nice assortment of sherries and other Spanish libations by the glass.

3201 Corrine Dr
Orlando, FL 32804
(321) 972-8852

Usagi Ya

**** (4 stars)

This stylish sushi bar offers so excellent cooked and raw items.  The Tuna Tower and Hamachi Jalapeno were our favorites. Service (by presumably the owner) was friendly and attentive. You can sit in a cozy booth in the front windows, or have a more private space in the rear.

Usagi Ya
1178 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(773) 292-5885

Chopin Theatre

***** (5 stars)

This is a funky, eclectic space with an upstairs reception and bar, and then a larger parlor in the basement, all a preview to a basement theatre that’s low on frills but very professional.  The show we saw had excellent talent and first rate stagecraft. Definitely a good (and surprising) place to see some creative theatre.

Chopin Theatre
1543 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 278-1500

Sloppy Taco Palace

**** (4 stars)

Yes, the tacos are sloppy. And good. Very good. But what is GREAT is the sloppy dog. Also bizarre. It’s a delicious hot dog in a tortilla, covered in chili and nacho cheese. And it’s five times better than you imagined from that description.

The Greek wrap and Greek taco are also really good. The sliders are, um, how can I put this… lousy.

Tater tots are the most popular side, and are delicious.

Service is fun; our regular lunch waitress is quick with the jokes and the refills, and makes each lunch a bit of a lark.

We like to eat outside on the covered porch because it doesn’t smell like old beer, which, let’s face it, the inside does. It looks like they have some wild bands in the evening but I’ve never been there then.

Tip: lunch specials most days are really cheap.

Sloppy Taco Palace
4892 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 574-6474

North Pond

**** (4 stars)

An idyllic setting for a restaurant. When you can sit in the front room with all the wall opened up on a nice evening there is no more pleasant dining venue in Chicago.

We had the tasting menu, and felt that it contained many interesting and delicious ingredients that didn’t necessarily combine into something greater than the individual parts. But each dish had lots going on in it, for sure. The most successful were actually two courses that were added, a amuse bouche of curry and pineapple soup, and a pre-dessert with mace ice cream. The dessert itself was also a highlight.

THe accompanying wine pairing is a good deal. While there are no stunners, the wines work well  with the dishes, particularly considering home many disparate flavors there are in each one.

Our waiter, though hurried, was obviously really passionate, and shared an anecdote about each wine.

Overall I’d certainly return, not so much for the wine as for the overall experience.

North Pond
2610 N Cannon Dr
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 477-5845

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants

**** (4 stars)

This is a bustling operation divided into many dining rooms and fronted by a large gift shop. They offer a broad range of wines they barrel age and presumably blend themselves, and we found them sound if not inspired, and reasonably priced. The food was excellent, from the vegetarian flatbread to the fish main courses. The menu is extensive, and I’m sure we’ll return to explore further. Service was friendly and efficient.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants
798 W Algonquin Rd
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(847) 981-0900