Taqueria Ameca Jalisco

**** (4 stars)

Q. Where can you get two tacos, an enchilada, a quesadilla and a drink for $8? And I don’t mean $8 each, I mean $8 total!

A. Taqueria Ameca Jalisco, that’s where!

This small taqueria located in a somewhat industrial section of Orange Avenue south of downtown has very good food at very low prices.

The menu is scrawled on a white board near the register, and presumably changes a bit from day to day, although nothing had the look of a special. Pretty much you can get any meat in either a taco, enchilada or quesadilla (and perhaps some other things–when I said “scrawled” I meant it).

Be prepared for a wait. There are only a couple of folks preparing food, and at lunch it was busy.

There’s a salsa bar that has minced cilantro and onions, several types of sauce, cabbage, and even beans.

Tacos are served on relatively small and very authentic corn tortillas, with an extra tortilla for everything that falls out of the first one. Try the barbecue with some cilantro, onions and green sauce. My delicioso!

Taqueria Ameca Jalisco
3558 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 851-1876

The Library

***** (5 stars)

We absolutely loved this place. It has all the advantages of the food from the Gilt Bar upstairs, but without the noise.

I’m surprised they don’t bill this as a speakeasy, because it has that atmosphere: a twisting passageway downstair to find the almost hidden door, and lighting that takes a few minutes to adjust to. Candles on book shelves provide part of the illumination, and the fancy bar at one end looks like it’s straight out of the 20s.

We tried a large portion of the menu, and loved everything except perhaps the bone marrow and the rib eye. Mussels were a standout.

Of course with this theming there are cocktails, and many fine choices among them. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, so I was delighted to discover many bitter ingredients available, and even finished with an Amaro Nonino.

Service was friendly and helpful.

The Library
Gilt Bar
230 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 464-9544

Zorba’s Greek Taverna

**** (4 stars)

There are a few Greek restaurants we go to in this area, including at Dr Phillips and International Drive, and the food is somewhat similar between them. I like Zorba the best because of its expansive, covered outside patio. Plus, the lunch special is currently a $5 gyro, which is hard to beat. This is one of my top choices for outdoor dining in the area.

Zorba’s Greek Taverna
4898 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 219-4326

MK Restaurant

***** (5 stars)

What a delightful meal we had at MK Restaurant! I love the combination of intricate, complex and perfectly prepared food, yet relaxed, friendly service. This is no stiff palace to haut cuisine, it’s a place people go to have great food and wine in a convivial atmosphere.

I love the design of the room, too, which is light and open, and doesn’t get noisy even when all the tables are filled.

Best of all, on off nights MK offers many of their wines at 50% off. This leads to some exquisite wines at near retail pricing. We created out own multi-course menu (although I’m sure the tasting menu would have been great, too) and were able to pair each course with the perfect wine because of the reasonable pricing, and the large number of half bottles and wines by the glass.

MK is really a gem of a restaurant, and we’ll be back soon.

MK Restaurant
868 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 482-9179

Do-Rite Donuts

***** (5 stars)

This is what a donut shop in heaven must be like.

As a long-time fan of Stan’s Corner Donut Shop in Westwood Village California, I was delighted to learn that Stan’s had opened locations in Chicago. And indeed, their blueberry buttermilk donut is hard to beat.

But my favorite donut is an old fashioned buttermilk, and the one at Do-Rite has bested all others. The delicate crusty outside and moist center is the perfect combination. Do-Rite’s has a lot of other good choices, but this one is the new benchmark of excellence.

It’s one heavenly donut.

Do-Rite Donuts
50 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 488-2483

The Doughnut Vault

**** (4 stars)

I’m not sure this place is actually as big as the average vault!

But clearly they’re doing something right, when there’s a half hour line outside on a cold Sunday morning.

I’m a big fan of old fashioned buttermilk donuts, and although we tried a sampling of everything those were certainly my favorites. I felt they were comparable to Stan’s, my long time benchmark from Westwood Village California, and now at two spots in Chicago. However they don’t have the nice crust you find at Do-Rite’s, which I’d have to dub the winner in that category.

Still, a very fine donut.

The Doughnut Vault
401 1/2 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 285-2830

NoMI Kitchen

***** (5 stars)

We had a great lunch at NoMI. A corner table overlooking Waterpower place can’t be beat. The emphasis on lighter fare, sushi and fish makes for a healthy lunch. \

I had TJ’s Farm Chicken at the waiter’s suggestion, and it was one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had, with a perfectly crisp skin and moist, succulent meat. The accompanying herb crumbs were heavenly.

The wine list is really well thought out, and if you’re willing to spring for a nice bottle, there are some excellent choices. They even have Madeira by the glass. And Madeira goes with everything (even spiny tuna rolls, it turns out!)

Service was friendly and efficient. A great place for a relaxing and tasty lunch.

NoMI Kitchen
Park Hyatt Chicago
800 N Michigan Ave, 7th Fl
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 239-4030


**** (4 stars)

Lively is the best way to describe Beatrix. This trendy spot opening off the lobby of the equally trendy aLoft hotel is bustling with business. If you’re looking for a quiet dinner for two, this isn’t the place. But if you like a clamorous atmosphere and thoughtful small plates, this is a good choice.

Everything we sampled was good. The standout was a special, Bulgogi chicken. We also really enjoyed the Caesar salad, which was more finely chopped than usual and had a delicious dressing.

The wine and beer offerings seemed a bit limited to me for this type of restaurant, but there are some excellent juices and drinks based upon juices. I particularly liked the whiskey sour made with fresh lemon juice.

Service was extremely knowledgable and friendly. If only it weren’t quite so lively!

519 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 284-1377

Pizzeria Uno Chicago Bar & Grill

*** (3 stars)

I’m not sure whether the drift of the name is the result of the chain’s deemphasis on pizza, but the menu has certainly broadened here, and it seems more like a sports bar than anything resembling an Italian restaurant.

Their new pick two emphasis makes it a good choice for lunch, and some of the options aren’t as caloric as most of the food.

The decor of this location is open and lively, but the volume remains reasonable even when they are busy.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Pizzeria Uno Chicago Bar & Grill
55 W Church St
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 839-1800

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants

***** (5 stars)

I was impressed by a Cooper’s Hawk in Arlington, Illinois, so I was looking forward to this location in Orlando, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The interior of these restaurants is particularly inviting, with high ceilings and great use of natural wood and winery related props to create a themed, but not clamorous environment.

The food offerings are quite broad, and everything we tried we really enjoyed. In particular the appetizers of Mexican Drunken Shrimp and Ahi Tuna Tacos were outstanding.

Of course, since it’s a “winery” there are many, many selections of wine. I assume they source these from various negotiants, and they are well chosen to reflect a broad range of varietals and styles. The four wine tasting flights are a great way to explore the differences, and the pours are as generous as the pricing is reasonable.

Service was friendly, helpful and attentive. This place has definitely been added to our regular lunch rotation.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants
8005 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 956-3400