About steve

Steve Alcorn is the CEO of Alcorn McBride Inc., a company that designs products used in nearly all of the world’s theme parks. He is the author of many books, including historical fiction, romance, young adult novels, and many non-fiction books including How to Fix Your Novel, Building a Better Mouse and Theme Park Design. During the past decade he has helped more than 30,000 aspiring authors structure their novels through the online learning programs of 2000 colleges and universities worldwide. Learn more at writingacademy.com

Boca Kitchen Bar Market

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I used to think this space was cursed, because of the long succession of unsuccessful restaurants that occupied it. But it turns out it wasn’t the space, it was the restaurants that were the problem. Boca is packed every day, and with good reason.

The food and service are both top notch. We had the day’s lunch special, a blackened amberjack sandwich. The amberjack was a thick piece, perfectly cooked. The accompanying mango slaw was a bit sweet for my taste, but with just a little on the sandwich it was perfect.

Rather than fries we asked for the mixed vegetables which had been sauteed and had a delightful smokey flavor.

Boca is one of the best bets for lunch on Park Avenue.

Boca Kitchen Bar Market
358 North Park Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 636-7022
http://www.yelp.com/biz/boca-kitchen-bar-market-winter-park

LemonShark Poke Orlando

Custom poke medium

Kitchen

**** (4 stars)

This is a much better use of this space than the prior occupant. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit dark and drab, but the food is better and more interesting.

I spend a lot of time in Chicago, where there are poke places all over town, but this is the first one in this part of Orlando, and so far it is popular. The assembly line process works well for poke, because there are so many potential ingredients. You can get a better bowl of fish and rice up the street at Bonsai Sushi, but there are more variants here, and it is cheaper. You can also get a version on lettuce rather than rice, if you’re really trying to cut carbs.

I tried the ahi tuna, spicy salmon and miso glazed salmon. The tuna was still a bit frozen, but quickly thawed, and seemed fresher than the salmon. The miso glaze turned out to be something squirted on, no actual glaze. The crab salad topping was good; the avocado topping was more like guacamole, but it was okay. There are a lot of sauces to choose from. The iced tea dispenser was either empty or not working.

Service was efficient.

LemonShark Poke Orlando
7600 Dr Phillips Blvd
Ste 102
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 730-5201
http://www.yelp.com/biz/lemonshark-poke-orlando-orlando-2

Hot N Juicy Crawfish

Crawfish

Crawfish sandwich

1lb crawfish

Menu

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

This place is well-named, as the food was certainly hot and juicy. Not surprisingly, it’s also a mess. You know you’re in for a participatory meal when your table is equipped with bibs, gloves and a bucket!

We shared a pound of crawfish for $14. It comes in a tied plastic bag, swimming in sauce. That’s a reasonable price, but you need to realize that equates to only a few tablespoons of actual crawfish meat. We had the hot n juicy sauce, which was pretty good, but be cautious of the spiciness level. We ordered medium, and it equated to HOT most places.

We also had the cajun fries, which were crisp, hot and well-seasoned.

Our companions had the crawfish po boy sandwiches, which were a lot easier and neater, as the crawfish meat was deep fried.

Service was friendly and helpful.

Hot N Juicy Crawfish
7572 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 370-4655
http://www.yelp.com/biz/hot-n-juicy-crawfish-orlando

The Fat Snook

Wet jerk pork ribeye

Mahimahi special

Blue crab

Seafood charcuterie

Amuse bouche

Menu

Exterior

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

This restaurant is certainly the gem of the space coast. It’s a truly fine dining restaurant in what is a bit of a wasteland.

We started with the seafood charcuterie, which turned out to be our favorite item of the night.  While the octopus terrine wasn’t particularly flavorful, all the other items–salmon rillette, smoked fish pate–and the accompanying salads and relishes were wonderful.

The blue crab was also excellent. The single soft shell crab topped an amazing piece of cornbread.

My wife’s wet jerk pork ribeye was very good, better than the mahi mahi fish special I had.

The space is relatively small, which keeps noise levels reasonable, and it is nicely decorated.

Service was amazing, We were impressed by all the servers’ interactions with their guests; our server, Michelle, was particularly excellent.

The wine list is a bit limited, but there are many excellent choices, and the value is good, particularly for the top end bottles.

The Fat Snook
2464 S Atlantic Ave
Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
(321) 784-1190
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-fat-snook-cocoa-beach

Johnny’s Fillin’ Station

Sign

Bacon cheeseburger

Fries

Interior

***** (5 stars)

For at least 20 years Johnny’s has been acclaimed for having the best burger in Orlando (they even have the 1998 plaque on the wall to prove it), and it still is. The secret is a thick, meaty patty perfectly cooked to order served on a bun with some substance. And the bun is grilled on the insides to make sure it doesn’t get soggy as you make your way through the burger. The bacon cheeseburger is the way to go. And it comes with all the fixin’s you’d expect of a fillin’ station.

The fries that come with the burger could be better, as they are steak fries rather than something skinnier, but if you order them crispy they will do.

The atmosphere is also unchanged in at least twenty years: quintessential dive bar. It’s a real dive bar that has earned its designation, not some artificially decorated pretender. The junk on the walls is all there for historical reasons.

Service is not what you’d call attentive, but it is pleasant.

Johnny’s Fillin’ Station
2631 S Fern Creek Ave
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 894-6900
http://www.yelp.com/biz/johnnys-fillin-station-orlando-2

Akina

Sashimi Bento

Alakan Roll, Poki Roll, Ikura

Roti with red curry

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This is a very upscale restaurant for a strip mall type location. Great decor, and an extensive pan-Asian menu including Sushi, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and even Indian cuisines.

We started with an order of Roti with curry sauce, because what other sushi restaurant has that?! It was excellent, with perfectly fresh roti. The sauce was so good I saved it to put on my rice.

I had the lunch sashimi bento box, which included seven nice pieces of fish, seaweed salad and lettuce salad, rice, and a very large bowl of miso soup. The miso was a bit sweeter than normal, but everything else was great.

We also had two rolls and some ikura sashimi. All were good.

Pricing might be a bit high for the area, but I thought it was worth it. Service was exceptional. I’ve never had a soft drink refilled so many times!

Akina
4300 S Hwy 27
Clermont, FL 34711
(352) 243-8988
http://www.yelp.com/biz/akina-clermont

Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders

Exterior

Interior

Counter and menu

Magoo’s favorite salad

Buffalo chicken salad

**** (4 stars)

When I read about a new chicken tenders place I imagined something like Chick fil a, which I despise, but Huey Magoo’s is much, much better. For one thing, if you get the chicken grilled rather than battered, it’s actually healthful.

We tried two different salads. Magoo’s Favorite, mixed greens with grilled chicken, cranberries, walnuts, grape tomatoes, & raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing. The chicken was a bit bland, but the dressing was excellent.

Even better was the Buffalo Chicken Salad ordered with grilled chicken. It included bleu cheese crumbles, and grape tomatoes. Unlike the menu description it was made with mixed greens, not romaine.  And rather then jalapeño ranch & spicy Magoo’s dressing it came with a wonderful blue cheese dressing. Thanks to the Buffalo sauces, this chicken really had a lot of flavor. This was really a top-notch salad, far beyond expectations for a quick serve restaurant.

They have a Coke freestyle machine.

While there isn’t table service, the staff was attentive.

Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders
7538 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 203-2051
http://www.yelp.com/biz/huey-magoos-chicken-tenders-orlando

Bella Italia Ristorante

Exterior

Bar

Interior

Clams Casino

Fettuccine Alfredo

Eggplant Rollatini

***** (5 stars)

Bella Italia is definitely a level above what you’d expect in a strip mall location. The decor, food and service are all top notch.

We started with the Clams Casino, a generous portion with a delicious lemon and garlic broth.

Fettucine Alfredo was equally generous, nigh on to huge. It needed a bit of salt to bring out the flavor, but had plenty of butter, cream and cheese.

Eggplant Rollatini was a nice improvement on Eggplant Parmigiana, with grilled rather than breaded eggplant, stuffed with four kinds of cheese, baked in marinara sauce, and topped with melted mozzarella.  It was delicious. The accompanying spaghetti was fine, but not needed.

All of these dishes were less than $9 at lunch, a great deal. Lunch also came with a basket of fresh bread and an excellent pesto/olive oil mixture for dipping.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Bella Italia Ristorante
13848 Tilden Rd
Ste 192
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 347-3277
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bella-italia-ristorante-winter-garden

Shakers American Café

Exterior

Interior

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Western omelet

***** (5 stars)

Shakers recently won a people’s choice award for best breakfast in Orlando, and I can see why. My Western Omelet was overflowing with fresh vegetables and savory ham. Hash browns were extra crispy, just like I ordered them. And my server’s suggestion to grill my biscuit was pure genius.

I also loved the decor, with unique salt and pepper shakers on every table, and many more lining the walls.

Service was excellent, and all the servers I encountered were very friendly. Indeed, this was the best breakfast I’ve had in a long, long time.

Shakers American Café
1308 Edgewater Dr
Orlando, FL 32804
(407) 422-3534
https://www.yelp.com/biz/shakers-american-caf%C3%A9-orlando-2