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

Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ

Pork platter

Exterior

Interior

Sauces

***** (5 stars)

Orlando is an excellent town for barbecue, with many great choices, and a lot of different styles, from Southern to Midwestern and more. I like the barbecue here better than almost anywhere I travel to, because of that diversity. And I have to say, of all the great Orlando barbecue places I patronize, Ellie Lou’s is the best.

I had the pork platter with two sides. I was expecting sliced pork, so I was pleased when something more like burnt ends appeared: succulent chunks of lean, moist pork, with a nice charred crust on some of the pieces. It was a generous serving, too.

I liked all four BBQ sauces on the table: Kansas City (sweet), Memphis, Hot, and Mustard. The combination of the first three was my favorite. All of them are made in-house, and it shows.

Also made in-house are the sides. The baked beans were loaded with chunks of meat; a squirt of sauce and they were perfect. One of my favorite parts of the whole meal was the potato salad, which was also obviously homemade, with big chunks of potato, a creamy dressing and lots of herbs.

The two slices of garlic bread were also excellent: fresh, crispy and with lots of garlic butter.

Perhaps the thing that most distinguishes Ellie Lou’s is the environment. It’s not crowded and is actually quite pleasant inside. And even though you order at a counter, the staff is very attentive once you’re seated, so it’s like a real restaurant. A real GOOD restaurant.

Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ
336 Moore Rd
Ocoee, FL 34761
(407) 347-9515
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ellie-lous-brews-and-bbq-ocoee

Carol’s Place

Breakfast burrito

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Carol’s is an old-fashioned diner, the kind you see in television shows from the 60s. The decor, food and service are exactly as you would expect. Many of the customers are regulars who are greeted by name. You can pretty much get anything they’ve got ingredients for. The preparations are straightforward and generous.

Carol’s Place
3421 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 251-8860
https://www.yelp.com/biz/carols-place-orlando

Uncle Julio’s

Exterior

Interior

Spicy seared tuna tacos

**** (4 stars)

I’d been to one of these in Chicago, and they are pretty similar. There’s a bit of a corporate feel to them. We had a large party, so I can’t really comment on the service, because that is always difficult, but the food was all pretty good. There isn’t really a standout appetizer or entree, although the spicy seared tuna tacos that I had were probably the best item. One person complained they were cold, but since they’re almost raw tuna and slaw, it seems appropriate.

Their unique item is the chocolate pinata, a suspended sphere of chocolate that you break open with a bat to scatter fruit and churros into the whipped cream moat below. It was fun for the group to scavenge through the debris and find their favorites.

Uncle Julio’s
8409 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32821
(321) 430-0600
http://www.yelp.com/biz/uncle-julios-orlando

Numero Uno Restaurant

***** (5 stars)

This has been my favorite Cuban place for almost thirty years. The food is authentic, and so is the vibe. My favorite is the lunch chicken plate with black beans and rice. Their black beans are essentially a soup, so it’s like an extra course.

The only downside is that over the years road expansion has eaten much of the few parking spaces they started with, so that can be a challenge.

Numero Uno Restaurant
2499 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 841-3840
http://www.yelp.com/biz/numero-uno-restaurant-orlando

Vida 365 Bistro Juice Bar

Vegan tacos

Cup of chili

Interior

Exterior

Kitchen

Breakfast menu

Lunch menu

***** (5 stars)

This place is much more than a juice bar, with a complete menu of delicious food, some vegetarian, some vegan, but also lots of items that aren’t.

My favorite was the chili, a delicious concoction of ground turkey and beans with many interesting spices and just the right kick to it.

The Vegan tacos were also good, with crisp shells and a flavorful slaw to add some interest to the quinoa filling.

The servers and chefs were all very friendly.

Vida 365 Bistro Juice Bar
16129 State Road 50
Unit 104
Clermont, FL 34711
(352) 474-8432
http://www.yelp.com/biz/vida-365-bistro-juice-bar-clermont

Village Inn

Ultimate skillet, all Bacon

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Village inn has always been my favorite breakfast chain, and this location is just as good as any of them. I really like their breakfast skillets. They’re a great combination of eggs and whatever other ingredients you like all on top of nicely crisped home fries. I also like that they come with a side of pancakes, so you don’t have to decide between savory and sweet.

Village Inn
6275 Westwood Blvd
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 352-1997
https://www.yelp.com/biz/village-inn-orlando-4

Izziban Metrowest

Interior

Lunch buffet

***** (5 stars)

I’ve never thought that sushi and buffets went together. Sushi requires extreme freshness of ingredients, something you rarely see on a buffet. But I’ll make an exception for this is Izziban.

I think the reason is that they’re constantly resupplying the buffet, so everything is very fresh. There are also hot items and a plethora of sauces to choose from.

At $10.99 the lunch deal simply can’t be beat. It’s quick and delicious and economical, a homerun.

Izziban Metrowest
6996 Piazza Grande Ave
Ste 100
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 868-9999
https://www.yelp.com/biz/izziban-metrowest-orlando

Matt’s Casbah

Korean Wings

Interior

***** (5 stars)

Usually when small restaurants try to be too many things they fail at being any one great thing, but Matt’s is the exception to this rule. It has separate spaces for fine dining, outdoor beach-type dining, sushi bar, dive bar, and a live performance area. The same menu is served throughout, but there is definitely a different feel to it, depending upon where you are seated.

We had lunch in the fine dining area, and really enjoyed our Korean wings appetizer and the sushi we shared. The sashimi sampler is a great deal, providing 4 or 5 pieces of four different fish, and a large Japanese style salad.

We also liked the unusual roll we had, which incorporated a smoked salmon pate that was very different (and far smokier) that a normal sushi smoked salmon.

Service was friendly and efficient, and the music soundtrack was great.

Matt’s Casbah
801 E New Haven
Melbourne, FL 32901
(321) 574-1099
http://www.yelp.com/biz/matts-casbah-melbourne

Creamistry

Affogato

Freezing the cream

LN2

Menu and interior

**** (4 stars)

I always like places that let me assemble my food step by step, so Creamistry was a great find. You pick your base (regular, organic, coconut milk, etc.) and your flavor, and then your mix-ins, and they freeze it to order, using liquid nitrogen. It’s fun to watch, and a great way to get lots of flavor choices you wouldn’t normally see for an obscure base like coconut milk.

Is it better than pre-frozen? Probably not, but it’s all about the choices. Of course, the downside is it takes ten or fifteen minutes to get your order, but then again, where else are you going to get a coconut milk espresso affogato with heath bar crunch?!

Creamistry
253 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(424) 777-0964
https://www.yelp.com/biz/creamistry-beverly-hills

La Scala

Carpaccio

Lobster ravioli

La Scala chopped tuna salad

Halloween decor!

**** (4 stars)

If you like old school Italian, there’s no better example than La Scala. Since 1956 they’ve been doing it the same way. That’s both good and bad, because it means you’ll reliably get the same meal you would have had decades ago, but your expectations might have changed.

For example, the chopped tuna salad is chopped up lettuce, chickpeas and essentially canned tuna. That’s what all tuna salads were like in the 60’s, but might not be what you are expecting now.

La Scala was the first restaurant in LA to make their own pasta, and it’s still excellent, in all its forms. I particularly liked the lobster ravioli in brown butter.

There’s a nice little wine list, with some good wines by the glass and half bottle, a rarity these days.

Also note that they go all out in their holiday decorating. A visit in October is a particular treat, as the Halloween decorations are fun and EXTENSIVE.

La Scala
434 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 275-0579
https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-scala-beverly-hills-2