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

Bill’s Bar & Burger

Interior

Exterior

Ranch hand

**** (4 stars)

This place is a complete remodel of the Italian place that was here before. Although I miss that place, this is probably a better space for serving three meals a day for the attached hotel. It’s lighter and more open, and looks more like a diner.

There’s a large selection of various burger styles, but you can get pretty much anything you like on them. The patties are the smashed kind, so they’re all cooked all the way through. I had the Ranch Hand, basically a BBQ bacon cheeseburger, and it was very good.

The accompanying fries weren’t very exciting, but a side order of onion rings was nicely done.

Service was friendly. The kitchen was a bit slow, considering they weren’t busy, but we weren’t in a hurry.

Bill’s Bar & Burger
30 E Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-0446
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bills-bar-and-burger-chicago

Valor

Cheeseburger

Salmon

Sorry, there’s only one rib left for you. We fell on the rest like hungry wolves.

Trio of ice creams and bombe

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This popular cafe serves good food with a bit of a French influence to some dishes.

We started with four appetizers. The one we absolutely loved was the Sticky Asian Pork Ribs, which were coated in a wonderful soy-infused teriyaki sauce. Popcorn Cauliflower was also very good, especially dipped in the leftover rib sauce! Warm Brussels Sprout Caesar and Roasted Broccoli and Grilled (cold) Shrimp were both just okay.

Everyone also liked their entrees, which included the Steak Frites, Salmon, and a Cheeseburger.

For dessert we had a housemade ice cream trio and a Chocolate Bombe, both of which were also good.

The wine list is a bit obscure, but we found some interesting selections, and prices are reasonable.

Service was attentive and friendly.

Valor
667 Vernon Ave
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 786-4324
https://www.yelp.com/biz/valor-glencoe

LongHorn Steakhouse

Interior

Exterior

Outlaw Ribeye

***** (5 stars)

I’m still in shock over my visit to this Longhorn Steakhouse. I’d been to another Longhorn, years ago, and it was fine, but I never actually had steak. This time I was in the mood.

Somehow I’d expected the result to be closer to Sizzler than Capital Grille (which Longhorn owned before selling both to concepts Darden).

But I didn’t expect to have the best steak of my life. Better than Capital Grille. better than Mortons, than Flemings, than Ruth’s Chris. Better than I can cook at home. The Outlaw Ribeye was literally the best cooked, most tender, most flavorful and best seasoned steak I’ve ever had anywhere.

The Caesar salad was also right up there with any steakhouse. The bread was okay, but more like Ruby Tuesday’s now gone breadsticks (not a bad thing) rather than genuine steakhouse sourdough.

Of course the wine list is so short it can’t really be called a list, but the choices are fine.

Service was very professional and attentive, and the environment is, frankly, better decorated and cozier than at those high-end places. At about half the price. I’ll be back.

LongHorn Steakhouse
3118 Daniels Rd
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 654-0272
https://www.yelp.com/biz/longhorn-steakhouse-winter-garden

OakWood Smokehouse & Grill

Interior

Exterior

Half rack combo

**** (4 stars)

I quite liked this small local chain. The decor is nice, the service was good, and the barbecue was just what I was looking for.

I had the half rack combo with chicken. The ribs were meaty and tender, and had just the right amount of BBQ sauce. To my surprise, the chicken was even better. It was a full breast and wing with a super-smokey flavor. It was unlike chicken I’ve had in any other BBQ spot, because of that emphasis. I dipped it in some sauce from the bottles on the table and he combination was terrific.

The meal comes with two sides, but if you want onion rings or a salad, those count as both, which seems a bit stingy, but the price is low enough that it’s not worth quibbling. The onion rings were good, but would have been better a bit crispier. The accompanying toast was pretty flavorless.

Beer and wine selections are very limited, but the house cabernet, although a small serving, was good.

OakWood Smokehouse & Grill
230 Citrus Tower Blvd
Clermont, FL 34711
(352) 394-0036
https://www.yelp.com/biz/oakwood-smokehouse-and-grill-clermont-2

Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Pub and Buffalo Bar

Interior

Exterior

Potato skins

10 hot garlic wings grilled

**** (4 stars)

If you’re in the Disney area and want to go someplace that’s filled with locals rather than tourists, this is the place. It’s a combination traditional Irish pub and sports bar.

There’s a decent selection of beers, with some local brews on tap, but the highlight is the food. It’s one of the few places in town where you can get the buffalo wings finished on the grill, which makes them crispy and not greasy. The hot + garlic parmesan coating is my favorite. Potato skins are also nicely done.

The food is a particularly good deal during happy hours, which extends until 7pm. Unfortunately they aren’t open for lunch, though.

There’s also an outside covered patio that is a hopping place in the evenings.

Kitty O’Shea’s Irish Pub and Buffalo Bar
8470 Palm Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 238-9769
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kitty-o-sheas-irish-pub-and-buffalo-bar-orlando

The Whole Enchilada

Exterior

Interior

While enchilada player

**** (4 stars)

This is essentially a boozy version of Tijuana Flats. In addition to counter ordering there is also a full bar. You can order at the counter and they bring the food to your table, or you can sit at the bar or a few booths facing it for full service.

The Whole Enchilada platter I tried was very good, with two enchiladas, rice and choice of black or pinto beans. I had one ground beef enchilada, one shredded pork, and both were good. There’s a salsa bar to spice thing up, but not the array of hot sauces you’ll find elsewhere. Most of the rest of the menu is different burritos with various stuffings.

The house margarita was made to order and very good.

The employees are all enthusiastic, and prices are reasonable.

The interior decor is nice, and they have an upstairs with outdoor seating overlooking charming Winter Garden.

The Whole Enchilada
129 W Plant St
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 347-9699
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-whole-enchilada-winter-garden-2

Vitality Bowls

Immunity Bowl

Dragon bowl

**** (4 stars)

This new, healthy restaurant is a nice improvement over the yogurt sop that was here. It’s a bright, corner space with inside and outside tables. It’s a counter service franchise concept, although they do bring the food to your table.

Ordering is the biggest challenge. The menu, presented on multiple digital signage screens, has about a million items and descriptions. There are pre-made bowls, paninis, and smoothies, plus at least a dozen ingredients you can add in.

As with most healthy eating places, there are some ingredients the casual consumer may find–there’s no other way to say it–unappetizing. You need to order carefully. We tried two bowls. The Dragon Bowl was sweet and fruity, more like a dessert on berry sherbert than a main course. The Immunity bowl was less appetizing, with a green substance in the bottom influenced by the kale and other vegetable ingredients. It tasted okay.

Smoothies are more of a challenge. I honestly couldn’t drink my Immunity smoothie, but maybe it was just a poor choice.

If you’re dubious about healthy items, it’s probably best to stick with the paninis, as they seem more conventional.

Service was very friendly, a big improvement on the former tenant. If you’re looking for something healthy in the Dr. Philips area it’s worth checking out.

Vitality Bowls
8014 Conroy Windermere Rd
Ste 101
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 730-6358
https://www.yelp.com/biz/vitality-bowls-orlando-3

Sharon’s Homestyle Cookin’

Interior

Exterior

Breakfast sandwich

Grilled banana nut muffin

***** (5 stars)

This place could serve as the set for the musical Waitress. It’s and old-fashioned neighborhood diner where everyone knows your name and remembers your order.

The food is well prepared classic diner food that avoids being too heavy or greasy while still achieving that traditional sinful goodness.

If you like your meal served with a dose of friendly cheer this is the place.

Sharon’s Homestyle Cookin’
5667 S Orange Ave
Pine Castle, FL 32809
(407) 856-9565
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sharons-homestyle-cookin-pine-castle

IHOP

Ihob

Interior

Burgers

Brunch burger

**** (4 stars)

Since the iHob advertising campaign generated enough traction for even me, a non-TV-watcher, to hear about it, we decided to try their now hamburger menu on its first day of introduction.

Of our party of seven, five of us had various burgers (there were two dedicated breakfast lovers), and we all enjoyed them.

I had the Brunch Burger, which included bacon, a fried egg and very crispy hash browns(!). It was an excellent burger, with a perfectly cooked thick patty and over easy egg. I was concerned the hashbrowns would be soggy, but they were very thin and extremely crispy, and added a nice crunch to the burger.

My only complaint is that the bun is very soft, and with such well-stuffed burgers it tends to disintegrate before you’re done with the burger. Other than that I’d rate it as one of the better burgers from a chain.

You have your choice of sides. I had the onion rings, which were heavily breaded and not crisp enough, although perhaps they could be ordered extra crispy. But you can also get pancakes as your side. That wounds like a fun way to get lunch and dessert!

IHOP
5203 Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 370-0597
https://www.yelp.com/biz/ihop-orlando-2

Wine Bar George

Upstairs

Downstairs

Exterior

Jicama and kholrabi

Wine flights – any wines and any size pours you want

***** (5 stars)

Finally there is a place in Orlando I can refer my wine loving visitors to! When I first came to Orlando in the early 1980s there were several prestigious wine lists in town, like Chris’ House of Beef. Today there are essentially zero. I end up sending visitors to Berns in Tampa.

But Wine Bar George is something completely different. It’s actually most like the early days of Seasons 52 (before they dumbed down the list), when you could get any of a hundred or so very interesting wines on the list poured by the glass. Wine Bar George goes that one better, and lets you get any wine in any amount, down to an ounce. So you can build your own flights anyway you like.

We had a French and a California Chardonnay, and then a flight of Cabernet, Cab Franc (from South Africa) and Syrah. Two ounces is a perfect pour for wine flights as far as I’m concerned. Then we finished with an ounce of two high-end Dujac wines that I’m sure are not served by the glass anywhere else.

The cheese plate was a great accompaniment, and also included some delicious house marinated olives. Jicama and Kholrabi salad was a great palate cleanser, and then we finished with some Asian influenced chicken skewers.

Service was polished and our server Zach was very knowledgeable. We also chatted with server Chris, who recognized us from past wine dinners. The staff is extremely professional and enthusiastic.

In case you’re wondering who George is, he’s Master Sommelier George Miliotes, and the quality of wine bar George is no accident. His dad owned Chris’ House of Beef where George was a somm as a kid, and George later created that wine program at Seasons 52. Now he’s doing his own thing, and Orlando is all the better for it.

Wine Bar George
1610 Buena Vista Dr
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 490-1800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/wine-bar-george-orlando