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

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

Steak on Fire

Chicken with grilled pineapple

Top sirloin

Interior

Menu

*** (3 stars)

The quick serve concept here is a good one, with healthier food than fast food served in a pleasant environment. The healthiest way to go is to order the “plate” rather than the sandwich.

Each plate comes with your choice of two sides (although the menu implies they are fixed, they are not). Three of us tried the sirloin, and although it looked beautiful, we all found it quite tough. The accompanying grilled vegetables were good, and the side salad I had was generous.

The best item was the chicken. My companion ordered it with the grilled pineapple, which was delicious.

I was impressed by how fast the food came out, and the friendliness of the servers. Pricing may be a problem, as a plate and soft drink come to about $18, which will buy a pretty nice lunch at a table service restaurant.

Steak on Fire
7541 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 440-2323
https://www.yelp.com/biz/steak-on-fire-orlando

Luke’s Kitchen and Bar

Chicken burger

Scallop ceviche

Snapper ceviche

Potato chips with onion chive dip

Interior

Lunch menu

*** (3 stars)

This is a new endeavor from the creators of Luma and Prato. You can see them designing in all the things they’d like to have, such as a larger prep kitchen. Now their challenge will be to get better food out of that kitchen.

We went for lunch and it was just okay. We started with some house made potato chips and onion chive dip. The chips were good, but notethat the predominate dip flavor is actually truffle, even though it’s not listed as an ingredient.

The tuna tartare we ordered was unavailable, so we tried again, with red snapper ceviche. I liked it okay; my companion thought it lacked sufficed acid to “cook” it in the true manner of ceviche.

My companion preferred the scallop ceviche. I liked the scallops, but thought this one needed lime juice instead of passionfruit.

As an entree we shared a chicken burger. This was not a good choice. It is, indeed, a ground chicken patty that has been deep fried. If that sounds like something you’d get at McDonald’s it also tastes like it. The only redeeming feature of this dish was the accompanying house greens salad, which was delicious.

The vibe of the restaurant owes a lot to Hilstone’s. Tables are nicely spaced.

There are a LOT of people working here, which makes it surprising how long it takes to get dishes from the kitchen, particularly considering that they weren’t busy. Our server was friendly and helpful.

Luke’s Kitchen and Bar
640 S Orlando Ave
Orlando, FL 32751
(407) 674-2400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lukes-kitchen-and-bar-orlando

Haven

Peel and Eat Shrimp

Cheese Monger

Hamachi crudo

Interior

**** (4 stars)

If you are a cheese lover, Haven is a must visit. There are dozens of cheeses on their menu, and the “Cheese Monger” offers a selection of 18(!) of them on one well-organized plate. My only wish was for more variety, as they were almost all cow’s milk, and mostly the same firmness. I’d have liked some more soft ones, and some stinkier ones. But that’s just me.

The menu also offers a nice selection of other small plates. We liked the hamachi crudo. The peel and eat shrimp was okay, but I didn’t care for the harissa flavor of the accompanying remoulade, as it overwhelmed the other flavors.

The interior decor is gorgeous, with reasonable lighting levels and not too noisy, even though there are no soft surfaces except the booths (which offer the quietest place to sit).

The wine list is extensive, and the more expensive wines are actually the better deals.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Haven
2208 W Morrison Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 258-2233
https://www.yelp.com/biz/haven-tampa-3

Chez Filet

Quiche

Lobster bites

Bread service with complimentary butter and pate

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This is an intimate (12 tables or less) restaurant in the plaza off I-Drive north of the Orlando Eye.

As the name implies, the concept here is French/steakhouse. They are striving for fine dining, but it’s not quite at that level. Certainly the service is outstandingly solicitous, but it’s clear most of the staff is unfamiliar with the level to which the management aspires. So while many servers asked repeatedly if we needed anything, it was more obtrusive than helpful. Coupled with an offer of dessert before our main courses were served, it was a bit disjointed. Still, their hearts are in the right place, and experience will iron out these problems.

The food, too, strives but doesn’t always succeed. For starters we had the quiche and the lobster bites. The quiche was a nice, small, thin tartlet that made a good appetizer, as it wasn’t too filling. The lobster bites were essentially an escargot preparation, but using generous chunks of lobser instead of snails. The garlic butter was delicious, but the method of preparation of course leaves the lobster very, very well done.

We also had a small Caesar salad and onion soup. The Caesar was good, and at $5 was emblematic of the extremely reasonable pricing. Where else in town can you get a Caesar salad for that price? The onion soup was the only thing we had that really wasn’t good. It looked like a traditional preparation, but the consistency was more like gravy, and not very appealing in taste, either.

Main courses are also very reasonably priced, particularly considering they include two side dishes of your choice. I thought my companion’s New York steak was a bit tough, but she enjoyed it. The accompanying Chico’s sauce had a nice mustard base. I had the fish special, a corvina, which was delicate and nicely prepared. The home run of the evening was actually the Angel Onions, thin onion straws that were battered and perfectly crisped.

Photos of the place don’t do it justice, as the interior decor is stunning, although it would be better with lower light levels.

And as I’ve mentioned, the prices are extremely reasonable, particularly given the tourist area that surrounds it.

Chez Filet
8255 International Dr
Ste 144A
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 250-4090
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chez-filet-orlando

Sam Snead’s Oak Grill and Tavern

Chocolate sack

Exterior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

Many years ago there was a Sam Snead’s across from my office, and we ate there at least weekly. Sadly, it closed some 15 years ago, to be replaced by a parade of mediocre imitators.

So it was quite a stroll down memory lane to visit this location, which is virtually identical. The menu is also largely unchanged, so we were able to enjoy several of our favorites including the spinach and cheese dip, oak grilled grouper sandwich, and chocolate sack. Each was even better than I remembered. So perhaps you can go home again!

Sam Snead’s Oak Grill and Tavern
1801 Maitland Blvd
Orlando, FL 32810
(407) 622-8800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sam-sneads-oak-grill-and-tavern-orlando

Kona Grill

Wasabi salmon

Exterior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

I really loved everything about this place.

The interior decor is wonderful, with separate areas for sushi bar, regular dining, hightops, a long bar facing the street through large plate glass windows, and considerable sidewalk dining. It should be noted that at lunch only about 20% of the place was filled and it wasn’t quiet, so I can imagine it could be very noisy on a popular night.

The menu is extensive and eclectic, ranging from sandwich and salads to Italian, and an entire side devoted to sushi. We tried a spicy yellow tail roll and a sunrise roll, and they were both pretty good, but the wasabi salmon sashimi we started with was a home run. Really excellent flavors and consistency.

I also really like my Oriental salad (isn’t that no longer politically correct?) which was mostly a huge volcano of shredded cabbage with a delicious vinaigrette and some crunchy noodle bits.

Service seemed a bit tentative, but was friendly and effective. The kitchen and sushi bar are not speedy, so don’t go on a tight lunch hour.

Kona Grill
110 S Orlando Ave
Ste 12
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 900-0100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kona-grill-winter-park

Stonehouse Restaurant

Hamachi and Uni

Steak Diane

Interior

Exterior

Entry

***** (5 stars)

The Stonehouse is a magical setting for dinner, one of the most romantic restaurants around, and the food is good, too.

After winding your way up to the resort, then winding your way to the valet, and finally winding your way up the stairs to the restaurant, you feel you are truly transported to another land. The original stone building serves as a lounge, and an adjoining added-on room with huge wood beams and a giant fireplace forms the romantic dining area. It’s a wonderful spot to sit near the fire on a cool evening. On warmer evenings, and outside area is canopied by thousands of tiny lights, and offers quieter acoustics.

The Hamachi and Uni appetizer is a wonderfully refreshing way to start. The house specialty is a classic Steak Diane, flamed tableside with brandy. The prime filet did not disappoint, and the reduction and sauteed mushrooms that accompanied it were sublime.

The extensive wine list offers both high-end local wines and international selections.

Service is professional without being stiff.

Stonehouse Restaurant
San Ysidro Ranch
900 San Ysidro Ln
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
(805) 565-1720
https://www.yelp.com/biz/stonehouse-restaurant-santa-barbara-2

Cask & Larder

CL burger with cheddar

Crispy cauliflower

Grilled fish

Drinks

Menu

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

This is certainly a step up in the food available in the D terminal at MCO. Fans who remember the food at the Cask and Larder in Winter Park may be disappointed, but the food her is certainly above average for an airport.

The open atmosphere is sunny and pleasant, and spacious enough to feel like a bit of an oasis from the bustle of the gates. The menu focuses on Southern and barbecue, which means the only healthy choices are three salads and the grilled fish. I chose the latter. The fish was a nice piece of swordfish, which was a bit well done, but good. The accompanying rice was delicious. Zucchini and tomatoes were very overcooked.

We also tried the CL Burger. It was a generous two patties, and we opted for cheddar rather than blue cheese. The best thing were the crispy fries, well worth the extra three bucks.

Speaking of crispy, the Crispy Cauliflower wasn’t. It also wasn’t very good: a small, overpriced portion served in an oddly sweet sauce.

Service was friendly. The kitchen was pretty slow, considering there were few customers at 10:30 am, but it’s more a place to relax than somewhere for a quick bite.

I’ll go back, but I’ll stick with the burgers and BBQ.

Cask & Larder
1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd
Gates 100-129
Orlando, FL 32827
(321) 280-4200
https://www.yelp.com/biz/cask-and-larder-orlando