Times Square Diner

Intererior

Exterior

Turkey Club

Fresh Tuna Salad Club

**** (4 stars)

This narrow space near the theatre district is still decorated the way I imagine it was designed in the 1960s, which is pretty cool. (Well, actually, their air conditioning on a hot day was not particularly effective, if it was working at all, so it wasn’t literally cool, just figuratively.)

The menu is classic diner food, and most portions are enormous. I had a turkey club, and one I located it under a mountain of french fries, I thought it was delicious. Even better was the iced coffee, one of the best I’ve had anywhere.

Unlike some complaints I’ve seen online, I thought the service was excellent, with a plethora of servers constantly refilling our drinks and checking on us, even though they were very busy. I would definitely stop here again for a pre-theatre lunch.

Times Square Diner
807 8th Ave
New York, NY 10019
(212) 315-2400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/times-square-diner-new-york-4

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

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

The Big Easy – Windermere

Interior

Seafood sampler

Cajun crab dip

Cajun shrimp salad

Shrimp etoufee

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

I’ve always enjoyed the original Big Easy near Stoneybrook, so I was looking forward to this new location. It occupies the spot that was previously several failed Italian restaurants, and so far it seems much more successful. I was pleased to see they’ve fixed many of the lighting and layout problems of the previous occupants.

The food seems pretty much the same as at the other location. We enjoyed everything we tried, including the crab dip, seafood sampler appetizer, etoufee and cajun shrimp salad.

For non-Cajun enthusiasts there are also plenty of other choices.

We were originally seated next to an obnoxious woman and her bratty kids, so we moved outside to the delightful, large patio.

There’s a nice cocktail list.

Service was very good.

The Big Easy – Windermere
7782 Winter Garden Vineland Rd
Ste 140
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 347-3688
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-big-easy-windermere-windermere

Toasted Windermere

Interior

Exterior

Periodic table of cheese

**** (4 stars)

I need to return here to try the grilled cheese sandwichs, as they look good, but we tried the burgers, which are half their offerings.

In particular I wanted an Impossible Burger, the meatless patty that is–when correctly prepared–just as good or even better than meat. It’s best with a nice crust on the outside and a thin patty. Toasted’s version was actually a bit too thick and a bit too big, with pieces falling off around the edges, but it was nicely crusted.

I like my burgers fully dressed, with a slice of onion, pickles or relish, mayo, mustard, and so on. Not sure if they can do that, but the default isn’t the case.

At $12 including fries the Impossible Burger seemed a bit pricey, but I suppose it is because it is exclusive.

We also tried the Southern Burger, which is basically a BBQ bacon cheese burger plus mac and cheese on the burger. The meat in this burger was definitely inferior to the Impossible Burger, and I wouldn’t order it again. We also didn’t think the mac and cheese added anything.

Both burgers came on a nicely grilled bun.

I probably wouldn’t order burgers here again, but I would go back to try the grilled cheese. The employees were all great, very enthusiastic, and the place has a nice ambiance.

Toasted Windermere
6506 Old Brick Rd
Ste 100
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 217-5485
https://www.yelp.com/biz/toasted-windermere-windermere

Sealegs Wine Bar

Interior

Chilequilles

Ceviche

***** (5 stars)

This is a pretty darn good place, especially for an airport lounge. There’s a nice selection of wines by the glass and bottle, at fairly reasonable prices for an airport. There’s also a great menu off well thought-out, atypical food. Service was a bit slow, but when you’re trying to kill time during a layover and have a nice bottle of wine, that’s fine.

Sealegs Wine Bar
200 World Way
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(424) 227-8295
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sealegs-wine-bar-los-angeles

Gator’s Dockside

Interior

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

I always enjoy Gator’s Dockside, and this newest location is no exception. It has a bit less of a sports bar feel than a few of the others, but there are still a lot of TVs, and the menus are the same.

My favorite item is the grilled wings. Grilling removes a lot of the fat, and lets the sauce shine through. My choice is hot garlic. There’s a lunch special weekdays until 4pm that includes fries. On my visit I thought both the fries and wings could have been cooked a bit longer, to crisp the fries and char the wings; I’ll request that next time.

The place must be well-managed, because even though it had only been open a few days and was very busy, service was running smoothly.

Gator’s Dockside
6516 Old Brick Rd
Windermere, FL 34786

https://www.yelp.com/biz/gators-dockside-windermere

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery

Interior

Exterior

Nachos (no beans)

Rib eye

Chili

**** (4 stars)

Based upon the name I was expecting sort of a dive bar, but it’s actually quite modern and nice inside. The menu offers a broad range of sports bar food, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good our selections were.

The nachos were actually better than any I’ve gotten in Chicago’s Mexican restaurants. They were spread out in a thin layer over a huge rectangular tray, so they stayed nice and crisp. We ordered them without the black beans, just our preference.

I had the ribeye, and it was a pretty darn good steak for much less than half what it would cost in any of River North’s steakhouses. About half of it needed to be trimmed away, but that’s what makes a ribeye so tender and juicy, and this one certainly was.

Service from our original server was a bit spotty, but the bartender and manager filled in nicely during her unexplained absences.

I was definitely favorably impressed, and will return.

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
One West Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 755-9339
https://www.yelp.com/biz/rock-bottom-restaurant-and-brewery-chicago