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

Dixie Belle’s Cafe

Exterior

BBQ Pork sandwich with onion rings

Sweet potato biscuit

***** (5 stars)

This is a great diner with traditional breakfast and a very wide array of lunch offerings. There’s a counter, lots of indoor seating, and limited outdoor seating.

I had a barbecued pork sandwich. It came with two sides, and I upgraded slightly to get onion rings and a sweet potato biscuit. Everything was perfectly prepared, and the BBQ sauce had just the right tang. It was nice that it was served on the side so you could use as much as you liked; I ended up making two open-faced sandwiches. The onion rings were nicely breaded and very crispy.

It might seem strange to have a sweet potato biscuit in addition to a sandwich, but it was essentially dessert! Crisp on the outside, dusted with sugar, and slightly salty from the pan, it is no wonder they are famous for these.

Service is fast, attentive and friendly.

Dixie Belle’s Cafe
7125 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32809
(407) 906-2476
https://www.yelp.com/biz/dixie-belles-cafe-orlando

Planet Hollywood

Interior

Interior

Exterior

Carousel of apps

**** (4 stars)

This complete remodel of Planet Hollywood is a definite improvement. Not only is the volume level now more reasonable, but the space is actually inviting. It’s dominated by giant projections on one half of the dome, although most of the material is not of sufficient resolution, so it is downsized to repeated inset smaller videos. But when the full frame is in use it is quite impressive.

For a tourist restaurant, the food is pretty decent, too. A good choice is the appetizer sampler, served on a metal Ferris wheel. It’s for four, but makes a good complete small plate meal for two.

Service was prompt and pleasant during an unbusy weekday lunch.

Note there is also a small outside dining area overlooking Disney Springs that looks like a good spot to enjoy a more restful experience.

Planet Hollywood
1506 E Buena Vista Dr
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32836
(407) 827-7827
https://www.yelp.com/biz/planet-hollywood-lake-buena-vista-6

Avalon Diner

Exterior

Triple Decker club with Cole slaw

**** (4 stars)

Avalon Diner offers classic diner food, but in a modern building that also has a nice outside seating area.

My triple-decker club was very good, with nice crisp lettuce and tomato, and generous mayo. I liked the option of getting ham or beef instead of the classic turkey.

Service was very friendly and attentive.

Avalon Diner
16106 Marsh Rd
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 614-4233
https://www.yelp.com/biz/avalon-diner-winter-garden

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

Musso & Frank Grill

Fried zucchini

Lamb chops

Musso and Frank’s Special Salad

Interior

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

Musso and Frank’s certainly has a loyal following, and if you like old-school places you’ll probably like it. After all the hype I confess I was a bit underwhelmed.

First off, I was expecting a clubbier, cozier vibe, like the intimate red leather seat restaurants of my youth. But Musso’s is more like a giant box, with booths at the bottom, and not much ambiance in the yawning, brightly lit space above.

The menu is very extensive–I have no idea how they crammed it onto two pages. If you can’t find something you want here, you aren’t hungry.

The salads are good, but not extraordinary. Caesar salad was fine. The Musso and Frank Special salad is romaine, with LOTS of artichoke hearts and avocado, and the house dressing, a sort of creamy French. At $20 it seems overpriced, but it is huge.

My lamb chops were excellent, with a nice charred outside, and tender, juicy centers.

The desserts were just so-so. Chocolate mousse cake had a hard, flavorless chocolate crust, and okay mousse layered with somewhat dry cake. Creme brulee was better, fairly classic. The best dessert was actually a simple brownie that was nice and fudgy with a crisp, salty exterior.

Service was professional when it was present, which wasn’t often enough. Basics like refilling water, wine, clearing plates, glasses and silver were sadly lacking. More than anything, that reminded us that we hadn’t really stepped back in time, because I’m sure Mr. “Mosso” would have insisted on a higher level.

Musso & Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 467-7788
https://www.yelp.com/biz/musso-and-frank-grill-hollywood