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

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills

End cut

English cut

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to Lawry’s for almost 50 years, and aside from moving across the street a few decades ago, nothing has changed.

Perfectly cooked prime rib is still served, cut to your liking, from 70-year-old table-side carts. The creamed spinach is still the best anywhere, as is the gravy poured into the divot in your mashed potatoes.

Service is proper but not prim, and wine pricing is reasonable.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-2827
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lawrys-the-prime-rib-beverly-hills-beverly-hills

Nate’n Al Delicatessen

New York on rye

Deli case

Interior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

This is the deli you’ve been looking for. Its extensive menu offers all the genuine New York style Jewish delicatessen standards, in every conceivable option.

Speaking of New York, try the New York sandwich: meaty pastrami on seeded rye (or whatever your preference) with their not-to-heavy cole slaw, and a perfect amount of Russian dressing. Order the half sandwich unless you want to take some home. My favorite (included) side item is the potato salad, but you can also upgrade to fries (three kinds) onion rings, and a lot of other stuff.

The serving staff has been here forever (and a few of the clients look like they have too), so it’s just like you remember it from however far back your memory goes. A great deli.

Nate’n Al Delicatessen
414 N Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 274-0101
https://www.yelp.com/biz/naten-al-delicatessen-beverly-hills

O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar

Exterior

Entry

Interior

Interior

Bread

Wedge side salad

Cedar plank salmon

Appetizer sampler

***** (5 stars)

I rarely give five stars to a chain restaurant, but this place really deserves it. Sunday lunch here was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in months. Everything about our visit was perfect, from the hostess stand to the friendly and attentive server, James, to his helpful assistant and the manager. And the food was far above expectations.

The first surprise was the interior decor. From the outside I was expecting a dark and dreary steakhouse. But it turns out those brown walls are panes of smoked glass, and inside the place is lit by a two story atrium. There’s also outside seating, which wasn’t apparent from the parking lot.

I had the cedar plank salmon. It was a huge, succulent piece of perfectly seasoned fresh salmon, and had really picked up the cedar flavors from the plank it was served on. This was honestly better than the cedar plank salmon at Disney’s Artist’s Point, at about one-third the cost.

Not only was the salmon great, the sides were, too. I selected the wedge salad and a loaded baked potato. Both were every bit as good as you can get at any high-end steakhouse in town. For all that fabulous food I felt like $16.99 was an extremely fair price.

My companion went a completely different route and had the appetizer sampler. The potato skins, fried cheese, and chicken tenders were all perfectly crisp and excellent–everything you’d expect from a good sports bar-type place, but served in a much nicer environment, and at $8.99 another great value.

Our drinks were refilled multiple times, the waiter stopped by to check on us and chat several times, and the manager bid us farewell on the way out the door. I can’t really imagine a better dining experience than this.

O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar
8081 Turkey Lake Rd
Ste 700
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 354-0010
http://www.yelp.com/biz/o-charleys-restaurant-and-bar-orlando

Gibson Cafe

Breakfast sandwich

Chicken and chips

Egg white omelet

Interior

*** (3 stars)

I thought this place was pretty good for an airport restaurant.

The breakfast sandwich had a nice flaky biscuit and the accompanying hash browns (which were silver dollar shaped) were nice and crispy, as requested, and had a hint of onion.

The chicken tenders and fires were nice and crunchy, and it was nice that they offered the Buffalo sauce on the side.

Service was friendly, and the food was well-prepared.

Gibson Cafe
1 Terminal Dr
Nashville International Airport
Nashville, TN 37214

http://www.yelp.com/biz/gibson-cafe-nashville

Johnny’s Fillin’ Station

Sign

Bacon cheeseburger

Fries

Interior

***** (5 stars)

For at least 20 years Johnny’s has been acclaimed for having the best burger in Orlando (they even have the 1998 plaque on the wall to prove it), and it still is. The secret is a thick, meaty patty perfectly cooked to order served on a bun with some substance. And the bun is grilled on the insides to make sure it doesn’t get soggy as you make your way through the burger. The bacon cheeseburger is the way to go. And it comes with all the fixin’s you’d expect of a fillin’ station.

The fries that come with the burger could be better, as they are steak fries rather than something skinnier, but if you order them crispy they will do.

The atmosphere is also unchanged in at least twenty years: quintessential dive bar. It’s a real dive bar that has earned its designation, not some artificially decorated pretender. The junk on the walls is all there for historical reasons.

Service is not what you’d call attentive, but it is pleasant.

Johnny’s Fillin’ Station
2631 S Fern Creek Ave
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 894-6900
http://www.yelp.com/biz/johnnys-fillin-station-orlando-2