Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ

Pork platter




***** (5 stars)

Orlando is an excellent town for barbecue, with many great choices, and a lot of different styles, from Southern to Midwestern and more. I like the barbecue here better than almost anywhere I travel to, because of that diversity. And I have to say, of all the great Orlando barbecue places I patronize, Ellie Lou’s is the best.

I had the pork platter with two sides. I was expecting sliced pork, so I was pleased when something more like burnt ends appeared: succulent chunks of lean, moist pork, with a nice charred crust on some of the pieces. It was a generous serving, too.

I liked all four BBQ sauces on the table: Kansas City (sweet), Memphis, Hot, and Mustard. The combination of the first three was my favorite. All of them are made in-house, and it shows.

Also made in-house are the sides. The baked beans were loaded with chunks of meat; a squirt of sauce and they were perfect. One of my favorite parts of the whole meal was the potato salad, which was also obviously homemade, with big chunks of potato, a creamy dressing and lots of herbs.

The two slices of garlic bread were also excellent: fresh, crispy and with lots of garlic butter.

Perhaps the thing that most distinguishes Ellie Lou’s is the environment. It’s not crowded and is actually quite pleasant inside. And even though you order at a counter, the staff is very attentive once you’re seated, so it’s like a real restaurant. A real GOOD restaurant.

Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ
336 Moore Rd
Ocoee, FL 34761
(407) 347-9515

Izziban Metrowest


Lunch buffet

***** (5 stars)

I’ve never thought that sushi and buffets went together. Sushi requires extreme freshness of ingredients, something you rarely see on a buffet. But I’ll make an exception for this is Izziban.

I think the reason is that they’re constantly resupplying the buffet, so everything is very fresh. There are also hot items and a plethora of sauces to choose from.

At $10.99 the lunch deal simply can’t be beat. It’s quick and delicious and economical, a homerun.

Izziban Metrowest
6996 Piazza Grande Ave
Ste 100
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 868-9999

Harry and Larry’s Barbeque

Smoked brisket 1/4 pound

St Louis Ribs & Cole slaw



***** (5 stars)

This small shotgun style business is always packed, and there’s a reason. While there is lots of pretty good BBQ in Orlando, it’s largely represented by small local chains such as Bubbalou’s and 4 Rivers. While those places turn out some good products, Harry and Larry’s seems to take it to another level, because of the small, home-made approach to everything.

Both the St. Louis Ribs and the Smoked Brisket I tried were, simply put, awesome, with a smokey crust and tender, flavourful meat.

Even the house-made coleslaw was a cut above, with fresh, crisp cabbage and carrot flavors coming through the light and flavorful sauce.

The only miss was the soggy piece of grilled bread served with the ribs.

Note: It can be a bit confusing on your first visit. You order at the counter (inside or out) and if you’re dining in they give you a playing card to put on your table to keep track of who to deliver it to.

Harry and Larry’s Barbeque
54 W Plant St
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 614-5950

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ



Menu ala carte



**** (4 stars)

This restaurant serves Japanese barbecue (essentially the same as Korean barbecue), and lots of it. You cook the meats and vegetables yourself on the grill in the center of the table.

The combo meals are the best deal, because they let you try almost everything on the menu, and the bundled price is quite reasonable, especially considering how much food you get.

We had the Gyu-Kaku, which included miso soup, salad, rice cake appetizer topped with spicy tuna tartare, a big bowl of bibimbap, and for the grill: veggies, three types of meat, shrimp and chicken and a “smores” dessert. That’s a lot of food!

The miso soup had lots of green onions in it, which I like. The salad was an attractive mix of greens with a ginger/1000 island type dressing. The rice cake with tuna tartare on it, called a volcano was the only thing I thought was mediocre. I had a similar version at the Gyu-Kaku in Chicago and thought the same thing.

Perhaps my favorite was the bibimbap. served in a hot stone bowl. I love this type of bibimbap preparation, and usually order it at Korean restaurants rather than the barbecue, so it was nice to have it included.

There were also vegetables for grilling, and a tin of corn kernels.

Of course, the focus in the grilling, and there were nice sized portions of all the meats. Our favorite was the kalbi, although some of the other beef cuts were more tender.

The smores dessert, too consisted of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate.

Everyone arrived at once, filling up the restaurant, so it took a long time to order, but then the food was well-paced, and our server was excellent.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
7858 Turkey Lake Rd
Ste 100
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 613-5056

Chicago q

***** (5 stars)

This might not be the best barbecue place in Chicago, but it’s certainly the nicest, and I love their approach to food and beverage. They focus on flights of both, and offer variety in surprising ways.

For example, we started with the barbecue flight, a good way to sample brisket, pulled pork and pulled chicken. It came with four(!) different barbecue sauces, all of which were good.

Well, we didn’t actually start with that, because when you sit down they give you a generous basket of seasoned house-made potato chips and delicious sweet pickles.

For our main courses we had the chicken and waffles and another flight, this time of eggs benedict. I still don’t really get the combination of chicken and waffles, but both were good–even better when I asked for some barbecue sauce to dunk the chicken in. The eggs benedict was served three ways, each of them huge: with brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken. But it was different from the barbecue flight, because each was on a different base: biscuit, fried green tomato, and corn bread. Each also had a different Hollandaise sauce, which my dining companion wisely opted to have on the side. A little bit was all it needed.

There’s a really extensive list of beers, wines, whiskey, bourbon, scotch and a limited list of cocktails. Staying with the flight theme, we tried the Grand Tasting, which consisted of nine(!) whiskeys. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a real learning experience, because they were all so different, and the beverage manager was really knowledgeable about them.

For the record, here are my ratings (on a scale of 10) for the flight:

Auchentoshan Whiskey (American Oak) 6/10
Hibiki Harmony (Japanese) 7/10
Wieser Uuahouua (Pinot Noir barrels, Austrian) 7.5/10

Compass Box Spice Tree (clove cardamom cinnamon) 7/10
Elijah Craig (barrel strength 102 proof) 8/10
Slaughter House by Orin Swift 9/10

Noah’s Mill Bourbon 6.5/10
Willet Pot Still Bourbon 7/10
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked 9/10

I really like the whole approach to food and beverages at Chicago q.

Chicago q
1160 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 642-1160

Imperial Lamian

**** (4 stars)

I’ll confess that my “advance team” — okay, my daughter — told me what to order here, because she’d made a couple of prior visits and had some favorites. That may be why everything I had was fantastic, or nearly so. I can’t vouch for the rest, but here are the things I tried:

Chinese Pickles were strips of cucumber marinated in rice wine vinegar with just the right touch of red peppers. Really excellent.

Spicy Szechuan Soup dumplings were good, which is high praise, since I’m not really a dumpling fan. The best strategy here is to put the whole thing in your mouth, because otherwise that soup is not going to end up there.

Seared Turnip dim sum took a long time to prepare, and was almost wonderful. I loved the sprouts and seasonings on it, but the surfaces needed a bit more sear. I can see where if the was perfectly prepared and immediately consumed it could be amazing.

Lamian Mixed Mushroom Noodles were my favorite. This is a complete meal in a bowl, and the complex flavors melded wonderfully. I liked the tender noodles, crunchy vegetables, and the spoonful of cilantro on top lets you add a pinch to each bite.

Crispy shrimp had a nice wasabi cream drizzle, but they were the only dish that had the traditional Chinese oily heaviness to them.

The stunner on a second visit was the Jasmine Tea Smoked Ribs. These fall-off-the-bone pork ribs were literally the best barbecue I have ever had.

There are a lot of nice wines by the glass, and I also really liked their amaro-based version of a mule. On a second visit there was a very interesting tasting flight of rose wines that went well with the food.

The main room by the bar can be quite loud. It’s a bit quieter in the next room down. I was slightly disappointed in the decor, not because it isn’t nice, but because it wasn’t nearly as breathtaking as the photo they use online. In fact, I’m not sure what that’s a photo of!

Service was extremely friendly and attentive. I look forward to returning and discovering some of the other dishes on this very interesting menu.

Imperial Lamian
6 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 595-9440


**** (4 stars)

There are so many styles of barbecue that’s it’s always interesting to see people’s different favorites. I tend to like somewhat sweet southern style sauces and fall-off-the-bone meat, whereas a lot of the barbecue in Chicago often has a more tart sauce that isn’t what I’m looking for. Carson’s is interesting in that the sauce is quite good, with a sweet tang, but the meat is not cooked to fall off the bone. The result is okay, but not my favorite.

I tried the barbecue sampler, which in addition to a half rack of ribs included a quarter chicken and a giant pork chop. The chicken was pretty good, but the pork chop, not something I would typically order, was the best thing on the plate. It had a great charred crust, and was moist and tender (and did I mention huge?).

But for me, the highlight of the meal was the coleslaw, which was finely grated cabbage in a very wet sauce that was absolutely delicious. I finished the whole bowl.

Also excellent was the cornbread, which was crunchy on the outside and crumbly in the middle, served in a hot skillet.

The highly touted Au gratin potatoes did nothing for me; they were simply potatoes with melted cheese on top.

There’s a small but well-priced wine list and some nicely crafted cocktails. The atmosphere is vinyl booth bar-ish. Service was friendly if not particularly attentive.

I would definitely go back, but probably have a prime rib sandwich and coleslaw and cornbread

612 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 280-9200

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

**** (4 stars)

This bustling restaurant serves Japanese barbecue (essentially the same as Korean barbecue), and lots of it. You cook the meats and vegetables yourself on the grill in the center o the table.

The combo meals are the best bet, because they let you try almost everything on the menu. We had the Samurai, which included three types of beef, chicken and shrimp. The toro beef was the best, although all were good.

The meal also come with a tasty miso soup (lots of green onions in it, which I like), salad, a so-so tuna rice ball appetizer, and bibimbap served in a hot stone bowl. I love this type of bibimbap preparation, and usually order it at Korean restaurants rather than the barbecue, so it was nice to have it included. There were also vegetables for grilling, and a pouch of corn kernels.

Dessert, too, was included, and consisted of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate–a do-it-yourself s’mores kit!

Service was fast and efficient. The place is pretty noisy, so eating on the sidewalk would be a nice option, when available.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
210 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 266-8929

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa

**** (4 stars)

It’s not really fair to characterize Pig Floyd’s as a barbecue place, because they’re trying to do several different things, and succeeding pretty well. It’s not exactly a fusion of Asian and barbecue, either, although there are “tacos” on their menu.

The best way to sample the menu is to order the Big Floyd, a barbecue sandwich featuring a literal pile of brisket, pulled pork, sausage and fennel slaw. All the meats were tender and flavorful. I liked the strong smoked taste of the pulled pork, but the standout was the sausage, which was some of the best I’ve had. I’m really not a sausage fan, but that’s the meat I’d concentrate on for a return visit.

The fries that accompanied the sandwich were a bit sturdy, and the default barbecue sauce not quite the rich, spicy variety I’m looking for. The bun was good enough, but frankly the sandwich was so big I just ate the meat and slaw.

I also tried the shrimp and sausage taco, which was very saucy with a creamy mayo like mixture that seemed pretty rich. And I tried the butter chicken taco, which had a good flavor but was mostly rice sopping with the butter sauce, not my favorite ingredient in a taco.

You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table, inside or out. Beer and wine are available.

Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa
1326 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 203-0866