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

Road To Seoul

Interior

Table setting

**** (4 stars)

This was a great place for a Korean BBQ lunch extravaganza. For one price you can have all you can eat from an entire page of protein choices. Items are delivered to your table in generous proportions where you, of course, grill them yourself.

We tried quite a few of the meats and our two favorites were the beef bulgogi and the pork spare ribs.

Also included are a bowl of nicely dressed salad, an assortment of kimchi and other sides, and some terrific pancakes.

The place is spacious, and servers keep a careful eye on the temperature of your grill… and your need for more meat!

Road To Seoul
1230 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 731-9292
https://www.yelp.com/biz/road-to-seoul-los-angeles

Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ

Pork platter

Exterior

Interior

Sauces

***** (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
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ellie-lous-brews-and-bbq-ocoee

Izziban Metrowest

Interior

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
https://www.yelp.com/biz/izziban-metrowest-orlando

Harry and Larry’s Barbeque

Smoked brisket 1/4 pound

St Louis Ribs & Cole slaw

Exterior

Interior

***** (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
https://www.yelp.com/biz/harry-and-larrys-barbeque-winter-garden

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Salad

Volcano

Menu ala carte

Menu

Interior

**** (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
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gyu-kaku-japanese-bbq-orlando

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
http://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-q-chicago

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
http://www.yelp.com/biz/imperial-lamian-chicago