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

Mrs Potato

Exterior

Interior

Empanada

Chicken Catupiry Rosti

**** (4 stars)

This is both a counter serve and sit down restaurant. Although there are only three tables in the building, an adjacent permanent tent accommodates many more. The menu offers many variations of potatoes rosti, and also baked potatoes.

Rosti is essentially a beret-sized mound of hashbrowns with whatever filling you like. I tried the Chicken Catupiry Rosti. I enjoyed the crispy brown hashbrown crust, but the filling wasn’t my favorite.

In addition to potatoes, they also have many Brazilian and South American entrees and appetizers. My favorite was the empanada. The beef version I ordered was unavailable so I tried cheese, and it was excellent, with a delicate crust cooked a perfect golden brown, and served with an excellent salsa/relish.

Service was excellent, very friendly and efficient. I was impressed that every customer was promptly and warmly welcomed upon arrival.

They also have a large assortment of Mr. Potato head toys for the kids to play with!

Mrs Potato
4550 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 290-0991
https://www.yelp.com/biz/mrs-potato-orlando-2

Shula Burger

Exterior

Interior

Custom Veggie burger with rings

***** (5 stars)

I’d put off trying this place for years, but I’m really glad I did. I love the ability to build a burger any way you like from the ground up. I’m more fond of toppings than the actual meat, so I tried the veggie burger and found it excellent. I will warn you that the Korean BBQ sauce is not messing around spice-wise!

I also had the onion rings, which were perfect, with a very crisp breading and tender inside, served piping hot, and not greasy.

The meal was reasonably priced for its quality.

Most impressive was the friendly and helpful staff. Everyone in the place seemed glad to see me, and even the person bussing tables thanked me for coming as I left. That’s a well run restaurant.

Shula Burger
8124 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee, FL 34747
(407) 238-1999
https://www.yelp.com/biz/shula-burger-kissimmee

Beth’s Burger Bar

Exterior

Interior

Bacon Cheeseburger

Bacon Cheeseburger

*** (3 stars)

I like the concept at this place, which isn’t a burger bar, per se, but a counter serve place that lets you specify how your burger is to be assembled, starting with the type of patty, then adding condiments and optional toppings. I had a bacon cheeseburger with everything, and I liked all the toppings except the lettuce, which was shredded rather than leaf. The burger itself was a bit dry, as was the bun.

We loved the frickles (fried pickles) and fried cheese curds, but the french fries weren’t notable.

Beth’s Burger Bar
9938 Universal Blvd
Ste 120
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 203-8100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/beths-burger-bar-orlando-2

Twin Peaks

Quesadilla

BBQ burger with bacon

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

This sports bar follows the Hooters formula, but has better food than Hooters or the nearby Ale House. There are so many TV screens here they hardly need lighting. Aside from long communal tables there are also individual tables for four that are a bit quieter. I like that they play rock music rather than the soundtrack of the TV sports, and that it wasn’t too loud to talk.

Of course the main draw is supposed to be the vast expanse of midriff exposed by your server, but the hamburger (I had the sweet BBQ burger plus bacon) was excellent.

Twin Peaks
12353 Winter Garden Vineland Rd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 778-4810
https://www.yelp.com/biz/twin-peaks-orlando-3

McDonald’s

Custom pizza and side salad

Custom bistro burger

Interior

Counter and touch screens

Games

Redemption area

*** (3 stars)

This is probably the nicest McDonald’s you’ll visit. The downstairs is divided into several nice eating areas, and the upstairs contains a large play area and many redemption games.

I’m not a frequent fast food eater, and especially not at McDonald’s, but we went here to check out their touch screen ordering system. It worked great, and allowed us to customize our orders of Bistro Burgers and Pizza.

After selecting the desired ingredients, you select a numbered “hockey puck,” enter its code, pay (I used Apple Pay) and find a seat. Then your food finds you.

The actual food was no different then other McDonald’s. The burger had good ingredients, but the beef patty itself didn’t distinguish it. The pizza toppings were good but the crust was limp.

If you’re looking for a decent environment for a fast food meal, and want to entertain the kids, this is a good choice.

McDonald’s
6875 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 351-2185
https://www.yelp.com/biz/mcdonalds-orlando-10

25 Degrees

**** (4 stars)

This is a burger joint with cloth napkins and cocktails. The interior is nice but can get quite loud, so try for a table on the sidewalk.

The burgers are huge, with two giant patties and all the fixings. I opted for a Number Six, because it is essentially my standard loaded burger. Everything was tasty, but the extremely juicy patties quickly overwhelmed the soft bun, and I ended up with two handfuls of mush. Tasty mush, but still…

There’s a nice assortment of drinks, plus spiked sodas and shakes.

Service was friendly.

25 Degrees
736 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 943-9700
http://www.yelp.com/biz/25-degrees-chicago

Portillo’s Hot Dogs & Barnelli’s Salad Bowl

*** (3 stars)

I’ll start by confessing I’m not a huge fan of Chicago-style hot dogs or Italian beef sandwiches. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

That said, there’s a lot to like about Portillo’s. Foremost, it’s not a hot dog stand or a dumpy diner, it’s a stylish, themed, village-like food court with several counters: one for their specialties, a separate operation for Italian food, and a hamburger counter. The interior ambiance is great.

The main attractions are hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, so that’s what I tried.

The Chicago dog was pretty much like all the others I’ve had: very soft roll with poppy seeds, very tender dog, green relish, large pickle, and a couple of sport peppers. Nothing really distinguished it, except that the sport peppers were a bit tamer than some I’ve had, making it easier to taste the rest.

The Italian beef was less interesting. The very tender shaved beef had little flavor, and the very soft, soggy roll didn’t thrill me. I’m not sure what would have fixed this, but no condiments were available. I wouldn’t order it again.

The vanilla shake was good, a bit frothy compared to some.

Overall Portillo’s was fine, but I see no compelling reason to return.

Portillo’s Hot Dogs & Barnelli’s Salad Bowl
100 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 587-8910
http://www.yelp.com/biz/portillos-hot-dogs-and-barnellis-salad-bowl-chicago

3 Greens Market


IMG_1757

***** (5 stars)

Perhaps the 3 in the title of this place if for the three expansive salad bars. They certainly look good. I say “look” because I haven’t actually tried them. On my next visit I need to do that. But this visit was all about a hamburger.

Ever since Au Cheval’s burger was named the best in the country by several sources I’ve been attempting to try it. Unfortunately, every time I’ve gone there it’s either had ridiculous wait times or been unexpectedly closed (mid-afternoon they only serve drinks and snacks). In fact, it’s been a lot like my failed attempts to try Hot Dougs, but that’s another story.

Anyway, when I saw that they’d spun off a smaller operation called Small Cheval, I resolved to try the burger that way, but somehow never managed to get there.

So when I saw that 3 Greens Market was serving a Small Cheval burger, I spotted my chance to at last try the famous burger. Of course, it’s a burger twice-removed from its source, but still… It was a mighty good hamburger.

I like my burgers pretty much loaded. But some people just like mustard and ketchup. What’s interesting about this burger is that those are the two ingredients that aren’t included. So some people probably wouldn’t like it, but I did.

Here, the emphasis is on the two perfectly cooked beef patties, the very melted cheese, and the garlic aioli. Secondary flavors come from the pickle slices and chopped onion. I added bacon which, in retrospect, was unneeded. The bun is sturdy enough to hold the whole thing together, an impressive achievement considering how much is going on.

Of course, when someone declares a thing “the best” they’re setting it up for comparison and naysaying, and in fact I’ve had burgers I liked better, including one here in Chicago at Good Stuff Eatery. But this is a very good burger, and I wouldn’t argue with someone who says it’s their favorite.

The accompanying fries were skinny, very crisp, but didn’t have a lot of flavor.

3 Greens has Coke Freestyle machines, which are always fun to experiment with.

Counter service is friendly and efficient.

Next time: the salad bars. Maybe.

3 Greens Market
354 West Hubbard Street
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 888-9195
http://www.yelp.com/biz/3-greens-market-chicago-3

Pincho Factory

**** (4 stars)

Twenty minutes is too long to stand in a ten-person line at a counter service restaurant. Yet although that was the consistent wait time throughout lunch hour, the manager never saw fit to open the second of two registers. Perhaps the kitchen couldn’t have kept up, but if so, then there are some serious design flaws, because it wasn’t for lack of staff.

That said, it only took about ten minutes for them to make the food, once it was ordered, and what we were served was quite good. The pitas were hot from the grill, and the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and tasty. We liked both the traditional cilantro sauce and also the tropical preparation.

A side order of Cajun tostones was crispy and flavorful.

There’s a nice offering of beers on tap and in bottle, as well as soft drinks, although some were out of syrup and no one seemed concerned.

So overall, an A for food and a C for service, but they’ve only been open a few days, so perhaps things will get worked out.

Pincho Factory
7600 Doctor Phillips Blvd
Ste 102
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 745-4462
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pincho-factory-orlando