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

Chicken Bites

Interior

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

This place basically makes only one thing, which is a deep fried ball of mashed potato with a small bit of chicken, beef, cheese or vegetable in the middle. Ten of them are served in a cone. You can mix types in your order, but they tend to taste very similar. The Brazilian name is coxinha.

Frankly, they were not to our taste, but if it’s something you like, then I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine version. The problem is that there isn’t a place to eat, and barely a place to stand while you wait for your order. They also have a lunch truck, and this place is essentially like getting food from a lunch truck, with nothing but a small counter.

Service was very friendly.

Chicken Bites
2405 S Hiawassee Rd
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 985-4285
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chicken-bites-orlando

Del Taco

Tostada

**** (4 stars)

Del Taco consistently seems a bit more generous than Taco Bell, and the ingredients often seem a bit fresher, or at least more discrete. This location–a rarity in Central Florida–seems fairly friendly and efficient.

My wife and I have always disagreed about whether Taco Bell’s or Del Taco’s tostadas are better. There’s a philosophical argument about whether the cheese belongs underneath the lettuce, where it melts, or on top, where it imparts more flavor but falls off. More research is needed. I’m on it.

Del Taco
6855 Grand National Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-0738
https://www.yelp.com/biz/del-taco-orlando-2

Jersey Mike’s Subs

** (2 stars)

I’ll confess I’m not a huge sub sandwich fan. I love sandwiches, but I regard subs as the bottom level of sandwich quality.

They used to be even worse, when Subway was the only game in town, but then Quizznos forced them to raise the bar with more breads and toasted options. Then Quizznos was forced out of our area by Jimmy John’s which specialized in speed of assembly, and Firehouse, which introduced better ingredients.

That leave Jersey Mikes in a neverland. They don’t have Firehouse’s quality or Jimmy John’s speed. They don’t even have Subway’s variety of bread.

What they do have–at this location, anyway–is a nice outside eating area that attracts a breeze to cool things off, even in summer.

The pastrami sub I had, prepared the default way, was pretty flavorless. But perhas the addition of some mustard and peppers could zest it up. Still, with a Firehouse a few blocks away, I’d probably go there instead.

Jersey Mike’s Subs
6700 Conroy Rd
Ste 100A
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 445-6453
https://www.yelp.com/biz/jersey-mikes-subs-orlando-8

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

Da Lobsta

***** (5 stars)

The staff at this counter server restaurant is really engaged with their guests, and concerned that everyone have a great meal. That makes the place quite special.

The lobster bisque was as good as any I’ve every had, a nice combination of fresh lobster flavors in a creamy base.

My lobster grilled cheese was good, but I might have a lobster roll next time. The bread was perfectly grilled, but the cheese was quite mild and I’m not sure the lobster added that much. However the sriracha mayo that came with it had a marvelous herbal flavor and the combination was excellent.

Those two items plus a fountain drink came to $27, so this is not cheap fast food. But they don’t scrimp on the lobster, and I would definitely go back.

Da Lobsta
416 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 955-0894
http://www.yelp.com/biz/da-lobsta-chicago-3

Maryland Fried Chicken

*** (3 stars)

This is an old fashioned fried chicken plan with counter service and a few tables. Standing outside it’s easy to imagine it as a roadside stand in the middle of nowhere, although the widening of highway 50 has crept almost to the edge of the front parking spaces.

Things seem a bit disorganized behind the counter, but the food was hot and fresh tasting. The fried chicken is in a very straightforward style, with no obvious breading or seasoning. Chicken tenders are large strips of solid whit meat, breaded and fried; the breading is salty but not obviously seasoned in any other way. Both types of chicken were quite succulent, if somewhat lacking in flavor.

Sides items varied. Mac and cheese was bland, and the gravy on the mashed potatoes was not a home run, but the red beans and rice had lots of flavor, and the green beans had nice bacon and vinegar notes, although they had been very thoroughly overcooked.

If you’re looking for old-fashioned fried chicken, this may be your ticket. If you’re looking for spices and more complex flavors I would try elsewhere.

Maryland Fried Chicken
13675 W Colonial Dr
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 656-4143
http://www.yelp.com/biz/maryland-fried-chicken-winter-garden

Chipotle Mexican Grill

*** (3 stars)

I happened to visit both Qdoba and Chipotle during the same week, and was struck by how nearly identical they are.

Both offer counter assembly of burritos or bowls with rice, beans, sauce, protein, guacamole, lettuce and a couple of other ingredients. And both result in fairly homogenous, bland tasting imitations of a mediocre Tex-Mex burrito. There are minor differences in the other offerings and drinks, but not really anything of note.

The major appeal seems to be the weight of the food you can get for well under ten dollars. This aspect probably explains why most are located near college campuses.

It’s not the worst Tex-Mex food you’l ever have, but unless you’re looking for a good deal by the pound, the appeal is really lost on me.

Chipotle Mexican Grill
7800 Dr. Phillips Blvd
Ste 100
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 352-0198
http://www.yelp.com/biz/chipotle-mexican-grill-orlando-11

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

IMG_6884

*** (3 stars)

Cracker Barrel isn’t one of my usual haunts, but when you’re driving through the South it seems almost required dining. We had a pleasant enough breakfast here. The wait staff was friendly, and as far as I could tell it was identical to the other 100 Cracker Barrels we passed that day.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
5631 Highway 20 NE
Cartersville, GA 30121
(770) 386-6973
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cracker-barrel-old-country-store-cartersville

Arepas El Cacao

***** (5 stars)

This tidy storefront serves prepared to order arepas with a variety of fillings and a nice assortment of sauces on the side. Although the name refers to chocolate, it’s a Venezuelan expression that simply means “The Best” Arepas. And they are good.

I had the shredded beef version with white cheese. It was particularly good with the homemade green sauce.

The also have cachapas. Unlike the arepas, which are grilled, slit open and stuffed, the cachapas are sweeter, and are folded over to hold their payload.

I also enjoyed my blackberry smoothie, which wasn’t too rich and had just the right amount of sweetness.

Arepas El Cacao
5389 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(321) 252-2226
http://www.yelp.com/biz/arepas-el-cacao-orlando-2