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

Smashburger

BBQ Bacon cheddar

Exterior

Interior

Spicy jalapeno Baha and smash fries

**** (4 stars)

The main attraction here is the extraordinary staff. They are definitely into providing great customer service.

The burgers are fairly juicy, despite being “smashed”. I tried the BBQ bacon Cheddar burger, which was fine, but I wasn’t a fan of the limp bun. That said, if you build your own burger there are several bun types and many toppings to choose from, so next time I would definitely roll my own. They also have turkey and black bean burgers.

The burger price seemed comparable to competitors such as Burger-Fi and Shake Shack. However the “smashfries” were a rather small serving for the over $2 price. I was expecting them to have more of the rosemary flavor that warranted them being more costly than the regular fries.

Smashburger
5812 Conroy Rd
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 440-3595
http://www.yelp.com/biz/smashburger-orlando-5

Mo-Chica Ceviche Peruvian Grill

Chaufa and 1/4 chicken lunch

Causa (shrimp)

Tuna

Disco sour

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

So far this is the best Peruvian food I’ve found in Orlando.

Of course I had to have a Pisco Sour. It was nicely made, with lots of frothy egg white on top, although it was a bit sweeter than I like.

Our server was nice, but there was definitely a language barrier. However we managed to mostly convey our order, although she didn’t understand the concept of appetizer, even though there is a section of the menu labeled that.

The Causa is extremely good, three small towers of the yellow pepper mash topped with fresh shrimp and a delicious sauce.

The Tiradito de Tuna Mikey was a very interesting preparation of sashimi style tuna slices in an Asian sauce and topped with chunks of sweet potato and avocado. The tuna was very good quality, and the sauce was excellent.

On the back of the menu is a small lunch section, with items for $9. Unlike the rest of the menu, there is no translation, so it requires a bit of research. I tried the Chaufa con 1/4 de Pollo a la Brisa. It was rotisserie chicken over fried rice. It was good, but not as good as the other items we had.

Because the tuna and shrimp were so good, on my next visit I will definitely try one of their many ceviches.

Prices seem a bit high, but not unreasonable for a tourist area. The place had only been open a couple of weeks when we went, but there wasn’t much lunch business. I’m rather surprised they opened here, because this shopping center is getting a bit tired, and I thought they were planning to bulldoze it to make room for a luxury hotel. But as long as it lasts I will be a regular visitor, because this is an excellent Peruvian restaurant.

Mo-Chica Ceviche Peruvian Grill
5700 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 723-8416
http://www.yelp.com/biz/mo-chica-ceviche-peruvian-grill-orlando-2

LemonShark Poke Orlando

Custom poke medium

Kitchen

**** (4 stars)

This is a much better use of this space than the prior occupant. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit dark and drab, but the food is better and more interesting.

I spend a lot of time in Chicago, where there are poke places all over town, but this is the first one in this part of Orlando, and so far it is popular. The assembly line process works well for poke, because there are so many potential ingredients. You can get a better bowl of fish and rice up the street at Bonsai Sushi, but there are more variants here, and it is cheaper. You can also get a version on lettuce rather than rice, if you’re really trying to cut carbs.

I tried the ahi tuna, spicy salmon and miso glazed salmon. The tuna was still a bit frozen, but quickly thawed, and seemed fresher than the salmon. The miso glaze turned out to be something squirted on, no actual glaze. The crab salad topping was good; the avocado topping was more like guacamole, but it was okay. There are a lot of sauces to choose from. The iced tea dispenser was either empty or not working.

Service was efficient.

LemonShark Poke Orlando
7600 Dr Phillips Blvd
Ste 102
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 730-5201
http://www.yelp.com/biz/lemonshark-poke-orlando-orlando-2

Hot N Juicy Crawfish

Crawfish

Crawfish sandwich

1lb crawfish

Menu

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

This place is well-named, as the food was certainly hot and juicy. Not surprisingly, it’s also a mess. You know you’re in for a participatory meal when your table is equipped with bibs, gloves and a bucket!

We shared a pound of crawfish for $14. It comes in a tied plastic bag, swimming in sauce. That’s a reasonable price, but you need to realize that equates to only a few tablespoons of actual crawfish meat. We had the hot n juicy sauce, which was pretty good, but be cautious of the spiciness level. We ordered medium, and it equated to HOT most places.

We also had the cajun fries, which were crisp, hot and well-seasoned.

Our companions had the crawfish po boy sandwiches, which were a lot easier and neater, as the crawfish meat was deep fried.

Service was friendly and helpful.

Hot N Juicy Crawfish
7572 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 370-4655
http://www.yelp.com/biz/hot-n-juicy-crawfish-orlando

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

Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders

Exterior

Interior

Counter and menu

Magoo’s favorite salad

Buffalo chicken salad

**** (4 stars)

When I read about a new chicken tenders place I imagined something like Chick fil a, which I despise, but Huey Magoo’s is much, much better. For one thing, if you get the chicken grilled rather than battered, it’s actually healthful.

We tried two different salads. Magoo’s Favorite, mixed greens with grilled chicken, cranberries, walnuts, grape tomatoes, & raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing. The chicken was a bit bland, but the dressing was excellent.

Even better was the Buffalo Chicken Salad ordered with grilled chicken. It included bleu cheese crumbles, and grape tomatoes. Unlike the menu description it was made with mixed greens, not romaine.  And rather then jalapeño ranch & spicy Magoo’s dressing it came with a wonderful blue cheese dressing. Thanks to the Buffalo sauces, this chicken really had a lot of flavor. This was really a top-notch salad, far beyond expectations for a quick serve restaurant.

They have a Coke freestyle machine.

While there isn’t table service, the staff was attentive.

Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders
7538 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 203-2051
http://www.yelp.com/biz/huey-magoos-chicken-tenders-orlando

Shakers American Café

Exterior

Interior

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Shakers

Western omelet

***** (5 stars)

Shakers recently won a people’s choice award for best breakfast in Orlando, and I can see why. My Western Omelet was overflowing with fresh vegetables and savory ham. Hash browns were extra crispy, just like I ordered them. And my server’s suggestion to grill my biscuit was pure genius.

I also loved the decor, with unique salt and pepper shakers on every table, and many more lining the walls.

Service was excellent, and all the servers I encountered were very friendly. Indeed, this was the best breakfast I’ve had in a long, long time.

Shakers American Café
1308 Edgewater Dr
Orlando, FL 32804
(407) 422-3534
https://www.yelp.com/biz/shakers-american-caf%C3%A9-orlando-2

Taste of Peru

Pescado a la Chorrillana

Ceviche Mixto

Causa de Camarones

Exterior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

This is the best Peruvian restaurant I’ve found in Orlando. In fact, the quality of the ceviche approached our benchmark, which we had in Lima Peru.

The place is small and decorated in dark woods and black fake alligator table tops, but it’s not at all grungy as one review seemed to imply. In fact, it’s quite clean, and even a bit edgy looking. I would vote to lose the really annoying Peruvian travel videos, though, which inexplicably have a soundtrack that sounds like Russian marching band dirges.

We started with the Causa de Camarones, which was a good as any causa I’ve had. It was missing a couple of layers that are usually present, but had a delightfully piquant quality and excellent sauce accompaniment.

Ceviche Mixto was a huge mound of mixed seafood in a mildly spicy creamy lime sauce. The shrimp and fish were good, and the calamari was excellent.

Pescado a la Chorrillana is a large serving of nicely battered and fried fish topped with onions, tomatoes and cilantro, and served with a mild sauce. The flavor of the cilantro came through nicely.

Service was very friendly, and the kitchen is extremely quick, obviously preparing everything from scratch, but at lightning speed. Pricing is reasonable, especially considering the generous portions.

Taste of Peru
9521 S Orange Blossom Trl
Ste 114A
Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 857-2734
http://www.yelp.com/biz/taste-of-peru-orlando-6