Topgolf

Third floor

**** (4 stars)

This is a fun spot whether you’ve ever held a golf club or not. Three floors of driving bays are set up sort of like a bowling alley, and you can just hit balls, or aim for the giant lighted holes while playing a variety of games.

The food and drink are quite good. In addition to small plates, they catered an entire dinner buffet for our office group, and everyone really liked it.

There are also several bars if you just want to sit and relax and enjoy a game on TV, or watch people hitting balls out onto the field.

Topgolf
9295 Universal Blvd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 218-7714
https://www.yelp.com/biz/topgolf-orlando-2

The Gnarly Barley

Bar

Interior

Gnar BQ Taco

1/2 Grown Up Grilled Cheese and side salad

Exterior

***** (5 stars)

A great little dive bar with excellent food and 16 beers on tap.

The place is really small, but there are also some larger tables on the back porch.

The Gnar-BQ Taco was a nice portion of savory shredded pork offset by crisp, tangy slaw.

The Grown Up Grilled Cheese combined cheddar, Swiss and goat cheese with bacon, but the real highlight was thin, crisp apple slices. It was perfectly grilled. I had it as “Mom’s Special”: a half sandwich with a side salad. The blue cheese dressing is VERY chunky.

It’s nice that their tap beers are available in half portions so you can try more. Service was friendly.

The Gnarly Barley
7431 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32809
(407) 854-4999
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-gnarly-barley-orlando

Dixie Belle’s Cafe

Exterior

BBQ Pork sandwich with onion rings

Sweet potato biscuit

***** (5 stars)

This is a great diner with traditional breakfast and a very wide array of lunch offerings. There’s a counter, lots of indoor seating, and limited outdoor seating.

I had a barbecued pork sandwich. It came with two sides, and I upgraded slightly to get onion rings and a sweet potato biscuit. Everything was perfectly prepared, and the BBQ sauce had just the right tang. It was nice that it was served on the side so you could use as much as you liked; I ended up making two open-faced sandwiches. The onion rings were nicely breaded and very crispy.

It might seem strange to have a sweet potato biscuit in addition to a sandwich, but it was essentially dessert! Crisp on the outside, dusted with sugar, and slightly salty from the pan, it is no wonder they are famous for these.

Service is fast, attentive and friendly.

Dixie Belle’s Cafe
7125 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32809
(407) 906-2476
https://www.yelp.com/biz/dixie-belles-cafe-orlando

Chroma

Shishito peppers

Exterior

Buffalo chicken wanton

**** (4 stars)

Chroma combines a nice assortment of small plates with an interesting and varied wine list. The place is divided into several spaces, and it’s quieter in the rooms away from the central bar. There’s also outside dining. You might not think an outside dining area under an airport’s approach is a good idea, but somehow it works, particularly on a nice balmy evening.

It’s one of those places where things come out from the kitchen whenever they’re ready, which can lead to pacing problems, so I suggest going when you’re not in a hurry, and not ordering everything at once.

Chroma
6967 Lake Nona Blvd
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 955-4340
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chroma-orlando

El Patron Restaurante Mexicano

Presidente Margarita

Interior

Exterior

Nachos with no beans or meat

Taco Al pastor

Special dessert

**** (4 stars)

I had avoided this restaurant for many years after a bad experience when they first opened, but I’m glad I decided to try it again. It’s a pretty interesting Mexican restaurant, particularly considering it’s in a tourist area where it doesn’t need to be all that good.

I admit I started with the Presidente Margarita, which at 24 ounces may have favorably colored my experience of the rest of the meal! It was much too sweet, but a plate of lime wedges fixed that.

I started with the nachos, a generous serving to say the least. I don’t like bean and meat on my nachos, so I had them without that, and they were really good–even though I usually want melted cheese, not queso on nachos. There was a generous mound of pickled jalapenos on top, and they were just the right degree of spiciness.

After all those nachos, I just had a single taco al pastor. It was very authentic, with two corn tortillas, bits of pineapple, and just the right level of spice in the marinade.

Even though I was full, I couldn’t pass up a dessert special, bunuelos. This was a stack of three deep-fried flour tortillas coated in sugar and cinnamon and topped with vanilla ice cream. It was really excellent, very freshly made and crisp, with the perfect combination of sweet and salty, crisp and chewy, hot and cold. A dessert home run.

I really enjoyed my lunch, which was not cheap, but was just what I wanted. Everyone else in the place was taking advantage of the lunch buffet, which is a good deal, especially for a tourist area.

Service was attentive and friendly, and the place is nicely decorated. I will definitely return.

El Patron Restaurante Mexicano
12167 S Apopka Vineland Rd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 238-5300
https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-patron-restaurante-mexicano-orlando

Sea Dog Brewing Company – Orlando

Beer sampler

Interior

Exterior

Nachos

Pretzy

Happy hour winds

**** (4 stars)

This place has a nice open feel with a large bar in the center and lots of TVs. The menu is basic sports bar food, but well prepared.

The best feature, of course, is the list of beers made on-site. I like porters and stouts, and most microbreweries only make one or two, so I was pleased to see four on the list. A sampler of all four was only $8, and I really enjoyed several of them. There were some pretty wild flavors!

It’s worth noting that there is a nice list of happy hour appetizers, and beers are half price. Since happy hour runs all Sunday afternoon, that’s a great time to go.

Sea Dog Brewing Company – Orlando
8496 Palm Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32836
(321) 329-5306
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sea-dog-brewing-company-orlando-orlando

Ok China Restaurant

Interior

Exterior

Boneless spare ribs with beef fried rice

Bourbon chicken with pork fried rice

Pork lo mein with pork fried rice

Curry chicken and onion with shrimp fried rice

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been looking for good Chinese takeout in Orlando for a while, and this place is the first really good one I’ve found.

All four dishes I tried were excellent. Bourbon chicken was probably my favorite, with big, meaty chunk of chicken, and not super sweet, just right. Boneless spareribs were meaty, and not over-sauced. The lo mein in the pork lo mein was a bit overcooked by the time I got home, but it was a long drive, and it was still very hot, so that’s not their fault. Curry chicken and onion was an interesting non-Chinese dish.

The fried rice that came with each was excellent, and the protein–whether beef, pork or shrimp–was plentiful.

Each lunch was huge, so at about $5 each, they’re an amazing deal. There is literally 2 pounds of entree and rice in each meal.

Because my order came to $20 I got two free eggrolls. These were easily the best eggrolls I have ever tasted, including in Hong Kong. They were extremely savory and flavorful, and the wrapper was delicate and crispy without being oily.

It’s just counter service with very little seating, so it’s mainly a takeout place. I don’t think they really started fixing my Internet order until I arrived, but it was pretty quick, and that guaranteed freshness.

Ok China Restaurant
7359 W Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32818
(407) 299-8955
https://www.yelp.com/biz/ok-china-restaurant-orlando

The Habit Burger Grill

BBQ Bacon cheeseburger

Interior

Exterior

***** (5 stars)

This is the best quick serve burger I’ve found in Orlando. It’s also the best-priced quality burger I’ve found, costing barely more than fastfood chain burgers.

I had the BBQ bacon cheeseburger, which came will all the trimmings I’d usually order, standard. It was juicy and flavorful, and the bun held together well.

Breaded onion rings were nicely crisped, and the manager offered me some ranch dressing that was perfect for dipping them.

The burger, rings and a large drink came to under ten bucks. It was a great meal for that price.

Service was friendly, and the cooked-to-order meal came out very quickly.

The Habit Burger Grill
4706 Millenia Plaza Way
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 351-9009
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-habit-burger-grill-orlando-2