Shishito peppers


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.

6967 Lake Nona Blvd
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 955-4340

El Patron Restaurante Mexicano

Presidente Margarita



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

Sea Dog Brewing Company – Orlando

Beer sampler





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

Ok China Restaurant



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

The Habit Burger Grill

BBQ Bacon cheeseburger



***** (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

Bocas Grill – Orlando



** (2 stars)

This nice space has been a succession of restaurants, all of them better than this incarnation.

The extensive menu offers a variety of Latin cuisines, with an emphasis on Venezuela. The prices are pretty ridiculous, with a soda or iced tea costing $5, and a milkshake an astounding $15.

Fortunately there are lunch specials for $9. We tried several, and none rose above mediocre. Your money would certainly be better spent at an alternative such as Pio Pio or Arepas El Cacao.

Service can only be termed snail-like, despite the place being only half full, with plenty of servers.

I’m already looking forward to the next restaurant in this space.

Bocas Grill – Orlando
7600 Dr Phillips Blvd
Ste 22
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 723-8351

Cheesesteak Factory



Corn dog

Theresa cheese steak

***** (5 stars)

I’ve seen this place hundreds of times, but somehow I had never stopped in. I’m glad I did.

It’s definitely a no-frills space, with a counter and a couple of tables. But the cheesesteaks are delicious. you can get a traditional one, or a “Theresa” which has specially marinated meat. I had that, with all the traditional toppings, and it was a great cheesesteak. I like that you can pick and choose each and every topping from a long list to get just what you want.

They also have burgers, fries, and so on. I tried a corn dog, and it was also very good, so I mau branch out on my next visit. Service was very friendly.

Cheesesteak Factory
6405 Raleigh St
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 985-1988

El Tenampa


Appetizer sampler

**** (4 stars)

This is a nicely decorated neighborhood restaurant with excellent service. The first impression is that it will be very authentic Mexican, and there are such items on the menu, but there is also a lot of Americanized Tex Mex.

We tried the appetizer sampler of quesadilla, guacamole, chicken taquitos, and nachos. The nachos were too much about refried beans for my taste, but the rest of the items were good.

Because the appetizer was very generous we just shared a taco plate. Three authentic tacos were served on soft corn tortillas. The beef was okay, and the carnitas was tender but not very flavorful. However the pastor was terrific, with lots of flavor and a slight kick. All were topped with fresh cilantro.

There’s a full bar. The margarita I had was heavy on agave flavor, but a generous pour. Prices are reasonable.

El Tenampa
11242 S Orange Blossom Trl
Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 850-9499

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant




Smoked salmon poke with pineapple

Teriyaki tots

Pork sweet plantain dumplings

Scallion pancake quesadilla

Chimichanga eggroll

Edamame frito

Ropa Viejo Bibimbap a Gaballo

***** (5 stars)

Many restaurants call themselves “fusion” cuisine when all they’re really doing is serving two different cuisines. So I was delighted to discover that El Buda is serving a true blending of Latin and Asian cuisines, and some of the most creative food in Central Florida.

We tried a broad range of their small plates, and the combination of flavors in each was superb. I particularly liked the eggroll and the quesadilla. The only slight disappointment was I thought the ropa vieja was too salty.

Service was friendly but obviously inexperienced. This didn’t interfere with our enjoyment of the meal, though. It was great to find someplace still fully staffed and serving great food late on a Sunday night after a show.

This space has been many, many restaurants, probably because it doesn’t open directly onto Church Street, but instead faces the railroad tracks. This is by far the best restaurant that’s been here, and I hope it prospers, as it truly is among the most creative in Orlando.

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant
116 W Church St
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 203-8171

STK Orlando


Dining room

Pull apart bread

Small seafood platter

Truffle fries

Mini burgers

Crispy rock shrimp

Carmelito Bar

*** (3 stars)

If you’re looking for a steakhouse experience in Disney Springs, this is it. It’s not going to change your life, but it is fine.

You’ll find all the usual offerings, and not much outside the box.

We started with the seafood tower, which is expensive (well, everything is expensive) but included a generous portion of fresh, giant shrimp, the best thing we had. The most interesting component was the two jars, one of smoked mussels and the other ceviche, although I wasn’t wild about the marinade on either.

Complimentary “pull apart sourdough” is included, but you’ll find that it is more like Parkerhouse rolls with blue cheese butter on top.

We skipped the steak and tried a couple of other appetizers. My companion liked the mini burgers, but I couldn’t really deal with the uncooked center of the patty. Truffle fries were good, and a serving for four to six people. Crispy rock shrimp was essentially the same dish as the bang bang shrimp at Bonefish. It was fine, but I’d actually ordered the crispy rock shrimp salad (repeating the word salad twice to our waiter, who wasn’t very good at listening).

Our waiter was good at talking, though. He was one of those people who have to tell you everything they’re going to do: “I’m going to bring you fresh silverware”, “I’ll go get your bread” and even “I’m moving the candle to make room for your next course.” I wish he’d spent some time on refilling water glasses or pouring more wine, two things that didn’t seem to be on his list.

Speaking of wine, it’s expensive, especially by the glass. You’re looking at $16-$28 per glass. We opted for an $82 bottle of Chardonnay instead. If you can deal with the pricing, the selections are excellent.

The carmelito bar was an excellent dessert, with several layers of different flavors and an excellent caramel sauce.

I’m not sure Orlando needed another steakhouse rather than a truly interesting fine dining restaurant, but that seems to be the trend, and I guess Disney Springs didn’t have one. Now it does.

STK Orlando
1580 E Buena Vista Dr
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 917-7440