Nine Spices Hot Pot

Interior

Veggies

Table

Sauces

Conveyor

**** (4 stars)

This is a fun and healthy place for dinner, or for lunch if your budget will handle it. The idea is to use a pot of boiling broth to cook your own vegetables and meats at your table. At lunch you can select vegetarian, which is reasonably priced, or one meat, which is rather pricey, or all you can eat, which is definitely dinner pricing.

The fun thing about the all you can eat option is that you then select your ingredients as they pass by on a conveyor belt that makes its way around the whole restaurant. This seemed to be what most customers were doing. Note that there is an advantage to being “upstream” on the conveyor, as you have first choice of ingredients.

I went with the vegetarian lunch and the “original” broth. This was a good choice, because the “spicy” broth was pretty spicy, and there is a condiment bar where you can add your own desired degree of spiciness and other flavors.

My favorite ingredients were the corn on the cob and the rather spicy “pickles” on the condiment bar. I also used lots of fresh cilantro.

I won’t say it was my favorite lunch of all time, but it was a fun experience, and I’ll probably go back someday.

Nine Spices Hot Pot
5320 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(321) 270-0830
https://www.yelp.com/biz/nine-spices-hot-pot-orlando

Tom + Chee – Orlando

Exterior

Interior

Tomato basil soup and BBQ+Bacon grilled cheese

*** (3 stars)

This is a quick serve place that offers a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, variations on tomato soup, and some odd-sounding cheese donuts.

I tried the BBQ+bacon, with American cheese, bacon and BBQ potato chips on white sour bread. It probably wasn’t the best choice, as I usually prefer a more flavorful cheese. I should also have realized that the expected flavor of BBQ sauce was not going to be there, since all the flavor came from the BBQ potato chips which, of course, taste nothing like BBQ. I also feel the bread could have been a bit more grilled.

The basil tomato soup was good, with lots of fresh basil leaves in it.

It’s useful but also discouraging that they list the calorie counts of everything on the menu. It’s not good news.

Tom + Chee – Orlando
12533 State Rd 535
Orlando, FL 32836
(321) 395-4930
https://www.yelp.com/biz/tom-chee-orlando-orlando

Soupa Saiyan

Line

Chicken wings

Beef broth, ramen, brisket, veggies, lime, basil

Exterior

Interior

Menu

**** (4 stars)

This is a true Asian noodle place, common in big cities like Chicago, but fairly rare in Orlando. It’s a quick-serve operation where you order at a counter and they bring it to you–assuming you can find a seat. The place is very popular, and a line forms within minutes of opening.

The menu is extremely clear, enabling you to build your dish step by step. You start with a broth flavor, select a noodle type, and then two ingredients. I had beef broth with ramen noodles, beef brisket and mixed vegetables. The serving was really huge. The basic flavors are fairly subtle, so I was happy I’d asked for lime and basil as fresh accompaniments. These came in a separate bowl, and were generous helpings.

I also tried the chicken wings, which were simple fried wings and legs served with duck sauce packets.

Service was fast and friendly, but be sure to arrive early if you want to eat there.

Soupa Saiyan
5689 Vineland Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 930-3396
https://www.yelp.com/biz/soupa-saiyan-orlando-2

Kim Wu Chinese

Buffet

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

This place has been in business a long time, and has a loyal following. I remember eating here long ago, and it seems they’ve expanded since then. But unlike some old restaurants, this one still seems fresh and clean.

Lunch is a buffet, and there are many dishes to choose from, including nearly all the American Chinese restaurant standards. They did a nice job of keeping the items on the buffet fresh and well-stocked.

When I eat at American Chinese restaurants I always find the food a lot heavier and oilier than those in Asia, and this one is no exception, but I can’t fault them for it since it seems to be the accepted style.

My lunch included hot tea, my choice of soup, and even an eggroll from the buffet, so for $10 it was a good deal. My server was fast and friendly.

Kim Wu Chinese
4904 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 293-0752
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kim-wu-chinese-orlando

Melts On Main Street

Who Shot JR

Reuben

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This charming sandwich shop also offers a variety of wonderful home cooked specials such as soda bread, stew and quiche. You can also pick up dinner to take home.

As the name implies, most sandwiches are grilled. I had the Reuben, a special, and it was excellent. I wasn’t a huge fan of the very chunky potato salad that came with it.

The Who Shot JR wasn’t quite as flavorful as the Rueben, but it came with a mild blue cheese spread on the side that was a nice accompaniment.

There is live entertainment on Sunday.

Melts On Main Street
108 S Main St
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 656-3587
https://www.yelp.com/biz/melts-on-main-street-winter-garden

Crispers

*** (3 stars)

We used to go to this Crispers all the time, but a number of years ago they reduced the potions sizes and we stopped going. I’m glad we tried it again, because it seems like things are back on track. My flatbread was good, and the Thai Chicken salad was excellent. Portion sizes are now generous, and the pricing seems reasonable. I like the “pick two” approach.

The thing that drives me crazy is the inefficient ordering process for a group, which is unchanged after all these years. They make each person place their order while everyone stands around waiting, and then process the credit cards one by one. This means the first item can’t start being prepared until the last item has been paid for, which is incredibly inefficient. And having six or eight people standing around at the register is really annoying. Every other counter service restaurant in town manages to put the same table placard number on each person’s check without this nonsense (see Pei Wei, for example). It’s time someone with some efficiency sense showed Crispers how to do it.

Crispers
2228 S Kirkman Road
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 296-4551
http://www.yelp.com/biz/crispers-orlando

Dan’s Family Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This coffee shop has a particularly welcoming and enthusiastic staff.

They offer the usually array of breakfast and other coffee shop choices, and everything is carefully prepared and served.

The interior is a bit tired, but the friendliness of the place makes up for that.

Dan’s Family Restaurant
7300 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32807
(407) 917-6318
http://www.yelp.com/biz/dans-restaurant-orlando

Panera Bread

**** (4 stars)

Every Panera I’ve been to has essentially identical food, so reviewing it seems superfluous; you either like it or not.

Panera always seems a bit like a bait and switch to me, as they bill themselves as healthy, yet most of what they serve is not particularly good for you. Just look at that bakery display! But you can eat healthy if you try, and assuming their calorie counts are honest they must have the lowest calorie tuna sandwich on the planet. Also, did you know you can get an apple instead of chips?

What sets Paneras apart is the location, and this one is well-sited. It’s easy to get in and out, has lots of parking, and even a drive through. Also, there is a porch, so you can eat outside, yet be in the shade.

Service is friendly, but I sure wish they wouldn’t page you before your food is up, a reliable occurrence. What’s the point of the pager if you’re just going to stand at the counter anyway?

You can also order online and pick your food up in a bag on the shelf; very convenient.

Panera Bread
4200 Conroy Road
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 248-0811
http://www.yelp.com/biz/panera-bread-orlando-7

Panera Bread

*** (3 stars)

It’s hardly necessary to review a restaurant chain that most people have been to, so I’ll restrict my comments to this particular store, and to the new food item introduced on this visit.

Compared to other Panera’s this location is:

-nicer than most interiors
-a bit more difficult to park near
-has a friendlier staff
-has an annoying habit of paging you before your meal is actually ready.

The new item I tried was the Soba Noodle broth bowl with chicken. The broth had a pleasant Asian-inspired flavor, and there was lots of tender and savory chicken. The noodles were a bit odd, grayish with a square cross section, and finer than true soba noodles. Overall the complexity of the dish did not approach that of the Japanese Ramen bowls it imitates.

If you’re looking for a Panera in Orlando, I’d rate this as the best one in the area.

Panera Bread
4700 S Apopka Vineland Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 217-6916
http://www.yelp.com/biz/panera-bread-orlando-10

Sapporo Ramen

*** (3 stars)

This small place in the Asian plaza on Colonial offers a nice variety of Ramen dishes, plus an assortment of more elaborate items. You order at a counter in the back, and then your food is brought to your table.

We tried the Shoyu Ramen, which is served with thin sliced pork. The broth was flavorful (and fairly salty) and the noodles had a good consistency.

The takoyaki would be an acquired taste. The deep fried balls had a nice outer consistency, but the gooey inside took some getting used to.

I also saw some tempura delivered to a nearby table, and it looked quite good.

There is an excellent bakery next door to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Sapporo Ramen
5080 W Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32808
(407) 203-6777
http://www.yelp.com/biz/sapporo-ramen-orlando