The Grill On The Alley

Crab shrimp and lobster louie

Tuna sashimi

Caesar salad

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

If you like old-school places, you’ll probably like The Grill on the Alley. It’s pretty much unchanged since it opened in the 80s, and it was designed to be retro even back then. It’s a bit like more recent retro steakhouse concepts such as the Palm or Mortons, but somehow lacks the upscale feeling of those.

I didn’t find much that was remarkable on our visit. The best thing I had was a shrimp, crab and lobster Louie salad, which was very generous in its seafood portion, as it should have been for almost $50.

The service was–and I’m being charitable here-uneven, to say the least. We seemed to be handed off through a succession of at least four servers, and the people delivering the plates and bussing the table were all in rotation, too, so it wasn’t exactly conducive to feeling like a guest–more like part of an assembly line.

The clientele here is even older than the restaurant — by about forty years, I’d guess, and seems to be devoted, so perhaps they see something in it that I didn’t.

The Grill On The Alley
9560 Dayton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 276-0615
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-grill-on-the-alley-beverly-hills

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills

End cut

English cut

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to Lawry’s for almost 50 years, and aside from moving across the street a few decades ago, nothing has changed.

Perfectly cooked prime rib is still served, cut to your liking, from 70-year-old table-side carts. The creamed spinach is still the best anywhere, as is the gravy poured into the divot in your mashed potatoes.

Service is proper but not prim, and wine pricing is reasonable.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Beverly Hills
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-2827
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lawrys-the-prime-rib-beverly-hills-beverly-hills

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

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

Steak on Fire

Chicken with grilled pineapple

Top sirloin

Interior

Menu

*** (3 stars)

The quick serve concept here is a good one, with healthier food than fast food served in a pleasant environment. The healthiest way to go is to order the “plate” rather than the sandwich.

Each plate comes with your choice of two sides (although the menu implies they are fixed, they are not). Three of us tried the sirloin, and although it looked beautiful, we all found it quite tough. The accompanying grilled vegetables were good, and the side salad I had was generous.

The best item was the chicken. My companion ordered it with the grilled pineapple, which was delicious.

I was impressed by how fast the food came out, and the friendliness of the servers. Pricing may be a problem, as a plate and soft drink come to about $18, which will buy a pretty nice lunch at a table service restaurant.

Steak on Fire
7541 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 440-2323
https://www.yelp.com/biz/steak-on-fire-orlando

Black Fire Brazilian Steakhouse

Exterior

Sushi

Buffet

**** (4 stars)

Although I live near Disney, I rarely go to restaurants in the tourist area because they don’t need to be very good to stay busy. So I was pleasantly surprised by Black Fire Brazilian Steakhouse. The service was very accommodating, and the food was quite good.

This is certainly the best remodeling job of the many restaurants that have occupied this space. The interior is open, sleek, and sophisticated.

As with the other (many) Brazilian steakhouses in town, there is a salad bar, limited hot buffet, and then many servers come to your table with skewers of a dozen or so different types of meat, where they cut it off into your waiting tongs.

Black Fire has a somewhat more limited buffet than most of the competitors, but the quality is good, and this buffet includes pretty decent sushi, which is unusual. The meats seemed about the same quality as those of the competitors. That’s good news, because Black Fire is less expensive than most of the others.

The night we visited they were reasonably busy, which is the first time I’ve seen more that a few people in this building’s various incarnations, so they’re doing something right. Our server was extremely attentive, and obviously cared that we had a nice time.

Black Fire Brazilian Steakhouse
8594 Palm Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 477-7771
https://www.yelp.com/biz/black-fire-brazilian-steakhouse-orlando-2

Haven

Peel and Eat Shrimp

Cheese Monger

Hamachi crudo

Interior

**** (4 stars)

If you are a cheese lover, Haven is a must visit. There are dozens of cheeses on their menu, and the “Cheese Monger” offers a selection of 18(!) of them on one well-organized plate. My only wish was for more variety, as they were almost all cow’s milk, and mostly the same firmness. I’d have liked some more soft ones, and some stinkier ones. But that’s just me.

The menu also offers a nice selection of other small plates. We liked the hamachi crudo. The peel and eat shrimp was okay, but I didn’t care for the harissa flavor of the accompanying remoulade, as it overwhelmed the other flavors.

The interior decor is gorgeous, with reasonable lighting levels and not too noisy, even though there are no soft surfaces except the booths (which offer the quietest place to sit).

The wine list is extensive, and the more expensive wines are actually the better deals.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Haven
2208 W Morrison Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 258-2233
https://www.yelp.com/biz/haven-tampa-3

Chez Filet

Quiche

Lobster bites

Bread service with complimentary butter and pate

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This is an intimate (12 tables or less) restaurant in the plaza off I-Drive north of the Orlando Eye.

As the name implies, the concept here is French/steakhouse. They are striving for fine dining, but it’s not quite at that level. Certainly the service is outstandingly solicitous, but it’s clear most of the staff is unfamiliar with the level to which the management aspires. So while many servers asked repeatedly if we needed anything, it was more obtrusive than helpful. Coupled with an offer of dessert before our main courses were served, it was a bit disjointed. Still, their hearts are in the right place, and experience will iron out these problems.

The food, too, strives but doesn’t always succeed. For starters we had the quiche and the lobster bites. The quiche was a nice, small, thin tartlet that made a good appetizer, as it wasn’t too filling. The lobster bites were essentially an escargot preparation, but using generous chunks of lobser instead of snails. The garlic butter was delicious, but the method of preparation of course leaves the lobster very, very well done.

We also had a small Caesar salad and onion soup. The Caesar was good, and at $5 was emblematic of the extremely reasonable pricing. Where else in town can you get a Caesar salad for that price? The onion soup was the only thing we had that really wasn’t good. It looked like a traditional preparation, but the consistency was more like gravy, and not very appealing in taste, either.

Main courses are also very reasonably priced, particularly considering they include two side dishes of your choice. I thought my companion’s New York steak was a bit tough, but she enjoyed it. The accompanying Chico’s sauce had a nice mustard base. I had the fish special, a corvina, which was delicate and nicely prepared. The home run of the evening was actually the Angel Onions, thin onion straws that were battered and perfectly crisped.

Photos of the place don’t do it justice, as the interior decor is stunning, although it would be better with lower light levels.

And as I’ve mentioned, the prices are extremely reasonable, particularly given the tourist area that surrounds it.

Chez Filet
8255 International Dr
Ste 144A
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 250-4090
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chez-filet-orlando

Pacific Dining Car

Onion rings

Lobster Mac and cheese

Chilean sea bass

Scallop appetizer

Sign

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Great ambiance and excellent food are the highlights at this historic restaurant near downtown.

The original section, build in 1921 to look like a dining car and actually equipped with wheels, was indeed moved to its current location a few years later. The rest is added on.

Steaks are excellent here, but my favorite item was the wedge salad, which had an interesting balsamic ranch dressing and real Roquefort cheese. Onion rings and truffle lobster mac were also excellent sides.

The Chilean sea bass was the best I’ve had, a giant piece perfectly seared and not overcooked.

Chocolate souffle didn’t seem particularly special but was okay.

The downside here is the pricing, which is 50-100% higher than any other steakhouse in LA. $26 for a salad appetizer? True, it could be split, but still…

Oddly, the wine pricing is very reasonable, so if you order a couple of bottles you might come out even.

Professional service that didn’t rush us, even on a fairly busy day. It’s interesting that the restaurant is open 24/7. I wonder what a fine dining resturant is like at 5am.

Pacific Dining Car
1310 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 483-6000
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pacific-dining-car-los-angeles

Maple & Ash

**** (4 stars)

You enter the upstairs dining room of Maple & Ash quite dramatically, from an elevator at the rear of the building that opens out into a dramatic two-story space that is quite dazzling. Although it is a steakhouse in a city of steakhouses, the experience here is quite different. Servers are much more engaged with their guests, and there are many freebies and extras involved in each meal.

For example, before you’ve even started, there are chips and dip, watermelon radishes with salt, parmesan crisps, and even an “amuse booze” cocktail of vermouth and grapefruit. Crusty bread and butter come next. We were starting to worry we’d be full before the first course arrived.

An extensive wine list has a range of offerings at moderate prices but includes a page of under $50 bargains.

We opted for the “I don’t give a f*@k” tasting menu because it let us sample much of the menu. It’s a bargain at $145. These were the courses:

Seafood platter, not chilled, but rather roasted, featuring lobster, shrimp, scallops, and clams. The was served in a pool of butter which was later used for a tableside preparation of pasta.

Beet and watercress salad.

Rosemary fries with Hollandaise and aioli.

Meatballs with garlic cheese toast.

Bone in ribeye steak served with ricotta agnolotti, roasted squash, and mashed potatoes.

Ice cream sundae tower with three kinds of ice cream and 12 toppings to choose from.

We enjoyed the experience, and particularly our server. I can’t say there were really any home runs, and the steak was definitely not the highlight, as it wasn’t particularly tender. Overall it was a very rich menu, with little respite from heavily buttered dishes. The best items were the dip, the mashed potatoes, and the sundae.

Despite the large size of the room, noise levels were surprisingly pleasant (until a large drunk party was seated next to us) and the background music track is particularly chill.

If you are looking for a steakhouse-type experience that is a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking out.

Maple & Ash
8 W Maple
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 944-8888
http://www.yelp.com/biz/maple-and-ash-chicago