Uncle Julio’s



Spicy seared tuna tacos

**** (4 stars)

I’d been to one of these in Chicago, and they are pretty similar. There’s a bit of a corporate feel to them. We had a large party, so I can’t really comment on the service, because that is always difficult, but the food was all pretty good. There isn’t really a standout appetizer or entree, although the spicy seared tuna tacos that I had were probably the best item. One person complained they were cold, but since they’re almost raw tuna and slaw, it seems appropriate.

Their unique item is the chocolate pinata, a suspended sphere of chocolate that you break open with a bat to scatter fruit and churros into the whipped cream moat below. It was fun for the group to scavenge through the debris and find their favorites.

Uncle Julio’s
8409 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32821
(321) 430-0600

On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

Chile relleno



*** (3 stars)

This is a pretty good Tex Mex chain. The menu is quite extensive, and there should be something to please almost everyone, as long as you’re not looking for authentic Mexican food.

The trick is to order items done on the mesquite grill, as they are very nicely flavored. I had the shrimp tacos (I ordered the fish tacos, but that’s another story). My companion had the chile relleno, and didn’t care for the clumsy breading and flavorless stuffing. But the accompanying brisket enchilada was pretty good.

Our favorite item was actually the queso cheese dip. It’s not something I would normally order, but it was a Yelp freebie, and it was excellent, a large serving, filled with lightly spiced peppers. It went well with the complimentary chips and salsa.

Also included in each meal are unlimited black beans and yellow rice. The rice is nicely seasoned and was much better than typical chain restaurant Mexican rice.

Our server was well trained but not a good listener.

The interior build-out is quite nice. It’s hard to imagine that this space the plaza was once occupied by card stores and sunglasses shops.

On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
12517 State Rd 535
Orlando, FL 32836
(321) 329-3188


Elvis green chili fried chicken (green chili festival)

Valley combo (green chili festival)


**** (4 stars)

This location of Chuy’s is a bit easier to get to than the one in the very crowded stretch of International Drive. The decor is the same funky coolness, but with different themes and pictures.

We went during the annual green chili festival, which offered some different menu items, although they didn’t have the promised complementary fresh green chilis.

The best thing to get at Chuy’s is the appetizer combo, which makes a great and economical meal for two people. Another excellent selection is the taco salad, one of the more healthful (as in “more healthful than extremely bad for you”) items. Get it with the creamy jalapeno dressing. You can also ask for that as a chip dipping sauce, which is delicious.

Speaking of chips, perhaps the very best thing about Chuy’s is the ultra-thin chips served when you sit down. They are always crisp, and despite their thinness they are sturdy enough to support a big scoop of salsa.

Margaritas are also excellent.

Our server here seemed like she was still learning, but she was a bit busy.

Overall a very good experience.

7913 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee, FL 34747
(407) 787-3545

Tijuana Flats

Mexican pizza


**** (4 stars)

This chain’s food is consistent from location to location. This location is a bit larger than some of the others, and has more outdoor seating. The hot sauce bar here has more selections than the one on Kirkman.

If you order the Mexican pizza, ask for the red sauce on the side, as it is rather odd.

Because of its size, it can be quite noisy, especially at lunchtime on Taco Tuesdays.

Tijuana Flats
7560 W. Sand Lake Rd.
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 352-6113

On The Border

**** (4 stars)

This turned out to be a surprisingly good choice for breakfast before our flight. Located in a bright, open space with a nice view of the runway, they offer a short but tasty breakfast menu.

The breakfast burrito was stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs (although there could have been more bacon). And the yogurt parfait was light and fruity.

We were in and out in thirty minutes.

On The Border
Orlando International Airport
One Jeff Fuqua Blvd
Orlando, FL 32827


Chili’s Grill & Bar

*** (3 stars)

This is the Chili’s you’re looking for. Assuming you’re looking for a Chili’s. And if you are, then you know why, so I don’t need to tell you. And this one is just like that. Same floor plan, same decor, same menu.

This one has excellent service, too. Perhaps better than you’re expecting.

Of course, the struggle at Chili’s is to have a meal that contains less than an entire day’s allotment of calories. There are limited options in that regard. I like the ancho salmon, which is pretty good. And only about 500 calories. I have to say the broccoli that came with it was perfectly cooked and delicious… dipped in the ranch dressing… that came with the loaded boneless chicken wings. But that’s another story.

Chili’s Grill & Bar
3142 Daniels Rd
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 877-0796

Habaneros Metro West


**** (4 stars)

Metrowest really needs a sit down Mexican restaurant since the sorely missed Taquitos Jalisco closed several years ago. Habaneros fills the bill adequately, but it will need to overcome the same liabilities that put the last three tenants of this space out of business: namely, location, location, location. The building is invisible from the street, there is almost no signage space, and the parking lot is across the street and behind a fence. (Why the developer put the parking lot on the lake, where it has the best view of the entire development is beyond me.)

Anyhow, the food at Habanero is freshly prepared, looks appealing, and tastes good. The salsa is a bit bland, but the chips are very good.

I had a dinner combo that included an enchilada, relleno and taco. The taco shell was particularly good, a crisp house-made tortilla completely unlike the fast food kind you find most places.

Service was quick and friendly, and the interior of the place (unchanged from previous tenants) is still gorgeous. I wish this small, family-owned chain luck in this terrible but lovely location. Habaneros is definitely worth a visit if you can find it.

Habaneros Metro West
6996 Piazza Grande Ave
Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 757-2541

Tijuana Flats

**** (4 stars)

This local chain provides good Tex Mex food in a friendly atmosphere. For a counter service restaurant there is surprisingly good service at every location I’ve been to. Taco Tuesdays offers a particularly good deal, although I prefer the salads or fish tacos, which aren’t part of that deal. The highlight is the ever-changing hot sauce bar which arranges ¬†about ten sauces from mild to killer.

Tijuana Flats
2320 S. Kirkman Rd.
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 822-4257


***** (5 stars)

This is an excellent addition to Orlando’s Tex-Me dining scene, easily outshining nearby offerings.

Service, even during opening week, was efficient and almost overwhelmingly friendly.

The margarita had a perfect balance between lime, orange and a healthy pour of tequila.

Tortilla chips are paper thin and not at all greasy. There are eight sauces on tap ranging from mild to medium.

I had the appetizer plate as my lunch entree, and everything on it was quite good. I particularly liked the queso, which had a nice kick to it.

In case you’re wondering, the name is pronounced “chewies”!

8123 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 730-3602

Las Palmas Restaurant & Bar

**** (4 stars)

I was hesitant to try this place because of the reviews, and I’m a bit of a Tex Mex snob. But I have to say that their premium margarita is killer. Maybe no one tries it because it’s $11 bucks, but it was worth it: top of the line Sauza and Gran Marnier.

I had the veggie fajitas, which were an amazing spread for $7.95.

Service on a quiet Friday afternoon was attentive. I’d go back.

Las Palmas Restaurant & Bar
817 University Pl
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 328-2555