P.F. Chang’s

Interior
Interior
Short Rib Fried Rice
Short Rib Fried Rice
Orange Chicken lunch
Orange Chicken lunch

**** (4 stars)

I love the decor of all PF Chang's, and this is one of my favorites. It's themed, yet tasteful, dramatic yet not distracting.

It had been a few years since I'd been to this location so I thought I'd check it out. The menu is largely unchanged, which is not a bad thing; when you're doing something well, keep doing it.

We started with the shrimp dim sum, sauteed and served still sizzling on a hot metal platter. They were excellent, especially with the sauce, which was thoughtfully served on the side to keep the potstickers crisp.

We always have to have the Northern Style Short Ribs. They're generously meaty ribs with a Chinese five-spice rub. I missed the ramekin of sweet and salty spices they used to be served with, but they're still great.

The orange chicken was a generous serving for the lunch size, but the orange sauce had turned the chicken's coating a bit mushy. I would order this sauce on the side next time.

A special was the Short Rib Fried Rice. I think it was the best thing I've ever had a PF Chang's! In addition to the beef, there were mushrooms, kimchee, edamame, and a wonderful wasabi cream sauce. I had to force myself to stop eating this!

Service was friendly and speedy.

P.F. Chang’s
4200 Conroy Rd
Orlando, FL 32839

https://www.yelp.com/biz/p-f-changs-orlando

T-Rex Cafe

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Chicken and ribs
Chicken and ribs

**** (4 stars)

This place is an excellent choice for a meal that will entertain the kids and provide credible food for the adults. The decor is a step beyond Rainforest Cafe-level (although the animation of the dinosaurs is not going to challenge Disney). The menu is typical sports bar plus some larger plates, and the service is good. It's large and fairly noisy, but so are dinosaurs.

T-Rex Cafe
1676 E Buena Vista Dr
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

https://www.yelp.com/biz/t-rex-cafe-lake-buena-vista

An’Nam

Interior
Interior
Jalapeño Yellowtail Jalapeno Plate
Jalapeño Yellowtail Jalapeno Plate
Philadelphia Roll and spicy salmon
Philadelphia Roll and spicy salmon
Grilled pork over vermicelli
Grilled pork over vermicelli

**** (4 stars)

Can't decide between Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai food? You don't need to, here! Four pages of densely printed menu pretty much cover everything. It's not actually "fusion" since the cuisines aren't being combined in new ways, but they are all represented, and are done well, and with fresh ingredients. The dining area is bright and cheery, and the service is friendly.

An’Nam
234 W 48th St
New York, NY 10036

https://www.yelp.com/biz/annam-new-york-2

Gallaghers Steakhouse

Fries extra crispy
Fries extra crispy

***** (5 stars)

It's delightful to visit a traditional steakhouse that isn't part of a chain, and that maintains the aura and service that was a fixture of grand steakhouses before they became ubiquitous franchises.

Everything about Gallagher's is what I'm looking for, from the cozy booths to the subdued lighting, the sparkling central bar, and the professional yet friendly service.

We went after theater, and although the place was hopping, currently curtailed hours meant the kitchen was closing, so we limited our experience to a spectacular chilled seafood platter, some carpaccio, and some wonderfully crisp fries. Everything was terrific.

Prices are reasonable for NYC, and it was appreciated that there was a selection of half bottles of wine so we could each have our favorite.

We'll definitely make this a regular stop during visits to the theater.

Gallaghers Steakhouse
228 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019

https://www.yelp.com/biz/gallaghers-steakhouse-new-york

Playwright Celtic Pub

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Exterior
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The Medley
The Medley
Pepperoni Flatbread Margarita Pizza
Pepperoni Flatbread Margarita Pizza
Messy Burger
Messy Burger

*** (3 stars)

Solid food and service in a shotgun pub with a traditional design. The messy burger is a popular choice, and would indeed have been messy–or perhaps impossible–to eat if I hadn't taken a knife and fork to it. Great service from the solitary server handling the whole place.

Playwright Celtic Pub
732 8th Ave
New York, NY 10036

https://www.yelp.com/biz/playwright-celtic-pub-new-york-4

Toloache 50

Exterior
Exterior
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Interior
Short rib tacos
Short rib tacos
Ceviche Sampler
Ceviche Sampler

**** (4 stars)

I'll admit to being very picky about Mexican restaurants, having grown up in Southern California. My experience with Mexican restaurants in New York City has been nothing short of abysmal. So I was prepared for the same here, particularly when the salsa showed up and was something closer to cream of tomato soup.

But then the short rib tacos with bone marrow arrived, and things changed completely. This was one of the best items I've ever had in a Mexican restaurant, and could easily have been served in many of the top fine dining small plate restaurants in the city.

I'm not sure this one item fully justifies the four stars, but since the guacamole, Margarita, and ceviche were fine, it's at least a 3-1/2 star place. Just be sure to have the short ribs.

Toloache 50
251 West 50th St
New York, NY 10012

https://www.yelp.com/biz/toloache-50-new-york

Gabriel Kreuther

Pasta
Pasta

***** (5 stars)

Gabriel Kreuther is wonderful in all respects, from ambiance to food to service. For me, it is the successor to Eleven Madison for the crown of Best Restaurant in New York, and one of the best in the US.

The dining room, with its dramatic arc of salvaged wood beams, is both open and intimate, with the tables spaced far apart to make each one cozy, and the ceiling high enough to afford a pleasant sound level. A glass wall affords a view of the kitchen, which is a busy hive of about twenty chefs and cooks under the supervision of Chef Kreuther. The atmosphere seemed more convivial than in many of the Michelin kitchens I've encountered.

The restaurant's recommendation for first-time guests is the Six Course Tasting menu. This is not only a great recommendation but a great bargain. At $215 (as of this writing) it is, in short, a steal. I don't know how they came up with the number six, but including amuse bouche and ending sweets, there were at least 15 different dishes over a three-hour period.

Speaking of dishes, these were some of the most beautiful serving pieces I've ever encountered, and the glassware is stellar as well.

As for the food, it is almost pointless to describe it, as everything was wonderful, and it was impossible to pick favorites. It changes regularly, but I will mention a few that rank among the best dishes I've ever had: pate de foie gras (best flavor/texture I've encountered), smoked heirloom tomato consume (more of a gelatin, and endlessly intriguing), sturgeon tart (delicate flavorful and complex), and all the breads (there were at least four, accompanying various dishes).

As mentioned earlier, service was near perfect, with two dozen wait staff performing an intricate (and high speed) choreography to synchronize each course at each table.

Compared to the food prices, the wine bottle prices seem like less of a deal, but are certainly not unreasonable for Manhattan. The wines by the glass are an interesting assortment of styles and places of origin.

This is my new favorite restaurant in New York.

Gabriel Kreuther
41 W 42nd St
New York, NY 10036

https://www.yelp.com/biz/gabriel-kreuther-new-york

Portillo’s Hot Dogs

Big Beef with sweet peppers
Big Beef with sweet peppers
Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Chicago Dog
Chicago Dog
Interior
Interior
Exterior
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**** (4 stars)

If you're looking for the authentic Chicago dog experience, look no further. I've been to the Portillo's in Chicago many times, and this place has exactly the same food. It's even better, because the interior is stunning–spacious, bright, and trendy, with an efficient layout.

That said, I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is about. Yes, the Chicago dog is exactly a Chicago dog, but there are more interesting types of hot dogs. And the Italian Beef is fine, but it's not the most interesting sandwich; it's sort of a low-brow French dip.

The best sandwich here is actually the new spicy chicken, which is almost as good as the one from Popeye's that everybody is trying to copy.

And the very best item I had here was my order of fries, which I asked for well done. They were crinkle cut, spectacularly crispy on the outside, and light and fluffy in the middle, served hot and with the perfect amount of salt.

I was also very impressed by the staff bussing tables. They kept checking that I was enjoying my meal, brought extra napkins without my asking for them, and were just really into the whole customer service role. Well done!

Portillo’s Hot Dogs
7715 Palm Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32836

https://www.yelp.com/biz/portillos-orlando-orlando-2

Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge

Trio of bao with Peking duck, pickled veggies, spider roll
Trio of bao with Peking duck, pickled veggies, spider roll
Interior
Interior

**** (4 stars)

We went here as part of the Epicurioius progressive dinners, and really enjoyed the three offerings: pickled vegetables, spider roll, and steamed bar bun with Peking duck. The latter was the group's favorite.

The only problem is that the room is extremely austere, all hard steel and stone surfaces, so it's not necessarily the coziest Asian dining experience.

The service was wonderful.

Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge
14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Ln
Orlando, FL 32821

https://www.yelp.com/biz/zeta-bar-and-sushi-lounge-orlando