I really like the interior decor at Applebee’s. It’s a lot more like an intimate bar and grill than a coffee shop. The food is good (if typical) sports bar food, and the service is decent. I’d rank it as one of the better chains of this type, at least at this location.
For a chain restaurant, there are some surprisingly authentic Carribean dishes in the Bahama Breeze menu. I visited the original location when they first opened and thought it was just okay, but a recent visit to this larger venue was more impressive.
There are standard sports bar-like items, of course, including an appetizer sampler that had some nicely fried coconut shrimp and onion rings. But there are also authentically seasoned items such as the goat curry bowl, which I thought was excellent. Best of all, unlike traditional goat curry, there were no bones!
My favorite item was a drink sampler that included 8 different tropical and tiki-style drinks. They were large enough that the assortment is intended for more than one person. Since I’ve recently been researching tiki drinks at some of the country’s top tiki bars, I wasn’t expecting them to be as good as they were. There were excellent examples of a Zombie, Painkiller, and Dark and Stormy, among others. At about $26 it was a good deal.
Service late at night seemed a bit harried, but was friendly. The restaurant is very large, nicely decorated, and there is a large outside dining area with live music.
This is Orlando’s best real tiki bar, with an excellent selection of rums, and a nice variety of traditional and modern tiki drinks. The Sunday bartender, Eric, is particularly passionate about all things tiki, and can give you an amazing guided tour of the science of making a great tiki cocktail.
The intimate size and eclectic historic tiki decor make this a very cool place for tiki aficionados to hang out and experience the real thing.
A lot of pizza restaurants think they know how to make calzones, but they basically just fold their pizzas in half. Not at Papa D! This is a real calzone, with a light, crisp, paper-thin crust filled with the best ingredients. I had pepperoni, red peppers, and ricotta, in addition to the standard mozzarella. It’s served with a bowl of fresh marinara. It was easily the best calzone I’ve had anywhere.
The Tasting Room is the best small plates restaurant in Central Florida. It’s run by Laurie and Kevin Tarter, who are famous for The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater, one of Central Florida’s top fine dining restaurants, and perpetual winner of most romantic restaurant. In fact, The Tasting Room is right in front of The Chef’s Table, and they share a kitchen which explains the extraordinarily high quality of the food.
Highlights include the duck fat fries, smoked fish dip, and interesting salads.
In addition, there is a terrific bar, with a vast collection of interesting spirits and original cocktails, plus a well-curated wine and beer list.
Live music adds to the great ambiance several nights a week. Plus it’s located in historic Winter Garden, a truly charming town that is a great exemplar of how amazing Central Florida can be just a short drive from the theme parks.