Nessas Food Co BBQ Restaurant

1/2 rack ribs
Exterior
Interior

***** (5 stars)

Wow! I’ve been to every BBQ place in Orlando (most of them more times than I care to admit!) and this one blows them away.

What amazing ribs! Obviously slowly smoked to perfection over hours, with a slight crust, but incredibly succulent center, with oodles of meat. The half-rack portion is very generous and well-priced. The BBQ sauce, served on the side, is a perfect balance of sweet, tangy and spicy.

Pulled pork is also tender and tasty. The baked beans have a rich sauce and tender chunks of meat, and just a hint of spice. Usually I add BBQ sauces to baked beans, but these didn’t need it.

It’s counter service, and friendly service at that.

There’s just one table inside, and one on the lawn out front, but there’s also parking in the rear. This is a cozy little downtown area of Ocoee, so a pleasant place to eat outside.

Nessas Food Co BBQ Restaurant
14 West McKey St
Ocoee, FL
34761
(321) 370-8172
https://www.yelp.com/biz/nessas-food-co-bbq-restaurant-ocoee

Brother’s Restaurant At the Red Barn

Fried oysters
Tuna tartare
Exterior
Interior

***** (5 stars)

This place offers perfectly grilled steaks and other meat and seafood dishes in a vibrant environment.

in addition to the inside dining area, there is a large outdoor area in back, plus a very lively bar.

The wine list is one of the best in the area, featuring local wines with good pedigrees at reasonable prices.

Service was friendly and professional.

Brother’s Restaurant At the Red Barn
3539 Sagunto St
Santa Ynez, CA
93460
(805) 688-4142
https://www.yelp.com/biz/brothers-restaurant-at-the-red-barn-santa-ynez

Corellis Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This hidden away gem of an Italian restaurant serves excellent food, and has some of the best wine prices you’ll find in Central Florida. The wine offerings are top notch, with a lot of hard to find labels, and an emphasis on top-rated reds. The owner obviously has a passion for it.

During a special event we were seated in the wine shop, and it was actually nicer than the main dining room. Plus, there was an excellent jazz saxophonist.

Highly recommended.

Corellis Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
1042-1044 E Hwy 50
Clermont, FL
34711
(352) 989-5924
https://www.yelp.com/biz/corellis-italian-restaurant-and-pizzeria-clermont-2

Pret A Manger

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I like the simplicity of Pret if you just want a coffee and croissant. The baristas can certainly whip up something fancy, but sometimes it’s nice to just serve yourself a cup.

The chocolate hazelnut croissant is noteworthy, because it’s filled like pain au chocolate, but is the shape and consistency of a croissant.

Pret A Manger
787 7th Ave
New York, NY 10019
(212) 262-2328
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pret-a-manger-new-york-79

Rasa Asian Street Food

Wings with five spice and Thai chili sauce

Mee Goreng

Papaya salad

Roti canai

Dim sum

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Southwest Orlando can use an Asian street food restaurant, as the others are all in the Mills District. Rasa is off to a good start. While there was no absolute home run in the dishes we tried, they were all within striking range of those other places.

The menu offers a nice assortment of noodle, rice and curry dishes. It’s weak on salads, and the one we tried was far too spicy with no warning at all on the menu.

Dim Sum was four pieces of sauteed potstickers. I would have liked a bit more sear on them, but they were delicious.

Mee Goreng was quite good, with lots of shrimp and chicken mixed into a Pad-Thai-like noodle base. It was just a little more like Pad Thai than a true Mee Goreng.

Chicken wings are available simply fried (naked) or breaded, and you can select two sauces from the seven offered. We liked the five spice the best.

Roti Canai was perhaps the most on target of everything we tried. The yellow curry was rich and flavorful, but the roti is greasier than elsewhere.

Tea service needs a bit of work. I’m always a bit put off by Asian restaurants where the green tea is a tea bag, and the pot holds barely one cup.

Service was friendly and well-intentioned; it just felt like it needs a few weeks to settle in, as especially the food runners seemed a bit out of their element.

Prices are reasonable.

In all, this is a promising start, and we will certainly go back.

Rasa Asian Street Food
7730 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 930-0402
https://www.yelp.com/biz/rasa-asian-street-food-orlando-3

Canvas Restaurant & Market

Interior

Bar

**** (4 stars)

This is a convenient stop on your way to or from Orlando International Airport. The restaurant has a modern look, and is beautifully situated overlooking a lake.

Upon entry there is a bit of an identity crisis, as it seems more like a convenience store and casual eating area. But proceed to the hostess stand and you’ll be ushered into the restaurant proper, which is large, and has a modern looking bar at the far end. The booths near the bar are actually the quietest place to eat, as they are away from most other tables and hard surfaces.

We tried several small plates. The smoked fish dip was a surprise, as it was more of a hot cheese queso with fish chunks. It was tasty, but the accompanying crackers could have been fresher.

Mussels were served in an interesting tomatillo broth that was quite good, and accompanied by a couple of pieces of nicely grilled bread.

The grilled shrimp salad was pretty good; the greens were lightly dressed and studded with several hot grilled shrimp.

Service was friendly.

Canvas Restaurant & Market
13615 Sachs Ave
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 313-7800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/canvas-restaurant-and-market-orlando-3

Pizza Bruno

Pepperoni, ricotta, basil

Cauliflower

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I have to admit I was expecting a bit more from this place, given the hype, but while the pizza looked authentic, I didn’t find anything remarkable about its flavor or consistency. It struck me as odd that the basil was applied before baking, resulting in burnt leaves.

However I did love the kale salad! It was a perfect combination of a house-made Caesar dressing, plus little crunchy and sweet elements.

I also liked the cauliflower appetizer, although be warned that the sauce is very sweet. It’s almost dessert cauliflower.

The place can get quite loud, because the floors are concrete, and there are no soft surfaces.

Service was excellent.

Pizza Bruno
3990 Curry Ford Rd
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 440-3894
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pizza-bruno-orlando

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

La Fiesta Mexican Grill

Chilequiles

Chili replenish and quesadilla

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

While the rave reviews got me excited about La Fiesta, we didn’t find anything particularly remarkable about the place. The best thing we had by far was the sangria, which wasn’t too sweet and has lots of fruit chunks.

Cheese nachos were pretty bland, consisting of good chips covered with a liquid white cheese and nothing else, no jalapenos.

The relleno was pretty weird, although the waiter did warn us that it was stuffed with mashed potatoes. We should have followed his suggestion to substitute some kind of meat. The quesadilla was nicely grilled, and filled with cheese and chicken. It was okay, not great, as were the fairly bland rice and beans.

The best entree was the chilaquiles, which seems to be available only at lunch. The green sauce had a lot of flavor, and the shredded chicken and fried egg were good. The chips didn’t really stand up to the sauce, though, and quickly dissolved.

The decor of the restaurant is nice, but overhead fluorescent light aren’t in keeping with the restaurant ambiance.

Service was excellent.

La Fiesta Mexican Grill
3000 Curry Ford Rd
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 985-4340
https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-fiesta-mexican-grill-orlando

Chicago q

***** (5 stars)

This might not be the best barbecue place in Chicago, but it’s certainly the nicest, and I love their approach to food and beverage. They focus on flights of both, and offer variety in surprising ways.

For example, we started with the barbecue flight, a good way to sample brisket, pulled pork and pulled chicken. It came with four(!) different barbecue sauces, all of which were good.

Well, we didn’t actually start with that, because when you sit down they give you a generous basket of seasoned house-made potato chips and delicious sweet pickles.

For our main courses we had the chicken and waffles and another flight, this time of eggs benedict. I still don’t really get the combination of chicken and waffles, but both were good–even better when I asked for some barbecue sauce to dunk the chicken in. The eggs benedict was served three ways, each of them huge: with brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken. But it was different from the barbecue flight, because each was on a different base: biscuit, fried green tomato, and corn bread. Each also had a different Hollandaise sauce, which my dining companion wisely opted to have on the side. A little bit was all it needed.

There’s a really extensive list of beers, wines, whiskey, bourbon, scotch and a limited list of cocktails. Staying with the flight theme, we tried the Grand Tasting, which consisted of nine(!) whiskeys. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a real learning experience, because they were all so different, and the beverage manager was really knowledgeable about them.

For the record, here are my ratings (on a scale of 10) for the flight:

Auchentoshan Whiskey (American Oak) 6/10
Hibiki Harmony (Japanese) 7/10
Wieser Uuahouua (Pinot Noir barrels, Austrian) 7.5/10

Compass Box Spice Tree (clove cardamom cinnamon) 7/10
Elijah Craig (barrel strength 102 proof) 8/10
Slaughter House by Orin Swift 9/10

Noah’s Mill Bourbon 6.5/10
Willet Pot Still Bourbon 7/10
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked 9/10

I really like the whole approach to food and beverages at Chicago q.

Chicago q
1160 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 642-1160
http://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-q-chicago