Southern Spice Indian Cuisine

**** (4 stars)

On my first visit to Southern Spice I was a bit disappointed to find it was a lunch buffet. Although that is fast and obviously popular, I’m just not a big buffet fan. The food was all good, and there were quite a few selections, but I wasn’t in a rush to go back.

Then I discovered you could also order off the regular menu at lunch. While not as good a deal, the food was much more interesting and fresh, and we really enjoyed our biryani and especially the Malai Kofta and the garlic naan.

Service was friendly and professional.

Southern Spice Indian Cuisine
7637 Turkey Lake Rd
Orlando, FL
32819
(321) 251-2244
https://www.yelp.com/biz/southern-spice-indian-cuisine-orlando

Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine

Coffee service

Veggie platter

***** (5 stars)

I love Ethiopian food, and Selam has some of the best I encountered anywhere.  It’s great that Orlando now has an Ethiopian restaurant that is open at lunch time!

Our group of four shared two of the sampler platters, one vegetarian and one not. I was the only one in the group who was familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, so it was wonderful that both the server (owner?) and chef visited us with explanations of everything. Our group loved every bite!

We also finished with the coffee service. They roasted the beans to order, and brought them out in the hot pan so we could smell the wonderful aromas before they ground them.

Really a delightful experience, and we will be back soon!

Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine
5494 Central Florida Pkwy
Orlando, FL
32821
(407) 778-3119
https://www.yelp.com/biz/selam-ethiopian-and-eritrean-cuisine-orlando

Maoz

Falafel

Interior

***** (5 stars)

This is the answer to the question “What do I do when I want to eat healthy and all my friends want a burger, fries and pizza?”

How refreshing to find good, healthful food in a food court! And yes, your friends can find all those other options just a few steps away.

Maoz offers bowls or falafel sandwiches. The quality of the falafel is top notch, and you can select what other ingredients you like. I added hummus, chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and onions, and some banana peppers. Seriously, banana peppers in a falafel sandwich are really good. There’s also tahini, garlic sauce and other condiments you can add yourself.

The food court at the Millenia Mall is one of the nicest anywhere, so you and your unhealthy friends can eat together, in a nicely furnished and landscaped environment.

Maoz
4200 Conroy Rd
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 363-3555
http://www.yelp.com/biz/maoz-orlando

Spice Affair Indian Restaurant

Ice cream

Mango mousse

Butter chicken

Chick pea and walnut

Cauliflower

Interior

Sign

***** (5 stars)

It’s really nice to find a truly elegant Indian restaurant. Spice Affair backs up its stylish decor with excellent service and creative, flavorful cuisine.

The highlight of our meal was definitely the Butter Chicken, and it’s hard to imagine going here and not having this dish. Garlic Naan bread was great for dipping in the sauce, although it could have had more garlic.

We also really liked both appetizers we shared, a crispy cauliflower dish and patties made of chickpeas and walnuts. The accompanying raita was particularly good.

None of us cared for the salmon entree, which was fishy, and didn’t have a particularly appealing coating. When the server noticed this he offered to exchange it, but when we demurred he brought us several complimentary desserts. That and many other touches really impressed us with the professionalism of this restaurant, and I’m sure we’ll return.

Spice Affair Indian Restaurant
50 N La Cienega Blvd
Ste 120
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(424) 286-1739
https://www.yelp.com/biz/spice-affair-indian-restaurant-beverly-hills

Pop Thai Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This is a nicely decorated space with very friendly service. The food is serviceable Thai. We tried a couple of lunch dishes and an appetizer, and although there were no standouts, everything was fine.

My favorite items were actually the soup and salad that came with the lunch. It was a particularly flavorful version of chicken rice soup, and the salad dressing had a nice mix of peanut and a minty flavor that elevated it above the usual peanut sauce.

I wasn’t a fan of one herb used in the potstickers and spring rolls. It was a flavor not usually encountered in these.

I enjoyed the crispy duck and shrimp lunch special, although the duck was far from crispy. The cocoanut tinged curry was nice.

Fresh Hot Basil was inexplicably missing any basil flavor or leaves; in fact, there was more basil in the duck dish.

If you’re in the area and tired of Vietnamese food and tacos, this is a fine choice for a meal, even if it’s not the best Thai in town.

Pop Thai Restaurant
1227 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 917-6139
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pop-thai-restaurant-orlando

Lac Viet

***** (5 stars)

We had a great meal here, made all the more memorable because the night before we ate at Morimoto Asia. The food a Lac Viet was substantially better, and one third the price.

The interior of the restaurant–which I remember from decades ago, when it was Le Cordon Bleu–is bright and open, divided in to many intimate rooms.

We started with the Tom Yum, which had a thinner and less tomato-based broth than the Thai version I’m used to, but despite it’s clarity, it was the most flavorful Tom Yum I’ve ever tasted, with just the right spice level.

The seafood crepe was also good, although not quite what I was expecting. Fried to a crispy gold, it looked more like a giant taco, filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and other goodies. This is a giant appetizer, so plan ahead.

The Vermicelli bowl is always my favorite at Vietnamese restaurants, and this was no exception, the combination of charred pork, cucumber, sprouts, vermicelli, and greens was delicious, especially with some added fish sauce, hoisin and Sriracha.

The other entree we tried was a massive assortment of pork, beef and chicken. The pork and chicken had each been sautéed with different sauces and vegetables, and were absolutely delicious. This one dish is plenty for sharing, but we were happy to have lots of all three preparations to take home for later. This dish really emphasized the light touch of Lac Viet, because it was similar to Chinese stir fry, and yet there was none of the heavy oiliness that turns me off of Chinese food. Really great stuff.

There is a small but well thought out list of wines and beers. Service is attentive and helpful.

There are quite a few good Vietnamese restaurants in Orlando, particularly in the Mills 50 area, but Lac Viet is the best I’ve been to anywhere.

Lac Viet
2021 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 228-4000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/lac-viet-orlando

The Chicago Diner

**** (4 stars)

This is one of the better vegetarian restaurants I’ve been too. They do a great job of using ingredients such as seitan in ways that give it great texture and flavor.

We started with the barbecued sauce coated “wings” which had a great crust and delicious coating. The serving was generous, to say the least, and when we’d finished sharing the appetizers we were wondering if we could eat any of our entrees.

The cuban sandwich was okay, but the tostadas were great, with just the right balance between quinoa and black beans.

Shakes are a specialty here, and my coffee flavored one was wonderful. Note: a small is plenty!

The Chicago Diner
3411 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 935-6696
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-chicago-diner-chicago

Tempo Bistro To Go

**** (4 stars)

This small shop offers delicious sandwiches and salads made to order from very fresh ingredients. I had the BLT (a surprising offer from a mostly vegetarian place) and it was quite good. I found the inclusion of cheddar cheese odd, and would omit it on a future visit. The green salad was mostly spinach, very fresh, and came with a delicious miso dressing option.

There are only a few tables in side, and a few more out back, so a lot of orders are to go.

Temp Bistro is definitely a great choice when looking for a healthy alternative.

Tempo Bistro To Go
1516 NW 13th St
Gainesville, FL 32601
(352) 336-5834
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tempo-bistro-to-go-gainesville

Yard House

**** (4 stars)

What an extensive menu! And I’m not just talking about the 100+ beers. There are pages of different appetizers and mains in almost every category. Prices seem a bit steep, but I suppose that’s to be expected in the high rent tourist district.

The outside dining area is quite pleasant, and affords a view of the Orlando Eye.

Yard House
8367 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 351-8220
http://www.yelp.com/biz/yard-house-orlando