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Shantell’s Cafe in Downtown Sanford

Y’all already know I’m a born-and-bred southerner. Well, if you know me personally or you’ve been reading the blog for any significant amount of time. For those who weren’t aware, please know I love sweet tea, fried chicken, black-eyed peas (the food, most assuredly not the band), and watermelon. Mmmm, watermelon with salt. Collard greens are not on the menu of favorites, however. But I digress….

When I heard about Shantell’s Cafe in Sanford I quietly asked myself how fast can I get there? (Dang…why hasn’t someone figured out the whole teleportation thang?) Apparently the Orlando Sentinel recently published an article claiming Shantell’s to have the best fried chicken in Central Florida (or something like that), and although my visit was not spurred by said article, I can affirm that in my opinion, it’s actually the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Yup – I said it.

First off, let’s talk about Shantell’s location. It’s settled on a quiet little block just a few away from the bustle of the main street in town. I paid a visit on a Saturday afternoon, and it was not in the least bit busy; they open at noon and my friend and I went shortly after.

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 5.48.04 AM

(Front Entrance. Courtey of Sanford365.com.)

Once inside, visitors find a charmingly-themed main dining room, with a bar and open-style kitchen. Don’t be fooled, though – this place is deceptively large (there’s another full dining area off to the left of the main dining room). I also hear Shantell frequently hangs out and even meets with patrons. Sadly, she was not around this day.

Here’s a little peek inside:

And now for the deliciousness that was our lunch:

Attachment 4-1

Famous Fried Chicken with Onion Rings


Yes, yes, I opted out of trying the chicken & waffles that were screaming at me from the menu. But I’m still pretty happy with my dish decision. Guess I just have another reason to go back. :)

My only main complaint about this visit–and hopefully it’s an isolated incident–is the air conditioner was essentially not working. It was HOT. Really hot, and very humid…no doubt fueled by the proximity of the kitchen. It was getting to the point of miserable – nobody wants to be hot and sweaty when they’re eating (I don’t think).

Location deets:

Shantell’s Cafe
406 S. Sanford Ave.
Sanford, FL 32771

ShantellsCafe.com

All-in-all my tummy and I enjoyed out excursion to Shantell’s in Sanford and will certainly be making a trip back there sometime in the future (A/C working, I pray!).

What about you? Have you ever experience Shantell’s?

Strike Outs Bowling at Fashion Square Mall

Fashion Square Mall is really, really trying to step up its game. And quite honestly I’m really happy to see it (the whole area could use a breath of fresh air) – although I still question what the end result will be. We already know there are plans for an Element by Westin hotel to be added into the mix of shopping and dining, and now Strike Outs–a bowling and game facility–has just opened. Check out their Facebook Page:

Not personally my cup of tea but 1) I wouldn’t mind checking things out at some point and 2) I imagine this bowling/movie package would be quite appealing to a family looking to do something fun together one evening or on the weekend.

Fashion Square bowling

You can keep up with future developments on the Fashion Square Mall website or by Liking them on Facebook.

What do you think? Excited about all of the new development in this part of Central Florida?

Jazz Tastings in Maitland

Tucked on the side of a little plaza near Lake Lily in Maitland is the unassuming restaurant/bar Jazz Tastings. I heard about it from a few friends who wanted to check it out, but none had ever been.

Not knowing really what to expect, we opted not to eat dinner there, even though I read on Yelp and their site that they offer a number of delicious food options. Instead, we decided to head there for a few drinks. Jazz Tastings is an intimate space and not at all what I was expecting. It was every bit the sophisticated, relaxing atmosphere they promote it to be.

The room is long and narrow, but has a good amount of seating and a small L-shaped bar near the kitchen. While the smaller size of the place might seem like a negative, it’s truly the opposite because you’re that much closer to the stage.

jazztastings

Speaking of the stage, the whole point of the bar is to showcase phenomenal Jazz talent, and boy have they succeeded. We were there on a Friday night and the performers were ridiculously good. I was really blown away by the vibe of the place, how into it the audience was and just how well it all just “worked.”

Jazz Tastings is open six days a week, so you have no excuse not to check it out!

Olea Mezze Grill

After weeks (maybe months?) of driving past Olea Mezze Grill in Maitland, I finally decided to stop in and check it out. It’s in the same plaza as one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Francesco’s, so I figured why not.

First of all, Olea is not at all what I was expecting. Not sure why, but I assumed this was a sit-down-and-be-served kinda place. It’s not. It’s more of a walk-through-the-line-like-Chipotle kinda place.  This was completely fine with me, and exactly what I like in a lunch/easy dinner place.

Basically, you go through the line and select the type of meal you want:  pita, bowl or salad.  Then you add spreads (GET THE ZESTY FETA, TRUST ME), protein (chicken, falafel, gyro or meatball), toppings and dressing.  There are so many possible options and combinations, each seems as delicious as the next.

I dare you to look at this and not drool:

olea

 

Olea was super-clean, the staff was lovely, and the price was right.  That delicious, fresh lunch was $7.99 + tax.  How can you go wrong? (Hint: you can’t.)

Go support this locally owned business so I can get Zesty Feta spread for life.

 

 

Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria

Tartini LogoI’ve been hearing about Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria in south Orlando for some time, although I wasn’t aware they’ve been around for already over a year (info courtesy of the server I had when I recently visited). When I’m on the hunt for delicious Italian food the Conway-ish area of Central Florida doesn’t immediately come to mind; however, this visit may’ve pushed it near the top of the list. NOTE: There’s also a location in Apopka, which I was unaware of ’til researching info for this post.

My main reason for giving Tartini’s a try was for Orlando Weekly’s Bite30 last month. And if after reading this you’re dying to get out and give these items a try, please be advised most of the items I tried were developed specifically for the the 32 Bites menu and are not offered on the regular menu.

As self-described on Tartini’s website:

“Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria is proud to feature Italian style pizza and pastas inspired by old world recipes from the owner’s hometown in Southern Europe. All of our dishes contain only the finest imported meats and cheeses and the freshest produce. Tartini also features an extensive wine list, curated by a team of master sommeliers and internationally sourced.”

As a little kickstart my dining companion and I tried out some calamari. Not best I’ve ever had–and I’m pretty picky about calamari–but certainly wasn’t bad. One thing that threw me off was the inclusion of randomly-placed jalapenos. Another interesting starter on the Bite30 menu was the Italian Egg – an egg wrapped in meatball and friend. Delish! And moving on, my main dish was lasagna – always a sucker for a good lasagna. It was just as tasty as its predecessors.

Like anything you see? Unfortunately much of what I had was part of Orlando Weekly’s Bite30 program, and these items were specifically created for such. But, you can check out Tartini’s menu to get a feel for what they offer.

Location deets:

Tartini has two Central Florida locations, as follows:

South Orlando
Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria
6321 Hansel Avenue
Orlando, FL 32809
407.601.2400

Apopka
Tartini Pizzeria & Spaghetteria
625 Rock Ridge Blvd,
Apopka, FL 32712
407.814.7474
TartiniPizzeria.com

Have you been to either Tartini location? We’d love to hear about your own experience.

The Brass Tap in Mills Park

I don’t know much about The Brass Tap (actually, I know absolutely nothing about it) but when I was in the Mills Park area this past weekend this sign caught my attention. A little research piqued my interest even more.

Pulse Pic I I love beer, and The Brass Tap promises to deliver with over 300 craft beers. If I even understand their website, customers can select their favorite beers and have them packaged to take home.

In addition to beer The Brass Tap will offer its customers live music from local bands/musicians:

“At The Brass Tap, our line-up of leading local bands adds a distinctive flavor to a vibe that’s already upbeat.”

OrlandoSentinel.com reported in February of last year The Brass Tap’s intent to arrive in Central Florida as “later this year” (meaning ’13), so apparently development is a little later than originally intended. We’ll keep an eye out and update you on any news or progress.

For a complete listing of locations for The Brass Tap visit TheBrassTap.com. You can also keep up with them on Facebook. (PET PEEVE: They highlight their Twitter profile on the website, yet they’ve only Tweeted once…back in October of 2010!)

Are you familiar with The Brass Tap? Ever visited one of their locations?

The Porch in Winter Park

The Place

The Porch LogoWord spreads pretty quickly when anything new opens in Central Florida…particularly if it’s food related. Am I wrong? So I’ve been hearing a little buzz about The Porch in Winter Park for about a month or so. This past weekend a friend and I decided to go check-it-out and see what’s good in the ‘hood.

I really didn’t have any expectations about what to find once inside The Porch, which is right next door to Floyd’s Barbershop and about a block west of Cask & Larder. The interior definitely has a bar atmosphere, which large screen televisions sprinkled throughout, likely most often used to show sports games (the World Cup was on during my visit). Essentially, the entire place is split into two distinct rooms: one more of a dining area with booths and high-tops and games, the other mainly a bar. Outside there are picnics tables which I’m sure are perfect during the cooler months.

The Food

One of the things The Porch can proudly boast about is their eclectic selection of food dishes. And although there are salads on the menu if you’re on the hunt for healthy eating this is probably not the place where you want to land. In addition to the food there’s a healthy selection of beer, wine, and cocktails.

I simply must highlight the dish I personally enjoyed…and hope my trainer doesn’t stumble upon this post.
Basically a glorified french dip, which I’ve always had a weakness for.

The Porch 6

I know, she’s beautiful, isn’t she? And while it may look like they skimped on the meat, I can assure you under that heap of crispy onions is a whole mound of delicious roast beer.

Aside from the food (of which there are more photos below), I must also add the staff is incredibly social and friendly…at least, they were the day we were there.

The Porch 4

Check it:

Our delicious eats consisted of: Flowersprouts (flour-dusted sprouts and cauliflowers); wings; and my “The Big Dipper.”

Based on all of this it’s pretty safe to say I’ll include The Porch in my bag of places to grab a tasty dish from time-to-time.

Interested in making your own visit sometime soon? Feel free to take a glance at The Porch menu before heading over.

Places you can find The Porch online:

Location deets:

The Porch
43 N Orange Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
407.571.9101

WinterParkPorch.com

The Lucky Lure in Ivanhoe Village

I’ve been driving by The Lucky Lure for the almost year it’s been around in Ivanhoe Village, which is just north of downtown Orlando if you’re not familiar. I finally got an opportunity the opportunity to pop-in this past rain-drenched weekend. Gotta say I am not a fan.

I can see where this dive would appeal to a particular niche (think PBR, Natty Lite, and Coors Lite), but there’s nothing from my recent visit that connected me to it or left me wanting to go back again. I’d much rather head down the street to Imperial down the street and hang out there (with the domestic beer and wine crowd).

The Lucky Lure II

Occupy your time with pool and foosball.

The Lucky Lure I

The Bar Area

The Lucky Lure is co-owned by Amy Smith (AKA Lounge, 57 West) and Mike Blaise (Go Lounge), so there’s definitely some bar/nightlife experience behind the establishment. It also runs some pretty great happy hour deals, if that’s something you typically look for when deciding on a bar to go to.

Now, while I’m obviously not personally a fan of this little bar, one of the great things about the location is the opportunity to catch an awesome Central Florida sun setting over Lake Ivanhoe across the street (the place has an open-air concept).

Location deets:

The Lucky Lure
1427 North Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32804

If you wanna see what other folks are saying about their own experience at The Lucky Lure–including at least three reviews about a “rude, prick bartender”–check out Yelp.

Raglan Road Irish Pub

Raglan Road logoStraight up, I can already tell you I’m pretty much going to be drooling the entire time I’m putting this post together. Not only because the food in the pictures is delish, but because I’m daydreaming back to the day it was sitting right in front of my face. I’m talking about Raglan Road Irish Pub, a strangely authentic, yet tourist-geared Irish restaurant/pub located in Downtown Disney.

I love what the restaurant states on their website:

“There’s only one wee problem with 99.9% of the Irish pubs in America. They’re not Irish. Oh, they use green tablecloths and put dainty shamrocks on the menu – some even say Slainte. But to be a true Irish pub, you need to be from Ireland.”

Pretty much spot on.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the very traditional Irish eating (i.e., “fish & chips”, cabbage, etc.); however, I’ve always had a soft spot–literally–for Shepherd’s Pie (sometimes referred to as Cottage Pie). When I saw this on Raglan Road’s menu, and also upon the strong recommendation of one of my dining companions, the deal was sealed for me. Check it:

Shepherd's Pie I
Shepherd's Pie II
Looks amazing, right? And definitely not the Shepherd’s Pie you know or are familiar with. It was so tasty, the meat almost having a sweet aftertaste. I literally had dreams about this, and would certainly make a special trip out to “that area” simply to have it again.

I honestly can’t even remember what my dinner companions had because I was so focused on my own plate. I believe it was a roast something or other…. But there’s lots to choose from at Raglan. They don’t really have a menu listed on their website but there are a few photos here, which you can check out before making your trip to the Downtown Disney area.

Location deets:

Raglan Road Irish Pub
1640 E Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

RaglanRoad

Artisans Table in Downtown Orlando

Folks really, really seem to be loving Artisans Table in downtown Orlando, now home to where a couple of places have been over the past few years (see: Pine 22, The Black Olive). I went there not too long ago with a group of people, to see what all the fuss is about.

While I’m definitely willing to give it another shot, I hate to admit I did not have the same amazing experience everyone else is constantly raving about. We went on a Friday night, and I have to say the service was pretty subpar. The place was not busy at all yet we still managed to have the slowest server on earth. What probably should’ve taken us an hour lasted more like two.

Also, I wasn’t really that impressed with the food. Sorry, guys. I’m a big fan of lamb ragout so when I saw a dish listed on the menu I was immediately excited. It just wasn’t that flavorful, and again…I waited so long for it I probably built up my expectations. One of my dining companions, though, ordered the same dish, and their feedback was the same.

I also had the wedge salad pre-main meal, which was pretty good. It’s hard to mess up lettuce, though.

If you wanna check out what Artisan’s Table has to offer before heading downtown to experience it yourself, here are the menus.

Location deets:

Artisan’s Table
22 E Pine Street
Orlando, FL 32801

ArtisansTableOrlando.com

Like I mentioned, I’m always willing to give a place two tries, so I’d like to head back sometime soon. I’d also love to hear about your own experience at Artisan’s Table. What are your thoughts?

Wanna keep up with all things Artisan’s Table? Be sure to Like them on Facebook, and Follow on Twitter.

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