Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Don’t Be a Falafool

March 8, 2014
You Can't Miss the Neon Sign

You Can’t Miss the Neon Sign

The neon sign commands your attention. An old fashioned marquee style arrow with the word “Falafel Shop” points towards a brightly lit eatery.

The large speech balloon on the wall of the shop shouts “Hubbly Bubbly.” Everything from the unusual, creative font to the holey wooden exterior tables tells you this place is unique. Once inside, the friendly service and delicious food completes the experience.

Hubbly Bubbly is the newest and (as far as the LanceAround family is concerned) one of the best falafel shops in Orlando. Located on Edgewater Drive in the heart of the College Park area, it’s a wonderful place to enjoy delicious, low cost middle eastern cuisine with creative touches unlike any falafel shop we have seen.

The Branding is Very Effective

The Branding is Very Effective

We began with a falafel sandwich. Unlike most falafel shops, Hubbly Bubbly features an assembly-line style food bar, similar to a Subway, where your server creates an individual sandwich with ingredients of your choice. These ingredients are both familiar and exotic; from fresh, homemade hummus, to lettuce, tomatoes, pickled turnips and tabbouleh to exotic creative sauces, pickles and salads. Each one made fresh under the creative eye of Chef Georgie. To enhance your meal, try side dishes such as the delectable Crispy Cauliflower served with Lilly dipping sauce or the Mazel Tots-similar to a tater tots-tossed with a signature five-spice seasoning and served with fresh made Hubbly Hummus.

For the non-vegetarians among you, Hubbly Bubbly features traditional shawarma style, slow-roasted chicken, lamb and/or steak seasoned with Georgie’s own blend of secret spices. Everything can be served in a bowl, sandwich or salad.

We arrived at Hubbly Bubbly just before closing and were lucky enough to meet Georgie, the chef behind the fabulous food. He explained that one of his co-founders of Hubbly Bubbly is Mark who is also at partner at Push, a  well respected local marketing agency. Mark wanted to establish a restaurant that would help him better understand the marketing needs of his restaurant clients. This combination explains the creative branding style and equally creative cuisine.

Also present was Danny, Store Manager. What was most impressive was how eager these guys were to tell us about their unique concept as well as to get our honest opinion about the food they serve. We had not revealed to them that we run a popular local blog about the best places in and around Orlando. So when Georgie gave us a large platter of rice with a new tomato and green bean stew he was experimenting with and asked us to let him know whether or not it had too much oil, too little oil, too many beans or whatever, he had no way of knowing we would post our response online for all to read.

Chef Georgie Give Samples to NumberOneSon

Chef Georgie Give Samples to NumberOneSon

Our response: Georgie, it is delicious. Absolutely delicious. Even though we were completely stuffed from having eaten at your restaurant less than an hour earlier, as soon as we got home we couldn’t wait to try out your green beans and rice. Please add them to your menu.

Knowing that NumberOneSon is a vegan, Danny and Georgie also gave him a large sample platter of cooked lentils along with some kind of salad that was similar to tabbouleh. This dish is also fabulous.

Danny and Georgie explained that their plan was to open about five Hubbly Bubblys in the Orlando market and then franchise the concept. They said they have several investors chomping at the bit to get a franchise, but they want to get their management team stabilized and expand on their current success before branching out. Based on what we saw, the future looks very bright.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that Hubbly Bubbly will be very successful. You don’t want to miss this treat. Or, as it says on the back of the T-shirts that the servers wear, “Don’t Be a Falafool.”

Hubbly Bubbly
3405 Edgewater Drive
Orlando, FL 32804

Naked Pizza Surprisingly Tasty

March 23, 2011

Food That's Tasty, Healthy and Naked? That's Quite a Find!

What’s your favorite health food?  Tofu?  Carrot juice?  Pizza?


The folks at Naked Pizza are on a mission to launch the world’s largest grassroots health movement. In October 2010 John & Shannon opened their first of a hopeful 15 area Naked Pizza franchise stores. This one’s located on Route 434 in Altamonte Springs, just north of Orlando. Their pizza is round, saucy, cheesy and comes in a square box. So what makes it healthy?

It’s naked:  Meaning it’s made from all natural ingredients that taste better and are better for you. It’s not meant to be a diet food.

To begin with, the crust is made with 10 different grains plus prebiotic agave fiber and probiotics (healthful bacteria like those found in yogurt.) According to their literature, this diversity of grains, fiber and probiotics create a sustained release of energy without the crash you can experience from eating “other pizzas that are a big donut slathered with tomato sauce.”

The sauce is all natural, spiced and herbed with no added sugar or citric acid. The cheese is rGBH-free real Wisconsin mozzarella. The meats and veggies are all natural, no additives and free of growth hormones and antibiotics.

Ordering Naked

And naked means honest, immediate and transparent. It’s one reason they use social media so heavily. Their literature proclaims, “For too long fast food companies have talked about secret ingredients that we’ve come to find out are making people less healthy. We think that’s crummy so we use social media to help change it.”

Wow! With all this talk about the health benefits, I was skeptical.  How would it taste?

No need to worry, the pizza was quite tasty; surprisingly so! In some ways, it was just like any other pizza you’ve ever had. In other ways, it really was possible to enjoy the flavorful crust, spiced & herbed sauce and real dairy cheese. With all these special ingredients, I wondered how much more expensive it would be. Again, to my delight, the price was similar to what one would pay at any other pizza chain.

In many ways, the pizza was a reflection of the store. The store had the same appearance as a regular pizza store–front counter with phones, large ovens, square pizza boxes stacked and ready to receive a fresh, hot pizza.  In other ways, it was quite different–bright and minimalistic, large TV screens with information and advertisement, social media screens on the wall where you could sign up to be a fan of the store.

I spoke with John & Shannon, the owners of this franchise. While this is only the 4th Naked Pizza store in the US, there are over 500 stores under contract. This includes John & Shannon’s committment to opening 15 additional stores in the area.

They said they were attracted to this concept because they believe in the healthy, naked approach to the food industry espoused by the founders of Naked Pizza, one of whom they referred to as a nutritional anthropologist. Although it was clear from our conversation that they were nervous about the sales volume in the five months since the store opened, they expressed confidence that they would find their market.

Based on how the pizza tasted and how competitively priced it was, I think they might be right.

Naked Pizza
931 N. S.R. 434
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Open every day 10:30am to Midnight
Open until 1:00am on Friday and Saturday

Orlando’s Best Vietnamese Restaurant?

March 11, 2011

One of the Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Orlando

Is the Anh Hong Restaurant on the corner of Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue in downtown Orlando the best Vietnamese Restaurant?

I don’t really know. There are literally dozens of Vietnamese places to eat in this section of town. I’ve never had Vietnamese before, so I have nothing to compare it with. However, it’s been an Orlando “FOODIE” award winner three times in the past 10 years.

Here’s what the LanceAround family discovered the other weekend when we sat down to our first Vietnamese meal: The service was excellent; polite and fast. The only problem was communication as both the restaurant and its staff are authentic Vietnamese. The food was similar enough to Chinese and Thai to draw comparisons, but different enough to be a separate cuisine. The portions were large and the price was very reasonable. In all, it was tasty and, in some cases, quite unique.

Suoug Sao Hat E Da

Take the Suoug Sao Hat E Da drink that Number One Son ordered. It’s listed as a sweet basil seed and grass jelly drink. To attempt to describe it would be futile, so please look at this picture. The drink begins with the ingredients in this glass, then the server adds the liquid. It is sweet, delicious and we’ve never seen anything like it.

Number One Daughter ordered tofu and veges, Mrs. Lance Around had the rice vermicelli with fried tofu and veges and I had golden pancakes with bean sprouts. We sampled each other’s fare and commented on how similar or different each was to other asian food that we enjoy, such as Thai, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian. Our food was a little more greasy and slightly more bland than those cuisines. We asked for a side of peanut sauce–something we enjoy at Thai restaurants–and that was a nice addition.

For fun, I ordered a bubble tea. If you’ve never had one, they are a real treat. They come in a variety of flavors, like many cold, sweet teas available in any supermarket, but with an added bonus. At the bottom of the tea are small, round “bubbles” made from a tapioca like substance. You drink the tea through a wide straw which allows the bubbles to be sucked into your mouth along with the tea. It tastes great and is fun to drink (and chew!)

Inexpensive, Unique and Delicious

Number One Son and Number One Daughter enjoyed a coconut juice which was an actual chilled coconut with the top sliced off and a straw inserted for sipping. The novelty was more impressive than the flavor of the juice.

Appetizers range from $2.50 to $12.00, sandwiches are between $3 and $8 and full entrees go from $6.50 to $13. Desserts are only $2 to $4 and beverages are $1.50 to $4. The portions will fill you up, the prices won’t drain your wallet, but, most of all, the experience of a cuisine that is not readily available in most parts of the country make this a trip worth taking.

Open 7 days a week from 9am to 9:30pm.

Anh Hong Restaurant
1124 E Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803

Is NYPD The Best Pizza In Orlando?

September 3, 2010

NYPD Pizzeria Voted Best In Orlando

Number One Daughter got her driving permit on Friday.  To celebrate, she wanted pizza and elected to try NYPD Pizzeria and Delicatessen which had won some local Best Pizza of the Year awards.

I spent many years working in the pizza industry. I get nervous whenever I do an unannounced review of a restaurant. I understand that even the best establishments can have an off day. When I do my reviews, I try to look deeper than the surface. I look for systems, talk to patrons, observe the crew and study the procedures. Does anything indicate that tonight is different than usual?

But this visit, I didn’t have to worry about that.

From the moment we pulled up to the NYPD Pizzeria, located on Universal Drive right near the convention center, it was obvious we were at a restaurant worthy of a Best in Orlando award.

The restaurant was doing a bustling business; phones were ringing, tables were crowded and the kitchen crew and wait staff were scurrying back and forth.

#1 Daughter Digs In

I looked at the tables full of people. They were all smiling, gesturing and talking in an animated way. On the center of most tables was a round metal plate set on a pedestal about 8 inches off the table and filled with pizza that looked expertly cooked with generous portions of toppings and cheese. Some tables (that did not have a pizza in the center) were being served with plates filled with calzones, sandwiches or pasta all of which appeared to be cooked just right.

The wait staff was hustling, but not harassed. They appeared friendly, but not overbearing. The kitchen had a half dozen team members each focused on their work. No one looked bored or annoyed. The atmosphere was pleasant.

I looked around the shop. It was obviously a new store. Even so, the walls, tables, counters and baseboards seemed clean. There were firefighter helmets and amusing signs that carried themes of New York’s Finest. Walls with accent paint, a granite countertop and dark wood molding said that someone had created this shop with care and attention to detail.

Our waitress, Ashley, was cheerful and attentive. It was a busy night so she had to hustle and she did so while not being rude or pushy. She tried to give us a few minutes to purview the menu while she attended to some pressing duties. However, when we told her we were ready to order immediately (we had a movie deadline, but we didn’t tell her that) she dropped her other duties and instantly gave us her full attention.

Toasted Just Right

Number One Daughter ordered a Bayside Bianca (white pizza), I ordered an eggplant parmsean sandwich, Number One Son got got linguine with sauce and Mrs. LanceAround shared my sandwich with a slice of Number One Daughter’s Bianca and a salad. The food did not take long to arrive–but it was long enough to indicate that it was freshly prepared. It was cooked to perfection, not over- or under-done. The crust was slightly crunchy and chewy on the outside yet moist and tender on the inside. The eggplant parmesan was on an italian roll that was toasted just right.

At the front of the kitchen, you could watch the chef hand tossing the fresh pizza dough and putting the completed pies into a large oven. It appeared to bake on a revolving stone surface, but I did not get enough of a glimpse of the oven to know for sure.

We were all smiles as we tasted each other’s fare. When our waitress, Ashley, asked why were taking so many photos, she displayed the usual nervous concern when learning we were preparing to write a post about the meal. Since we never reveal whether a review will be positive or negative, we could not alleviate her anxiety. She had nothing to worry about. It was obvious from before we even sat at her table that she is a caring, conscientious waitress who works very hard.

We gave her a good tip and went on to watch our movie–full, delicious and content. Good meal at a good price.

And lucky for our readers, there are currently five NYPD Pizza and Delicatessen Restaurants throughout the greater Orlando area. Here’s the contact info for the one we went to:

NYPD Pizzeria & Delicatessen
9900 Universal Blvd.
Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32819

Oysters, Oysters & More Osyters

August 24, 2010

Homeowner Dennis Says, "Eat 'em Raw & Let 'em Slide!"

[Guest Blog Post–Homeowner Dennis is a lawyer in Illinois who owns this beautiful vacation home right beside Disney World.  Last month, during one of his many visits, he discovered Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar. When he came to my office, he was so ecstatic.  He described it as “a dive” then couldn’t stop talking about how much he enjoyed it!  He give’s us today’s post–LanceAround.] 

By Homeowner Dennis 

Most people either love them or hate them, but oysters seem to be the craze these days. 

In every major city you’ll find a fancy “oyster bar” where you’ll spend 10 bucks for a half dozen of these slimy little mollusks.  They’re served raw, steamed, deep fried, put in chowder or used in all sorts of recipes.  We’ve seen them featured on the food channel in weird eating contests where people will eat hundreds of raw oysters in one sitting. 

A Bar For The Whole Family

 If you are one of those who just loves these little creatures and can’t get enough, or, if you want to see if  you have the fortitude to down a few raw oysters right out of the shell, then you’re in luck.  Right here in Orlando is Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar. 

This place is known by the locals as the best place in Orlando for oysters.  It’s been around for half a century (now being operated by the son of the original owners.) The outside is a plain bar-type building that has some extra sheet metal to make it resemble a shipwreck.  But you’re here for the oysters, not for the ambiance.  The owner says, “People get really upset if we try to change anything–like paint!” 

The oysters are delivered three times a week from the Apalachicola area in the gulf.  Your dining experience begins when you get a table or grab a stool and sit at the cement bar where they spray it down with a garden hose to clean up. 

Lee & Rick's Motto

Start by getting a bucket of fresh, raw oysters (2-1/2 to 3 dozen) for 17 bucks and the server (wearing a T-shirt that says, “I eat’m raw!”) cracks them open faster then you can slide ’em down yer gullet. Grab the oyster shell, add a little lemon or hot sauce, put it to your mouth and LET ‘EM SLIDE…get a napkin from the overhead dispenser, chew on a saltine cracker and start over.  You’re allowed to pause for a drink of ice cold beer, if necessary. 

THIS PLACE IS AN EXPERIENCE.  (Maybe not the BEST experience, but still an EXPERIENCE!) 

Orlando Magazine gave Lee & Rick’s its 2010 Dining Hall of Fame award.  One thing is certain, you’ll get fresh shrimp, crawfish, crab, clams and (of course) OYSTERS–which they sell in any quantity up to a bushel bag.  Don’t expect more than great food–it’s a bar!!  (which is nice because you don’t need to dress up) and it’s OK for children (there’s fries and chicken nuggets.) 

If you want to sit at the bar, get there early! 

Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar
5621 Old Winter Garden Road
Orlando, FL 32811

[Ed. Notes–As you can tell, Homeowner Dennis is a bit of a culinary connoisseur.  At Christmas, he often sends my office frozen authentic Chicago deep dish pizza.  Perhaps I can convince him to write a post about which is the better potato chip–Ole Saltys or Mrs. Fisher’s.  Both are handcrafted in Dennis’ hometown.  He’s sent us cases of both kinds.  My whole office loves opening packages from Homeowner Dennis.–LanceAround] 


Kouzzina–Good Food, Horrible Atmosphere

August 19, 2010

Kouzzina Restaurant on Disney's Boardwalk

Although Number One Son and Daughter love Iron Chef, I have never watched it. I don’t know who Cat Cora is. Mrs. LanceAround and I decided to treat Our Friend Karen to Cat Cora’s recently opened Greek/Southern restaurant, Kouzzina, on the Boardwalk in Disney World. 

According to our menu, Cat Cora was born to a family of Greek restaurateurs in Mississippi. Kouzzina means “kitchen” in Greek. Cora became famous as the first female Iron Chef on the Food Network’s hit show. This is her first signature restaurant. She has blended the Greek food of her ancestors with a Southern twist from her native Mississippi. 

I decided to begin the evening by parking in the Hollywood Studios parking lot and taking a Disney Friendship boat to the Boardwalk. The flaws in my quixotic plan soon became evident as a light rain shower, longer than anticipated walk to the boat and noise of the boat engine drowning any attempt at conversation made me wish I had just parked at the Boardwalk. 

Open Kitchen was N-O-I-S-Y

By the time we arrived at the restaurant, we were starving. Although it was late on a Tuesday night during a slower tourist season, we were dismayed when we were told the wait would be 35 to 45 minutes. Dismay turned to frustration when the wait actually took one hour, 3 minutes and 57 seconds. (a grumpy LanceAround was timing it!) 

If we were disappointed by the wait, our discouragement tripled as we encountered three unexpected things: 

1. The restaurant, with its large open kitchen, was just one room jam packed with tables and noise so loud that conversation was impossible. 

2. The waitress, while knowledgable and efficient, was robotic and inattentive. 

3. Thinking that the casual atmosphere of the boardwalk and the assembly line atmosphere of the restaurant and wait staff meant this would be a moderately priced affair, we did not expect entrees priced from $20 to $28 and appetizers approaching $10 each. 

Crammed In a Big Box

Our Friend Karen remarked that the restaurant had all the ambience of a Cracker Barrel–only with three times the level of noise! (At least I think that’s what she said. I could barely hear her.) 

Just when we thought our experience couldn’t be any more frustrating, the waitress warned us that all the food is freshly prepared so we could expect it to take longer than normal for us to eat. She then helpfully recommended that we could have something sooner by padding our bill with an order of appetizers.  (Although she did not quite say it that way.) 

Though the description of the entrees was enticing, we wound up ordering 7 different appetizers and salads. Our fear of an extended wait for food came to a sudden halt when everything was served to us in, literally, two to three minutes. All 7 items arrived before our waitress had time to get Mrs. LanceAround and Our Friend Karen the beverages they had ordered. 

“So much for ‘freshly prepared’,” I thought as I noticed that the Spanakopita, a complex phyllo pie of spinach, feta, leeks and dill, was at our table faster than it would have taken a team of chefs to put one together! The climax of our misguided adventure came when I tried to cut the Saganki (a seared Greek cheese with lemon and oregano served next to toasted bread) and got a blistery burn on my finger from the cast iron bowl. It was clear that nothing would go right tonight. 

Then, we took our first bite. 

Because of my commitment to a new, healthier lifestyle, I was not eating that late at night, so I have to rely on Mrs. LanceAround and Our Friend Karen to report on the experience of actually eating at Kouzzina.  Their opinion was quick–Mrs. LanceAround thought the food was fantastic and Our Friend Karen thought it was just OK. 

The Food Was Fantastic For Some, OK for Others

Mrs. LanceAround said the Spanakopita was bursting with flavor, the Saganki was scrumptious, the sweet potato fries were tasty, the greek salad was divine, the goat cheese stuff grape leaf was both unique and delicious, the herbed orzo provided a nice compliment to the harissa yogurt. Kalamata fig and hummus spreads served with grilled pita. 

If nothing else, it was an unusual and eclectic mix of tastes and textures. 

Seven appetizers and two glasses of wine came to over $70. Mrs. LanceAround and Our Friend Karen were now content as we rode the boat back to the Hollywood Studios parking lot under a now rainless sky. It was a more relaxing and peaceful end to the evening. 

I’m reminded of one of my favorite foreign films–Babette’s Feast–which portrays how a community can come together and enjoy each other over a delightful meal. It was interesting to note how our experience at this restaurant so closely paralleled the numerous reviews I found later when researching it on the web. 

In summary, skip Kouzzina if you want nice atmosphere or great service. Enjoy it if you are looking for a creative, unique combination of Greek and Southern food and have some money to spend. In other words, the food was good enough to recommend trying Kouzzina despite the horrible atmosphere and service–but just barely.

Raw Food Restaurant–Cafe 118

August 7, 2010

Cafe 118–Orlando’s Newest Gourmet Raw Food Restaurant

Adherents of the raw food movement believe that cooking food kills healthy, life-giving enzymes. Often raw fooders are vegan and prefer organic ingredients. Vegan is a strict form of vegetarianism where no animal products are consumed, including dairy, eggs, honey, whey and so forth.

Raw food proponents go a step further. They do not heat any food beyond 118°. Hence the name: Cafe 118º.

Joseph Diaz is the owner, operator, chef and–as he likes to point out–occasionally the dishwasher at Cafe 118°.

This unique, raw food restaurant in downtown Winter Park, just north of Orlando, has been open for almost two years. Joseph is quick to say, “This is gourmet raw. The flavors are more impactful, palatable, than the traditional raw.

“This country is having a lot of issues with medical, obesity (particularly childhood obesity), diabetes,” Joseph continues. “Raw food is very clean and very natural. We should all think about getting back to it. We should start eating more whole foods at home, not a lot of processed foods.”

It is clear that Joseph is passionate about this concept and his restaurant is a testament to his passion.

Mrs. LanceAround and I stopped there for a casual lunch. I ordered the lasagna while she tried the taco salad. The lasagna was a layered combination of raw (obviously), sliced zucchini and other veggies interspersed with a creamed nut, herb, pesto and tomato sauces. The taco salad was fresh organic lettuce with beans, corn and a Mexican spiced sauce drizzled on top served over a bed of raw tortilla chips. Both were unique, gourmet and, surprisingly, quite tasty!

We topped off our meal with Coconut Macaroon vegan raw ice cream. The primary ingredient was some kind of young, tender Thai coconut. It was scrumptious!

Raw Food, Fresh, Right Off The Truck

We asked our server where they get all their organic ingredients. She told us that what they don’t get from local vendors is deliverd by Global Organic out of Sarasota. As we were driving down interstate 4 on our way home from the restaurant, we had a serendipitous experience. We noticed we were passing the Global Organic Delivery truck. Did our meal just come from inside that vehicle?

If you are looking for something adventurous and new, we highly recommend trying the raw food at Cafe 118º. Expensive organic ingredients and extensive prep time that includes a lot of dehydration makes for a higher priced meal with smaller portion sizes. But this is one restaurant that will always place a value on quality over quantity.

Plus the great food and unique experience makes it worth the trip!

When you go, let us know if you like it.

Cafe 118º
153 East Morse Blvd.
Winter Park, FL 32789

Best Venezuelan Food in Orlando

May 11, 2010

Great Venezuelan Food Awaits Inside This Unassuming Entrance

Number One Daughter’s Montessori Teacher is from Venezuela. She recommended an authentic Venezuelan Restaurant with the very unpretentious name of Orlando Snack Cafe.

The restaurant is located in Hunter’s Creek, a cozy residential area about 10 minutes east of Disney World. It was easy to find the small strip mall where the sign on the door told us we were at the right place. Our first impression did not give us any indication that culinary delight was waiting just inside.

Luis is a Master Cook

Luis Andrade was raised in Venezuela and came to this country five years ago to escape the political turmoil of his native land. Three years ago he opened the Orlando Snack Cafe. He made the same authentic Venezuelan dishes he was accustomed to cooking in the restaurant he used to own in Venezuela.

Despite his difficulty with the English language, it was evident that the quiet, unassuming Luis is proud of his food.  In addition to traditional Venezuelan fare, such as rellenos, empanadas and cachapas, his restaurant serves hot dogs, grilled chicken, lasagna and various other traditional snack house favorites.

The food was exceptional and modestly priced. If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to try the Venezuelan fruit or rice drinks, you can enjoy the coffee, smoothies or traditional American soda pop.

Each Dish Was Scrumptious

We ordered a selection of side dishes–coleslaw, potato salad, mashed potato, and fried plantains–along with a cheese relleno and a cachapas. The food was homemade, fresh and delicious. We asked to meet the owner to offer our compliments. Luis stopped by our table and briefly shared with us the story of his trek to America and the opening of his restaurant.

Whatever your culinary preference, Montessori Teacher Karen was correct, this is the best Venezuelan food in the Orlando area. It’s also perfect for a family or group with some members who want to try the adventurous and exotic and others who wish to stick with the tried and true.

Either way, everyone in your party will love the food and the prices at this delightful new discovery.

Orlando Snack Cafe
3708 Town Center Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32837

8am – 8pm Mon thru Sat
8am – 1pm Sun

Best Thai Restaurant Near Disney World

May 1, 2010

Welcome to Thailand

When Number One Son turned 21 he got to choose the restaurant for dinner.  He chose the Thai Thani Restaurant right next to Sea World.


Mrs LanceAround, Number One Daughter, and I joined Number One Son for the festivities.  We were sad to miss Number Two Son who was at college.

You Feel Like You Are in Thailand

Located in a small strip mall at the corner of the Central Florida Parkway and International Drive, the moment you enter this exotic place you will forget that you are in a strip mall in the middle of touristville.  The restaurant features carved, teak wood walls and rooms, a few low-to-the-floor Thai seating places, numerous Buddhas, Thai sculptures, intricately carved archways, and the walls are adorned with authentic Thai artwork which is also available for sale.

Like most Thai restaurants, the servers are conscientiously attentive and polite and the food is delivered quickly.  We all order Thai iced tea; appetizers of fried tofu, egg rolls, and spring rolls; and tofu red and yellow curry for entrees.

The Thai iced tea comes quickly and leaves us with the usual dilemma.  For those of you who never had Thai iced tea, it is a combination of regular iced tea topped with a rich, creamy milk.  The two sit completely separate in the glass with the dark brown tea on the bottom and the white creamy milk on top.  (How in the world do they do that?  They must pour the milk in very slowly and carefully.)  If you suck on the straw carefully, you can keep the two liquids separate and have a sip of tea interspersed with a sip of milk.  If you are too rough or select to stir your tea, the white milk and the dark tea combine for a cream colored treat.  Amber and Brandon solve the dilemma by vigorously stirring the tea while Mrs. LanceAround and I take alternating sips.

The refreshing tea is enhanced by the atmosphere that transports you to Thailand.  Soft Thai music plays while candlelight dances along the teak wood walls and artwork.  Every now and again a Buddha reminds you to be present in the moment.  Alas, however, worldly pleasure quickly intervenes as the appetizers are served.  We ordered extra peanut sauce to spread over our appetizers, all of which are delicious.

No sooner were the appetizers gone then our curry arrives.  Heavenly!  Wimps that we are, we ask for all the dishes to be prepared very mild.  The curry tastes of heavy cream, the vegetables are done just right, and the addition of rice makes for a scrumptious meal.

Authentic Thai Artwork

As is usual when our family eats at a Thai restaurant, Mrs. LanceAround and Number One Daughter admonish me for my totally uncouth behavior of spooning the rice directly into my curry bowl.  “First you put the rice on your plate, then spoon on some curry, then add the peanut sauce,” scolds Number One Daughter, as if talking to a two year old just learning to eat with a fork.

I concur that, no doubt, the cooks in the kitchen are chatting about the Ugly American who eats like a pig.  “In fact,” I reply, “I could hear them talking about us as I walked past.  Only they were speaking in Thai, thinking I could not understand.”  (Is Thai even a language?  I don’t think it is.)

[Editor’s note:  Actually, according to Wikipedia, the official written and spoken language of Thailand is Thai.  Sorry, I can never pass up an opportunity to educate–Even if it is educating myself!]

We are too full to order dessert and prepare to leave when, unexpectedly, a group of Thai servers dressed in traditional garb come to our table with a dish of fried bananas and coconut ice cream and a single lit candle in the middle.  They sing happy birthday to Number One Son in English.  Although we are all touched by this tender scene as the rest of the restaurant applauds, I keep thinking of the last scene in the classic movie “A Christmas Story” where the family goes to the Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Day and the waitstaff sings “Deck the Halls” in pigeon English.

The bill was only $87 for the four of us and I leave a generous tip as we all congratulate Number One Son for an excellent culinary choice for his 21st birthday!

Big thumbs up!

Thai Thani Restaurant
11025 International Drive
Orlando, FL  407.239.9733.

PS:  We went to the restaurant at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night during the off season and it was packed!  You might want to make reservations for this place.  I hope to see you there.  (And if you do see me, please be sure to pick up my check as a way of saying thanks for the recommendation.)  Then, leave a comment on the blog letting us know your thoughts about Thai Thani.

PPS: Shortly after we celebrated Number One Son’s birthday at Thai Thani on International Drive, a new Thai Thani Restaurant opened in downtown Celebration. We tried that restaurant and found it just as fantastic. Now the lucky readers of my blog have two great Thai restaurants to choose from when looking for “more than a mouse”™

Thai Thani Celebration
600 Market Street, Suite 100
Celebration, FL 34747

Ye Olde English Tearoom

March 2, 2010

Grammy LanceAround and Number One Daughter Enjoy Their Tea

I thought our reviews of tearooms had come to an end.  But when Grammy LanceAround came for a visit, we decided to treat her to Ye Olde English Tearoom located just an hour north of Disney on Lake Mary Blvd. just a half mile east of the I-4 exit.

Although not perfect, the LanceAround Family consensus was a solid “thumbs up.” currently ranks it #8 in the state of Florida.

The best part of the tearoom is the food.  Number One Son remarked that if the soup they served was priced at $100 a bowl, it would still be worth the cost–it was that good!  He especially loved the butternut squash.  I tried the cream of mushroom and found it to be delicious and loaded with chunks of mushroom.  Yummm!

When I asked Neil O’Halloran–the polite, soft-spoken owner of the tearoom–what I should say about it in my blog, he was quick to mention the quality of the food.  He revealed to me the fresh ingredients for his homemade scones and showed the small oven where he bakes the small, round scones in fresh batches every few minutes.  Despite serving whipped cream instead of Devonshire or clotted cream, the scones were so moist and delicious we managed to enjoy them with only strawberry jam!

Neil Provides His Own Artwork

Neil also referenced the Dickisonian paintings on the wall of the tearoom and revealed that the signature NOH were his initials. “You’re an artist!” I exclaimed. “Well, I wouldn’t call myself that,” he replied with modesty.

I thought the paintings were a nice complement to the beautiful lace tablecloths and delicate tea sets.  The atmosphere was pleasant, although the original design of the entire shop provided seating in only about 40% of the room leaving 60% for the kitchen and serving area.  This unfortunate design made for a cramped, slightly uncomfortable seating area when filled to capacity.

Our family felt that the number of available teas was limited, but the Earl Grey we tried was wonderful.  Number One Daughter summed it up by saying, “the tea selection was small, but what they had was choice.  It was quality not quantity.”  The sandwiches were fresh made, the fruit and vegetables with ranch dip were tasty and the various cakes and pastries were delectable.  As mentioned, the scones were out of this world.

Since it is only open three or four days a week for just a few hours a day, and since they often close for parties or large groups, you definitely want to call ahead.  On busy weekends, reservations are recommended.

A worthwhile addition to the family of tearooms in the Central Florida area just waiting to be discovered by the lucky readers of my blog!

Ye Olde English Tearoom
3801 W. Lake Mary Blvd
Lake Mary, FL 32746
Website was not working at the time of this review, but it is: