Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse serves excellent meat

Full disclosure: I was invited to Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse for a complimentary tasting in exchange for my opinion. Any opinions displayed here are my own and do not represent Terra Gaucha. 

Brazilian Steakhouse concepts have had mixed success in Tampa Bay. Boizao disappeared one day without an explanation. Texas de Brazil has managed to be successful elsewhere on Boy Scout Boulevard. Now, Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse is open on South Dale Mabry in a former GrillSmith location.

My experience at Texas de Brazil when I’ve visited was nothing to write home about. The meat is plentiful, but extremely salty and sometimes completely dry. I’m happy to report that is not the case at Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse. I visited for a tasting this week and was impressed with what I found.

I brought along a friend who lived in Brazil for a year as my point of reference and she agreed that this is perhaps one of the most authentic experiences she has had since she left Brazil.

Our favorite meat cut during our visit was the Picanha or beef sirloin-cap. It was so juicy and flavorful. The perfect taste in your mouth.

The close second was the Linguiça or pork sausage. This is usually not my favorite dish, but I enjoyed it quite a bit at Terra Gaucha. I was a big fan of the Cordeiro or lamb, but lamb is certainly one of those things that isn’t for everyone.

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Like most Brazilian steakhouse concepts servers come around and cut meat tableside. You use something called a “brasa card” to indicate if you want food or not. Red means stop and green means go. The servers constantly flood the floor with food and you can get full just watching them cut the meat.

The buffet bar or salad bar as some might call it has numerous options for diners including bacon, prosciutto, cheeses, soups, and more. Personally I try to focus on the meat when I go to Brazilian steakhouses so I can get the best bang for my buck, but I know that will vary for some people. I can report that the bacon was delicious.

Terra Gaucha is doing many things right. The cuts of meat were all great quality, flavored just right, not too salty. The service staffed was prompt and attentive, I observed the other tables and watched the servers regularly checking on customers around me.

The cocktail menu was great and I loved my Caipirinha which is Brazil’s national cocktail made with cachaça, sugar and lime. Good cachaça is a little difficult to come by in Tampa and I was delighted to find that the cocktail at Terra Gaucha was up to par. The rest of the cocktail menu looked good and the wine list was extensive.

It’s easy to get stuffed beyond control at these kinds of all-you-can-eat spots, but we paced ourselves and I felt just right at the end of the meal.

For dessert I had the Papaya Creme dish which is a throwback to the 90s in Brazil. The classic dessert was refreshing after a meal filled with meat and tasted almost like yogurt, which reminded me of the little yogurt drinks I have when I finish chowing down on some Korean BBQ.

My friend ordered a Creme Brulee and enjoyed her dessert. It was light and airy. Not super sugary, but just enough for my palate.

Bossanova music was playing in the background on the speakers and I liked that.

One thing that could be improved at Terra Gaucha is the decor of the restaurant and ambiance in the dining room. Brazilian steakhouses are not cheap affairs and will easily run you $50 per person at dinner and the dining room inside Terra Gaucha didn’t match that kind of spending level.

The restaurant was mostly casual, which can be a plus for people who like that, but I think people dining in this area expect a little more. Decor is not a hard thing to improve though, the entrance is beautiful (as pictured above and below) and the bar is also nicely setup. Perhaps some lighting changes and something around the tables would change the vibe some.

I think adding some live music on the weekends would be a plus, maybe some Samba music or Bossanova cover artists.

Terra Gaucha has excellent food and I would really like to go here in the future for a meal again. I think its a great place to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or have a business meeting and that the food is truly unique in this area.

The bar has a daily happy hour on weekdays with $5 Caipirinha cocktails so I know I will be returning for that no matter what.

Restaurant name: Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse

Cuisine: Brazilian Steakhouse

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Address: 1108 S. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL 33629

Phone Number: (813) 999-4332

Price: $$$

Website: http://www.terragaucha.net

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Guide: Where to watch the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Tampa Bay

The FIFA World Cup 2018 has started in Moscow. Looking for a bar to go watch the games in Tampa Bay?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Mr. Dunderbak’s: World Cup Headquarters for Germany fans. Dunderbak has long been the haven for fans to embrace camaraderie. They now make their own beer in addition to having a massive menu and great beer list with both craft beer and plenty of imports with over 500 bottles and 65 worldwide beers on draft. Happy Hour pricing will be available during all games. 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL 33613 (813) 977-4104
  • Don Julio’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine: This local Mexican restaurant near Carrollwood and New Tampa  is offering breakfast during the World Cup for fans as well as lunch and happy hour on margaritas, beer, and wine. 2808 E. Bearss Ave, Tampa, FL 33613  (813) 898-2860
  • GameTime: Ybor’s arcade bar is having drink specials and food specials during matches of the World Cup. 1600 E. 8th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 241-9675
  • Hofbrauhaus St. Pete: This massive German pub will really get you in the mood during the World Cup. It’s a branch of a historic Munich brewery. If you’re in Downtown St. Pete, it’s worth a look. 123 4th St. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 898-3333
  • Independent Bar and Cafe: Independent Bar is probably the most popular bar in Seminole Heights and a great way to kick it with the locals during the games. 5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 341-4883
  • James Joyce Irish Pub: All FIFA World Cup games are being shown on the big screen at this Irish pub in Ybor City on 8th. They have great happy hour deals and also one of the best burgers in town. You’re welcome. 1724 E 8th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 247-1896
  • London Heights British Pub: This beautiful British pub will be showing all the world cup games for fans and is just on the edge of Seminole Heights. Enjoy $4 Carlsberg, $4 Kombacher, 20 wings + a pitcher of Coors Light for $25. 7701 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 231-7200
  • LPCX Cafe & Bakery: Colombia fans can check out this cafe (La Pequena Colombia Express) and bakery that is hosting watch parties for all the FIFA World Cup games. The full menu is available during the games on top of an espresso bar, baked goods, beer, and wine. Tickets for parties are available and include an all-you-can-eat buffet (normally $25 but $18 during 8AM games) and are limited, reservations are only required during Colombia games due to space limitations. The buffet includes coffee and select drinks. Their outside deck is first-come, first-serve and open to walk-ins with appetizer-like foods and drinks for purchase. 6204 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 870-6717
  • Nazca Bar & Grill: Most people are probably unaware that Tampa has a Peruvian sports bar, but Nazca is just that and open late. I stopped by to watch a game and had a blast. The televisions are in Spanish – I know some people are searching for bars with that. 5915 Memorial Highway Tampa, FL 33615. (813) 252-6025
  • Pisco Restaurant & Bar: This Peruvian and Chinese fusion restaurant is offering drink specials on beer buckets and appetizers during the FIFA World Cup. The also have daily breakfast and lunch combos. Space is limited so come early. 7507 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 305-7910
  • Prost Bar + Kitchen: This German-style modern pub near USF on Bearss will fully embrace the World Cup. They have deals almost everyday of the week as well. 2802 E Bearss Ave, Tampa, FL 33613 (813) 466-5249
  • Restaurant Old Castle: This German old-world-style tavern will have all FIFA World Cup games playing for those looking for a bar on the south side of town and of course bratwurst and German specialities. 3830 Sun City Center Blvd #107, Ruskin, FL 33573 (813) 633-3331
  • Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar: All World Cup games will be shown at Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar in Downtown Tampa. $3 Estrella Draft Beers will be available as well as giveaways and raffles. 513 N. Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602 (813) 223-2831
  • Three Birds Tavern: This European pub has been a gathering spot for football fans for decades. They will be open early for all World Cup games including the 8AM games. It is pet-friendly as well. 1492 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 895-2049
  • Zydeco Brew Werks: Located in the heart of Ybor near plenty of city and street parking and with plenty of televisions. Zydeco has ample seating, they have craft beer and food. What’s not to like about this? 1902 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605 (813) 252-4541

The Rez Grill Hard Rock Tampa happy hour impresses

Full disclosure: I was invited to The Rez Grill for a tasting of their happy hour menu. Any opinions displayed are my own and do not represent Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

Last week I went out to The Rez Grill for a happy hour tasting (called “Social Hour) at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. Guests can enjoy food and cocktails for just $7 from 3PM-6PM from Wednesday-Saturday.

During my visit I tried to stick to things I didn’t try during my last tasting. I do recommend the Benton’s Ham based on my last visit.

My favorite thing I tried was the banh mi! It was incredibly delicious and totally a great deal. We liked it so much that we ordered it twice. This banh mi is gourmet, the bread perfection, and the chef makes the Pâté from scratch and it shows. Also the pork…so good!

The second thing I would recommend is the Smoked Fish Dip. The fish itself depends on the day you visit, but I had Rainbow Trout in my dip and it was truly delectable down to every last taste.

The chopped salad is what you would expect from at traditional restaurant, it had some remnants of a 1905 salad to it. Not a bad option when you’re sipping on some of their sangria.

Note: The sangria at The Rez Grill comes in a caprisun pouch and is called When We Were Young. It’s a novelty that is really catching on. The sangria was excellent and was clearly soaked in plenty of fruit. They thankfully put the straw in before I had the pouch, saving me the trouble of trying to put the straw into the pouch.

For cocktails I only tried the 1944 Mai Tai which packed a punch and was more than enough for me during the visit. I’d really like to try more of the drinks in the future and I’m actually going to return this week for happy hour again.

Free parking at Hard Rock Tampa and this menu certainly makes The Rez Grill and attractive happy hour spot that I highly recommend that you check out soon.

Join the Tampa Bay Foodies Club for a Meetup on Wednesday, 6/13: http://www.meetup.com/Tampa-Bay-Foodies-Club/events/251532483/

Bourdain.

I woke up yesterday to an e-mail in my inbox from Eater alerting me that Anthony Bourdain had passed. Not a great start to my day.

True words. RIP Bourdain.

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The importance of Bourdain in the industry was so clear from the amount of love everyone showed him. He was one of the most famous and authentic food voices out there, never afraid to go against an industry filled with norms and filters.

The thing I’ll remember most about Bourdain was that he always stood up for what he believed was right and that is what I hope to embrace in my life going forward. The other thing Bourdain did well was shine a light on food cultures that we not covered enough and he tried to get down to the real story in his travels. He was loved worldwide.

I’ve filmed before for television and one of the most annoying parts of filming is how unnatural it all usually is. Usually all the people there have been prepped before you visit. The dishes made to perfection. The customers arranged to be supportive loyalists.

Bourdain’s style was to try and capture an authentic experience somewhere and that is different from your typical filtered television. He will be missed but hopefully we take piece of his spirit with us and try to absorb the world around us like he did so well.


After feeling bummed for most of the morning and afternoon, I found myself in Seminole Heights and ran into Chef Viet Vo (Chef V) of Mad Chef Tampa at Brew Bus Brewing.

I was there to check out the new cocktail menu and trying to simultaneously avoid Tampa’s daily soak bath storm and Friday I-275 traffic. We were both hoping to run into the Brew Bus Executive Chef Max Sherard, but missed him and decided why not go bar hopping for a bit and catch up.

I want to say that my first impression of the new cocktail menu at Brew Bus left me with high hopes and I plan to work my way through it little by little. I enjoy both the Brew Bus and Florida Ave. craft beers which have also been made into beer cocktails in addition to their normal cocktail list.

The bartender gave me a sample of a drink he is whipping up for CL’s Margarita Wars in a few weeks for some feedback as well. That will be exciting to see in person.

Side note: Creative Loafing is running a CL Deal for Margarita Wars right now that ends in 2 days at http://cldeals.com – 50% off admission. You can thank me later when we are sipping margaritas there.

We went from there to Rooster & The Till which seemed like an appropriate place to be on a day of sadness for the food world. Most chefs in town will say that is their favorite place in town and it is certainly one of the most forward-thinking places.

It was obvious that the place is special place for Chef V. We were both residents of Seminole Heights in the past. He ordered the Crispy Cobia Collar which was incredible. Traditionally Vietnamese and made with a twist at Rooster.

Can I also take a minute to talk about how much I love their painting of a rooster in there? In case you haven’t heard, there is a proposal to kick the roosters out of Ybor City happening right now in the city. The Ybor Chickens Society and Ybor Chamber of Commerce are both fighting it.

I stand with the roosters. We need to preserve the history and culture of Tampa and Ybor City as we grow it as much as possible.

Sign the petition to keep our chickens protected in Ybor City: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/keep-our-chickens-protected.html

Finally we ended our bar hop at The Refinery. I haven’t been to the new location since it moved into Fodder & Shine’s spot. I miss the rooftop and house-vibe of the original location. I have so many memories up there for my birthdays, new years, and also when they did those Pig Jams on Sundays with live bands. It was great.

I ordered my usual burger and so did Chef V. Solid after drinking food. The fries and ketchup always solid.

There was this Korean Cuban Melt (not sure of the actual menu item name) that they had in the last year or so of the old Refinery and it was killer. I am hoping they bring that back sometime.

Bulgogi and Cuban bread were just made for each other.

Once Chef V and I parted ways I headed over to St. Pete and spent the evening at Ichicoro Ane in Downtown St. Pete with some drinks and house music.

My day had turned around thanks to all the creators in Tampa Bay.

Happening Now: Negroni Week 2018 in Tampa Bay

It’s Negroni Week this week.

Negroni Week started in 2013 as a celebration of the Negroni cocktail and a fundraiser for charities around the world. It is a partnership between Campari and Imbibe Magazine.

The Negroni dates back to 1919 in Florence and is named after founder Count Camillo Negroni ordered an Americano with gin instead of soda after visiting London’s gin scene. The recipe for the cocktail is almost a century old.

Over 7,700 venues have participated to date and over $1.5 million has been raised. 60 countries now participate in the annual event. Several Tampa Bay bars and restaurants are participating this year.

Wondering where you can find a bar that is participating? There’s a map on their website.

Negroni Week Tampa Bay

Go here to find your local venue: http://negroniweek.com/venues/

Find a list of partner charities here: http://negroniweek.com/charities/

Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week features over 100 restaurants June 1st-June 14th

Savor Sarasota restaurant week will celebrate their 13th year with over 100 participants from June 1st to June 14th of 2018. The annual restaurant week that actually spans two weeks features multi-course pre-fixe meals for $16 at lunch and $32 at dinner.

Siesta Key, Florida

Sarasota has the highest concentration of Zagat®-rated restaurants in Florida. Siesta Key in Sarasota was named the top beach in America in 2017 by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards™ and by Dr. Beach.

The restaurant week is a great way to see what Sarasota has to offer and there are many new places popping up all over town.

New restaurants include: Smoked Meats; Café Epicure, Chaz 51, Chef Rolf’s New Florida Kitchen, Crab & Fin, Element – Modern Mediterranean Grill, El Greco Mediterranean Café, Evie’s Tavern on Main Street, EVOQ Restaurant, Farlow’s on the Water, Half Shell Seafood House, Howards Restaurant, Italian Tradition Restaurant & Martini Bar, Paradise Grill, PizzaSRQ, Prague, Rodizio Grill, Taverna Grill, The Bodhi Tree Café, The Coolinary, The Fountain Kitchen & Wine Bar, The Italian Grill, Tokaj and Two Senoritas.

Returning restaurants feature: 62 Bistrot, Alpine Steakhouse, Andrea’s Restaurant, Angelo’s, Apollonia Grill, Barnacle Bill’s Seafood, Beulah Restaurant, Bijou Café, Blu Island Bistro, Blue Rooster, BRIO Tuscan Grill, Café Baci,Café BarBossa, Café L’Europe, Café Gabbiano, Café Venice Restaurant & Wine Bar, Captain Brian’s Seafood Market Restaurant ,The Capital Grille, Carmel Café & Wine Bar, CasAntica, C’est La Vie University Park-Lakewood Ranch, Chart House, Chianti Ristorante Italiano, Crow’s Nest; Currents, Duval’s, Fresh.Local.Seafood, Euphemia Haye Restaurant, Fins @ Sharky’s, H2O Bistro, Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, Jack Dusty; La Scarpetta, Libby’s Café & Bar, Lila, Lolita Tartine, Louies Modern, Mattison’s City Grille, Mattison’s Forty-One, Melange, The Melting Pot,  Michael’s On East, Miguel’s, Mona Lisa Restaurant, Mozaic, Muse at the Ringling, Ophelia’s on the Bay, Paris Bistrot, Red Clasico Sarasota, Roessler’s Restaurant, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Salute!, Sardinia Restaurant, Season’s 52, Selva Grill, Shore, Sophie’s at Saks Fifth Avenue, Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Stonewood Grill and Tavern, Table Creekside, The Rosemary, The Starlite Room, Tommy Bahama and Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill.

Get all the details and menus at: http://www.savorsarasota.com

Savor Sarasota is sponsored by Sarasota Magazine, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and OpenTable.

Upcoming June Wine Events at Michael’s Wine Cellar (Sarasota)

If you love wine, there are quite a number of upcoming events at Michael’s Wine Cellar in Sarasota. Spend a day at the beach and enjoy some wine at at this international boutique that has been offering wine for more than 30 years.

Monthly Casual Tasting – 6/2

In addition, Michael’s Wine Cellar has a monthly casual, walk-about tasting which will be held this Saturday, June 2nd from 2PM-4PM. Guests can enjoy dozens of international wines throughout. Admission costs $10 and no RSVP is required. Guests may register in advance or pay at the door.

Bordeaux Wine Tasting – 6/9

Looking to try some great Bordeaux wines? Michael’s Wine Cellar will have a Bordeaux Wine Tasting on Saturday, June 9th, 2018 at 6:30PM. Tickets are on-sale and cost $50 per person. Admission includes Hors d’oeuvres and tastes of more than 20 Bordeaux wines which is quite a steal. Bourdeaux, France features the most sought after wines on Earth.

Each ticket will receive a $25 voucher for purchases of $50 or more of the Bordeaux wines being showcased at the event.

Buy Tickets: http://shop.michaelswinecellar.com/bordeaux-wine-tasting.html

Wine Educational Series –  6/11

For those looking to learn more about wine, Michael’s Wine Cellar is continuing their monthly educational series on Monday, June 11th, 2018 from 6:30PM to 8PM. 3 different wines will be tasted 3 different ways. Reservations are required. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online. Class begins at 6:30PM on the dot.

Participants can enjoy a display of cheese and fruit, as well as sliced French bread during the class.

Buy tickets: http://shop.michaelswinecellar.com/wine-class-3-way.html

Prost Kitchen is Tampa’s best new restaurant

After a few visits to Prost, I am happy to say that Prost Kitchen + Bar is Tampa’s best new restaurant.

The owners of Prost have shown a true dedication to quality food and drinks. Out of all the restaurants in Tampa, Prost is showing strong promise and dedication to providing a great experience for customers.

The story behind Prost is an interesting one that starts with a college bar called The Study. The owner there and his roommates decided that they would open a restaurant with some of the money he made on that venture. After heading to Germany for research, they found a great cook and made plans to open Prost Kitchen on Bearss Avenue.

It isn’t the most sophisticated neighborhood in town, being located smack dab between New Tampa and USF’s University Area. Don’t let that stop you though, there is plenty of parking in their parking lot and ample seats both inside and outside Prost.

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Image Credit: @prosttampa

The menu is obviously inspired by Germany, but also features modern American cuisine and the burgers are a MUST. I had the Maple-Bourbon Burger on my first visit and was blown away by the quality and attention to detail that Prost uses. It features bourbon bacon jam, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, and hash-brown served on a pretzel bun.

So this past weekend I decided to visit @prosttampa for a bite to eat. I kept seeing friends check-in there and I couldn’t tell if it was hype or the real deal. This restaurant was great. Truly quality food and service. Everything from the pretzel bun to the quality of the beef and the egg inside were all perfect in this Maple-Bourbon Burger ($12). The tavern chips were excellent. Shoutout to Bourbon Bacon Jam! This might be my new favorite restaurant in Tampa and the price wasn’t ridiculously high either – I actually am wishing I lived by USF again just so could come here more…well sorta haha. #carloseats #tampa #burgers #foodies #tampabayfoodies #tbeatsout #hiddentampa #choosetampa #igerstampa #usf #university #newrestaurants #food #tampaflorida

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Let me start by saying the burger was cooked exactly as requested. The fried egg was cooked to perfection – no burnt edges. All the toppings enhanced the burger instead of distracting from it.

The meat quality in the burger was above your typical burger joint. Eggs on burgers are always messy, but this was a good messy and the incredible pretzel bun did not suffer at all from the ingredients moving around inside of it.

Oh and the tavern chips and beer cheese served with it? Completely delicious. The cost? Only $12. Oh so worth it.

It was during this visit that I met the bar manager who comes up with their cocktails and drink menu. He has put lots of thought and emphasis into their bar selection. It is far above your typical college bar list and they offer a cocktail flight every month that is centered around a certain country. During this visit they were doing Britain so there was a butter beer cocktail on the list made with vodka.

Their craft beer list is quite solid as well and they made sure to source some German beer. It isn’t quite the caliber of Mr. Dunderbak’s, but maybe there is an opportunity there for a collaboration?

One thing I’ll say is Prost still has lots of room to grow with the growing beer and bartender community we have in Tampa.

My next visit was for Taco Tuesday where Prost offers deals on tacos and 2-4-1 Margaritas. The tacos were far from traditional, but were still delicious, savory, and packed with ingredients.

Prost offers deals most days of the week obviously understanding their college student base. This is a good thing for everyone though – Tampa isn’t the highest paying city in the world and a good deal is always a great way to try something.

$8 bottomless mimosas on the weekends and a brunch menu also are not a bad thing. I still need to make a visit for that.

On my most recent visit I tried the Jager Schnitzel. You can’t really review a German business without trying their actual German food. The schnitzel was excellent. There was no dryness to it and the mushrooms and gravy topping were great.

The price was still fair compared to other German spots in town.

The attention to quality has been clear on ever one of my visits to Prost. I am happy to say that it is the best new restaurant in Tampa. If you haven’t been to visit yet, you should be making plans soon.

Restaurant name: Prost Kitchen + Bar

Neighborhood: USF, New Tampa

Address: 2802 E. Bearss Ave., Tampa, FL 33613

Phone Number: (813) 466-5249

Website: http://www.prostkitchen.com

Chef Jose Andres opening Jaleo restaurant at Disney Springs this year (Orlando)

Chef Jose Andres will open a new Spanish restaurant called Jaleo in Orlando at Disney Springs later this year right next to House of Blues and Bongo’s. I couldn’t be more excited. Jaleo has operated 5 locations in Vegas, Washington D.C., and Mexico City. His restaurant group is called ThinkFoodGroup.

The menu will have Spanish tapas and of course feature Paella. Some menu items featured at other Jaleo locations include Gambas, Patatas Bravas, Jamón serrano Fermín, and Chorizo ibérico de bellota Fermín.

I have been following Chef Andres since he helped the people of Puerto Rico last year during the horrific Hurricane Irma catastrophe. His non-profit, World Central Kitchen, served over 3.5 million quality meals to the people of Puerto Rico while FEMA was dealing with issues providing food and water supplies as well as contractor issues.

Chef Jose Andres was named 2018 Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation for his efforts in Puerto Rico. World Food Kitchen is now working with farmer’s in Puerto Rico to help “build resiliency” since Puerto Rico currently imports about 85% of their food.

Check out more about World Food Kitchen: http://www.worldcentralkitchen.org

Now that Wine Bar George is serving a variety of wines to the masses, it only makes sense for someone to represent authentic Spanish food and wine together at Disney Springs. Once Jaleo opens, I’ll be there to support Chef Jose Andres. He has done a huge service to the people.

Carlos Eats Orlando Guide – Where to Eat, Drink, and Play

So you’ve made it to Orlando, Florida? Home of big household names such as Disney and Universal Studios. Orlando has a pretty great and growing food scene as well as a growing craft beer market. Here are my recommendations on where to go when in the town of Mickey Mouse.

Disney Springs

  • Eat
    • Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’: Three words – Buttermilk Fried Chicken. It is not cheap, but it is delicious. Splurge here and you will not regret it. The sides are great as well. If you love moonshine the restaurant also has a large list of them available for sampling and enjoying.
    • Morimoto Asia: No expense was spared in the creation of this restaurant. It is beautiful inside and out. The menu changes pretty regularly, but you really can’t go wrong with Morimoto’s Signature Peking Duck. The cocktail selection is also great and incorporates some interesting mixtures from soft drinks in Japan as well tea cocktails. Come ready to spend money and enjoy.
  • Drink
    • Wine Bar George: Master Sommelier George Miliotes opened his first wine bar at Disney Springs. It features over 135 wines by the glass, bottle, and ounce. The servers are just as passionate about wine as George himself. The food selection is great and the wine selection is vast with many countries, styles, and price points represented, some that George personally prefers that might be difficult to find elsewhere. I recommend coming here for a glass or two or three.
    • STK: The rooftop bar at STK is what lands it on this list. There is this tower with a fire pit inside that is just really the perfect backdrop to sip a glass of wine and to look over Disney Springs from the sunset into the evening.

Downtown Orlando

  • Drink
    • Aku Aku: Sweet little tiki dive in Downtown Orlando. Prices are pretty fair even if the menu is a little limited, don’t be afraid to ask the bartenders to make you a cocktail and they will try their best accommodate. It does get pretty busy so get there early if you want a seat or come earlier in the week.
    • The Woods: This has been one of my choice spots to go drink for some years. Many of the bartenders are affiliated with the bartender’s guild in Tampa and the drinks here are always made well and are nice and strong. They have a large liquor selection and their craft beer list isn’t half bad either.

Dr. Phillips

  • Drink
    • Pharmacy: I’m a fan of speakeasy concepts. This one eluded me for nearly 30 minutes on my first visit while I searched for the front door. Once you find your way inside (hint there is a button) you will be impressed with the drink selection and food. Pharmacy is really a great spot and probably one of the best speakeasy concepts I have seen in Florida. 8060 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, FL 32819. (407) 985-2972. http://thepharmacyorlando.com/

East Orlando

  • Eat
    • Izziban Sushi & Korean BBQ: People like to talk smack about Izziban, but if you ask me Izziban has one of the best deals I have ever seen. All you can eat Korean BBQ, appetizers, and sushi for under $22. I absolutely love sliced pork belly so this is a goldmine for me. Most Korean restaurants in Florida will charge you over $20 for one entry. The tip is included for AYCE but the service is almost always great. This is a quality business and I always have to stop by here when I’m in town. I just wish they would hurry up and open one up in my hometown in Tampa. 5310 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32807. (407) 270-8811. http://izzibanrestaurant.com/

International Drive

  • Eat
    • Boi Brazil Churrascaria: I wandered into one here one day on a trip to Orlando and was not disappointed with the meat cuts or price. Come hungry because the meat just keeps coming and coming at you. 5668 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819. (407) 354-0260. http://www.boibrazil.com/
    • Cafe Tu Tu Tango: This spot is filled with art and culture – even if its a touristy spot it is good and very close to several hotels on I-Drive if you’re staying around this area.
  • Do
    • Player 1 Video Game Bar: If you want a blast to the past take a visit to this video game arcade bar. They have dozens of old school arcade machines as well as an extensive beer list. Quite a few emulator consoles will also let you take your pick of video games long past their time including classic SEGA and Nintendo games.  8562 Palm Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32836. (407) 504-7521. https://player1orlando.com/

Oak Ridge

  • Do
    • KTV Karaoke Orlando: I am a fan of private karaoke rooms. This korean bar and karaoke facility (called a noraebang) has hundreds of songs available to sing and rooms available to rent for an hourly fee. The service has been attentive I have made there. Try to come in a larger group if you want to save money because the rates aren’t that cheap. 7130 S. Orange Blossom Trail #200 Orlando, Fl 32809. http://www.ktvorlando.com/
    • Millenia Mall: This is a pretty huge upscale mall in Orlando and was one of the top places you could find designer brands until Disney Springs stepped up their shops. You’ll find all your big name brands and also quite a number of places to eat around here. If you want to get some shopping done indoors and avoid the weather outside, its a good pick. 4200 Conroy Rd, Orlando, FL 32839. http://www.mallatmillenia.com/

Winter Park

  • Eat
    • Domu: Domu has a very contemporary feel to it and delivers a solid ramen menu with prices that easily destroy any business in my hometown of Tampa. The other must-try thing on this menu is the KFC “Korean Fried Chicken” which is excellent. It isn’t traditional, but it is delicious. East End Market, 3201 Corrine Dr Suite 100, Orlando, FL 32803. (407) 960-1228. http://www.domufl.com/
    • Foxtail Coffee Co.: My favorite coffee shop in Orlando. This shop is beautiful and has a coffee is roasted on-site. They also have plenty of pastries, food, beer, and wine. The shop is filled with seats and plugs for device charging. The Wi-Fi here is great too. 1286 N Orange Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. (407) 951-7931. https://www.foxtailcoffee.com/
    • Gideon’s Bakehouse: This small bakery inside East End Market is almost worth a drive to Orlando by itself. They have some of the most delicious cookies I have ever tried. You must make an effort to come here, but beware that they sometimes are sold out of their supply completely. http://www.gideonsbakehouse.com/
    • Krungthep Tea Time: One of those places easily made famous across I-4 thanks to Instagram. Krungthep has a famous pink drink which is a Thai street drink. I hear their sandwiches are also delicious, but haven’t had a chance to try them myself yet. Don’t forget to get a photo on their couch. 1051 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. (407) 733-3561. http://www.krungthepteatime.com/
  • Do
    • East End Market: One of the first food halls in Florida. East End Market was once a church and now is a facility that hosts a variety of vendors from various concepts – most of them involving food. There is even a bar there if you want to have a drink and Domu is located right next door.

West Orlando

  • Eat
    • Inay’s Kitchen Filipino Cuisine: Quality Filipino food is hard to come by, but Inay’s delivers that homemade touch and the food is great. Prices are reasonable too. They also have karaoke for those of you into that. 1097 S Clarke Rd, Ocoee, FL 34761. (407) 601-2126.
    • Junior Colombian Burger: This guide is mostly free from chains, but Orlando is one of the only places in the world with a Junior Colombian Burger and I personally love it. It’s true that their beef is frozen, but the burgers are the perfect composition of flavors and I love their sauces (the pineapple sauce is amazing) and the potato chips on top in genius. I feel like this concept would be so successful in my hometown – I always get a craving for it when I’m in Orlando and end up making a trip. They have a few locations around Orlando – I feel like this one is really convenient for people traveling on I-4. Best thing is they are open until at least 3AM everyday. 5389 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819. (407) 355-3506. http://www.juniorcb.com

Surrounding cities:

Kissimmee

  • Eat
    • Kissimmee Bakery & Latin Food: Puerto Rico meets El Salvador at this restaurant which has amazing pupusas. Best you might find outside of San Francisco and California. We always try and grab a bag to take home when we visit family in Orlando.

Food Trucks:

  • Korean BBQ Taco Box: This food truck sells excellent Korean food and is regularly out on the road around Orlando. They have traditional as well as fusion food. I highly recommend Korean BBQ Taco Box at least once on a visit to Orlando. I love their food. They post their schedule on Facebook and Twitter, but you might want to give them a call too if you want to order ahead. (407) 453-2250. http://www.facebook.com/KBBQBox/