New Tastes!


Brio Tuscan Grille

11401 N.W. 12th Street
Sweetwater, FL 33172
305- 629-8991

I have always been a fan of Brio Tuscan Grille and I have been to both Central Florida locations. Brio is really good at serving up consistent and authentic Italian food in what the restaurant deems as a “polished casual” atmosphere. Recently on one of my many visits to Miami, which is my second home, by the way, I was invited to check out the newest Florida location of Brio Tuscan Grille at the Dolphin Mall, and of course I couldn't resist.

In case you have not been to a Brio yet or are unfamiliar with the brand, Brio is part of Columbus based BRAVO|BRIO Restaurant Group (BBRG). Founded in 1992, BBRG currently operates more than 100 restaurants including Bravo Cucina Italiana, Brio Tuscan Grille, and Bon Vie Bistro.

Brio Tuscan Grille serves up authentic northern Italian cuisine with a menu that features oven roasted steaks, chops, seafood, made-to-order pastas, flatbreads and entree salads, similar to what one would find in a ristorante in Tuscany. Brio also offers an ample dessert menu, and a full wine and cocktail list. Brio’s philosophy is “to eat well, is to live well”, and they strive to bring the pleasure of the Tuscan country villa to the American city.

On Sept. 17, Brio Tuscan Grille, opened a location at the newly expanded wing of Dolphin Mall in Miami, Florida. The restaurant is the 14th location in Florida, and provides a “taste of Tuscany” to Miami-Dade’s largest retail shopping center.

The beautiful new 7,500 square-foot Miami restaurant offers indoor seating for 226 guests, and al fresco dining for up to 89 on two Italian-style terraces. A private dining area accommodates groups for up to 40 guests.

BRIO’s villa-like interior features details such as antique hardwood cypress flooring, arched colonnades, hand-crafted Italian mosaics, antique doors, hand crafted walls covered in an antique Venetian plaster, Arabescato marble-imported from Italy, and sizable wrought-iron chandeliers.

I love a good calamari, but it’s hard to find somewhere that does it right. The Calamari Fritto Misto at Brio was Perfetto, as in Perfect. The calamari was a crispy golden brown and served with peperoncini, creamy aioli, and a nice pomodoro sauce for dipping.

Bruschetta Quattro is perfect for sharing,or as a whole meal itself. You really can’t go wrong with a sampling of four housemade bruschettas. You get a Tomato Caprese Bruschetta, Sliced Steak Bruschetta, Roasted Red Pepper and Mozzarella Bruschetta and a Chicken Florentine Bruschetta. All of them were very delicious and quite tasty.

The Pasta Fra Diavolo is composed of campanelle pasta, spicy tomato cream sauce, green onions and your choice of chicken or shrimp. The flavors in this pasta dish were intense and flavorful with the perfect amount of spice for the diavolo or devil in you that likes it hot!

My dish of Chicken Milanese featured two generous portions of crispy Romano chicken, herb pasta and fresh Mozzarella in a housemade Pomodoro sauce. The Chicken Milanese is a rather simple and classic dish, but it is filled with exceptional flavor as the chicken cutlets are battered and fried to perfection.

Brio means “lively” or “full of life” and that is certainly what you will find at any Brio Tuscan Grille location. As I said earlier, I really enjoy the Central Florida locations and Brio has proven to be very consistent across the board at every location I have been to. Of course it goes without saying, that in many parts of Miami and the surrounding areas, they have a reputation for being glitzy, glamorous, playful, and very stylish. The Dolphin Mall location certainly lives up to that billing, as it is everything you would expect from Brio, with a touch of Miami spice.

Brio at Dolphin Mall is open seven days a week Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

They also feature a weekend Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Reservations and call-ahead seating will be accepted and walk-ins welcomed. For reservations, please call (305) 629-8991

Brio Tuscan Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Bento Cafe UCF

12250 Strategy Blvd #443
Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 658-8088

I have always been a fan of Bento Cafe, especially the Downtown Orlando location.

Bento primarily serves up what is best described as Pan-Asian cuisine, with a wide array of different foods from all over Asia. The downtown location is great if you happen to work or live near there, as it has become a staple in that area for quick and fresh Asian cuisine at a reasonable price. I however live on the east side of Orlando, and unless I ask my wife to bring me something home, it’s a bit out of the way. That is why I am very happy to share with you my most recent review of the all new Bento Cafe UCF. Yes you heard right...Bento has a brand new location in the Plaza at University, and the food is just as awesome as it is at any other location.

The Bento Cafe brand, If you are not familiar with them, is a small chain of seven restaurants with more on the way, that offers a creative mixture of Asian inspired dishes from wok stir-fry to fire-grilled items to sushi using the finest Asian spices and the freshest ingredients all at great prices.

The concept at Bento is to bring unique and authentic Asian food in a fast and efficient manner. Everything on the menu is cooked to order and prepared in minutes and served up in an atmosphere that is fun, friendly and stylish. The word “Bento” means boxed-meal in Japanese, and they have a wide selection of traditional boxed meals, but the menu includes a wide variety of sushi rolls, sashimi, nigiri and chirashi bowls as well as soups, udon noodles, rice bowls and noodle bowls. They also offer Boba Tea, a popular Asian beverage that is consisted of milk tea and chewy tapioca pearls.

Every store is designed differently which makes visiting each Bento Cafe an experience. Each store will be either dominated by the warm red dragon colors or the cool blue dragon colors. Each Bento has a sushi station, but the UCF location has seats at the sushi bar, so you can watch the chefs prepare your rolls live and in person.

Speaking of sushi, the Jade roll with marinated spicy tuna, eel, avocado, krab delite, masago, scallions and eel sauce tasted just as good as it looked.

For my entree, I chose the the Sesame Wok Stir Fry bowl. This dish comes with your choice of chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu and red bell peppers, snow peas, onions, baby corn in a sesame soy sauce. I really enjoyed the flavors, and the portion was more than I could eat.

Now, I really did enjoy my entree selection, but it would be dishonest of me not to tell you that I was really jealous of my wife’s Bento Box. She opted for the Sriracha Garlic Chicken in a bento box. You can get chicken, shrimp or tofu grilled or fried with red bell peppers and onions with a sweet and spicy Sriracha sauce for dipping. Bento boxes come with your choice of steamed rice or lo mein, ginger salad, and string beans and a dessert. Not only was this delicious and lots of food, it only costs $8.95, and that's a bargain.

The UCF Bento Cafe is the third one to open in the Orlando area, and I can now say I have been to all three, and all three locations have been very consistent in quality and service. Sometimes chains can vary in quality and the overall experience you may have there, and I am impressed with the consistency of Bento Cafe.

If you are looking for some really good Asian food with variety and great flavors in a fast casual environment, check out Bento if you have not done so already. Whats even better is the fact that you can dine there without putting a hurt on your wallet and without sacrificing quality over price.

Bento Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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903 Mills Market Cafe

903 S. Mills Ave.
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 898-4392

Sometimes, as a food blogger, I’d like to think that I know just about everywhere there is to eat in Orlando and the surrounding areas. Sometimes though, places that are in my own backyard, or just around the corner from me go unnoticed. Such is the case with 903 Mills Market. If my sister had not mentioned it to me, I would have kept on passing this lovely gem up.

I am very thankful that I do in fact know all about 903 Mills Market now, because aside of being a really quaint neighborhood eatery, this place has some seriously good eats.

Located at the intersection of Gore and Mills, in Dulaney Park just south of downtown, 903 Mills Market really is in a neighborhood. If you don't look twice you may unwillingly pass this fine establishment. It's a favorite of all of the locals, and those in the know with a good craft beer selection in bottles or draught, wines, mimosas on the weekends and of course lots of wonderful food.

You can get everything from breakfast to dinner here with a wide selection of salads, soups, wraps, sandwiches and flatbreads. Some of the popular menu items are the “Grateful Bread” that is described as “Thanksgiving dinner in your hand”, with roasted turkey, bleu cheese stuffing, red onions & cranberry aioli on fresh multigrain wheat. Another favorite is “Mike’s Open-Faced Meatloaf” with homemade meatloaf on a pressed Cuban roll with mayo then covered with cole slaw. 

We opted for the Hummus Platter with homemade roasted garlic hummus served with toasted pita points for a starter, and it was a really good and flavorful hummus.

I chose the Full Monte Cristo for my sandwich, and it was an amazing treat. Hot ham and turkey with Swiss and white American cheese with cranberry mayo is sandwiched on french toast sprinkled with powdered sugar.

My wife chose the Falafel Wrap with Falafel, baby spinach, onion, hummus and tzatztki in a wheat wrap. This was a very tasty wrap.

My sister chose the 903 BLT with a side of the soup of the day, which was a cheesy potato soup. The 903 BLT is classic with a twist, in that it has crispy salami.

All of the food was wonderful as well as the view and setting of this slightly hidden gem in Orlando. At 903 Mills they strive to be more than just a the website says “We’re your lazy Sunday afternoon, your last minute breakfast when you're late for work, your comfort food. We’re the home cooked meal when the oven is on the fritz, or the buffet at your dinner party. We are your neighbors. Seriously, most of us live right around the corner”.

903 Mills Market Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Cocina 214

151 E. Welbourne Ave, 
Winter Park, FL 32789

Whenever I am thinking about dining out in beautiful Downtown Winter Park, often times Mexican food does not cross my mind. 

There are lots of dining options in that area from upscale to casual, but for some reason I often overlook Cocina 214. I am a big fan of authentic Mexican food and the Americanized Tex-Mex food as well, so I was delighted to attend a new menu preview event for Cocina 214.

What exactly is Cocina 214 you may ask? Cocina is Spanish for Kitchen, and the 214 part comes from the Dallas area code, because the owners, who are from Texas, missed the Tex-Mex and Mexican foods they grew up on. The menu is full of contemporary Mexican and Tex-Mex inspired dishes that combine bold flavors with the freshest local ingredients. Items like Queso Fundido and Guacamole at Cocina 214 may be your average Tex-Mex standard fare, but you will be hard pressed to find Fried Avocado Bites at any other Mexican restaurant in Central Florida.

The same goes with the rest of the menu here too. Items like Snapper Frito Tacos, Truffle and Mushroom Quesadillas, Cauli Frito Tacos and Corn Crusted Mahi are sure to impress the adventurous palate. If you want more traditional, Cocina has that too, with Chicken Tamales, Brisket Quesadilla and an assortment of Tacos and Fajitas.

Fried Avocado Bites are lightly breaded hass avocados fried and served with chipotle cream dipping sauce, and are very delicious. 

The Mango Ceviche features snapper, serrano peppers, red onion, red bell pepper, citrus and mango.

For something a little lighter, Isidro’s Caesar salad is made with romaine lettuce, cotija cheese, fried onions strings, grape tomatoes, homemade croutons and Caesar dressing.

The Mexican Corn is a tasty Aperitivo, or appetizer with grilled corn, cayenne pepper, lime, cotija cheese and queso fresco.

The Dragon Fruit Margarita is sweet and flavorful, and is only available for a limited time. The margarita menu at Cocina 214 features everything from house made specialties to Skinny Ritas and even a “Pop Rocks Rita.”

Enchiladas are served Mexican-style with romaine lettuce, queso fresco, onions, sour cream, grape tomatoes & veggie rice. You can add protein to them such as chicken or beef and you have an option of sauces as well.

Snapper Frito Tacos are traditional Mexican street tacos with lightly fried wild snapper topped with coastal slaw, pico de gallo and a chipotle cream sauce.

For an awesome vegetarian option, the Cauli Frito tacos are lightly fried cauliflower, coastal slaw, red bell peppers and chipotle cream sauce. These tacos were crispy and tasty and had a great taste.

Another item not readily found at most Mexican restaurants, the Snapper Veracruz with wild snapper, tomato, olive, caper, herb topping and veggie rice was quite delightful.

For the burger lover, Maria’s Gourmet Burger is sure to hit the spot. This burger features grilled pineapple on an Angus beef burger, Olde Hearth Bread poppy seed bun, Monterrey jack cheese and is served with grilled Mexican corn.

You can never go wrong with Churros for a sweet ending. The Churros at Cocina 214 come with a dulce de leche dipping sauce and are fantastic.

If you’re looking to dine out in the charming Winter Park Historic District, or want an authentic Tex-Mex dinner, consider Cocina 214 and put it on your radar. This restaurant is perfect for every occasion and you and your guests will be sure to enjoy.

The bar features a happy hour on Monday to Thursday from 4:30pm to 6:30pm with $5 214 Rocks & Frozen margaritas, $3 Draft Beers and $5 Wells

Brunch is served Saturday & Sundays from 11:00am to 3:00pm with $3 Brunch Mimosas

Cocina 214 Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Noodles & Company

3683 E Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 228-9870

As the number of fast-casual restaurants continues to skyrocket around the United States and even globally, you can continue to expect more fast casual chains and even independent fast casual eateries to make their way to Orlando. Noodles & Company already has five locations in Central Florida and is continuing to expand.

The concept at Noodles & Co. is to offer the world’s favorite noodle dishes, sandwiches, salads and soups, all in one restaurant. Each dish is hand made to your specifications, using only the freshest ingredients. All entrees are individually sauteed or prepared, placed on signature stoneware and served tableside with stainless steel flatware. All of this can be had for around $8 a dish, and there’s never any tipping at Noodles.

The food, or Noodles served up here are inspired by the individuality, creativity and cultural heritage of cuisines from around the globe. From Penne Rosa to Japanese Pan Noodles, The Med Salad, Thai Curry Soup, and a Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, only the most authentic ingredients are used to create great tasting food in a fast casual environment.

The concept is simple and straight forward. After looking over the large photo menu, you first choose your entree and pick your size, regular or small. Next you can choose to add meat or tofu to your dish. Meats include pork, Parmesan crusted chicken, grilled chicken breast, marinated steak, sauteed shrimp and oven roasted meatballs. Finally you can choose to green it up, soup it up, or veg it up by adding extra vegetables, a soup or side salad. 
Within minutes your food is brought to your table and you are ready to enjoy some pretty tasty noodles.

Additionally Noodles & Co. has three side items, or appetizers to choose from. The list includes Potstickers, Margherita Flatbread and a Cheesy Garlic Bread. Our Pot stickers were pretty darn good for fast casual.

I ordered the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese in a regular size. This is a classic blend of cheddar and jack cheeses, cream and elbow macaroni. I also added the grilled chicken to my mac & cheese. This mac had a very rich and creamy sauce, and the added grilled chicken provided a perfect texture and flavor. The regular size was more than enough, and I even had some left over.

The Pesto Cavatappi is curly pasta, basil pesto, garlic, mushrooms, tomato, wine, cream, Parmesan and Italian parsley. My guest added the Parmesan crusted chicken. This dish was very flavorful and savory with just the right amount of sauce.

I was really impressed with the flavors in the Thai Hot Pot that one of my other guests ordered. This is a Noodles & Co. signature curry broth with cabbage, sprouts, peppers, shiitake mushrooms, rice noodles, pulled chicken and pork, lime wedge and cilantro, served with a side of toasted Asian flatbread. The broth had a wonderful coconut flavor with a decent amount of heat, and the flatbread was great for dipping also.

I found all of the food I tried to be quite flavorful, and about as authentic in taste as I have had at any traditional Asian, Italian, and American restaurant. Noodles and Company also serves beer and wine because, as they like to say…” it goes great with our food”. The selection and availability varies for each restaurant. I did enjoy a New Belgium Brewing Fat Tire during my visit.

Noodles & Company is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 am until 9:00pm, and they stay open until 10:00 pm on Friday and Saturday.

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Schumann’s Jäger Haus

25 W Church St.
Orlando, FL 32801
407- 985-1950
View Website Here

For some reason, when it comes to German cuisine in Orlando, your choices are pretty limited. The old stand by, and of my favorites Bauern Stube has always been consistently good, but its location on the other side of Orange avenue can be a bit of a journey sometimes. Of course over in Sanford there is the very popular Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe that is also one of my favorite restaurants, but again it's in downtown Sanford. Now there is a third option for all of you German food aficionados out there… Schumann’s Jager House.

Schumann’s has quite the ideal location in the heart of downtown Orlando and is easy to get to for the most part. Schumann’s is the brainchild of the Mulvaney brothers who have been residents of Orlando since the early 1980's, and have owned and operated more than a dozen Irish Pubs in Florida throughout the years. This new venture takes a trip to Germany as a way to honor their step-father Ernie Schumann. Chef Ralph Oliver is the executive chef at Jager Haus and he has years of culinary arts study and has been an Executive Chef with some of the most prestigious restaurants in Central Florida. Chef Ralph came to Schumann’s with hopes of contributing some great culinary treats to the ‘new’ Church Street and downtown revitalization.

The menu has all of the stuff you would expect at a German restaurant. Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Schnitzel, Potato Pancakes and various entree selections. The inside of Schumann’s is very well done and decorated with the feel of an old world German beer hall and lodge. Jager Haus translated is Hunter’s House, and the interior here definitely gives off the vibe of a place one would enjoy fine German beers and freshly cooked meats after a day of hunting.

Köstritzer Schwarzbier is a dark beer that maintains a dark, rich color with a roasted aroma that contributes to its malty taste and a creamy finish.

The Schumann’s Sampler consists of Bavarian Brezen (Soft Pretzel), Frikadellen (German Style Meatballs), Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes) and comes with a variety of condiments and toppings. This a good way to get your taste buds ready for the flavors of Germany.

Jäger Schnitzel is a Breaded Pork or Chicken Cutlet with Mushroom demi glaze and a choice of two sides. You may also request, as I did to have it with veal. I chose mashed potatoes and green beans for my sides. My schnitzel was very tender and flavorful, and the mushroom demi glaze was excellent as well.

Bratwurst at Schumann’s is made with coarsely chopped pork and beef with blended natural spices. My dining companion chose Spatzle and red cabbage as a side.

The Traditional Reuben features corned beef, sauerkraut, gruyere, Haus-made dressing and is grilled on rye bread. This sandwich was pretty good, and Schumann’s has a few more listed on the menu in case you or someone in your dining party wants something a little less German.

Of course, no visit to a German restaurant with a good beer selection is complete until you get Das Boot. The famous drinking apparatus holds just about 3 litres and is a great way to get the party started at your table. We filled ours up with Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen wheat beer.

Some German restaurants are very strict on the old law that says you can never put it down once it comes to your table. It is believed to be bad luck if it touches the table before it is emptied. Our server John kept a watchful eye on our party of four, but told us it was ok if we needed to sit Das Boot down for a breather. You will need to hand over a credit card during the experience for Schumann’s to hold, just in case you accidently drop and break the boot. That will set you back $150.

Overall, we had a great time and really enjoyed the food. Our server John was very knowledgeable and quite entertaining on a Friday evening. As I mentioned earlier the decor and layout of Schumann’s is very cool, and really helps to set the mood for your dining experience. I will definitely return for some more gute zeiten at Schumann’s and recommend you to try them out as well.

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Don Julio Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar

551 S Chickasaw Trl
Orlando, FL 32825
(407) 930-3735

Say hello to the newest tenant to occupy the space at 551 South Chickasaw Trail in Orlando.

I say newest tenant simply because, the last business there was Oyster Bay, a place which I reviewed some time ago. Oyster Bay, as its name would imply, specialized in raw oysters and seafood, but more importantly...wings. 

I must admit, I still miss my Caribbean breaded wings, and have yet to find a replacement for them, but I am happy to report that after four visits to Don Julio’s, I really like this place. Don Julio’s is literally in my backyard. I could ride my bike there if I wanted to, and that's why I am so excited that the folks here seem to be getting it right and business is going good for them.

The menu at Don Julio’s is your basic Tex-Mex fare with some authentic Mexican fare on the menu, as well as some house favorites and specialty dishes. You can find a variety of tacos, quesadillas, flautas, enchiladas and burritos for your basic Tex-Mex options. If you want something more authentic, opt for Mexican street tacos with a variety of proteins available.

My personal favorite is the ChoriPollo, which is essentially chicken breasts smothered in chorizo and queso. The ChoriPollo is under the Parrilladas section of the menu, which features various steaks, chicken, pork and seafood all served up in a variety of ways from the grill. Parrillada in spanish means to grill or barbeque.

After four visits, I have been impressed with the consistency and the quality of the food. The service has been exceptional, and the house margarita has never disappointed.

All meals come with complimentary chips and salsa. It's always been good, but sometimes it can be a little on the spicier side.

The table side Guacamole is always a great starter. You can have it made as spicy as you like and have at least six different ingredients you can have added to the mix.

Our Guacamole ready to eat. We like it spicy and full of flavor.

Queso Fundido is a mix of chorizo sausage and melted Mexican cheeses served with sour cream, pico de gallo and flour tortillas. This is a must have appetizer at Don Julio’s.

We have ordered a pitcher of the house made Margarita on at least three occasions, and have never been disappointed. They make these bad boys strong and tasty. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The Carnitas were outstanding chunks of Pork deep fried until crispy, but tender on the inside. Carnitas are served with Mexican rice, sour cream, pico de gallo, rice and beans, and flour tortillas.

For something on the lighter side, Don Julio’s Chef Salad was pretty tasty as well. You can add grilled rib eye steak, chicken or fish to top off your salad.

As I mentioned earlier, the ChoriPollo is delicious, and has become my favorite dish. You can't go wrong by smothering chicken cutlets in chorizo and queso sauce. This meal is served with Mexican rice and flour tortillas so you can make your own ChoriPollo tacos.

The ambiance here is very casual and laid back with plenty of seating inside and outside and a decent sized bar at the front of the house. There are a few T.V’s scattered throughout so you can stay on top of all your sports action. Don Julio Mexican Grill is quickly becoming one of my favorite go to spots for local cuisine, and I would suggest you to stop by and see them soon as well. You will not regret it. 

They do not have a website up yet, but you can check them out on Facebook by clicking here. The restaurant is open from 11:00 am until 10:00 pm most nights.

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