Saturday, February 24, 2018
Restaurants

Dining Planner: New restaurants at Disney, Universal and downtown Orlando

Orlando GRUB

Something is happening in Orlando. Yes, the Mako coaster at SeaWorld, but I mean something else. The theme parks have always had better food than they needed to (mental scroll of amusement park food elsewhere in the country: turkey legs and I-can't-believe-they-fried-this-and-put-it-on-a-stick items), but all of a sudden Orlando seems to be the It spot for celebrity chefs. Maybe they've fatigued of Las Vegas or maybe New York rents are too high, but a number of celeb-fronted ventures and high-end chain concepts are landing on the Mouse pad in upcoming months.

DISNEY SPRINGS

First up, STK Orlando has debuted at Disney Springs. STK Orlando is within the Landing neighborhood in a 15,000-square-foot building reminiscent of a refurbished 1900s train station. What is STK all about? Come on, folks, fill in the vowels. It's a modern steakhouse with a hip lounge with an in-house DJ and a dramatic second-level terrace. The menu is all about reimagined classic American cuisine with signature dishes like lobster mac and cheese and bite-sized Lil' BRGs (these people hate the vowels) made with Wagyu beef. STK has locations in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Miami; Chicago; Atlanta; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Orlando, London; and Milan, Italy; with additional locations coming soon to Dallas; Toronto; San Diego; Denver; Austin, Texas; Boston; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Ibiza, a Mediterranean island.

Also at Disney Springs, Frontera Fresco, a new Mexican dining concept from chef Rick Bayless, top right, launches this summer. Bayless, a six-time James Beard winner, aims to showcase the innovative Mexican cuisine that has made him a culinary legend at his flagship restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, as well as subsequent restaurants XOCO and XOCO Bistro in Chicago, Frontera Fresco (this will be the fourth location) and Red O in California.

And then celebrity chef Art Smith, bottom right, gets in on the action at Disney Springs with Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine. Born and raised in the town of Jasper on the Florida-Georgia border, this is a homecoming of sorts. After 25 years of preparing award-winning meals for celebrities and heads of state (he worked for former Florida governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush, was the personal chef to Oprah and once served a vegetarian version of his fried chicken to the Dalai Lama), he's heading back to Disney property. As a young-un he went through the Walt Disney Magic Kingdom College Program. Expect healthier versions of classic Southern fare.

Also new on the scene are fast-casual concepts. You'll find D Luxe Burger, Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, the Daily Poutine, Amorette's Patisserie, a high-end bakery with classic and contemporary confections, and Morimoto Asia's walk-up order window. On the horizon is the Edison, similar to its sister location in Los Angeles. With a theme that centers around a 1920s-period electric company with live entertainment, classic American food and craft cocktails, the industrial Gothic space will have 35-foot ceilings. Opening date has not yet been released. And this fall, Fulton's Crab House becomes Paddlefish with a complete makeover and new menu.

There's the improved Flying Fish Café at Disney's Boardwalk with an all new interior, menu and chef, and Jungle Skipper Canteen recently opened in the Magic Kingdom (the park's fourth sit-down restaurant).

UNIVERSAL

Universal CityWalk will welcome Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen later this year. It will be a 19th century-inspired, Steampunk-era chocolate factory and full-service restaurant that offers a wide variety of dishes from all-day-brunch crepes and quiches to takes on classic steak, seafood and pasta, and an array of gourmet-level chocolates and desserts.

DOWNTOWN orlando

Downtown Orlando gets DoveCote, the newest project for James Beard-nominated chefs James and Julie Petrakis, right, who also own Winter Park's Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons. A twist on the classic French brasserie, the new restaurant is expected to open in June. Chef Clayton Miller, a past winner of a "Best New Chef" award from Food & Wine, who also worked under Thomas Keller at French Laundry, will oversee the kitchen. The Petrakises will also open a Cask & Larder location at Orlando International Airport this summer. It will be the first restaurant at the airport to specialize in seasonally driven cuisine and locally sourced ingredients.

AND …

When you feel like you've had enough of Orlando's allures, you can take a drive north to the charming town of Mount Dora to check out celebrity chef Norman Van Aken's latest venture, 1921, which launches soon. Why Mount Dora? Maybe Orlando's getting too crowded.

     
     
Comments
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FEST On Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Where you can trade in your Gasparilla beads for doughnuts

Where you can trade in your Gasparilla beads for doughnuts

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts will be trading old Gasparilla beads for its famous glazed doughnuts.Anyone who brings in 12 pounds of beads to Krispy Kreme on Saturday will be rewarded with a dozen original glazed doughnuts, according to a news release.For t...
Published: 02/21/18
Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

TAMPAIt wasn’t that long ago that Platt Street was a bit of a conundrum for restaurateurs: Not exactly downtown, without the dense auto traffic of Kennedy, and far enough off the South Howard main drag that it didn’t entirely qualify as part of SoHo....
Published: 02/19/18
The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Room’s Lauren Macellaro and Columbia’s Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

It’s almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentine’s Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this year’s James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18
Blind Tiger Coffee Roasters opens in South Tampa, plus learn how to roll sushi at Kelp

Blind Tiger Coffee Roasters opens in South Tampa, plus learn how to roll sushi at Kelp

LOVE STUNT: SUSHI ROLLSIf you dropped the ball Wednesday and did bubkes for your sweetie, here’s a tip: Through Sunday at Kelp in South Tampa, couples can dive into a reservations-only chef-led art of sushi rolling class that comes with bottomless sa...
Published: 02/14/18
Out of time this Valentine's Day? Five ways to still have a romantic meal

Out of time this Valentine's Day? Five ways to still have a romantic meal

Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, and that means your odds of scoring a reservation at a popular restaurant are roughly equal to the odds of you opening your own restaurant in time for dinner. Thinking about showing up somewhere with no reservatio...
Published: 02/13/18
Review: 2nd & Second will serve you 24/7 in St. Petersburg

Review: 2nd & Second will serve you 24/7 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURGAn older couple sits at a booth, hunched over mugs of coffee, occasionally murmuring in a way that seems more soliloquy than conspiracy. Outside at a table, two travelers pay their tab, plates streaked with cold yolk. They ask for direc...
Published: 02/12/18
Review: Maybe the Lure can beat the odds at this unlucky South Tampa location

Review: Maybe the Lure can beat the odds at this unlucky South Tampa location

TAMPA - This will be my fourth review of restaurants in this space, all of them more or less favorable: Bistro Bleu (a sophisticated New American charmer), Marrakech (Yay! We have almost no Moroccan food here! Bring on the tagines!) and Catrinas Taco...
Updated one month ago
Here's what you can eat at the Armature Works' new Heights Public Market

Here's what you can eat at the Armature Works' new Heights Public Market

TAMPA — "This project will change the DNA of Tampa." Bold words from Ferdian Jap, co-owner of Zukku, one of 14 vendors who began selling their food and drink to the public Thursday at the anticipated Heights Public Market at the Armature Works...
Updated one month ago
Valentine’s Day ideas for Tampa Bay foodies: wine and chocolate, berry picking and more

Valentine’s Day ideas for Tampa Bay foodies: wine and chocolate, berry picking and more

PICKING: BERRY FASTLooking for something fun, yet competitive, to do with your sweetie in advance of Valentine’s Day? Wish Farms and Monte Package Co. are collaborating on the fifth annual Strawberry Picking Challenge this weekend.The main event Satu...
Updated one month ago