Tapa Toro

***** (5 stars)

This may be Orlando’s best tapas restaurant. Its diverse menu offers all the standards, plus a lot of dishes with a unique twist, and unlike some tapas places there are a lot of lighter selections and many vegetarian offerings.

My favorite dish by far was the roasted cauliflower, which was perfectly seasoned and sauced, and topped with sultanas and capers. Yum! Grilled asparagus served with grated manchego was also very good.

More conventional were the salmon crudo and the grilled garlic shrimp plates. The assorted cold meat platter was also conventional except for the inclusion of a delicious house-made pate and house-made pickles.

There’s an extensive list of wines by the glass or bottle, plus a very intriguing cocktail list. I tried the Feliz Boca, an inspired mixture of rosemary, lavender, blood orange and bitters. Delicious, and an amazing match to the pate.

There’s a nice dessert menu, but note that there’s also a Ben and Jerry’s about ten feet away! Hmm. Decisions.

Service was very friendly and attentive, and the outdoor dining area is great–mostly shaded, with a view of the Orlando Eye, which is nearby.

Tapa Toro
8441 International Dr
Ste 260
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 226-2929

Tako Cheena

***** (5 stars)

This tiny taco palace is soon moving four doors north to larger quarters, but for now competition for the few tables can be challenging. Fortunately, although it is a table-service restaurant, it also looks like and operates as a counter service place, and the food is just as good when you get it to go.

I tried two very different specials. The shredded pork taco was moist and tasty, with just the right spice level to the pork. But the curry beet arepa was an event. I’m not a huge beet fan, but it doesn’t matter; the delicate combination of flavors, and the creamy curry sauce (which tasted like it had just a touch of mayo) was out of this world. And the maize shell was perfectly crusted. I would definitely have this again. And again.

Service was friendly. Food preparation takes a bit longer than you’d expect for a counter service place, but that’s probably because of the cooking time of the arepa batter, and it was definitely worth it.

Tako Cheena
932 Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(321) 236-7457


*** (3 stars)

I’ve never been a fan of deep dish pizza, so there’s that. I find the crust tastes like saltine crackers, and there’s just too much filling.

Plus, it takes about 40 minutes to cook, which is tool long for lunch hour. So it’s unfortunate that the only pizza lunch specials at Giordano’s involve deep dish pizza (what they called stuffed).

Still, they offer regular pizza and even an extra thin version. Unfortunately they have that same weird dough. Not my favorite.

That said, their Caesar salad is excellent. And the service at this Giordano’s is excellent. So if deep dish is your thing, by all means check it out.

6203 W Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 377-0022

Seito Sushi

**** (4 stars)

This is a beautiful restaurant, both inside and out. Like many of the Baldwin Park restaurants it has a great sidewalk dining area that is covered and shaded.

There is an extensive list of interesting sushi rolls, and an even more extensive “roll-odex” you can request.

We started with garlic lime edamame, a very generous serving with an equally generous amount of garlic. We also tried the tuna kobachi, which was less generous, and was missing the usual avocado. It consisted of spicy tuna cubes with a few pickles; oddly, the pickles seemed more American than Japanese.

We tried four rolls, and liked them all. The most interesting was the Smoking’ 808, which was served under a smoke filled lid that imparted an exotic flavor.

There are several excellent sushi restaurants in the area, but unlike some of the others, Seito is open for lunch on Sundays, and it is certainly a pleasant spot to enjoy a relaxed meal outside.

Seito Sushi
4898 New Broad St
Orlando, FL 32814
(407) 898-8801

Perrotti’s Express

**** (4 stars)

This smaller outpost of the popular Perrotta’s Deli makes real deli sandwiches–hard to find in Orlando–and they make them fast. It’s easy to customize what you want, and they can do subs and wraps as well.

While bread and cheese selections are somewhat limited by the microscopic kitchen, the meats are true New York deli caliber. There’s a small inside dining area.

Definitely one of the best deli sandwiches in Central Florida.

Perrotti’s Express
7828 Winter Garden Vineland Rd
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 347-3631


***** (5 stars)

This neighborhood restaurant offers a collection of cozy rooms, although they can be noisy. The best place to sit is outside, which is warmed by heaters on cool nights, and offers a less rambunctious dining environment.

The menu offers a nice assortment of tasting size plates and some interesting flatbreads, plus a couple of nightly specials. We particularly liked the smoked fish dip, which was presented with a variety of accompaniments such as pickled onions and sliced peppers. The fried green tomatoes were a generous serving that looked more like eggplant parmesan.

A brie and apple flatbread was sizable, but has a nice thin crust that made it not too filling.

All of the wines on the list are available by the glass, and there are some beauties, including Klinker Brick Zinfandel, which won best of show at the state fair a few years ago. Some nice craft cocktails are also on offer.

Service was very friendly and helpful.

901 W Platt St
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 254-7070

Red Lobster

*** (3 stars)

Red Lobster is a lunch place as far as I’m concerned, because I can’t imagine spending $30 for an entree when I could go to a fine dining restaurant and get much better food. But at lunch it’s fine, because you can get a seafood assortment with a side and a salad for around $10.

Admittedly most of the choices are either battered and fried, or served swimming in butter, but you’re probably not going here because fish is a healthy choice. Let’s face it, you’re going here because of those biscuits. When they come out fresh from the kitchen, crispy on the outside, hot and garlicky/cheesy on the inside, they are really, really good.

Speaking of the kitchen, it is weirdly slow here, even when the restaurant is mostly empty (as it usually is at lunch time). The service is friendly and well-intentioned, though (a big improvement over this location a few years ago).

And this is a really nice interior, since it was originally built as a China Coast, and still has the dramatic ceiling beams and intimate layout. All in all a pretty decent Red Lobster.

Red Lobster
7373 W Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32818
(407) 295-2791