Beard Awards bypass Orlando (this headline is recycled)

Written By Scott Joseph On June 11, 2024

Kaya crew
The staff of Kaya, including in center Lordfer Lalicon and Jamilyn Salonga Bailey, on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago ahead of Monday night’s James Beard Foundation Awards. (Photo from Kaya’s Facebook page)

The James Beard Foundation held its annual awards presentation Monday night in Chicago. The event is often referred to as the Academy Awards for the culinary industry, though not necessarily because both have issues with diversity and tend to recognize restaurants and chefs that already enjoy a certain popularity.

This year’s great hope for Central Florida was Kaya, the Filipino restaurant in the Mills 50 District that already has the distinction of having a Michelin Green Star. Kaya was a finalist for Best New Restaurant, a category that pit it against nine others across the nation. In regional awards, Central Florida competes in Best Chef – South, which also includes Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Louisiana. With Louisiana in the mix, the Best Chef award goes to someone in New Orleans more times than it does not.

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Caffe Positano

Written By Scott Joseph On June 6, 2024

Positano exterior

In New York last week, I had a chance encounter with a man named Melvin Agui, who helped open the restaurant Positano with brothers Pasquale and Roberto Barba in Ocoee in 1991. ( I wrote about the encounter here.) Agui is now manager at La Grenouille, the storied Manhattan restaurant. 

We spent much of the night reminiscing about the old days. And I came to realize that it had been many years, maybe a couple of decades, since I’d visited Positano – now called Caffe Positano and in Apopka. So the day after I got back, I headed up to check it out.

How did I stay away so long? The food is still some of the best in town, and it’s offered at bargain prices. (Hey, Michelin, you’re missing a great Bib Gourmand candidate).

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Newsy Nuggets: Mary’s taking her burgers to Kissimmee and other stuff

Written By Scott Joseph On June 4, 2024

Hamburger mary logo

Hamburger Mary’s Orlando, the fun little restaurant that closed Sunday after announcing it would relocate, has been inextricably associated with Downtown Orlando (see logo above with a mermaid Mary resting on the Lake Eola fountain). But it’s extricating itself from that venue and moving to Kissimmee, of all places, according to the HBO Facebook page. No exact location or timeline yet, but I’m wondering how many loyal Mary’s fans will follow her south.

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Thai Spoon

Written By Scott Joseph On May 30, 2024

Thai Spoon sign

The freestanding building at 3334 Curry Ford Road has been home to many restaurants in the past 36 years. When I arrived in 1988 it was occupied by Cafe Barcelona, which was the third restaurant I critiqued for the Orlando Sentinel’s Florida magazine. I noted in my review that “If you’re looking for an authentic Spanish restaurant, this is the only show in town.” And it was.

Thai restaurants were rare back then, too, but we’ve seen many, many more open over the years. Ironically, some have been at this location. We had Chai Thai and Smile Thai here. (More recently it was Vietnamese – Pho Curry Ford and Pho & Roll. It was also something called Regional Grill & Bayou about 11 years ago, for those of you keeping score.)

Now it’s back to Thai, Thai Spoon, an earnest operation with food good enough to recommend, even if there are quirks to work out.

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Newsy Nuggets: Southern Box, A La Cart, Persimmon Hollow, Lamp Shades and MedTaste

Written By Scott Joseph On May 29, 2024

Great Southern Box exterior

Great Southern Box Company food hall opened over the Memorial Day weekend in College Park’s nascent Packing District. It is, appropriately enough, a big, boxy building with the food hall in the center and two large spaces on either end. One will be a microbrewery and the other will be an event space capable of handling large crowds. 

The food hall is reminiscent of an upscale mall’s food court – Mall at Millenia came to mind when I visited for a preview last week – with the various vendors ringing the space. But unlike a mall, GBSC features a central bar and rather comfy-looking seating, including spacious booths.

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