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A Look Back at 2011 and Ahead to 2012

Written By Scott Joseph On January 2, 2012

Korean taco boxNow that the New Year is here, let’s look back at the highs, lows and trending stories of 2011.


This was definitely the year of the food truck. It might take a while for some trends to hit Central Florida, but when they do, we embrace them big time. When Mark Baratelli organized the first TheDailyCity.com Food Truck Bazaar in March, we figured a crowd of about 500 would show up. It was easily five times that many. And what was going to be an every now and then thing suddenly became a regular event. And other food truck impresarios also started organizing food truck gatherings. Away from the pods and weekly events, the food trucks might be found in parking lots and gas stations around town. I say might because it has been my experience that the food truckers take the peripatetic nature of the business too seriously and often will not show up at designated times and places. I guess that’s just one of the qualities of a restaurant on wheels.


We also saw a profusion of taprooms that feature a minimum of forty beers on tap. They’ve become the adult beverage equivalent of the cinema multiplex. Taps, Sonoma Draught House, Orlando Draft and Oblivion Taproom are a few of the notable ones.


Last year saw the opening of some exciting new restaurants including:

  • Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen, from Tijuana Flats owner Brian Wheeler; finally someone is doing good Louisiana cuisine again.
  • Moghul Indian Cuisine, bringing decent Indian to the Winter Park area.
  • Pint American Gastropub, from Manny Tato of Spice Modern Steakhouse, is the closest thing to an actual gastropub in the area.

    Tako Cheena serves food truck food inside.
  • Hawkers, Asian street fare in small plates.
  • Rusty Spoon, a fitting outlet for the talents of chef Kathleen Blake.
  • City Fire American Oven & Bar, a new concept from local restaurateur legend Manny Garcia.
  • Cocina 214, unashamedly Tex-Mex in an upscale casual atmosphere that befits its Park Avenue setting.
  • Prato, from the Luma on Park gang, cramming them in nightly.
  • Rangetsu, after closing on International Drive, reopened in, of all places, Maitland, and is educating the masses that Japanese can mean fine dining.
  • Sushi Pop, something for Oviedoans besides chain food, and it’s a fun place to dine, too.
  • Finesse, a stylish newcomer in the Lake Mary area.
  • Nick’s Italian Kitchen, one of the latest from the Funky Monkey Restaurant Group.
  • Prickly Pear, the other latest from FMI.
  • Tako Cheena, true fusion cuisine from Pom of Pom Pom’s Sandwicheria, with Asian style foods served taco style.
  • Oblivion Taproom, one of the trending taprooms mentioned above, this one specializing in burgers.
  • The Tasting Room, a tapas restaurant from the owners of the Chef’s Table at the Edgewater.
  • Armando’s, new Italian from Armando Martorelli, owner of Trattoria Toscano.



  • Jimmy Hula’s, we like the tacos idea (see Tako Cheena above) but you’ve got to put something in the tortilla.
  • The Boathouse of Winter Park, in the former Harper’s Tavern spot, such a miserable disappointment that it’s been renamed — Harper’s.
  • Cuba de Cuba (closed), a much-needed downtown Cubanerie that didn’t try hard enough (or at all).
  • Le Cellier, still the most overrated restaurant at Walt Disney World.
  • Fish N’ Loaves (closed), soul food restaurants need soul.
  • Terrace 390, in the former Harvey’s Bistro space, these owners desperately need guidance from people with more experience than they have.
  • Delmonico’s Italian Restaurant, another International Driver that figures it doesn’t have to be good if it only wants tourist trade.
  • Yum-mi Sandwiches (see Jimmy Hula’s above).
  • Truffles Grill, looks good, but the food is lacking.
  • Saffran, food is lacking here, too, and it doesn’t even look all that good.


Most improved:

  • Bull and Bear, the Waldorf Astoria restaurant finally figured it out.
  • Narcoossee’s, was never on my list of good Disney restaurants; now it is.
  • The Palm, great improvements for this steakery at Hard Rock Hotel.
  • Anh Hong, once again doing good Vietnamese in the Mills50 area.


Old friends revisited: Nagoya Sushi, A Land Remembered, Jack’s Place, Mediterranean Deli, Anatolia, Emeril’s Orlando, Hillstone, HUE, Heidelberg.


Closings: Udipi Cafe, India Blue, Harmoni Market, Orlando Tastings, Carmela’s of Brooklyn (Kirkman Road), Heat Tandoor, Logan’s Bistro, Bravissimo Chophouse, Twisted Burger, Antonio’s Sand Lake,



  • Linda Seng, owner of Linda’s La Cantina, the oldest restaurant in the Orlando area.
  • Chester Wheeler, helped his son, Brian, start his first Tijuana Flats then joined int to help them grow.
  • Kamjohn Rittichai, chef owner of Royal Thai, one of the area’s better Thai restaurants.
  • Luigino Paulucci, the developer of Heathrow and the originator of Jeno’s Pizza, who also brought us Pasta Lovers, an Olive Garden wannabe, which them became Luigino’s in Lake Mary.


And what’s ahead? The food truck trend will continue, but not necessarily on the road. What that means is that brick and mortar restaurants will adapt the convenience and quality of food truck foods to their menus. Wonder what that might look like? Visit Tako Cheena, which is about as food-trucky as you can get without having to fill up a gas tank. It also means smaller portions, which will benefit budget minded diners.


Locally sourced and sustainability will continue to be buzzwords, and some consumers might actually try to find out what they mean — and why they matter.

Those who do take the initiative will also start demanding more transparency and proof that restaurants are using local ingredients and following the rules of sustainability. And they’ll also start demanding more information about the other foods on the menu, including ingredients and nutritional information. Along these same lines, watch for more gluten-free items on menus as well as information about other foods that cause common allergies.


More restaurants will be following you on social sites. Get ready to be Facebook friended and tweeted to like never before.


The Groupon model of discounting is likely at a peak. Expect fewer restaurants of quality to participate in the mass discount deals.


And we’ll continue to have restaurants open and close — some will do both in the same year. And coming up on these pages in the next few weeks will be reviews of a new barbecue joint, an Indian restaurant, a reopened seafooder.



We hope you find our reviews and news articles useful and entertaining. It has always been our goal to assist you in making informed decisions when spending your dining dollars. If we’ve helped you in any way, please consider making a contribution to help us continue our journalism. Thank you.

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