Papa Sabz

Written By Scott Joseph On June 20, 2023

Papa Sabz interior

I love me a gyro, and Papa Sabz makes pretty good one. 

Papa Sabz is a quick serve restaurant in Casselberry, a nondescript storefront in an even nondescripter strip of businesses. But the inside is spacious – probably more room than they really need – and the staff was welcoming and friendly, even as the woman who took my order slightly corrected my pronunciation of gyro.

“I’ll have the lamb year-oh,” I said. “Ok, the lamb jī-roh, anything else?” she said. “No, just the year-oh, thanks,” I responded.

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Ava MediterrAgean

Written By Scott Joseph On May 26, 2022

ava ext

It’s certainly the most atmospheric restaurant around.

Ava MediterrAegean, the new Park Avenue restaurant from Miami’s Mila Group, didn’t just take over the Luma On Park space, it transformed it. The design, by Olya Volkova of OV & Co., features massive archways of sunwashed Venetian plaster, geometric wall sculptures, wood slats over the still-open kitchen, and upholstered furniture and table lamps that invoke a homey feeling.


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Written By Scott Joseph On April 19, 2022

Amare entrance

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin opened its new companion hotel, the Swan Reserve, in November. It’s distinguished from the two larger resorts – it sits separated across Epcot Resort Boulevard – with a more modern glass-and-steel design and the absence of frighteningly large creatures on its roof.

With the new hotel comes another signature restaurant, Amare, to join the likes Todd English’s bluezoo, Kimonos and Shula’s Steak House.

Amare is a Mediterranean restaurant whose name means to love. (It’s the verb form of the word as opposed to the noun. That’s amore.) However, the succinct menu has more of a Greek accent. The restaurant is described on the hotel’s website as casual upscale. I can agree with that. The decor is tastefully casual – it’s a breakfast, lunch and dinner venue – with bare blond wood tables set with blue and white chargers with a spirographic motif, cloth napkins, basket light fixtures, wood flooring and an open kitchen. Large windows from the second floor restaurant look out toward the other hotels.


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Shoufi Mahfi

Written By Scott Joseph On March 10, 2020

Shoufi view

Hey, what’s up?

Or should I say Shoufi Mahfi? Because that’s what’s up for today. And that’s the translation.

Shoufi Mahfi is a charming little Mediterranean restaurant in South Orlando near the intersection of Sand Lake Road and John Young Parkway. It’s a counter service operation, but the staff is so warm and welcoming you might think you’re dining in a full service restaurant.


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Written By Scott Joseph On September 19, 2018

Meza interior

Meza isn’t anything like Cafe Annie, but it’s that late lamented eatery from downtown Orlando that gave rise to this Baldwin Park mediterranean newcomer.

In fact, although there is still a Facebook page for Cafe Annie, the address it gives is the one for Meza in Baldwin Park.

You remember Cafe Annie, don’t you? If you worked in downtown Orlando over tha past three decades it was probably one of your reliable lunch spots. If you partied there, you may have included a stop at Annie for sustenance to carry on. It occupied a space on North Orange Ave. for nearly 29 years before closing in the final days of 2016. (It wasn’t a continuous run; Annie closed for a time when the building on the corner was renovated for a car dealership. That’s where Orange County Brewers is now.)

Lease issues, not to mention the announcement that Hubbly Bubbly, a falafel franchise, would be moving in next door, prompted owner Nabil Sebaali to look elsewhere.

He found a space on Jake Street just off the main thoroughfare of New Broad Street. Why he named it Meza instead of Cafe Annie is not known. (If you want to dive deeper into the history, Sebaali bought a restaurant called Cafe Fareed and renamed it Cafe Annie. Ironically, Cafe Fareed served American food. Sebaali named the restaurant after his wife figuring it would make her want to come in and help out. “It didn’t work,” he told me.)

Meza is bigger and brighter than the old place, and the menu is more ambitious. And it’s all wonderfully delicious.

Watch a video of this review here.


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Written By Scott Joseph On June 14, 2017

Citricos appetizers

This has always been one of the more troubling restaurant spaces at Walt Disney World. Not that Citricos hasn’t offered good (sometimes very good) food in the past. On the contrary, the quality of the food here has always been fine. And over its 20 years in existence, it has been served by some excellent chefs, including Roland Muller, Gray Byrum and Phillip Ponticelli. After Ponticelli left, in 2015, to take over the kitchen at Golden Oak, Dominque Filoni was hired as the restaurant’s fourth chef de cuisine.

(Full disclosure: In 2015, Scott Joseph Company’s consulting division was hired by WDW to perform a guest experience analysis. Those findings are not included in this review.)

What has made this a troubling restaurant is its relative lack of proper identity. Considering that most restaurants at Walt Disney World, especially those we see opening at Disney Springs, come with a legend or backstory that explain their existence, Citricos has no such history.

Long-timers will recall that the restaurant was originally called Flagler’s when the Grand Floridian Resort originally opened, in 1988. Although it had the name of a historical Floridian figure, it was an Italian restaurant, which didn’t make much sense.

And when it was rebranded, in 1997, as Citricos, it kept a Mediterranean mien.

That apparently isn’t going to change. But if the restaurant itself doesn’t have focus, Filoni certainly does. I can tell you that the quality of the food has never been better than it is now.


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Baba’s Orlando Mediterranean Grill

Written By Scott Joseph On February 25, 2016

Baba platter

Baba’s Orlando Mediterranean Grill has opened in downtown Orlando in the space that had been occupied by WhiteWood Mediterranean Grill and continues the serving of such things as shawarmas and kababs (though one hopes with better pest control than was detailed in this article from The Daily City).

Baba’s is an ideal spot for a quick bite of something beyond the basic sandwiches and burgers. (Hey, all you people standing in line down the block for a Wahlburger! You have options.)


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Written By Scott Joseph On May 21, 2015

Merguez tagine

The Uzbeks have ceded to the Moroccans. At least in south Orlando on what in this case is the aptly named International Drive.

The last time I visited this space it was a full-service restaurant called Atlas House, which specialized in the cuisine of Uzbekistan. Atlas closed, one presumes with a shrug. Now it is a fast casual restaurant called Merguez, with foods of Moroccan descent.

I was delighted to see that Merguez (big M) specializes in tagine cooking and that merguez (little m) was one of the choices. A tagine gets its name from the dish it is cooked in, which is a round plate topped with a dome that chimneys the heat and smoke while the food is cooking. Merguez (here meant to be a small m but it’s starting off the sentence so its big) is a type of sausage that is common in North African cooking. Merguez (merguezes?) are small, almost smoky link-like.


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Taboon Bistro

Written By Scott Joseph On April 14, 2015

taboon decor

I’d been in this space before, five years ago when it was known as Wa Restaurant. Then, I spent a goodly amount of the first part of the review of Wa discussing the hidden location in a corporate sort of building on the west side of the Universal Orlando campus. I mentioned the beautiful decor of the restaurant and the very good, upscale Asian food, but also noted that most of the rest of the spaces in the building appeared to be unoccupied. I concluded that it was a hidden gem that was worth looking for. Not enough did, or succeeded in finding it, and Wa went away.

Little seems to have changed with the physical aspects of this address. If any of the other spaces in the building are occupied it was not evident in the early evening when my guest and I arrived to visit Taboon Bistro, the current culinary tenant. As with Wa, the decor of the restaurant is lovely, an upscale, modern Mediterranean design with moody lighting (and inappropriate and inappropriately loud music). As with Wa before it, Taboon is hidden, but a gem? No.


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Shish.Co Mezze & Grill

Written By Scott Joseph On February 28, 2015

Shishco exterior

Here’s a cute little restaurant that makes me think of a food truck without wheels. It’s a pop-up restaurant in the sense that it looks like it just popped up in the middle of the parking lot at the corner of Orlando Avenue and Lake Avenue in Maitland.

It’s called Shish.Co Mezze & Grill, a Mediterranean eatery with a compact but comprehensive menu of such favorites as gyros, shish kebobs, falafels, and even lamb chops.


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