Written By Scott Joseph On August 15, 2023


You want to know what’s the worst thing for a restaurant critic? It’s a mediocre restaurant. The extremes are easy. Give me a great restaurant, one with terrific food, great service and the right atmosphere and I can write about it for days.

Or give me the opposite, a place where nothing works – terrible food, untrained and clueless servers and uncomfortable surroundings – and the review practically writes itself.

But a place in the middle? There’s not a whole lot to say.

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Mr. Chuy Taqueria & Cantina

Written By Scott Joseph On June 13, 2023

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I was headed to Lake Mary for a lunch meeting – different from a lunchmeating – and decided on Mr. Chuy Taqueria & Cantina on Lake Mary Boulevard.

Mr. Chuy – not to be confused with Chuy’s, the chain restaurant; no relation – occupies the space that previously was Grato, the Italian restaurant that had also opened a location on Park Avenue in Winter Park. Both Gratos (Grati?) are closed.

Mr. Chuy’s menu features the usual array of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, and most of the food is executed adequately.

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Rosa Mexicano

Written By Scott Joseph On April 27, 2023

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I guess I was just expecting too much.

I got excited when the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort announced, in September, that it was opening Rosa Mexicano in a space at the Dolphin hotel. Rosa Mexicano is a small chain – the Orlando location is the 11th – that started on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 1984 and bills itself as serving “Mexican food in a fine dining atmosphere.”

What’s more, that atmosphere would be provided by the designer David Rockwell, whose portfolio includes Nobu restaurants worldwide, Union Square Cafe in New York and Gordon Ramsay’s Maze in London. His group also designs sets for Broadway shows and theaters. Locally, the Rockwell Group designed the Cirque du Soleil theater at Disney Springs and the interior of the now-closed Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop.

So, one of my favorite cuisines in a fine dining atmosphere inside a David Rockwell-designed restaurant? I’m there.

And by there I mean the Rosa Mexicano on the Upper West Side across the street from Lincoln Center for a pre-theater dinner.

Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about that visit and the subsequent one I made to the new Rosa Mexicano in Orlando.


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Añejo Cocina Winter Park

Written By Scott Joseph On July 27, 2022

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Añejo Cocina, a Florida chainlet with locations in Ponte Vedra, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Yulee, has opened in the space in the Ravaudage Plaza that most recently was occupied by the New Standard (né Dexter’s New Standard) and before that TR Fire Grill.

Añejo calls its food “modern Mexican,” which means it isn’t traditional Mexican. In many ways, it isn’t traditional Tex-Mex, either. And that’s just fine. The food I sampled – some familiar, some creatively different – was all good, and the surroundings were pleasant and the service amiable.


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The 1 Cantina

Written By Scott Joseph On June 23, 2022

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Do you want to know what I like about The 1 Cantina, a new Mexican restaurant in Avalon Park? Everything.

I like the comfortable and attractive space. I like the knowledgeable and charming staff, led by the gracious owners, Giovanni Rodriguez and Marigel Haaz.

And I especially like the food. This is true Mexican cuisine. It’s not Tex-Mex or a Floridian’s idea of what Mexican food should be. There isn’t a burrito or fajita on the menu; no sides of rice or refried beans, either. I didn’t even see one flour tortilla. As Rodriguez explains, he wanted to present foods of Mexico City he remembers from cantina tours with his father. I sampled a number of items from the menu and there wasn’t a thing I wouldn’t order again.


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Cantina Catrina

Written By Scott Joseph On March 22, 2022

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I could make this real quick and simply say that I don’t currently recommend Cantina Catrina, the Mexican restaurant from Miami that recently opened its second location, at Florida Mall. I could tell you that there was not one aspect of my experience that I found positive or redeeming, but I feel I need to be more specific.

The restaurant’s Facebook page states, “When you first step through the door you become part of the atmosphere.” Inasmuch as the atmosphere is predominantly influenced by the skeletal images associated with the Day of the Dead, I should have been warned.


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F&D Cantina Thornton Park

Written By Scott Joseph On February 22, 2022

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F&D, the food and drink restaurant group, has opened its second, or maybe third, Mexican/Tex-Mex brand, F&D Cantina, in Thornton Park. The restaurant moved in to the space that was Jax Thornton Park since 2017. Prior to that in was Baoery and more famously Cityfish. It began its life, in the early 2000s, as Central City Market when the mixed-use building was new.

I reviewed the other existing F&D Cantina, in Lake Mary, in 2018 and liked it. If there was some surprise in my tone it was because the original Cantina, in Waterford Lakes, was a jumbled mess. It no longer exists because apparently there is a god. At least one who rules over Mexican restaurants.


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Las Lomas Mexican Grill

Written By Scott Joseph On January 4, 2022

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I think the last time I was inside this building, the vast, freestanding structure at 800 E. Altamonte Drive, it was a restaurant called Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse and the year was 1998. Seltzer’s was a low-end steakhouse that served a pretty good product. But it didn’t last long – its greatest claim to fame was taking on city hall over some fiberglass steers and cows that were set up in front of the restaurant. The city claimed they were attention-getting devices subject to the same rules as signage; Harold Seltzer, the owner, countered they were “amusing lawn ornaments.” Never mind that there wasn’t an actual lawn or that they weren’t particularly amusing.

I don’t remember how it was resolved, but the the cattle of discontentment were eventually driven away when Seltzer’s finally fizzled.

I’m sure there must have been other food businesses in the building in the past 24 years but none caught my attention. Not until Las Lomas Mexican Grill, and really only then because it was the end of the year and I was actively seeking Mexican food to fulfill a seasonal craving.


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Written By Scott Joseph On October 5, 2021

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If I hadn’t visited TaConsentida in September, I might have suspected it was observing October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month because this is one of the pinkest places I’ve seen. Even the tacos were served in pink tortillas.

That’s not the oddest thing, though, there’s also the name: consentida translates to spoiled, which isn’t the best name for a restaurant. In this case, according to my Spanish language advisors, the context is more like a spoiled child than a rancid rellenos. Ta consentida would mean so spoiled, so by eliding the two words – TaConsendita – it plays on the Mexican menu, which is kind of clever.


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Las Carretas

Written By Scott Joseph On August 31, 2021

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When I first saw that a Mexica restaurant called Las Carretas was opening in Winter Park, I figured it was a reboot of a restaurant with the same name that occupied a building on South Semoran Boulevard in Orlando a half dozens years or so ago.

But apparently not. The Winter Park restaurant, whose name means the carts, is a first endeavor for the owners, I was told. And as a first effort they’re doing a fine job.


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