Zora Grille

Written By Scott Joseph On February 14, 2017

Zora dining room

I’ve written a few times about the sixth sense that a critic develops over time, that feeling that you get when you walk into an unfamiliar restaurant and a voice in the back of your mind that says — no, screams — run!

But there’s a diametrical feeling — a seventh sense? — where you enter a restaurant and you know immediately that you’re going to like it. That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Zora Grille in Altamonte Springs recently. Just for a moment, I had that niggling feeling that something might be off. Perhaps it was the fact that the place had no customers even though it was the height of the lunch hour.

But the aromas of the charcoal grill in the back of the open kitchen soon enveloped me. And almost as immediately a young man stepped forward with a warm and genuine welcome. I took a seat.


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Written By Scott Joseph On February 1, 2017

Paramount falafel

Paramount Fine Foods is such a grand name for what is essentially a fast food restaurant. Quick serve at most.

Actually, I’m not sure that’s the name. I’ve also seen it refer to itself in various places at Paramount Middle Eastern Cuisine and Paramount Lebanese Kitchen.

Whatever, Paramount is a Middle Eastern eatery out of Ontario, Canada, that has recently moved into the United States with its U.S. headquarters on International Drive. A location there has been open for a while, but I stopped in to the newest store near UCF to give it a try.


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Moroccan Breeze

Written By Scott Joseph On October 5, 2016

Moroccanbreeze exterior

Moroccan Breeze certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.

I had, um, gotten wind of Breeze as a newly opened restaurant in South Orlando. But when my Google Maps app led me to the address on South Orange Blossom Trail, a strip mall anchored by the Apna Bazaar, the restaurant was nowhere in sight. I wondered if the signage on one of the eateries just hadn’t been changed to reflect new ownership. I also hoped that wasn’t the case because they looked pretty bedraggled. So I called the phone number for Moroccan Breeze and the gentleman who answered told me that he was located inside the Bazaar. So in I went.

Moroccan Breeze was located at the back of the building in a sort of minimalist food court, a couple of food vendors, including an Indian cafe next door, and a scattering of tables and chairs for customers to eat at. Just off to the side of the food court were the restrooms, designated for men and women, and prayer rooms, also so delineated.


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Cedar Halal Food and Deli

Written By Scott Joseph On March 6, 2014

Cedar halal interior

I was sure I had happened upon a new restaurant when I walked into Cedar Halal Food and Deli in East Orlando. It was a real find, and something that was needed on the east side of town: a good, non-chain place with ethnic food. But when I was paying my bill for my lunch I asked the fellow who took the money how long the restaurant had been open.

Eight years.

So much for cutting edge. It has a Myspace page, for crying out loud.

But I’m happy I found it now, and to share the not-so-new news with those of you who were just as uninformed as I.


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Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop

Written By Scott Joseph On September 12, 2013


I love a good falafel sandwich. The splash screen of my phone is a photo of me holding my favorite one from a vendor in Paris. Recently I wrote about two Middle Eastern restaurants where I chose the falafel sandwich as my entree rather than one of their other offerings.

So I was excited when I started to see signs that a new falafel shop would open in the former Blackwater Barbecue space on Edgewater Drive in College Park. Hubbly Bubbly opened last weekend, but it may want to consider closing down for a while and reorganizing. (I say reorganize as if there was any organization to begin with, but we’ll just let that stand.)

First of all, no, I don’t know what the name Hubbly Bubbly has to do with falafels. Frankly, it makes me think of one of the boba tea places that serve tapioca pearls in their drinks. (Is that fad over yet? Please?) If there is a logic to it, that explanation is not shared with us either on the website or the menu.

In fact very little information is shared in either of those places, and even less at the shop. So, for the uninitiated, let’s start with some information. A falafel is a sort of fritter fashioned out of ground chickpeas (garbanzo beans, if you prefer) and deep fried. They can be round balls, they can be flattened disks. The word falafel has also come to mean the sandwich device wherein the fritters are contained. The bread for the sandwich might be a pita pocket or a lavosh or similar flatbread. Therein are piled any combination of such items as hummus, tomatoes, onions, tabouli and sauce, such as tzatziki.


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Two Falafels: Mediterranean Deli & Gyros and Middle East Market & Deli

Written By Scott Joseph On August 7, 2013

Middle East MarketThe falafel, plus a spinach pie, at Middle East Market.

I was really disappointed that my favorite falafel place, L’As du Fallafel, wasn’t open when I went by on a recent trip to Paris. (And, yes, I understand that that qualifies as a first-world disappointment.)

las du fallafelMy sandwich at L’As du Fallafel in Paris during a visit in 2010.Maybe that’s why I’ve had a hankering for a falafel sandwich lately. When I visited two Middle Eastern eateries lately, that was the only thing on the menus that I considered ordering. I don’t know why, but there’s something about those deep-fried chickpea balls that I love.

The first place I stopped was Mediterranean Deli & Gyros. The & Gyros is meant to distinguish it from Mediterranean Deli, which I told you about here. The two restaurants aren’t related, but their owners are — they’re brothers.

If I hadn’t known that going in I probably would have guessed it from the warm greeting I received. But I’ll come back to that.


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Mediterranean Deli

Written By Scott Joseph On November 7, 2011

Med_deli_gyroI had been hearing a lot lately about a place called Mediterranean Deli on Fairbanks Avenue, the western part of Fairbanks that drifts into Orlando city limits, closer to Edgewater Drive. Good gyros, good falafel sandwiches, was the buzz. So I headed over there to check it out. While I stood looking over the somewhat scruffy menu of food items on the wall behind the ordering counter, I noticed a plaque beneath it with an old review of the eatery. The review was too far away to read, but I was able to make out the reviewer’s name. Imagine my surprise at learning that I had written the review.

Now, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ll admit that some of the names and some of the memories have had to move out of my head to make room for newer ones. But I’m pretty good about remembering actual places, especially when I’m standing in them, and I was certain I had not been here before.


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Written By Scott Joseph On October 20, 2011

Anatolia_dessertAs you may know if you’ve read my note about advertisers, not just anyone may advertise on this website. In the old days, there was a Maginot Line that separated the editorial division of a publishing entity and the advertising department. The latter dared not attempt to influence the former. In the new world, that line is less fortified, blurrier. But there is still a line. I insist on it. And the people who sell advertising space on my site are required to vet potential advertisers with me before making a sales call. And yes, I’ve turned down some ads.

So when Anatolia, the Turkish and Lebanese restaurant that opened two years ago on Restaurant Row, expressed a desire to be on these pages, I said I would have to go back to see how they were doing. My first visit, in 2009, had been pleasant enough, but the restaurant was still new. I’m pleased (and my sales team is relieved!) to report that not only is the experience at Anatolia still a pleasant one, it seems to have improved in the last couple of years.


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Balagan Kosher Mediterranean Cafe

Written By Scott Joseph On October 6, 2011

With the Jewish observances of Rosh Hashanah last week and Yom Kippur this weekend, I wondered about area restaurants that are kosher. (Not that a restaurant is something one seeks out for Yom Kippur. The holiday is a day of atonement, and fasting is part of the observance.)

What constitutes kosher is confusing to those who do not follow the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut. Some think it is a certain style of food or a food traditionally associated with Jewish-style delis, such as matzoh ball soup. Or that it is food that has been “blessed” by a rabbi. None of the above. Certainly, matzoh ball soup can be kosher, but it can be non-kosher, too. And kosher isn’t confined to Jewish delis. It’s quite possible for a Chinese restaurant to be kosher. In 2006, I wrote an article about Rabbi Sholom Dubov as he koshered a restaurant that was about to open in Casselberry. Here’s a link to that story, which gives more details on a very complex subject. (The restaurant in the article, Ole Gourmet, has since closed.)

In looking for local kosher restaurants, I came across a listing for one called Balagan Kosher Mediterranean Cafe. I hadn’t heard of it before, and as I looked for more information, it appeared to be smack dab in the middle of the University of Central Florida’s main campus. I called the phone number and found that, indeed, the restaurant is located in the university’s Student Union. I’ve been through the Union many times — I wondered how I managed to miss it.

Easy to do, as it turns out. Balagan is almost literally a hole in the wall. It’s a small step-in space down a side corridor off the central area of the union. It’s not really a restaurant. Not really a cafe, either, in that there is no seating in the space (there’s barely room to stand).

But this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a very long time.


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Doorstep Delivery

Written By Scott Joseph On July 12, 2010

But yet, we are talking about technology. Even worse, we’re talking about humans working with it, so things can go wrong. And they sure did when I gave the service a try recently.

doorstepThere have been several attempts over the years to offer an aggregated delivery service among restaurants that don’t offer their own delivery option. They all failed and fairly quickly. So I was intrigued that the latest operation to offer delivery services from multiple restaurants, Doorstep Delivery, has lasted a couple of years, if not longer.

One of the reasons may be that technology finally caught up with the concept. What was missing for the others that tried before was the proliferation of the Internet, broadband connection and the knowledge of the consumers to use them. It seems odd now, but the high-speed point-and-click mentality we now take for granted is just a few years old. The delivery services in the past printed booklets that featured pages of participating restaurants and the menus they offered for takeout. The customer had to call the phone number and place an order with a live person. Menus would be out of date, the participating restaurants had ceased to participate, or any other number of things made it a frustrating procedure.

Doorstep Delivery is Web site based at doorstepdelivery.net. After entering your ZIP code, the site will display the restaurants that are available in your area. Click on a restaurant that sounds interesting and you’ll be taken to a page with that restaurant’s menu. The descriptions are clear and self-explanatory. And after you click on an item you may be taken to another page to finish the order. For example, click on the 6-ounce filet mignon in the Spice Modern menu and you’ll be asked to check a box indicating the doneness you would prefer. You’ll also be asked if you’d like to stuff the filet with blue cheese for an additional charge. Even if there aren’t logical questions that a “live” server would ask, you can opt to leave a not for the order: “Extra pepper, please,” or whatever.

One interesting feature is that the site will not let you order from a restaurant that is not yet serving. Take that filet from Spice Modern, for example. Spice offers delivery at lunch time, but the steaks are not available until the dinner hours. So if it’s noon and you select a steak, you’ll receive a pop-up note telling you what time the steak is available. But all is not lost: if you really want a steak from Spice Modern, you can ask to order in advance and have it delivered that evening. A lot of thought went into making the Web site user friendly.

But yet, we are talking about technology. Even worse, we’re talking about humans working with it, so things can go wrong. And they sure did when I gave the service a try recently.

I called up the Web site and selected Kabbab House, a restaurant I was unfamiliar with. I selected the kofta kabbab and the lamb tagine. As you place your order, a running tab shows the subtotal plus the delivery charge. For my ZIP code, Kabbab House requires a $12.50 minimum order and a delivery charge of $3.99. I was easily over the minimum, and the delivery charge seemed fair.

I clicked the button to checkout and was taken to a screen where I could enter my contact info and credit card number. I was told it would take about 45 minutes, which seemed reasonable. I completed the order and clicked finish.
A few minutes later I received a call from someone at Doorstep Delivery. The restaurant informs them that they are out of kofta kabbab, and would I like to make another selection. I choose beef instead.

An hour later, I receive another call. The food is just now leaving the restaurant, she told me. She wanted me to know this, she said, so I wouldn’t think my kabbab and tagine were out driving around the county all this time. I told her I appreciated the call, but it was taking quite a bit longer than was promised. The restaurant was extremely busy, she told me. Too busy to complete an order than was entered an hour and 10 minutes ago?

Another 30 minutes passed — or roughly the amount of time it would have taken me to drive from my home in downtown Orlando to the restaurant on Hiawassee Road and back — before the food was finally delivered to my doorstep.

Some kinks, apparently, still need to be worked out.

As for the food, I wish I could tell you it was worth the wait. The kabba was dry and tough and the tagine was fatty and flavorless. I don’t think, however, that the quality of the food was a result of the delivery delay. It just wasn’t very good food to begin with.

Although I had some problems with the use of Doorstep Delivery, I think it has a future. If they can work on the speed of delivery — kind of an important thing for this type of service — and improve communication between the Doorstep site and the restaurant’s, more people will opt to use this handy service. As long as they’re not dying of starvation when they start the process.

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