giant shrimp

Orlando, FL

92 posts in this topic

impressions can get a bit skewed when you're on the road, especially in orlando, but seasons 52 had really good food when i ate there in january. have yet to check out rock creek restaurant. by the way, how is thyme square doing these days? our last meal there a few years was a shambles, but i assume that somebody would have turned out the lights by now if they had not made substantial improvements.

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I wholeheartedly agree. Not one for health food, salads or calorie counting, I was skeptical, but we had a great meal. Based on the number of appetizers we ordered (lots of flatbread varieties), we took in a lot of calories. But the entree I had, pork tenderloin IIRC, was delicious.

impressions can get a bit skewed when you're on the road, especially in orlando, but seasons 52 had really good food when i ate there in january.

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This is an excerpt from an article I wrote about Orlando restaurants last Fall for a trade publication in my industry. The purpose of the article is to do an overview of restaurants in the same city that our convention is in. This particular year was Orlando. Because I travel to Orlando regularly I have gone to Seasons 52 many times, each time leaving wishing they would open one here :

"In February of last year one of the newest trends in the future of the restaurant industry in the United States took its first step with the opening of a concept restaurant in Orlando. Darden Restaurants, known for the locally extremely popular Bahama Breeze along with Red Lobster and Olive Garden, took a virtual leap with the “knockout” opening of the two hundred fifty seat Seasons 52 where every “generous” entrée served is no more than 475 calories. This includes grilled jumbo sea scallops with sautéed fresh asparagus and toasted pearl pasta, herb ricotta ravioli with julienne vegetables and garlic broth, sesame glazed salmon chop salad with citrus soy dressing, a six oz. filet mignon with sautéed spinach, grilled wild mushrooms and “big steak” potatoes as well as a large bowl of black mussels steamed in orange ginger broth.

The menu changes every few weeks offering fresh seasonal products (52 weeks of the year, thus the name). Much is grilled over oak and olive oil is used rather than butter. Paper thin flatbread starters feature grilled steak and crimini mushrooms along with artichokes, goat cheese and fresh herbs among others. Desserts include $1.95 individually sized desserts which fill a tall shot glass such as carrot cake with rum sauce and bananas Foster sundae. In fact some diners order literal trays of shot glasses each topped with a different dessert. So much for calories! Seventy wines are also offered by the glass.

This is the hottest restaurant anywhere near Orlando with long lines even on weeknights to match. A second one is under construction but will not open until December. Prices for entrees range from $8 to 20."

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I enjoyed Seasons 52 a few months ago when I was down there. Definitely the type of place that would do well in DC.

Timpano has actually started serving the single-size desserts, but they are nowhere near as good as the ones at Seasons 52.

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Since someone morphed this into a dinning in Orlando thread, I will add my 2 cents, and 52 will not be mentioned. I used to be forced to visit Plasticland several times a year, and the only saving grace was a decent meal.

If you find yourself stranded in this souless place, I would recommend sticking with big hunks of beef. Charly's and Vito's offer some very nice beef. The portions are over the top even for a steak house. The cakes that are offered as part of the dessert selections are easily eight layers tall. I once split one at a table for four, and we could not finish it.

But the best steak to be had in that city is at Del Frisco's. This is the original location and not owned by the same group that owns the chain (Del Frisco's is the best chain restaurant I have ever been to). The meat is crusted with salt, and served on a very hot platter. The meat is cooked less than you order it, but this is because it continues to cook on the platter. This is no cheap steak cooked in butter (Ruth's), but aged prime meat that is dream enducing.

Outside of beef, not much stands out in my memory of Orlando, and I am happy to say, I do not have to go back anytime soon.

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Del Frisco's on Lee road (on the "far side of downtown") was actually opened by a close friend of the owner of the original Del Frisco's in Dallas. I first went to the Dallas original in the mid '80's when it was considered the city's best steak house. For a number of years this was the only other Del Frisco's until the original owner sold out to Lone Star who subsequently opened a number of Del Frisco's around the country. But Orlando, I believe more faithful to the original, is still the best. I agree with Steve, this is the best of all "chain" restaurants. In addition to beef the sides are outstanding: batter dipped inch thick sweet onion rings, superb cream of spinach, a ripe heirloom or beefsteak tomato sliced 1/2 inch thick layered with sweet onion and topped with excellent crumbled roquefort cheese and the house viniagrette, Strawberries Romanoff which are nestled in fluffs of house whipped heavy cream infused with Grand Marnier. I believe that next to Luger's in Brooklyn this may be the best steak house in America-in the unlikeliest of places.

I also agree with Steve about Charley's and Vito's which are owned by the same group.

Seasons 52 by the way was started by the former chef from Disney's California Grill which may give an indication of the standard it is held to. Don't let the Darden association mislead you.

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I am sitting with a Floridian in my office who lives near Gainesville who says that Butcher's Block has one of the most elegant interiors he has ever seen (at least in a Florida establishment) and the "food is pretty damned good." It's on International and Jamaica in Orlando. Anyone been?

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Seasons 52, which pioneered this concept on Sand Lake road in Orlando, was the highest grossing restaurant in its first year in the Darden chain. This includes Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and a few others yet the food at Seasons 52 is very similar to Disney's California Grill. As it should be. The founding chef is the same at both. This is the list of awards it has won in its first two years: http://www.seasons52.com/media/awards.asp Seasons 52 also has a dark, supper club type of ambience sort of like an upscale Bonefish Grill. Additionally it features a 60 seat bar and about 75 or so wines by the glass. After 8 there is a pianist who sits in the middle of the oval bar which transitions into what has now become Orlando's hottest meeting spot for the over 30 crowd.

I've had five dinners so far at this restaurant plus one this coming Sunday. Rock Creek is one of numerous restaurants around the country that are now helping grow what is arguably the hottest trend in the industry. My wife and I will probably try Rock Creek within the next week. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the restaurant which started all this. If it is even close the drive from Reston to Bethesda is shorter than one might think.

Seasons 52 is going national having opened three locations with two more about to open, all in Florida. I wouldn't be surprised if a number of local groups aren't taking a serious look at this before Darden opens here. I know nothing about Rock Creek's ownership but if it is indeed successful, it would seem that more locations would be forthcoming. For Seasons 52 there may now be the issue of maintaining the level of quality which they opened with. All five of my dinners there were with the Disney chef in residence. He's gone now. It will be interesting to see if it has suffered.

Edited by Joe H

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I've been in Orlando for the past few days on business and have had the fortune of coming upon some great restaurants along International Drive and up in the Universal area that bear mentioning.

The first night, after walking by the Mercado Mall (and looking in on some very quiet restaurants), we proceeded a little further south (towards Sea World) and stopped into Vito's Chop House. Dined on a 20oz Tuscan Porter that tasted great with a reasonably priced glass of Malbec...it was no Ray's, but far better than Outback!

For lunch the next day my co-worker and I stumbled upon a Cantonese-style restaurant (can't remember the name...it had something with Hong Kong in it)serving dim sum (no carts, ordered via sheet). It had the typical greatest hits, along with non-dim sum items, one would expect and they were prepared to a high quality! This fine place was located just south of the Lighthouse Seafood Buffet (gaudy looking lighthouse) and about 10 minutes north of Vito's on I-Drive.

Later that evening we "took it up a notch" and decided to dine at Emeril's in U-Studios City Walk. We slipped in with a 5:30 (the other time for this popular choice was 9) reservation for kitchen-side seats and were blown away by the experience. I started with a homemade sausage appetizer (boudin and andouille) while my co-worker had a crabcake served with some frisee on a remoulade, both were more than satisfying. My main dish (co-worker had an Emeril's salad) was a duck breast and leg combination with a cranberry chutney, yellow curry rice, and grilled asparagus. In a word, W-O-W! A perfectly cooked medium rare duck, an amazing combination of flavors and textures, and a brilliant presentation...quite simply the best duck dish I've ever had. The meal ended with a subdued Earl Grey creme brulee. Also had a refreshing bottle of Torrontes (Argentina) throughout the experience. Was worried that a meal at U-Studios would be a tourist trap, but Emeril's was anything but!

I would've been more than happy finding only these three great places on my trip...but there was still one more to be found. Just a few blocks north of Vito's (between there and the Chinese place) on I-Drive is a shopping center with "The Crab House" and one of those "solve the mystery" restaurants. The real gem in this strip mall is a Japanese place called Hanamizuki. I feasted on a Moriawase (chef's choice) Sashimi dinner set. For $30, not only did I get 18 pieces of some of the freshest fish (tuna, salmon, snapper, yellowtail, squid, and octopus) I've ever had...but I also got several appetizers (tempura, chawanmushi, miso, etc.) and a dessert. A deal it was, but the quality was off the charts and I've dined at some of DC's finest (Sushi-Ko, Kaz's, etc.). And if sashimi isn't your thing, they also had a wide selection of traditional Japanese treats ranging from onigiri, nabe, shabu shabu, udon/soba (many kinds), and the "love it or hate it" natto.

Needless to say, I've been thrilled with our culinary finds thus far in this "tourist city". For us foodies, it seems that the general rule for success should be the less gaudy the restaurant looks on the outside, the better your dining experience will be on the inside. I've got one more day here before being shipped off to the hurricane disaster area(s), perhaps another diamond in the rough will be unearthed!

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I'm not so sure that Emeril's is a "diamond in the rough." It is also very expensive with the majority of entrees in the low to mid 30's. I've had two dinners there, hosting a total of 14 people and will not return. Picking up the check for $1000 for 8 and having to apologize is a once in a lifetime experience. But it happened to me there. My wife and I had dinner three times at the original on Tchoupolitas street (sp?) when Emeril was still there in the mid '90's and we thought this was among the very best restaurants in America. Based on my two dinners in Orlando, there was little in common. In this price range I would go to Norman's but this has also been inconsistent. I went when it first opened and Norman Van Aken himself was in the kitchen. It was awesome!!! A return visit the next year was good, but nowhere in league with the first time. Vito's, owned by the Charley's group, is an excellent mid range steak house that is enormously popular with convention groups. I like it. A lot. Still, the Del Frisco's on the far side of town is far superior.

Enzo's on the Lake is a very good, locally popular Italian restaurant considered by many to be the Orlando area's best. Straub's has very good rock shrimp and is also very popular. The best seafood restaurant overall is Disney's Flying Fish Cafe and their adjacent tapas restaurant is better than you might expect. Disney's best restaurant is their California Grill-NOT Victor and Victoria which is horrendously expensive. Your last meal should be at Seasons 52. Order the garlic chicken flatbread for your appetizer and planked salmon entree and post your thoughts about this on here. Any of a half dozen of the "fat test tubes" for dessert, especially the bananas foster. If you go, before 6:30 you should not have a problem getting a seat at the bar. In the dining room, on a weekday, the wait is one hour plus around this time (weekend two hours plus). About 80 wines by the glass.

Edited by Joe H

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Come January 1, I am packing up the tribe and doing the hajj to Disney World (aka, Vegas for kids). I am petrified that once I leave the compound, it'll be Olive Garden's galore.

Any suggestions?

Edited by B.A.R.

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We stayed at Portofino Bay and as a result, a few of our meals took place in that general vicinity (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure). The expensive Italian place right on the Portofino property isn't going to knock your socks off with inventive cuisine, however what we ate tasted good.

Emeril's restaurants are way over-priced (shocker, right?). We had a not-bad-at-all meal at the Hard Rock Hotel's restaurant, although the service was muy screwy. Sorry, but the name is escaping me.

Try Seasons 52. It's heading in the direction of a chain, however the meal I had there in May was really good. Interesting concept too (although they don't beat you over the head with it). Oh, near Seasons 52, there's a Lebanese place that is supposed to be out of this world (they rave about it on egullet anyway).

Edited by JLK

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I spent the last 2 days in the Orlando airport. Literally. There is a Hyatt inside the airport that has meeting rooms. I did not have high hopes for the dining portions of the meeting, but, if you ever find yourself stuck in the Orlando airport around dinner time head over to Delta Gates 60-99 and go to Hemispheres in the Hyatt. I had a very moist brined and roasted pork chop with a light herb cream sauce and some of the best roasted root veggies I've ever had. Must've been the bacon tossed in with them. My boss had a very nice looking steak with mushrooms and haricot verts and a co-worker had a flash fried red snapper that disappeared mighty quickly.

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Hello from the Orlando airport. :huh: I'm very excited to be heading back to DC from this "bigger is better" land that seemingly has a TGIFridays on every corner.

Anyway...I tried to take my calorie-conscious client to Seasons 52. She would have loved it, but we couldn't get a reservation and the bar was wall-to-wall people. The PGA Merchandise Show has made Orlando even more crowded than usual.

As a result, we ended up at neighboring Cedar's (or is it Cedar? Can't recall.). I'd heard a lot about it on egullet and thought it was fine, but not significantly better than, say, Lebanese Taverna. My client, a pickier eater than I ever was, barely ate her chicken soup and timidly tasted one bite of the unfamiliar hummos. :lol: I enjoyed my mixed grill - skewers of lamb chunks, spiced/minted ground lamb and chicken. The meats were really tasty and moist; Cedar lost points for serving the meat with very bland plain white rice. Lebanese Taverna's rice is always a nice bonus for me. Steamed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and a lone tomato half) came along for the ride and picky client enjoyed them. What can I say, I'm a giver.

I would have liked to try Cedar's baklava, but client was clearly antsy to move on to the next stop. *sigh*

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Anyway...I tried to take my calorie-conscious client to Seasons 52.  She would have loved it, but we couldn't get a reservation and the bar was wall-to-wall people.  The PGA Merchandise Show has made Orlando even more crowded than usual.

As a result, we ended up at neighboring Cedar's (or is it Cedar?  Can't recall.). 

i had a similar experience, except was with five other people and there was an almost two-hour wait for seasons 52. i think four people could have squeezed into the lounge area, however, which has quite a few tables. i just couldn't figure out how to get rid of two of our party, since i couldn't quite remember who was driving.

i found cedars a bit more interesting than you make it sound. the kebbah bil saynieh was presented as three dark triangles, a rather intriguing, unfamiliar combination of beef and wheat. it was stiff but moist, with crunch. baba ghannouj, hommos bi lahmeh and falafel were all exemplary. the flavor and body of the almaza beer were on the reticent, light side and you needed at least two because they were small. this is not a good place, however, for vegetarians. i was with one, and he didn't think they did anything special enough for him. an order of quail brought three, and if my wife had been misfortunate enought to have to accompany me on this trip and they landed on her plate i would have tried to snatch one from her. ditto with the rack of lamb. i heard and saw good things about both, without being able to taste either. the service was excellent and i would definitely check this place out further if it were convenient to do so. considering its location, i can only say fortunately it is not.

it would have been worse had you ventured a few doors further down the strip and snagged a table at roys. the dining rooms are incredibly loud and they insist on reading the menu for you, which you cannot hear. i tried the swordfish of too many ingredients, including gorgonzola, last year, and this year they were out. i wouldn't have gone for it, but they talk it up and i probably wouldn't have been able to be heard to prevent someone at our table from making the same mistake unless they were sitting with their head resting on my shoulder. the chef here typically suggests that his fish be cooked to medium well. the chocolate souffle is too much goo, but people seem to anticipate and love it. i don't pay for the annual pilgrimage to this establishment, and nobobdy forces me to go. i have been to quite a few of them, including maui, and the best one was in atlanta, though that may have changed by now. the hand in the kitchen is surprisingly heavy.

there are worse places to eat than the coffee shop at the peabody. it is diner style, and a nice place to waste time after you have spent an hour or so waiting for them to ceremoniously march in their ducks for the night. ask for a schedule of this event first.

somehow i got lost at the hard rock cafe on the way to the river that would carry me to the multiplex at universal city where i couldn't find anything better to do than watch a popular torture movie that actually didn't give up all hope, a sop to the teenagers who populate the malls and line up at the boxoffice these days. (people are even losing their toes on television, in a south american series, epitafios, which i have been watching to learn spanish, without much success, except that some of my nightmares now have spanish in them.) anyway, against my better judgment i entered the back of the hotel through an employee entrance and breezed through security but soon found i couldn't find my way back. i ended up on the lobby floor and in the changing room at the palm, and just as it looked like i was going to have to go through the kitchen and dining room to make my escape i found someone who was able to lead me to a safer route. i ended up in the kitchen, the name of the hotel's restaurant, which someone up above me has faintly praised. the mushroom risotto there was not bad. the wine was pretty good, and overpriced, by the glass. jerry garcia was being offered as a chard and cabernet; i am unsure if this vineyard is as distinctive as the music. fearing that possibility, i ordered something else. that famous rock star barbara streisand loomed over my table protectively throughout the entire meal, and this is a good place, when you find yourself alone, for dysfunctional family watching.

the next time i return to orlando, i want to do it with family. i hear there is a cafe over near celebration where they do a really nice roasted donald duck. don't order the chocolate mouse, however, unless you want to disillusion the children.

Edited by giant shrimp

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somehow i got lost at the hard rock cafe on the way to the river that would carry me to the multiplex at universal city where i couldn't find anything better to do than watch a popular torture movie that actually didn't give up all hope, a sop to the teenagers who populate the malls and line up at the boxoffice these days. (people are even losing their toes on television, in a south american series, epitaphios, which i have been watching to learn spanish, without much success, except that some of my nightmares now have spanish in them.) anyway, against my better judgment i entered the back of the hotel through an employee entrance and breezed through security but soon found i couldn't find my way back. i ended up on the lobby floor and in the changing room at the palm, and just as it looked like i was going to have to go through the kitchen and dining room to make my escape i found someone who was able to lead me to a safer route. i ended up in the kitchen, the name of the hotel's restaurant, which someone up above me has faintly praised. the mushroom risotto there was not bad. the wine was pretty good, and overpriced, by the glass. jerry garcia was being offered as a chard and cabernet; i am unsure if this vineyard is as distinctive as the music. fearing that possibility, i ordered something else. that famous rock star barbara streisand loomed over my table protectively throughout the entire meal, and this is a good place, when you find yourself alone, for dysfunctional family watching.

Just wonderful. I leave in the morning for Orlando and I'm staying at the Hard Rock. I hope someone isn't watching MY family's dysfunctional behavior. That said, I'm glad to hear Kitchen is an acceptable option....or at least the risotto.

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Just wonderful.  I leave in the morning for Orlando and I'm staying at the Hard Rock.  I hope someone isn't watching MY family's dysfunctional behavior.  That said, I'm glad to hear Kitchen is an acceptable option....or at least the risotto.

they pile on the food at kitchen, portions are pretty big. the menu is extensive, with something for everyone, and oversized desserts for the children who at least attempt to eat their vegetables. they even have a "kobe beef" burger. don't go looking for nuances in the cooking, and the tab can get pretty high, which is one of the reasons some of the dads got grouchy at tired kids who just wanted to play. i think it is okay to carry away open bottles of wine, people were doing it.

and i wouldn't worry about the dysfunctional behavior. there is so much of it going on that you and yours will most likely just blend into the crowd.

Edited by giant shrimp

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Del Frisco's on Lee road is one of the best steak houses in America. It is NOT connected to the Lone Star owned national chain. It was set up by the original owner of Dallas' Del Frisco's (from the '80's) and is owned by friends of his who wanted to create the excellence of the Dallas original in Orlando. It is by far the best steak house in Orlando. Unfortunately everyone in Orlando knows this and they go there. But, because it is on the far side of downtown, you won't find an awful lot of tourists. I 4 to Lee rd. and turn left. You can also have dinner at the bar. And the bar challenges Seasons 52 for popularity. (I was the first one to mention Seasons 52 two years ago on CH.) Seasons 52 sometimes has over two hour waits on Friday and Saturday. Also, if you get there by 6:15 or so you can usually get a bar seat even if there's a large convention in town. By 7:00 it's almost imossible unless it's a weeknight and no conventions. I've been there about 15 times over the past two years and feel pretty comfortable with these time frames.

Across the street from Seasons 52 is a decent alternative, Moonfish. Not great but locally very popular and worth checking out. Vito's is good for the price on International Drive. I also like Flying Fish and Spoodles both on Disney's Boardwalk. Spoodles is very similar to Jaleo and I think as good. Flying Fish is considered by many to be Orlando's best seafood restaurant.

Locals like Enzo's on the Lake for Italian, Maison et Jardin in Altamonte Springs and Norman's in the Ritz Carlton; the former is Orlando's version of L'auberge Chez Francois and the latter, if Norman is there, is awesome. Awesome! If he's not it's good but not great. I am not a fan of Emeril's although Tschoup Chop is better. I do like Chatham's Place which would be my number one alternative to Seasons 52, just a few blocks away. A lot of locals; signature grouper dishes.

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and i wouldn't worry about the dysfunctional behavior. there is so much of it going on that you and yours will most likely just blend into the crowd.

Too true - especially since there is rumored to be a mini-rockweiler convention going on down there at the moment. :lol:

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I am going back to DisneyWorld in a few weeks. Last time we went we ate dinner at the resto at top of the Contemporary (forgot the name), Wolfgang Pucks at Downtown Disney, and the hospital (sad long story). The food wasn't bad per se at the two Disney restos, but in my opinion had too much going on. Has anyone been there lately? Any suggestions? Thanks so much.

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It's the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary. The chef who opened it many years ago is the same chef who opened Seasons 52. Puck's places have nothing in common with Spago or Chinois in LA other than his name. I can't separate the Disney properties from Orlando so see my comments about a number of them under the Orlando thread. Supplimental to this Victoria and Albert is a remarkably expensive affectation that now pales to a number of other restaurants that have opened elsewhere in Orlando. Jiko is an interesting restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge possibly worth a look. For middle of the road Bahama Breeze across I 4 is better there than elsewhere in the U. S., perhaps much better. There's another on I drive.

Disney would love to have you spend every minute of every day on their property. Don't be afraid to leave it. Last, I reviewed Orlando restaurants for a 50,000 circulation trade paper a year ago.

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We stayed at Portofino Bay and as a result, a few of our meals took place in that general vicinity (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure). The expensive Italian place right on the Portofino property isn't going to knock your socks off with inventive cuisine, however what we ate tasted good.
I will be staying at Portofino Bay for a conference in a few weeks. Any ideas to take a client to dinner?

I know there are two corporate planned dinners, one at the Italian place mentioned above, the other at Planet Hollywood.

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May have some time to catch a bite for lunch in Orlando before we fly home from vacation next month. Anyone out there know of some good local places to grab a tasty bite?

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