Friday, June 22, 2018

Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, FL

A few months ago I was asked by a group of people visiting Florida where they can eat alligator ribs. I didn't have an answer for them. All I ever see on menus is gator tail, but no other part of the alligator. They said they saw alligator ribs on a food show, and some Googling brought me to this clip from Man Vs Food visiting Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa:

A few months later, I found myself in Tampa a few miles away from Skipper's Smokehouse at lunchtime. The restaurant looks very haphazard from the outside, with all sorts of random buildings all put together to make up a compound that includes the restaurant, bar, and concert venue.
I already knew what I was ordering. The alligator ribs came with two sides (I had beans & rice and steamed vegetables) and hush puppies. The ribs had a tasty barbecue sauce on them. In terms of consistency and taste, I'm not sure if I would have known they were alligator on a blind taste test. With the sauce and smoked meat flavor, they tasted like pork ribs to me. The consistency was a little tougher, almost like pork ribs that weren't smoked for long enough. The bones in the ribs gave away that I was eating a different animal, appearing much skinnier than a typical rib.

I can now cross reptile ribs off of my food list. These alligator ribs are probably the closest I've tried to a Florida style BBQ, because you can't get much more Florida than alligator. They were good, but if I returned to Skipper's Smokehouse, I think I'd try some smoked fish next time. I'm a big fan of smoked fish and their smoked mullet was calling out to me as I was reading the menu!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pepper's Mexican Grill & Cantina in Fernandina Beach, FL

I had dinner in the historic downtown section of Fernandina Beach. When I found out that my first choice for dinner was only open for lunch on Sunday, I explored and found Pepper's Mexican Grill & Cantina.
I had the Enchiladas De Camaron. These were corn tortillas stuffed with grilled shrimp, then topped with creamy tequila sauce. Rice and black beans were served on the side. It was interesting and unusual to see an enchilada that didn't contain cheese at a Mexican restaurant. The shrimp were larger than average and the creamy sauce was very tasty. The rice and beans were both unfortunately a little bland tasting.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Planet Hollywood Observatory in Disney Springs

This was my first visit to this restaurant since they renovated from regular Planet Hollywood to Planet Hollywood Observatory. When Downtown Disney rebranded themselves as Disney Springs, I guess a giant globe filled with movie props didn't fit into the story of a small town built around a spring water bottling plant that Disney came up with. Instead, the globe was painted grey and it is now an observatory to view stars. In doing so, they ripped out all of the movie props that made the old version of the restaurant interesting and replaced the majority of them with video screens projected on the walls. Guy Fieri was brought in to provide the restaurant's new menu, but celebrity chef fame doesn't do much when the menu ended up as boring as it was. Looking over the menu, very little spoke to me and everything was generic and overpriced.
I ended up ordering the Championship Pulled Pork Sandwich. This had pulled pork, barbecue sauce, coleslaw, pickles, and onion straws. I know I was sort of dissing Planet Hollywood's menu, but this sandwich was okay. The pork was tender, and they kept it interesting by adding more than just meat and sauce on the sandwich. Fries and a pickle were served on the side.

My pulled pork sandwich was good enough, but I don't think I'll be rushing back to the Planet Hollywood Observatory soon. I might as well go to an Applebee's for an equivalent generic chain restaurant menu for half the price...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Halal Guys in Orlando, FL

There is a food thing in New York City known as Halal Carts. These carts mostly serve middle eastern rice bowls and sandwiches. Of the New York Halal Carts, the most famous is perhaps The Halal Guys. The Halal Guys have a reputation of being really good, but my one attempt to see what they are all about was deterred by the line going up the block. Their countless competitors all serve variations of the same menu with no waiting, so I never actually tried The Halal Guys. Until now. Apparently they have expanded beyond street food and a location was opened in Waterford Lakes.
I tried their combo platter which consisted of yellow rice topped with beef gyro, chicken, lettuce, tomato, white and hot sauces, and several slices of pita. Was it worth the hype? It was okay, but I would be disappointed if I waited in a line spanning a NY city block. Both meats were very plain tasting to me. The gyro reminded me of a hamburger and the chicken lacked seasoning. Not necessary bad, but I normally expect a bit more flavor from middle eastern food.

I wonder if the food from a brick and mortar location of this chain in the suburbs of Orlando is equivalent to a cart serving food on a city street corner? Since their a chain, I would expect so...

Monday, March 12, 2018

Central Florida Fair Food

I visited the Central Florida Fair and had some carnival food. I avoided deep fried Oreos, deep fried Twinkies, deep fried bacon, or anything else deep fried and got food from a booth selling steak. The food was being cooked in big skillets and smelled much better than much of the other fair food.
I tried a sandwich called the Big John. This featured a roll filled with mashed potatoes, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and sirloin tips. The steak was nice and moist with good flavor. Mashed potatoes on sandwiches always seems strange at first glance to me, but it worked here. Overall, this was a much better choice than a corn dog...

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Mason Jar in New Smyrna Beach, FL

Smoothies are a food which I am pretty opinionated about. To me, smoothies are something that I can make myself for much cheaper and usually better than what I can purchase out. That's why I was skeptical when someone took me along to get a smoothie bowl from The Mason Jar in New Smyrna Beach.
I ordered a smoothie bowl called Sunrise Pitaya. The whole concept of a smoothie bowl was a new concept for me. I know they've been a thing, but never anything I payed attention to. I'm assuming there was pitaya/dragon fruit in the smoothie itself, along with other ingredients which were tasty. It was topped with strawberries, bananas, and coconut. The whole bowl did taste really good and was a good portion. Still was a bit pricey though, costing more than a meal at some restaurants...

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Keys Bite in Key Largo, FL

I was in Key Largo on New Years Eve and it was decided that key lime pie should be eaten while there. Restaurant choices were thin since it was a holiday. Based on what was open, we ended up at a restaurant called Keys Bite. They had a diner-like menu, and luckily they did have the pie we were seeking.
The key lime pie was served with whipped cream and a lime slice. It was creamy and tart. Everything that I would have expected a slice of key lime pie to be in the Keys!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Nine Spices Hotpot in Orlando, FL

I visited Nine Spices Hotpot on Kirkman Drive in Orlando. I've been to other hotpot places a few times before, but this one was even more fun because Nine Spices features conveyor belts! At dinner there were a few options including all you can eat from the conveyors for about $24. Other menu options included soups with pre-selected ingredients. I decided on the all you can eat. When you enter the restaurant, take note of the helpful sign telling you the cooking times.
There was a choice of several broths. I tried their Original broth. It was a bit bland on its own, but they had a sauce bar which flavored the broth nicely.
Once the broth quickly came to a boil on the induction stove built into the table, it was time to start cooking food. The conveyors were endlessly being refilled with various ingredients. I started with several items and started cooking!

A post shared by Watch Me Eat (@watchmeeat) on

Dumplings, noodles, lamb, tofu, taro, and greens went into the pot first.
After a few minutes the contents of the pot were scooped out of the broth, eaten, and the whole process repeated!
I had fun eating at Nine Spices. Cooking soup with lots of ingredients chosen from conveyor belts makes for an interesting meal!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Biscuits Restaurant in Longwood, FL

I had dinner at Biscuits in Longwood. They are located in the strip mall behind where Polenia used to be. I had heard that Biscuits has the same owners as Polenia and served a hybrid diner/Polish menu to consolidate their restaurants. Once there, I was sort of surprised to see that the menu pretty much was the same as what used to be offered at Polenia. I was fine with that because I liked the food at Polenia, but I don't quite get the name change to Biscuits. Especially when there were no biscuits on the menu. Maybe at breakfast?
The only biscuits I spotted were on the sign out front and on the artwork of these poodle chefs...
I ordered the Polish Sampler. It came with stuffed cabbage topped with tomato sauce, smoked kielbasa, potato filled pierogi topped with onions and bacon, and sauerkraut. I've eaten this in the past back when Polonia was a restaurant. I liked it back then, and I still liked it at Biscuits. Can't go wrong with a dish that includes potato dumplings and sauerkraut!
The identity of Biscuits/Polonia was confusing and I don't think I was the only one who felt this way. On all of my visits to Polonia in the past, they always seemed to be doing good business. During my visit to Biscuits, we were the only customers in the restaurant. I guess most of Polonia's old customers haven't gotten the message that Biscuits basically is Polonia...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Earls Kitchen + Bar in Orlando, FL

I had lunch at a newish restaurant called Earls Kitchen + Bar in the Mall at Millenia. They are one of the strange outer restaurants that are in the main mall building, but aren't accessible from inside the mall itself. I'm not sure what Earls replaced. I had never eaten at whatever it was.
I had the Chicken Pibil Tacos. The two tacos were served on corn tortillas with nicely marinated chicken, topped with cheese, radish slices, pickled onions, and cilantro. The tacos came with a side and I choose the caesar salad.
The tacos were pretty tasty, but a bit pricey at $14. I've been to plenty of other actual Mexican restaurants in town where I can equivalent, if not better tacos for under $3 each. The caesar salad didn't make up the value difference. I guess they have to make that money for expensive mall rent somehow...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Leaning Palms at Typhoon Lagoon

I visited Typhoon Lagoon at Disney recently. In terms of Orlando water parks, Typhoon Lagoon is the park that I've been to the least. I believe this was the second time I've been there and it has been years since my last visit. Being that it was so long, I was surprisingly pleased with the quality of the oldest water park in Orlando.
While there, I had dinner at a restaurant called Leaning Palms. The menu was typical water park food, mostly consisting of burgers, hot dogs, etc. I ordered the one thing which seemed unique.
The Mojo Chicken was shredded chicken, served with rice, black beans, and plantains. The chicken appeared plain, but was really flavorful. The black beans had sausage mixed in, and the rice and plantains were as expected. I was pleased with my meal.
Food inside of Disney theme parks has been disappointing to me on my more recent visits to the parks. I'm glad this Mojo Chicken changed the trend!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tijuana Flats Flat Outrageous Menu

Tijuana Flats has added a new section to their menu. They call it Flat Outrageous. This new Flat Outrageous menu features street tacos, flautas, and tostadas. I was recently invited to one of the newest Tijuana Flats locations in Orlando near Millenia to sample some of the items from the new menu.

Tijuana Trio: Chips, salsa, queso, and guac. Not from the new Flat Outrageous section of the menu, but chips and dips are always a standard.

Crispy Baja Fish Street Tacos: Crispy fish, chipotle crema, shaved cilantro cabbage, and pineapple salsa.

Jerk Chicken Street Tacos: Crispy jerk chicken, MoreFire! hot sauce, shaved cilantro cabbage, pineapple salsa, and cotija cheese. Of the street tacos, this one was my favorite. It had much more heat than I'd expect from tacos in a chain restaurant.

Lime Steak Street Tacos: Grilled garlic-lime steak, avocado crema, shaved cilantro cabbage, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese.

Philly Cheesesteak Flautas: Cripsy tortillas stuffed with shaved sirloin steak, mozzarella cheese, grilled onions & peppers served with queso.

Bangin' Chicken Tostadas: Cripsy corn tortillas with Smack My Asss Bangin' Chicken, refried beans, cheddar jack cheese, grilled onions & peppers, tomatoes, and ranch dressing. Another item that I really enjoyed. I think this is what I'll be ordering on my next visit to Tijuana Flats.

Cookie Dough Flautas: Chocolate chip cookie dough in a flour tortilla, lightly fried and topped with powdered sugar. Served with a side of chocolate syrup.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hard Rock Cafe World Burger Tour (Orlando, FL)

I was invited to the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando to sample some new burgers from their World Burger Tour menu. As they described it, World Burger Tour is a limited-time offering of Hard Rock Local Legendary Burgers, inspired by the taste and flavors from cafe locations around the world. The World Burger Tour is available at participating Hard Rock Cafe locations around the world now through June 25, 2017.

The burgers being sampled from the World Burger Tour included the:

Seminole Cattlemen Burger (Florida, United States) – pay tribute to the tribe! This Legendary burger is a combination of zippy swamp cabbage, also known as hearts of palm, fresh tomato and tupelo breaded gator tail atop a seasoned Seminole beef patty and smothered in Seminole wing sauce
English Breakfast Burger (London, England) – a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with sliced ham, a sausage patty, a fried egg, a Portobello mushroom, arugula and garlic aioli and served with a side of baked beans
Kimchi Burger (Seoul, South Korea) – a tradition years in the making, Certified Angus Beef patty topped with Sriracha-seasoned kimchi, bulgogi sauce, fresh tomato and lettuce and Sriracha mayo
Jambalaya Burger (Louisiana, United States) – this big easy burger features spiced up Certified Angus Beef fixed with Cajun mayo, pickles, andouille sausage, pepper jack cheese and a jammin’ jambalaya rice cake.
The Jambalaya Burger was my personal favorite of the burgers sampled. The jambalaya rice cake was an interesting touch which I've never seen before. It looked like an onion ring from the outside, but was filled with jambalaya deliciousness inside.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Z-Best Ethiopian Food in Orlando, FL

I ventured down to Lake Eola Park on Earth Day. Earth Day in the park was interesting because the March for Science was happening at the same time as the Central Florida Earth Day celebrations. The two events contrasted a bit with one promoting science alongside another that was promoting a whole lot of pseudoscience. Besides the tents telling me the the horrors of chemtrails, the Earth Day celebrations also had some food vendors which aren't normally in the park. I tried Z-Best Ethiopian Food.
I had their three item combo. I picked a lentil-filled sambusa, collards, and chickpeas. The sambusa was good, similar to a samosa in an Indian restaurant but with a flakier crust. The lentil filling had a nice bit of spice to it. Chickpeas were also good, cooked in a flavorful tomato based sauce. The collards were just okay, with not much standout flavor.
Z-Best was my first time eating Ethiopian food in Orlando. I know there are a couple other Ethiopian restaurants in town that I need to try, but so far I only have one data point. I guess that means Z-Best lives up to their name for now in Orlando.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory in Disney's Port Orleans

I ventured over to Disney's Port Orleans hotel for dinner on a recent evening. After wandering around the property looking at the different food options, I ended up at Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory in the French Quarter section of the hotel. The restaurant was set up food court style, with several different counters serving various menu options.
I tried the Jambalaya. It was served in a large bowl topped with a square of cornbread. As far as taste goes, the jambalaya was good, but it also sort of lacked something. It consisted of chicken, sausage, and rice, and that was about it. I'm used to seeing a little more in jambalaya too. Usually there's vegetables in there as well. Celery, green peppers, and onions seem pretty standard in the dish, but there was no trace of them here.
Someone else ordered the Shrimp and Grits. Definitely the better option. The large portion consisted of a large serving of grits topped with a freshly made serving of shrimp, various vegetables, and sauce. Sundried tomatoes aren't normally in here, but they were added upon request. It was really tasty and definitely outshined the relatively boring jambalaya.
Beignets were also ordered for dessert. Doughnuts topped with powdered sugar are always good, and these were better than other theme park beignets I've come across which are basically square funnel cakes. These were light and fluffy and had the proper beignet consistency.
Although my jambalaya was a little subpar, everything else I tried at Sassagoula Floatworks was good. I'd go back!


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