Friday, September 30, 2011

Little Havana Culinary Tour

I was recently invited to go on a Little Havana Food Tour from Miami Culinary Tours. Little Havana isn't exactly local for me, but it just so happened that I was in South Florida on the weekend that the tour was happening. Little Havana was mostly an unexplored neighborhood of Miami to me. I had driven along Flagler on a couple of occasions, but never been to Calle Ocho, so getting a guided tour to both the neighborhood history and food was wonderful.

The tour started out at a couple of the local art galleries, and then it was time for the first food stop. Casa Panza was one of the only Spanish restaurants in Little Havana, and once seated, huge amounts of food was immediately brought to the table. First up was patatas aioli, which was sort of like a Spanish version of potato salad. This was followed by a bowl of chorizo, and then a plate of fried chickpeas.

Next up was a tour of a Cigar Factory, then more food from El Pub Restaurant. After meeting the 85-year old owner of the restaurant, food was quickly served.

El Pub served two dishes that are apparently Cuban staples. Black bean soup was served first, then several plantain omelets were brought to the table. The plantain omelet were completely new to me and I wasn't sure how I would like the sweet plantains mixed with the savory eggs. It turned out that this was a really good combination.

What visit to Little Havana would be complete without a Cuban sandwich? Our next stop was Exquisito Restaurant where they had several sandwiches waiting for us to eat on the go. This was as classic as Cuban sandwiches come with ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread.

Next stop was Yisell Bakery for some guava filled pasteles. Can't go wrong with guava jam inside of a flaky crust. In fact, I actually returned here after the tour and bought a few guava and cheese pasteles to snack on for the ride home. Can't beat the price of $0.50 each...

The pastry was followed by a stop into Los Pinarenos Fruteria. This fruit stand sold all sorts of tropical fruit, everything from guava to mamey to these Hawaiian bananas.

We were there to try some freshly juiced sugarcane called guarapo. Stalks of sugarcane were fed through a machine and lots of juice came pouring out the other side. This was my first time trying sugarcane juice and I was a bit surprised at the flavor. The guarapo was nowhere as sweet as I was expecting...

A couple of city parks were toured in between some of the food stops, including Domino Park where a large congregation of old men (and a few women) were all participating in very intense games of dominoes and chess. Another park featured a memorial to the people that died in the Bay of Pigs, although I was actually more fascinated by the animal remains scattered around a nearby tree where Santeria is practiced. Back to the food though, our final stop was at El Christo Restaurant for some flan. I'm not a huge fan of plain flan, but we were served cheese flan. The cheese flan was somewhere between a normal flan and a cheesecake, topped with a sweet, syrupy sauce. Really tasty!

After enjoying our flan, the food tour of Little Havana concluded. I had a great time and definitely learned a whole lot about the history of Little Havana and tried foods that I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise. I've heard from quite a few people, as well as from experience, that Little Havana can be somewhat intimidating for non-Spanish speakers since so little English is spoken in the neighborhood. The Little Havana food tour took care of any potential communication issues and I got so much more out of my exploration of the neighborhood then I would of on my own. Totally recommended...

Be sure to check out Miami Culinary Tours online and read all about this tour as well as some of the the other tours they offer:
Website: Miami Culinary Tours
Twitter: @MIACulinaryTour

Casa Panza on UrbanspoonEl Pub on UrbanspoonExquisito Restaurant on UrbanspoonYisell Bakery Cafeteria on UrbanspoonLos Pinarenos Fruteria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dave & Buster's in Orlando, FL

I recently tried the new Dave & Buster's on International Drive. I had a general idea of what Dave & Buster's was before going, but I had never actually been to one.

After spending far too long trying to find parking in their small lot, we sat in the bar area to avoid more waiting. I ordered the Shrimp and Chicken Alfredo for my meal. The pasta had lots of chicken, a few shrimp, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. It tasted okay for what it was, but overall was pretty generic and reminded me a whole lot of pasta from Friday's or Chili's.

The whole thing about Dave & Buster's being an arcade made for adults didn't seem to hold true. To me, the whole setup seemed like a Chuck-E-Cheese where the kids could go run wild and unsupervised in the games while parents could get drunk and watch football in the bar. The games themselves didn't do much for me either. I had problems spending the money we had on our card, just due to the lack of desire to play any of the games they had there. Go up the street to Fun Spot for a much better arcade in my opinion, without wall to wall screaming kids and their drunk parents. Or even better, go to DisneyQuest...

Dave & Buster's on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Summit Coffee in Davidson, NC

One last snack in Downtown Davidson came from a place called Summit Coffee. Didn't try any hot beverages, but instead had a chocolate croissant. Definitely a yummy pastry...

Summit Coffee on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bellacino's Pizza & Grinders in Davidson, NC

I was up at Davidson College for an event that included pizza from Bellacino's Pizza & Grinders. Apparently Bellacino's is a pizza chain up in other parts of the country, but it was completely new to me.

They cut their round pizzas into square slices, which just seems strange and anti-intuitive to me. I tried three different types of pie. One was called Pride, which had a little of everything on it. I also tried the veggie pizza, as well as a slice of normal pepperoni. As far as chain pizza goes, this was pretty good. I would definitely rank Bellacino's Pizza far above Pizza Hut/Papa John's/Dominos, although there was no comparison between this and a good NY style pie.

Bellacino's Pizza & Grinders on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Egg at Davidson Cafe in Davidson, NC

Another meal in Davidson, NC was at the Egg at Davidson Cafe. We were told that apparently this place has really good breakfasts, but I decided to get lunch here instead. I ordered a blackened fish sandwich with a side of macaroni salad.

The sandwich was alright, but I personally would have preferred more toppings on it. Served with nothing but fish, tarter sauce, and bread, the sandwich was a little on the boring side. Lettuce and tomato at the least would have been nice. The macaroni salad was really tasty though with a strong peppery flavor.

Should have gotten some sort of breakfast...

Egg at Davidson Café on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Soda Shop in Davidson, NC

I spent a weekend up in Davidson, NC. For breakfast one morning, I picked up takeout from a place called The Soda Shop. Located in Downtown Davidson, just across from Davidson College, this restaurant had somewhat of a 50's diner look.

I ordered an egg & cheese breakfast sandwich on a biscuit with a side of home fries. When I opened my food, I was actually a little surprised to see the eggs were on a tiny two-inch diameter biscuit. The cheese was also nowhere to be found on the sandwich. The home fries were good and the orange slice was a nice touch.

The food tasted okay, but when the cheese is missing from an egg & cheese sandwich, that's a big issue. Really though, I wasn't in Davidson for the food. I got takeout here to go across the street and help set the world record for most people paddle balling at once. When you're having fun like that, who cares if a restaurant leaves cheese off a sandwich...

Soda Shop on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 16, 2011

Boardwalk Pizza in Winter Park, FL

I shared a cheese pie from Boardwalk Pizza in Winter Park. The pizza was pretty middle of the road in my opinion. A little messy looking and nothing outstanding, but not bad either. If I was hungry and in the area, I might stop in here to get a slice or two...

Boardwalk Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sal's Italian Ice in Sanford, FL

Sal's Italian Ice
Sal's Italian Ice is a small drive-in dessert place in Sanford. On my most recent visit there, I had half lemon and mango ice.
Mango & Lemon
Sal's Italian Ice on Urbanspoon

Sal's also had another location in Lake Mary for a while. Recently I noticed it's now called Nick's Ice Cream, but that won't stop me from posting a picture of my strawberry lemonade and peach ice from this location.

Sal's has some pretty good ices, but something about them doesn't put Sal's above Versini's or Jeremiah's. To me, their ices seem to taste more artificial compared to their competition, putting them a notch below. Still, that won't stop me from getting some Italian ices from Sal's when I'm in Sanford.

Sal's Italian Ice & Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 12, 2011

Melissa's Chicken & Waffles in Orlando, FL

Before Melissa's Chicken & Waffles rolled into town, the combination of fried chicken and breakfast items seemed very strange to me. The truck seemed to be getting huge lines at all the food truck events, so I figured something good must be served there and I finally gave them a try.

I tried a Chicken & Waffle at the Lake Lily Food Truck Pod. I choose to have it topped with gravy since I wasn't feeling syrup on fried chicken. The whole thing was eaten like a huge sandwich with the waffle folded around the chicken. The batter on the chicken was nice and spicy and the gravy was tasty. In the end, it turned out to be far too much fried food for one serving, but the chicken & waffle was good regardless. I'd order this again...

On another occasion, I tried the Blueberry Cheesecake Waffle from Melissa's at the Firestone Food Truck Pod. This was more along the lines of what I would expect on a big waffle, topped with cheesecake, blueberries, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. Good, but the price on this waffle seemed a little high compared to the chicken waffle.

I'd definitely give Melissa's Chicken & Waffles another try. Since food trucks started getting big in Orlando, I've definitely expanded my food repertoire. Thanks to a food truck, I can now say I like chicken & waffles!

Melissa's Chicken and Waffles Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 9, 2011

Green Tea Chinese Drive Thru in Palm Bay, FL

I had lunch in Palm Bay at a place called Green Tea Chinese Drive Thru. The restaurant was located inside an old Checkers building and the sign out front advertized $3.75 lunch specials. The place looked really run down from the road, but there was a line of cars waiting for food. This either meant American's are too lazy to exit their cars at a non drive in Chinese restaurant, or it meant the food was good...

I ordered the shrimp with broccoli lunch. The large shrimp were served with broccoli and carrots in a brown sauce, alongside pork fried rice and an egg roll. The food was pretty standard as far as Chinese take out places go, but regardless, I'd go back.

Green Tea on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gators Dockside in Lake Mary, FL

Gator's Dockside is a chain that opened in the Central Florida area several years ago. In all that time, I had never tried them, that is until recently. Gator's Dockside is set up like a pretty standard sports bar. Being a sports bar and all, I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered a gyro. Turned out to be better than I was expecting. Two pitas were filled with lamb, tazitiki, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Fries were served on the side. Pretty good for Greek food from a chain sports bar in Lake Mary...

Gator's Dockside on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sandbar Sports Grill in Cocoa Beach, FL

When I ate at this restaurant back in 2011, I was under the impression that I was eating at Captain J's Ocean Deck. Apparently Captain J's is the restaurant next door. I have since found out that this blog post is actually about Sandbar Sports Grill. Read on:
Sandbar Sports Grill is a bar in Cocoa Beach located a block away from Ron Jon. I wasn't expecting much when I ordered a pizza from a place like this, but it turned out to be surprisingly good. The crust was thin, bubbly in spots, and almost cracker-like. Cheese and sauce were in good proportion and had good flavor. Definitely not a bad pizza for a beachside bar...

Sandbar Sports Grill on Urbanspoon


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