Dining

Space Coast Restaurants: Dixie Crossroads

by on March 6, 2015

Cape Canaveral Platter - Natalie Reinert

The Cape Canaveral Special – local seafood from Dixie Crossroads in Titusville.

Looking for the freshest seafood in Florida? If you’re visiting Port Canaveral or Cocoa Beach on your Florida vacation, you’re in for a treat — the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean have been keeping fishermen, chefs, and the diners who love them busy for generations. It’s a haven for seafood lovers, but not every restaurant is really serving up the local catch. There are plenty of worthy Space Coast restaurants, but if you’re looking for a seafood restaurant with a unique local history, Dixie Crossroads is a must-visit.

Dixie Crossroads has been serving up a variety of fresh Florida seafood for decades. When in-season, the menu offers up local mullet from the Indian River, oysters, wild-caught shrimp, scallops, even Maine Lobster — but its real claim to fame is the delicacy that Dixie Crossroads invented all on their own: broiled rock shrimp. You’ve never had rock shrimp, you say? Well then my dears, you haven’t lived.

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The Demographic Disney Forgot: Best Disney World Resorts for Teen Boys

by on March 4, 2015

The Disney Parks were designed with families in mind, to serve as escapes from the real world where parents and kids can have fun together. But have you ever noticed that a certain element of the family tends to be overlooked? Do you know what it is? It’s the demographic Disney forgot: teen boys. Now I’m not a teenage boy, but I do have a teenage brother who loves Disney World, despite the lack of commercials and ads directed toward his age group; and so, I sat down with him for the scoop on what Disney World has to offer teen boys like himself. Last time, I covered the Best Disney World Restaurants for Teen Boys; but for today, I’m focusing on where to stay in this installment of The Demographic Disney Forgot: Best Disney World Resorts for Teen Boys.

6. Art of Animation Resort

Art of Animation

The Cars Wing of the Art of Animation Resort

Disney World’s newest Value Resort is a celebration of animation and lets guests walk right into the middle of several popular Disney films, such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Pixar’s Cars, and Pixar’s Finding Nemo. The Art of Animation Resort is unique in that it offers family suites which accommodate up to six family members, as well as more heavily themed rooms than what you find at other resorts on property.This particular resort may sound like a surprising pick for teen boys; but my teen Disney Bro has loved this resort since the first time he visited and was quick to name it to this list. The Cars wing is by far his favorite. You really do feel like you’ve walked into Radiator Springs with the life-size Cars characters, the Cozy Cone Motel, and other familiar fixtures from the hit film. The resort’s food court, Landscape of Flavors, is also a big hit with my teen Disney Bro. He likes the build-your-own stations where he can tailor dishes to his own tastes; and he thinks the Big Blue Pool is pretty cool as well. This pool is the largest hotel pool at Disney World and has underwater speakers playing Disney tunes! It’s amazing! The Art of Animation is bright, colorful, and packed with Disney characters, so it may not be for all teen boys; but if your teen still smiles at the sight of Nemo and Simba and Mater, or perhaps possesses some artistic talents, this resort may be for them.

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Foodie Awards: Where Locals Eat (Part 2)

by on March 2, 2015

Thank you all so much for the feedback on part 1. One comment was about how there were a lot of mediocre and not-too-original places on the list. For this part, you’ll see quite a few more interesting spots—and one exception that sticks out like a sore thumb.

If you haven’t read part 1, the brief recap is that the Orlando area has a lot of amazing dining options, many of which are near Walt Disney World. Readers of the Orlando Sentinel newspaper vote on them. The food critic weighs in. And the results are shared. You can read part 1 here. And now, here’s the second round of the award-winning restaurants.

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice (Readers’ Choice: Best Frozen Treats), 4750 The Grove Dr., Windermere.

While the gelati they have is good, there’s a reason why it is called Jeremiah’s Italian Ice. If you’re going there, try a sample of some of their unique flavors in the gelati and Italian ice rotation, including cotton candy, horchata, salted sea caramel, and Key West tropical.

At Menchie's, pick your frozen yogurt, your toppings, and the amount of each and pay by the ounce. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

At Menchie’s, pick your frozen yogurt, your toppings, and the amount of each and pay by the ounce. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Menchie’s (Runner-Up, Readers’ Choice: Best Frozen Treats), Multiple Locations

I am old enough to remember when frozen yogurt started to become “a thing”. This ain’t the TCBY from my teen years! Come in, grab a cup, and fill it up with as much or as little of a variety of self-serve flavors and dozens of toppings, then pay by the pound. (Or, if I had the option to eat there every day, I would pay by [putting on] the pounds! But it’s yogurt, so it’s healthy, right?)

Biergarten (Runner-Up, Readers’ Choice: Best German), Epcot

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 26, 2015

by on February 26, 2015

Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re spending evenings in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, having dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby, and visiting Animal Kingdom for some bright blue skies. Three parks in one week! This is going to be a blast, let’s get going! :)

First, check out this view from the entrance of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios! You can almost see what this will look like once the hat is completely removed. While it was sad to watch it come apart, in the end I’m glad it’s gone. I can’t wait to see the last pieces removed and this view restored. What do you think now that it’s coming together? Do you still miss the hat?

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Want to see more fun from all around Disney World this week? Click to read more. 

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Best Themed Restaurants at Disney World

by on February 23, 2015

CrystalPalace

The level of detail that Disney Imagineers put into the theming of the parks is astonishing. If I can be perfectly content just sitting in an area and soaking in all the details, then that to me is a wonderfully themed area of a Disney park. The same goes for Disney dining. Obviously, food quality comes first but with the premium that you’re going to pay at Disney, I always try to eat at restaurants that are immersive and give me that feeling that I’ve actually entered the setting that the Imagineers were trying to convey. If you have that same desire to be transported away during your next Disney dining experience then you’re in the right place. Below, you’ll find a list of my personal five best themed restaurants at Disney World. Each of these restaurants has excellent theming that will surely enhance your meal. Luckily, the food happens to be great at each of them as well.

 

5. Flame Tree Barbecue

Might have to talk to your kids about the birds and the...snakes?

Might have to talk to your kids about the birds and the…snakes?

Starting off our list is the only quick service entry and the only outdoor entry on our list. Located in Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree Barbecue is my favorite place to eat a meal outdoors in the parks. Animal Kingdom is already a beautiful park so it’s no surprise that Flame Tree lives up to its park’s reputation. There are both covered seating areas and more sunny areas that are overlooking the water with Everest in the distance. There’s also a beautiful pond/pool towards the back of the seating area as well. Along with the great views, the covered areas I mentioned before are cool looking and come complete with a surprisingly “real” Circle of Life theme. Each patio features a predator eating its prey, which shows that Disney can take the kid gloves off every once in a while without going over the top. When it comes down to it, Flame Tree has arguably the best counter service food and best outdoor seating areas in the parks, which make it my fifth most atmospheric restaurant at Disney World. Note: Flame Tree is currently closed during Rivers of Light construction at Animal Kingdom, though some of its seating is open and you can find your smoked meats other places in the park.

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Foodie Awards: Where Locals Eat (Part 1)

by on February 23, 2015

Every major area has their town’s “best of” competition, and Orlando is no exception. Each year, the Orlando Sentinel runs an extensive foodie competition where readers and critics weigh in on the best of various cuisines throughout the Orlando metro area. A surprising (or not so surprising, depending on your view) number of these restaurants are located near the Walt Disney World resort, and make great options for times when you want to drive off property for a little something different than “normal” Walt Disney World dining.

I’ve gone through the restaurants and compiled all of the restaurants that are less than 10 miles from Walt Disney World here. And yes, I’ve eaten at many of them. (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.) So if you’re looking for a change of pace, here’s some places to try.

Boma (Readers’ Choice: Best African). Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Jiko (Runner-Up: Readers’ Choice: Best African). Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Both Boma and Jiko are perennial favorites in The Unofficial Guide, so it is no surprise they rate highly in this award as well. The African-inspired cuisine is not only delicious, but very approachable, even for cautious eaters.

Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Publix Super Market (Runner-Up: Readers’ Choice: Best Bakery). Various locations near Walt Disney World.

It may come as a surprise for people outside of Florida that Publix was a winner for best bakery, but the Publix bakery has a pretty devoted following within the Sunshine State. Insider tip: Kids get a free cookie just by stopping by.

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (Readers’ Choice: Best Bar Menu; Runner-Up: Readers’ Choice: Best Burger). 6000 Universal Boulevard at Universal CityWalk.

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SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys”)

by on February 21, 2015

BurgyStatue

The most coveted theme park award of all… The Golden Burgy.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents the Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards. This weekend, while the rest of the world is preparing for The Oscars and spending hours watching awards given to films they haven’t even heard of, let alone watched (not to mention the outright Best Picture snubs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), readers of this column will be able to see their favorite theme park attractions get the attention they deserve. The Golden Burgy, theme park media’s highest award, is being handed out to the rides, shows, restaurants, and experiences that truly stood out over the past year.

Just as the Academy Awards hand out their lesser prizes before the main show, we’d like to present two of our minor awards before we get to the big ones. First, a Golden Burgy goes to the Holy Land Experience in the category of Best Theme Park Food Pun for their Garden of Eaten Chicken Salad Sandwich. Interestingly enough, Holy Land had all the nominees in this category including JerusaLamb, Land of Milk (no honey,and My Cup Overflows Souvenir Refillable Cup. The category of Biggest Theme Park Free Fall experience was the tightest race of all the nominees. Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens was the favorite to win, but the coveted Golden Burgy instead went to SeaWorld’s stock price. Now that’s a drop.

With those out of the way, allow us to present to you the Inaugural SATURDAY SIX Theme Park Awards, starting with…

# 6 – Best New Ride Experience – Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts 

Gringotts1_Bricker

The rotunda inside Gringotts bank includes an incredible view. And this is just the queue! (photo by Tom Bricker)

What else needs to be said about Universal’s newest E-Ticket attraction? The queue for Escape From Gringotts is one of the best in theme park history, loaded with magical details from the Harry Potter films. There are incredible goblin animatronics and million dollar chandeliers hanging above that make the Gringotts Bank lobby almost an attraction by itself.

Unlike IOA’s Forbidden Journey’s “best of” trip through the first four Potter films, Escape From Gringotts places guests directly into events from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Ingeniously showing a movie scene from another perspective, Escape From Gringotts takes Universal’s motto of Ride The Movies to the next level.

Worst New Ride Experience – Being attacked by bees on Rip Ride Rocket 

RipRideRockitBees_Cleary

“Oh the humanity!” Swarms of bees attack riders on Universal Studios Florida’s Rip Ride Rockit. (photo by Mike Sperduto and Matt Cleary.)

While just a minor blip on the radar in 2014, the story of Rip Ride Rockit having a minor problem with bees was enough for us to envision the plot of a new horror film.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 19, 2015

by on February 19, 2015

201Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re enjoying meals not just at Kona Cafe, but also Finnegan’s Bar & Grill over at Universal. Of course, we’re also visiting the Universal Orlando Parks, Downtown Disney, and stopping by the Magic Kingdom too. I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all into just one blog! Let’s figure it out together. :)

For Valentine’s Day lunch we couldn’t think of a better place than Kona Cafe. The food is wonderful and the setting is comfy and casual. Traffic was worse than we’d anticipated so we made it to the podium exactly on time for our 12:30pm reservation. Of course, that meant we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. They seemed quite short staffed with several empty tables despite gobs of people waiting outside. It was nice to have the tables next to us open, though. Our appetizer of potstickers ($8.49) were super yummy and came out so quickly they beat our drinks!

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Want to see what we ordered? Be sure to click to read more!

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Menu Monday: Best Counter Service Restaurant at Hollywood Studios

by on February 16, 2015

We continue this journey to find the best counter service restaurants in Hollywood Studios.  Hollywood Studios has to be one of the hardest counter service options to track because the menus and prices tend to change for each season. Add in the continuing construction, and things are bound to change. Before your next trip to the Studios, be sure to check out the latest menus for options and prices either at the Touring Plans menu page, or at the official Walt Disney World menu page. With that said, most of the menu staples will stay consistent. If a counter service location offers burgers and sandwiches, you can expect for it to be consistent, but you may find an updated price or a new “gourmet” option available. If you missed previous entries, be sure to read all about the best counter service options in Magic Kingdom, as well as in Animal Kingdom. To refresh your memory, here is the grading scale I’ve used to determining how each counter service location has earned it’s ranking:

  • Value (portion/cost ratio) = 10 points
  • Flavor = 10 points
  • Originality = 5 points
  • Atmosphere = 5 points
  • Grand total = 30 possible points

Sunset Boulevard Restaurant Row

Catalina Eddie's, Rosie's All-American Café, and Fairfaxe Fare are all located on Sunset Boulevard near Tower of Terror.

Catalina Eddie’s, Rosie’s All-American Café, and Fairfaxe Fare are all located on Sunset Boulevard near Tower of Terror.

It may seem like cheating, but due to the proximity of all of these options in the same area. They can easily be viewed as one dining location with multiple options, similar to the concept of the food court at your local mall. Catalina Eddie’s, Fairfax Fare, and Rosie’s All-American Café are all situated at the end of Sunset Boulevard, near the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Because of this prime real estate by two of the park’s powerhouse rides, and the fact that the three restaurants share the same seating area, this place gets packed quickly. It’s often a spot for families to gather and wait while a portion of their party experiences one ride or the other (or both). Because of this, finding an open table is tricky, and it gets busy early in the day and stays that way. The best plan of attack is to find a table before ordering food, then go in shifts to the location that appeals to your taste buds while another holds the table while you order. Never leave a child alone, but if you’re traveling with a several adults or teenagers, this is the best strategy.

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Menu Monday: Cowfish at Universal CityWalk Orlando Review

by on February 16, 2015

Cowfish Logo

Cowfish Logo

 

Disclosure: Please note that while we were not compensated for our meal, we were seated at Cowfish by management after my husband spoke to someone at corporate office.

Despite the fact that we’ve been driving down the road to party it up at Universal Studios Orlando for nearly eight years now, it’s hard to pry my husband and me away from our beloved outdoor bars and into restaurants. Hey, we like to people-watch… how else would I be able to snobbishly judge passersby on the nerd culture displayed on their clothing? So we were a little disappointed to hear that one of CityWalk’s newest establishments, the sushi-burger fusion place Cowfish, had nixed its outdoor bar food service literally the day before we arrived. Typically, that’s how you get lazy, food-obsessed locals to swear vengeance on your establishment… hey, my name isn’t Inigo Montoya, I take my vendettas where I can. Cowfish’s menu had come so highly recommended, however, and from so many different people, that we had to give it a try. Turns out, it’s a good thing we did, since Cowfish is really, really worth the trip. Enough that we went twice just to tell you about different things!

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