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Even Wallet Can Relax At Patio's Café

Tasty, inexpensive, clean and quick. Patio's Café is perfect for a fast family meal.

By Linda Shrieves | Sentinel Staff Writer

March 13, 2003
Copyright © 2003
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

For people with kids, there are two kinds of restaurants: Destination restaurants and down-home joints.

Destination restaurants are those places with themes and entertainment and even playgrounds. But down-home joints are for those days when you need a quick meal that's tasty and cheap.

Those are places where you duck in for a bite of fried chicken and glass of iced tea, a Cuban sandwich and a soda. A respite from the busy world.

And that's exactly what you'll find at Patio's Café, a tiny, tidy Puerto Rican eatery located in the shadow of the Home Depot in east Orlando.

The eatery is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the regular clientele are workmen, an array of construction workers and carpenters who run to Home Depot for supplies and squeeze in for a bite. But step inside the clean eatery, with its Formica-topped tables, aqua-colored carpeting and white walls and you'll find some of the best bargains in town.

Here, you'll get a plate of fried chicken, or stuffed pork chops or chicken stew or roast chicken, with sides of black beans and rice or plantains for $5 or less.

Here's the drill. The restaurant is set up cafeteria-style. Walk up, check out the hot line and the array of up to 12 entrees. Don't be shy. If you don't know what something is, ask. The staffers are friendly and, although most of the clientele speaks Spanish, the folks behind the counter don't mind explaining ingredients and flavors. For example, one afternoon I was intrigued by an olive salad. It turned out to be octopus salad, heavily laden with green and black olives.

And for those who don't want something from the cafeteria line, there's also the grill, where you can get a hamburger for $1.25, a hot dog or a good Cuban sandwich for $3.25.

One Saturday afternoon, on a day of errands that culminated at Home Depot, we popped in for a quick bite. My husband ordered a huge breaded pork chop ($4.95), with black beans and rice and plantains, while I debated and finally settled on the chicken stew ($4.25), with black beans and rice and plantains. The kids weren't in the mood for Cuban and/or Puerto Rican, so Jackson, 8, ordered a hamburger with fries and Caroline, 6, asked for a hot dog.

Grab a soda or bottled water out of the coolers and head for the register with your plates of food -- and you might be in for a real shock. Our dinner tallied less than $20. With two large plates of food, plus two children's meals, that's quite a bargain.

The food was good -- and the selections change occasionally. So if you're feeling adventurous -- or frugal -- check this place out.

Only one drawback. Remember that if the kids order a burger or hot dog from the grill, their food will arrive at the table 10 or 15 minutes after you have begun chowing down with your cafeteria tray. Our kids grew grumpy as they watched us eat. Solution: Order the hot dog or hamburger first, and then peruse the selections on the hot line.

And if your mission to Home Depot left you low on cash, there's good news. Patio's Café does accept credit cards.

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