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The Orlando Sentinel
Eateries Fill Plates With Lots Of Choice
by Scott Joseph
November 26, 2000
As Central Florida becomes increasingly diverse with converging cultures and nationalities, our restaurant scene benefits.
For many years we`ve had a good representation of Cuban cuisine. A decade ago, Numero Uno, 2499 S. Orange Ave., Orlando, was arguably the most popular Cuban restaurant in town. Its original owner then opened Rolando`s, 870 E. State Road 436 in Casselberry. Both are now owned by the same people, natives of the Dominican Republic.
Joining those two fine restaurants in serving good Cuban food to Central Floridians are a number of places worth visiting. Don Pepe`s has been serving good Cuban food at state roads 434 and 436 for almost eight years. El Bohio, 5756 Dahlia Drive, Orlando, has great stuffed yuca and sweet fried plantains, ropa vieja and delicious flan for dessert. Medina`s, 2405 E. Washington St., Orlando, serves all the Cuban favorites in a cozy space next door to a market.
And now we`re seeing even more diversification. Today we have true Spanish cuisine at Costa del Sol, 947 N. Semoran Blvd. in Orlando, with such delicacies as callos a la Madrilena, tortilla Espanola, and zarzuela de marisco.
And, Orlando now has two true Mexican cafes that are educating local palates on the differences between Mexican and Tex-Mex. Mexico Grill, at 1204 State Road 436 in Forest City, is a charming, unassuming restaurant that serves wonderful food such as a whole fried red snapper, a carnitas platter and fried ice cream for dessert.
At Margarita`s Grill, 587 S. Chickasaw Trail, Orlando, the Mexican dishes are the real thing, and all of the desserts are worth a splurge.
Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic restaurants have entered the mix. Both are represented at Cuchifritos Hot 2 Stay, 435 N. Semoran Blvd., Orlando, where the menu includes many fried dishes as well as chicken with yellow rice and mondongo, or beef tripe soup. There`s also a selection of orejitas con guineos, or pork ears with boiled green bananas.
At Brisas del Caribe, 5773 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, you can get tripletas de mariscos, with octopus, conch and shrimp served in cup-shaped tostones. Or the Puerto Rican version of fried pork chunks, which are similar to the Cuban fried pork, but a little crispier.
At Patio`s Cafe, 6096 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, you`ll find beef round stuffed with ham, codfish, kingfish, boiled pork chops with vegetables, beef stew, pork chunks and breaded steak.
Next door to Patio`s you can sample the food of Ecuador, served in a corner of a grocery store called La Familia.
Brazil is represented with a few restaurants in the tourist corridor, but also at Brazilian Pavilion, 140 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park.Camarao Ipanema, shrimp sauteed in a sherry sauce with fresh herbs, and peixe a Brasileira, shrimp and a grouper fillet topped with a sauce of chopped tomatoes, onions, green peppers and garlic, grace the menu.
Universal Studio`s CityWalk has made a big splash with its Latin Quarter, where the menu does not feature traditional preparations of classics, but rather what it calls "nuevo Latino," or new Latin cuisine, which takes the ingredients and flavors of traditional dishes and puts a creative spin on them.