Soul Food

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Gyudon, literally beef bowl, is a popular Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a mildly sweet sauce flavored with dashi (fish and seaweed stock), soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine).

In 1899 Eikichi Matsuda opened the first Yoshinoya restaurant, at the fish market in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district.

Gyudon can be found in many Japanese restaurants and some fast food chains specialize exclusively in the dish. The largest gy?don fast food chains in Japan are Chikara Meshi, Yoshinoya Matsuya, and Sukiya.

Last year, during our visit to Tokyo, we visited one of the many chains available around the city and absolutely loved the sweet and salty flavors of the simple beef rice bowl.

At Chikara Meshi, the bowls were about 300 yen (a little less than $3 USD) and came with a few tasty slices of gyu beef over rice. You ordered at the machine – a vending touch screen – and are issued a ticket receipt. After a few moments, a attendant brings out the bowl orders for your party at the bar stool dining area.

Locally in Orlando, folks can get their gyudon fix on at any number of the Japanese restaurants around town, but I particularly recommend the renditions at Sapporo Ramen, Aki of Japan, Sushi Tomi, Hanamizuki, and Sushi Kichi.

Shibuya - One of Tokyo's busiest wards
Shibuya – One of Tokyo’s busiest wards
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Dining area inside Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Dining area inside Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Vending / Touchscreen Ordering machine atTokyo Chikara Meshi
Vending / Touchscreen Ordering machine atTokyo Chikara Meshi
The beef bowl
The beef bowl
Gyudon beef rice bowl at Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Gyudon beef rice bowl at Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Corn sides
Corn sides

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They also serve mapo tofu bowls
They also serve mapo tofu bowls
Yoshinoya another beef bowl chain
Yoshinoya another beef bowl chain
Matsuya
Matsuya

Ingredients

1 medium onion
10-12oz (300-350g) beef, thinly sliced
(you can get the hot pot beef sliced at 1st Oriental or 1st Spring Market in Orlando)
1 1/2 cup Dashi
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp Mirin
2 1/2 Tbsp Sake
2 tsp ginger, grated
1/2 Tbsp Salt
White Pepper
pickled red ginger (Benishouga)
steamed rice

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Instructions

Slice onion thinly, and cut sliced beef in 2″ width.

Boil Dashi in a pot and add sliced onion.

Cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add soy sauce, sugar, salt, and Sake and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Add grated ginger and pepper to taste.

Add sliced beef in pot and stir.

Cook about 5 minutes.

Pour meat and sauce over rice and top with pickled red ginger.

Add egg over easy if desired to rice.

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Fried Pork Chop before being smothered

Located on Carter Street just west of downtown Orlando and east of Orange Blossom Trail, Nikki’s Place is one of the last few places specializing in soul food in Orlando. The place itself is small and humble, with only a few dining tables and a minimally decorated space. The walls are adorned with various newspaper clippings and photos with community leaders and celebrities who have visited over time.

Despite its humble setting, quite a few Mercedes and Lexus cars were parked out front, and a few folks from the city could be identified eating inside. I wondered to my dining companion that afternoon if this was like Orlando’s own version of Freddy’s BBQ joint from the House of Cards, where Mr. Frank Underwood would go to scheme his political ascent over a plate of ribs.

The restaurant actually has quite the history as outlined in the Nikki’s Place article by Orlando Sentinel’s Heather Mcpherson. Although known as Nikki’s Place since 1999, the restaurant was originally opened in 1949 and was known as Roser’s Restaurant. The restaurant continues in the tradition of serving good Southern comfort food, simple and straightforward.

Courses here for lunch come with two sides as well as a freshly baked cornbread muffin. Diners can choose from a list ranging from chitterlings to ox tails, fried chicken, smothered rib tips, pork neck bones, pig tails and pig ears, all the wonderful bits and pieces that make traditional Southern cuisine so delicious.

My dining companion ordered the Fried Tilapia with sweet rutabagas and collard greens ($8.25) while I ordered the Fried Pork Chop with mac and cheese and collard greens ($9.00).

Portions are not outrageous as some other soul food places have known to be, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was just the right amount to be full but not overstuffed, particularly the side portions.

My collard greens and mac and cheese were both very good while my pork chop was fried to a nice juicy crisp. I had actually wanted the smothered pork chop, and the staff were kind enough to bring a small cup of the gravy and onions to smother my pork chop in after inquiring.

Overall, a very enjoyable lunch and will likely return to this neighborhood spot to try some of their sweet potato pie.

On Wednesdays, they have a $5.00 Wednesday plate special including Smothered Steak, Rib Tips, BBQ Riblets, Fried Wings, Turkey Necks, Beef Stew, And Meat Loaf.

Closed Tuesdays.

Nikki's Place on Urbanspoon

Entrance
Entrance
Interior of Nikki's Place
Interior of Nikki’s Place
Menu at Nikki's Place
Menu at Nikki’s Place
Menu at Nikki's Place
Menu at Nikki’s Place

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Fried Tilapia with rutabaga and collard greens
Fried Tilapia with rutabaga and collard greens
Fried Pork Chop before being smothered
Fried Pork Chop before being smothered
Smothered Pork Chop with mac and cheese and collard greens
Smothered Pork Chop with mac and cheese and collard greens
Nikki's Place Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.
Nikki’s Place Co-Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.
Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer with Nikki's Place Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.
Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer with Nikki’s Place Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.

Chicken and Waffles with Bourbon Maple syrup at The Coop

Update: Saturday April 19, 2014 –

The Coop has officially opened! Here are a few shots from our recent visit on a Saturday afternoon. The line, of course, was out the door…

The hours are:

Monday – Friday
11-2 and 5-9

Saturday
11-9

Sunday – Closed

The phone number is: 1-407-THE-COOP ((407) 843-2667) – They are not taking to -go orders yet, so you’ll have to wait in line for now!

Looking at the line at the Coop
Looking at the line at the Coop
Outdoor line
Outdoor line
Interior of The Coop - mismatched chairs and tables, family settings...
Interior of The Coop – mismatched chairs and tables, family settings…
The line at The Coop, inside!
The line at The Coop, inside!
Counter service - reminded me of Boston Market a little bit...
Counter service – reminded me of Boston Market a little bit…
The menu in the back.
The menu in the back.
I think it would help to label the dishes
I think it would help to label the dishes
Assembly line / Fast Casual concept
Assembly line / Fast Casual concept
Fried Chicken with Cinnamon bread pudding and mac-n-cheese sides at The Coop - the chicken was a bit too peppery today
Fried Chicken with Cinnamon bread pudding and mac-n-cheese sides at The Coop.
Shrimp N Grits
Shrimp N Grits with Tasso Ham
The Fried Seafood Basket at The Coop
The Fried Seafood Basket at The Coop
My friend's Fried Green Tomatoes and Mac-N-Cheese
My friend’s Fried Green Tomatoes and Mac-N-Cheese
Chicken n Waffles and watermelon from The Coop
Chicken n Waffles and watermelon from The Coop

Overall impressions on first visit, definitely worth a try, despite some missteps. The assembly line nature at the counter could be improved to enhance overall experience – it all seemed a bit rushed once getting to the front. The fried chicken was a bit too dry and there seemed to be a bit of a heavy hand with the black pepper today. The mac and cheese was fabulous, though, as was the shrimp and grits with tasso ham. I am sure they will figure out all the kinks and have a lot of success in the coming days, though.

The menu

Photo Apr 19, 4 28 40 PM

Photo Apr 19, 4 28 18 PM

Photo Apr 19, 4 28 25 PM

Photo Apr 19, 4 28 32 PM

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Original Date posted – February 13, 2014

For the past year or so, Chef John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse has been quietly tilling away at the kitchen in search of the perfect recipe for fried chicken, quietly testing his recipes and hatching ideas in creating a new refined Southern menu for The Coop (http://asouthernaffair.com/), and the results are astounding.

To say my mind was blown when tasting some of the dishes at a recent preview of the menu is an understatement. The chicken and biscuit, for example, may sound innocuous at first, but the fried chicken, made with dark thigh meat instead of white breast meat – which tends to be dry, was tender and juicy while the biscuit itself was a little sweet and fluffy and together with the bourbon maple syrup – it was divine. I do reckon that bourbon maple syrup that they’ve come up with is going to be a favorite in any Southern kitchen for years to come.

Chicken and biscuits made with juicy fried dark chicken thigh meat
Chicken and biscuits made with juicy fried dark chicken thigh meat

John Rivers wants The Coop to be a place known for its refined, not “gourmet”, Southern comfort food, something that you’d feel welcome to eating at home on your porch on a weekend Florida afternoon, with dishes like the low country shrimp and grits, made with savory, flavorful grits cooked in a chicken/shrimp broth and tender sausage and tasso ham made from a home recipe. The menu has hints of both New Orleans Cajun cuisine and Carolinas low country southern food from the shrimp po boy sandwiches to the Charleston Shrimp Perloo, a dirty rice dish that’s a cousin of the jambalaya and more distantly the Spanish paella. The Coop is much more than about just fried chicken.

No wonder Visit Orlando – the official Tourism Bureau for Central Florida – among its list of “Top 10 Reasons for Visiting Orlando in 2014” included The Coop, the only local restaurant among a sea of theme park attractions and developments. Get ready for a very delightful March when The Coop opens its doors in Winter Park for the first time – it will be a year for fried chicken all around. The phone number is 407-The-COOP and the address is 610 West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park, FL 32789 – I suggest you bookmark it in your GPS/Google Maps now. The COOP will be open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will be closed on Sundays. For more information, visit www.asouthernaffair.com.

Chef John Rivers presenting the Coop's Chicken and Waffles
Chef John Rivers presenting the Coop’s Chicken and Waffles
Chicken and Waffles with Bourbon Maple syrup at The Coop
Chicken and Waffles with Bourbon Maple syrup at The Coop
Shrimp Po Boy, influenced by New Orleans cajun cuisine
Shrimp Po Boy, influenced by New Orleans cajun cuisine
Charleston Shrimp Perloo - a rice dish from the Carolinas
Charleston Shrimp Perloo – a rice dish from the Carolinas
The Coop's Deviled Eggs
The Coop’s Deviled Eggs
Broccoli salad with cranberries, pine nuts, red onion
Broccoli salad with cranberries, pine nuts, red onion

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Low Country Shrimp and Grits with house made Tasso ham and sausage

Mac and 3 Cheeses - Gruyere, Parmesan, and Cheddar cheese
Mac and 3 Cheeses – Gruyere, Parmesan, and Cheddar cheese
Creamed corn fixin'
Creamed corn fixin’
Cornbread - really good - fluffy, light, sweet, some flakes of corn detected
Cornbread – really good – fluffy, light, sweet, some flakes of corn detected
Possible Menu at the Coop
Possible Menu at the Coop

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PImento cheese, a southern classic
PImento cheese, a southern classic
Chicken Pot pie, so cute so little, so delicious
Chicken Pot pie, so cute so little, so delicious
Fried okra, very delicate fry
Fried okra, very delicate fry
Whoopie Pies - red velvet cake, peanut butter, and more
Whoopie Pies – red velvet cake, peanut butter, and more

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The Coop: A Southern Affair on Urbanspoon

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Central Floridians everywhere have lamented the closings of the late Mama Nem’s, Johnson’s Diner, and Lowe’s Good Eaton, placing a rather large hole in the heart of Orlando’s soul food scene. One would have to travel to Angel’s in Sanford for some really good soul food.

Recently, McKnight’s, a new soul food restaurant opened on Church Street in the shadow of the new Amway Center. This is the same location previously occupied by Johnson’s Diner and briefly, Fish and Loaves.

Other soul food places have also sprung up in recent years, many still waiting to be discovered and their menus explored by hungry Orlando-ans.

Maybe the outlook for good soul food is looking up for the City Beautiful.

Chef Eddie’s, which opened in 2009,  is located in the Washington Shores neighborhood off of Orange Center Boulevard, just west of John Young Parkway near the SR 408 exit.

Owned by Eddie and Bess James, this family run restaurant is known for their chicken and waffles and soul food. Here, Bess takes over the hosting duties, while Chef Eddie mans the kitchen. The waitresses are dressed in formal attire with ties and give service with a smile.

It was karaoke night the Friday night that we arrived – a young lady performing on the mic while her partner played the keys. The music, admittedly, was a bit loud, but it gave the place a nice lively feeling. We were even invited to join in and pick a few songs.

Queen Bee’s, another soul food restaurant, used to occupy this same location. The decor is a bit aged – maybe like going to a distant relative’s home who hasn’t renovated the furnishings since the 1980s.

The chairs and tables are all set up for family style dining though, and of course, what is soul food without having friends and family to enjoy it with?

And that is where the heart of the place lies: the great food coming out of Chef Eddie’s kitchen.

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Fluffy, sweet jalapeno cracklin muffins

First to arrive to the table: jalapeno cracklin muffins – deliciously sweet corn muffins made here with tiny bits and pieces of spicy jalapeno bits baked inside. Savory, spicy, sweet…altogether a winning recipe.

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Chef Eddie’s fried green tomatoes

Our waitress recommends the fried green tomatoes for starters: fried in a seasoned batter on top of a generous helping of cheesy Parmesan grits, drizzled with a sweet gravy sauce. The tomatoes were fresh and not too tart, just the way I like them, and, when combined with the cheesy grits, a tasty dish. Definitely would get this again, especially with a large party as the serving was generous.

This is a theme here…

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I ordered the Pork Ribs dinner platter, not done “barbecue” style with a smokey flavor, but more like oven baked and topped with a tangy sweet mustard based barbecue sauce that went very well with the pork. The pork was tender and “finger licking good” and the serving size was enough for two meals.

It was a delight to eat with my collard greens and mac and cheese sides. The mac and cheese was baked and had a nice dry texture to them.

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Oxtail stew dinner platter

My other dining partners ordered the beef stew platter and the oxtail platter, both of which had a nice brown gravy sauce that went well together with the stewed meats and yellow rice.

The highlight of Chef Eddie’s is their large variety of waffle flavors for their famous chicken and waffles dish. Whereas most chicken and waffle establishments have plain Belgian style waffles, the waffle flavors here range from Pecan, Strawberry, Sweet Potato, Blueberry, Red Velvet, Chocolate Chip, Apple Cinnamon, Banana Walnut, Big Berry (Strawberry, Blueberry & Rasberry) to Plain. Also important to note, the waffles here are more like regular waffles rather than thick Belgian style waffles.

The waffles are served with fried chicken wings, and a side of syrup.

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Chicken and Red velvet waffles with green beans

Overall, I would definitely go back to Chef Eddie’s to enjoy some great soul food cooking, for the  great prices, quality, and friendliness.

They even have a closer satellite restaurant called Chef Eddie’s East, located inside the Evans Food Mart on Goldenroad Road (just north of the SR 408 exit).

I visited recently to pick up some oxtail to go…and it was just as delicious as the original Chef Eddie’s. The mac and cheese here had a nice white creamy color to it though. And it really is more of a to go place as it can get awkward eating inside a convenience store.

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Chef Eddie himself – putting in work in the kitchen

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Karaoke Night at Chef Eddie’s

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Chef Eddie’s East

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Oxtail platter

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Chef Eddie's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chef Eddie's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Mama’s Fixins Soul Food Truck



Mama’s Fixins is a brand spanking new soul food truck here in Orlando, making its debut at the Oviedo Marketplace edition of theDailyCity.com’s Orlando Food Truck Bazaar summer series. Mama don’t play around when it comes to her soul food or her food truck business as this truck is modded with its own bbq smoker in the back. It probably the largest truck on the road right now, kind of like the boy band ultra deluxe tour bus version of a food truck.

I ordered the baby back ribs with two sides for $10 and a dessert of peach cobbler for $3. My good friend and neighbors Mr and Mrs Mega Yummo ordered the savory oxtails and rice for $12.

My baby back ribs were delicious: juicy and fall off the bone pork meat basked in a sweet and tangy bbq sauce thats been made with a love and care that only Mama could provide. My sides were pretty good as well: the mac and cheese and the collard greens went well with the whole southern comfort food theme and left me a bit sleepy after this full and satisfying meal. I had barely enough room for the peach cobbler at the end, which I thought was decent but could be better with an adjustment to the crusting for the cobbler pie. It would also be great served hot with a side of vanilla ice cream.

I also go to try Mega Yummo’s oxtail which I thought was a bit salty and may not have been the best ox tails I have ever had, it definitely could be better for the $12 price tag. I would recommend the ribs over the oxtails at this moment.

@mamasfixins or facebook.com/mamasfixins

Mama's Fixins Soulfood & BBQ Food Truck on Urbanspoon



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Tangy ribs and mac n cheese and collard greens, oh my!

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Peach cobbler

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Savory Oxtails via megayummo


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I recently traveled  with my friend Sean over to Eatonville, home of Zora Neale Hurston and writer of Their Eyes were Watching God. Eatonville is the first African American community to be incorporated as a municipality in the United States (founded circa 1887). Today the city of Eatonville is very tiny, surrounded by Maitland and Edgewater and other suburbs on all sides. The main thoroughfare is Kennedy Boulevard, a street with churches, barber shops, a museum dedicated to Zora Neale Hurston, and most notably, Lowe’s Good Eaton Soul Food restaurant.

Lowe’s Good Eaton was founded by Shea Lowe, 26 years old, just three years ago. A native of Ocoee, Shea has several relatives from the Eatonville area and decided to open up Lowe’s Good Eaton because of his love for food and also for the love of business and money making with his passion for food.

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When you enter Lowe’s Good Eaton, you immediately notice that the place could use some TLC, maybe some new paint or new tables and decor. I think it would do well to add something to brighten up the place and freshen it up a bit. In this case though, the old adage holds true that it is quite often the holes in the wall that serve up the best foods. Along their walls they have several awards and recognition, including a check from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority an a certificate for Best Pie 2010 from Orlando Weekly for their Sweet Potato Pie.

On this Friday, I ordered their BBQ ribs with two sides ($11), grilled on site at Good Eaton’s and served only on Fridays and Saturdays. We were lucky to have arrived at just the right time because they ran out of ribs right after we made our order. You order up at the counter where all the side dishes and some of the oxtail, baked chicken, and fried chicken are ready to be scooped up into your plates, kind of like by the lunch lady at the school cafeteria. The side dishes I ordered were the Mac N Cheese and Collared greens as well as a slice of their sweet potato pie ($2.50).

The BBQ ribs were slightly charred from the grill, flaky pieces of meat falling off the bone with every bite. The mac and cheese was a homestyle rendition of the American classic and also an instant favorite. The collared greens were fresh and tasty with bits of pork included. The sweet potato pie was creamy and had all the lovely flavors of smashed sweet potatoes in pie form.

Overall I enjoyed Lowe’s Good Eaton and would recommend it to those soul food lovers out there who don’t mind going to a hole in the wall 😉

Visit Lowe’s Good Eaton Soulfood Website at:
goodeatonsoulfood.com

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The counter for orders at Lowe’s Good Eaton Soul Food

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The famous Sweet Potato Pie


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 BBQ Ribs, Corn bread, collard greens, and mac n cheese…


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Lowe's Good Eaton Soulfood on Urbanspoon

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Mama Nem’s Soul Food

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Classic Southern cuisine, with its Native American roots and African and European influences, is renown for home-cooked soulfulness and lip-smacking delicious yet may be bad for you goodness. Owned by the church located just next door, Mama Nem’s is a place that serves truly comfort food for the soul and deservedly earns the Best Soul Food of Orlando title. It is definitely not a place to go for a healthy meal, but rather a place to go to enjoy some good southern style comfort food like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. They have heaping servings of the best southern home-style cooking in the area. Everything from their sides to main course are heaping.

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Mama Nems, located on Kirkman Road just south of the SR 408 exit and just past Old Winter Garden Rd, is not a newcomer to accolades (its won best soul food from the Orlando Sentinel’s Foodie awards in the past and even was a finalist in Tom Harvey’s “Hoodie” awards for best soul food, attracting mega stars like Shaq to visit)

The place is pretty nice, definitely not a hole-in-the-wall place, clean and brightly lit by flourescent tubes, large booths for seating as well as smaller tables. There is often a wait here, always a sign of good food within, but usually not more than 10 minutes.

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Mama Nems is a Orlando Magic fan!
The staff are accomodating and cheerful, if not a little unsure at times as the place does get a little busy, but always friendly and welcoming. The prices are also more than reasonable for what you get, most dishes under $10.00.

With each entree, you get three sides to choose from as well, all enough to feed two people or one very very hungry hippo. They range from fried okra to corn to mashed potatoes, collard greens to fried sweet potato fries.

They bring you a side of cornbread and fruit to begin. The cornbread is baked fresh and you can even see pieces of corn in it as you bite. The fruit changes with the seasons, in the past it was melons, and today it was watermelons.

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CORNBREAD!!!!
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WATERMELON!!!!

My sister had Mama Nem’s fried catfish ($10.95), 2 huge, freshly country fried pieces of cat fish.

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Gabe, our friend, had the meat loaf ($7.95), two generous cuts of delicious meat loaf topped with that drool inducing brown gravy.

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I had originally wanted to try the ox tail for this visit but I was told that the chef was still cooking it for a while and it would not be ready in time. Instead, I ordered the seasoned roasted pork shoulder ($8.95), a tender pork dish slowly roasted and topped with their delectable brown gravy sauce that makes your mouth drool.

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I also tried (for the first time) fried green tomatoes for one of my sides, fried in a country-fried chicken type batter and still tart and fresh from the zest of the green tomatoes.

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FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!!
For dessert, we enjoyed Miss Celia’s Red Velvet Cake ($3.50), a luscious cut of moist, layered, sweet chocolate cake topped with cream-cheese icing.

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RED VELVET CAKE!!!

On a past visit, I had the chitterlings and hog maws dish over rice, which was tasty and fun to eat though a bit salty for me. Other recommended dishes include the fried chicken and the lip smacking pot roast, a tender braised roast of meat.

Not fine dining and probably not the greatest of all time, but I love Mama Nem’s offerings and that is fine by me.

Tasty Chomps rating!!!!
4.5 out of 5 TASTY CHOMPS!!!!

Mama Nem’s Soul Food
(407) 253-7744
805 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
www.mamanemssoulfood.com

Mama Nems' Soul Food on Urbanspoon

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