UCF Area

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You may have heard of Paramount Fine Foods with their opening at I-Drive 360 and their butcher shop on Alafaya Trail. They are actually based out of Canada but recently moved into the Florida market with a full sit down restaurant at the I-Drive 360 location. Recently, the owners opened up a fast-casual concept near UCF on University Blvd in the former location of Pie Five Pizza, which was Greens and Grille before that for many years.

We were recently invited to check out the new restaurant. It’s a very simple concept – very much similar to a Mediterranean version of Chipotle where guests go up to the counter and order.

Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando

You start with a base, choosing from:

Rice Bowl
Tabbouleh Salad
Hummus Bowl
Fattoush Salad
Saj Wrap
Greek Salad
Pita Wrap

and then pick a meat or main:

Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando

Chicken Shawarma
Beef Shawarma
Chicken Kebab
Kafta
Falafel

and sides:

Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando

Lettuce
Diced Tomato
Parsley
Onion Mix
Pickled Turnips
Pickled Cucumbers

My favorite cuts are the beef and chicken shawarma with the pickled turnips and Lebanese rice. Very filling and delicious. The desserts are freshly made in house as well with a baker (except for the baklava).

Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Pita wrap at Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Pita wrap at Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Fried Falafel – for the vegetarian lovers – at Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Surprisingly very good french fries at Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando
Beef stuffed Kibbeh – kind of like Lebanese empanadas – very delicious – at Paramount Lebanese Kitchen at UCF Orlando

Overall, I would definitely come back to try their very affordable and delicious Mediterranean style bowls and wraps again.  The meat was tender and flavorful, and the rice and pickled veggies complimented every thing quite well. Although the staff seemed to still be training at the time, this is understandable as things are still just coming together at the store.

 

Paramount Lebanese Kitchen UCF
11325 University Blvd, Suite 206, Orlando, 32817
407-203-3219
http://www.paramountfinefoodsusa.com/locations/UCF

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World of Beer in Downtown Orlando on Lake Eola has had their tavern food menu debut months ago.

Since opening its first tavern in Tampa, Florida, in 2007, WOB has grown to more than 70 locations in 20 states.

Now, it’s time for UCF’s own World of Beer, one of the first World of Beer locations outside of Tampa to begin food service as well.

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Currently, World of Beer offers over 500 craft beers and 40 rotating taps daily, but soon the “tavern” menu will roll out to all their locations.

Priced between $5 and $15, it’s not your typical pub bar food as you may surmise, but rather, a form of elevated bar food.

“The ‘Tavern Fare’ menu is part of an extensive renovation to the WOB-UCF Area tavern,” said Jeff Schilling general manager. “We now boast a 400-square foot kitchen and are looking forward to serving flavorsome food and beer pairings to all our guests.”

Here are some of the menu highlights, which changes seasonally:

o Black and Blue Flatbread— Blackened steak comes topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms, mozzarella and blue cheeses, fresh arugula and a sweet balsamic glaze.

o Chimay Burger — This half-pound, all-beef patty is made with Chimay classic cheese imported from Belgium. The cheese is made by the Trappist Monks of the Chimay Creamery, where Chimay Beer is also brewed. The burger is topped with sauce that is infused with Chimay White Triple Beer, sautéed onions and mushrooms.

o Guinness Brat Sliders — Guinness-infused bratwursts served on a warm pretzel rolls with caramelized onions and peppers with tangy Dijon.

o Chicken Pesto Sandwich — Beer-brined grilled chicken breasts topped with mozzarella cheese, basil and pine nut pesto and arugula, come served on a lightly toasted basil focaccia.

Here is our list of the top 5 items to try at World of Beer UCF:

SONY DSCo German Pretzel— The pretzel’s original Bavarian recipe was created by Germany’s most sought-after artisan pretzel baker, Ossi Piller, and dates back more than 100 years. A giant Bavarian pretzel baked soft on the inside, crispy on the outside & salted. Served with house-made stone ground mustard and local beer cheese.

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o Sriracha Lime Shrimp Tacos — Beer battered shrimp tossed in WOB’s homemade Sriracha lime aioli, served on tortillas with roasted corn, tomato salsa, shredded lettuce, and fresh cilantro.

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sausages. Served with spicy pickled green beans, peppadew peppers & our house-made stone ground mustard.

SONY DSC o Belgian Waffle S’Mores— Fresh-baked, beer-infused Belgian waffles served with toasted marshmallows, Kahlúa fudge sauce, graham cracker crumbles and powdered sugar.

WOB- UCF will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily. Major credit cards are accepted. For more information, visit http://worldofbeer.com/Locations/UCFArea .

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McDonald’s is in the midst of a great reinvention and change. It recently reported its worst same-store sales decline in more than a decade. For the first time since the 1970s, McDonald’s may be closing some of its stores.

Changing tastes, greater emphasis on local, natural, foods, and the encroachment of new competitors such as Shake Shack and Chipotle have all slowly chipped away McDonald’s marketshare. The fast casual segment has slowly become more prominent as customers shy away from “fast food.”

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Folks want to eat healthier, delicious tasting food – pretty much the opposite of the traditional thought of greasy, so called mystery meat fast food.

Nonetheless, McDonald’s is still the worldwide leader in sales and will continue to dominate despite slowing sales.

Locally in Central Florida, the restaurant recently unveiled their new “Create Your Taste” program – a build your own burger concept within existing McDonald’s that allow customers to customize their own burgers with custom toppings, artisan bread buns, and meat from a giant electronic touchscreen kiosk. A giant touch screen? all the options I’d want to get? custom to me? It’s a millenial’s dream.

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It’s available now at the UCF location as well as another store in Lake Mary with more on the way. We were recently invited to test out the new system – here is a run down of how things went.

You walk up and put in your order at the giant ipad-like kiosk screen. So many choices – death by choices? It can get confusing at times with all the different options if you don’t have someone to help guide you through the first time.

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After choosing your ingredients, toppings, meat type, and bun style (butter toasted ciabatta or artisanal bun), the order is sent back to a special area of the restaurant where the burgers are made to order.

After it’s ready, the order is sent to your table by an employee in quite a nice presentation – burger wrapped in special paper, fries in a fancy, little mini fryer basket. Note, you can only order it inside the restaurant and not in the drive thru, where many McDonald’s do 70% of their business.

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The burger is actually quite good – the bun is soft, but not too spongy, and quite tasty – as are the meats and ingredients. It may be the best burger I’ve had at McDonald’s in a long time. But it does come at a price, around $2.50 more than your regular burgers, more or less depending on what your toppings and ingredients are. My sirloin burger with bacon meal with medium fries and dasani water came out to $8.50 – comparable to pricing to some of the craft burger places out there, but actually on par to taste as well. For comparison, a Big Mac meal comes out to $6.00.

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Customization is a new and possibly daunting task for such a large corporation accustomed to value meals and preset menu items. Though the price is much higher than their value menu items, it may help draw in that coveted youth demographic that have slowly begun to explore new restaurants using their new apps like yelp and posting photos of their meal on instagram and other social media. Will they be posting custom McDonald’s Create Your Taste burgers soon?

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There are so many burger places in the area now by UCF, each with pricing about the same as McDonald’s – some do it better, some do it worse. If McDonald’s can keep up the quality, keep prices in check, I’d definitely come by again for a custom burger.

The future of McDonald’s is here.

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To celebrate their opening, after months of construction delays, Blaze Pizza will be hosting a FREE PIZZA DAY on September 4, giving away free 11-inch artisanal pizzas all day from 11am-11pm

assembly-line format

Blaze Pizza is a modern day “pizza joint,” known for its custom-built artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s’more pies.

Their first Orlando location is at 4100 N. Alafaya Trail, across from the main University of Central Florida campus, near Bar Louie and Burger Fi.

The fast-casual concept, known for its chef-driven menu and casually hip restaurants, will custom-build its newest location to suit the 3200-square foot space which includes seating on an outdoor patio. The restaurant will be open from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday, and will stay open until 1:00 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Blaze uses an interactive assembly line format that allows guests to create their own artisanal pizzas. Customers choose an unlimited amount of toppings from a wide variety of house-made sauces, fresh vegetables and hand-selected meats and cheeses – all for under $8. The 11” personal pizzas are then sent to a blazing hot open-flame oven — the centerpiece of the restaurant — where dedicated pizzasmiths ensure that the thin-crust pies are “fast-fire’d” in under 180 seconds.

“The Orlando community expects greatness for every venture, and that’s just what we’re giving them with this unique pizza experience,” said Laurie Ruggles Managing Partner for Blaze in Florida. “Blaze Pizza is great for UCF students looking for a fast, quality pizza option that won’t break their budget. We are bringing back the classic pizza joint, but with a modern, fast-as-lightning twist.”

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Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi has finally opened this week at the UCF / University location.

This is their 7th location in Florida, with other Bentos in Gainesville and Jacksonville.

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Bento Cafe was founded in Gainesville 13 years ago by University of Florida alumni Jimmy Tung, Johnny Tung and David Yu. This is the third location in Orlando, following the debut of Bento at the Plaza downtown and on Sand Lake Road.

The restaurant features entrees, such as Bento Boxes and noodle and rice bowls, alongside sushi options including sashimi, vegetarian or classical sushi varieties, with most of the dishes in the $7 to $9 range. There is also a full bar at this location.

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Some of my favorite dishes at Bento Cafe include the Chirashi sushi bowl, Spicy Korean chicken, teriyaki chicken, and the Cantonese pork chop. While in college, Bento Cafe was actually one of the first places where I tried many of the various cuisines from Asia for the very first time, at a very college budget friendly price. For that, I am forever grateful to them for opening up the doors to Asian cuisine, not only to me, but to thousands of college students around Florida.

We’ll be updating this post as more information comes in.

SPICY TUNA-SALMON DON 8.75
An assortment of fresh Sashimi on a bed of rice with masago, avocado, slices of cucumber, sesame seeds and wakame
Bento Asian Kitchen and Sushi
12101 University Blvd Ste 408
Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 658-8088

SUSHI HAPPY HOUR
Monday – Friday | 4 pm – 7 pm
Buy 2 rolls, get 1 Free!
SUSHI COMBO BOX
$8.75 from Open to 5 pm

Full bar at the UCF location
Full bar at the UCF location
Line is quite busy on the first day
Line is quite busy on the first day

Bento Café on Urbanspoon

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There’s a new place in Orlando that will have your personalized pizza ready in just five minutes.

Pie Five Pizza Co. is the place – opening up just outside of UCF on University Blvd.

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You might be familiar with the concept – made popular by Chipotle and Subway.

Order at the counter and the folks prepare it assembly line style as you go down the line. They use a super hot oven to heat the pizza and have it ready for you by the time you finish paying at the cash register.

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At Pie Five, guests can create personal pizzas and a variety of specialty pie choices, all for one price. Typically a pizza, any way, is $6.99. Meaning a specialty pizza or a pizza with anything you want on it – all $6.99. Same goes with the salad. If you want to add an extra side salad and drink, it’s $2.99 more.

They offer 4 crusts (including pan, thin crust, gluten-free & whole grain) and have hand-made salads made from a pizza crust.

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Everything is prepared right on the spot and the entire meal will be ready in less than five minutes. I checked – it was under 5 minutes.

Pizza was good for $6.99, ingredients were fresh, and I really liked the customization. One thing that I thought could use improvement – the crust – a little bit too pedestrian, ho-hum, and if they can update that and make it tastier, it would be a really good pizza. For the price, it can’t be beat.

Blaze Pizza, another “chipotle” style pizza joint will be opening soon near by in the UCF area at the Plaza, so it should be interesting to see how business goes. It’s definitely a food trend to watch- custom pizza joints.

Let us know what you think – have you been to Pie Five? Is it something you’d try? Comment below!

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Pie Five Pizza Co. on Urbanspoon

Jet 10® Premium Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Ham, Mushrooms, Onions, Green Peppers, Hamburger, Italian Sausage, Bacon and Black Olives.

Eugene Jetts and his brother John Jetts opened the first Jet’s Pizza in 1978 in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

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Southeast Michigan is also known as the headquarters of some of the largest pizza chains in the United States, including Domino’s Pizza (Ann Arbor), Hungry Howies (Madison Heights), Jet’s Pizza (Sterling Heights), Happy’s Pizza (Southfield), and Little Caesars (Detroit).

The single menu item that Jet’s Pizza has become famous for, above anything else, is their signature deep-dish square pizza.

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Detroit-style pizza, developed in Detroit, Michigan, is a square pizza, unlike the round Chicago deep dish pizza, similar to Sicilian-style pizza that has a thick deep-dish crisp crust and toppings such as pepperoni and olives, and is served with the marinara sauce on top.

The square shaped pizza is the result of being baked in a square pan.

The crust of a Detroit-style pizza is usually baked in a well-oiled pan to a chewy medium-well-done state that gives the bottom and edges of the crust a fried/crunchy texture.

The Jet’s Pizza concept of franchising began in 1990 and has grown to more than 300 franchises throughout eighteen states: Michigan, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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Orlando recently got our first two stores for Jet’s Pizza, one in Apopka and one on the east side of Orlando near Waterford Lakes. We recently were invited to visit and try out their pizza.

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The storefront is rather small and there is seating only on the outside. I’d recommend getting some seating inside for those who don’t want to sit in the hot Florida sun. It’s essentially a take out spot.

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I thought the pizzas had good flavor for a chain, and may be the best chain pizza I’ve had in Orlando.

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The crunchy square pizza crust is different and had nice flavor, though slightly charred from the conveyor belt oven. Joe, the young attendant at the shop on this date, was courteous and attentive, so kudos to him for his good service.

Jet 10® Premium Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Ham, Mushrooms, Onions, Green Peppers, Hamburger, Italian Sausage, Bacon and Black Olives.
Jet 10®
Premium Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Ham, Mushrooms, Onions, Green Peppers, Hamburger, Italian Sausage, Bacon and Black Olives.
All Meaty Premium Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Ham, Bacon, Italian Sausage and Hamburger.
All Meaty
Premium Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Ham, Bacon, Italian Sausage and Hamburger.
Jet's Boats® Freshly Baked Pizza Dough Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese, Pizza Sauce, and Your Favorite Toppings.
Jet’s Boats®
Freshly Baked Pizza Dough Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese, Pizza Sauce, and Your Favorite Toppings.

The Jet’s boat is similar to basically a calzone, which means “trousers” in Italian, shaped as a folded pizza or a “boat”. It resembles a half-moon and is made of salted bread dough.

Jet's Pizza on Urbanspoon

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School is starting up again this week at UCF! As proud University of Central Florida alumni, we love letting our fellow Knights know what’s up in the restaurant and local foodie scene, especially in the UCF Orlando area.

One thing we loved about going to school at UCF was all the diverse food options there were from Indian to Latin, and all quite affordable (read: cheap) for the college student poverty line budget as well.

So pack away those ramen noodles, and get ready to explore some great gastronomic hot spots around the east side of town.

IMG_2650 Lazy Moon – This long time UCF favorite has a hipster feel to it, and is definitely benefiting from the larger, upgraded digs after moving out of the UC-17 plaza. The pizzas at Lazy Moon are “Southern” style and are bigger than your head. You won’t be chastised for wanting to eat your pizza with a fork and knife here.

Lazy Moon
11551 University Blvd, Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 658-2396
http://lazymoonpizza.com/


Kesh – Helmed by Chef Jerry Helminski, Kesh specializes in “street food off the streets.” A visit to ‘Kesh, right next to the Orange County DMV, is like playing a game of food roulette. You literally never know what to expect – the menu changes daily, dependent on the whim and creativity of Chef Jerry, ranging from special hot dogs, sandwiches, to gourmet mac and cheeses and pastas.

Kesh Restaurant
11768 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 203-0801
keshrestaurant.com

bbq4rivers Four Rivers Smokehouse – John Rivers’ barbecue empire continues to grow with the latest offshoot of the popular Winter Park restaurant recently opening its doors at the front gates of UCF. Popular for their smoked angus beef brisket, smoked St. Louis style ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, and fabulous sides and desserts.

4 Rivers Smokehouse
11764 University Blvd, Orlando, FL 32817
1-855-368-7748
https://4rsmokehouse.com/locations/east-orlando/


Tamarind Indian Cuisine – UCF students don’t have to travel all the way to the International Drive’s tourist corridor to enjoy some of the best Indian food in town. Grub on the wonderful creamy chicken tikka masala, oven roasted tandoori chicken with some fluffy naan and basmati rice or for vegetarians, try the huge dosas, sweet fermented rice crepes stuffed with spicy potatoes and veggies. For those looking for a good deal, definitely try their daily lunch buffet for $8.95 including over 12 different Indian dishes.

Tamarind Indian Cuisine
12309 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32826
(407) 237-0920
http://tamarindfl.com


Taipei 101 – We’ve all had our share of Chinese take out before in the past, but rarely anything like this. Taipei 101 features home style Taiwanese Chinese street food cuisine with great prices. Try the gua bao pork belly buns, simmered pork belly and sausage over rice, fried chicken, or any of their great lunch bento boxes with noodles and choice of meat.

Taipei 101 Taiwanese
3050 Alafaya Trl, Suite 1008, Oviedo, FL 32765
(407) 542-1528


Hawaiian Grindz – When you first hear the name, Hawaiian Grindz, you might think it’s some sort of Hawaiian coffee shop (coffee grindz?), but in fact “grindz” is actually a Hawaiian slang term for “food” or “grub.” In addition to their new Chefs Specials, they also serve up their popular panko crusted mochiko Chicken, Kalua pulled pig, and fried garlic sugoi Chicken. I usually get a lunch combination of the kalua pork and the garlic sugoi chicken with rice and pasta salad for $6.99 – a very filling and satisfying lunch.

Hawaiian Grindz
3050 Alafaya Trail, Oviedo, FL 32765
(407) 542-7850
hawaiiangrindz.com


Sushi Pop – One of the best sushi restaurants in all of Orlando and only about 10 minutes away from UCF. Chef Chau and his team masterfully crafts dishes that “pop” with flavor, from the Hokkaido scallop nigiri sushi to the black squid ink infused khao soi curry noodles with roasted leg of duck confit. The setting is intimate, modern, with vivid glowing pink lamps shaped like squids and servers dressed harajuku style in fanciful cosplay – great place to take a date, too.

Sushi Pop
310 W Mitchell Hammock Rd, Oviedo, FL 32765
(407) 542-5975
www.sushipoprestaurant.com


Lechonera Latina – With lunches starting at $3.99 for a huge heaping of roast pork and yellow rice with pigeon peas, it’s no wonder this Dominican street food cafeteria is a hotspot among both locals and students trying to get a bite to eat. The pork is good, but try also the very Dominican breakfast special, mangu, made with mashed plantains with eggs and sausage.

Lechonera Latina 2
11229 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 207-6903
www.lechoneralatina.net/

sushi
Sus Hi Eat Station – This sushi spot is full of “ninja” servers dressed in black. Think of it as a sushi version of Chipotle, where you can pick and choose your fish, toppings, sides, roll or bowl style, etc. Endless customization for a good price.

Sus Hi Eatstation
4498 N Alafaya Trail #324, Orlando, FL 32826
(407) 826-1682
www.sushieatstation.com/

Image Courtesy of Orlando Weekly
Image Courtesy of Orlando Weekly

Cedar’s Halal – Best spot for gyros in the East Orlando area, fresh cut from the gyrating skewer. This is inside a small mom and pop Middle eastern market as well with many Lebanese food products and goods.

Cedar’s Halal Food and Deli
12100 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32826
Phone:(407) 381-8004
https://www.facebook.com/Cedarhalalorlando


Purple Orchid Thai – Though it may not look like much from the outside, don’t judge this restaurant by its cover. Thai home style cooking for a cheap price. The pad thai and drunken noodle are favorites here. The lady who owns this place is actually the proud mother of a UCF student. Also a small grocery area in the back for picking up Thai kitchen and pantry essentials.

Purple Orchid Thai and Grocery
9318 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32817
Phone:(407) 203-3891
https://www.facebook.com/ThaiPurpleOrchid

Image courtesy of Urbanspoon.com
Image courtesy of Urbanspoon.com

SnoTea Desserts – One of the first places in Orlando to serve up Asian style shaved ice desserts, Sno Tea is actually founded by UCF alumni. You can also get macarons and boba tea here as well. Nice place to go after dinner and have some desserts.

SnoTea Desserts
3402 Technological Avenue, Suite 220, Orlando FL 32817
(407) 203-6963
https://www.facebook.com/snoteadesserts


Jeremiah’s Italian Ice – You pretty much are required to go here if you go to UCF. Even though they moved down the street from their old location on University and Alafaya to Waterford Lakes, it’s still a Knight’s favorite. Soft served ice cream, flavored crushed Italian ice, and gelati – a crazy good hybrid of soft served ice cream and Italian Ice. The flavors are endless from black cherry to pina colada to mango and the popular scoop froggy frog gelati made with mint chocolate chip and vanilla soft serve ice cream.

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice
877 N Alafaya Trail, Orlando, FL 32828
(407) 277-7769
www.jeremiahsice.com/

We are also looking forward to Popeye’s Fried Chicken, BurgerFi, Mingos, and Bento Cafe opening in the next month or so near UCF.

For more on where to go and what to do in Orlando, check out the Orlando Weekly’s new College Guide!

And if you want to explore more of what Orlando has to offer, check out this list:

 

So what are your favorite local UCF area restaurants? Comment below!

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Working near UCF, we enjoy seeking out local mom and pop establishments to visit for lunch. One of my favorites, Hawaiian Grindz, recently updated their menu and have even hired a new chef, Chef Jimmy Idica who is of Filipino descent and hails straight from the islands of Hawaii.

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When you first hear the name, Hawaiian Grindz, you might think it’s some sort of Hawaiian coffee shop (coffee grindz?), but in fact “grindz” is actually a Hawaiian slang term for “food” or “grub.”

Hawaiian Grindz prides itself on its “Kona Brews, Hawaiian Food, and Aloha Spirit!”

The cuisine of Hawaii reflects the diverse food history of settlement and immigration in the Hawaiian Islands from the first Native Hawaiians who settled the area with taro, fish, and yams to the Portuguese settlers who brought their “malasada” fried doughnut treats and the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean farm laborers who came in the 1800s. Even American cuisine influenced the “local” food of Hawaii with the arrival of spam during World War II.

Hawaiians are the second largest consumers of Spam in the world, right behind Guam. Originally brought to Hawaii by American servicemen in their rations, Spam became an important source of protein for locals after fishing around the islands was prohibited during World War II. Spam musubi, a slice of fried Spam on sushi rice wrapped with a strip of nori seaweed, is a popular treat in Hawaii and can be found on the menu here at Hawaiian Grindz.

New menu items
New menu items

Some of the new items brought by Chef Idica includes spam fries coated in panko to cut the saltiness and served with three different types of dipping sauces, char siu pork banh mi, pork adobo fried rice topped with egg, and a selection of new burgers.

Pork adobo fried rice topped with egg
Pork adobo fried rice topped with egg

I ordered the delicious Ali’i burger, consisting of a juicy 1/4 pound burger patty topped with crispy kalua pulled pork and pineapple BBQ sauce on a brioche bun with a side of fries. The burger had the right textures and flavors and was overall very enjoyable.

In addition to their new Chefs Specials, they also serve up their popular panko crusted mochiko Chicken, Kalua pulled pig, and fried garlic sugoi Chicken. I usually get a lunch combination of the kalua pork and the garlic sugoi chicken with rice and pasta salad for $6.99 – a very filling and satisfying lunch.

Chef Danny at the helm at Hawaiian Grindz
Chef Danny at the helm at Hawaiian Grindz
Spam fries at Hawaiian Grindz, dusted in panko bread crumbs and served with three sauces
Spam fries at Hawaiian Grindz, dusted in panko bread crumbs and served with three sauces
 Ali'i burger, consisting of a juicy 1/4 pound burger patty topped with crispy kalua pulled pork and pineapple BBQ sauce on a brioche bun with a side of fries
Ali’i burger, consisting of a juicy 1/4 pound burger patty topped with crispy kalua pulled pork and pineapple BBQ sauce on a brioche bun with a side of fries
Spam Musubi at Hawaiian Grindz
Spam Musubi at Hawaiian Grindz
Garlic sugoi chicken and kalua pulled pork with rice - lunch special combo
Garlic sugoi chicken and kalua pulled pork with rice – lunch special combo

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Hawaiian Grindz on Urbanspoon

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The restaurant has a soft opening starting this Thursday May 15, 2014 starting at 6 pm, and then regular hours with lunch every day after, and plans for a grand opening later in June. I dropped by with some friends on their friends and family run-through today and checked out the new digs. I left feeling quite impressed with the quality of burger being served here at Burger and Beer Joint and hope to return soon.

Quite the renovations have been made for the opening of the new Burger and Beer Joint, a Miami based restaurant with plans to expand to International Drive and other locations in Orlando.

Brick is layered inside the entrance ceiling creating the feeling of a tunnel, and an urban design is added to the bar area making it very inviting. You would never realize just a few years ago this place was the home to a Perkins, then a Chinese/Japanese buffet, and finally Culpepper’s before it.

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Burger and Beer Joint has a sports and rock ’n’ roll theme and of course lots of burgers and beers on the menu.

Their restaurant specializes in “massive burgers with a gourmet twist – You pick a beer, then pick a burger.”

Though the drink menu is a bit limited in terms of beer, they have some very nice options ranging from IPAs to lagers. I had a nice, smooth, lemony Shandy to go along with my burger on my visit.

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My friends had the HOTEL CALIFORNIA ($13.99) – a very filling, cooked to ordered medium 1/2 lb. Premium Black Angus beef burger topped with guacamole, grilled Vidalia onion, jalapeno relish, cilantro sour cream, sharp cheddar, and a sunny side up fried egg between two brioche buns, and served with skinny fries.

Hotel California burger
Hotel California burger

I ordered the THUNDER ROAD ($13.99), a more standard burger (think of it as a very good, bacon cheeseburger) made with 1/2 lb. Premium Black Angus beef, smoked Duroc pork belly bacon, American cheese, sesame bun, a side of BBQ sauce, and served with skinny fries. Overall, one of the best burgers in town, and reminiscent I think of the burgers found at Metrowest’s Teak Neighborhood Grill – huge, juicy, delicious burgers.

Thunder Road Burger
Thunder Road Burger
Scaffolding work still being done
Scaffolding work still being done

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For more info, visit: http://www.bnbjoint.com/menus/burgers

Burger and Beer Joint
11662 University Blvd
Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 381-1999
http://www.bnbjoint.com/

Burger & Beer Joint on Urbanspoon

On April 23, 2014, I was graciously invited to a tasting event with Giriam Patel at his new Orlando Fresh To Order (f2o) restaurant located in Waterford Lakes Town Center at Alafaya Trail in East Orlando. Fresh To Order caters to all from meat lovers to pescetarians, vegetarians, vegans, and those who require gluten-free meals!

At Fresh To Order, the service was excellent as each person of their family is sweet and charming. They greet you with a smile from when you walk in to having small talk and suggesting great items from the menu that they, themselves, love. Also, while you enjoy a freshly made meal, you can bring your books and laptops to study for your classes!

Founded in 2006, Fresh To Order is a “fast-fine” restaurant and combines the quality of chef Inspired cuisine found in informal fine dining with the operating platform and price point of a fast casual restaurant. Founded on the vision of “Incredible Food, Service and Facilities,” Fresh To Order serves a menu of freshly prepared entrees, panini sandwiches, soups and salads in less than 10 minutes for around $10.

When they say “fresh”, they mean it – there are no walk-in freezers located at Fresh To Order. They only have a freezer to store their desserts and a walk-in cooler to keep their food fresh for the day. Fresh To Order receive shipments of food and prepare their ingredients in their kitchen every morning; this includes cleaning the squid, salmon, etc!

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At this event, we were first served samples of warm soup with honey-glazed croissants. The soups rotate on the menu periodically and are house-made twice each day.

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The Creamy Chicken Vegetable soup was my favorite. This soup was deliciously smooth and creamy, filled with flavor in every bite. This will be my “go-to” soup when it’s chilly out or if I’m in a mood for soup! There are chunks of chicken and sliced vegetables (ie carrots, etc) found in this dish.

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The Wild Mushroom soup was made with Button and Portobello mushrooms creamed by a processor as well as small-diced mushroom for that minor chunky texture. I thought that this soup is a little sweet and easy to eat. This is my second favorite soup from f2o.

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The Tomato Bisque soup is also another sweet but subtle soup with a hint of carrots.

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The Chicken Tortilla soup isn’t creamy like the others and the flavors are a bit too intense for my taste. The Corn Chowder soup to the left of the Chicken Tortilla is spicy, but sweet. The spiciness comes from the jalapeños snuck into it and the corn chunks provide a second texture to the creamy processed soup itself.

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In my opinion, the Ahi Tuna Steak has a nice, thin, crunchy coat made of rosemary, sesame seeds and crushed panko. The tuna was fried for 35 seconds before seared and laid on Asian cabbage with an apricot-ginger Dijon vinaigrette drizzled on top.

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The Almond Chicken Skewers is one of my favorite dishes at f2o! The chicken is cut thin and has an almond rosemary crust. It is served with two sauces: a Thai peanut sauce made with peanut butter and a spicy chili with marmalade.

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Tender Crispy Calamari added onto a Mediterranean Salad contains mixed greens, feta cheese, roasted tomatoes, olive salad, grilled onions, toasted almonds, fresh herbs, and red grapes. This salad is recommended with an Oriental apricot dressing that I also suggest you to order for the salad! The calamari is also fried with lemon slices coated with the same crunchy coating. The crispy calamari and lemon slices are delicious, but the lemon slices aren’t overpowering or tart if you try one! Together with the salad creates a mixture of flavors that you can pick out with your taste buds individually. If I were to decide to have a meatless meal and wanted a salad, this would be my top choice.

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The Spinach Salad was served with raspberry vinaigrette and bourbon filet steak added to it. Alone, the Spinach Salad contains a seasonal fruit (this one had shredded mango!), spinach, strawberries, blue cheese crumbles, dried cherries, and almonds. On the other hand to the last salad mentioned, this is sweeter and refreshing. However, the sweetness is very bold so try not to drench your salad in the vinaigrette!

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The Salmon Panini consists of bourbon-marinated salmon, avocado, lettuce, tarragon aioli, and corn cilantro relish. This is a healthy and delicious Panini. If you’d like to make it a bit healthier, you could switch the white bread to whole-wheat flat bread! I think the avocado is a little dense for my taste and overpowers the salmon. Other than that, I think this is a wonderful Panini with fresh salmon!

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The Black Bean Burger consists of black beans, rice, avocado, house pickled jalapeños, lettuce, tomatoes, corn relish, grilled wheat flat bread, and horseradish honey mustard. Unlike other black bean burgers you may have tried, the black bean patty does not fall apart on you! The texture was better than expected. However, if you don’t like jalapeños like myself, you may wish to order the burger without it because it can get quite spicy!

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The Garlic Mashed Potatoes were delicious as ever and didn’t even need a drip of gravy on top to add flavor.

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Instead of Garlic Mashed Potatoes, I prefer the Sweet Mashed Potatoes, as sweet potatoes are a healthier option! Also, f2o did a great job of giving it such flavors with their seasonings and walnuts.

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If you’d like a more Southern dish, try the Garlic Jack Grit Cake as a side! This is very dense, but so amazing you’ll want to come back for seconds…and thirds.

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The Chicken Wild Mushroom is a great dish if you’d like a mix of grilled chicken and mushrooms like I do! The chicken was cooked just right where the juices ran fresh with no hint of rawness to it. The roasted mushrooms on top of the chicken will add its own fresh texture to the meal.

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The Grilled Salmon is topped with black bean orange sauce and roasted corn peanut relish. It normally comes with baby greens and wheat berry rice. All I can say is, the salmon is to die for!

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These are only a few dishes that I tried with Giriam Patel at his restaurant – to go with it, you should try some house-made teas and lemonades like I did. The house-made teas and lemonades rotate weekly for new and exciting flavors to take a chance to wow you – even better, not only does Fresh To Order give free refills, but they encourage it and trying all of the teas and lemonades.

If you would like a wine or craft beer instead of tea, lemonade or your ordinary fountain drink, then don’t worry – Fresh To Order serves wine and craft beers too.

You didn’t think I left without trying some desserts did you?

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A variety of cookies are available on hand and made fresh daily at Fresh To Order – Some of my favorites include the chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies! They also had white chocolate chip cookies and cranberry cookies.

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The brownies were fudgy and like a slice of heaven! I could taste a hint of fruit, which may mean that they used dark chocolate to make the brownies!

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Last but not least are icebox pies! In total, Fresh To Order serves Mini Mango Pie, Mini Key Lime Pie, Mini Chocolate Silk Pie, Mini Peanut Butter Pie, and Mini Seasonal Pie (ask for the seasonal flavors). I was able to try the Mini Key Lime Pie, Mini Chocolate Silk Pie, Mini Strawberry Pie, and Mini Banana Pie. I’m not sure which I like best because they were all uniquely tasteful.

Fresh To Order on Urbanspoon

Simmered pork belly over rice with Taiwanese sausage and hard boiled egg - I think simmered means braised...

Update November 2014

Taipei 101 over the past year has added a few new Taiwanese “street food” items on their menu! Check out the latest offerings:

Stinky Tofu topped with Kimchi
Stinky Tofu topped with Kimchi
Pan Fried Turnip Cake
Pan Fried Turnip Cake
Gua bao pork buns
Gua bao pork buns

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Oyster and Chitterling sesame noodle soup
Oyster and Chitterling sesame noodle soup
Spicy fried tilapia
Spicy fried tilapia
Fried Fish bento box lunch special
Fried Fish bento box lunch special

Shout out to Kay Y. on Yelp for spotting this little hole in the wall near UCF in Oviedo!

Taipei 101 just opened this week and I for one am very glad it is here. Though my favorite Taiwanese place still remains to be Teriyaki House on the west side of Orlando, this is a nice substitute when I am not able to make the trek over there during the work week.

Taipei 101 Oviedo UCF Area

Taipei 101 Oviedo UCF Area
Taipei 101 Oviedo UCF Area

The menu is still developing as they have been open only just a few days.

Here are some highlights

1. Everything is relatively cheap ranging fro $2 – $9, so I can see it as a popular place for lunch in the UCF area.

2. My favorite dishes included the Lou Rou Fan (Simmered Pork Belly over Steamed Rice $4) which was topped with a nice pork gravy and hard boiled egg along with the pork belly (see pictures), as well as the steamed pork belly bun (gua bao $3) stuffed with mustard greens, cilantro, peanuts, and a sweet and sour sauce.

Overall it was good and very homey tasting (like it was cooked at home by your Taiwanese mom or aunt).

I also tried the simmering combination which was an appetizer with four different types of meat – though I did enjoy the egg, chitterling, and pig ear, I was not a big fan of the pig’s blood rice cake – that’s just me though maybe?

I sampled some of my friend’s salt and pepper chicken, thought it was okay but definitely needed to be more “crispy” .

The Bian Dang meal boxes look like they are a real value, I’d get the simmered pork or bbq pork next time.

Overall, nice effort from the Taipei 101 team, lots of little snacks and to go items that are fun to eat and overall a nice change from the usual around this area. I would try the Zhong Zi rice and pork dumpling next time and see what else is good here !

Gua Bao - Steamed Pork Belly Bun with mustard greens, peanuts, sweet and sour sauce
Gua Bao – Steamed Pork Belly Bun with mustard greens, peanuts, sweet and sour sauce
Simmered pork belly over rice with Taiwanese sausage and hard boiled egg - I think simmered means braised...
Simmered pork belly over rice with Taiwanese sausage and hard boiled egg – I think simmered means braised…
Taiwanese stir fried noodles with pork
Taiwanese stir fried noodles with pork
Assorted appetizer meats - chitterlings, pig ear, pig's blood cake, egg
Assorted appetizer meats – chitterlings, pig ear, pig’s blood cake, egg
Salt and Pepper chicken
Salt and Pepper chicken

 

Pan fried dumplings - not too shabby
Pan fried dumplings – not too shabby
Wonton Soup - nice cuts of cha siu pork and slivers of egg included
Wonton Soup – nice cuts of cha siu pork and slivers of egg included

 

"Zong zi" - rice dumpling stuffed with pork belly, beef, and topped with a sweet and sour sauce, wrapped in banana leaf
“Zong zi” – rice dumpling stuffed with pork belly, beef, and topped with a sweet and sour sauce, wrapped in banana leaf
Curry chicken lunch box - their lunch boxes are a great deal with lots of food including pickled daikon radish, housemade Taiwanese sausage, noodles, veggies, rice
Curry chicken lunch box – their lunch boxes are a great deal with lots of food including pickled daikon radish, housemade Taiwanese sausage, noodles, veggies, rice
Fried tofu topped with spicy pickled kimchi cabbage
Fried tofu topped with spicy pickled kimchi cabbage
Housemade egg wafer rolls
Housemade egg wafer rolls

2013-11-07 12.10.51

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Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup at Taipei 101

Taipei 101 on Urbanspoon

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A hibachi chef clatters his utensils on the hot steel cooking surface, getting ready his next meal…behind a glass counter?


When you first enter Kyoto Sushi and Grill, formerly the location of a stand-alone Boston Market building, there aren’t large hibachi tables every where: only one behind the counter. Kyoto Sushi and Grill is a fast casual Japanese hibachi/ teppanyaki/ sushi joint in the UCF area and the unique part about this place is that you order at the counter, much like at the nearby Pei Wei’s, then receive a number and wait for your food at one of the tables in the dining area.  The sushi and hibachi are prepared at the front and are behind the counter rather than in your face with flaming onion volcanoes. The trade-off is in the prices: for considerably less you can get your hibachi meal that you would typically get at a Kobe’s steakhouse, minus the show and high tickets. For lunch, its a steal for the quantity and quality of a hibachi meal that you receive.

On this occasion, I was in the area for lunch with an old friend. I ordered the steak and scallops hibachi lunch meal with the side salad and fried rice while my friend ordered the salmon hibachi meal with miso soup. There is a young and happy manager here who is always making sure you are taken care of, you can feel that customers receive a real genuine welcome. Although the decor is much like any fast food place, the seats are very comfortable and the tables are clean. Almost every seat in the house is taken up, its pretty amazing how busy it can be during lunch, which says a lot about the operation they are running here.

My steak and scallop hibachi meal was quite enjoyable: the scallops were large, plump, and flavorful not too chewy or too rare. The sirloin steak was cooked the way I wanted with a warm pink center. With the fried rice, I honestly believe that the food here is better than what you get at Kobe’s down the street at more than half the price and minus the glitz. My friend also enjoyed her meal and had enough for leftovers for dinner. Also, don’t forget to use the almighty white sauce to flavor things to your liking. All in all, Kyoto Sushi and Grill is probably shaping up to be one of my favorite places to go to lunch in the UCF area, if you can fight off the crowds. Itadakimasu!

This Kyoto Grill location is on the southwest corner of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail, just at the gates of the University of Central Florida, is actually an offshoot of the original Kyoto Grill at the UCF Arena plaza on the north end of campus.

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Order Menu board

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The Hibachi and Sushi Bar

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The Dining Area is packed!

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Miso soup and side salad

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Salmon and White Rice


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Steak and Scallop Hibachi meal


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yummy



Kyoto Sushi & Grill on Urbanspoon

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