Orlando's Talked-About Tables: Truck-to-Table Newcomers, Plant-Based Pleasures & More



Vegans, noodle nuts, and fans of the city's food truck scene are going to find plenty to get excited about on this updated Orlando list of new, newish and top talked-about-tables we're posting as 2018 heads into its third quarter. Asian goodies abound, with a second location for popular Vietnamese fast-casual outfit, Viet-Nomz and another addition to the city's rapidly expanding Chinese list, Taste of Chengdu. Meanwhile, Thornton Park is home to a new noodle haven in the form of JINYA Ramen. Longtime fans of the Bem Bom food truck are delighted with the opening of Bem Bom on Corrine in the Audubon Park Garden District, while mobile vegan pros Leguminati have settled into new digs in the Hourglass District. In fact, vegans are getting a double-tap this time around, as DaJen Eats (up until now our fair city's most famous restaurant operating out of a gas station!) now has its very own home in historic Eatonville; doubtless many newcomers will discover its Caribbean-vegan delights.



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Meza is, in some ways, a resurrection of a former downtown fave for Mediterranean cuisine, now operating under a new name and a gorgeous new space that Baldwin Park locals - and those who pop in from elsewhere - are happily enjoying. Falafel and hummus and lovely tagines, done up for lunch and dinner, but that's not all, of course. The menu is expansive and you might even consider forgoing a stop at some ubiquitous Starbucks the next time you need a pick-me-up. Meza's Turkish coffee will certainly get you there - and farther. Paired with flaky baklava, it is indeed a delight, post-meal or all by itself.


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Where is the tenderness? Even if you didn't answer that question in the '80s (and even if you're not old enough to get the reference) you'll find loads of it in the contemporary Southern styling of the General Public House. Perhaps the lobster cakes. Or the buttermilk fried chicken. Or even the field greens of one of their seasonal salads. Regardless of what you order (the menu is quite extensive) you'll find this a welcome addition to the area, a fine place for date night, for happy hour (share a slew of apps over craft cocktaills), for a quick client lunch.


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Doctor Phillips


 

The H isn't your typical steakhouse. Though sleek, upscale and contemporary, three earmarks of the tony Dr. Phillips neighborhood, this restaurant's cuts are oft infused with the spice and flair of the Mediterranean. Live fire from its open kitchen provides something of a culinary show with your dinner, and of course - the aromas! - you'll grow hungrier as the tendrils of Turkish and Anatolian spice find their way to your nose. Lamb, beef and seafood are among the lures, but as is often the case with Mediterranean fare, the vegetarians will find much to get excited about, as well.


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Yet another of Orlando's mobile food purveyors finds itself a home, this one south of Downtown, and up goes a collective cheer from the city's foodies - and vegans who now have yet another venue at which ordering is as easy as a quick glance at the menu. Leguminati serves all three squares on the daily, with deliciousness in the form of tofu egg scrambles (get it in a wrap or over nachos or as part of the Waffle Cup flight), the cleverly named LGBT sandwich (lettuce, guac, rice paper, bacon and tomato with vegan mayo on a bun), and delicious crunchwraps with meatless meat and cheeseless cheese and crunchy veggies pressed into tasty handhelds. What's more, if you're in need f a caffeine boost, Leguminati has paired with one of the city's favorite caffeine purveyors, Foxtail Coffee. Get some on site!


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With the opening of Bem Bom on Corrine, another of Orlando's amazing food trucks goes brick and mortar, much to the delight of Chef Chico fans around the metro. With Portuguese (Piri Piri!) and Mexican delights populating its early menu, it's doubtless more creativity will come, but for now, delicious wine and craft beer, vibrant live music and delicacies from Portuguese sausage to queso fundido to fish tacos and lots more tempt the taste buds of its guests. Truffled, whipped potatoes in several incarnations are carb-loading at its most decadent. Try "the bomb," which incorporates Thai basil and chiles with Parmigiano Reggiano.


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DaJen Eats' local fleet of fans has been sailing straight for the gas station from which she served her fresh fare since it opened. Now ensconced in colorful, new digs in historic Eatonville, the personable Chef Jenn Ross is bringing her vegan Jamaican fare to the masses in her very own space. And mind you, her enthusiastic armada is far from all-vegan. Carnivores, too, clamor for dishes like jerk chik'n and sweet and spicy cauliflower bites over Jamaican peas 'n' rice or broccoli salad. They save room for a cool scoop of her very own dessert, too. Irie Cream comes in flavors as vanilla as, well - vanilla and exotics like SourSop The Madness (with Caribbean soursop fruit, also known as guanabana). The rich, creamy texture and flavors (much like that of her savory offerings) have led many non-vegans to admit there is much to savor outside the realm of animal-based culinary offerings.


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Disney Springs ®


 

The Master Sommelier diploma is the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service, And Disney Springs is home to the only Master-Sommelier led restaurant in Florida: Wine Bar George. With more than 130 wines by the glass, bottle and ounce, and a food selection including small plates and larger, family-style offerings that serve 2-4 guests, WBG is expansive, with two bars, a dining area and lovely patio seating on the second level (as Disney Springs views are loveliest with fine wine in hand). Knowledgeable staffers are happy to point you in the direction of the perfect glass or bottle.


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East Orlando


 

Fans of Viet-Nomz' popular Winter Park location (in particular those in East Orlando) were thrilled when it was announced a second outpost would be opening in the UCF/Waterford Lakes area. And with good reason. This fast-casual Vietnamese entity is pho-nomenal for pho. But that's not all. Many may show up for the generous, steamy bowls of noodle soup, but bao, street tacos, banh mi, spring and summer rolls and delish-to-pop fried tofu bites are among the other lures. Not hungry, but need a pick-me-up? Pop in for a Vietnamese iced coffee instead.


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Feeling slurpy cravings that 7-11 can't satisfy? Head down to the JINYA franchise's newest location in lovely Thornton Park for the triple threat of a hot meal, a facial and a steam session for your sinuses in one noodle-laden bowl. Extra points if you turn up the heat with extra peppers or chili oil. Broth-forward offerings such as the Brussels sprouts-studded Sprouting Up Ramen or Spicy Umami Miso Ramen are among the restaurant's hits. Those feeling less soupy won't be left out, mini tacos stuffed with spicy tuna or pork and kimchee or the crunchy-silky Spicy Creamy Shrimp Tempura, among a host of other dishes (the menu is broad!) will certainly suit.


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West Orlando


 

Chengdu is Sichuan's capital city, and Taste of Chengdu, a late 2018 addition to the growing enclave of phenomenal Asian restaurants on West Colonial, brings with it more than a modicum of spice, a hallmark of this region's culinary style. Proteins from beef, chicken and shrimp to more exotic offerings like tongue and tripe â€" and a generous selection of vegetarian dishes â€" are oft prefixed with the word "spicy" or followed by phrases like "with seven chili sauce," but that doesn't mean all of it is off-limits to adventurous diners with more sensitive palates. What Taste of Chengdu serves up is authentic, fresh and delicious, so bypass the walk-in, take-out joints the next time you're in the mood for Chinese and sample something exceptional here. With our without the signature Sichuan levels of heat.


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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