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High Tastes 2020: The 10 Greatest Dishes We Tried In Orlando This 12 months | Meals & Drink Tales | Orlando

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2020 was a hell of a year for many of us. I haven’t sat in a restaurant since March 7th, but I’ve ordered lots of delicious take-away meals throughout the year to support the local restaurants I love. These are some of my favorites among the dishes I’ve enjoyed this year, including some from new restaurants that opened in 2020. You could be making more use of your business now than ever, and you deserve to eat something delicious now more than ever.

Tonkotsu Ramen from Ramen Takagi:
Yoko Takagi and her Japanese-Venezuelan family moved to Orlando last year and just opened their first restaurant, a small, casual ramen shop in Oviedo. They serve different types of noodle soups, but their version of tonkotsu ramen with slices of rich, fatty chashu pork, pickled ginger, spring onions, a marinated ajitamago egg, and feathery noodles in a creamy pork bone broth is my favorite tonkotsu in the Orlando area .

Lahmacun from the Beyti Mediterranean Grill:
This wonderful Turkish restaurant recently opened in the Cuban room of old Rolando in Casselberry. Everything I tried was amazing, from the sauteed eggplant to the fluffy, puffy lava bread to the beyti dish of the same name, but lahmacun is one of my favorite dishes in Turkey: soft, thin flatbread with beef or lamb, seasoned with tomatoes, Onions, peppers, and parsley – a kind of Turkish pizza, minus the cheese. You can slice it up like a pizza, tear it off pieces, or do what I do and roll it up to eat. I tried recreating Lahmacun at home for a Thanksgiving celebration, but I quickly realized that it was best left to the professionals. And nobody here bakes it better than Beyti.

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  • Photo by Louis Rosen

  • Slow toasted pork sandwich from Uncommon Catering and Eatery

Slow Toasted Pork Sandwich from Uncommon Catering and Eatery:
J. Travis Smith and Tara Vernau-Smith expanded their critically acclaimed catering business to include this lovely, quaint restaurant on Curry Ford Road just before the March pandemic, with year-round pop-up roadside dinners. I’ve loved everything I’ve tried there so far, but my favorite was this roast pork sandwich with spicy provolone, broccoli raven, and banana peppers. It’s her replica of the famous DiNic classic at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia – the sandwich that deserves to be Philly’s legendary # 1 sandwich.

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Double Decker Pizza from Brad's Underground Pizza - PHOTO BY LOUIS ROSEN

  • Photo by Louis Rosen

  • Double decker pizza from Brad’s Underground Pizza

Double-decker pizza from Brad’s Underground Pizza:
Schedule your order a day or more in advance as Brad Czerkies’ business will blow up and he’ll get slammed. Slip into his Instagram DMs and request a Chicago style deep dish pizza or the gorgeous double decker pizza I ordered – two thin crust pizzas connected by this gorgeous braided crust. Czerkies delivers in person within 25 minutes or 15 miles from Maitland. Get ready to be blown away by Orlando’s newest and most mysterious pizza paladin.

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Salt and pepper softshell crabs from Mei's kitchen - PHOTO BY LOUIS ROSEN

  • Photo by Louis Rosen

  • Salt and pepper softshell crabs from Mei’s Kitchen

Salt and pepper softshell crabs from Mei’s kitchen:
Get two whole, perfectly gold-fried, soft-shell crabs for $ 8.95 at this new Taiwanese restaurant that opened earlier this year. They come with a generous cup of flavorful mayo for an ideal combination of flavors, textures and colors. Again, don’t miss the Taiwanese beef noodle soup with finely chopped coriander and pickled mustard greens. If it’s still cooler days, you’ll be glad we had this conversation.

Collard Melt Sandwich from Mason Jar Provisions:
This tiny new restaurant next to Burton’s Bar in Thornton Park already delights with scratched noodles, smash-style burgers, and other standards with a southern accent. The most unique thing I tried was the vegetarian-friendly collard melt sandwich, which combines several things that I love: braised collard greens, allspice cheese, chow chow relish and balsamic reduction on grilled sourdough bread. It is a real Mediterranean comfort.

Veal Biryani from Oh My Gyro:
This small restaurant in Longwood not only recreates the popular New York street food platters of halal gyro, chicken, and falafel, which are served with rice, lettuce, pita, creamy white sauce, and dangerous hot sauce, but also has regular time-limited ones Special combinations offered flavors from the Middle East, India and East Africa. Glad I didn’t miss this tender, medium-flavored veal biryani on the bone, served over basmati rice with raita yogurt sauce, pickled onions and other vegetables, and two sweet ladoo balls on the side. Follow them on social media and don’t miss out if they ever bring it back!

Southern Poutine from Git-N-Messy BBQ:
Meanwhile, the legend of meat connoisseur Chuck Cobb has grown as his grill operation grew from one supermarket in Sanford to another in Winter Park, and most recently to the Red-Eye Sports Tavern in Winter Springs. During the pandemic, I probably ordered more take-out from him than anywhere else, especially since his limited-time specials kept drawing me back. But as amazing as its giant ribs, smoked jalapeño cheddar sausage, and hot Nashville chicken are, my favorite piece might be its southern poutine, a mountain of sidewinder fries (the best kind of fries, IMO) topped with pulled pork , Cheese sauce, curd cheese, coleslaw and its own barbecue sauce. You can’t eat like this all the time, which makes it a special treat when you do.

Burger special from Alex’s Fresh Kitchen:
This Casselberry restaurant opened in 2019 and has become a local favorite, but people should travel here from near and far. Chef Alex Diaz has made the best burger I’ve eaten this year: one of his weekly specials, cooked to a perfect, rare medium, served on a lightly grilled brioche bun and topped with fried onion strings, barbecue sauce, pulled bacon and the like The most delicious roasted tomato aioli were topped up. His aioli game is strong so order some fries and several aiolis to dip in! Diaz always has interesting specialties on the menu, and his mother, Deborah McDowell, bakes their delicious, decadent desserts (all of which are gluten-free).

Lobster Rolls from Something Fishy:
The nicest couple, Terence and Patrice Phillips, run this casual seafood restaurant in Apopka, making it a real mom and pop shop. They serve the most unusual lobster roll sandwich I’ve had in central Florida. The meat is warm and fried in butter instead of the usual preparation, served cold and tossed in mayo. The Phillips bun is served on a soft bun with plenty of sautéed buttered cabbage. I could easily eat two out of three of them, but because it was “market price,” I stuck to one. But I also ordered some delicious fried oysters and some of the better onion rings I’ve had in town. Hit the alarm!

Orlando food enthusiast Louis Rosen blogs about dining and cooking on Saboscrivner.com.

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Janet Smith