Grills Lakeside is a hidden gem along OBT. Plus, upcoming Magic.
Lakes: The bane of Florida drivers (find a straight road, I dare ya), they also offer some rare oases of calm in our crazed environment. Of particular note is a place we wandered into for Sunday breakfast this week—Grills Lakeside. Unless you usually travel Orange Blossom Trail north of downtown, you’d never know a lodge-ish fish campy restaurant was here, let alone the hidden beauty of Lake Fairview, shielded as it is by the hubbub of the Lee Road intersection and mobile home parks and construction supply warehouses along OBT.
Yet, there it is, sitting on the shore across the CSX railroad tracks, where the Florida Central Railroad delivers to local business and the Ringling Bros. train once traveled to bring the circus to town.
It’s a large, stories-high restaurant, catering to the fish camp and diner crowd, offering specialties like shrimp Cuban sandwiches, grilled fish platters (“For fried fish, we recommend Long John Silvers,” the menu says), shark kabobs and the Impossible plant-based burger. Breakfast crab Benedicts, seafood omelets and cranberry nut bread French toast start the day, and you have to love a place that offers a fresh fruit plate complete with ice cream.
But the food is almost unimportant when you can sit on a covered deck and look out on the surprising vista of this urban lake, big enough for sailboats and the sleek shells of the Orlando Rowing Club slicing through the water. We spotted a practice run of a colorful 40-foot dragon boat as it started and stopped along the lake, tried to figure out what buildings we were seeing the shoreline side of along Edgewater Drive across the water, and watched as pelicans arrowed from great heights in search of their own breakfast.
I’d be happy with a cup of coffee and a sunny day at Grills.
* Hawkers Asian Street Fare, our own street food pioneers with seven locations in Florida, Charlotte and Atlanta, is opening in Nashville later this year.
* It’s probably too late to get tickets for this normally sold-out event, but if you’re wondering about all the commotion in Baldwin Park on January 20th.: The annual Pastry in the Park event (which doesn’t actually occur in the park) at Osprey Tavern offers a five course dessert tasting (plus savory bites) including sweets courtesy of Brian Cernell (Luma on Park/Prato/Luke's Kitchen and Bar); Esther Rodriguez (The Ravenous Pig); Kristy Carlucci (Osprey Tavern); Amy Gilbert (Canvas); and Amanda McFall (Urbain 40).
* Culinary stars are converging in Orlando on March 15-17 for the inaugural Orlando Wine Festival and Auction benefiting the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation. The events at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes bring together Chef Akshay Bhardwaj (Junoon, the only Indian restaurant in New York City with a Michelin Star); Top Chef winner Joe Flamm (Spiaggia); Kevin Fonzo (La Tavola); Scott Hunnel (Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa); James Beard winner Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terralina Crafted Italian); Brandon McGlamery (Luma on Park, Prato, Luke's); Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto; James and Julie Petrakis (The Ravenous Pig); Justin Plank (Terralina); Steve Richard (Paddlefish); and Art Smith (Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen). Single ticket sales haven’t been announced yet, but packages—from a Grand Cru bundle of dinner for four, tickets to all events and an Orlando Magic game, with hotel accommodations for the weekend ($18,500) to a Reserve package of festival tickets and after party ($2,500)—are available for those with ready cash.
You have until February 1 to vote for your favorite area restaurants in the 2019 Dining Awards. Do it today! Stay in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, and access a comprehensive list of my print and online reviews here!