Eating in Orlando Vol. 9
If you follow my adventures on Instagram you've probably already seen me sing the praises of DaJen Eats, a cafe and creamery currently located in a Citgo gas station at Lee Road and Orange Blossom Trail.
My first introduction to Chef Jenn's goodness was thanks to another female business owner, Celine of Valkryrie Donuts who was using Jenn's vegan soft serve. It tasted remarkably the same as any normal soft serve so I was impressed that is was dairy free and I knew that whoever made it was up to something good.
I finally was able to visit her spot (yes there is seating inside) for lunch, and my first meal was the Identity Crisis sandwich. It's half jerk chicken, half buffalo chicken. Now I don't know what type of trickery Chef Jenn is into back in her kitchen, but I promise you nothing about these bites told my mind I was eating vegan at any point during consumption. All that kept hitting me were the flavors. The flavors of her sauces, the flavor of her slaw, the flavor of the layer of pineapple; I just kept getting hit with brilliant bites. Not to mention that I had planned passing on eating her bread, ya know trying to cut down on that bread bloat, but after one bite I couldn't stop. Her homemade bread is a soft, pillowy revelation of what all breads should be, and how in the world could any of us even dare look at Wonder Bread again without a mean side-eye!
Since my first trip I've been back to create my own bowl (prices begin at $8.49), the Chick'n Biscuit Sammy ($4.49 each) and one of her peanut butter shakes and her strawberry Irie cream. Impeccable texture and flavor at every turn. Next on my list is her brunch service and I'm hyped because I know now that this Chef can do no wrong.
Peter's Kitchen has been getting a lot of love online lately, and although I don't eat a lot of Chinese food (I save that for trips up north), after hearing so many good things about the newest spot in town I wanted to check it out to make sure I wasn't missing something truly different.
I ordered the Sesame Chicken but was brought the Orange Chicken instead. I don't send food back (years of working in the restaurant biz doesn't allow me to), so I went ahead and ate the dish. My husband got the roasted pork noodle soup and we shared a starter of dumplings. There was nothing wrong with the meal, but it didn't stand out as exceptionally better or different from meals I've had at Tasty Wok or Chuan Lu. The chicken was very juicy, but the sauce was overpoweringly sweet for my palette. Of course, on my first visit I didn't venture into very exotic territory, so perhaps the Dim Sum is where they really stand out, so in time I will go back and see if it's all in the ordering here.
My first few attempts to eat acai bowls left me scratching my head. I liked the concept but the execution of so many left me wondering why they had such mass appeal suddenly and why were acai bowl spots popping up almost as frequently as E-Cig shops.
I drove by the Purple Ocean Superfood truck countless times and never stopped because I figured it would be just like all the others. It would pull me in, give me acai soup, and take my $15. The ladies at the neighboring shop, Dora Mae, raved about it while we were together one day, so I gave it a try, and now fully blame them because I'm addicted.
Not only are the bowls not the consistency of soup, they are layered with other ingredients beyond slices of fruit that give it great textures and grit. My favorite for instance is the Crash Boat. On top of the two large scoops of ice cream-like acai, you get bananas, hemp seeds and peanut butter. For a little extra sweetness you can add agave or honey. The thickness of the peanut butter mixed with the crunchy layers that often form their own little morsels at the bottom of the bowl make for a much more interesting scoop-able meal than most. To add to the reasons to try it, none of the bowls are over $10.
Right now the truck goes between its home on Orange Avenue in Ivanhoe Village and pop-ups around town. Rumor is that he is looking to expand to East Orlando with another truck.
You really just need to try it for yourself, I personally haven't had a more satisfying bowl in Orlando.
The Sausage Shack used to have a home in the Altamonte Mall and has since gotten an upgrade by opening in Winter Park's Hannibal Square. Seems like a posh spot for hot dogs, but the owners are British, so might as well go pinkies up no matter what you are holding on to.
My friend was tantalized by images of the cotton candy dog on Instagram so we went to investigate this unnecessary marvel.
I'm not a fan of cotton candy mixed with meats but I found something just as bizarre, a donut dog with cheese and spicy mustard. Let me tell you the truth, I actually liked it! The bun is dipped and hand rolled in sugar which actually lends itself quite nicely to the Cheddar cheese sauce for the sweet and salty mix so many of us love. I didn't want to tempt gastrointestinal damage by including the relish and spicy mustard, so I stuck to just a few accouterments atop the dog and I feel like it worked out well. The owner was extremely nice and hospitably and although I don't eat hot dogs or sausages very often, I'd go back just for his sweet British self and dry humor.
It should be noted that all seating is outdoors in the beautiful courtyard within the Hannibal Square area of Winter Park.
I lived in Winter Garden from the late 80's to 2000 and I can tell you that the downtown area was quite different back then. I've loved to see the growth and all the new local businesses that have been able to find their footing on the main drag of Plant Street, as well as within the busy Plant Street market, but if you are familiar with the area you know it's rich in unassuming family-owned Mexican restaurants.
On a Saturday afternoon I rode past the Plant Street Market and I was deterred from sights of the overflowing patio and figured it was high time to show other local restaurants love. Over on Dillard Street, in the Bravo Supermarket shopping center, we visited La Perla.
It's small and quiet, painted with festive south of the border decor. We were greeted right away by a young waitress who brought us warm chips and took our drink orders. The menu was pretty expansive, but I got an assortment of tacos, the prices of which were on average about two dollars each. I did notice that they did not have a toppings bar often found at authentic spots, but instead we were given our own bowls of lime, cilantro, and onions which was all I needed. Topped off with great horchata and freshly made guacamole the whole meal was simple, fresh, and delicious. Everything had great flavor, no extra grease which is rare to see when you order chorizo, and was extremely affordable. My friend ordered the torta and kept saying how amazing it was so now I'm curious to go back and get one for myself.
With so much to try in Winter Garden, make sure not to forget the small guys.
We are not at a loss for Boba tea joints in Orlando, but I will say that with the opening of the new chain, Vivi Bubble Tea, we have more tea options then we probably know what to do with.
If you frequent boba spots you are likely familar with milk teas and slushes, but there are some items you might not be familiar with like Yakult, a milky and apparently probiotic option.
Since it's opening I've visited twice and tried the Tiramisu slush and the Taro slush. The tiramisu was actually a great choice for something with a more familiar taste without being overly sweetened, but the taro slush was a great more typical flavor for seasoned boba fans. There are so many options here you could be a frequent visitor and not run out of new things to try for quite awhile.
The space is bright and open with ample seating and a few instagrammable spots for sharing your drink online.
There are no snacks to be had yet, but soon they should have a bites menu.
If you don't want to park on E. Cololnial there is a parking lot directly behind it with a back entrance which is where you will find the pink, black and grey wall.
Located downtown on Magnolia Avenue, this place has become one of my favorites when I'm craving a casual Korean dish.
Throughout the past few visits I've tried a few different bowls, but my favorite so far is the Mills 50 bowl. It's a large portion of warm rice with grilled chicken, lettuce, cabbage, pickled daikon & carrots, cucumber, tomato, green onions, cilantro, and a fried egg. They top it off with garlic aioli & hot sauce. I'm pretty weak when it comes to anything with a kick so normally I would steer clear of the hot sauce, but the cucumber and aioli help balance it out, so keep it for the extra flavor if you can.
The decor is simple, a smattering of different paraphernalia from cities on the wall. The owner and Chef, Jon Lee, grew up in Chicago, and lived in some other major cities as well, so he pulls his inspiration from the many neighborhoods he has visited in his travels.
The restaurant caters to the downtown lunch crowd so they are only open Monday - Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., so unfortunately if you don't work near downtown it may be hard to make a lunch time visit. When you get the chance I would highly recommend it. This spot may fly under the radar for some, but it's 4.5 Yelp rating sings its praises from the locals who have enjoyed it over the past two years.
All food was personally paid for by me. No restaurant mentioned asked that I visit their establishment. All photos belong to LemonHearted Creative and should not be used in commercial use without permission.