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Geeky Beer Lovers Unite at Gaming Tavern Near UCF

After circling the packed parking lot a few times in this tiny shopping center behind the massive shadow of Waterford Lakes Town Center, I tugged on the two, heavy glass doors to Cloak and Blaster. Immediately, the quiet midnight air filled with rambunctious rambling and laughter from the card game two tables to the right of the hostess (one of the owners just happened to be seating tables at the time). She smiles and welcomes my friend — a true nerdy regular — by name. I chuckle a little; after all, their tavern-like atmosphere has waiters with shirts that say, ‘where everybody knows your game’ and the fact that she knew him by name just added to that Cheers feel. We sat down, ordered off of the special Pi Day menu (yes, we do celebrate pi day in this crowd), then immediately went up the stairwell to check on the big screen TV’s epic Super MarioKart tournament before grabbing our selections (Dominoes and Martian Fluxx) from the large bookcases of games next to the bar. Gaming in Orlando just took it up a notch. This gaming pub is safe for über geeks and just looking-for-a-good-time people ready to order off of the 90+ craft beer menu. To sweeten the deal, the food is priced very fair for what you get and the desserts are yummy too (see pics below).

Good Eats in Gainesville

At Orlando Food Tours we take you on a trip in Winter Park, FL that delights your taste buds but what about outside of Winter Park? Surely there are amazing places to eat besides local, right? Today we look at Gainesville, FL and look to help you out with some resources to check out if you’ll be visiting soon. Whether you’re moving to Gainesville because you just got into UF, a job relocation or just visiting on a gameday during football season and want to know some places you can visit while in town, we got you covered (not the bill, you gotta pay that yourself). Our friends at Rent Gainesville apartments, who specialize in helping people search Gainesville apartments, have their own top 5 places to eat in Gainesville: Hogan’s – NY style deli with awesome subs for about $7 with a soda. Don’t worry there’s a full service bar too. (CASH ONLY) Satchels – Unique pizzeria with an atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else. Whether you dine inside or inside the renovated van, you won’t find another place like this anywhere. (CASH ONLY) The Top – Great location downtown for those visiting just for a weekend or a gameday. Embers – This local steak house rivals some of the larger well known places in the country. Only to be found in Gainesville, it’s a definite must try next time you’re in town and looking for a nice place to have dinner. Manuel’s – This unique Italian restaurant will make you wonder what you ate previously that was called Italian food. Rated the number 1 place to eat in Gainesville, it’s a definite must have at some point in your life. Not sure about some of these choices? That’s okay because just like Orlando, Gainesville is in no short supply of foodies. Ken Eats Gainesville is a food blog that highlights several great places to eat and tries out new places all the time. If you’re looking for a sure fire winner though, check out his “Best-of List” which highlights the best of for any category you can think of. Have you been to Gainesville and had an amazing taste bud experience? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

The Smiling Bison Review

I have to come out and just admit it; gastropubs are just my main thing investigate this site. I like the chill feel and incredible eats where you can laugh and let loose, unlike some of those in fancier culinary sphere. When my weekend plans got jumbled due to some friends who came down with the cold that’s been making its way around town, I was giddy to make some new plans to try out The Smiling Bison off of Colonial near Fashion Square Mall. So, here’s my The Smiling Bison Review… The Smiling Bison Review Location: 745 Bennett Rd. Orlando, FL 32803 Right off the beaten path, tucked away just blocks from Fashion Square Mall, there’s a “The Smiling Bison” sign leading in from a small parking lot. You can’t really see it from the main road, but once you get your first taste, where to find these great eats is etched into your memory for life. Overall, the food was good and the mason jars were a nice touch. It sort of reminded me of Prato with the heavy wood and earthy feel that the dining area had. Mostly, I have to commend the staff. They were very friendly and down-to-earth, which is always a major plus when you’re trying to get out of the hustle and bustle and just enjoy some grub. There were only two of us who went so we didn’t get to sample EVERYTHING, but we made sure to hit the top picks according to our sweet waitress. For starters, the Poutine was a good kickoff with nice big cheese curds over fresh potato wedges. The gravy was a little heavy for my liking, but they didn’t smother it over the food either, so I took what I wanted of it and left the rest. We were told that the Bison Burger is a must and that the pork chops were incredible. I was feeling particularly adventurous and splurged to get the fried egg to top off the Bison Burger and it was great. The Texas toast in lieu of a bun gave a little more crunch and texture the burger plus the shoestring fries put a fun twist to the plate. I honestly hate mushrooms, so I made sure to get the signature mushroom ketchup on the side and taste-tested it with the fries. I kind of regret that decision because it was AMAZING! As for the pork chop, everything was tender and it was a pretty big portion for the price. I was impressed. I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t take much for a pork chop to go wrong, but luckily The Smiling Bison hit the nail on the head. The menu had good prices (and the service was fairly fast, giving us plenty of time to stop in, eat and head to the theater just minutes away). On the night we went, there wasn’t a whole lot going on which was what we wanted for that night, but things do get festive in this new smash hit. With Jazz Tuesdays and performances throughout the week, we have plans to come back and see what happens when the instruments come out! (To check out their performance calendar, click here.) We regret not being able to try the drink menu, but all of the fun tables around us made sure to take care of that for us. They all seemed to be loving it, but we’ll have to circle back later to give you more deets on the drinks. About The Smiling Bison’s Story We didn’t get a chance to speak to the owners, but we did creep on their backstory online. The moral of the story: The name is a tribute to Buffalo, NY and the Bison Burger just kind of put the cherry on top of the name since everyone presumed that serving bison dishes would be their thing. They opened just last year and they’ve been putting love into their creative twist on dishes ever since. Both the Chef and Sous Chef have relations with another one of our favorites, The Ravenous Pig! Serving up American tapas, the healthy meat of the bison, pizzas, sandwiches and of course, brews, The Smiling Bison is a new hit in our books. Learn more here >> Make Us Your Guinea Pigs Have a new restaurant you want Orlando Food Tours to review? Send us a shout out on Facebook and we’ll make it happen for you. Let us know here >>

New Restaurant, Boca Winter Park, Makes Headlines

Well that put a smile on my face! I was flipping through Lifestyle‘s December issue and the foodie in me instinctively went to the Bon Appetit section and much to my surprise, a new restaurant, Boca Winter Park, finally made some much deserved headlines. I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but we’re all about the farm-to-table movement and located where Matilda’s used to be in Winter Park, this new OFT favorite dinner spot is perfect when you’re taking a stroll down Park Ave. Not to steal any of the thunder from the article which goes into depth about the farms, vision and style of Boca, we can say that the flatbreads were incredible and the al fresco dining made for a cozy, comfy feel. As always, when we fall in love with a new spot, we fall head over heels so we have to point out a few things to try… This time, it’s the short ribs and you just have to try an artisan cocktail from the menu; it really gives you a feel for what they’re making happen at Boca Winter Park. Looking for some #foodporn potential? This is your place. There are lots of fresh herbs on display that are great to snap pictures of and although we failed you and didn’t get pics of our visit, Lifestyle magazine has you covered on that front. Check out the new restaurant review here. (Skip on over to pg. 18 for the full read-through).

Fresh New Restaurant in Orlando: JJ’s Grille

I have this thing for hidden gem kinda restaurants. You’ve probably noticed, but I’m not the fanciest cat in the crew either, so when I started hearing more and more about this new restaurant in Orlando, I took a little trip south to check it out. JJ’s Grille is located off of Curry Ford and Crystal Lake. It’s hidden away in a shopping plaza (2950 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, FL 32806) as it freshens up the old block. I stopped in, I snapped some pics and, of course, I ate! The verdict’s in; are you ready? New Restaurant Review – JJ’s Grille Fan-freaking-fresh-tastic!

Charlie’s Bakery – Charming Bakery in Orlando

My family has had this tradition for many years. You see, there’s this bakery in Orlando that although it’s about a 20 minute drive from our Oviedo home, it’s a must on the holiday agenda. About Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries – A Fav. Bakery in Orlando When Christmas comes around, we head over to Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries off of Curry Ford Road in Orlando, Fla. and we get our gingerbread men. They’re $1/piece and they pair perfectly with a glass of milk or hot cocoa. This Orlando bakery specializes in old-fashioned baking. They have terrible parking in the little lot across from CVS, but their sweets are always on point and the prices are great! Having opened back in 1971, the bakery still boasts their super secret grandfather’s recipe for their goods. Needless to say, we’re always stopping in and grabbing a few treats. They simply can’t be beat. As the holidays approach, keep them on your calling list. From pies, pastries, cupcakes and more, they’re sure to be a hit for your ugly sweater party, Christmas Eve get together or New Year’s Eve Bash. I know this post isn’t like the rest. I don’t want to drag it on or fluff it up. Really, I love this place. It’s as simple as that. 🙂

Pretzel Crust Pizza? Nom Nom or Heck Nah?

I did it. I’m not proud of it, but here I am bewildered and ready to share. It was late at night, nothing but poorly made informercials on T.V. and then there it was. A big, steaming hunk of… pretzel crust pizza from Hungry Howies. I felt my low-carb diet angel on my shoulder shriek as I picked up the phone and ordered the house a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and, of course, I made it a pretzel crust.

Central Florida Deli, Cavallari Gourmet, Opens Wednesday, 10/1

October just got a bit tastier with a new location opening for one of our favorite Central Florida Delis! We’re excited to announce that Cavallari Gourmet is now branching out into Heathrow (right outside of Lake Mary)! Personally, living in Oviedo, Fla., Cavallari Gourmet is almost a deli delicacy. It’s our weekly tradition and with another location, we say, the more the merrier! Central Florida Deli – Cavallari Gourmet New Location We have it on good word that the long-awaited second location is opening on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 and it’s been said that this new location has come together like a dream. Joe, manager and co-owner of the meat market and specialty grocery shop, said it’s been great to see them start fresh in an empty storefront and turn it into the signature Cavallari store we’ve grown to love. After seeing a few shifts in the layout of the original location, we’re excited to see the Cavallari Gourmet magic come to new life in Heathrow and all that this new location has in store.

OFT Selects! Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Now, that’s just showing off… But we like it! If you haven’t heard of <a href="http://www more helpful hints.visitorlando.com/magicaldining/” title=”Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month” target=”_blank”>Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, during September, some of Orlando’s best restaurants and chef’s team up to provide 3-course meals for $33 dining deals of some of their best selections. Plus, one dollar of each magical dining month meal is donated to local Ronald McDonald Houses! A great deal and a great cause! Now in progress, you could check out a number of restaurants and dishes from hot spots like Funky Monkey Wine Company, The Boheme, Mingo’s and Hawk’s Landing Steakhouse, just to name a few. Check out the full list of participating restaurants here. There’s a lot to choose from and they even break out the restaurants into areas like Downtown, Restaurant Row, the Theme Park area and, of course one of our favorites, Winter Park. Because we know too many options can leave your head spinning, we’ve went ahead and made a list of some of our personal favs that are a part of Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month! OFT’s Magical Dining Month Picks Luma on Park Luma on Park is located right off of Park Ave and it’s the sister restaurant of Prato (they’re on our food tour!). When you step inside of Luma for the first time, it’s not uncommon for your eyes to get a little big. The inside is beautiful with this cozy, but modern feel with open views of the kitchen. It’s seen as one of the more upscale and exclusive spots with great wine. They win tons of awards and recently won Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence 2014. Some other awards include U.S. Today’s “10 Best Foodie Spots in Orlando” plus they won 3 first place and 3 second place rankings in Orlando Magazine’s Dining Awards last year. How can you beat that?

Restaurant Review | The Coop

Maybe it was the mismatched chairs… Maybe it was the surveying of everyone’s plates loaded down with classic southern dishes (served in classic southern portion sizes). Or, maybe it was the uncontrollable grin that crossed our faces when we saw John Rivers (THE chef John Rivers from 4 Rivers Smokehouse) talking to guests. Whatever it was, The Coop has us hooked from the start and we’ve been coming back ever since. If you haven’t been to The Coop, let us give you a little taste of this new in Winter Park, Fla favorite. The Coop – A Southern {Restaurant Review} Affair The Deets Location: 610 W Morse Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32789 Yelp Reviews: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-coop-a-southern-affair-winter-park Prices: $5-$30 Website: http://www.asouthernaffair.com/ The Nitty Gritty Alright ya’ll, it’s time. The Coop has been open for a handful of months and things are getting a little more calm to where those of us who don’t want to be the first ones at a new restaurant when the line is wrapped around the corner are able to place their stake and take the adventure in. While the line is still longer than most places in Winter Park (when isn’t the line out the door at one of John Rivers’ amazing restaurants?), this Hannibal Square restaurant is located at the corner of Morse Ave and Pennsylvania Ave, just minutes from beautiful Park Ave and it’s a must go, hands down!