After a search, I think this deserves a new thread. I wanted to show some love to a local operation I tested this past weekend at the recommendation of my roommate – and there must be others like it out there y’all know about and can point to. No, it's not got the totally grungy, divey cred of a Lee and Rick's, or the retro Beefy King vibe – so I don’t think it belongs on the Diners/Dives/Drive-ins thread. And the food was yummy, but it’s not going to be the gustatory revelation that, say, the Spotted Pig serves up on the occasions when they really nail the mark. So, I pondered, does it even belong on the site? Or should I take my comments onto Urban Spoon or something? No, no - I think it’s Chow-worthy.
So if you don’t know about it yet, let me introduce you to Nick's Family Diner on OBT just north of Lee/JYP, just south of Clarcona Ocoee. It’s clean, offers good grub, and good value. This is also a local proprietorship, which I happily recalled just in time as my hung-over hunk’o’love and I were otherwise en route to Denny’s to soak up the remaining beer of Saturday night. Breakfast is served all day, which was good, as we had only blearily emerged into the sunlight at approximately 2pm, and that’s the kind of food he was craving. He ordered an enormous breakfast – pancakes, eggs, bacon, hashbrowns…. All were delish. The pancakes boasted the proper flavor – not too artificial tasting like the breakfasty chains can tend to be – and excellent hash browns: cooked to crispy perfection, not overly greasy, and properly salted to boot.
I had a Ruben-esque sandwich - corned beef accompanied by ham and turkey, too, I believe - and topped with coleslaw. It was yummy and messy, and easily was pushed over the line from ‘fine’ to ‘yum!’ from the assortment of meats inside, the gooey melted Swiss cheese, and the buttery toasted rye. It came with soup: I selected the lemon chicken. I know this is classic Greek food, and because this is ostensibly one of those diners that serves totally normal American food, but has a Greek heritage (like nearly half the diners in NYC, which is why those blue Grecian paper coffee cups are now so classic) and offers several Greek specialties alongside the heart of America-style offerings – moussaka, gyros, glimpses here and there of feta and spinach – I was curious to try it. I found it to be quite good. It was clearly homemade, offering up alongside the orzo a good supply of chicken chunks that just make you picture the chef in the kitchen carefully and laboriously cleaning a freshly boiled carcass. The combo of the lemon in the chicken soup was unusual to my tongue, though. I think Nick’s rendition was very good, I just am not sure that recipe overall is one I’d have again. Mac and cheese was my chosen side – I am a huge fan when it’s done right – but unfortunately this version was not great; it had a sweet finish I didn’t care for. You will happily note that when I was offered my free-with-meal dessert (!), and I inquired if any were made on the premises, the waitress explained to me that EVERYthing, aside from eggs, is homemade – right down to smoking/roasting the lunchmeats in house. How cool is that? So, back to dessert: I got an éclair – quite nice, very decadent custard filling – and lemon chiffon cake, which proved way too sweet for my taste and had to be foisted off onto my less picky hunk’o’love.
One other thing about Nick’s – there was not one, but several cars’ worth of Orlando’s Finest eating there. I don’t know about you, but I tend to trust a place where cops like to eat.
I think there must be other places like this, and I was so happy to have avoided an unnecessary chain encounter. What ones would you suggest?
Although I haven’t stopped by the new location yet (I am told it’s hard to know when they are open; their blinds are frequently closed against sun as well as in off hours; note to the proprietors they may be accidentally discouraging some drive-byers!), while I was waiting impatiently for their big Opening Day, I made two trips to Pom’s to sample the wares.
My loot from trip one included a red velvet cupcake and (ahem) some sort of chocolaty one that I can’t recall the precise name nor variety of. With cream cheese frosting or filling, perhaps? At any rate, it was some sort of white and black critter, whatever it was.
Now, while I am a cupcake fan, I have never, ever had better than my own homemade versions, try as I might…. The ones I purchase are always too damn sweet, covered in frosting that could make your teeth hurt just by looking at them, grainy sugar granules still perceivably crunchy in a frosting-like substance which could—for all intents and purposes—have been squeezed out of a Twinkie middle. Yech. And I do make it my business to stop by lauded NYC joints when I head home to visit the folks. Not talking about the touristy Magnolia junk, either – I hit up Billy’s, 2 Red Hens, Crumbs… whatever the ChowBoards are showing the love to in the weeks preceding my trip.
So, back to Bluebird by way of Pom’s. I should mention I also purchased a vanilla cake with choc frosting for a colleague whose appetite had been whetted by my audible mooning over Bluebird’s online menu.
ANNNND lemme tell ya, gentle Hound: the cakes were just flippin’ fantastic! I mean, ZOW.
For example, sure, intellectually I know what’s in a red velvet cake, but I have never actually tasted the cocoa until this cuppie came into my life. The cake was moist, the cream cheese frosting succulently creamy, and the allocations of both were perfectly balanced against each other. Ditto for my mystery-variety black and white one – rich and yummy; not one errant crumbs escaped my eagle eye as I inspected the large clamshell they came in for any remaining whiff of deliciousness that I could lick up.
My co-workers, however (one of whom I’d generously allowed to sample my black and white) – not so impressed. “Not sweet enough!” one complained, who is also an admitted admirer of Publix bakery sweets. “Aha!” I thought to myself. Finally: here were cupcakes for grown-ups. Cupcakes for people who LIKE to taste actual flavors and not mere sugar and lard. Cupcakes for….me!
Alas, a second trip to Pom’s two weeks ago turned out to be a sad disappointment. I was there late in the day, it’s true. Not much was left. I selected a chai (which all three staff members simply raved about) and (arg, blast my memory) either a chocolate with vanilla frosting or vice versa. One of the classic pairings, it was. And both proved thoroughly mediocre, to the point where I came close to tossing them in the bin rather than make an unworthy caloric sacrifice. Dry cakes. Not much flavor. Frostings – well, still wayyy better than most contenders out there, but still – meh. Oh, the humanity!!
All of which is to say that, more testing is needed. Yes, fear not, Hounds: I AM brave enough to answer the call. And I am resolved that it is time to go to the point of origin, now that they are finally open. We will eliminate any possibility of transit exhaustion affecting our prize!
FYI, for all the other insta-Chow-gratification junkies out there, be warned that the full assortment of cuppies is not assured to be available until perhaps as late as 11am-ish. When told this by a staffer who was, at that moment, unwittingly thwarting carefully laid cupcakes plans of mine, I uncharitably thought in response, “cheez, get up earlier, ya lazy bakers!!!”
However, the pleasant gentleman patiently explained to me that they do, in fact, get up at the bakery-customary buttcrack of dawn, but multiple flavors must be concocted, then allowed to cool, then decorated with their own special wardrobe of carefully design frostings. Sigh. However, consolation snacks for the early birds do exist in the form of muffins and scones.
I am anxious to hear Hound field reports, so share if you go!
Hi, you left out an important factoid here: what's the name of this place?