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I'm a pretty big fan of the local fare around towns, and its a great way to find out about the town. A lot of tourists stick with the familiar names, usually for kids/family sake. I checked out a few local spots that I picked up from cab drivers, and eventually, from the locals themselves.

Orlando Ale House....a great sports bar with probably 50 feet of combined television space. I made it in there the night of a big UFC fight, so there was a $5 cover just to get in, and the place was standing room only. I did go back a second time and actually got a booth, and eventually made my way over to the bar. Staff is friendly, cost is reasonable, food is good, atmosphere is great.

Charley's Steak House: When I first heard about this place from an uber-awesome cabbie, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The place is definitely upscale, but they encourage casual dress. They age and cut all of their beef in house. They serve a master cut 50 ounce porterhouse monster that was absolutely delicious. They are also a rare establishment to offer a certified USDA Prime 20 ounce Filet Mignon. As a connoisseur of beef, this place was definitely deserving of their number one steak house in the country award. They even have brochures in the waiting area to prove it. The owner and namesake of this restaurant also founded the Red Lobster chain, and headed that up for several years before he sold it off to General Mills. Tip: make reservations. »www.talkofthetownrestaurants.com···eys.html

Four Rivers Smokehouse: A little outside the International Drive area, located in Winter Park near UCF, is a phenomenal barbecue joint. Turns out the owner used to smoke meats in his backyard for friends/charities/parties, then got it in his head to open a restaurant gig. Couldn't have made a better decision. On the outside, it looks like a small time restaurant with a small ordering area and outdoor seating. Don't judge a book by its cover. Once you decide to eat there, have fun finding a parking spot. Four Rivers made a deal with an adjacent church to allow them to use their parking area during the week. Since the smokehouse is closed on sundays, it doesn't seem to be an issue. The line is constantly out the door, and with just 6 or 7 outdoor picnic tables, you're sure to meet someone you didn't know before. All while enjoying some top notch meat. They tease you too. The seating area sits right next to the smoker, so you get the strong smell while eating to enhance the experience. Be sure to buy a bottle of their homemade barbecue sauce to take home too. I won't lie, this was probably my favorite place in Orlando. I bought a pound and a half of their pulled pork, with a bottle of their barbecue sauce to take back to Alaska with me to share. Turns out they will open up online ordering too, shortly. Tip: you can call in orders ahead of time if you know what you're looking for. Menu can be found online at »www.4rbbq.com/

Vito's Chop House: Like Charley's, Vito's ages and cuts all of their meat in house. Unlike Charley's though, they also offer prime cuts of pork, and lamb as well. Vito's definitely specializes in the Italian style of meat preparation and cooking. Not a bad thing, but not what I was expecting right out of the gate. Their wine list is about as thick as a novel, something like 1,200+ wines readily available by the glass, bottle, or half-bottle. Pretty succulent stuff. I had the ribeye, cooked medium, and to perfection. Steak comes with a salad, potatoes are considered an extra side, which I consider to be a cardinal sin. At Charley's, certain steaks were advertised as a la carte, where all sides are extra, but most of their "normal" cuts game with some form of starch. Slightly disappointing. The dining room was very dimly lit, and the atmosphere very calm, almost like you are actually at a winery. Tip: Take the waiter's advice on wine pairings, I didn't think a Cabernet would have went well with my particular meal, but I'm over 4,000 miles away now, and I still stand (read, sit) corrected.

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by McLovin See Profile edited by lilhurricane See Profile
last modified: 2010-03-25 01:49:24