By day I'm a Librarian, and with approximately 17,000 other attendees I spent last weekend in Orlando where, you may have guessed, it was really hot. If I wasn't melting in the sun I was freezing cold in the Orlando County Convention Center. My powers were getting sapped quickly, so I started looking closely at the culinary opportunities nearby.
The OCCC is on International Drive, close to Universal Studios, Disneyland, and Seaworld, hotels and resorts, and lots of smaller attractions (I use that word loosely), such as the Orlando Eye and Ripley's Believe it Or Not and, for you shoppers out there, the Premium Outlets. The area is crawling with tourists and visitors - umpteen thousands of us - and every type of chain restaurant you could possibly imagine, all doing a booming business.
I get it. The rents are sky high along the strip, downtown is far away, and heck, let's face it, America loves its chains. Outback, Carrabba's, Denny's, Sonic, Jimmy Buffets, Dave and Busters - burgers and fries and big breakfasts and noisy noisy noisy - good for families with hyper kids. And chains are not always cheap: think Benihana and Capital Grille and Texas de Brazil. The Pointe has dozens of better quality chains all snuggled together at 9101 International Drive - a busy place after dark, trust me, including lots of zombies and vampires and werewolves enjoying the lightening storms - but Zena was taking a break. Just another reminder to keep an eye on your kids.
Anyway, because daytime drinking is such a joy, we started with lunch at The Pub Orlando, in which the beer selection was very good. My Caesar Salad with Chicken and Red's Crispy Shrimp were both skimpy but tasty. The burgers looked good coming out of the kitchen. I suggest you stick to the stick to your ribs food that most pub crawlers crawl to pubs to enjoy.
The B-Line Diner, located in the Hyatt, was actually very good, also not cheap, but open 24 hours, which is cool. The Caesar Salad with Chicken (agin') was great - beautiful tender, seasoned chicken, a nice creamy dressing, not too garlicky. Colleagues both ordered the Mahi Mahi Sandwich served up on a toasted Hawaiian brioche - tasty, nicely prepared, too much bun. We liked this place a lot, and the service was terrific. If you have to live at a hotel for a week I might suggest the Hyatt just to eat at the B-Line.
Coopers Hawk has locations nationwide - they are a wine bar, serving only their own wines by the glass and a $$$ menu, each item listed with a recommended bin number. We had a table for 5 and everyone enjoyed their meal, and the wines were good, better than good maybe, and fairly priced ($7 up). The Soy Ginger Salmon was cooked through, as I'd asked, with a nice brown crust on one side, tender and slightly sweet, with a side of Asian slaw that was absolutely delicious. I like that the menu is varied - lots to choose from, from the smallest appetite on up.
The big blowout was at Copper Canyon Grill, currently with only four locations in Florida. The wine list was excellent (we enjoyed a couple of bottles of King Estate Pinot Gris from Oregon). There were a few steaks, fish options, pork ribs, even meatloaf - large servings, almost everything doused with their "signature spice blend" of mostly garlic and salt. My NY Strip was cooked exactly MR, and tender, but the sides weren't all that great. Dessert made up for it. Try the Key Lime Pie if ever you're in the area. One diner had some food allergies which they treated with great care and respect. I have to like that.
Chains have their place but they can't keep me down. We found some good meals, despite all, well deserved after a hard day at work, and at play.
Zena, Goddess of Fire