Every day until at least midnight, the floor of Bananas Diner is bustling. Often, it's for the bounties of reinvented diner food. Stuffed french toast coated in rice crispies, chicken 'n' waffles, and unusual benedicts—such as the eatery's signature Funky Monkey topped with fried goat cheese, sun-dried tomato jam, and hollandaise—add an element of novelty to the morning. Lunch and dinner bring surprises as well. Take the Garbage Plate, for instance, which smothers burger patties, hot dogs, or grilled chicken breasts with a tower of hash browns, macaroni salad, cheese, onions, and salsa. Nine burger varieties grant the option of an Angus beef, turkey, chicken, or veggie patty, while an array of classic sandwiches pay homage to deli tradition better than a bagel stuffed with take-a-number tickets.
But sometimes, the crowd is there for something else entirely. On weekends, when the diner stays open 24 hours a day, servers dressed in drag ferry eclectic breakfast dishes to customers while female impersonators hold court on stage for the Sunday Gospel Brunch. Other past events have included Queengo (the diner's own take on bingo), Broadway-themed drag shows, and the competition known as Bananas Got Talent. No wonder Bananas Diner has won multiple best-of awards from OpenTable diners.
MyCityEats' 2012 pick for Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in Orlando, Pasha Taverna & Lounge seamlessly blends Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisines, serving seasoned tender kebabs alongside plates of stuffed grape leaves and falafel. Hearty fish and lamb-shank tagines arrive in decorative conical dishes with plenty of moroccan bread to soak up the sauce. Sweet, subtle desserts conclude feasts with flaky baklava or the Athenian Chocolate-Lover's Dream, which stacks alternating layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse.
In a dining room that Orlando Weekly described as “seductively decorated,” patrons sip on Moroccan mint tea amid carmine-red walls punctuated with keyhole-style insets and paintings. Textured benches roll along one wall, ending at a photomural that Orlando Weekly reported depicts the Atlas Mountains and Agdal Gardens. As dusk falls outside, the attached hookah lounge begins to fill with tendrils of scented smoke. On Friday and Saturday nights, belly dancers hypnotize guests with their undulations and their habit of holding a pendulum before the eyes of every visitor.
When bartender Larry Raikes moved from Buffalo, New York, to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1982, he couldn't find a single sub—so he stopped mixing drinks and started making his own sandwiches. From that single sub shop, Larry's Giant Subs has mushroomed into an international fount of sandwiches. For each order, sandwich-makers pair provolone cheese with black Angus USDA–choice extra-lean roast beef, 98% fat-free ham, or other meats displayed in a 6-foot deli case. They also pile slices of all-natural, charcoal-grilled chicken breasts onto their signature bread, which is shipped in daily from Costanzo's Bakery in Buffalo.
Inside the shop, a huge statue of King Kong—the shop's mascot—towers over guests, secretly helping young diners to make their sandwich selection in exchange for bananas, and New York–theme memorabilia serves to remind them of their subs' heritage. For hosts and hostesses supplying their own ambiance, Larry's Giant Subs caters platters, 3-foot subs, and 6-footers that feed up to 30 people.
In 2009 in Iceland, an established restaurateur and financier joined forces, opening up Saffran with a focus on healthy European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern menu items. With three successful locations under their belt, the duo expanded their venture overseas, opening a location in Orlando. Their restaurant is “a fast-food concept with food that rivals some restaurants that have a wait staff,” states Orlando Sentinel food editor Heather McPherson.
The kitchen team cooks chicken burgers, tandoori beef, and Safflats (akin to pizzas) without using white flour or MSG, and the housemade marinades contain no additives or preservatives. Most ingredients in the kitchen are culled from local producers, and nothing is prepared with a deep fryer. In the dining room, dark-wooden accents inform the decor, and an oversized picture of a waterfall symbolizes the bold plunge of the scientist who first united two hydrogen molecules with one oxygen molecule, making possible the marinades Saffran prepares today.
Not every pizza place has a Wall of Fame, let alone a Wall of Shame. Pizza Xtreme, however, entreats customers with a dare that echoes its name: eat all 7 pounds of a one-topping, jumbo pie with the help of just one friend, and you've won the 28" Challenge. The rules demand that you get it all down in less than an hour, though, and as the Wall of Shame and pile of half-eaten pies testifies, this is no easy feat.
The kitchen team accommodates the more gastronomically reserved by making single servings of hand-tossed pizza, which it decorates with toppings such as italian sausage, grilled chicken, smoked gouda, and crumbled eggs. Chefs also bake specialty pies and non-pizza goodness, such as calzones, cube-shaped tomatoes, customizable pasta dishes, and oven-baked ciabatta sandwiches such as the pesto-strewn turkey artichoke. Pizza Xtreme’s staff also pours out a selection of wine and beer to complement the food.