Monday, July 20, 2015

An amazingly fresh and unique concept in Orlando: Sus Hi Eatstation review

I'm always looking for something new and fresh on the Orlando dining scene. I've been rather bored lately with the opening of one burger chain after another. Enough already! Orlando needs a lot of things but it does not need another burger restaurant. Or another pizza chain for that matter. Orlando needs more inexpensive, locally-owned, unique concepts that offer healthier, fresher options.

I found just such a restaurant last week, after a visit to the UCF area, and a stop for dinner at Sus Hi Eatstation, just across from the campus on Alafaya Trail in Orlando. Wow! How refreshing to find a restaurant with a reasonably- priced menu, an unusual theme, awesome customer service, and amazing food. I know I'm a couple of years late to the party, but Sus Hi Eatstation is new to me, and I couldn't be happier to have finally found it, ninja.

Ninja?

Okay, so let's get the ninja thing out of the way right up front. The employees dress as ninjas and there's a general ninja theme to the dining room and the marketing. Employees will address you as "ninja," as in, "Welcome to Sus Hi, ninja." All employees start as "ninjas" and work their way up the employment ladder to "Head Ninja," "Sensei," and all the way to "Master." It's not over-done, really, and I thought it was endearing.

But how's the food?

The food is great. I enjoyed the ability to order a roll exactly as I like it. There are only a few pre-existing rolls on the menu -- but no California Roll, no Dragon Roll, etc. -- you pick everything you want inside and on top. In fact, you can also choose a rice bowl or a wrap instead of a roll.

Here's how it works:

First you choose your style (roll, bowl or wrap), then you choose your protein (tuna, shrimp tempura, tofu, spicy tuna, chicken tempura, salmon, grilled chicken, krab or steak), then choose your ingredients (cucumber, scallions, carrots, lettuce, cheese, walnuts, raisins, and lots more which can go inside or on top), then choose your sauce that is drizzled on top of your roll or bowl (spicy mayo, white sauce, sweet soy sauce, triple x, bbq, soy sauce, etc.). Rolls are $6, Bowls and Wraps are $7. Add $1 to tempura anything.

Here's what I ordered: Tuna Roll with scallions and sesame seeds, with White Sauce and wasabi on the side. I guess that's kind of boring compared to the others in my dining party, but I really wanted to taste the freshness of the tuna. I was very impressed.

The others at my table topped their rolls with all kinds of fresh ingredients and the end products looked like works of art. That's the best part of Sus Hi Eatstation -- every roll is a work of art, yours.

What's on the side?

For sides, there's Edamame, Ginger Salad, Seaweed Salad, Miso Soup, Fried Tempura, Egg Rolls, Dumplings and Krab Rangoons.

I tried the Krab Rangoons with a K. They were good with a G. My favorite side, however, was a new dish -- unique to Sus Hi Eatstation -- Rice Fries. My ninja smashed sushi rice between two sheets of seaweed and cut the square into strips. The strips were then tempura fried. When dipped into the Triple X Sauce, the sticks were amazing. I want more right now.

Vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Most ingredients at Sus Hi Eatstation are vegetarian and many are vegan. If unsure about a particular item, just ask a Sus Hi Master. Gluten free is also an option.

Roll up.

Sus Hi Eatstation is exactly what I've been looking for in Orlando. It's innovative, unique, friendly, accommodating, and above all, delicious, ninja.

5 Tempura-Battered Throwing Stars out of 5

Note: I dined compliments of Sus Hi Eatstation.

Sus Hi Eatstation
4498 N. Alafaya Trail
Suite 324
Orlando, FL 32826
407-826-1682
sushieatstation.com

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's a Summertime Celebration at Miller's Ale House

It's summertime alright here in Orlando. I'd say one of the hottest I can remember. But what can you do but embrace it, right? Bring on the heat, bring on the beer, and bring on the barbecue! That's my philosophy and I recently went all out summer celebrating at Miller's Ale House in Winter Park with a sampling from their new All-American Summer Fest Menu -- a combination of freshly-made BBQ dishes with a twist, ice cold beer, delicious cocktails and a chance to win tickets to the Budweiser Made in America 2-day concert.

For a limited time, Ale House guests can experience a variety of newly created menu items with summertime panache. Two of my favorite items were the Backyard BBQ Brisket Sliders ($9.49) and the N'awlins Style Shrimp ($10.99). The sliders were jam-packed with smoked brisket and tipped with sliced pickles and crispy onion tanglers. I dunked mine into the side of spicy BBQ sauce for a little more kick. The "peel and eat" shrimp were some of the easiest to peel I've tried, and were crisp, yet tender, and floating in Tabasco-seasoned butter. Delicious!

I washed it all down with pitcher of Watermelon Rita ($10) and a glass of Orange Crush ($3.95). The crush was great but, chunks of watermelon and lime floating in the Watermelon Rita pitcher just said Summer to me.

My favorite dish on the Summer menu was a surprise to me -- the Chopped BBQ Chicken Salad ($9.99). Salads aren't exactly unknown to my palate, but I'm certainly more meat and potatoes than iceberg and carrots. But this chopped salad really appealed to me with chilled, sliced grilled chicken mixed with freshly-chopped greens, black bean corn salsa, ripe tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese and crispy tortilla strips all tossed together with a BBQ ranch dressing. With a drizzle of BBQ sauce and green onions on top, I was more than pleased to down such a refreshing dish.

The signature dish of the Summer menu has to be the Ale House-Made Ribs and Brisket Platter ($16.99) with a generous serving of slow-smoked, sliced brisket drizzled with BBQ sauce and a 1/2 rack of baby back ribs served with grilled corn on the cob and cole slaw. I loved the ribs. I loved the cole slaw. I loved the grilled corn. I liked the brisket, even if it was a little dry. A quick dunk in a side of BBQ sauce was a quick fix. All this food for only $16.99 is quite a bargain.

Finally, for dessert, Apple Pie? No, even more American than that -- A fried Twinkie ice cream split. A county fair inspired Ale House original, the panko-breaded and deep-fried, banana-flavored Twinkie Split ($4.99) was served warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate and strawberry sauce. Too much? Certainly, but I loved it.

Made in America Sweepstakes

The Made in America Sweepstakes is easy to enter. Guests can upload their favorite summertime photo to Instagram or Twitter under the #AllAmericanSummerEntry through August 2 to be eligible. Visit Miller's Ale House for more info.

Miller's Ale House has 17 Orlando area locations.

4.5 Days of Summer out of 5

Note: I dined compliments of Miller's Ale House

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Don't know your Camel Rider from your Steak in a Sack? You will soon. The Sheik unveils franchising program and plans to bring its unique spin on the quick casual concept to Orlando

The Sheik Sandwiches, a five-unit restaurant chain based in Jacksonville, today announced expansion plans that call for the fast casual restaurant chain to open franchised locations in Orlando and across Florida.

Founded in 1972, The Sheik is known for home-style, hearty breakfast dishes and signature pitas and sandwiches -- with the most popular being the “Steak in a Sack” and the “Camel Rider.” All Sheik locations feature counter service, interior seating, and takeout. Sheik locations also feature a drive through window.

Elias S. Salameh, President of The Sheik Franchise Group, said The Sheik has been a favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner stop in Jacksonville for more than 40 years and it's time for Orlando and the rest of Florida to love The Sheik as well. “Of course we’re known for our wonderful breakfast items, but many know us as the “Home of the Camel Rider,” a deli meat and cheese stuffed pita like nothing else you’ve ever tasted,” said Salameh. “It’s our Whopper or Big Mac, and The Sheik is the only place in the world you can get it.”

Franchising plans call for organic, regional growth in Jacksonville and Orlando – followed by aggressive expansion throughout the state. "We've got plans to max out the Jacksonville market while also moving into the Orlando, Tampa and Miami markets," said Salameh. "With the excitement we've seen about our brand, we have every reason to believe most major markets in Florida could support up to 20 Sheik locations each."

The Sheik partnered with NEXT Franchise Systems, an Orlando-based franchise development company, to create The Sheik Franchise Opportunity and franchise sales program. James Emerson, Managing Partner at NEXT, said The Sheik is uniquely positioned in the franchising industry and will appeal to a large amount of potential franchise owners. “If you are looking for a different kind of franchise restaurant concept, you’ve found it with The Sheik. They are not another pizza, burger or sub shop,” said Emerson. “Their concept is unique, has an extremely loyal and passionate following, and The Sheik has been in business since 1972. That says a lot to me and should say a lot to a prospective franchisee.”

About The Sheik Sandwiches

In 1972, brothers Samir “Sam” and Munir “Mike Senior” Salameh, along with their wives Suad “Sue” and Basima, opened the first Sheik restaurant on the corner of 18th Street and Main Street in Jacksonville, Florida. That restaurant still operates today. From the very beginning the brothers knew that the keys to any successful restaurant are great service and great food.

Through the years, the chain has grown from one location to multiple locations across the Jacksonville area — all owned and operated by family members. During that time period, The Sheik became known for selling the best “Steak in a Sack” or steak pita and for its “Camel Rider,” or deli meat pita. The chain also originated the “Cherry Limeade,” The Sheik’s version of a black cherry and lime soft drink. All three items have gone on to become ubiquitous throughout the South and synonymous with the Jacksonville dining scene — even garnering an article in The New York Times.

Since the opening of that first location, the Salamehs have worked closely with relatives and a carefully selected team of restaurant professionals in the development of their restaurant concept. They’ve based their business on the principles of providing the customer with the highest quality, fresh ingredients, and fast, efficient service, at an affordable price, all in a clean family environment. As a result, The Sheik has always received rave reviews and is ready for the next round of expansion.

Visit The Sheik on the web at http://www.thesheiksandwiches.com.

About NEXT Franchise Systems

NEXT Franchise Systems, LLC is a full-service franchise sales and development company that provides businesses with a one-stop franchising solution that is affordable, comprehensive and unique to each client.

NEXT's services include franchise development documents (FDD) including franchise agreements, franchise marketing, franchise sales, franchise lead generation, franchise operations manual development, franchise marketing program development, and franchise business modeling.

Is your franchise NEXT? Visit NEXT Franchise Systems on the web at http://www.nextfranchisesystems.com.

More Information

For more information on The Sheik Sandwiches franchise opportunity or NEXT Franchise Systems franchise sales and development, contact James Emerson at 407-536-6109.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Now there's MOOR to eat at Gaylord Palms Resort

Excuse the headline pun, but I'm really excited about the opening of MOOR. Looks amazing and sounds even better according to a press release:

Gaylord Palms Resort, greater Orlando’s top location for everything under one roof, is pleased to announce the opening of its newest restaurant, MOOR. With a selection of regionally-inspired dishes and a focus on fresh seafood, MOOR’s innovative menu and unique dining experience is certain to leave diners wanting more.

MOOR came to fruition through the desire to serve fresh local food in a lifestyle casual dwelling. The story began organically with the relationships the resort’s chefs have built with local purveyors and fishmongers through their own farming and fishing expeditions.  Chef Paul Player, the resort’s Executive Sous Chef, is deeply involved in the local farming movement, serving integral roles in the following community-based food clubs: Slow Food Orlando, Osceola County Grown and Eat Florida Fresh.

“Serving fresh, local and seasonal ingredients isn’t a fad. It’s simply the way we cook,” says Chef Paul. “We want to share the bounty of our regional fare with the world.”

MOOR is proud to offer guests an ever-changing menu complete with a blackboard of daily specials including line-caught fish, fresh cuts of local beef and signature delighters such as rock shrimp cocktail with tomato chow chow and seasonal risotto.

Specialty Chef Phillip Fisher, who will be overseeing the restaurant’s kitchen, designed the menu in its entirety. Prior to opening MOOR, Fisher was the Executive Chef for Ocean Key Resort and Spa in Key West, Florida. Fisher was born and raised in North Carolina where he spent the bulk of his childhood honing his future career in the kitchen.

”I learned at a young age that fresh food tastes better,” says Chef Fisher. “I am thrilled to be a part of a team that cares about where their food is sourced and how it is ultimately served to our guests.”

MOOR features an open floor plan, 60-foot sailboat, layers of neutral tones, elegant wood flooring and several private dining areas including a chef’s table with interactive capabilities. The bar area extends into an outdoor terrace that overlooks the property’s beautiful 12,000 square foot Coquina Lawn.

The opening of MOOR also marks the launch of Gaylord Palms’ movement to grow and source their own food. The hotel is working with local farmers to incorporate an on-site garden and a boxed produce program for their STARS (Gaylord Palms employees). This project is slated in three phases with the first phase to include a culinary garden and outdoor kitchen, and the second and third phases to include a multitude of gardens, herb sculptures and flowering trees.

“We currently have over 500,000 live plants including an herb garden and fruit trees inside of our glass-enclosed atrium,” says Johann Krieger, General Manager of Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center. “It just makes sense for us to expand our home-grown resources to support our restaurants.”
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MOOR is in the Key West Atrium at Gaylord Palms Resort located at 6000 West Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee, FL 34746. For more information on MOOR, please visit www.facebook.com/DINEMOOR, www.GaylordPalms.com or call the restaurant directly at 407-586-1101.

A new "twist" coming this summer to SeaWorld Orlando

In a heads-up from SeaWorld Orlando, I learned there's a fun new "twist" on one of the all-time greatest theme park snack foods coming to the park this summer.

A brand-new restaurant, currently under development, will feature dozens of sweet and savory pretzel combinations and craft beer.

More mouthwatering details are promised soon!