Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach is the Real Deal

Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach is the Real Deal

I have loved having breakfast at the Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach for about five or six years now. It’s my “go to” spot in Brevard Co. for real food at breakfast-time.

You’ll notice as you approach, that’s it one of those diners. You know, one with a simple and undeniably “old school” look. And yes, they have real food. And a real staff. A few of whom have been around for many, many years.

One of the things that sets the Sunrise apart from other places of its type is that you can–and probably should–eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Most diners that live up to the name close around 2:30 in the afternoon. Just SOP for these storied establishments. But this one doesn’t stop seating patrons until 9 PM.

To be honest, I have only enjoyed breakfast here; I’m not a good source on those two other times of the day when Americans usually feel like they have to “fill the tank.” But I have eaten there five or six times and always have a first-rate breakfast, receive very good and personable service and don’t ever feel like I’ve had my pocket picked.

The place hasn’t changed in the six years or so that I’ve been going and it looks as though it’s been around much longer than that. Long-time crew member Wendy told me on a recent visit how long it’s been around and I just don’t remember a number; suffice it to say, they’re far from newcomers.

One of the things I like about the Sunrise is that the breakfast sausage featured there are those over-sized patties that are about the size of a sand dollar. That’s the way this pup likes his sausage in the morning and places that have it are few and far between.

I do know that you’ll find quite a bit of seafood on their menu, and Greek fare is featured prominently as well. I tend to get stuck in a rut at many of my fave eateries but that doesn’t mean you should! And though came as a bit of a surprise to me, their beer selection isn’t bad at all.

Let me close by saying that if you’re anywhere near the heart of Cocoa Beach in the future, especially in the AM, you owe it to yourself to stop at the Sunrise Diner. It’s conveniently located on SR 520, aka Cocoa Beach Cswy, just a block from where 520 meets A1A.

Sunrise Diner ~ 365 W. Cocoa Beach Cswy ~ Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 ~ 321 783-5647

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Slow and Low-The Best Damn Barbecue in Cocoa Beach

Slow and Low-The Best Damn Barbecue in Cocoa Beach
Note: this review of mine is taken from a visit in April of 2015 and originally appeared on a well-known travel site. My latest visit to this island of barbecue perfection was five days ago, and they’re still the best on the beach! 

This top-shelf barbecue joint in Cocoa Beach has become my go-to spot when I want to get out-of-town for the weekend. If you’ve ever been to Slow ‘n Low, you know why.

I had the pulled-pork sandwich this time. On their delicious garlic bread, of course. I started with an order of the fried okra for an appetizer, as I often do. It was perfect and their mild horseradish sauce is just the right accent to compliment this often under-appreciated member of the vegetable family. Okra is often over-breaded or under-cooked, but they got it just right.

The green beans and garlic mashed potatoes make great sides with their tasty pork sandwich. I believe I’ve had all their sides over the years, and this is one of the things they do very well. Many barbecue joints have only three or four sides and tiny portions, but you won’t find that sort of thing at Slow ‘n Low.

I rarely get dessert here, as I almost never have room, but I enjoyed their Chocolate Peanut Butter pie on my last visit and went for it again. Yeah, it was scrumptious! My server brewed a fresh pot of coffee to go with this fine concoction; what more could a diner ask for?

Slow ‘n Low has a good variety of beers on tap, way more selection than most barbecue establishments, and a staff that consistently delivers good service. I’ve had their Combo Plate and the Blackened Prime Rib Sandwich many times and can recommend it all. Their patio is jammed with patrons most of the time, though there is also inside seating available. They usually feature live acoustic music on the patio Friday through Sunday nights. Tee shirts and ball caps are also on sale and yes, they do catering. They are also family-friendly and a thirty second drive away from the beach. Check out Slow ‘n Low the next time you’re in Brevard County.

 

One additional note from December 2016 visit: they’ve recently upgraded the TV’s in the bar, making their patio an excellent choice for sports fans who also like great chow!

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

It’s September 1st and I’m Thinking About…

It’s September 1st and I’m Thinking About…

It’s the first of September and I have some pleasant thoughts associated with this particular milestone in our annual journey. It means college football is about to start. That’s a marvelous thing. I look forward to it each year.

It means that Labor Day and cooler temps are right around the corner. Love both of those things, bring it on!

But it’s also true that when I see the first of September roll around, I think of Hitler invading Poland. Yeah, I do that. That reveals two very significant things about me: the first, that I’m a boomer and so many of us had Dads who served in WW II. So that whole “Nazis streaming over the border” thing isn’t as bizarre as it may seem.

Well, that and the fact that I minored in history and have studied that conflict and our Civil War in a serious way; those things factor in, too.

So the second thing that pervasive thought reveals about me is that I do worry about stuff more than most folks and more than I should, truth be told. Not in the sense that I think we’re about to be invaded, but just that I often see the darker side of things in general; I’m more inclined to see the potential for trouble, drama and disappointment rather than the “good stuff” which may happen as I navigate some new juncture on life’s path.

It would have been much better for me if Hitler had chosen the 2nd of September to send his Panzer divisions and Storm Troopers across the Polish frontier; that date would not have bored its way so deeply into my grey matter!

Two things I’m going to do today to get past this less-than-rosy recollection: get focused back on the arrival of those crisp Autumn days, and reach for a beer! That’ll work!

 

The last bulwark against the Nazi Apocalypse, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue is As Good As It Gets

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue is As Good As It Gets

The best I can remember, I first visited Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue back around ’85 or ’86… Not exactly sure. What I know for sure is that I’ve gone back about a bajillion times. And I’ll be going back many, many times more.

At the time I made that first killer visit to this Mecca of Florida barbecue, the Lee Rd. location was it. (If you haven’t been there, that’s just west of where Lee Rd. begins at Hwy 17-92.) I didn’t know that one day Bubbalou’s would have five locations. Or that they’d all be way bigger than the original one. And that people from every corner of the Orlando metro area would come to love their chow the way I did.

I prefer cafeteria-style service at barbecue joints, as you tend to have your dinner in front of you faster that way. That’s the system at Bubbalou’s. But their staff will be table side several times while you’re chowing down even though they’re not actual wait staff. You can tip at the time you order. They tend to fill up for lunch and because seating consists of picnic tables, you may be enjoying your selection with friends you haven’t met yet. But that adds to the charm of the place. And they feature a decent beer selection.

I’ve had five or six entrees, all told. I tend to order my faves over and over so it’s true that there are things on their menu I’ve never tasted. Some of my “stand-bys” that I’ve had a thousand times would include the Pulled Pork Sandwich, The Ribs and the Catfish Dinner. I recommend them all. If you opt for a sandwich, you can go with a bun or the grilled garlic toast you find at many barbecue restaurants; yeah, I know that “authentic” barbecue should come with plain white bread, but that is the one thing about old-school barbecue that I really hate. Give me the not-authentic garlic toast every damn day of the week!

Let me say one more thing about the catfish; it’s been consistently good and I go that route fairly often because catfish is not on the menu at most barbecue joints. So that’s one of the reasons I go to Bubbalou’s often.

Their sides are killer; there are many from which to choose. I especially love the collards and the black-eyed peas. But all the ones I’ve had are top-shelf.

I’ve been to four of the five locations; have not made it out to the Apopka store yet. Give me a little time. I’m not out in the UCF area that much, but the Alafaya location is huge and has a full bar and a substantial patio. You can play bean bag toss after dinner and they feature live music on weekends. I’ve visited that one four times in all; its vibe is quite different from the others. And, yes, you’ll see plenty of UCF kids there. Both as patrons and crew.

If you’d like to wrap a train trip around your lunch or dinner, the Altamonte Springs location is the way to go; it’s within easy walking distance of the Altamonte Sun Rail Station. I’ve gone that route and it was a lot of fun. In fact, they have a train rider special but you’ll have to show your Sun Rail pass.

They are family-friendly too. I’ve always seen every kind of diner on my visits. Check them out whether you’re with family, friends or “flying solo”, as is my usual custom.

You’ve gotta love Bubbalou’s. Five great locations. Top-shelf barbecue and very yummy sides. Fast service from an efficient and engaging crew. What’s not to like?

Bubbalou’s accepts most credit cards. American Express is not on that list, however.

I am not going to list the addresses of the five locations here. For that, I recommend their site. To see the locations and their fabulous menu, just follow this link.

 

Ruby Tuesday on University Blvd has amazing…

Ruby Tuesday on University Blvd has amazing…

Yes, Ruby Tuesday has amazing brussels sprouts. But that’s just one reason to visit.

I stopped in at the location on University Blvd not long ago after watching the Knights play softball. The game went well and so did the post-game dinner.

An amazing salad bar is one of the things for which R.T. is well-known. I almost never pass on that; it’s a good compliment for just about anything on their menu. The variety is quite impressive; it’s one of the reasons that Ruby Tuesday in on my “A List” as far as chain eateries are concerned.

On this evening, I thought I’d try the Buffalo Sliders; imagine Krystal Burgers but with medallions of Buffalo-style chicken instead of ground beef. I liked ’em. May do that again.

Now about those brussels sprouts.

Not sure I can do justice to this unique and delectable dish, but here goes: brussels sprouts, topped with cheese and bread crumbs, with way too much butter and finished under the broiler. I loved it. I really like brussels sprouts. And even if you don’t, you’d like these. I promise.

In addition to serving stuff my taste buds have never been lucky enough to sample, the service at this location was good. When dining solo, I generally take a seat at the bar. The bartender took good care of me, I loved my dinner and the beer selection; there was live baseball and ESPN Sports Center on the flat screens. What more could you ask for?

This location of Ruby Tuesday can be found at 11401 University Blvd in Orlando.

Orlando Brewing is a Hidden Gem in Orlando’s Sodo District

To this beer lover, Orlando Brewing is a truly unique establishment. Central Florida has its share of microbreweries, but none plowing the same ground, so to speak. You’ll find this low-key establishment in the southwestern corner of the downtown area, just west of ORMC and the other major hospitals. I love the intimate and somewhat-vintage feel of the place; nothing fancy here, just a smallish, local brewery with good craft brews and good staff. It is a real, working brewery, of course. I think of O.B. as a mid-sized, local brewery with a simple but cool pub built on the front end. It’s no surprise that you find it in a thoroughly industrial area. But that only adds to its charm.

Unlike some microbreweries, they don’t sell anything they don’t brew right there. If your tastes are fixed mostly on your typical American lagers and not so much on heartier beers, you may not be too enthusiastic about the place. But that’s what craft beers are all about. Orlando Brewing is like any other local, small-batch brewery. They’re all about making and marketing unique, hearty brands with lots of flavor and a big kick.

The place has a loyal following. I like how there’s always enough patronage to make it seem alive, but not so many folks that it’s impossible to find a seat and you end up shouting your order at the bartender.

They’ve thought up some amazing brand names for their products. Pompous Ass is, without a doubt, my favorite! If you can’t decide, the sampler is not a bad option; they set up four of their brands for you in sample-sized mugs at a decent price.

The fare in any microbrewery comes with a slightly higher price tag than the lagers a lot of us drink most of the time. But you’re paying for a hand-crafted brew, made right there in your neighborhood. That’s worth something. Which reminds me, be sure and ask for the brewery tour. Done it twice, loved it! I don’t think there’s a regular schedule for that, but they always seem very accommodating at Orlando Brewing.

There is outdoor seating. Bring your taste buds, your friends, and some cash. Don’t bring the kids. And you better use your GPS, it is a bit off the beaten path, literally and figuratively.

The Home Page for Orlando Brewing is as well-crafted as one of their beers. If you’d like to have a look at it, click on this.

Fuel, the new barbecue joint next to The Alley in Sanford

Fuel-sanford-frnt-entrance-nite-97c Fuel-BBQ-sanford-patio-seating-7v

If you’re into bars in Sanford’s historic district and like live music, you probably know about The Alley. They’ve been around for about twelve years now and everyone who’s anyone has played there. In addition to the killer music, they’ve got cold beer, a full bar, good help and loyal customers. What more could you ask for? Yeah, you’ve got it: good chow.

Along came Fuel. This new barbecue joint is on the south side of The Alley, in the new addition that came from the major renovation and expansion completed about six months or so ago.

I had heard quite a lot about it from friends and had to go check it out. I’m glad I did. The design is suitable for any good barbecue joint, looking not too “uptown” but not looking like a dump either. Not always an easy balance to achieve, but they did well with this addition.  I imagine it took at least three expert carpenters with massive tool belts and beat up pick up trucks to pull it off! Seriously, the perfect “feel” for an eatery of its type.

And the food is quite good. My pulled pork dinner was tasty, the sides were filling and as good as any I’ve had. And I’ve had them all. There was gobs of pork in the baked beans–as there should be–and they were not too sweet. Sugar is a common ingredient in baked beans, but they didn’t get carried away with it at Fuel.

The green beans really got over with me. I honestly have never tasted better. Those alone would have me coming back! And I enjoyed the collard greens as well, could have eaten them all day.

Anyone who knows me knows that I really focus on side dishes in a barbecue joint. Theirs at Fuel are way better than most and are served in ample portions. Service is a really big deal, too and the crew at this new spot in downtown Sanford was friendly, helpful and efficient. What’s worse than a place with good chow, staffed by an indifferent, poorly-trained staff? Few things I know of!

The patio seating on the south side is so cool. A really nice ambiance, especially if you’re dining after dark. If you like blues music and good barbecue, Fuel at The Alley is heaven-on-earth! Park Ave between 1st and 2nd Streets. Hope to see your face in the place soon!

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile