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

Searching for the Meaning of Life

Slo-n-Low-beer-sign-North-wall-980b2This brief blog entry simply cannot be appreciated or understood unless you’ve cast your eyes over the accompanying photo. And, yes, I took the pic myself. No issues about ownership, copyrights or any such thing. And, if you must know, this humble sign adorns the north wall of the bar in my fave barbecue joint. In my fave beach town.

Having gotten the preliminary stuff out of the way, let me state for the record that I do not believe that the true meaning of life can be found in this lighthearted aphorism; it’s merely there to keep the wall from looking bare and, perhaps, to amuse the drunks who spend way too much time and money reading silly plaques tacked to the walls of our many infamous watering holes here in the Sunshine State.

The message of that damned sign does not seem to grow more profound with each lager lifted to my lips. I’ve never shared this barroom bromide with friends, nor incorporated it into an update on Facebook. (No need going to my Facebook page to verify that statement!)

Let’s be real. Life’s true meaning cannot be divined by reading this sign no matter how much beer you’ve quaffed.  I just like it because, as I stand right on the threshold of qualifying for social security, I think it just might be true! Not sure my doctor would vouch for that, but, it could be!

Now I think I’ll ponder that message one more time as I order one more beer…  Ashley!

 

 

Hard to Beat Cecil’s Texas Style BBQ in O-town

Cecils-Pix-June19th 022Cecils-cafeteriaLine-w-sign-5235p

 

Cecils-Pix-June19th 020Cecils-Pix-June19th 030 - Copy

 

 

Cecil’s Texas Style BBQ is most definitely one of my favorite spots in south Orlando. I’m not the only devotee, the place is consistently packed at lunch-time. I’ve had just about everything they have to offer and have found their chow to be first-rate all the way.

The Chicken Dinner is a favorite, the meat is tender and the smoky flavor lingers well after you’ve finished your dinner. The only way they serve chicken is a “whole half”, so don’t ask for “pieces and parts!” This ain’t fast food! All dinners come with your choice of two sides. I especially recommend the black-eyed peas, the spicy pinto beans and the collards. If you like your ‘taters with a little zing, you’ll love their mashed potatoes; the addition of bits of jalapeno makes this one of the tastier offerings in the entire barbecue universe! Among the cold sides, my fave is the potato salad.

I’ve enjoyed the barbecue turkey and the pulled pork dinner over and over as well. I’ve nothing but good to say about these entrees. And the ribs are quite tasty; I’m pretty certain that Saturday night is still “All You Can Eat” for ribs but I haven’t gone that route in years. Not sure if my arteries can take that kind of thing anymore and my doctor would definitely blow a gasket!

Cecil’s recently added an appetizer. Try the bacon-wrapped, roasted, stuffed jalapenos. A bit salty, but you’ll be glad you tried ’em. I don’t care at all for Texas toast; it comes with any dinner selection. It’s not an issue with the house, I’ve just always hated the stuff. Being born in El Paso doesn’t help at all! I just wanted to warn you that you will not find the customary garlic toast finished on a grill. Your meal does include a soft-serve ice cream cone if you’d like some desert. The kids are all over that, of course.

The service is cafeteria-style and it suits the atmosphere perfectly. There are TV’s in all the right places, but you’ll not hear the audio as Mike, the owner, has opted for Country Music over the sound system instead. I’d rather hear George Strait than the talking heads on Cable News channels anyway. The dining room is rustic, styled like an outdoor patio space. A roll of paper towels at each booth is a nice and very practical touch.

One other sign that Cecil’s is the real deal: it’s a big-time hang-out for OPD and the Orange Co. Sheriff’s Department. The ‘cue is absolutely top-shelf and you’ll certainly never have to worry about security while dining at Cecil’s Texas Style BBQ!

You’ll find this gem of a restaurant on So. Orange Ave, just south of where Orange meets Michigan St. It’s across from the Publix and the Chik Fil-A. They do have have mild, sweet and hot barbecue sauces on the sauce/condiment bar, a decent selection of domestic beers and a very friendly staff. Prices are moderate, the sides are all freshly-made and are the talk of South Orlando. If you’ve never been to C.T.S. BBQ, get there soon. I promise you your first visit will not be your last!

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

No gator tail but great ‘cue at Adam’s Rib

No gator tail but great ‘cue at Adam’s Rib

I was in Gainesville for a sporting event last weekend and noticed Adam’s Rib right around dinner time. I liked the totally-indie look of the place; I eat at chain restaurants as much as anyone but always enjoy those “small joints” that feature great food and a unique vibe. Adam’s Rib is just such a place.

It’s somewhat small-ish but features fine barbecue with big taste. I went for a combo plate that was one of the specials that night and was very impressed with their chow. Get a load of this: a pulled pork sandwich and half a rack of ribs with one side for $12.95. And there was nothing low-end about this entree.

I opted for the collard greens with those two main selections and found them to be very tasty and not bitter at all. No need to douse that dish with pepper sauce to off-set a bitter taste. Collard greens with generous ham chunks are a staple at many places with good victuals and theirs did not disappoint. The ribs were as good as any I’ve had; I’ve been to more barbecue joints than I could ever count and was very impressed with this one.

This may seem like a little thing, but I really appreciated the roll of paper towels on my table. Even though this is not unusual for an eatery of this type, it’s always a good thing to see I won’t have to beg for more than one napkin. And the service was very good even though I was there at prime-time. The joint was jammin’ and the staff had no problem keeping up.

They feature a decent beer selection here. This was a surprise to me as the place is so small that I don’t think they’d be able to get a beer and wine license in many towns. Where I come from, the square footage and parking requirements would leave a place of their size without a beer tap. Because G’ville is the home of the University of Florida, it’s likely that the city is not looking for ways to block the brew; a good thing in my book. A lot of the patrons at A.R. that night were of college age. No surprise there. And most of the staff were as well, no doubt many were Gators by day and servers by night.

As I wrap up, let me say that the “no gator tail” phrase in my intro was an attempt at humor; with Adam’s Rib right in the middle of campus, that’s the last thing you’d find on the menu! The colorful and unique decor is “totally gator” and it adds to the charm of the place. By the way, I am NOT an alumnus of that esteemed institution and in fact had come from an event where “my team” was thoroughly licked by the home team. And when I stopped in for dinner at this popular spot, my taste buds were totally conquered as well. Losing never tasted so good!