El Leoncito in Titusville

El Leoncito in Titusville

El Leoncito Mexican and Cuban Restaurant

If you’re in Brevard County and you’re in the mood for Mexican, you can’t do any better than El Leoncito Mexican and Cuban Restaurant.

I stopped in one Fall afternoon last year; it was my second visit. And I thoroughly enjoyed my late lunch.

I arrived in the awesome mid-afternoon time when you’re likely to have little-to-no competition for the server’s attention. The server and the chef, more to the point. I was expecting good things from that visit, and I was not disappointed.

I ordered the Arroz con Pollo, thinking that a Chicken and Rice dish is bound to be a pretty darn good lunch in any kind of eatery, anywhere.

And, yes, their take on this favorite made an excellent and very filling lunch. It came with the customary chips and freshly-made salsa, as one would expect.

My service was very good. Brittany was attentive but didn’t overplay the role, so to speak, as can happen when a server has only one or two tables in those in between times of a shift.

The moderate prices and the colorful, one-off vibe there added to my very favorable impression.

I recommend El Leoncito without hesitation. If you’re anywhere around in the Titusville/Spacecoast area, stop and pay them a visit!

El Leoncito can be found at 4280 S. Washington in Titusville, Florida.

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

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

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, justĀ follow this link.

 

Set Your Sail for The Old Fish House in Cocoa Beach

Set Your Sail for The Old Fish House in Cocoa Beach

Note: this review of mine was originally published awhile back on a well-known travel site. Not a new review but I liked this place then and I still do!

 

There are so many chain restaurants in every American city and they certainly seem to be thriving. I try to patronize as many “unchained” establishments when I can. I think the Olive Gardens of the world will do fine without my dining dollar.

The Old Fish House Restaurant is one of those authentic, local places that I love to find when I’m travelling. I walked through the door about an hour before closing on a Friday night and immediately loved the unique design and decor. It’s been said before that there’s an inverse correlation between the money spent on the dining room and the quality of the food in most places. The Old Fish House in Cocoa Beach ain’t the Ritz, the furnishings are dated and just a wee bit tacky but their food is absolutely first-rate.

I started with the Buffalo Shrimp and found them to be near perfect. It’s easy to over-cook shrimp or to turn up the heat a bit too much on the buffalo sauce, but this appetizer was just what I was looking for. The breading was just the way I like it as well. It’s way over-done at so many places.

For my entree I went with the Catfish sandwich; they serve it broiled or fried. I went for the latter and can’t think of a single thing I would have done differently if it were my place. A fish sandwich can be prepared and served a jillion different ways, their approach was straightforward and worked quite well for me. I’ve had my fill of soggy fish drowned in Tartar sauce, overly-toasted sub rolls and mediocre cole slaw at so many seafood houses, but there was nothing to not like at the Old Fish House. My sandwich was paired with New Potatoes and some very-good slaw. Watery or too-sweet slaw can be such a downer! The chef did come out for a table-side visit. That was a nice and unexpected touch.

The prices were a bit higher than I expected at first but not excessive for the quality of the food. The service was adequate. I was a bit miffed when I had to ask for Bleu Cheese dressing for my Buffalo Shrimp but serving it with wings is not a given anymore, so the expectation that it would come out with my shrimp was probably unrealistic.

I loved my first visit to the Old Fish House Restaurant and will definitely dine with them again the next time I’m in Cocoa Beach. They are known for their all-you-can-eat offerings and although there’s nothing I can tell you about that from my visit, I just might have to visit again soon and bring my big boy appetite with me…

Bulldog Ben Basile

The Old Fish House Restaurant
249 W. Cocoa Beach Causeway
Dial 321 799 9190

 

Photo credit: Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

Great and Authentic Florida Eatery on the Banks of the St. Johns

Great and Authentic Florida Eatery on the Banks of the St. Johns

My companion and I enjoyed lunch recently at the Swamp House Grill in DeBary; it has become a fave spot for me in east Central Florida. The food is fabulous and the service is consistently good.

I had my usual: the blackened seafood trio. I enjoy that one so much, I rarely order anything else.

This gem is just a bit off the beaten path but very well worth it. There are eco boat tours leaving from the dock right behind the restaurant several times a day and they usually feature live acoustic music on the weekends. They do have a full bar and a good beer selection. That’s a “must have” for me and just one more reason why I like this place.

The Swamp House Grill is family friendly, their authentic Florida fare is moderately priced and the setting is idyllic. I’ve got to say that it’s become my favorite eatery in all of Volusia County. I recommend it highly.