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Restaurants & Bars

Surviving at Disney

Alan Divack | Feb 27, 199910:18 PM    

We spent most of February vacation at Disney world.
We stayed about 4 or 5 miles south off route 192 west
of Kissimmee, so we ate dinner both inside and outside
of the Disney complex. A few notes on the food.

Of the two dinners we had in Disney, the better was at
the Coral Seas, a seafood restaaurant in Epcot center
one wall of which was a major aquarium. The food was
generally well prepared and presented, but expensive --
most main dishes were around $25. (Think where you
could eat in NY for that!) A good selection of wine by
the glass and beer, excellent bread, and a great desert
of baked banana, rum, and cake in a banana leaf topped
with fresh fruit and dried strawberry ice cream. The
kids loved the setting, though, so who am I to
complain.

Another night we went to Bongos Cuban Cafe, in
"Downtown Disney." This had been recommended in the
Times article on eating down there. If it was by Eric
Asimov (I forgot the author) I am a bit surprised that
he was taken in by the place since it was pretty bad.
Very institutional, and the food tasted factory
produced. It wasn't that expensive (most mains around
$13-17), but any Caribbean/Spanish place in NY could do
MUCH better at a fraction of the price. The only
consolation were part of the mixed appetizer plate we
had (decent tamal, stuffed potato, and very good
masitas) and a killer mojito (like a cuban caipirinha
-- white rum, sugar, lime, but also some fresh mint)
which numbed me for what was to come.

We fared better and of course cheaper off premises in
what passes for the real world down there. We had very
decent Chinese food at a place called Taste of China in
the Formosa Gardens shopping center near an outback
steak house on Rt 192. Perhaps it isn't saying much,
but the food was much better than at most placeso n the
Upper west side. Everything was fresh tasting and had
its own flavor, and only one dish was gloppy (an
otherwise tasty shrimp with black bean sauce). There
was a great spicy string beans with slice pork and a
dish called wonderful taste chicken that tasted of hot
bean sauce and Szechuan pepper.

Best of all was a Lebanese restaurant in a strip mall
at the corner of Routes 535 and 192, a few miles of
atrocious traffic west of I-4. Very good kebabs, lamb
chicken and esp. kefta (beware if you don't like
cinnamon since it predominates in their marinade) and
jsut about every appetizer on the menu. Not everything
was wonderful, but everything had a real flavor and was
a tremendous contrast to the genericism of what we had
at Disney. Standouts were the labneh, tabouli, raw
kibbe, excellent basturma, and the felafel. Also very
cheap.

Kissimee aparently has a large Pakistani community with
many halal restaurants, but they were a bit further
west in the town proper than we were, and construction
on Route 192 made the journey a real trial. Other
chowhounds should try to check it out.

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