Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coupon - Free Medium Firehouse Sub on July 4, 2011, when you Buy a Sub, Chips & Drink

How wonderful! PR companies are now sending me press releases. And not just any press releases, but ones with coupons! That I get to pass on to you - bonus! See below for the details and the coupon:

This Monday, Firehouse Subs presents a special patriotic offer at participating locations in the Orlando area. In celebration of Independence Day, this July 4, guests receive a free sub with the purchase of a sub, chips and drink. To redeem the offer, simply bring a copy of the coupon below, or have it available on a mobile phone at the time of purchase.

For more information on Firehouse Subs, please visit, or follow on Twitter at @firehousesubs.

*Offer valid July 4, 2011 at participating locations only. One free medium sub, with the purchase of a sub, chips & drink. One coupon per person, per visit.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Restaurant Review - AMC Downtown Disney 24 Dine-In Theatre/Fork & Screen, 1500 East Buena Vista Dr., LBV, FL

(Updated - with photos!)
Last night, my kids and I watched The Karate Kid (the new one with Jaden Smith) as part of the soft opening for the new Dine-In Theatres at AMC Downtown Disney 24, formerly AMC Pleasure Island 24. AMC converted the 6 theatres on the east side of the complex to the new Fork & Screens, meaning you get table-service dining while you are watching your movie. They have renovated this entire side of the complex, adding a full bar, called MacGuffins, and new indoor and outdoor seating. Movie goers are encouraged to hang out in this area, where you can order food as well as drinks.

We had free passes to the movie, courtesy of The Disney Blog, so we went to check in at the Guest Services desk when we arrived. There is no longer a box office for these particular screens, you can either buy tickets online or you buy them at the Guest Services desk. First thing that is different? You are purchasing a reserved seat. Just like with an airline, you are presented with a seat chart showing which seats are available and which ones are taken. There are about 100 seats per theatre, all set in groups of two or four. We were a party of three so we had an open seat next to us, that ended up remaining empty. A group larger than four, however, will need to split up. Also, due to the reserved seating, if you want your group to sit together, you should plan on arriving early or buy your tickets (and seats) in advance. Oh, and there was no concession stand in this area. I assume if you just want popcorn, snacks, and drinks, you'll still need to order through your server and pay a tip.

We found our seats and starting reading the menus that were waiting for us on the tables. The seats themselves are very comfortable. Wide, and they rock a little, too. The table is actually farther in front of us than I thought it would be. You really have to be on the edge of your seat to eat your food. We were ready to order and I was looking around for our server when my son pointed out that the first page of the menu says to push the call button to call the server. There are two red call buttons on every table and someone came to help us within a few minutes of pushing it. The previews had already started so it was a little difficult to order. I didn't want to yell and disturb those around us but I wanted to make sure our waiter understood our order.

Crab Rangoon Dip - so yummy and creamy!

Our drinks arrived first, with LB's in a kid's take-out cup and mine and BB's in regular plastic cups, like at a restaurant. Nice touch, but then we couldn't put our drinks in our cup-holders. We ordered the Crab Rangoon Dip ($7.99) as our appetizer. This was delicious! A creamy, slightly crabby dip, served with big crispy wonton chips, and a sweet & sour sauce as well. All of us loved this dip and it was a large portion. It was just a little difficult to share though, as you are trying to watch the movie, and pass the dip. For our main meal, LB had the kids' Flatbread Pizzetta ($6.99, including drink, fries, and chewy fruit candies), which is a fancy name for a pizza. He thought it was only okay and was too small as it was only 3 pieces. BB and I each got the Classic Cheeseburger ($9.99, includes fries). While BB liked his, I thought it was just okay, and was a bit too greasy. The fries, though, were good. We were too full for dessert, though they all sounded good from the menu.

Full-size pizza shown here (not kids)

Our server brought our check about halfway through the movie. My kids didn't care but I had to check over the bill and find my credit card so it does take you out of the movie for a few minutes. I handed my card back to the server right away because I didn't want to be watching to see when he would come back to take it. Perhaps I messed up his timing, then, because he didn't come back with my card for 20 minutes which made me a bit uncomfortable as I don't like my credit card being away from me that long.
We never did need refills on our drinks but it was nice to know that if we did need it, we only needed to push the call button. Also, the lighting in the theatre never really got very dark, I suppose so you can read the menu, see your food, check over your bill, etc. It didn't affect us being able to see the movie though. The seating and layout did make it seem like you are sitting in your living room as you are relatively far away from the groups next to you due to the wide aisles and tables. All in all, it was a nice experience. Next time, I'd probably just get a couple of appetizers for us and then have a dessert or two. But it did make a night out at the movies, just a little more fun.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Are Make-Your-Own Frozen Yogurts shops a fad that is dying?

After reading Fast Food Maven's blog regarding the closing of Red Mango fro-yo shops in California, I realized that the same thing is in danger of happening here in Central Florida. I was very excited when Menchie's opened up here a while ago and thought it was an unique concept - essentially a "make-your-own" dessert place where you can choose as many frozen yogurt flavors and toppings as you want to create your own tasty masterpiece. Well, apparently others thought so as well as I have now seen a proliferation of frozen yogurt shops opening. Menchie's is rapidly expanding, there is a Hi-5 in Clermont, an Orange Leaf coming to Ocoee and the Pinkberry website even says there is a location coming near SeaWorld. I predict that we will soon see an oversaturation in the market and one-by-one these locations will start shutting down -- first the smaller mom-and-pop locations and then the big chains.

I think this is similar to what has happened to the meal preparation market in Central Florida. Remember when we had Let's Eat, Dinner Afare, Supper Supers, and others in the area? Everyone wanted to go make a month's worth of dinners in one afternoon so they'd have healthy, easy-to-prepare meals for their family. I'm pretty sure all of the locations near us closed now. What exactly happened? Not really sure. I think Publix Aprons meals really stepped up and showed consumers how to make an easy meal tonight, just by coming into their local Publix store. Also, more frozen food and other manufacturers developed more products that helped shave time off meal preparation.

For the Fro-Yo shops, it may be just a matter of time before consumers become disenchanted with this latest fad. Too bad, because I like the idea, there are just getting to be too many cooks in the kitchen.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Quick Bites - Crazy Good Swedish food deals at IKEA, 4092 Eastgate Drive, Orlando, FL

I guess I haven't been paying attention to the restaurant at IKEA lately, but they have some great deals going on!

Swedish Christmas Julbord
First of all, this Friday, December 11th at 6 pm is IKEA of Orlando's first All You Can Eat Swedish Christmas Julbord. According to IKEA's website, a Swedish Julbord is the traditional smorgasbord served during the holidays. Prices are $15.99 for adults and $2.49 for kids 12 and under (wow, great kids price!). IKEA also mentions that tickets are for sale at their restaurant and seating is limited.

Wednesday Night Specials
Next, every Wednesday night you can get a baby back ribs platter for $7.99, from 4 pm to 7:30 pm (the restaurant's closing time). No, I don't think baby back ribs are Swedish, but there you go! The plate has a 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, french fries and corn bread. Also, Wednesday is Kids Night with kids 12 and younger eating free from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm (the store stays open until 8:00 pm).

FREE Breakfast During Weekdays
From 9:30 am - 10 am Monday through Friday, you can get a breakfast platter at IKEA for FREE! The breakfast platter includes scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes. Oh, and the same deal is on the weekends, just for 99¢ (but 10:30 am - 11 am on Sundays). You can add three Swedish pancakes (my favorites) for $1.99. The restaurant opens a half hour before the store so you'll have to wait until 10 am (11 am on Sunday) to do any shopping.

Check out all these deals on their website: IKEA of Orlando Restaurant

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Restaurant Review - TooJay's Original Gourmet Deli, 10185 West Colonial Drive, Ocoee, FL

If you are looking for enormous corned beef sandwiches on thick-cut rye bread with hot deli mustard, then TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli is for you. But TooJay’s has a lot more than just deli food, although that is their specialty.

In fact, when we recently dined at the Ocoee location for dinner, it took me a while to read through the regular menu and special dinner menu. There are soups, salads, and sandwiches, plus dinner entrees such as meatloaf, lasagna, pot roast, and also baked salmon with dill sauce, peppercorn crusted steak, and even vegetarian options. All of the dinner entrees come with slices of rye bread on the side and a choice of soup or salad. There are also specialty drinks such as old-fashioned egg creams and Dr. Brown sodas.

The kid’s menu also offers a lot of choices as well with grilled cheese, hot dog, peanut butter and jelly, French bread pizza, or mac-n-cheese (available for $3.75), and hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken tenders salad, chicken tenders, or a Jr. tuna melt (available for $4.75). While the kids’ entrees don’t include a drink, they do include a choice of two of the following: applesauce, French fries, Mandarin oranges, red grapes, chocolate pudding, mini Black and White cookie, or carrot sticks with Ranch dressing. The hard part is trying to convince your kids that they cannot choose both the chocolate pudding and Black and White cookie as their sides.

Grandpa decided on a hot Pastrami sandwich on rye bread ($7.95) which comes with cole slaw and a pickle. He also elected to get an extra side of fries ($1.75). The sandwich had the meat rolled on the bread and was a huge amount. However, for those with an even bigger appetite, TooJay’s offers the Jaynormous sandwich ($14.95) that has a pound and a half of your favorite deli meat. I can’t even imagine eating that! Grandpa loved the Pastrami and said it was very lean and delicious.

Grandma, went for sweet and ordered the Cheese Blintzes dinner ($10.75). This is three crepes filled with a sweetened cottage cheese, fried, and served with fruit topping and sour cream. Since it was a dinner, it also came with the rye bread and Grandma ordered the cup of matzo ball soup as her appetizer. The soup was very flavorful with chunks of carrots and celery and a large, but light, matzo ball that fills the whole cup. She polished off all of the blintzes, smearing each with the blueberry fruit topping and sour cream first.

Knowing how large the portions of food at TooJay’s are, I decided on the Half Sandwich and Soup or Salad ($7.95), ordering a Corned Beef on rye and a cup of the matzo ball soup as well. I put a bit of the hot mustard on the sandwich and yum! The corned beef was very lean and the matzo ball soup was comfort food at its best.

LB ordered the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with applesauce and chocolate pudding on the side ($3.75). The sandwich was cut into quarters, which was nice, although my son thought there was too much jelly (I’ll have to order “light jelly” next time). He, of course, wanted to dig into the chocolate pudding as soon as they set down his plate, but I pulled it off his plate until he finished his dinner.

BB ordered the French Bread Pizza, with French fries and the Black and White mini-cookie ($3.75). The pizza was a small baguette sliced diagonally with sauce and cheese and was pretty good. He actually got full on the pizza and fries and had to take the cookie home.

All of the adults were also full so we didn’t order any desserts although they are very tempting. Besides large slices of chocolate cake, TooJay’s also has smaller desserts such as the mini-cookies and mini-Napoleans and mini-Eclairs. In fact, you have to pass the deli and dessert counter on the way out and we ended up getting a little dessert “to go” to eat at home later.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Restaurant Review - The Cheesecake Factory, Mall of Millenia, 4200 Conroy Road, Orlando, FL

For the first time in its history, The Cheesecake Factory has developed a kids menu. The new menu was released in September, and offers kid-friendly food, including a drink, for $4 - $7. There are a lot of offerings including pasta, mini-burgers, grilled cheese, quesadillas, mac-n-cheese, chicken strips, pizza, and others.
To match, the adult menu is huge, as well. It is almost like a catalog and even has advertisements (I kid you not). To break down your decision, you should first decide what kind of food you want: American, Italian, Mexican, Asian, etc. Then, you can decide whether you want an appetizer, a salad, a sandwich or a main meal. Yep, they have all of that and more.

While deciding, we munched on the sour dough and pumpernickel breads our server brought us. And truly, we had to send the server away twice until we finally decided what to get.

On our first visit, Grandpa ordered the Beef Ribs ($25.95), a very large plate of beef ribs served with fries and onion rings. While he agreed there was a lot of food and the taste was okay, he wasn't sure if it was worth the high price. Grandma, who clearly had her eye on the cheesecake display case, ordered a Margherita Pizzette ($4.95), basically a small, oval pizza, with large chunks of mozzerella and slivers of basil. She thought it was the perfect size for a pizza snack. I had the Fresh Fish Tacos ($14.95), an extremely large platter with three tacos, rice, black beans, and salsa and guacamole on the side. It was very messy to eat, with pieces of grilled fish and cabbage falling out constantly, but it was wonderful. There was a lot of fish per taco and the spicy avocado cream gradually increased in spiciness the more I ate. I was only able to finish two of the tacos and make only a small dent in the rice and beans.

BB ordered the kids pasta with alfredo sauce ($6.95), while LB and my two nieces ordered the kids mini-corn dogs with fries ($5.95). The pasta was a good size and my son was only able to eat a little over half of the serving. The corn dogs came as three skewers of the dogs, covered with corn meal, and a large serving of fries. I don't exactly know what made these dogs "mini" because, although they were shorter than normal, they were pretty thick. All three kids were only able to eat two of the skewers.

On another visit, all of us decided to try the Factory Appetizer Favorites ($28.95) as our shared meal, which is a very large version of an appetizer sampler. LB decided to get the kids mini-corn dogs again which was a good decision as I don't know how much of the appetizers he would have wanted to eat. That left four of us (Grandma, Grandpa, BB, and me), which worked out well as each appetizer came with four pieces. Four separate dishes arrived holding the Quesadillas, Pot Stickers, Summer Rolls, Calamari, Buffalo Blasts, Corn Cakes, Spinach & Artichoke dip, Avocado Eggrolls, and all of the associated sauces. The big winners were the Avocado Eggrolls (creamy/crunchy goodness), Pot Stickers (very flavorful), Corn Cakes (sweet and spicy all together), and Calamari (delicate, not chewy). No one really liked the Summer Rolls, cold rice wrappers filled with noodles. It was a good way to sample many of the appetizers, but it really wasn't enough food to be a meal for all four of us. The plus side is that left room for dessert!

Of course, you can't go to The Cheesecake Factory without getting cheesecake, right? They typically have between 20 and 30 cheesecakes available, with some seasonal selections as well. Slices are $6.75 to $7.95. The slices might look small, but they are very rich and I suggest sharing. We ordered a slice of the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake ($7.50) and a slice of Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake ($6.95) on our first visit, and the seasonal Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake on our second visit. The 30th Anniversary cake has a layer of cheesecake along with chocolate cake and a fudge layer. It ended up as the overall favorite. The peanut butter one was super rich and had cheesecake swirled with caramel, peanut butter, and peanut butter cups. I absolutely loved the Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake - it was my personal favorite. I was expecting pumpkin cheesecake with pecans in it. Nope, it was even better. It was a pumpkin cheesecake ON TOP OF a pecan pie. A double decker pie - two pies in one! The creamy cheesecake went great with the ooey gooey pecan pie. We will definitely be back to tackle more of the menu and try more of the cheesecakes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Restaurant Review - Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, 7339 W. Sand Lake Road, #406, Orlando, FL

Menchie's Frozen YogurtMenchie’s Frozen Yogurt, located on Sand Lake Road’s “Restaurant Row”, is a fun, interactive dessert store. It is do-it-yourself with simple instructions: Fill your bowl with frozen yogurt. Top with snacks and candies and sauces. Weigh. Then pay. For 44 cents an ounce, you can get what you want, in the quantity you want. The concept is brilliant. The staff just makes sure the toppings are kept filled up and then monitor the scale as Pick Your Flavorscustomers finish their creations and weigh and pay.

Don’t worry if there is a crowd milling about inside. Remember, this is do-it-yourself. So, step right up, grab a bowl, and start pouring your frozen yogurt. There are 12 flavors every time, with only chocolate and vanilla staying the same, as far as I could tell. With more than 40 different flavors, including seasonal offerings like pumpkin and eggnog, rotating constantly, you will find a different variety available almost every time you visit. At the “Snackage” bar, where the dry toppings reside, are about 30 different types of add-ins, including nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans), candies (Reese’s Pieces, chocolate chips, yogurt chips, Jelly Bellies, M&M, Snow Caps, Gummy Bears, Rainbow Nerds, etc), cereals (Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, etc.) anSnackage Bard other toppings like coconut flakes, granola, and graham cracker crumbs. At the “Chill” bar, are freshly cut fruits such as strawberry slices, maraschino cherries, mango, kiwi, bananas, pineapple, as well as the decadent stuff such as mini-peanut butter cups, cookie dough balls, mini-cheesecake bits, and even mochi, a sticky Japanese confectioChill barn. Finally, there is the “Hotties” sauce bar with caramel, chocolate, peanut butter sauce, and hot fudge, as well as marshmallow sauce and non-dairy whipped topping.

On our first visit, I tried both the Pralines ‘n’ Cream and Pistachio frozen yogurt flavors and thought they made a great combination. I added pecans, coconut flakes, mini-cheesecake bites, and then topped that off with caramel sauce. BB was happily moving along, getting his yogurt and toppings while I helped LB put the yogurt flavors he wanted into his cup. By the time we reached the scale to weigh our creations, I glanced over and noticed my older son’s cup was completely filled to the top with yogurt and toppings. Oh dear, I should have been watching more closely. I had the staff weigh his separately from ours and, as I suspected, he had passed the pound mark! Yep, at 44 cents an ounce, he was looking at a $7.80 cup of dessert. The real test was, did he finish it? Of cYep, that's a pound of dessert!ourse not! Luckily, Menchie’s has lids to place on your creation so you can take it home if you want.

Next time, I walked in and was shocked to find that most of the flavors had changed and my Pralines ‘n’ Cream AND Pistachio were gone. After a moment, I realized this was probably a good thing so I could try some of the other flavors and I would not be stuckMuch better quantity in a rut getting the same flavors every single time. This time, I did a Cookies ‘n’ Cream and Cheesecake swirl (if two flavors are in the same machine, you can do a swirl), and then added some of the French Vanilla flavor. I also added some different toppings, trying peanuts this time, Snow Caps, and strawberry slices.

You can also try tastes of the different flavors first with the provided mini paper cups. This is actually a pretty good idea. I did not try the Cappucino flavor before I added it to my cup and when I was eating it later, it had a very strong coffee taste (it should have been called Espresso instead). So definitely taste-test if you are not sure what a flavor will taste like.

This visit, I watched BB like a hawk, and stopped him several times by the yogurt machines as I saw him place too much of each flavor in his cup. I also had to watch him at the toppings bar as I discovered he was putting scoop after scoop of chocolate chips into his bowl. “Hey, this is a yogurt shop, not a candy store!”

LB was more adventurous than I thought, trying more than just chocolate and vanilla and venturing to the Irish Mint and the Cheesecake flavors, though his favorite was Cookies ‘n’ Cream. This time, all of our creations came out to around $15 total , putting us closer to the 10-12 ounces per cup mark.

This is currently the only Menchie’s location in Florida, although another is planned for Fort Lauderdale. The shopping area it is in has several other restaurants so parking can be tight. However, there are “30 minutes or less” parking spots right in front. Menchie’s has already become a habit with us and I look forward to going every couple of weeks, especially to discover the new flavors in store for us.


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