OK, we’re checking out places to view the (potential) space shuttle launch (thanks for the tips!). Along the way “gotta eat!”…
Chase’s On The Beach
First up is a Bar on a Beach. At New Smyrna Florida, we stopped at this bar along the frontage road. “Chase’s On The Beach”. Doesn’t look like a whole lot from the front. Some garish bright paint and a sign. Modest parking (but with a ‘free valet parking sign’. But we were hungry and a mite thirsty, so in we went… Up a dual circular grand stairway to the entrance.
Images from their web site at:
It was a very fun place. Reasonable music in a sort of a jazz meets caribbean with some modern mixed in. An indoor bar, and an outdoor patio (with cover) where we sat. From there, we noticed the add ons… There is a remote small bar on a raised platform further out in the sun (we had a nice beach view, and that sun patio view is great, but having no sunscreen on we opted for shade). There is a sort of a ‘patio’ down a flight. A half dozen ‘tables for 6 or 8’ or so with grass umbrellas, and some ‘chairs at a counter’ for a dozen or two. All with a sand floor…
Then we noticed the pool. Yes, an outdoor pool on the 1 1/2 floor, with bar service. (The beach access is easy, but it’s ‘no alcohol on the beach’ so if you simply MUST be in the water while drinking, they accommodate!)
Our waitress was a very nice looking redhead named “Michele” who somehow managed to not be sunburned even in the tropical sun. A charming person with a quick smile and a cool wit. She was fairly young, so who knows if it’s a temporary gig for her or not, but service was great and great fun too.
We made a major error in our food order. We thought we ought to order extra as things would likely be small portions… I ordered a Caesar Salad for about $7 and added a fried Calamari topper for about $3.50? Something like that. Decided to add a bowl of soup for about $4. Wasn’t paying really close attention.
The salad that came was in a 9 inch diameter bowl. The Calamari on it would be 1/2 a meal by itself. (There were a variety of other toppers you could add to any salad). This salad would have been a very filling meal on it’s own. (And I’m a big guy…) The Crab Bisque was a touch salty (but I like salty…) and very rich. Wonderfully made, savory and just a touch of spice (but not too much at all). A large bowl (the cup would have been better with the salad…).
My friend had the spinach salad with a raspberry dressing of some kind and the clam chowder. He, too, could not finish it all. I tried some of his chowder and it was great. I’m picky about my chowder (and yes, to be chowder it MUST have milk in it… that New York stuff is just tomato soup with clams added ;-) I’d be hard pressed to say which one I liked better; the bisque or the chowder. Next time I’ll have the chowder, just to be sure ;-)
I guess it’s off season? I don’t know, it’s great weather. But “Happy Hour” ran from 11 AM to 7 PM. So we were there during “happy hour”. Beer was $2 / 10 oz or so plastic glass. We had a Sam Adams Coastal Wheat that was crisp and pleasant with a hint of citrus flavors.
It took a couple of hours of beach watching to finish everything and we never did get to the Key Lime Pie that was on the menu (and listed exactly who’s key lime juice was used…) So we must go back… but we’ll bring swim suits next time.
Then, at the end, came an added surprise (I’d not noticed, but there was a sign where we entered). We were informed that for some reason ( I think it was “because it’s Wednesday”) one entré was 1/2 off. Buy one, get one 1/2 price.
All in all, a great place to spend a bit of time.
You can drive on the beach, there, and some folks had set up car, lounge chairs, etc. on the beach near the stairs up to the bar. I can think of little more pleasant that spending a day on the beach WITHOUT the need to unpack everything from the car and lug it to the beach… and with a pool, music, bar, and great lunch just waiting for the right moment…
We were under the left edge of that blue canopy… The higher and nearer roof is the sun patio bar with the patio in front of it. At the top of the stairs is a shower for rinsing sand off your feet before lunch… FWIW, they had a lot of other things on the menu that also looked good. Some far more expensive (a variety of steaks and sea foods, for instance). So it’s not just a soup and salad place. Also burgers, sandwiches, kids plates. A lot of choices.
There is a load more info on their web site, including pictures of their “Bikini Contests” and live band events…
Puerto Rico on a Budget
Yesterday we were doing some running around closer to home and I saw one of those roadside places that just, somehow, says “character” and “stop here”. So we did.
The name? “Puerto Rico’s Cafe” in Kissimmee Florida ( a reasonable number of miles down the road from Disney World toward the space coast, and worth the drive).
In a not very interesting area off a run of the mill urban road. The kind of location we would never have ‘sought out’, but that happened to be on our way “from here to there”.
As soon as we walked in the door, we knew we had a major winner.
It was about 1:30 or 2 pm and we were having a ‘late lunch’. The place was still 3/4 full and every table was folks looking Puerto Rican and speaking Spanish. These folks were here for a touch of home… No tourist trap this…
I overheard our host talking to another table and saying that had been in Florida for something like 20 years, but had had a restaurant in Puerto Rico for 20+ years before that…
OK, it WILL help if you speak Spanish, but it’s not needed. The guy who seated us did speak English, and our waitress could handled some English, but to get things clearly communicated you will need Spanish or pointing at the bilingual menu (that does not help with the ‘daily specials’ on the board).
We were standing at the specials board when the host showed up to seat us and I asked “what’s this” and then “what’s that”. For each thing a description was given. And when we expressed some interest (but in that “don’t know what I’m getting into” way) the host said “I’ll get you a taste if you like”. The upshot is that we started off with a complementary platter with modest servings each of “Stringy Beef”, “Pulled Pork”, and a chicken stew of some sort. The full serving was a few cents under $6. I’ve spent that much at a fast food place.
All three were great. I really wanted to have the chicken stew, but I’ve had a lot of chicken lately. It took a while to decide.
The “Stringy beef” is seasoned beef in a wonderful rich sauce. Tender, with the “stringy” meaning more a ‘pulled apart bits in sauce’ rather than any real texture comment. The Chicken Stew had slow cooked chicken with potatoes and other vegetables in a wonderful (and mild but flavorful seasonings) stew gravy / sauce.
We both had the “Pulled Pork”. But that name does not do justice. It’s more of a slow caribbean roast pork with onions, seasoning, and “something”.
Just a bit of heaven on a plate.
The surface was clearly spice rubbed with a rub including salt. Some bits of surface skin were a bit on the salty side (but like I said, I like salt… and I’d not change a thing). There were succulent bits, and meaty chunks. And, I’m almost embarrassed to say it, some of my favorite bits: they included some of the surface fat layer, where you get that ‘cracklings’ finish on some of the fat. I’m sorry, but you just can’t have a proper delicious roast or steak without the fat. Not big globs of it, but some. And this was just about right.
Rich. Savory. Onions and “something” tropical. Not hot and fire like Mexican, more a Caribbean meets Spain. Served with a generous portion of white rice and a bowl of black beans. (You get your choice of several sides, including several kinds of beans, these are what we chose). Oh, and two plantain slices… At first I thought the beans a bit “soupy”… then I realized that it was an ideal seasoned sauce to put on the pork or rice. A design feature.
I ordered the “Maria Sangria” that comes in a generous painted clay “personal pitcher” with a straw. Maybe 1/2 liter?. (The founder is named “Maria”…). It was nice and flavorful and went well with the food, but waaayyy too easy to drink. Watch it or you will end up with two of these and a bit tipsy….
They had a variety of desserts, including a “Tres Leches” (three milks) which is a cake soaked in three kinds of sweet, condensed, and regular milk (IIRC) with sugars. It was nice (though not spectacular – some times it can have a nearly custard finish, this was more like cake with sweet milk soaked in it). But it somehow reminded me of “home”. It had that familiar character of something your Mom would have made. Not all frills and pomp like a Chef would do, but more “comfort food”. I’ll have it again, but only after I try a couple of other deserts on the menu. (Mostly because they had a lot of interesting things for choosing…) You can get to the desert menu by picking “menu” from the left side of their web page under “contents”. Or this link gets the PDF:
At the end of it all, we were out about $28 (of which $12 was the meals proper). There’s also a couple of cokes and 2 “Maria Sangria”s in that price along with 2 desserts.
I’d rate it a major bargain.
(Though you can get things as low as $4 for a ham and cheese sandwich or as high as $22 for the Lobster dishes.)
They had a long list of things called “Mofongo” that I’d not heard of, but doing some research, it looks like something I’m putting on my ‘must try’ list for the next visit…
I asked for a business card, and got one that lists the address as 507 West Vine Street, Kissimmee, Florida. 34741. Phone is 407 847-6399 and the owner is listed as Maria Cordero.
Decore was tasteful, and with things to remind folks of Puerto Rico. Very genuine. There was CNN on a TV in the corner, but quiet enough as to not be an ‘issue’. And it curiously added to the effect. Like being in a little bit of Puerto Rico and being reminded of America “up north” somewhere… important in a distant kind of way, but not pertinent at the moment…
I didn’t catch our server’s name. A vivacious and charming Puerto Rican lady of small stature and large energy. A quick smile and a charming demeanor. Flashing eyes and a bounce in her step. We each fell all over each other with trying to speak the others language. Me speaking mediocre Spanish and her speaking tolerable English. Each halting at times and having the other offer suggestions. Both smiling at the mutual effort. Calling on the host to translate the “specials” board.
I’ll go back. Several times if possible. There are so many things on that menu to try… The roast chicken. The chicken stew. The dozen or so other things. (Click on the words like “steak” and “chicken” in their web site and you get the menu with prices) All the sides (with both green and ripe plantains as you like it…). The plantains we got as just part of the “special” were very nice. Sort of a mild fried banana slice with a more delicate flavor. And now that I know the flavors are more Caribbean than Mexican Hot, I’m going to work my way down the seafood menu too… ( I like hot food, but I can’t taste the character of delicate sea foods when spiced so much. So I usually avoid “hot seafood”. But the Caribbean treatments are a delight. So I suspect that Puerto Rico’s treatments will also be very nice…)
Don’t know how we managed to ‘luck out’ two days in a row, but both these places are well worth driving a ways to visit.
Along the way we also found 3 very good and secluded places to watch the launch. I’ll post about them… just AFTER the launch ;-)