At this point in my food writing, I keep an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the restaurants I want to try — and so I can always quickly send menu links to the people I eat with the most, my wife and my co-workers. One restaurant that had been at the top of my list for far too long is Cavo’s Bar & Kitchen (https://www.cavosbar.com/) in Thornton Park, a neighborhood near downtown Orlando that I recently called “Thornton No-Park,” due to the lack of parking spaces. I dragged three co-workers down to Cavo’s for lunch on a relatively quiet Friday not that long ago, and we definitely had to drive around a bit before we could park, but it was worth the wait.
I’ve been reading so many raves about Cavo’s cheesesteak ($13), so I had to try it, even though I often find cheesesteaks disappointing. Usually the meat is relatively low-quality and dissolves into a pool of boiling lava-hot grease and melted cheese that never cools down, making it literally painful to eat, on top of being messy. But this was easily the best cheesesteak I’ve tried in Orlando, and probably the best one I’ve had outside of Philadelphia. The freshly baked soft roll, adorned with sesame seeds, held up to the heavy load inside — tasty thin-sliced ribeye (the king of steaks as far as I’m concerned), melty white American cheese, and plenty of sautéed onions, although if you ask me, you can’t ever put enough sautéed onions on anything. It lived up to the hype and made me realize I still do like cheesesteaks; I just hadn’t had a worthy cheesesteak in a long time.
One co-worker ordered a gorgeous-looking Reuben sandwich ($13), with the usual suspects: corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing (not Russian dressing, but still good) on grilled marble rye. I know her to be a fan of Reubens, as am I, and she looked content.
My vegetarian co-worker got the vegetarian sandwich ($13), with fried eggplant, marinated cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, arugula, and roasted garlic basil vinaigrette on a fresh baked hoagie roll. It looked good and smelled even better. I didn’t ask her to try it, but even as a non-vegetarian myself, that looked like something I would really like.
Another co-worker who tries to eat healthy got the Cavo salad ($13), with spinach and romaine mix, marinated cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, artichokes, roasted red peppers, charred vidalia onions, garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, tossed with Cavo’s house vinaigrette dressing. He added chicken for an additional $5. He seemed to like it, and that’s what I call a salad!
I got this plate of curly fries ($4) intending to share it with everyone. They were awesome — maybe my favorite kind of fries, with a crispy seasoned coating and soft on the inside. My beloved Arby’s serves fries like this, and so does Checkers. But two of my colleagues ordered their own plates of tater tots ($4 each), leaving me with more fries than I expected. It wasn’t a problem, though!
That night, when I got home from work, I enjoyed half of the classic Italian hoagie ($13) after it chilled in the fridge for a few hours, allowing the flavors to meld. This beautiful sandwich included tavern ham, salami, capicola, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, raw onion, sweet Italian peppers, pickles, and oregano vinaigrette dressing on the same kind of soft seeded roll. Years ago, the pickles might have ruined the sandwich for me, and even though I normally wouldn’t order them on an Italian sub, my growing tolerance for pickles has turned into an obsession, so I thought I would try them. They only added; they did not detract. It was an excellent Italian hoagie — maybe not reaching the great heights of the Stasio sub, the LaSpada’s Famous hoagie, the Rocco from Manzano’s Deli, or incredible new hoagies from Pizza Bruno, but it is still a top-tier Italian sandwich here in Orlando.
I liked the space and loved the food. If only it was easier to park at Cavo’s, I would want to be a regular for sure. As it is, it will have to be a rare treat when I’m in Thornton No-Park, along with other local favorites Mason Jar Provisions and Benjamin French Bakery. But rare treats may be the best, because if you treat yourself too often, the ritual starts to feel more commonplace, and less special as a result. But that cheesesteak… wow. That was totally worth driving laps around Thornton No-Park, or maybe even taking a Lyft down there in the future.