Bad As’s Burgers

Bad As’s Burgers ( is the newest restaurant venture from John Collazo, the chef and owner of Orlando’s beloved Bad As’s Sandwich.  I’ve been to Bad As’s Sandwich dozens of times and tried almost everything on the menu, to the point that my detailed review from 2019 barely scratches the surface.   But never content to sit still or rest on his laurels, Chef John launched his new burger concept on Curry Ford Road in late 2022, and my wife and I recently tried it.

At Bad As’s Burgers, you pretty much know what you’re going to get: smash-style burgers made with high-quality Australian wagyu beef, with a variety of creative toppings on fresh-baked buns.  Just a warning to vegetarians and vegans — there are no veggie burger options at Bad As’s Burgers, at least not yet.

Similar to the menu at Bad As’s Sandwich, there are plenty of chef-created combinations to choose from, or you can build your own burger.  My wife is the opposite of me, in that she likes burgers and sandwiches very plain and free from extraneous toppings, condiments, and sauces.  She ordered a plain burger with a side of fries, and she seemed to really like it.  These fries look and taste a lot like McDonald’s fries from times past, and that is because they are fried in beef tallow, just like McDonald’s used to, at least through the 1980s.

When I placed our order at the register, she didn’t notice on the menu that you could get sautéed mushrooms as a topping, but she really likes mushrooms.  (That makes one of us.)  Luckily for her, you can also order a generous side order of the mushrooms:

I was having a hard time choosing from all of Chef John’s creations, but when I saw they had a daily special that wasn’t on the regular menu, it became an easy decision.  This was the Drew, a burger topped with French stewed onions, crispy onions, Bleu cheese, and some kind of tangy aioli.  I had actually been fantasizing about French onion soup that very day, so it was a perfect burger and a perfect decision.

Here’s an extreme close-up of the Drew:

Chef John is great at mixing up different aiolis, which I knew from Bad As’s Sandwich.  But I just love ketchup on burgers, too.  Sorry, not sorry!

I opted for sweet potato fries so we could try both kinds of fries, and they were spot-on, with nice, crispy exteriors and soft, yielding centers.  In fact, we both agreed that we preferred them to the beef tallow fries, despite our shared ’80s McDonald’s nostalgia.

My wife couldn’t resist a chocolate shake, and she said it was great.  I appreciated Bad As’s Burgers not following the milkshake trend of adding a lot of sticky, messy, drippy stuff to the outside of the cup, hoping to appeal to the Instagram crowd but creating sticky situations.

I think Bad As’s Burgers will continue to survive and even thrive in a market full of fast-casual burger joints because of Chef John Collazo’s creativity and insistence on the highest quality product.  This doesn’t feel like a corporate chain “gourmet burger” place because it isn’t.  It has that uniqueness and love that you find in the best locally owned and operated restaurants.  Is it the cheapest around?  Absolutely not, but you pay for quality.  As much as I love the cheap, tasty sliders at White Castle and Krystal, if you go to Bad As’s Burgers, you can expect top-quality beef, toppings, fries, and even fresh-baked buns.  You taste every bit of effort, care, and attention to detail with every bite, just like at Bad As’s Sandwich.  And even if you consider it a splurge, sometimes you just have to treat yo’self.


Reyes Mezcaleria

Reyes Mezcaleria (, a  Mexican restaurant in the North Quarter neighborhood near downtown Orlando, is very different from most Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to.  It is truly upscale, to the point of being “fancy.”  The dining room is beautiful, something it has in common with the other Good Salt restaurants owned and operated by Jason and Sue Chin, like the seafood-centric Osprey (a favorite of mine for oysters) and the Southern-influenced Monroe in downtown Orlando (which I’ve been to once so far, but have yet to review).  The Chins, who are James Beard Award semifinalists, have terrific taste for concepts, décor, food, and talent, like the Executive Chef of Reyes, Wendy Lopez, who started there in 2018.

That happened to be the first year I visited Reyes Mezcaleria with my wife and my best friend — so pretty much my two best friends.  We had a lovely dinner after a long day at MegaCon, and I took a lot of pictures with my old cell phone camera that came out awful, making the stunningly plated food look as unappetizing as possible.  After some online people joked and complained about my photography, that inspired me to start this very food blog, so congratulations?  Thank you?  Or possibly, you’re welcome?

Anyway, my wife and I didn’t make it back to Reyes until this past December, after catching a matinee performance of the musical Hadestown in downtown Orlando.  We are so rarely downtown, so it worked out perfectly.  We over-ordered, but we ended up with a lot of leftovers that heated up really well at home.  We got at least three full meals out of all of this fine food.

This order of guacamole and house-made tortilla chips was $11, but the guac and chips were all excellent quality.  The guacamole was extremely fresh, and it was topped with some pickled red onions and crumbled chihuahua cheese.  The chips were dusted with a wonderful seasoning.

I requested to add chapulines, since the menu said we could do that for a $2 upcharge, but we were charged $4.  Whatever.  $2 is nothing, but it’s uncharacteristic for a restaurant of this caliber, and the people have a right to know.  I got a generous portion of crispy fried grasshoppers that had a really nutty flavor.  I’ve tried chapulines once before, at an upscale Mexican restaurant in San Jose, California, and didn’t like them much, but they were much better at Reyes.  I didn’t know if we were meant to sprinkle or stir them into the guacamole, but we just munched on them like nuts, or Chex Mix.  Yes, my wife tried a few!  She always makes me proud whenever she tries new foods. I recently attended a lecture about the future of food, and one scholar discussed how farm-raised insects are going to be a major protein source in the future, and we had better get on board, because it’s going to have to happen as global resources diminish and current animal husbandry methods rapidly become unsustainable.  I have to admit that I feel a little smug that I liked this particular batch of grasshoppers, so now I can be like “Have you embraced eating insects, the protein of the future?  I have, and now I’m part of the solution, not part of the problem!”

This was a “shroom” tamal ($12) that my wife ordered, because she loves mushrooms, one of the only foods I can’t eat.  The masa corn shell is wrapped around cultivated mushroom, squash blossoms, and poblano peppers, and topped with red onions, salsa verde, and what looked like micro-greens.  I ended up trying some of this after she ate all the fungus out of it, and had a really terrific flavor, especially from the poblanos, which I always enjoy in things.  I think those poblanos and the salsa verde made the tamal a little too spicy for her, so we both got to enjoy it after all.

This was an order of two Sonoran crispy fish tacos ($14), featuring red snapper, beer-battered and fried to absolute perfection.  The fresh corn tortillas were topped with shaved red cabbage for a different kind of crunch, spicy serrano pepper aioli, more pickled red onions, and cilantro.  I always appreciate good fish tacos (except for mahi; I just don’t like the texture and never have), and these were excellent.  Totally worth the price too, in case you were wondering.

Next up was the esquites ($9), Mexican street corn, served off the cob.  This would have been another great dish to share with a group, but I liked it more than my wife did, so I ended up having most of it.  The Florida sweet corn kernels were accompanied by hominy, more poblano peppers, pearl onions, lime aioli to give it some creaminess and some citrusy sour tang, and cotija cheese for a parmesan-like umami funkiness.  There was a lot going on, but I liked it all.

At this point, we were so full we could barely even touch the main attraction, which I realized was what I ordered way back on our first visit, back in 2018: duck enchiladas de Michoacan ($29).  Luckily, this photo and all the rest came out a lot better after this visit to Reyes.  We enjoyed this one at home, with slices of seared duck breast over the queso fresco and chihuahua cheese enchiladas (they are underneath, I swear!), accompanied by chile rojo and surprisingly spicy carrot escabeche, with a vinegary kick I loved and my wife wanted nothing to do with.  This is a quack-tastic dish, but both of us are fiends for any dishes involving duck.  The flaming (hot) carrots were a big hit with me, too.

The creative, gourmet dishes at Reyes Mezcaleria are a feast for the senses.  Enjoying them in the lush dining room, maybe with a cocktail or two, would be a true treat for anyone.  While I fully admit I prefer my Mexican food “downscale” (bring on the street tacos, burritos, and tortas), I’m so glad there are multiple options across Orlando, with a chef like Wendy Lopez pushing the boundaries of what people think of as Mexican cuisine and challenging them to accept upscale takes on traditional dishes.  Price-wise, Reyes remains a “special occasion” restaurant in my book, but I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something special near downtown and are tired of the same old options.  There is no reason Mexican food can’t be luxurious, and Reyes is proof of that.

Polombia at Time Out Market (Chicago)

I’ve been meaning to write this review for a long time because it was one of my favorite finds from my work trips to Chicago last summer.   I love interesting fusion cuisine, like The Escobar Kitchen in Orlando’s Lake Nona, which expertly combines Puerto Rican food with sushi.  My wife and I used to love a Casselberry pizzeria called Del Dee’s, which served excellent New York-style pizzas along with Thai food (and one of the best Thai iced teas ever), due to the Italian husband and his Thai wife who owned and operated the restaurant.  Alas, it did not last.

Chicago is arguably a bigger food city than Orlando, and one of the few places that could honestly be called even more diverse.  That’s how we ended up with a restaurant as cool as Polombia (, a Polish-Colombian fusion restaurant located in the Time Out Market Chicago, a sprawling food hall with plenty of diverse dining options, from fresh pasta to barbecue, Greek to Indian, Southern to Korean, baked goods to bars.  The Time Out Market sounded like a great place to drag two work colleagues in a Lyft for lunch, and I already knew I had to try the most unique cuisine combo of all.  I definitely over-ordered at Polombia, a joint venture by visionary chefs Cynthia Orobio and Phillipe Sobon, but I wanted to try everything, so I regret nothing. 

I started with meatless emparogi ($12), a lovely quintet of empanada-pierogi hybrids.  These beautiful little pockets of dough were stuffed with potatoes, caramelized onions, chives, sofrito (a classic Latin seasoning blend of garlic, onions, sometimes tomatoes, olive oil, and other aromatic herbs, spices, and vegetables), and a swirl of aji crema, blending elements of a spicy Colombian hot sauce with cool cream to balance out all the acidic ingredients.  There was also a version of these emparogi with all the same fillings, plus short rib, but I held off on that, at least for this dish.

This is bigos, or hunter’s stew ($8), rich with shredded beef, Colombian chorizo sausage, and sauerkraut in a tomato-based stew.  I have loved bigos at Polish and Ukrainian restaurants, and this was a unique take that added Latin American flavors.  It lacked the sweet, tangy touch I remember from the bigos I savored at Veselka in New York City, but this was a very different version of the classic dish.  I think I might have also enjoyed it more in the winter than a particularly hot day in July, but don’t get me wrong, I liked it, and I’m very glad I tried it.   

I couldn’t stop myself from getting an order of two arepa-ski ($14), cornmeal patties topped with ricotta cheese blended with honey, shredded pickled beets and carrots, and the protein of our choice.  Those choices included mojo-roasted chicken, vegetarian lentils, and coffee-braised short rib, so this time I opted for the short rib.  The order came with aji sauce that reminded me of a thicker chimichurri, bringing some acid and spice to contrast against the richness of the meat and the sweet creaminess of the ricotta.  I was so excited to order all this food, I didn’t notice on the menu that I could pick two separate proteins, or else I would have.  But I have no regrets.  These were some of the more creative arepas I’ve ever tried, and the short rib was incredible.  I always love short ribs, and these were so well-seasoned with the coffee rub and braised to ideal tenderness, I didn’t think twice about missing out on the chicken and the lentils.

These were a beauty to behold:

And for dessert, I got kolaczki ($4), six light rolled pastries filled with guava and fig preserves and dusted with powdered sugar.  I might not have bothered with desserts, but I couldn’t turn down two of my favorite fruits for pastry fillings.  The sticky sweetness of the guava and fig worked so perfectly with the light, buttery pastries, and I was so glad to have those flavors to choose from.   

Since this is an Orlando-based food blog, I try to space out my out-of-town reviews, and I’ve been saving this one for a while.  Orlando only has one Polish restaurant that I haven’t been to yet, but my wife and I dearly loved another restaurant, Polonia, that closed several years ago.  That really introduced me to Polish flavors and dishes that I now love and crave and dream about.  Being from Miami, I’m also familiar with all kinds of Latin food, and very fond of it too.

I’m always excited to try chefs’ interesting takes on fusion cuisine, blending together ingredients and dishes and entire cultures, creating something unique and new that pays homage to the original inspirations and influences.  While Chicago certainly has some traditional Polish restaurants due to its large Polish population, I absolutely had to try Polombia while I was there.  I couldn’t schlep all the way up there and leave without trying it.  This was the exact kind of meal that I started this blog to write about, and I’m so glad I was able to visit and work my way through the beautiful, singular menu that Cynthia Orobio and Phillipe Sobon created.

Gully – An Urban Indian Eatery

Last month I visited a new Indian restaurant that opened in late 2022 on South Orange Blossom Trail, a long stretch of Orlando that is far from home but always worth the drive for good food.  Gully – An Urban Indian Eatery ( has an incredible menu inspired by the street foods of Mumbai.  It is full of fascinating-looking dishes that most Indian restaurants around here do not offer, but fear not, they also have plenty of familiar favorites that you can order a la carte, or off an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Gully is mere blocks from my favorite Indian restaurant in Orlando, Bombay Street Kitchen, which also has a huge and unique menu that puts them streets ahead of competitors.  Well, folks, I am pleased to say that Gully delivered a similar experience.  I just wish they both weren’t such a schlep for me, but hopefully you will find yourself closer, so you can check either one out for yourself.

For my first and only visit to Gully (so far), there were so many things I wanted to try, but I am just one man.  A man who can easily eat as much as two hungry men in a single sitting, but one man just the same (who is middle-aged and paying the price for my heroic appetite).  I was so lucky that a dear friend from the Orlando Foodie Forum presented by Tasty Chomps!, a wonderful Facebook group I have been a member of for many years, organized a weekend lunch at Gully on a day I was able to join in.  I met a few lovely people, all fellow foodies with adventurous appetites and generous spirits, and we had a legendary lunch and shared everything with each other — the perfect way to take in a new restaurant as exciting as Gully.  Members of the Orlando Foodie Forum organized several group meals before the COVID-19 pandemic, some of which I was lucky to attend, but this was my first of these since 2019.  Even though the threat of COVID is far from over and we can’t act like it is, people are getting more comfortable venturing out in public and starting to enjoy things like group meals with friends and even strangers again.  Even I am.  I missed it.

Gully is located in Laxmi Plaza, a small shopping center with several Indian businesses, including House of Spices, a huge Indian grocery store that we all visited after our lunch.  It is awesome “one-stop shopping.”  The restaurant itself has two separate dining rooms, with the all-you-can-eat buffet set up in the second dining room, off to the side.  There is a lot of artwork featuring the legendary Indian actor Sanjay Dutt (who may have inspired the professional wrestling personality Sonjay Dutt, of AEW fame).  While I consider myself a cinephile, I admit to not being well-versed at all in Indian films, and I don’t think I’ve seen any Sanjay Dutt movies yet.  But my favorite movie to come out in 2022 was the big-budget, Telugu-language epic RRR, from India’s “Tollywood,” and it was awesome.  A historical epic drama, an over-the-top action movie that practically turned into a superhero spectacular, a bromance, and a musical (with an Academy Award-nominated song), RRR has something for everyone.  But I digress, and to bring things back around, Gully also has something for everyone.

For me, it is always a treat to order lassi with Indian food, those sweet, thick, creamy yogurt-based drinks that are refreshing and ideal for cutting the blistering spices.  Most Indian restaurants offer plain or mango lassi, but Gully offered a lassi flight of four different flavors, and that sounded right up my alley.  I was expecting little shot glasses, but the glasses were much larger than I expected.  It was more than worth it to get guava, plain, strawberry, and mango lassi, and I loved them all.  I sipped them throughout the meal, and it was almost like dessert in a glass (or four).

Of the six of us, one woman ordered the weekend lunch buffet, and everyone else ordered two or three dishes off the menu to share.  A very nice and cool couple I met for the first time ordered this dish, the Gully samosa chaat ($8), with potato turnovers underneath a blanket of onions, chilies, tomatoes, crispy chickpea noodles, a drizzle of yogurt, and zesty spice dust.

I ordered this favorite for the table, knowing it would be a crowd-pleaser everyone would love to share: chole batura ($15) — a dish of curried chickpeas (chole) served with a puffy, fluffy, fried bread everyone can rip apart to scoop up the rich and savory chole.  It was a hit in our group, as it will be in yours.   

My friend ordered this mutton sukha ($12), a relatively small appetizer portion, which consisted of tender mutton, caramelized shallots, desiccated coconut, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime zest.  I tried a piece that was so delicious, I would have been happy eating the whole plate.  

These are lamb samosas ($10), but I’m pretty sure people snagged one or two before I could snap this shadowy photo.   They are crispy fried turnovers stuffed with ground lamb shoulder, peas, and nutmeg, and served with mint yogurt tahini sauce.  They were smaller than some potato-filled samosas I’ve ordered elsewhere, but this way, there were more than enough to share. 

I didn’t remember what these were, so I had to reach out to the diner who ordered them.  Thanks to Instagram user, local foodie, and new friend @meetmethroughfood for telling me these were called crispy onion blooms, even though those aren’t listed on the menu on Gully’s website.  They were onion fritters fried in chickpea batter, similar to the onion bhaji I tried at Bombay Street Kitchen down the road.

I had a hard time deciding on a main dish for myself, so I made a last-minute, game-time decision of Parsi goat salli boti ($22), a curry made of tender goat meat, apricots, caramelized onions, poppy seeds, and slivered crispy potatoes (according to the menu, but I didn’t notice any potatoes).  It was a little bit sweet from the apricots, but I love savory and sweet flavor combinations.  It wasn’t spicy at all, for the benefit of sharing it with anyone interested, but I would have liked a little more heat.  I’ve found that I can handle “hot” dishes at most local Indian restaurants just fine, but haven’t worked my way up to “Indian hot” yet.

I didn’t order this, but it was paneer methi chaman ($16), a vegetarian (but not vegan) curry dish of slivered paneer cheese in creamy fenugreek sauce with fried spices.  I don’t think I tasted it.

Two people ordered butter chicken ($19), that beloved classic dish, but the photo I took was so blurry that it made the beautiful dish of pulled tandoori chicken in creamy, orangey tomato sauce look unappetizing, so I spared you.  All these curries in the metal serving dishes came with fragrant basmati rice, as one would expect.

This was a basket of beautiful garlic naan bread ($4) we all shared, baked and seasoned to perfection.

As if the food and company weren’t great enough, our dishes were delivered to the table by a ROBOT!  I understand a few Orlando restaurants are using serving robots, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen one in action.  Folks, I am so sorry I couldn’t get a good picture of the robot.  Believe me, I am still kicking myself, because I am an ’80s kid who grew up loving friendly, helpful robots, and still has a major soft spot for them.

So that was my first Gully experience, but I hope to return when I can and work my way through the voluminous menu.  Everything was top-notch.  I just wish my two favorite Indian restaurants weren’t so far away, but I’ll just have to plan special trips in the future.  But I can’t recommend going with friends highly enough, so you can share and maximize the delicious dishes you can all try.  It’s the best way to experience a restaurant like Gully, as opposed to flying solo.  That Orlando Foodie Forum has changed my life for the better over the last several years, including introducing me to some legitimate great friends and fellow culinary explorers and risk-takers.  That’s where I was first inspired to start my own food blog, after some kind compliments on my writing and complaints about the quality of my photography.  And since then, it has been a hell of a ride for me and my dozens of stalwart Saboscrivnerinos!