I hung out on Monday May 6th with a friend visiting from out of town. She told me she didn’t like Orlando when she hadn’t given it a proper chance. She said it’s too busy for a small town gal like her. I couldn’t allow someone to leave here with a bad taste in their mouth about my city. The thing is, there’s so much more to Orlando than the downtown bar and club scene and the tourist attractions. I had to show her just a little bit of Orlando’s more natural, low-key offerings. Some of them were right near her hotel.
There’s a little park off of Spring Lake in Dr. Phillips that used to be open to the public but thanks to vandals, it’s chained off. You can’t drive in anymore but you can park outside of the chains and walk in like we did. We briefly saw a big softshell turtle in a nearby pond that quickly swam by just to catch a glimpse of us humans. We both had our cameras with us but I didn’t have mine on and ready so I didn’t get a pic of it. I never saw one before in my life so it was a treat. I also took her by Little Sand Lake to show her another serene spot amidst all the hustle and bustle of the tourist corridor.
The next stop was the beginning part of Shingle Creek where we saw some turkey vultures eating what appeared to be a dead turtle or something else. Of significance to me was that they reconnected the land underneath Destination Parkway and widened the land that runs parallel to the creek which wasn’t very deep. How far south they’re gonna go with the widening remains to be seen. There was an Osprey out fishing but that’s a fairly common sight around these parts. Maybe not so much to her.
Then we went to a more southern part of Shingle Creek behind a school that has a walking trail. The only problem with it is the amount of litter. Since it’s the school kids who do a lot of it, I’d make them clean it daily. Even if it ain’t them, I’d still make them clean all that shit up to teach them to respect the environment. I’ve been back there only once before when the forest was bone dry but this time, because of the recent heavy rains, the area was flooded and blooming with beautiful flora. The same way I got to see my softshell turtle for the first time, she saw her first armadillo. It was a small one, and they’re common roadkill which is a really fucked up thing to say, but at least she saw it alive and not splattered all over the road like us natives see all the time.
What she really wanted to see was an alligator. Me and those creatures seem to run into each other often lately but the closest she ever got to one was an ugly ass cartoon gator on top of a merchandise shop at Downtown Disney. We went there to ride the Characters in Flight balloon but it was closed due to high winds. I’ve been there twice now and it’s been closed for the same reason both times. It seems to be a common complaint online. Why not make the tethers stronger to withstand higher winds beyond 22 mph? This is Florida, after all. I guess they’re okay with losing money from people not riding AND they have to pay an employee to be there just to tell people it’s closed and why. A sign ain’t good enough? What a waste. Sure, someone has a job out of it but that money could be used for something else. Like stronger tethers…
That was it for exploration of Orlando. I hope she has a better appreciation of it and doesn’t think it’s all big city, attractions, Disney, and bad traffic. Not that it’s not those things but that’s not all there is to it. People don’t come here to go hiking or birdwatching. Some interesting topics came up in conversation like the right to NOT wear a seat belt while driving and why some animals are of a different size down here as opposed to up north where she’s from. Next up for us was dinner at the Nelore Churrascaria. We took advantage of the Restaurant Week deal which saved us a significant amount of money off the final check.
The joint used to be on I-Drive but they moved to Winter Park where the streets are narrow, close parking is hard to find, the speed limits are low, and white people all look and dress the same in the Park Avenue area where the restaurant is. I swear to you, I didn’t see ANY other black people or anyone else of a shade of natural caramel or darker there. You certainly don’t want blacks invading the place. Polo shirts would be replaced with oversized plain white tees and sundresses would take a back seat to apple bottom jeans. Jazz and adult contemporary music playing on the patio? How about trap music and crunk instead? Seriously, that area is all crackered up.
I can understand why the place moved from I-Drive since there’s so much Brazilian competition there. It stands out more in Winter Park which is about as racially diverse as the Parramore neighborhood. We managed to find free parking a couple of blocks away. Plenty of room to maneuver without all the traffic compared to curbside on the strip where cars are packed in like canned sardines. Don’t waste gas and time trying to park as close as possible to any of the places along Park Avenue. That is, unless you’re trying to be seen which a lot of people that frequent the area are. Higher and more disposable incomes in that area equals a good move by Nelore.
We got there about 30 minutes after they opened. They say you should make a reservation but we were the first customers of the day. It ain’t necessary when you arrive as early as we did. We ate inside but the front of the building opens up for sidewalk eating. That probably only happens when the sun goes down and it’s cooler. The indoor air temperature was just right. I had zero complaints about being too hot or cold. You gotta tell them that you want the Restaurant Week rate (25 bucks). I made sure they knew that upfront to avoid surprises later. I don’t know why they continue to call it Restaurant Week when the discounted rates last through the end of the month.
A waitress is there to greet you as soon as you walk in. At least that’s how it was for us because it wasn’t busy. We were seated on wooden chairs and the tables had tablecloths and an additional layer of thick paper on top of them to catch inevitable spills. The very first thing I noticed when I walked in? Every table had an empty wine glass face-up. To me, that’s unsanitary. I know they wanna have a certain look when people walk in but you gotta factor in things that fly around the air (like spittle, bugs, and dust) could get into the glasses. Better to have them face-down or removed completely until customers are seated.
The second thing that caught my eye? Dishes are also face-up at the salad bar. I saw a plate with some stuff on it. I had to tell our waitress to recommend to management or the owners that dishes should be FACE-DOWN! It’s pretty much an all you can eat affair with a buffet-style salad bar that had fresh options of things I never tried before like eggplant and zucchini. I didn’t like either one. I did like the squash, chicken salad, and potato salad. Cold offerings ranged from peppers and cucumbers to pasta and gouda cheese. Hot offerings were white rice, mashed potatoes, and a perfectly temperatured, creamy tomato basil soup amongst other choices.
I sampled a little bit of everything. You don’t wanna splurge too soon because the meat servers (called gauchos and dressed like them) would be coming soon and the main attraction is the meat. This isn’t a place for a vegan date because those motherfuckers would have a Scanners-level head explosion being so close to such simmering cuts of meat. Vegetarians who are less judgmental would be able to dine here on food from the salad bar. I’d recommend getting a bowl of the tomato basil soup for dipping purposes. It enhanced the flavor of the garlic beef that was served.
Only two more couples came in while we were eating so, still, no reservations required when dining early. You’re better off doing that anyway if you like a more relaxing, less hectic, and attentive dining experience. Our server was always available and was knowledgeable about product when we had questions and there were a lot of them. I’m the type of guy who has to know what he’s eating. If I don’t recognize it or know what it is, I’ll ask if someone is there to answer (with the right answers instead of talking out of their ass). I’m an adventurous eater but I don’t take chances on things that I don’t know jack about. For instance, at a Chinese food truck several years ago, I ordered chicken. What I got didn’t look like any piece of chicken I’ve ever seen in my life and if there’s one thing any nigga knows, it’s fucking chicken. To this day, I don’t know what the fuck the animal was. I was naive back then and ate the shit anyway. If that ever happened again, I’d question what was being served to me. All I’d probably get is a bunch of jibber jabber as a response considering the cuisine. They don’t like when people complain about their food, do they?
Nelore serves complimentary cheese rolls right after you sit down along with your choice of beverage and a wine menu. I tried some Brazilian soda. Tasted pretty good but it comes at a price like most imported foods. The cheese rolls tasted good. The fact that they weren’t some plain ass bread and were warm and fresh was a nice touch. I hadn’t completed my salad bar experience when the meat started coming out. The waitress explained how to use the circular cards at the table. Red side up was a signal for the gauchos to leave you alone. Green side up meant bring on the bacon (which wasn’t on the menu that night).
Their online menu lists lots of different meats but only half were available for us, likely due to our dining time but there could be other factors. People rave online about the parmesan pork but it was only okay. Mine was just a tad dry. Almost all the meats served were only okay and that’s not a bad thing. They were hot, well done, and mostly well seasoned. The leg of lamb didn’t do anything at all for me and I love me some lamb. It didn’t really have any flavor. I use the terms “mostly” and “almost” because I’m not easily impressed when it comes to food like some people who might think a Dairy Queen hamburger is gourmet. I’m a man who knows what quality is and what it tastes like. Nothing other than the lamb was below my standards and when I say something is good, that means it’s fucking good. One meat stuck way out from the pack and that was the top sirloin. That shit was so fucking good I had to eat more than one slice. Cooked and seasoned to perfection. Best beef I’ve ever tasted, hands down. I wish I could’ve taken some of it home. Might not hurt to show up there before they close to find out if you can or if you can buy it before you leave.
Food-wise, this place will fill your ass all the way up and I mean that literally. It was the first time in a very long time that I ate myself to a completely full stomach to the point that it was sticking out in front of me. When I got home, that itis hit me hard. Even while dining, I let some time pass for things to settle and went back to feasting. I was gonna get all of my money’s worth. Positively applying the YOLO philosophy, we went ahead and got a chocolate truffle dessert. Heaven for her, a first time for me because I had no idea what a truffle was. Looking around at the ambiance of the place, this is Florida so you can dress casual if you want because it has somewhat of a casual atmosphere. It tries to be fine dining but the floor area isn’t vast. They cram as many tables into the real estate as they can without people tripping over each other. I mentioned tables before and that piece of paper they put on top of the cloths. My friend spilled some soup, a lot of it, and the paper was thick enough that the cloth was completely clean underneath.
For some cuts of meat, they slice it and you pull it off with some little tongs. I hit the bathroom because I had to use it and I wanted to check it out as far as design and cleanliness. There’s only one pisser and one shitter. It’s clean enough but the artsy sink drained slowly. The dining room floors, walls, and ceilings mostly matched except the bar area had blue lights while everywhere else had a regular bulb tint. They should ditch the blue for more uniformity and because it’s a poor color choice that didn’t contrast well with the other interior colors. The chandeliers were nice but the ceiling tile was more like something you’d see in an office building. There were 2 wine racks for what seemed to be a wide variety of alcohol. The bar area didn’t really seat many people. There were tv’s and a projector in the dining area. Didn’t look right but the assumption is that the place might also function as a sports bar for visiting Brazilians or it hosts private functions. They can take them shits down for regular dining.
Spoons available at tables with the fork and knife would be preferred instead of them being optionally available by the soup. Another change would be to ditch the table cloths since they really serve no purpose other than decor and even then only marginally. Nasty ass people probably use it to wipe their hands instead of using the napkins. Laundry costs get lowered by ditching the cloths. I don’t know how it is there when it’s busy but I know how it was there when it was slow and we were very well taken care of by a clean waitress. That means her uniform wasn’t all stained and shit. No hidden costs with Restaurant Week and no automatic, built-in gratuity which I think is complete bullshit to begin with. The amount that I personally tip is based on a lot of things and our waitress earned all of hers although she looked and sounded like an American white. I could be wrong. The gauchos looked like real Brazilians. For authenticity, ethnicity is important. But those people come in all kinds of different shades. You wouldn’t eat at a Thai restaurant if I worked there, now would you? Bussing tables, maybe…
As for exploring this wonderful city of Orlando that I call home, there will be many more occasions where I venture off the paved path and maybe I’ll give Characters in Flight one more chance to take my money. I love it here because of its access to big city amenities and natural settings. The weather is another selling point. As unpredictable as it is, I’ll take what we get here over what the rest of the country gets. Orlando is an international city and we get international cuisine like Nelore’s. It was a first for us both to eat at a churrascaria and it was an overall pleasant dining experience. If you’re looking for a buffet-style restaurant with class, I’d recommend Nelore’s but try to hit it up when they’re offering discounts which is what you wanna do for any restaurant. That’s how I roll, anyways. But if you got the flow and wanna spend full price, then do what your wallet or purse allows. Might as well park your Mercedes out front while you’re at it if you’re going that route. If you’re gonna do it big, then do that shit BIG!