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Food & Drink

Top tables

It wasn’t easy, but we chose our five fave restaurant openings of 2012

Photo: Photo by Aldrin Capulong, License: N/A

Photo by Aldrin Capulong

Peperoncino

Photo: Photo by Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Spork


Cask & Larder (opened Sept. 5) The latest venture by celeb culinarians James and Julie Petrakis was, arguably, the most anticipated restaurant opening of the year, and their "Southern public house" didn't disappoint. The perpetual busy-ness of the dining space can result in service quirks, but there are no such hiccups coming from the back of the house. Guests are often heard uttering superlatives after sampling innovative takes on down-home fare, be it braised lamb neck, foie gras-stuffed quail, grilled lamb heart or a country ham tasting plate. Beer selections are always interesting, thanks to in-house brewmaster Ron Raike, and the modern-rustic interior is as linger-conducive as Grandma's kitchen. (565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 321-280-4200; caskandlarder.com)

Galopin (opened Sept. 22) It took a couple of months for Galopin to work out its proverbial kinks, but when it did, Guillermo Zayas spurred the kitchen on to spirited heights. Meals can encompass French-leaning small plates, or stretch into three-course affairs featuring a garde-manger, crudités and a duck tasting. (The latter is a must for any canard connoisseur.) With its urbane, ultra-modern decor, Galopin is undoubtedly one of the sexier resto-lounges on Park Avenue, and it's poised to rid the hex on this space and become the dining destination on the northern periphery of this tony strip. (358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-951-5790; galopinwinterpark.com)

Notable mention: B&B Junction (opened Dec. 1) In the "Looks Promising but It's Too Early to Tell" department, B&B Junction gets my nod for best better burger, with apologies to BurgerFi, Burger 21 and Red Robin. B&B ("Burgers & Beer") moved into the space vacated by the original 4 Rivers Smokehouse and after a couple of visits, they've filled those big shoes admirably. Yes, there are wrinkles to iron out, but both the 10-ounce grass-fed beef burger (specifically, the No. 6 with awesome ghost chili cheese) and the No. 13 bison burger were impressive, and that's a good sign. So are the craft beers available on tap. (2103 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407- 513-4134; bbjunction.com)

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