Category Archives: Explore Florida

Rodizio on I-Drive: Worth the Traffic

a row of Brazilian steakhouse meats roasting at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando
Rodizio in Orlando is worth braving I-Drive.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

I-Drive in Orlando has its detractors. When I spend too much time near it — or too much time away from it — I’m one of those detractors.

However, every time I find a reason to meander towards I-Drive — at a measured crawl, as Orlando traffic dictates — I realize that, if you put a little thought into where you eat, you can find some gems among the canaille of eateries.

A few years ago, we stumbled into an excellent Ethiopian restaurant in a strip mall right off the main drag. Last week, we decided to try Rodizion, a small chain with a handful of restaurants in Florida.

A caipirinha at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando
A caipirinha at Rodizio.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

Rodizio: a Brazilian Steakhouse.

Rodizio Grill bills its stores as “ambassadors of Brazil” and, according to our server, Michael — who, along with most of the staff, has Brazilian heritage — the way the restaurant prepares and presents the food is much like one would expect in Brazil.

We started with caipirinhas — regular for the long-suffering El Cap, spicy for me. Then we made our way to the salad bar. Although, truthfully, the phrase “salad bar” evokes images of Ponderosa and Ruby Tuesdays, and this was not that. We had yucca fries, heart of palm, spicy and mild pepper sauces (which made wonderful salad dressings), traditional potatoes, and other expected items.

They also had feijoada as one of the hot side dishes. When I read about the dish on the menu, it sounded like black beans and rice, an ubiquitous dish found throughout Florida. Feijoada, unlike many iterations of beans and rice I’ve eaten, has meat in it, and it’s traditionally served with farofa, a cassava flour seasoning (at Rodizio, it’s next to the beans and rice, so you can use it as liberally as you wish).

 

A salad bar at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando

Calling it a salad bar really doesn’t do it justice. Photo by Cathy Salustri

And Now the Meats.

Like many Brazilian steakhouses, Rodizio employs a red-and-green, stop-and-go system. When we finished with the hot bar and salad bar, we turned a small block on our tableside to green. This was the cue for the meat processional (my term, not theirs) to begin.  Gauchos bearing skewers of meat came to our table, one at a time, to offer different meats.

We sampled chicken, lamb, and steak, and we both loved the tri-tip sirloin steak the most. While Barry would love to have meat at every meal, I’m increasingly not a fan of too much meat. But this is where — unexpectedly — Rodizio shined. Instead of ordering a full steak, the gauchos would slice off a piece (or more, based on preference) at a time. That made it easy for me to sample a little bit of a lot of different meats, without waking up with what I call “steak belly” at 3 a.m.

For dessert, we tried orange-tinged creme brulee and acai with fruit and coconut. Both were delicious, but honestly? Next time I’ll skip the sweets and spend more time at the hot bar and salad bar (which is an option — you can forego the meats entirely for a lower price.)

Acai desert at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando

Acai! Photo by Cathy Salustri

The Moral of the Meal

I shy away from tourist-adjacent places. Sure, I’ll go to Disney World, but the tourist-clogged part of Kissimmee? Not so much. (Although I did live there for a hot minute in the ’90s). The meal at Rodizio reminded me that Florida’s a paradise of all sorts, not only the one I choose for myself.  I may gravitate to El Siboney on Stock Island, but that doesn’t mean I should skip Key West entirely. And I may love the outer edges of Kissimmee and Orlando, but that certainly doesn’t mean that, every now and then, it’s OK to brave the I-Drive madness.

Especially when it tastes this good.

Check Out Rodizio Grill

Rodizio Grill, with Florida locations in Pensacola, Orlando, Wesley Chapel, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Estero, and Fort Lauderdale. rodiziogrill.com


Note: Through Visit Orlando, Rodizio Grill hosted some of the food described in this experience. This did not influence the post; had we not had an amazing experience, I wouldn’t have written this post.

How You Can Help Florida Springs

one of Florida springs near Tampa surrounded. by cypress trees
Florida springs are amazing, but they need your help, Here’s how you can keep them special and pristine. 
Photo by Cathy Salustri

This week on the podcast, Ryan Smart, Executive Director of the Florida Springs Council, joined me and Rick to answer a listener’s questions about Florida springs.

Last week, I spoke in Ocala about Florida springs, and after the talk, Meg Young, who was in the audience, had more questions. Here’s what we told her about how you can help Florida springs.

Q: If the springs naturally come to the surface, why would the bottled water companies need permits to pump out? Would they not just capture the water as it surfaces? Or are they forcing the spring to produce more than natural? 

A: We answer this more in-depth in the podcast, but it’s because they don’t scoop the water out of the springhead — they tap the spring with a well, and they need permission for that. And it’s actually taking away from spring production, not the other way around.

Q:  I remember years ago when I lived in Orlando there was a Spring on the westbound lanes of Hwy. 17-92 in Longwood and people, including myself, would just stop with empty milk bottles and fill up with the spring water and drink it at home. They have since shut the location off from the public and I don’t know the current status of that water.

A: That’s near the now-gone famous tree in Sanford, the Senator, and it is closed to the public. Rick has memories of this and talks about it on the ‘cast.

Q: How many gallons of water does a third-magnitude spring produce per minute? 

A: Between 1-10 cubic feet per second, so that’s between 60 and 600 cubic feet per minute.

Q: Could you repeat the ways to help Florida springs? 

A: We’d be glad to!

  1. Stop drinking bottled water.
  2. Plant Florida-friendly landscaping.
  3. Turn off your irrigation or change to drip irrigation.
  4. Don’t fertilize.
  5. Connect with and support with a group advocating for springs. A great start is the Florida Springs Council or any of Florida’s  Riverkeepers. Get involved!

Things You Can Do To Help Florida Springs

Berkey water filters

Five-gallon water jugs and USB water jug dispensers

Speak out against bad bills, like these.

Links We Mentioned

Santa Fe Springs Celebration (April 27, 2024)

Take a road trip to these Florida springs — but be careful to leave no trace!

Florida Tiki Madness

a map of Florida with a cartoon images such as the sun and a blonde woman on a surfboard superimposed on it. Representative of Florida Tiki
Florida Tiki culture is strong.
Photo of mural at April’s Tiki-a-Go-Go by Cathy Salustri

Earlier this month I spoke at Tiki-a-Go-Go, a new Tiki con in Orlando. The organizers approached me last year in April at the Floridania Fest in Gulfport, and I gave two talks: One on the history of Orange Bird and one on haunted Florida. I appreciate Tiki fans, Tiki ephemera, and had a blast — although I’m not nearly as hard-core as some of these peeps are.

Tiki-a-Go-Go was wonderful. It was small-ish but sold out — organizers wanted to make sure they kept it small the first year, I suppose. In addition to a bevy of Tiki-related talks, the event had plenty of Disney Adventureland talks, too. (In addition to Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Tiki fans love the Jungle Cruise, SEA, and that part of Disney culture… and I can’t blame them.)

All the Tiki madness started my podcast co-host, Rick Kilby, and I thinking about Florida Tiki.

Our most recent podcast focuses on exactly that: Florida Tiki. Take a listen.

Find the show notes below, and if you’re in Gulfport next weekend (April 27) , come see me at the Floridania Fest at the Casino. Mention the website or the podcast and get a free Florida Spectacular tee or magnet (as supplies last.)

Shout Out to Black Coral Rum

Finally, Black Coral Rum sponsored the podcast this month, and they sent Rick and I some tasty bottles to try. Their tagline is “Distinctly Florida Rum” and their branding includes the state flag, so I was on board before I took my first sip. Now I’m a convert, though — especially their black rum, which is definitely a sipping rum. Their white rum begs for a Cuba Libre, but their spiced rum is probably my favorite. More sampling may be required. Please check them out — sponsors like Black Coral Rum keep me from having to take a side gig selling auto insurance.

We now return to our regularly scheduled Florida Tiki post.

Florida Tiki Podcast Show Notes

Florida Tiki Bars
Bahi Hut in Sarasota
The Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale (Rick’s post)
Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale (Rick’s post)
Don the Beachcomber in Madeira Beach
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Walt Disney World
Bar Tiki on Clearwater Beach
Florida Tiki Events
The Hukilau (Rick’s post)