Finding the house can be a challenge.
Reporter: "Jack Kerouac. The author."
Waiter: "Author? Like, books?"
Reporter: "I understand his house is right around here."
Waiter: "I don't know ... try the restaurant down the street. It's been here longer and maybe he goes in there."
Not lately -- Kerouac has been dead since 1969 -- but the greeter at K Restaurant Wine Bar (K for chef-owner Kevin Fonzo, not for the dead author) knew the name and knew the street, and before long, right around here, there it was.
It's just a basic frame house. There's no sign, unless you count a brief note on the door: "The Kerouac House is not a public building. ... Please do not disturb the writer, as he or she is creating ..."
Sponsor is the Jack Kerouac Writer in Residence Project of Orlando. Information, in lieu of knocking: kerouacproject.org.
Restaurants for you and me
There evidently is no "iconic in-close Orlando restaurant" -- no place that's been there since the 1920s owned by the same family and serving perfect grits or incomparable duck in local l'orange, far as we could find.
The occasion/expense-account place (jackets "preferred" for men ... in Florida) may be Manuel's on the 28th (390 N. Orange Ave.; 407-246-6580; manuelsonthe28th.com), conveniently, given the prices, atop the downtown Bank of America building. Nice view; leave the kids home.
But there has been something of a restaurant boom over the last five years or so, especially in the center. Prime boom producer is a partnership called Urban Life Management. Walk into its Kres Chop House (17 W. Church St.; 407-4477950; kreschophouse.com), and -- steps away from that statue of the alligator wrangler -- you're in one of those spiffy lofty Manhattan neighborhoods. Less fashion-conscious, the group's Cityfish (617 E. Central Blvd.; 407-849-9779; cityfishorlando.com) replaced its Central City Market last year and is especially pleasant for outdoor dining in tolerable weather. (By the same group, also in the center but not sampled: Citrus and HUE, the latter name a reference to color, not to a city in Vietnam.)
Speaking of Vietnamese: Just north and east of downtown, scattered along Colonial Drive in an area called ViMi (there's a reason; not important), can be found a concentration of Asian restaurants, mostly Vietnamese with a few Chinese, that qualify as destinations. Tried one, Pho 88 (730 N. Mills Ave.; 407-897-3488; pho88orlando.com), that's become a local favorite and deservedly so for its huge, well-priced menu of Vietnamese faves.
K Restaurant Wine Bar is the established class of College Park (2401 Edgewater Dr.; 407-872-2332; krestaurantwinebar.com). But right up the street and open less than a year, Adriatico Trattoria Italiana (2417 Edgewater Dr.; 407-428-0044; adriatico-trattoria.com) is just like the old country, right down to the chef sticking his head through an opening into the dining room to make sure all is well.
And our Winter Park matinee visit cut down on the options (which, I'm told, are many and fine after dark), but it would be hard to top the $14 smoked salmon potato galette appetizer at Park Plaza Gardens (319 Park Ave. S., Winter Park; 407-645-2475; parkplazagardens.com).
Every possible chain and a few independents are interspersed among the hotels down toward Universal. Good for them.
And there's more, of course