About This Episode
The SunRail is a fun way to explore Orlando and Central Florida. At present, there are 16 SunRail stations to explore. There are so many unique places to see, things to do and restaurants to visit.
I found Grattin Dog, a Columbian fast-food restaurant with amazing food. Ol’ Times Cigar shop east of the Altamonte Springs SunRail Station is steeped in Florida history. It is also one of the last cigar shops to feature local cigar manufacturers like Cordoba and Morales Cigars. I also stopped by Kappy’s Subs, an Orlando institution next to the Maitland SunRail station.
Last time I rode the SunRail, I discovered some charming shops including a wine, coffee, gift and even a doll shop. In this episode of The Orlando Guy, I’m taking a Ride on the SunRail – Central Florida’s commuter train down to the Altamonte Springs and Maitland stations and I’m eager to see what else I can find.
Arriving at Altamonte Springs, I only had to walk across the tracks to find a place that has altered my perception of what fast food can be. It is called Grattin Dog – a Columbian Fast-Food restaurant. Grattin spelled with two T’s is a Columbian term used to describe covering a dish with cheese. Perhaps the word is a derivative of the French – gratin.
I was interested to try their Monster Dog. It is made with 7-inch beef sausage, topped with crisp applewood bacon and a generous slice of ham on a toasted bun. First the sausage is topped with Provolone cheese and hand fired to an ooey melty goodness. Then the dog is topped with the grilled ham and crunchy potato sticks that remind me of childhood, remember those. Then, they cover the entire thing with ketchup, garlic and pineapple sauces and then crown it with the crispy bacon. This is what I’m talking about! A hot dog like I’ve never had before.
Next up, since I tried the Grattin Dog I wanted to try a more traditional Columbian fast-food dish. It is called Salchipapas. Basically, this started out as street food, Salchipapas is a portmanteau of the Spanish words salchicha (for sausage) and papa (potato). The dish could not get any simpler – or tastier as I soon found out. Humble round potatoes are deep fried along with beef sausage and then seasoned to perfection. The meal is served up with two hot and crispy cheese empanadas and four homemade dipping sauces. I enthusiastically recommend you try the Salchipapas at Grattin Dog.
Lastly, how can I not try the king of fast food – the hamburger, right? But I was to discover that this little shop has elevated it beyond a mere burger. Grattin Dog starts with their secret Columbian seasoning and blends it into fresh angus beef. The burger comes with crisp applewood bacon and a farm fresh egg. But wait! It gets better – so much better. This is, after all, Columbian fast-food and it’s at this point where I really understood the true meaning of Grattin.
Atop buttered and toasted buns, this masterpiece starts out with their homemade garlic and pink sauces, ketchup and mayonnaise and fresh lettuce and tomato slices. Next up they build this amazing burger with slow marinated sliced onion, then it is assembled with the angus beef patties, cheese, bacon and the fried egg. This is then topped, like the Grattin Dog, with those old-fashioned potato sticks, and then crowned with the top bun which is then – wait for it – adorned by fresh provolone and like the Grattin Dog, hand fired to ooey-gooey cheesy nirvana. I confess I did not know what fast food could truly be, until I tried it at Grattin Dog. It is next to the Altamonte Springs SunRail station.
Just a short Uber ride from the Altamonte Springs SunRail Station is a place that is steeped in Florida history. Ol’ Times Cigar Shop.
You might think this an odd place to take you on a tour, but if you know Florida history at all, then you know at one time, cigar making was one of the most important industries in the southeastern United States, and after the Civil War, was one of Florida’s earliest agriculture industries which dates to the 1830s. By 1910, there were 150 cigar factories in the Tampa area alone. At one time there was a cigar brand named, Orlando.
Ol’ Times Cigars is not your typical cigar shop, in that they still feature local cigar makers, like Cordoba and Morales an Orlando-based cigar company. Cordoba and Morales cigars are blended by my friend Azarias Mustafa, but we just call him ‘Z’. As a small producer, Cordoba and Morales can focus on quality over quantity. The company has even been sourced to provide excusive blends for Hooten Young Whiskey – another Orlando-based company which is growing internationally.
Ol’ Times Cigar shop caters to those who enjoy a fine cigar after dinner with a humidor filled with every brand imaginable.
This shop is decidedly not for everyone, I know, but if you enjoy after dinner libations and a taste of old Florida’s past, stop by Ol’ Times Cigars – a few miles east of the Altamonte Springs SunRail station.
The SunRail train was ready to depart, so I boarded and made my way down the track to the Maitland station. It was there in Maitland, I found one of Orlando’s favorite eating spots and more.
Just down the street from the Maitland station I was eager to dine at an Orlando institution – Kappy’s Subs.
This building originally housed a Whataburger but was converted into a Valentine Diner lunchroom in the early 1960s. In 1967 Kappy’s was established, and in 1972 Bob Caplan made his way from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Florida to build Kappy’s into the venerable family-owned diner that remains to this day. Bob’s grandson Adam showed me how they prepare three of their most popular menu items.
First up is a simple sub sandwich made Bob Caplan’s way when he was a young man in New Jersey. A simple sandwich consisting of ham, salami and Provolone cheese, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, sliced onions, seasonings and crowned with banana peppers – it is an often-ordered go-to sandwich for many Orlandoans.
Moving on to the grill, Adam prepared their famous chili-cheese dog – a staple of small diners everywhere. It is one of my guilty pleasures to be honest. The beef dog is sliced and grilled to perfection which is then topped with melted American cheese. The hot dog is grilled alongside a slow cooked hearty beef chili that has more spice than heat, in my opinion, but is packed with roasted red-chili flavor. The dog is placed in a steamed hot dog bun and topped with the grilled chili. No respectable diner would dare forget to top a hot dog with mustard and a generous amount of freshly chopped onions. It is simple to be sure, but oh so good!
Lastly Adam made the house specialty – a Philly Cheesesteak! Now I’ve been to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia for Carmen’s version of the cheesesteak, but I confess to liking the one at Kappy’s better. Not trying to start a war, but you can let me know in the comments if you have a better recommendation both here and in Philadelphia. Kappy’s is a traditional cheesesteak sandwich with peppers and mushrooms grilled along with thin sliced ribeye. Topped with slow cooked sliced onion, the beef and onion are grilled to allow the flavors time to mingle. The steak and onion are shredded and topped with fresh provolone, of course, and the whole thing is cradled in a hot steaming hoagie roll. Sliced and topped with banana peppers – I have found my go-to diner when I start craving a traditional cheesesteak here in central Florida – Kappy’s Subs in Maitland near the SunRail station.
Another fun episode has come to an end, and I hope you found something interesting you would like to explore further, but there are still many stations to visit down the line. If you have missed any of my previous episodes, I have an entire series on this channel for to you to enjoy. In the next episode, I will travel down to the Winter Park and AdventHealth SunRail stations which promise to reveal some exciting places to see and things to do. If you have the time, I encourage you to take a trip on the SunRail, and I will see you next time.