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Looking for a quick island escape? It’s a breeze — Bahama style

Posted on Thursday, August 3, 2017 at 10:12 am

 

 

By Peter Covino

A&E Editor

You don’t have to get on a cruise ship to have an island adventure — the newest Bahama Breeze Island Grille in Osceola County is practically right around the corner.

The Darden restaurant brand has been a popular one ever since the first Bahama Breeze opened on International Drive in Orlando in 1996. Island fever continues to spread with the newest restaurant, which opened in Kissimmee in May at The Loop.

Michelle Prince, the general manager of the new Kissimmee restaurant, first caught the fever as a patron/guest several years ago, while she was working for a different restaurant.

“I heard that music,” she said, and as soon as she entered, it became her favorite jammin’ place.

Now is a good time to catch island fever, no matter the Bahama Breeze location, since all of the restaurants, including the Kissimmee and Orlando locations, are in the middle of Reggae Fest, the big summer event that features live reggae music (on Saturdays); special drink offers and menu items and even a chance to win a seven-night Royal Caribbean cruise vacation. Note: The prize package includes airfare to the port location, one excursion, full beverage package and a spa treatment for the winner and guest. You don’t even have to go to Bahama Breeze to enter, just text REGGAE to BREEZE (273393).

But do you really want to miss Reggae Fest? Bahama Breeze is always a “feel good” kind of place, but even more so when a celebration is going on.

My latest visit to Bahama Breeze (and the first to the new Kissimmee restaurant) was closer to lunch time, during the week, so it wasn’t quite as festive as the place is on a Saturday, but that piped in island music is still ever-present, and there’s lots of great food and drinks to enjoy.

The Kissimmee location is modeled after a Caribbean island sugar mill, there are even massive gears hung on the wall in the main dining room. And outside, weather permitting, there’s a fire pit that will add a warm glow to any evening, but probably not in July or August.

While a visit to Bahama Breeze is always special, it’s extra special when the restaurant has one of its special events going on — like Reggae Fest.

And Saturday is extra special since there is a live reggae band at all Bahama Breeze locations. And yes, dancing is actually encouraged.

But even if you show up on a Sunday or any weekday, you can usually rely on Bahama Breeze to lift up your spirits.

And speaking of spirits, along with the usual drink menu at the restaurant, Bahama Breeze is featuring the new Jama “Can” Punch, a rum punch that goes down easy (it’s filled with Myer’s Dark Rum, Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, pineapple and lime juice and bitters). Yes, that tastes as good as it sounds. And it is served in a 20-oz. graphic tin, that you get to keep. General Manager Prince said there are actually four different colorful tins and people like to collect them to have the set. But I wouldn’t recommend achieving that goal in one sitting or they just might find you under the table. It’s $10.49.

Prince said that someone at Bahama Breeze, on the corporate side, actually had the job of going to the various islands, seeking out drink ideas for the restaurant menu. Now there is a full-time job
worth having.

The Painkiller signature drink, for example, comes from the Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands. And you have to swim to a sand bar to get it.

“There is always a story,” said Prince, “and I encourage our team to tell the story.”

There are probably dozens more drinking stories to be told at Bahama Breeze, but then there would not be space to write about one of the “must try,” menu items during Reggae Fest: The Taste of Jamaica. The name says it all, this a nicely-filled platter (the menu photo looks very much like what I was served) features pulled pork, jerk chicken, beef empanada, sweet plantains, white rice and black beans and callaloo, an authentic Jamican touch to this entrée — a steamed dish consisting of the leafy calaloo plant and other vegetables and seasonings. The filling entrée is $19.79.

It was Prince who suggested I give one of the popular vegetarian menu items a try, the Jackfruit Tacos, and it was my first (and hopefully not last) encounter with the island jackfruit, a fleshy fruit that looks a lot like the meat you are not really missing in this taco. Featuring a really nice combination of flavors, the Jackfruit Tacos features two flour tortillas, jicama-mango slaw, corn and black bean salsa, tortilla strips and sriracha aioli. It is one great healthy alternative, and it is $8.99 on the menu. All of the Bahama Breeze menu items include the calorie content if you are counting calories.

Reggae Fest ends Aug. 13, but not to worry. Rumtoberfest will be coming soon. And there is always happy hour, too, with drink specials and half-price appetizers.

The new Kissimmee Bahama Breeze restaurant is located at 1251 W. Osceola Parkway.

For more information on Bahama Breeze, including other locations in Florida and elsewhere, go to www.bahamabreeze.com.


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