Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hang Outs - Tako Cheena & Pom Pom's

Tako Cheena
By Ryann Lugo

Thai-Twisted and Delectably Inventive
Ravishing the downtown dining scene with scrumptious interpositions of your favorite food conceptions, Orlando definitely couldn’t do without these two quaint, but very distinct, restaurants: Pom-Pom’s Teahouse, a delightfully inventive sandwich shop off of Bumby, and Tako Cheena, a Thai-themed taco spot off of Mills. Owned and operated by the talented Pom Moongauklang, it’s “East meets West” when multi-cultural foods unite, namely with the aromatic, savory components of Thai cuisine. But wait! Don’t let the word “cuisine” (or my fluffy language) scare you away. Everything is very reasonably priced and so tasty that, you too, will want to slap big words together like, “pandemoniously alluring” and “outlandishly delectable.” Bam.

Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria

From breakfast to late-night munchies, Pom-Pom’s is one of the most popular spots in the Milk District. Tucked within an unassuming little strip mall, the eatery is conceived with all the cozy warmth of a family business: the yellow and orange candle-glow walls, embellished with really cool local art, the comfy crimson couch, snug in the corner, and the super friendly, down-to-earth staff, ready to help out and eager to please. As for the menu (which is just as inviting), the art-struck gourmet sandwich and tea shop experiments with familiar All-American home recipes by implementing elements of Thai, Mexican, and other cultural foods, as well as combining flavors and textures that contrast, yet complement each other beautifully. Try the “Fu Man Chu,” a genius concoction of Asian pulled pork, watercress, goat cheese, ginger cranberry chutney, and red onions, or “Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving,” a roasted turkey sandwich, with ginger cranberry chutney, gouda, and (who could forget) warm stuffing. As one satisfied customer commented on Yelp.com, it’s a “gravy-flanked dream on pumpernickel.”

Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria

Those of you hesitant about Pom’s playful avant-garde, you can always interchange or add ingredients from the list of sides. However, I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find that avocado does, in fact, go with black beans and, going in a completely different direction now, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with marshmallow fluff and bananas on a Colossal PB&J. Winning!

As if awesome sandwiches aren’t enough to lure you here, they also have some amazing teas. With quality in mind, Pom’s only uses loose leaves to brew her refreshing beverages, hot or iced, un-sweet or milky, and the fabulous baristas will make your tea exactly how you like it. If you are unfamiliar with tea, their knowledgeable staff will help you find your new favorite. Try a fresh and fruity Mango milk tea, or a clean and delicate Red Rose tea. I’ve had many a Taro milk tea, and Pom’s is by far one of the best I’ve had.

Lucky for you late-nighters, Pom-Pom’s doesn’t close on the weekends. They’re open 24-hrs on Friday and Saturday, and until 5am on Thursdays.

Tako Cheena

A hop and a skip from Pom-Poms is another very unique place and equally praise-worthy: Tako Cheena, on Mills Ave. Teamed up with Edgardo Guzman, Pom continues to wow Orlando scene-seekers with its intriguing Latin-Asian taste combinations, matching artsy vibe, and super friendly servers – characteristics that continue to make it one of the most popular places in the Mills 50 District. This taqueria joint is food cart fast, but with outstanding quality and visual appearance.

Tacos at Tako Cheena

Though the menu is short, it features an array of “Takos,” burritos, empanadas, and Asian hotdogs, that you can top off with tantalizing sauces – such as the mild, citrusy Tomatillo and Kaffir Lime Leaf, and the rather spicy Sweet Chili & Smoked Ghost Pepper sauce. Don’t be scared, though! You have full control over what goes into your burrito, with options to switch meat for tofu or add more veggies and make it vegan. Tacos are sold separately (around $3 each!) so it gives you control of proportions, pricing, and easily lets you mix and match. So, try the Tom Yum Mojo Shrimp taco, with tasty hints of onion and garlic, right after a Panko Crusted Cod taco, with yummy chunks of fish, garnished with mixed cabbage and scallions. Finish it off with a Thai Peanut Chicken taco – sweet and savory happiness, wrapped in a tortilla.
Inside Tako Cheena

Tako Cheena is also known for their yummy desserts. So, while you’re here, indulge in ginger apple goodness with an Apple Empanadas, topped with butterscotch and key lime drizzle. Check out their Facebook page for pictures of the menu and the restaurant setup. One of the best things about this place is that it’s open until 4am on Friday and Saturday!

As Orlando Weekly puts it, “These aren’t just menu items, but journeys.” So, for all of you late-night renegades partying down-town in the wee hours of the night, now you know of two really great places to go!

One last note: In light of Cinco De Mayo this weekend, check out this super cool music festival happening called The Total Bumber 3D Music Festival, taking place at venues in this area, like Uncle Lou’s, Stardust, and Will’s Pub, May 2nd– 6th.

You may get full weekend passes in advance on Total Bummer's website for just $30. Day passes will be $10 for Thursday and Sunday, and $15 for Friday and Saturday. The ticket booth will be at Wills on Thursday and Friday and at The Peacock Room on Saturday and Sunday. Weekend passes will go up to $35 on Thursday and will be available at the booths. For information on bands, venues, and the schedule, check out the Facebook event. So while you’re out celebrating Mexican heritage and pride, make sure you do it right. Make the night even more amazing by grabbing one of Pom’s delicious tacos! Duh!
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