Because I’m a foodie but a little health conscious, I thought it would be a great opportunity to
collab with Coca-Cola Life. Let me first start off by saying that I don’t enjoy diet drinks. I’ve tried,
guys. I can’t do it. When I go out to eat, I usually order a Coke with my meal. It just goes hand in
hand with special occasions, in my opinion. Coca-Cola Life is different. It’s sweetened with
Stevia Leaf Extract and Cane Sugar. Each eight-ounce bottle is only 60 calories and it tastes so
good. I was actually surprised the first time I drank it! So for the last month I’ve been working
with them to share some of my favorite things about life in Florida.
When I was a teenager, I made the choice to move to Miami and work in entertainment. As
much as I loved the 305 and tell everyone that city is a big part of who I am, I missed a tiny little
neighborhood in Orlando called ViMi (the Virginia Mills district). Loch Haven park which is just
blocks away from Mills 50 is my place of birth. When I was a little girl, my family and neighbors
who were also ethnic hit up ViMi to grocery shop. Even though that little strip had mostly
Vietnamese markets and restaurants, the area attracted many different ethnic groups because
an array of fresh seafood, specialty cut meats and vegetables were sold there. Times
have changed so much, but back in the day, there weren’t International aisles in regular grocery
stores. These ethnic parts of the city are what kept our culture on our dinner tables.
ViMi wasn’t exactly the prettiest part of town, nor did it smell too great, but it’s where I learned to
be open minded and taste food from different countries. My parents are from two different parts
of the world. Tell me how my dad, a country boy from Fort Wayne, Indiana
converses with people who don’t speak English. My mother? She had us spend
many Saturdays with our Vietnamese neighbors who didn’t speak English, just their little
girl.,.but somehow, we were all communicating. I remember our mothers showing each other
products and saying “same same”.
I have a secret to share with you guys. You know how I’m obsessed with Pho? Or just
Vietnamese cuisine in general? The flavors were too much for me when I was a kid. I didn’t
enjoy it at all. My palette didn’t appreciate savory, sour, sweet and fresh herbs all at once. When
I began getting homesick in Miami is when I started to miss ViMi. I soon realized how special
that little district was when I couldn’t find anything like it in South Florida.
Whenever I would visit my family in Orlando, new eateries opened in Mills 50. I thought it was
really random but I welcomed it with open arms. Three years ago, I moved back to Central
Florida and I couldn’t be happier. It’s now a “cool” part of town. You see everyone from older
couples to hipsters enjoying the eclectic dishes. It’s really exciting for me to see non-Asians,
especially their children enjoy the food here.
What makes Mills 50 unique are the vibrant graffiti walls, but The Walls of Pho Hoa have my
heart. One of the most talented artists that I know, Ed Seymour II had the idea of starting a
project where he can legally spray art murals. Mr. Seymour is also my “twin”, at least we joke
about it because we’re born a few days apart. He’s also a die-hard Miami sports fan, which
means we are family for life. Graffiti is meant to be illegal, but I’m loving the vibe and culture it
has brought to the area.
Because of Ed and his fellow artist, this Orlando Strong mural pays tribute to the Pulse victims,
which will be the only permanent graffiti wall. We can thank Luce Skye and HepsFury for
creating this piece.
The area is saturated with Pho spots, I like to switch it up. One time, a waitress called me out
and said she used to serve me at two other restaurants. I love it all, guys. I’ve never had a bad
bowl, but I can tell the difference in broth.
My favorite spots: Anh Hong, Pho Hoa, Pho 88, Lac Viet, Pho Vinh and Vietnam Cuisine.
I prefer the beef base with everything in it. Yes, I go for the tripe and tendons. If you eat beef, try
it at least once. It’s so good!
This state is very hot and humid, there’s many times I pass on the pho and just order grilled
pork and rice. There’s just something about Vietnamese grilled pork. It’s definitely in my top five
favorite foods ever eaten.
I have the privilege of being invited to some of the best restaurants in the state. There’s always
a bunch of foodies and food critics, and then me. Everyone always asks “where is your
favorite place to eat in the city?”. It’s interesting because a lot of people will throw out some
place fancy and then I say: TAKO CHEENA
After I say that, then everyone follows and say it’s one of their favorite places ever.
For the longest time, I thought I was obsessed with Tako Cheena because I’m mixed. I get
Asian/Latin fusion, I sure do. But after getting to know locals and hearing their reactions about
this spot, I think the whole world needs to know about.
It’s real simple: Asian style meats in tacos. My favorites are Tom Yum Shrimp, Chinese pork
belly, Korean BBQ and curried tofu. You have to try it to understand, it’s magical.
Vermicelli noodles dishes without added traditional soy sauce is a great gluten free
Quickly Boba is an Asian fast food spot. They’re actually all over Asia and California. I think it’s
pretty cool that we have one now.
What I like about Quickly is that they’re the real deal when it comes to Asian desserts. The
shaved ice, grass jelly, brick toasts, I can go on and on.
Yellow Fin Poke bowl.
Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich
L.A Boiling Crab for all you seafood lovers.
It took a while for us to get something like this but we are so happy! Back in the day, I used to
have to go to the coast to enjoy a decent crab boil. Extra garlic, always.
When friends and family come over, they also request Asian snacks like watermelon seeds,
cracker nuts and hopia.
Watermelon seeds are so good. They’re salted and either roasted or dehydrated.
You crack them like sunflower seeds and I think they’re the best tasting seed out there.
Nagaraya cracker nuts are addicting, I usually get the garlic flavored ones. Coated peanuts go
perfectly with an ice cold Coca-Cola Life, just saying.
Hopia AKA Mooncakes are eaten throughout China, Indonesia and The Philippines It is believed
that the Fujianese immigrants introduced this cake around the turn of the twentieth century.
Whenever I have new people around, I never tell them what’s in hopia. Everyone always falls in
love, by the way.
I guess beans in your dessert doesn’t sound too great, so I just hush and let everyone enjoy.
Most of my Asian item purchases happen at Tien Hung. I’ve been shopping there since I was a
We’re stepping outside of the ViMi area and into Walt Disney World. Animal Kingdom is my
favorite park. Not only do they have exotic animals, but part of the park is “Asia”. I met up with
some friends recently to film and have fun at The Yak and Yeti.
My meals at The Yak And Yeti have been solid and consistent. People I’m with always want to
eat here when we hang at AK. It’s a nice break from burgers and quick service meals.
A super random and awesome find was Skipper’s Canteen in Walt Disney World’s Magic
Kingdom. It’s a fusion restaurant with Asian, Indian, African and Polynesian influence. This fish
collar was to die for, so much flavor.
Bao buns at Epcot are a must.
Sus Hi Station is another fast food fave. Their spicy tuna with masago bowl always hits the spot.
Fresh, delicious and healthy.
On my days off, you can find me at theme parks, especially Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
I recently went with my good friend David. He’s also a coaster fanatic. We were asked to go on a media tour that escorted us onto every single coaster in the park. That sounds great until you realize that your body doesn’t get a break. Another thing? We had never been on Falcon’s Fury.
It’s a thrill ride that takes you up in the air, where you can see Orlando from Tampa. Your seatsuddenly flips you towards the ground where you plunge at 60 mph.The thought of going on that ride terrified me. I’m not scared of heights or speed, but I wasscared that a freak accident would happen (#positivity). When we got on the ride, David and Istarted singing The Circle of Life from the Lion King. It seemed to calm our nerves. The higherwe got, the calmer I felt. When our seats flipped, we dangled in the air. It kind of felt like I wasgoing to fall out and then suddenly you drop. We thought it was so much fun, I feel a bit sillyworking myself up over the ride.This is a little roller coaster for little kids. The fear on our faces cracks me up.
David and I have done so many cool things together but this day was my favorite.The summer heat is real in Florida, we felt so drained. Guess what we did? Got ice cold Cokesand we were ready for round 4. It seriously saved our day!Looking back, ViMi and Mills 50 means so much more to me than just a district. It was a meltingpot of immigrants with the American dream, yet wanted to share their culture with the world. Tobe able to see familiar faces, knowing that we’ve all done well for ourselves despite thestruggles and not so pretty beginnings, I’m forever grateful for this piece of Orlando.There’s so much more to Florida. It will probably take a lifetime for me to tell you all my favoritehang outs, activities and delicious food to try. Attempting to fit in the other half of myneighborhood into this post would have been impossible. We will save the best arroz congandules, lechon, mofongo and cafecito for another post.The next time you’re enjoying life with your loved ones, pick up Coca-Cola Life and share thelove!The growth I’ve witnessed over the years amazes me and I’m so proud to call The City Beautiful myhome.Have you tried Coca Cola Life? Isn’t it delicious?Special thanks to Daniel Ruyter for the photography at the Walls of Pho Hoa.
Thank you Coca-Cola for sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% my own.