Wildside exterior

Wildside Bar and Grille, the downtown Thornton Park barbecue hangout, will have one last blowout on Saturday night before turning over the keys to the corrugated steel-sided building to Graffiti Junktion. Graffiti currently slings its burgers a couple of blocks away at the junktion of Washington Street and Hyer Avenue. No word yet on who they’ll be turning to keys over to other than the building’s landlord.

Wildside did not open as Wildside. It’s first name, when it started smoking meats, in September 2001, was Wildfires. But owner Rosario Poma got one of those warm and cuddly Cease and Desist letters that attorneys love to send that said a Chicago restaurant had claim to the name Wildfires. So he changed it. (Before Poma moved in with Wild Whatever the space was home to Out of Hand Burrito Stand, a restaurant I had completely forgotten ever existed.)

For at least the first couple of years, Wildside was the winner of my Critic’s Choice Foodie Award for best barbecue, mainly because of its pulled pork. Good stuff, that.

Poma told me that his decision to turn the space over to Graffiti Junktion was “a good business decision right now.” He is focusing on opening Texas-style barbecue restaurants in the Middle East and will open a Wildside this fall in Janabiya, Bahrain. For those of you who are worried you won’t be able to have the barbecue again, take heart — the Kissimmee Wildside will continue to operate. (It might be easeir to go to the one in Bahrain.)

Besides keeping control of the property, Poma is joining Graffiti’s owner Greg Peters as an investor in the Thornton Park burgery.

Wildside will have one last blowout with a party themed “Graffiti on the Wildside” at the restaurant at 700 E. Washington St., Orlando, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Live music, drink specials and, one hopes, some of the pulled pork that made them famous.

Planet Hollywood rendering

When the refurbished Planet Hollywood reopens this fall at Disney Springs as Planet Hollywood Observatory, it will feature a new menu, including a special section designed by the chef and television personality Guy Fieri.

Fieri was approached by Planet’s founder and ceo, Robert Earl, to add some flair to the menu. Fieri’s offerings will feature specialty sandwiches and burgers, including the Prime Time American Kobe-Inspired Burger and the Turkey Pic-a-nic Sandwich, the latter sure to be a favorite of that famous Hollywood star Yogi Bear.

Planet Hollywood is undergoing a massive redo as part of the Disney Springs redevelopment. The original structure, a huge, multi-story globe, is being retrofitted to resemble an astronomical observatory with star-searching telescopes (rendering of new entrance lobby shown at top). Hollywood, observatory, stars — get it?

It will be interesting to see how Fieri’s food fares at PHO. His Times Square restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, was given a “poor” rating from New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells in a scathing review in 2013. The critique, written as an open letter to Fieri started : “Guy Fieri, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square? Have you pulled up one of the 500 seats at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations?”

Reading the review from a critic’s standpoint, I couldn’t help thinking that Wells had a blast writing it. I’ll keep an open mind, but I’m always up for a good time.

Fat One sign

Turns out I've been pronouncing it right all along.

Joey Fatone, original *Nsync-er and Orlando local, is going into the food business with the psyco-sexually named Fat One's, which will, of course, sell hot dogs.

Fat One's will open at Florida Mall on Saturday, Sept. 10, with a special event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During that time, Fatone is scheduled to hand out samples from the menu, which will feature 100 percent beef weenies in styles that include the Cuban. the Johnny Pizza, the Gone Hollywood and the Boy Bander. That last one features five mini wieners, about which I have no comment.

The opening celebration is being billed as family friendly and will include DJ entertainment and, for some reason, stilt walkers.

Fat One's will operate from a kiosk near the Dining Pavilion bewteen Madeleine's Country French Cafe and Five Guys, which I assume sells normal sized burgers.

I don't know much about the rest of the menu, but if Fat One's hasn't partnered with Better Than Sex for its desserts, they're missing out on a marketing coup.

Gaylord SC nightboat

For our most recent meeting of Scott Joseph’s Supper Club, we did something a little different. Our friends at Gaylord Palms wanted to host the Supper Clubbers but I had a hard time choosing between the two very good restaurants. Do we go to Old Hickory Steakhouse and go all meaty? Or do we set sail for MOOR, the seafood centric restaurant?

Ultimately, the decision was easy: we’ll do them both.

And so that’s how the first Progressive Supper Club came to be. It was so much fun, I don’t think it will be our last.

We started with a reception and hors d’oeuvres at Old Hickory. Gaylord Palms is a massive structure that features a gigantic interior atrium under a glass roof. Old Hick is situated in a houselike structure in an area designed to resemble the Everglades, except with air conditioning and no threat of Zika.

 

Dovecote walls

 I’ve now been to DoveCote, the new brasserie in downtown Orlando, a half dozen times. I’m pretty sure that’s a pre-review record, especially considering it opened just over a month ago. The previous record was five visits, to a forgotten restaurant many years ago that required the extra scrutiny to break the tie between good experiences and not-so-good. (Ultimately, it tipped in the not-so-good category, which is probably why the restaurant is forgotten.)

That wasn’t the case with DoveCote, and to be clear, not all of the visits were purpose-driven with this review in mind. Some were a matter of convenience, needing a convenient downtown venue for a meeting, and at least one visit was from an invitation from friends.

And no tie-breaker was needed because in fact I liked DoveCote. There were a few missteps along the way, but nothing too unusual for a new restaurant or anything that portends trouble in the longterm. DoveCote is a welcome addition not only to downtown Orlando but to the Central Florida dining scene at large.

Much has already been said about the impressive pedigrees of the partners in the venture. They include executive chef Clay Miller, whose resume includes stints at the estimable French Laundry and who was the opening executive chef and pastry chef at Norman’s at the Ritz Carlton; and Gene Zimmerman, owner of the downtown craft cocktail lounge The Courtesy, who oversees the front of the house operations for DoveCote, including its beverage program. The two of them are the co-owners, but Ravenous Pig’s James and Julie Petrakis are involved as advisers and investors.

But one of the most impressive things about the new restaurant is the space itself. It has undergone a transformation that is, well, transformative. Occupying a corner of the imposing Bank of America building, the restaurant space has held many tenants over the years, all of which kept the same basic decor dominated by the cold, gray sandstone walls. That look and feel is fine for the bank across the lobby but hardly made for a comfortable dining atmosphere.

(For history buffs, other restaurants that occupied the space have included Bakerstreet, Ettore’s, and Harvey’s Bistro, which stayed for the longest stretch, from 1992 to 2009. Then came a handful of failed ventures, including Terrace 390 and Terrace 390 Bistro. As for the structure itself, it has been known as the DuPont building, the First F.A. Tower and the Barnett Bank building before B of A came in.)

With the reimagined interior, designer Drew White of Lot 1433 has covered all of the sandstone and created a post-modern brasserie. On one of the larger walls is a splashy mural, by Brigan Gresh, in deep blues and gold leaf that seems a mashup of Klimpt, Chagall and Miro styles. False frames have been added to the large windows to add a bit of quaintness and white-glass globe light fixtures offer an iconic note.

Dovecote kitchen

The bar has been expanded, mostly to allow more room behind it, and the kitchen is now open and visible from the side dining area, known as the Livingston Room. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of all of the design choices, though I love that someone was daring enough to make them — not sure what the white steel girders are doing there, other than to bring down the feel of the voluminous ceiling and to allow a perch for a fake bird. Dovecote is a French word for a pigeon sanctuary, so I guess we should be grateful that chicken wire wasn’t employed in the decor.

And before you ask, no, squab is not on the menu.