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.