Updated to clarify partnership of previous owner.
The Maitland location of SoNapa Grille, a popular New Smyrna Beach restaurant, will close in two weeks and will be sold to the current owner will partner with Orlando entrepreneur Eric Kovar on a new business. Kovar had previously owned a restaurant in Winter Park Village called Blackfin, in the space that Mitchell’s Fish House now occupies. Kovar says that following extensive renovations he will reopen the SoNapa space as Blackfin.
SoNapa Grille opened in Maitland a little over two years ago to tepid reviews. Some wags suggested the name be SoSoNapa or SoNotNapa. OK, that was me. But for a menu that was supposed to present California cuisine -- the name was a mashup of Sonoma and Napa -- there was little about the food to suggest any connection to the Golden State, other than some of the item names (Dutton Ranch apple salad, for example).
The New Smyrna Beach SoNapa Grille, which will remain open, is by all accounts a popular and successful restaurant. It grew out of a wine club that expanded to a wine bar and then, with the addition of more food items, a full-blown restaurant. Perhaps the difference between the two businesses is that in NSB there was an organically earned clientele that grew along with the transformation from wine bar to restaurant. The Maitland restaurant did not have that process. And the food and the service were not enough to build a loyal following outright.
The surroundings were pleasant enough, a total remodel of a building that began its life as a Steak and Ale. But Kovar says he has plans to redo it in the image of Blackfin, with a prominent bar that he envisions will be used by people eating the seafood dinners the restaurant will offer.
Kovar is hoping for a mid March opening for Blackfin.