I popped into Sanford for dinner the other evening.
That's not quite true. One doesn’t just “pop” into Sanford. For most of Greater Central Florida, visiting Sanford requires determined planning, especially the downtown historic district, several miles off of Interstate 4.
But with apologies to the businesses in an around the city’s mall, and despite the naming of that facility as Seminole Towne Center, the preponderance of restaurants, such as a preponderance exists, is in the historic downtown (not downtowne).
Joining the ever growing list of independent restaurants is a second location of the Smiling Bison, the funky little cafe and bar on the near east side of Orlando. Anyone familiar with the original may not recognize the new place. Whereas the Orlando Bison is divey with a fun and grungy vibe that suggests a pop-up venue, Sanford’s seems more adult and established — like a real restaurant. Part of that is due to the age of the building and its old time-y mien. It feels as though it has been there for generations. If this were a new Disney restaurant, they’d slap a sign on the front of the place that reads “ Est. 1910” and include a backstory detailing its provenance and just exactly what first caused the bison’s grin.
What will be familiar to the already loyal Bisonians is the food, which has always been creative, full of integrity, and with a promise of brilliance at times.