Rob Nelson has decided to stay in one place. Nelson, the former owner of Red Eye BBQ food truck, and his wife, Angie, have traded in the truck to open Red Eye Bar and Grill, a small family-friendly restaurant on Maguire Road in Ocoee. Nelson has taken the barbecue that made his food truck a favorite to follow and expanded it with steaks, seafood and all the other things you’d expect from a full-service restaurant. There wasn’t a thing that I tried that I didn’t like.
I started with the crab & corn chowder, a thick and creamy soup with rich bits of crabmeat and lots of fresh corn kernels. This chowder could easily be served in the toniest restaurants in town.
The Jim Beam brisket chili was equally as impressive. Chockfull of meat and some beans here and there, the chili was just tinged with bourbon but loaded with spicy flavor.
For my entree I had the Red Eye’s “signature sirloin,” grilled just right over an oak fire (the grill is just behind the beer taps in the serving area). The seasonings were subtle, allowing the natural flavor of the meat to come through. It was served with a drizzle of cherry balsamic reduction sauce that didn’t really add anything to it. I chose the sweet potato fries as my accompaniment choice -- excellent choice, I must say -- and the plate also came with a tasty little corn muffin.
My companion got the pulled pork platter, also an excellent choice. The meat had a wonderful smoky quality and was impossibly moist and juicy. The side bowl of beans was a perfect complement to the pork. We had fun trying the various sauces on the table and found it hard to decide on a favorite. (Here’s a challenge for you entrepreneurs out there: invent a squeeze bottle for sauces that can be written on without the name of the sauce getting smeared with use or washings -- several of the labels were unreadable, so I have no idea what I was tasting.)
For dessert there was an immense bananas Foster-like creation, with layers of caramelized banana slices, pecans, vanilla ice cream scoops, flaky pastry and a gooey sauce. Very hard to resist more than a couple of bites.
Our server was delightful, and the long, narrow dining room was buzzing with happy eaters. Seating is mostly at booths, some elevated. And even though it is a small place and was pretty well attended the night I was there, I didn't feel like we were cramped or that we couldn't have a private conversation.
I heartily recommend that you take the drive to Ocoee to visit Red Eye Bar & Grill, because it ain’t coming to you.
Red Eye Bar & Grill is at 2594 Maguire Road, Ocoee. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to redeyebarandgrill.com. The phone number is 407-877-0003.