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Red Wing Restaurant

Red Wing Restaurant in Groveland

When I first wrote about Red Wing Restaurant, the old-Florida restaurant in Groveland, far west of Orlando, gasoline prices were just starting their skyward surge. So it was a pretty tough sell to recommend that people hop in their SUVs and drive out to Groveland for dinner. Red Wing

But now that gas has gotten a lot more reasonable -- and more people have junked their gas-guzzlers -- it's time to reconsider a visit to this terrific little spot.

This review appeared originally in the Orlando Sentinel.

If you’re looking for “old Florida,” you can’t get much older than Red Wing Restaurant.

For over 60 years the stone building, which at one time was a private home, has served as a meeting place for Lake County growers, farmers, truckers and others. It’s the sort of place where you might find a boothful of grimy construction workers next to a table with a family with children and, not far away, a couple on a date.

And you shouldn’t be surprised to overhear, as I did on one of my visits, a man tell someone else that he was just there biding his time until the vet could come by to geld his horse. Not there at the restaurant.

At least I don’t think so.

But you will find some obscure menu items. It isn’t often that you see Buffalo fried frog legs. Even less frequently will you hear me say they were really good. The appetizer featured three haunches, each with plenty of meat, deep-fried and tossed with a hot sauce, a la Buffalo wings, except there was more meat on the legs than you’ll ever find on a chicken wing.

And if fried frog legs don’t appeal to you, or even if they do, you might want to try the fried dill pickles. Why this delicacy is seen so seldom I don’t know. But usually they’re served as dill chips. Here they’re long spears with enough surface area to hold the light batters and even substance to give a good, salty crunch.

Fried green tomatoes had a crisp breading with firm fruit inside. The ranch dressing was the perfect accompaniment.

If you’re appalled by all the fried food, try the crab cake, which was sautéed. Better yet, don’t. As one might guess from the $6.99 price, little crab meat was involved.

On a dinner visit my guest had the combination duck breast and butterflied quail. The grilled duck was a bit tough, but the quail was moist, although it lacked any gamey characteristics.

I had the special elk chops, which were also a bit bland but more tender than you’d expect elk to be.

On a lunch visit my guest had the fish and chips, which featured big chunks of pure white grouper with a golden crisp jacket. At first I thought it odd the fish was served without sauce, but after a couple of bites I realized none was necessary. The chips were sweet potato fries, which were firm, decidedly ungreasy and thoroughly delicious.

The black and blue burger was less enjoyable. It was cooked a bit beyond the requested medium-rare, and neither the patty nor the blue cheese that topped it offered much in the way of flavor.

For dessert there was an unusual cobbler made with multiple fruit and loaded with sugar. In fact the “cobbler” part of it seemed to be more sugar than anything else, but it wasn’t at all cloying.

Service was casual but not neglectful. The staff was as warm and welcoming to the city folks who stopped in as they were to regulars.

No one would ever confuse Red Wing with a fine dining restaurant. The place shows its age, and so do the various stuffed heads that decorate the dark paneled walls. The occasional beer sign also keeps the ambience from getting too highfalutin.

There is a long bar inside the front door, but it seems more of a lunch counter than a drinking spot. To the left and right are dining rooms, and in the back is a large screened area for private functions.

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