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McKnights pork chopSoul food returns to downtown Orlando with the opening of McKnight’s, which took over the space vacated in 2010 by Johnson’s Diner.

Not the original Johnson’s Diner space, of course. That was a little bit of a shack on a corner of Washington Street in the shadow of the old arena. (Actually, it had been there before there was an arena to cast a shadow.)

It moved, of course, to an area of redevelopment on West Church Street that also would eventually be in the shadow of the new arena. It was a much bigger space, and Johnson’s Diner continued to draw hungry lovers of southern cooking, professional athletes and influential politicians among them. But following the death of the business’s matriarch, and with the increased expenses of the new space (not to mention a possible lack of business acumen), the children who had tried to keep the restaurant opened were forced to close it.

Now McKnight’s has moved in, and good southern soul food is once again available to downtowners.

I visited McKnight’s last month during one of the colder days (remember those?) but was greeted warmly as I waited by the front door. The dining room was almost empty, so I pretty much had my choice of tables. 

The menu is not really extensive, but it has enough temptables to keep anyone coming back. I decided on smothered pork chop and was not disappointed. The meat was tender, yet had the distinct flavor of a grilled chop with its mouth-filling juices. It was covered -- smothered, if you will -- by a rich brown gravy and was accompanied by a big mound of fluffy rice and my choices of side dishes: collard greens and black-eyed peas. (The macaroni and cheese was my first choice but it wasn’t ready yet.)

It was a lot of good, filling food, and a bargain at $9.50.

McKnights interiorMcKnight’s decor features a large suit of armor near the front door and two massive fish tanks in the center of the room. The ceiling tiles alternate black and wood-tone (almost a UCF Knights black and gold), and walls are covered with textured wallpaper. I don’t recall Johnson’s looking this nice.

My server was very nice and welcoming. Owner William McKnight was in the dining room, but seemed to stop only at tables of people he already knew.

Too bad, I was looking forward to thanking him for a fine meal.

McKnight’s is at 595 W. Church St., Orlando. It is open for breakfast Monday through Friday and for lunch and dinner daily (though it closes early; 8 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday). Here’s a link to soulfoodatitsbest.com. The phone number is 407-245-1155.

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0 #6 Su 2014-07-02 12:45
-1 #5 Mike 2013-04-08 09:47
Victoria and Alberts does call the day of the reservation to confirm. They also go over any allergies, dietary restrictions or special requests that you might have so that the evening will go perfectly for you.
If you don't show you are charged $25 per person in the party.
0 #4 Karilyn Rust 2013-04-05 17:39
My comment is posted on the wrong page. This website has so many bugs it's unbelievable. It's taken me 20 minutes to get this message to post and why did it end up on this WRONG page? Not where I was writing it. Oh, well, love the reviews, Scott, not so crazy about the website snafus.
0 #3 Karilyn Rust 2013-04-05 17:35
I always make a reservation when reservations are accepted. And I absolutely always cancel on the rare occasions when we can't make it, such as for illness. However, restaurants are not totally blameless here. More than once, I've had the experience of making a reservation well in advance and then ding up waiting for a table, sometimes for an excessive amount of time (or being seated by the noisy kitchen or bathrooms, ouch!) As for Victoria and Albert charging your credit card if you don't show, hmmmm, I wonder how much they charge? How could they possibly know what might have been spent?? And I wonder how hard it would be to fight this charge. I seriously doubt that any credit card company would find in favor of the restaurant. Perhaps a better policy is for the restaurant to call and confirm that day. No confirmatiion from the diners, then reservation cancelled. Some restaurants do this and it's such an easy, more friendly solution.
0 #2 Scott Joseph 2013-04-03 14:12
You're right, Ricky. I guess I was just trying to wipe that experience from my memory. (It can't be that I'm just getting forgetful.) Where was I? Oh yes, Fish 'n' Loaves. It was pretty disappointing. Here a link to that review: http://www.scottjosephorlando.com/index.php/reviews/recent-reviews/51-american/1420-fish-n-loaves
0 #1 Ricky 2013-04-03 14:06
I believe there was a Fish and Loaves in the same space after Johnson's ? not sure how long they lasted...
Saturday, 2nd August 2014

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