I was reminded of Doc’s recently, the ambitious restaurant that opened across from the Orlando Regional Medical Center in 2005. What brought it to mind was the death in May of one of the owners, Neil Connolly.
Doc’s was an ambitious restaurant, and the choice of Connolly, a former private chef for the Kennedy family in Massachusetts, was just one of the indicators. The interior, in a medical office building, was stylish, expansive and upscale. And the food was first rate. Why it faltered could be anyone’s guess. The restaurant closed, finally, in 2008 when a deal was struck to use the facility as part of a new culinary school. But the school closed practically before it opened.
Later, it became Legends Sports Bar & Grill, which I never visited.
Now it is Doc’s again, but the full name is Doc’s Streetside Grille. The building is still owned by Dr. Thomas Winters, who was co-owner of Doc’s with Connolly, though it is not a partner in the Streetside Grille. It is now owned by Blaise Mercadante, who has been involved in a variety of restaurant positions throughout the country and, locally, was involved in the development of the restaurant scene at Universal’s CityWalk.
When I met a friend at Doc’s Streetside for lunch last month, I was surprised at how similar the place looked from its early days as the original Doc’s. There was even the display, near the front of the dining room, of a large green apple sculpture and a bowl of real apples wrapped in clear plastic. I wondered if they were the same apples from 2005 -- I’ve never seen anyone actually take one.
The other thing that surprised me about Doc’s Streetside Grille was how good the food was. I don’t mean to sound shocked, but I hadn’t been prepared to enjoy it quite that much.
I had Doc’s Streetside Apple BBQ Burger, an impressively thick patty, cooked to the requested medium-rare, topped with a slice of melted cheddar cheese, a criss-cross of bacon rashers, and a couple of breaded and fried onion rings. The rings added a layer of texture, and the bacon gave it a smoky flavor. A very nice burger. (The sweet potato fries were just a bit mushy, however.)
My friends had the salmon sliders, which evokes images of fish slipping down rocks as they try to swim upstream. But these were salmon cakes fashioned in the manner of crab cakes, served on four-bite buns with shredded lettuce and a tomato slice. Usually if a restaurant decides to “cake” a seafood item, I gird myself for lots of filler. But salmon was well represented in the sliders, and the spicing was well balanced, too.
Service was fine, though there was a lack of any sort of management or anyone in charge. Still, we wanted for nothing.
The ambience, though similar to the Doc’s days, isn’t quite as upscale feeling, but you wouldn’t expect something chi-chi from the name.
Doc’s Streetside’s streetside location might be a little off-putting to some. Busy Orange Avenue can be intimidating. But you don’t have to park on the street. There is a small parking garage behind the building (the alley is still a butt-ugly as it ever was, but don’t mind that) and the parking is free with a minimum $5 purchase. Take advantage of that and avoid the street.
Doc’s Streetside Grille is at 1315 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to the restaurant’s website where you can see the menu. The phone number is 407-841-3601.