The Smiling Bison

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Smiling Bison burger

I know why the Bison is Smiling.

I just paid $13 for its bison burger, one that measured exactly three inches in diameter. Yes, I used a ruler.

To be fair, the patty was nearly an inch thick, so we’re slightly above slider dimensions here. And, for the record, it was delicious. And perfectly cooked, graced with a rasher of bacon, provolone melting down the sides, served on round toasts of bread, crust trimmed, red juices staining the bottom platform, and a gherkin speared through the top. Delicious.

But 13 bucks? Come on. Even with “house made” barbecue potato chips, you’re a few dollars beyond credulity.

I like just about everything else about The Smiling Bison. I like the divey-ness of the location, the former home of Red Light, Red Light and other bars before that, although the downscale surrounding further enhance the incongruity of perceived value. I liked the list of craft beers and enjoyed seeing the Cask & Larder label on the beer list. 

I liked the staff, all of whom were friendly and welcoming, even to a guy who most likely doesn’t fit the restaurant’s target demographic.

And I especially like the ambitiousness of the menu from chef/owner Joshua Oakley, with such items as duck pizza, pork cheek tamale, and bison meatballs, not the sort of food you generally associate with a place with paper napkins offered from a tabletop dispenser or drinks served in Mason jars.

And regarding the prices, most items are at or below the price of that bison burger; only a duck leg confit rises to $18. So we’re not exactly talking about breaking one’s bank to eat here. But the price/value ratio is a bit off.

I want to come back here, and I want to encourage others to visit and support this type of creativity and culinary zeal.

But I want to do it without thinking that Bison is actually laughing at me behind my back.

The Smiling Bison is at 745 Bennett Road, Orlando. It’s open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The website has inoperative links to the food and drink menus. The phone number is 407-259-8036.

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