Relax Grill at Lake Eola

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I suppose the name of the place should have been my first clue that things wouldn’t move apace here. But even with a name like Relax Grill, one shouldn’t expect a lunch to last over an hour.Relax_Grill

Especially one in downtown, where a good deal of the clientele are likely to be workers from surrounding businesses who have to get back to the office to deal with their own clientele.

Or, if they didn’t walk to the lakeside location, parked in a metered space and put in only enough quarters to cover a reasonable time for lunch, then have to race back to their cars to try to beat the parking enforcement officer. (I swear those ticket-writers have brain implants that receive a signal from the parking meter the second it expires.)

It’s not like Relax Grill isn’t the kind of place you’d like to enjoy a leisurely meal. It occupies the space -- as so many have before -- of the glorified concession stand next to the swan boats at Lake Eola. All seating is outdoors under umbrellas and leafy trees at metal patio tables with plastic (and comfortable) deck chairs.

On a recent weekday, I arrived for a lunch meeting ahead of my friend. I stood waiting at the entrance to the patio. Although several servers passed by, no one greeted me or acknowledged my presence. Eventually, another party arrived behind me and one of them said I could just sit wherever I wanted. “How would I know that?” I asked her. She shrugged and said, “I come here a lot.” “But how would a new person know that?” I demanded, forgetting that she was just another customer and not the owner. Frightened, she and her friends hurried off to grab a table, and I did the same.

My friend eventually arrived and we sat and waited a while longer to be acknowledged and receive menus.

Wait a minute. All of this has started to sound very familiar. So I just went to check what I wrote about the last tenant here, Erik’s on the lake. This is from the June 22, 2007, Chow Hound column:

I visited twice, and both times I incurred long waits for sub-mediocre food.

And this:

I parked on the street very close to the cafe and put two quarters in the meter for 40 minutes of parking time. The time had expired by the time I got back to the Houndmobile.

OK, first, what really hacks me off is that a quarter only gets you 15 minutes at the parking meter now.

Second, I actually think the same server I had back then waited on me this time. Does she come with the lease?
The only thing that kept this from being a complete deja vu moment is that the food was much better than Erik’s (or any of the other occupants over the last couple of decades for that matter).

I had the gyro sandwich ($8), which included the familiar processed meat, thickly sliced so it had a softer texture that one usually experiences with gyros, on a big, soft pita. It included a generous “Greek” salad on the side. It seems that some people think all you have to do is put some feta cheese on it and you can call it a Greek salad. No, sorry. Still, there wasn’t anything wrong with this salad that a little dressing couldn’t have cured. Well, the lettuce could have been better washed; could have helped take some of the grittiness out.

While the lunch menu focuses on sandwiches, the dinner menu gets a bit more elaborate, with such things as stuffed tilapia, blackened mahi mahi and a variety of kabobs. I’ll have to go back and try some of those sometime when I have a few hours to invest in dinner.

Relax Grill’s official address is 211 Eola Parkway, but its practical address is next to the swan boat concession just up from the bandshell on the Rosalind Avenue side of the lake. I’d love to tell you the hours, but they are not listed on the restaurant’s Web site. And numerous calls to the phone number, 407-425-8440, got only an answering machine. Beer and wine are available, that much I know.