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Shipyard Emporium

Shipyard EmporiumI’m not sure Emporium really applies here. That designation usually applies to a business that deals in commodities on a large scale. Shipyard Emporium, which opened recently in the space formerly occupied by Strollo’s Cucina Due (and, for many years before that, the original Dexter’s of Winter Park), actually does things on the opposite scale. Although it is a brewpub, it brews only one beer at a time and in fairly small amounts. I think we’re talking boutique here.

But Shipyard Boutique would be a tough sell to the target market of beer drinkers, so let’s stick with Emporium. And, if you had to make a case for it, it’s a larger operation than you would expect, and it’s more than just a brewpub. It also has a market with specialty items like precious jams and chutneys (the sort of items you’d find in a boutique; I’m just sayin’) plus some deli meats and cheeses, and a bakery.

The brewpub and restaurant side of the business features an array of tables and chairs of various sizes. The tables tend to be long but not very wide, and I noticed that different groups of diners would share tables, keeping to their separate ends. There is also bar seating. I like the look of the place. To go with the name (the Shipyard part, not the Emporium), ship sails have been used liberally for decorations and sight dividers. Wood floors and tabletops, plus a soaring ceiling, are conducive to noise-bouncing loudness, but that’s the sort of place this is.

The roll-out menu is, by the restaurant’s own admission, fairly limited. There are plans to launch some more substantial entrees in the coming weeks, but for now the fare is soups, salads, sandwiches and flatbreads. I had to try the Shipyard clam chowder given the business’s New England roots. SE is owned by Fred Forsely, president of Maine-based Shipyard Brewing Co., although the Emporium is considered more of an “extended family” arm of the business than a direct report.

The chowder was good, not floury thick and not too runny. It might have had more clams, but that was probably just the luck of the ladle.

The selections on the sandwich list sport Winter Park and Rollins College nicknames, which makes the menu an annoying read. It’s nice to localize the offerings with names like the Osceola or the Rollie or Veggie Tar, but those names tell me nothing about the sandwich. Yes, sushi bars do the same thing, but the descriptions are a roster of the ingredients. After reading some of the descriptions here, I still wasn’t quite sure what was in the sandwich.

A guest on a lunch visit had the more easily identified Emporium pot roast, which had pulled meat with cheese, onions and sweet peppers on a ciabatta roll. The menu said the cheese was aged cheddar, but it came out looking for all the world like a melted slice of American yellow cheese. Other than that, it was a good sandwich.

My fork and knife meatball melt was not as enjoyable. First, there was a measly showing of meatball within the relatively humongous baguette. And, despite its name, it was impossible to eat with a knife and fork and was too sloppy to pick up. I requested a sharp knife to cut the sandwich in half and was told by our server that no sharp knives were available for guest to use, but he would be happy to take it back to the kitchen and have the cook cut it. I felt a bit like a second-grader.

On an evening visit, a friend and I sat at the bar. I ordered a half pint of the current house offering, a dark ale. The bartender asked if I was sure I wanted only a half pint because he would have to charge for a full pint. “I have no way of charging for just a half pint,” he said, standing in front of a very sophisticated point-of-sale computerized check system that I would just bet a kidney is able to calculate simple division.

Fine, I ordered a pint, and I enjoyed the smooth, caramel flavor of the brew. Really quite good.

So was my roast beef sandwich, particularly because of the bread, which was fresh with a crusty crust and baked right there in the Emporium’s bakery. Here’s a suggestion for Winter Parkers: do you produce shopping at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market, then walk down to Shipyard and get yourself some wonderful bread to enjoy with dinner. (Yes, they sell the bread retail.)

My friend had the Shipyard bbq chicken flatbread, which had, as its base, a crispy crust that would be worthy of any award-winning pizza. (Obviously, someone in the bakery knows a thing or two about working with dough.) The toppings were plentiful and had an overall sweetish flavor.

Our server at lunch time was terrific and showed intuitive thinking. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case with the bartender, even beyond the unwillingness to sell a half pint. And I watched in bemusement as some diners nearby asked another bartender what was on the antipasto platter they had just been served. The bartender stared dumbfounded at the plate before saying a guess could not be hazarded.

The building that Shipyard Emporium occupies has been plagued throughout the years with a teeny parking lot. Nothing has changed. A note on the door says that guests are welcome to park in the lot at Keke’s, on the next block, after 2 p.m.  They also provide valet parking in the evening. I availed myself of the valet service and was greeted as I opened my door with, “Hey, ‘sup?” Ah, youth.

Once inside, your experience is likely to be more pleasant. And once chef Kenneth Stokes is able to offer more on the menu, Shipyard could be a good dining destination.

Shipyard Emporium is at 200 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here’s a link to the Shipyard Emporium Web site (but there doesn’t seem to be much there). The phone number is 321-274-4045.

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A flog is a food blog with news and reviews of restaurants. Here you'll find all things edible, lots of things to drink, including expert wine advice, and lots of other stuff.