If a restaurant could survive on earnestness alone, eXile Restaurant & Lounge would be a sure thing. “I’m glad you’re here,” co-owner Joseph Aintabi said to me and my companion shortly after we took a seat at the bar, and something about the way he said it made me believe it. And our conversation with Aintabi and his co-owner, Tim Herman, as we chatted about the restaurant, the menu and the business in general further demonstrated a sincere love of the business.
But sincerity can take you only so far. I’ve seen plenty of nice guys with good intentions fail because they couldn’t follow through with good food and service. But eXile can and does. The menu is, at first glance, rather mundane and predictable: burgers, wings and pizza are the items that stand out. But look a little closer and you’ll find some special treats.
Such as Joseph’s pastichio (Aintabi is also the chef), the Greek style lasagna. It featured pasta layered with ground beef and sliced ham and a creamy, full-flavored bechamel, topped with melted cheese. It was a large brick of a portion and I intended to take half of it home, but I soon found myself forking up the last bite right there.
My friend ordered a half-portion of the meat lovers pizza, a thin but not crackery crust topped with plenty of meat to love, including ham, pepperoni and ground beef. Just the right about of cheese, sauce and greasy goodness, too.
After eating so much, neither of us had any intention of having dessert, but Aintabi sent out a couple of bites of a new dessert he was working on, a seven-layer cookie. Coconut, chocolate and nuts were a few of the layers. He told us that when he puts it on the menu he’ll top it with vanilla ice cream and caramel (layers eight and nine).
The restaurant, which was previously named WingIt, occupies a space in a group of businesses at Sand Lake Road in front of Florida Mall. It’s a much larger space than it appears to be from the parking lot. Its wide-open space is filled with bar-height and conventional tables. Floors are rustic wood and the walls are wood paneling, at least the part of the walls not covered by big-screen televisions, which isn’t a lot. The rear of the restaurant is set up more as a lounge area and includes a pool table and some slot machines (non-gambling).
On certain nights, the owners told us, there is entertainment -- sometimes DJs and sometimes live bands. And most nights the kitchen stays open late. Beer and wine are served, though the place screams for a full liquor license.
Dining at eXile was such a pleasant surprise. I have to admit that I had my doubts when I first walked in. But then Aintabi said he was glad we were there. Soon, I was too.
eXile Restaurant & Lounge is at 1319 Florida Mall Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. This link will take you to exileorlando.com. The phone number is 407-730-6262.