BoVine, an upscale steakhouse that opened last year amid pandemic strictures and limitations, occupies the space that for many years had been the jewel of Winter Park’s poshest boulevard when it might have been considered the area’s first Restaurant Row: Park Plaza Gardens.
It would be difficult to come up with a more venerable and iconic restaurant than Park Plaza Gardens. It was a jewel of fine dining in an era when few special occasion restaurants existed in the area, back when its menu was described as continental cuisine (a term that has thankfully been eighty-sixed). Over the past several decades, its menu and ownership changed (Robert Earl had it at one time; Manny Garcia was on a management team) and at one point even the name was tweaked, known briefly as Chef Justin’s Park Plaza Gardens for Justin Plank, now the executive chef at Terralina Crafted Italian in Disney Springs.
But through it all, the decor and design of the restaurant remained, with the signature element of a main dining room under a glass ceiling with brick floor and lots of green plants. It had the effect of dining outside but without the vagaries of Florida’s weather.
All of that is gone. It had to go. The building had fallen into disrepair – it became harder to keep those Florida elements out – and a dispute between the last owner of the restaurant and the building’s landlord involving accusations of infestation had damaged any brand goodwill that might have remained.
But don’t lament the loss. The restaurant that has taken its place is arguably better than any iteration that preceded it.