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Meson Sandwiches is New to Florida But a Familiar Taste From Puerto Rico
There is a reason there’s usually a long line at the Meson Sandwiches at Florida Mall and in Kissimmee. I mean besides the fact that it serves some pretty tasty sandwiches.
It’s because a lot of the people waiting to order already know Meson. Even though it is relatively new to that area and there are only two locations here — with three more coming soon — many know the brand from Puerto Rico, where there are 37 locations around the island.
El Meson Sandwiches opened its first location in 1972 in Aguadilla, a small beach town known for its surfing. (That’s a bit of information that will be important in a moment.) It was founded by Felipe Pérez Sr. and is now run by his son, whose Felipe Pérez Grajales. He spoke with me recently from his office in Mayaguez, P.R.
Pérez Grajales told me that the Meson Sandwiches stores that the company is opening in Central Florida — the first ones on the mainland — are exactly the same as the ones in Puerto Rico. That includes the menu, which has quite an extensive array of sandwiches, some with rather curious names...
I had visited STK at Disney Springs prior to it opening, and I was at the rather frantic grand opening event. But I was delighted to be invited back recently to experience it as a full, working restaurant.
Turns out it isn’t a lot less frantic on an average day. Your first clue to what the sound level will be is the DJ booth, which sits prominently, raised like a pulpit, at the entrance to the main first-floor dining room. Let’s just get this out of the way, folks: This isn’t a place for quiet conversation.
But the food is quite good, and the menu, under the direction of chef James O’Donnell, thoughtfully goes beyond the meat that the vowelless name would suggest.
Although the name sounds like it might be the name of a far off land, Itar is actually a portmanteaux of Italy and Argentina, the two cuisines represented on the menu. It also sounds a little like Ishtar, the infamous movie that starred Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. But that was a bomb; Itar is a hit.
I first told you that Itar Bistro Market was being planned for a space in Metro West’s Veranda Park almost exactly two years ago, in July of 12014. But it didn’t actually open until August of last year.
Itar is the project of Mariana Moya, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu who serves as the chef. Quite ably, I might add. Everything that my companion and I sampled on a recent visit was top notch, both in quality of ingredients and their preparation.