Most people will likely gravitate directly to the patio at Mesa 21. They might not even enter through the front door, instead walking through the short gateway just behind the valet stand (more on the valet later).
The waterfront seating with a view of Lake Ivanhoe has long been the draw of this space, ever since the building was erected, circa 2004, and Gargi’s moved into it from its closet-sized restaurant across the street. Sitting on the patio at sunset helped one overlook shortfalls with food and service.
Gargi’s is gone, the owners retired, and Mesa 21 has moved in. While some now grouse that the view across the lake is marred by the ongoing construction related to the I-4 updates — what’s it been now, 15 years? — they probably assume the patio is the place to be.
I’ve been avoiding Cheddar’s, the Texas-based chain that now has a half dozen or so area locations, ever since they entered the Central Florida market a few years ago. There were plenty of smaller, locally owned restaurants to warrant attention in these pages. I didn’t see any reason to visit.
Then, in March, Darden Restaurants announced that it was buying Cheddar’s. And so I felt a certain duty to be familiar with the latest addition to the hometown megafeeder’s portfolio. So off I went to check a Cheddar’s.
After just one visit, I have only one question: What the hell was Darden thinking?