And just like that, I found myself back at a restaurant, sitting at an inside table, a mere 381 days from the last time.
It’s not like I’ve been shirking for the past 54 weeks. Throughout the pandemic I’ve maintained an out put of an average of two restaurant reviews each week (about double that of any other local publication, I might add). But just as restaurants shifted to takeout and delivery service, I, too, adjusted my reviews to focus on the new way we dined out, which meant dining in. But now, nearly 10 weeks past my second vaccination, I think I’m ready to get back in there.
Even when Orlando Meats was in its original location, on Virginia Drive in Orlando proper, I wondered if it knew what it wanted to be, a butcher shop or a cafe. It even sold doughnuts originally. I liked it – well not the doughnut – I just found its concept confusing.
That was in 2017, and there have been a few times over the years that I’ve stopped in in search of a good steak to cook at home. But the inventory was always limited, which isn’t surprising for a boutique butcher. Prepared foods were at a minimum, too, and the space was cramped.
Now the business has moved to Winter Park (Orlando improper?) to a spacious space in the Ravaudage plaza. Curiously, despite the larger digs the butcher shop offerings don’t seem to have grown and is still limited, though it does have some things you wouldn’t find at most other local butchers, such as duck beef tallow and ghee.
Most of the space is occupied by bare-top tables with lots of chairs for seating. And the menu is expanded, too. So is Orlando Meats leaning toward being more of a restaurant than a butcher’s market?
And if so, what kind of restaurant does it want to be?
The space vacated so long ago by J. Alexander’s on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row appears to be set to welcome a new tenant, North Italia, a concept owned by the Cheesecake Factory.
That doesn’t sound promising unless you know that North Italia was originally developed by Fox Restaurant Concepts, a Phoenix group known for its high quality restaurants like Culinary Dropout and the Arrogant Butcher. (OK, neither of those sound very promising, either, but trust me they’re quite good.)
Congratulations to Tornatore’s Pizzeria and Cafe. The popular College Park restaurant, which also recently opened an Italian market next door, is celebrating its 12th anniversary this weekend. The Dodici Party will be Saturday and Sunday and guests who spend at least $40 dining in will get a complimentary take-home meal from the market. I’m going to stop by and I plan to stock up on several of the takeout dinners because, as I wrote in a review when the market opened, they’re pretty damn good. Reservations are required. Call 407-292-2248.
A franchise described as a “marijuana-themed sandwich” restaurant will open Monday in east Orlando near UCF (go figure). It’s called Cheba Hut, because Toasted was taken. Orlandoan Tim Brashear is the franchisee along with his future in-laws Jean and Bill McCarthy. There is no pot in the food, mind you; the menu is inspired by the sorts of foods one might crave after indulging. Oddly, hash is not on the menu, but you’ll find sandwiches called Dank, Pacific Blue and Kush among others. I have to admit I don’t know the significance of the name Cheba Hut. But hey, the Estefans aren’t using the name Bongos anymore; maybe that would be better. You’ll find the new joint at 12100 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. Stop in and have a discussion about the existentialism of sandwich making.