It seems inconceivable that Hemisphere, the restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency hotel in the main terminal of Orlando International Airport, is nearly 30 years old. My first review ran in the Orlando Sentinel’s Florida magazine in November of 1992 shortly after it opened.
Three decades later, I still remember the impression of stepping off the elevator on the 10th floor and taking in the expansive view from the two-story high windows as I descended a curving stairway to the dining room below. It was quite grand.
It still is, though there have been changes over the years, most notably in 2016 when the space underwent a three million dollar renovation. But even before that the restaurant had gone through evolutions. For one thing, the elevator stop had changed from the 10th floor to the ninth, eliminating the Scarlett O’Hara at Tara entrance. (Then, as now, accessing the restaurant does not require stepping foot inside the airport’s terminal; more on that in a moment.)
There was a time when the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress was a dining destination for special occasions. La Coquina was one of the top fine dining restaurants in the area with an incomparable Sunday brunch. Hemingway’s had a casual elegance that made guests feel as though they were dining in an elite Key West house.
La Coquina regularly took a summer hiatus, but in the fall of 2012 it simply did not reopen, a casualty of changing dining preferences; the gorgeous space now used for special events. Hemingway’s closed at the beginning of the pandemic shortly after it underwent a remodel. But it didn’t reopen either, though it wasn’t missed much – its panache had paled in its last years.
Now the hotel has opened a new restaurant in the Hemingway’s space called Four Flamingos. And the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress may once again see locals booking tables.
Fuddruckus, Redlight greenlights kitchen, and new ED for EEE
The local franchises of Fuddruckers, the burger chain that caused parents to smack their kids for using bad language, have closed. A post on the Fuddruckers of Apopka Facebook page said the closing “was a very difficult decision, but ultimately necessary.” What made it necessary was not stipulated. Besides Apopka, there was a Fudds on East Colonial Drive in Orlando. Another location, at the Crossroads in Lake Buena Vista, had previously closed due to construction.
You’ll recall that the burger chain’s parent company, Luby’s, announced in 2020 that it would dissolve operations. But it said at the time that the restaurants would continue to operate.
Originally called Freddie Fuddruckers, the chain was started in 1979 by Phil Romano, who left the company in 1988 to found Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
Ava opens, a wine shop returns, new tenant in former Marlow's, and a brawl at the buffet.
Ava MediterrAgean, the restaurant that has taken over the Luma on Park space, officially opens today, Feb. 4. But if Thursday evening’s preview event was any indication, I’d give them some time to get acclimated. I’m thinking maybe August.
Thursday’s event was supposed to be from 6 to 9 p.m. with some sort of a presentation for media at 6. About 20 minutes after 6, a large crowd was still queued up on the sidewalk in front of the newly renovated restaurant and weren't being let in. If there was a presentation or announcement, I didn’t hear it. My only guess for the delay was that it was a South Beachy sort of technique to convey exclusivity. I’d love to tell you what the place looked like once I got in but there were so many people crammed inside that I couldn’t get a good look or photograph.
One observation: those horrible automatic bathroom doors have been replaced with ones you have to pull to open.
Food, wine and cocktails were being passed around, but I bolted.
The Skyline was a restaurant and piano lounge in New Smyrna Beach, not a city known for its skyline. But it was named not for a view of tall buildings but rather for its location at the New Smyrna Beach airport.
It was arguably the most upscale restaurant in town, though there weren’t a lot of restaurants vying for the title. Even when I reviewed it, in the Dec. 8, 1996, Orlando Sentinel, I noted that fine dining restaurants were becoming scarce. “The Skyline is a throw-back to the sort of restaurant that used to be described as continental, more for its atmosphere than its menu. Dining at the Skyline is like being transported back in time a bit, to when going out to dinner, even a simple dinner, meant putting on something a little dressier than jeans, sipping a cocktail before ordering and relaxing in the subdued hues of flickering candles while listening to a pianist playing Moon River.”