With the New Year here, let’s take a last look at Central Florida’s culinary scene in 2013.
As we do every year, we said goodbye to several restaurants, although some did not get fond farewells (which is probably why they closed in the first place). Among them:
- Taste: the College Parker that started with the tapas trend but never got the hang of it.
- Tommy Addison’s: South of downtown restaurant in a former Perkin’s closed upon the sale to the same people who own Ollie’s Pub in College Park; no word yet on if that is what will go into the space.
- Prickly Pear and Nick’s Italian Kitchen: Two rare closings from the Funky Monkey folks in young spaces that may be trying to vie for the most jinxed location in town.
- Lotus: The restaurant that took the place of Prickly Pear lasted only a couple of months (it is now Mingo’s, with the same owners; see reference to possible jinx above). Another restaurant the same people planned for the Nick’s space, Honey, didn’t even open.
- Shipyard Brewpub: From the owner of the popular beer, Shipyard Brewpub may have been doomed by its location, which had a dearth of parking spaces.
- Wazzabi: The sushi bar and teppanyaki grill restaurant in Winter Park may or may not have fallen because of bad publicity that included the owner confronting an unhappy customer with a gun.
- Hot Olives: I thought the food at the new location (HO used to occupy the space where Armando’s now resides) was better, but perhaps its customers preferred the open-air feel of the former spot.
- Medina’s: Longtime Latin market and Cuban eatery on Bumby closed not for lack of business but because the owners retired.
- Crooked Spoon Food Truck: One of the area’s more popular trucks put the ignition in off; but the good news is that owner Steve Saelg opened a restaurant version instead.
- Charley’s Wildfire Grill: This was a last-gasp concept for the location of the original Charley’s Steakhouse, on Orange Blossom Trail. It didn’t take, but the Talk of the Town Restaurant Group folks plan to give the concept another go in the Lake Buena Vista area this year. No word on what will take over the OBT building.
- Paddy Murphy’s: It was auld lang syne for the Baldwin Parker Irish pub.
- Taqueria del Sol: A fast-casual with a Southwestern accent and pretty decent food just never found a footing and closed shortly after opening.
- Timpano: Darden bought the Italian chophouse’s building, one of the oldest on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row, and promplty demolished it. A new restaurant, Eddie V’s, rose in its place.
Significant Happenings and Openings
The year 2013 will almost certainly be remembered as the year of East End Market. The much anticipated covered vendors market, incubator kitchen, and event space finally opened and became an instant success. It is still in development as it learns what people want and how much it can provide, but this is a significant addition to the local culinary scene.
Here are some other notable openings and changes:
- Sale of Peabody Orlando: Hyatt Regency bought the famous hotel, put the ducks out to pasture (if not on to braise) and changed of name of Capriccio to Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse. There may be some menu changes to come, too. Napa will remain Napa.
- Eddie V’s: A high-end steakhouse -- perhaps higher than Darden’s Capital Grill meatery -- that also does terrific seafood.
- California Grill reopened: One of the jewels in Disney World’s culinary crown got a polishing refurbishment and opened with a tweaked menu from longtime chef Brian Piasecki.
- Crooked Spoon Gastropub: As mentioned above, Steve Saelg got out of the food truck business and took his upscale gastropub food to Clermont. Early indications, however, are that Clermonters would rather have sandwiches and such, so CSG is adjusting. If that’s what they want, they’ll get the best damn sandwiches in town.
- Wolfie’s Pizzamia: From the owners of White Wolf Cafe, Wolfie’s is more than pizza and has a farm to table program that even includes breaking down a whole hog and making sausage on site.
- Se7en Bites Bakery: Charming little breakfast and sandwich shop in the Milk District.
- Shula Burger: The famous coach gets into the mid-level burger biz. First Central Florida shop is in Kissimmee, near Disney. Watch for others to open this year. (I’m still betting on one in SoDo.)
- Pho K5: Another Vietnamese specialty took over the Medina’s space.
- Black Bean Deli: Long a favorite takeout restaurant in Winter Park opened a restaurant on Colonial Drive in Orlando with actual tables and chairs. And the world rejoiced.
- ‘Kesh: Interesting fast-casual bringing something besides prefab food to the east end of town.
- Hangar Bar and Grille: Spiffy little sports bar with an aviation theme in the old College Park Wildside space.
- Hamilton’s Kitchen: Area foodies anxiously awaited the opening of the Alfond Inn in Winter Park mainly because it would bring a new restaurant. After dining there, I, and many others, just shrugged.
- Hubbly Bubbly: Loved the idea of a fast falafel shop but this one needs a drawing board, let alone one to go back to.
- Santiago’s Bodega: An Orlando location for a popular Key West restaurant, in the former Logan’s Bistro space on Virginia Drive. Tapas. Really expensive tapas.
- Smiling Bison: I dinged this little place for its tiny and highly priced bison burger, but I liked the food, and I liked the atmosphere. This is going to be one to watch this year.
- Ta-Ke Sushi: The former Wilfredo’s (and before that Gargi’s) space was where the owner of Wazzabi relocated. It’s so small that you have to walk outside to change your order. It’s popular with nearby bar goers looking for a bite to eat.
- Tibby’s: Busy Winter Park New Orleans themed restaurant opened a second location in Altamonte Springs.
- Chuan Lu Garden: The area’s first Sichuan restaurant, oddly located inside a Japanese restaurant, gave locals their first taste of Szechuan peppercorns.
- Kabooki Sushi: Fun little sushi bar in an unlikely location.
- Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar: Charming little restaurant where you can actually have a conversation -- and enjoy delicious food and an extensive wine list.
- Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster: The owners parted ways with the Del Frisco’s folks but only changed the name; still great steaks in an old-school clubby atmosphere.
- Hash House a Go Go: Huge breakfasts for American appetites (and stomachs, if you know what I mean).
- Pharmacy: Speakeasy atmosphere from the folks who own the one-tabled restaurant called The Table, which is next door.
- Be Our Guest: A major new full service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom would be significant on its own, but this was also the first to allow adults to enjoy a beer or glass of wine with their dinners (and only during dinner hours). I’m expecting a new movie soon called “Saving Mr. Mondavi.”
- Nona Blue: Fun sports bar that doesn’t look like a sports bar for the restaurant-starved Lake Nonans.
- Italio: Brought the build-it-yourself fast food concept to Italian cuisine.
- Noodles and Rice Cafe: Brought the cook-it-yourself hot pot concept to Mills 50.
- Blu on and Avenue: From the 310 Park folks.
- Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen: A redo of a space in the Marriott World Center.
And what can we expect in the coming months?
- Something in Tommy Addison’s space -- another Ollie’s Pub, perhaps?
- Bosphorous expanding on Park Avenue with a bigger dining room and more sidewalk tables.
- New restaurant in HUE restaurant space in downtown’s Thornton Park with Greg Richie (Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Roy’s) at the helm.
- The Coop: John Rivers plans to do for fried chicken (and other Southern comforts) what he did for brisket.
- Txokos Basque Kitchen: The newest restaurant from the owners of New Smyrna Beach’s popular Spanish River Grill will open in the first quarter at East End Market.
- Del Frisco’s: A non-compete clause with the Christner’s folks will expire in June; watch for a Del Frisco’s Double Eagle to open in the area immediately after.
- Another restaurant from the Table and Pharmacy crew -- but away from the Dellagio location.
I'm excited already!