I’ve lamented before about the downtown venues that want to be thought of as restaurants but put all their efforts into a classy interior and a well-stocked bar and beer list and treat the food as an afterthought. There’s nothing wrong with being a good bar, but if you offer a menu you should have someone who can cook it.
Can it be that someone in downtown finally gets it?
I’ll admit that I approached Avenue Gastrobar with the expectation that it would be like all the others -- glitzy on the surface with no substance in the kitchen. But my sampling of the menu convinced me that someone back there cares about what is coming out.
A soup of the day, oddly named black bean soup, had all the characteristics of having been made in house. I say that it was oddly named because it wasn't a conventional black bean soup with turtle beans in a blackish broth. It did have the requisite Turks beans, but its broth was white and had a pleasant buttery note to it. A good soup but not the sort of thing you expect when you hear black bean soup.
For my entree I chose the chicken pot pie, which featured chunks of breast meat and vegetables in a creamy white sauce (this time the sauce was exactly as anticipated). It was served in an oval casserole and was topped with an impossibly flaky poof of puffed pastry. It did not seem integral to the dish but rather like a lid that could be lifted off. Sort of looked like maybe the pot and the pie were baked separately and assembled for serving. Whatever, I liked it.
Things did not start out well. When my server asked what I wanted to drink, I looked over the list of beers that were offered and asked for a recommendation. To give her an idea of the type of beer I prefer, I told her I like Pilsner Urquell, the Czech beer. She thought the closest thing they had to it was Miller Lite. Really? A place that called itself a gastrobar? When I expressed my surprise, not to mention my horror, she rationalized that Miller Lite was also a pilsner. I settled on a Stone India Pale Ale that was just fine.
And after that little snafu, the service was also good.
The space has good lines, with a bar running down most of the left side of the pub and high-top banquets along the right. A slatted wood ceiling runs the length, and all the televisions are on the brick wall behind the bar, each the same size and each lined up perfectly. If you hate balance and order, this place will test your nerves, but I found it pleasant. Would I make this a dining destination? No. But if you're downtown, or meeting someone for a bite and a brew, this is a good one to choose.
Avenue Gastrobar is at 13 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, late night every night except Monday. The food is also very reasonably priced -- nothing is over $10. The phone number is 407-839-5039.