I stopped in at the new Hot Olives location, and I have to tell you, I rather like it.
I was skeptical because the last several times I’ve visited HO in its old location I recall thinking that the location was the only thing it had going for it. Not so much the location, but the building, which allowed the walls to open up giving the inside dining room the feel of being an al fresco space. The food? Mundane at best.
But I liked the food I had on my lunch visit, especially the Reuben sandwich, or Richard’s Reuben as its listed on the menu. It had lots of corned beef with swiss and provolone cheeses and caramelized onions instead of sauerkraut, all served on a fresh tasting pretzel roll. Not a traditional Reuben, which I suppose is why Richard lays claim to it, but I liked it all the same.
The skirt steak wrap would have been more impressive if it had had more skirt steak, or if it had been called the spinach wrap, because the bright green leafiness was the predominant ingredient. More caramelized onions and Boursin cheese gave it good flavor. I had the Hot Olives slaw, which tasted no different from any other slaw. My friend had the sweet potato fries, which were big but tender-chewy. One strange note: Tater Tots are a side dish option. I asked the waiter if they were a tongue-in-cheek take on the frozen Ore-Ida staple, but he said, no, they were Tater Tots. I think I would be too embarrassed to put that on my menu.
Hot Olives took over the restaurant space on the corner of New York and Fairbanks Avenues that most recently held Ole Ole (and for long-timers was the original Sunset Grille restaurant). There’s still a bit of a Spanish influence in the decor, but that’s OK -- olives come from Spain, too. A large bar dominates the center of the main dining room, but it allows the rest of the space to feel a little more cozy. The leather chairs were quite comfortable. Service was friendly and efficient.
Hot Olives does have some outside seating available on the New York Avenue side, but I will miss the open-air feel of the old place. What the restaurant lost in ambience, however, it presumably made up for in kitchen space. (The former location had a notoriously small kitchen.) Here’s hoping they will put it to good use.
Hot Olives is at 601 S. New York Ave., Winter Park. It’s open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Click this link to visit the Hot Olives Web site. The phone number is 407-629-1030.