It looks as though things are starting to fall into place at Sonoma Draught House, the taproom and eatery that took over the former Beacon Space in the Sanctuary condominiums complex. The staff is getting a better handle on the elements of service and the kitchen is getting more comfortable with the menu. It was not always thus.
Shortly after Sonoma opened -- too soon to review it on an official level -- I stopped in with a friend to have a beer and a bite. The beer list is impressive, though I cared about only one -- my favorite, Pilsner Urquell, is available on tap. There are 48 other beers on tap, pumped in from an impressive walk-in cooler off the kitchen in back. With 49 brews on draught, not to mention the myriad available by the bottle, it would be safe to say that beer is a specialty of Sonoma.
So when my beer was served in a tall pint glass that was hot, not warm, to the touch, it raised some concerns in my mind. How, I wondered, could any bartender, let alone one who worked in a beer-centric bar, pick up such a hot glass and then proceed to fill it with an otherwise cold liquid?
There were also inexplicable long waits for our food. At one point I saw what I was certain was the burger I had ordered being paraded around the attractive room by an attractive food runner, apparently looking for the burger’s rightful owner. Having failed, the runner returned the burger to the kitchen. That’s when I flagged down my server and asked if our food would be available any time soon. He said he had just checked with the kitchen and it should be up soon -- then went into the kitchen and returned immediately with what appeared to be the well-traveled burger.
The burger was OK and so was the pizza, nothing more, nothing less. I did not care for the wings, the ones called Sonoma’s Own, which were dusted with rosemary and other herbs. Who wants wings dusted with rosemary?
Contrast that with my most recent visit and marvel at the changes. Still many of the same staffers, although they now seem less frantic, more comfortable with their tasks and, it must be noted, just as friendly and welcoming as they were at the beginning.
There’s an improvement in the food, too. My burger this time was better than OK; actually pretty good. It was a thick patty, cooked exactly to the requested medium-rare, topped with a slice of melted cheddar, and served on a fresh bun with lettuce and tomato. And the wings were better, too. This time I had the ones labeled “fiery,” and although they were not as spicy as die-hard pepper lovers might like, but they had no herbs and were just fine by me. (Hint: visit Sonoma on Wednesdays when it’s wing night: 50 cents each.)
The Beacon Hill Group (yep, same owners as the original tenant here) has done a terrific job with the interior, giving the curving corner space a comfortable mountain cabin look with wood slatted walls and river rock columns. I especially like the beer bottle chandeliers. There is a large patio space in front of the restaurant, but I don’t find a thing about it inviting.
Oh, and the best thing of all about the improvements at Sonoma: my beer this time was served in a well-chilled glass.
Sonoma Draught House is at 100 S. Eola Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch on Saturdays and for dinner daily. Here’s a link to sonomadraughthouse.com. The phone number is 407-730-3400.