Sand Lake Road Urban Flats to Become City Fire American Oven & Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Exclusive - As I reported earlier, well-known restaurateur Manny Garcia has brought suit against the founder of Urban Flats in which he is an investor. I also told you that in August a group of investors that included Garcia had purchased the Urban Flats at the Dellagio on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row. Moving forward, Garcia has announced plans to rebrand that restaurant with a new name and concept.

Garcia, whose previous restaurants have included Pebbles, Harvey’s Bistro and Manuel’s on the 28th, all now closed, said the new restaurant would be called City Fire American Oven & Bar. The name, he said, would emphasize the stone hearth oven manufactured by Wood Stone Corp. that is the centerpiece of the current Urban Flats open kitchen. The new menu, which is still in development, will endeavor to make better use of the versatile oven, said Garcia, with such things as a burger wrapped a la chateaubriand and baked in an iron skillet placed in the oven. The menu will also feature items that will be familiar to old Pebbles devotees, including the Nutty Cheesy Salad and Chicken Vesuvio.

The physical space, which, like all the businesses at the Dellagio, is fairly new, but will undergo renovation. Garcia said the main entrance to the restaurant will be moved, and the interior will feature raised seating areas and a copper wall around the oven.

City Fire will be officially owned and operated by Garcia’s daughter and son-in-law, Gina and Michael Buell. The Buell’s also operate an Urban Flats in the Villages as franchisees. The new restaurant will also have Benj Ray on its staff. Ray has been involved with Garcia’s restaurants for many years and was the manager of Manuel’s on the 28th when it closed in 2009. Garcia said other members from the old restaurant crews may also join the new operation.


Investor Sues Urban Flats Founder

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Restaurateur Manny Garcia, who, in 2006, became an investor in the Urban Flats Flatbread Co., has filed suit against Urban Flats founder Donna Suzanne Bonham. The suit, which was filed in the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orange County, claims, among other things, that in an effort to induce Garcia to invest in the company Bonham “inflated the sales figures presented to Mr. Garcia by personally (or by personally instructing employees of the LLC Defendants) charging fictitious sales onto her credit cards or onto the credit cards of her employees.” The suit also claims breach of demand on a promissory note of $200,000.

Garcia would not comment on the lawsuit. Bonham did not return a call.

Urban Flats opened in 2005 at 601 S. New York Ave. in Winter Park. The concept was a simple one of flatbreads with a variety of toppings cooked in a special oven and other casual menu items, such as fresh salads. Flatbreads, now nearly ubiquitous on restaurant menus, were a fairly unique concept at the time, especially as the focus of a restaurant’s menu. The restaurant also offered an array of fine wines as well as a full liquor bar. There are currently nine locations listed on the Urban Flats Web site, although the original location has closed. (The Web site also tells visitors to “look for us on Park Ave. in the future,” although no Park Avenue location is currently under contract.)

Heartland Food Corporation, a Chicago based company that owns several Burger King franchises, recently attempted to purchase Urban Flats and become the franchisor. That deal fell through, the suit alleges, because of financial misrepresentation.

One of the newer Flats, at The Dellagio on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row, was recently purchased by Garcia and his daughter and son-in-law, Gina and Michael Buell. Plans are currently underway to rebrand that location with a new name and concept. The Buells also own and operate an Urban Flats in The Villages as franchisees.

Hungry Diners Aren't the Only Ones Fascinated with Food Trucks; Health Inspectors Are Too

Written by Scott Joseph on .

I have to admit that I just don’t understand the national fascination with food served from trucks. And by national, I pretty much mean Los Angeles and New York. The rest of the country is trying to emulate the two coasts’ current fad, as far as I can tell.

From what I can gather, it’s largely a Twitter phenomenon, at least at the source. In Los Angeles, where the trend apparently began (at least the trend that turned into the current craze), people were drawn in by daily tweets of food truckers to find out where they would be at a given hour. Instead of finding a place to call their own, as food trucks in, say, Orlando do, staking out a corner of a parking lot or gas station after making arrangements with the lot’s owner, food trucks in L.A. are more nomadic.

An article in today’s New York Times may suggest a reason for staying mobile: keeping ahead of the health inspectors. Now, I’m not one of those people who agonizes over the spotless sanitation of a working kitchen -- some of the inspection requirements would shut down most kitchens in private homes, and yet somehow we manage to live -- but there does need to be some accountability. Some people don’t think so: “Sometimes I get a kick out of eating where it doesn’t look like it’s the cleanest,” says one man quoted in the Times article. I wouldn’t go that far.

What do you think? Do you consider the sanitation of a food vending truck or cart before ordering? Do you ever ask, “Say, just where do you go to the bathroom?” Or would you rather not know?


Zaxby's Will Open New Location Near UCF

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Zaxby’s, the chicken fast fooder based in Athens, Georgia, is constructing a new location, its third in Central Florida, near the University of Central Florida at 11554 University Blvd. There are other Zaxby’s near the Mall at Millenia (actually on the SuperTarget side), and in Kissimmee at 1885 N. John Young Parkway.  

As I mentioned, Zaxby’s is a fast food restaurant (although the company prefers to call itself “an alternative to fast food” and quick-casual) whose focus is breaded chicken fingers and Buffalo style wings. Customers order their food at the counter and are called to the pick-up window when the order is ready (sounds like fast food to me; quick-casual usually involves having the food delivered to the table after ordering at the counter). I visited the first Orlando location when it opened a few years ago and found the food perfectly acceptable, if fried chicken fingers is the sort of thing you seek.

The licensees for the Orlando market are Brad Harper and Allison Hartwig. Harper also owns three Zaxby’s in Ocala. Zaxby’s locations are in 12 states, primarily in the South. There are 500 Zaxby’s locations; the one near UCF will be Florida’s 39th. It is expected to employ 50 to 60 people. The owners are trying for an Oct. 25 opening.