Mitchell's Fish Market is Open; Some Vow Never to Return

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Mitchell’s Fish House officially opened today, June 14, at Winter Park Village, but some diners have already been left with a bad taste in their mouths.

The seafood restaurant, which is owned by the Ruth’s Chris corporation, conducted a couple of nights of VIP invitation-only dinners over the weekend. That’s a standard practice, especially among corporate brands of higher quality restaurants. The guest list for the Friday and Saturday evening dinners included many of the area’s political and social leaders (which is probably why I wasn’t invited!).

I got an earful from one of them today. And it should be noted that the people who were invited to Mitchell’s opening are seasoned veterans of these dinners. That makes sense: if you’re a new restaurant in town, these are the people you want to impress from the get-go. You want them telling their other influential friends what a great time they had. You want them to come back - often - and bring business associates to entertain. Standard procedure for these dinners, which are also used as practice sessions -- dress rehearsals, if you will -- for the kitchen and serving crews, is to comp the meals. The VIPs get a free meal and the restaurant gets free publicity via word of mouth. Most of the people attending these dinners know that they are expected to leave a gratuity for the servers.

But my source, who asked that I not use her name, tells me she doesn’t know of any party of four that got out for under $100.

Here’s what happened.

Bogard's is Closed

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bogard’s, the International Drive restaurant that opened a couple of years ago in the former Darrel’s space, has closed. Someone who answered the phone at Salt Island, sister restaurant to Bogard’s, said the closing was a business decision. I’m thinking the bright orange tax lien sticker on the front door may have had something to do with it, as well.

I never officially reviewed Bogard’s. My first visit was mediocre or slightly lower, and I just never got around to going back. It served a menu not easily classified that wandered from oyster bar to seafood restaurant to steakhouse. Its motto was, “The restaurant your mother warned you about.” The servers, almost all women, wore torn fishnet stockings. I think the place was going for a biker bar sort of aura. I don’t know why that would mean their stockings had to be torn, but I wasn’t involved in the branding decision. The centerpiece of the dining room was a clear plexiglass shute that ran from the roof down through the two-story room. Every few minutes a load of ice cubes would shoosh noisily down the chute to the bar.

Although Bogard’s is closed, Salt Island remains open.

Houston's Becoming Hillstone

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Updated 9:55 a.m. with Winter Park Hillstone menus; dowload below.

Over the years, so many restaurants have tried to emulate the success of Houston's, trying to capture its combination of food, ambience and service. So many, it seems, want to be Houston's.

Now, Houston's doesn't want to be Houston's. At least not the Winter Park link in the national chain. The restaurant, which sits on the shore of Lake Killarney, is in the midst of transitioning its brand to Hillstone. Hillstone is the name of the parent company, whose brands also include Gulfstream, Bandera and Rutherford Grill. There currently are Hillstones in New York City, Boston and San Francisco.

The transition has begun. The menu has been switched, but so far the sign out front still says Houston's. A woman who answered the phone at the restaurant -- she thanked me for calling Houston's -- said there were no plans that she knew of for a big announcement; the sign will be replaced and that will be that. The Winter Park Houston's opened in 1996 to instant acclaim.

Hillstone is not known for its marketing acumen. Even as Houston’s, the Web site address is, and it offers no more information about each restaurant brand other than its address, phone number and manager’s name.

Hillstone’s New York menu features, like Houston’s, a short list of appetizers and regularly-scheduled soups of the day. Sandwiches and burgers are joined by sushi rolls, and entrees feature fresh fish and steaks but, sadly, no prime rib, one of Houston’s fortes. (Update: WP Hillstone menu has prime rib; prices range from $17 to $33 for dinner entrees. Download menu below.)

Sandwiches at the New York Hillstone are in the mid to upper teens; entrees range from $17 for a dinner-sized salad to $37 for the bone-in cowboy salad.

I’ll update with the Winter Park menu as soon as I get it.

Winter_Park_Dinner_051310.pdfWinter_Park_lunch_051310.pdf . Winter_Park_wine_051310.pdf .


Greek Flame Taverna Moving?

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Flogger Les pointed out in the Forum today that Greek Flame Taverna, the popular Winter Park Greekery, was closed and had no notice of relocating on its front door. A peek at its Web site, however, shows that its address is the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips in the Sand Lake Road Restaurant Row region. No one is answering the phones other than a recording that doesn't give any details. The Web site shows pictures of the old location but the address of the new. Anybody have details? Let us know here or in the Forum. (I must say, not great marketing sense not to leave a forwarding message on your old place!)