I don’t suppose they’d consider changing the name to So-SoNapa.
SoNapa Grille is the somewhat confusing name of a new Maitland restaurant, a second location for a New Smyrna Beach business that began as a wine club, expanded to a wine bar and then to a full-blown restaurant. The name is not meant pejoratively, as in something the people in Marin County, Calif., might say in response to something someone does that suggest wine snobbery.
Rather, the name is a mashup of Sonoma and Napa, California’s two neighboring and prolific wine producing counties. (This is just another example of Florida restaurants having an identity crisis. We already have California Grill, Napa at the Peabody and Sonoma Draught House, but don’t get me started. Not that anyone is going to be naming restaurants after Florida wine-producing counties, but still.)
SoNapa’s menu features items named for regions and landmarks, such as Knights Valley, Chalk Hill, Atlas Peak and Dutton Ranch Apple Salad. Some thought obviously went into giving the dishes their names because Dutton Ranch, besides growing grapes, also produces Gravenstein apples.
I only wish more thought had gone into the creativity of the menu. Most of it is just mundane offerings of the same ol’ same ol’. You’ve got your list of flatbreads and salads, and entrees of fish, steak, chicken and sandwiches. Even with some of the selections denoted as specialties, I found myself looking for something exciting, to no avail.
My lunch companion selected a half portion of the North Coast flatbread, four smallish triangles of thin crust dotted with pieces of grilled salmon and some capers. There were also onions and mozzarella cheese, but not much of either. The slices had been inartistically drizzled with balsamic glaze. (Why so many cooks think balsamic glaze dresses up a dish is beyond me. And its sweetly acerbic taste is not appropriate with every type of food, this one included.) The little bits of salmon had a nice flavor, but the texture had me wondering if it had been precooked and reheated.
I started with an appetizer of bacon-wrapped scallops, four slightly-larger-than-a-quarter pieces that looked lonely on the long white plate, decorated with puddles of lemon butter sauce in between. The flavors were good, a nice salty note from the bacon, and the texture was sufficiently firm.
For my entree I selected the Iron Mountain meatloaf, because it was listed as a “signature” item, and also because I keep hoping that someone in this town will produce a decent meatloaf. My quest continues. This one had a too-soft texture and was topped with a mushroom cream sauce. It came with a stack of baby carrots that reminded me of the ones sold at Publix, except these were warmed slightly. I could select one other side, so of course I selected mashed potatoes, because meatloaf should always be served with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes, however, should never look as though they were portioned out with an ice cream scoop.
Our server lacked confidence and read her spiel on the day’s specials from a script in her ticket book. But she and all the others were friendly, and I especially liked being thanked when I left. Prices, it should be noted, are fairly reasonable, with the one exception of the $10 scallop appetizer. The meatloaf was $14; all flatbreads are $9 or less. Only one dish, the osso buco, reached $19 (maybe that’s why it’s called the Silverado osso buco). Most entrees are in the mid teens.
SoNapa took over a space that was a Steak & Ale and turned it into a very attractive restaurant with wooden floors and tabletops, touches of stone, and fireplace hearths that, apparently, are for decoration only. I wouldn’t characterize it as upscale, but it’s nicer than I thought it would be, and it’s a comfortable place to dine. If the menu were more interesting, I might find myself visiting more often.
SoNapa Grille is at 640 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland. It is open for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner daily. This link will take you to sonapa.com. The phone number is 407-637-2933.