The Strand has finally opened. I first told you about the plans for a new restaurant in the space that was for many years Chuck’s Diner on Mills Avenue last March. And for lo these many months, I’ve watched the snail’s pace progress each time I’ve passed, thinking, “It can’t be much longer, the place just isn’t that big.” But anyone who has ever opened a restaurant in Orlando -- or tried to -- knows it can be an arduous process.
But open now it is, and it’s a very likable place for a casual meal.
Even though it’s small, the restaurant is loaded with lots of little design details. Chandeliers with retro style lamp shades hang above the laminated tables. Elsewhere throughout the room are bare-bulb lights with knotted cords dangling from the high ceiling; lights fashioned out of green-hued Mason jars hang above the right-angled bar.
Behind the bar, above the beer taps and adjacent to a wine rack, is a television set into a fifties era cabinet. It was fitting that it was playing an old episode of “Gunsmoke.”
The floor is stained concrete that has the checkerboard pattern of tile that had probably been scraped off during the renovation. The cushions for the banquettes that line the wall are held in place by antique Lucite knobs screwed into the slatted wood.
The menu is simple and straightforward but hits several appropriate notes. Steak frites, grilled chicken and crab cakes for more substantial entrees and burgers and sandwiches for something snackier.
I started my lunchtime visit with the soup of the day, a substantial bowl of barley and wild mushrooms with lots of cubed carrots in the broth. The only thing it needed was a good dash of salt to bring out the flavors. Sadly, there were no shakers on the tables.
When I first heard that the name of the restaurant was going to be The Strand, I wondered if it was to be named for the street in London. After all, the next door neighbor is a store that specializes in food and goods imported from Britain. I was told there was no connection (the restaurant's Facebook page makes some reference to thread) but my question was raised anew when I saw fish and chips on the menu. I couldn’t resist.
And the fish was quite good, three strips of cod or haddock with beautiful white flesh jacketed in a light breading (not as heavy as you’d find in London). The fries were only so-so, a bit on the thin side. Ketchup and tartar sauce were provided in rather chintzy cups, the sort of thimble-sized paper type you’d find next to a condiment pump at a fast food eatery.
The entree was accompanied by a slaw of cole that was cool and crisp and had what appeared to be bits of kale.
Two young women worked together to serve the mostly full restaurant, grabbing plates and bowls placed by the cooks onto the counter from the small kitchen area next to the bar.
The Strand is just the sort of place where you’d want to meet friends for a quick bite or to just sit with a glass of beer or wine and visit. A very nice and comfortable addition to the neighborhood.
The Strand is at 807 N. Mills Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-920-7744.