To say that Elliott's Public House is a better restaurant than the one it replaced would be a backhanded compliment at best. As much as I wanted to, I could never see Brian's restaurant as the delightful greasy spoon that so many others did. It had the right atmosphere but the food was never what I thought it should be. So I was encouraged when the news came that the space would have new owners and would make changes to the menu.
I'm still encouraged, although after two visits to the Ivanhoe Village restaurant my impression is that things have flip-flopped: the food is better but there's something lacking in the ambience.
But it's a heck of a lot easier to fix dining room decor than what's coming out of the kitchen. The chef, Karl Elliott, who owns the new restaurant with his wife, Desiree, has put together a menu that melds the elements of a hash house and a creative-cuisine eatery. And much of it works nicely.
I enjoyed the oxtail soup on my dinner visit. It was a hearty soup only slightly out of place on a hot summer night with a thick beefy broth and lots of stringy pieces of meat mixed with carrots. There was plenty of wonderfully fatty mouthfeel in every spoonful.
The "pork & beans" was one of the more noteworthy creative items. The quotation marks indicate that it isn't your typical Van Camp's variety. Not when it includes blood sausage, pork belly, chorizo and a stew of white beans. While the mealy textured blood sausage seemed out of place, the pork belly, with its terrifically crisped exterior and bacon-fatty meat, was the standout, served over the well seasoned beans (which could have used a bit more sauciness).
For breakfast I had the corned beef hash with two eggs, perfectly eased over, with hash brown potatoes. The hash was served in a patty rather than as a slung scoop, but it was very good and had lots of pieces of pulled beef. I didn't care much for the side order of biscuit and sausage gravy because the gravy had a strange astringency, almost as though someone had added a dash of vinegar. Also not sure why the server felt the need to include a steak knife with the biscuit.
Service was good, especially so on the breakfast visit when there were repeated offers to keep my coffee cup full.
I don't quite get why the Elliotts chose to designate the restaurant a public house, the British term that we shorten to pub. There's very little pubby about the small restaurant. The surroundings are pleasant enough, but it seems a bit austere, especially in the side dining area with the large walls, freshly (and nicely) painted but mostly blank. The patio, with its low roof, feels claustrophobic. And the fresh-cut flowers on the tables are a pleasant touch, but the water in the Mason jar vases needs to be refreshed more often.
But those complaints are just niggles. Elliott's is a good addition to one of Orlando's more charming districts, and I'm looking forward to seeing it develop into the excellent restaurant it is trying to be.
Elliott's Public House is at 1409 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-601-5944.