I'm confused. And I don't think I'm the only one.
We have Mingos, which took over the space in the Sanctuary condominium building that was Lotus and, before that, Prickly Pear. (Before that it was Graze, and before that it was a vacant lot.) Mingos has been in existence less than a year. When I reviewed it, in January, I found that it had made some improvements over Lotus, but then the only way to go was up. It was better, but it had a long way to go before I could declare it something I'd like to see have multiple locations.
But multiple locations it now has, with others planned. But are they really multiple locations, or are they just using the same name? I'm not sure even the people involved know.
Notice I said the same name and not the same brand. Those are not synonyms. Branding is a complicated matter and it involves many aspects beyond just the name. Though, surely, the name is a part of it.
So let's discuss that name.
My understanding is that it is Mingos, which is short for flamingos, which doesn't explain why the restaurant's logo is a swordfish. It also doesn't explain why the downtown restaurant's Facebook page has the name as Mingo's. Does no one involved with the restaurant see that as an identity issue?
Apparently not. Nor, it seems, are they concerned that the newest Mingos — which may be called Mingos East Orlando or Mingos UCF or Mingos Restaurant & Lounge; I've heard all three— doesn't seem to have a whole lot in common with the original menu. It doesn't even share a website.
Mingos East is merely a subpage on the website for the Doubletree hotel, the former Holiday Inn near the university. It is the hotel's three-mealer, which alone would set it apart from the original Mingos, which is open only for dinner most days. But a manager at the new Mingos said that the restaurants' main similarity is the name. (Both websites do mention the name Luis J. Negron as the chef.)
I did find the pork wings on both menus. These are little pork shanks — not really wings because, you know, pigs can't fly — in a plum sauce. Though a tad tepid in temperature, the appetizer had lots of meatiness and were quite filling for a starter course.
I was intrigued by the Florida cheese steak sandwich, which featured grilled churrasco steak with mojo seasoning, with sauteed banana peppers, onions and queso blanco. It doesn't quite scream Florida to me — it barely whispers cheesesteak — but it was a decent sandwich. Like that of the downtown Mingos, the food is fine, but there is no identity to the menu, no theme. The decor at the newest Mingos matches that of the renovated hotel, which has a fresh 1960s look.
So how will all that translate when the partnership that owns and operates the Mingoses opens the planned Mingos Chophouse in the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Orlando? Or the Mingos Prime on International Drive? These are all part of a partnership with Alena Hospitality, which is renovating the hotel properties where the new restaurants are to be housed.
Alena and Mingos also share a partner in Nikesh A. Patel. Patel has been in the news lately — and is scheduled to be in a Chicago courtroom Wednesday — because the F.B.I. arrested him late last month on charges of fraud. His lawyer, Mark NeJame, has been quoted as saying that Patel denies the charges. It seems that all links to Alena's web pages have been broken and the company's Linkedin listing is deleted; the website itself has a "page not found" error message.
What does that mean for the Mingos "brand"? I couldn't possibly speculate. But I wouldn't be surprised that if Mingos Chophouse and Mingos Prime open as announced they'll have actual pig wings on their menus.
Mingos East Orlando is in the Doubletree by Hilton, 12125 High Tech Ave., Orlando. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-275-9000.