Things looked promising at the beginning of my visit to Burntwood Tavern, the Ohio based mini chain that recently opened in Orlando (though you’d be hard pressed to discern that immediately from the company’s website, but more on that in a moment).
My dinner companion and I stopped in to the rustically decorated restaurant, which occupies the former site of the similarly named Stonewood Grill & Tavern in the Dr. Phillips area. We started with an appetizer of Stuffed Jalapeños and were impressed with the quality. The plump peppers, deep-fried in summer-weight jackets, were stuffed with smoky cheddar cheese and pimentos that oozes out when we bit into them. They had a delightful spicy kick. Perhaps the cilantro cream dipping sauce was meant to be a cooling counterpoint to the heat, but it was ineffectual and unnecessary. Good poppers.
Unfortunately, everything that followed did not have the same quality.
Burntwood was featuring a soft shell crab menu when I visited, and from that list my companion chose the Cajun Soft Shell Crabs. Any flavor the crab itself might have offered was overwhelmed by the salty bay seasonings that coated the breaded and deep fried shellfish. Soft shell crab is difficult to pull off — I had one in Bogota earlier this year that bore no semblance to crab whatsoever. So I give the restaurant props for attempting something with a high degree of difficulty, but points removed for the dismount. It was served with a simple offering of boiled potatoes and green beans with onions.
My entree didn’t fare much better. I chose the Bourbon Lacquered Pork from the boxed Features section of the menu. The lacquering perhaps aided in getting a good char on the outside of the pork medallions but offered little in the way of flavor. The pork itself was a bit on the cool side. The meat sat atop a ragout fashioned out of white beans and sections of asparagus, a strange combination. Neither complements the other in terms of taste or texture and they are rather difficult to eat together.
Our server was quite perky and answered questions deftly. When I called for a reservations, I was referred to as both honey and sweetheart during the short conversation with someone I’ve never met.
The space is open and has a lot of hard surfaces, including wood (mostly unburnt), so sound reverberates quite a bit. Some tables have black cloths, some don’t. The tables all had candles but none were lit.
Burntwood Tavern is one of the concepts of Chef Art Pour Restaurant Group, which does not refer to a cook named Art Pour. Chef is represented on the menu with a watermark of a knife and pour with one of a jigger. Art, of course, is represented by a wrench. The company has about a dozen Burntwood Taverns with others planned elsewhere in Florida.
If you were to go to the restaurant’s website, you’d find under locations listings for Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga Falls and even for Naples, but none for Orlando.
Orlando’s location is listed as Grand Oaks, because everyone knows that’s the name of the plaza at the corner of Dr. Phillips Boulevard and Conroy Windermere Road. Right? Perhaps the owners are proud to be in Naples but feel the need to hide the Orlando location. Not nice, and really not very smart. (The map for the Orlando location shows a pin drop in Naples.)
I suppose those who really want to find it will. For me, it’s too much trouble to go to for good stuffed jalapeños.
Burntwood Tavern is at Grand Oaks Village. If you’re new to town, that’s at 5078 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, including brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The phone number is 407-776-9991.