I recently attended a reception held on the rooftop space of Bites & Bubbles, the Mills 50 restaurant that last year moved from its original address on Mills Avenue near Marks Street to its current location in Mills Park. There was little to eat at the reception, so as my companion and I were leaving, we spotted two seats at the bar downstairs and decided to stay for dinner. It was a perfectly delightful experience.
Bites & Bubbles opened in 2018 but I had not visited it while it was at 912 N. Mills Ave. (Long story, another time.) You may remember that was the address of the original Funky Monkey Wine Bar, which opened right about this time of year in 2008, and in fact Bites & Bubbles is owned by the same people, Eddie Nickell and Nick Oliveri.
At one time Nickell and Oliveri had one of the area’s largest collections of brands under its Funky Monkey Restaurant Group company. They included another Funky Monkey at Pointe Orlando; Prickly Pear at the Sanctuary condominiums in Thornton Park; Nick’s Italian Kitchen next door; and in a building across the parking lot from the Mills Avenue FM, Bananas Modern Diner, which became Mills Brew Pub, which became Divas Dinner Theater.
The FMI empire fell apart in late 2014 when the owners filed for bankruptcy, thanks in part, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, to a disgraced businessman who had been subleasing the former Prickly Pear space, though subleasing would suggest payments were being made, which they apparently were not.
Nickell and Oliveri still had the building at 912 N. Mills, and it was the brief home of Restaurant Ash, a sandwich shop headed by their chef daughter, and even briefer as Brooklyn Coffee Company with different owners before eventually becoming Bites & Bubbles.
After all they’ve been through, it’s nice to see they’ve gotten their mojo back.
The Mills Park restaurant is multifunctional, with a downstairs dining room and bar with outdoor patio seating and the open-air rooftop with a separate bar and lounge seating. The downstairs decor has just the right amount faux opulence, with crystal chandeliers hanging over the bar and unclothed tables.
As its name suggests, Bites & Bubbles’ menu is heavy on smaller plates, with several cheese board selections and appetizers, with sandwiches and some more substantial fare, such as steak frites and a New York strip, also available.
I selected a porchetta sandwich with melted cheese on a toasted baguette that was slathered with mustard. The meat was moist and well seasoned and I liked the freshness of the bread.
My companion ordered the duck fat burger and it would be difficult to imagine a more impressive burger presentation. It featured two thick patties with melted cheese oozing down the sides and stacked on top of lettuce and tomato, Grilled onions were on top and it all created quite a distance between the top of the bun and the bottom. It was clear that this was going to be a knife and fork burger. Although the ground beef was meant to be infused with duck fat, the patties had little flavor, and unfortunately they’d gone a bit beyond the requested medium rare. But I must say it was an adventure to eat it.
Both sandwiches came with fries that tasted as though they, too, had seen some duck fat. Crispy and delicious.
The woman who served us at the bar was attentive and efficient, and other staff members greeted us and other guests graciously.
This building has had a revolving-door roster of businesses in its seven years, from Segadredo coffee to a taco shop to a cigar-themed cafe. Perhaps Nickell and Olivieri can keep Bites & Bubbles for a longer run.