After more than a year’s delay, a second outpost of Hangry Bison, the popular Winter Park Village restaurant, has finally opened, bringing its award-winning burgers and creative cocktails to downtown Winter Garden.
Set in a newly constructed building fronting Plant Street, it’s a bigger restaurant than the original, with more outdoor seating and a large, expansive space indoors with a large bar the main focus. And even the indoor dining room has an al fresco vibe thanks to garage-door walls that open the space up. (It’s one of the new realities that air-flow is a concern in restaurant design.)
The menu offers the same burger-centric menu that has made the Winter Park location so popular. My companion and I started with an appetizer of Jangry Jalapeños, which featured spicy-hot peppers stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in pepperoni and chargrilled to give them a bit of a crust and melt the cheese. The jalapeños were spicy on their own but the pepperoni added an extra kick.
There are a number of burgers listed under the “House Hanghelds” heading but you’re also invited to customize your burger using a checklist on the back of the main menu. My friend essentially chose the Hangry Bison burger but personalized it with different cheeses and bun. But at the heart of it was the thick and juicy patty of bison meat, cooked to a perfect medium rare. Easy to see why it was voted Best Burger in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.
I chose the Valdiano – many will recall that owner Joe Liguori used to have the Pizzeria Valdiano that is nearby in Winter Park Village. This sandwich replaces the bison burger with a patty of spicy Italian sausage topped with roasted red peppers, onions, piquant arugula, thickly sliced tomato and provolone cheese. Sort of tasted like a pizza on a brioche bun.
I paired my selection with fries, nicely crisped and salted, while my friend chose the baked beans. The beans were fine but I preferred my fries.
I also couldn’t resist ordering the signature Smoked Bison cocktail, made with Heaven’s Door straight bourbon, bitters, a splash of simple syrup and lux cherries, sort of a newfangled old fashioned. But what really sets it apart is its presentation, served in a rocks glass with a large format cube and an orange slice next to a pile of smoldering wood chips under a smoke-filled glass cloche. (Here’s a video of the cocktail being made, albeit with a different bourbon.)
Service was friendly and efficient, even with a full house of people anxious to check out the new restaurant in town.
Even when the newness wears off, Hangry Bison is bound to be a popular Winter Garden destination. Its atmosphere, staff and attention to quality will assure that.