Recently, I attended the opening night of Orlando Ballet’s elaborate production of “The Great Gatsby” in the Walt Disney Theater at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Next door, in the new world-class Steinmetz Hall, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma was playing to a sold-out audience. The night before that, Elton John returned to Amway Center for another stop on his “I really mean it this time” farewell tour. And two nights later I was at the old Cheyenne Saloon on Church Street for a riveting production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins.”
The arts and entertainment are back in force and bringing audiences to downtown Orlando.
So where should we eat?
Over the next few months we’ll be assessing the downtown dining scene, taking a look at some new options and revisiting some older one, especially since some of the older ones have changed owners, concepts or chefs.
In fact, I had intended to check out the Boheme on one of these recent nights to what changes Venoy Rogers III had made. But shortly after I made my reservation came the news that Rogers was leaving the boutique hotel to take a position in Ohio. So, we’ll give the Boheme some time to regroup.
Instead, let’s take a look at Häos, which recently went through some changes of its own. I chose Häos because my companion and I were looking for a quick bite in proximity to the Cheyenne Saloon venue and we couldn’t do much better than right across the street.
Häos was just clearing out from a crowd of Orlando City fans heading to Exploria Stadium – a reminder that professional sports is also a component of downtown’s vibrancy. And you may recall that before it was Häos, this space was occupied by soccer-themed Lion’s Pride, though you’d be forgiven if you’ve tried to forget that. (Old-timers will remember this space as Phineas Phogg’s, if their memory hasn’t eluded them entirely.)
The atmosphere was somewhat subdued considering the traffic. But then maybe everyone was trying to catch a collective breath after the sports crowd and before the evening’s usual bar trade.
Regardless, the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming and accommodating. And even though there were some glitches in service, they were honestly acknowledged and corrections were made. High points for service.
And we liked our food, too. My dinner guest had the pulled pork sammy, a hefty helping of barbecued meat topped with slaw and dill pickles, served with fries (good fries, too).
I had the Häos burger, a thick patty composed of short rib and brisket cooked to the requested medium rare, topped with melted American cheese and garnished with an impressive slab of pork belly. But for a slightly dried-out bun it was a very good burger.
The restaurant has two levels but only the downstairs was in use when I visited. The front space, where the bar is located along with several dining tables and booths, has a low ceiling (basically the floor of the upstairs space) that opens to double-height at the rear. Entertainment was a focus of the previous management and I was told that current owners are reevaluating whether to offer live performances.
With so much else going on downtown it’s hardly necessary.