During February, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide is featuring restaurants that are Black-owned or that have Black chefs in observance of Black History Month.
It seems fitting to end our monthlong focus on Black-owned restaurants with Shantell’s Just Until because of its location in Sanford’s Georgetown neighborhood. The area was established by the city’s Black business owners during in the 1880s during the Jim Crow era. Last year, Georgetown was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Despite the impermanence of its name, Shantell’s Just Until feels like an anchor of the neighborhood. At least it did when I visited on a balmy evening recently when when the owner, Shantell Williams, herself was seated at a table outside. My dining companion, dog and I took a table next to a large brick planter filled with colorful flowers. Nearby in a tall tree, an osprey stood watching over the restaurant.
The menu is a bit more Caribbean than it is Southern soul. My guest chose the jerk chicken and rice for an entree and I selected the fish & chips. I had a choice of tilapia or catfish but that’s really not an option – catfish is the only appropriate answer in this setting.
First, though, we shared an order of the Jamaican beef patties, a deep fried turnover with a crispy, flaky crust and well seasoned ground meat filling. Delicious with the remoulade dipping sauce.
My catfish was served as strips, breaded and fried, and served atop crinkle-cut fries. The flavor of the fish was mild but still had that distinct catfish taste. The breading was wonderfully crisped and had a hint of pepper in it.
The peppery heat was more pronounced in the jerk chicken, as well it should be. The chunks of chicken meat were grilled and tossed with sautéed onions and red bell peppers and served over yellow rice pilaf. It was served with collard greens, which also had a simmering suggestion of heat, and a corn muffin that held its shape only until touched.
Throughout the meal we were well tended by the staff, including our server who made sure Toby the Labradoodle had bowl of water. And Williams, too, occasionally called over in her wonderfully smoky voice to ask how we were doing. By the time we were through, her table was surrounded by a half dozen people who had stopped by to eat or to just visit. We said goodnight and Williams invited us to come back on a Sunday when there’s a Reggae band. She said it's just a lot of fun
I'll bet it is.
Shantell’s Just Unti is at 503 Sanford Ave., Sanford (map). It is open for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, lunch Monday through Friday and dinner daily (until 4 a.m. weekends). The phone number is 407-878-7785.