I finally made it to Atlantic Beer & Oyster, or ABO as its becoming more commonly known. ABO is part of the triumverate of businesses that opened over the past several months at the corner of Park Avenue and Canton Avenue that also includes Boca and Park Social.
Actually, ABO was the first to open. It occupies the little space that is off the avenue, at the entrance to the Hidden Gardens, just across from Scott Laurent Galleries. I had stopped in a couple of times previously to give ABO a try, but each time I left without trying anything. The first time there was a terrible smell; the second time the place was completely empty and I didn’t feel like being the sole customer.
But I was recently invited to attend a media dinner that the businesses held to introduce the new executive chef, Jake Brenchley. Brenchley, who was previously director of culinary development with the Kessler Collection, joined the group after a couple of chef glitches before the restaurant opened, and he seems to be putting all three venues on the right culinary path.
He’s even doing some special sauces and accouterments for the oysters served at ABO, smartly designing them to complement the unique flavors of the particular bivalve. The oysters we sampled were lusciously large, cold and briny. They were paired with a couple of the several craft beers that are always on tap — the B in the ABO.
I like the atmosphere of ABO very much. It’s divey and rustic; you could almost believe you were wharfside somewhere instead of just off tony Park Avenue. Very small — it doesn’t take a lot of people to fill it up. And here’s something interesting: there are several tvs for the small space, and they’re the only televisions anywhere in the three venues. When was the last time you saw a full service restaurant the size of Boca without a bunch of video screens?
One small complaint about ABO. The young woman who was serving the oysters to us did not know any details about them. She thought they were from Florida, but she wasn’t sure. Oysters come from all over, and each type has something unique in its flavor structure and texture. An oyster bar should make sure its servers known them up and down.
But overall, I’m happy to recommend a visit to ABO for oyster and beer lovers. Not incidentally, Brenchley is doing some very nice things with the dinner menu at Boca, too. And in full disclosure, Boca is a client of Scott Joseph Company’s consulting services.
Atlantic Beer & Oyster is at 358 Park Avenue N., Winter Park. It is open in the evenings Monday through Friday and at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The phone number is 407-636-7029.