AC Sky Bar is not a restaurant. That should be clear from the name, otherwise it might be AC Sky Cafe or AC Sky Bistro, which would make it sound more like an in-flight food option.
It’s not quite at cruising level, but it does sit higher than an aerie, on the 18th floor of the newly constructed SunTrust Plaza building at Garland Avenue and South Street. The bank occupies the lower floors; the hotel has the topmost eight floors. The 18th level serves as the hotel’s lobby and also has a breakfast nook, lounge and the aforementioned Sky Bar. Two-story windows and balcony seating offer unfettered views that confirm Florida’s flatness. One can see all the way to the attractions and beyond. Just below is a top-down view of the Amway Center.
You might think that AC stands for Amway Center but that’s just a flukey coincidence. AC Hotels is a Marriott brand and the initials are for its founder, Antonio Catalán.
But while AC Sky Bar is not a restaurant it does serve some food, and the menu is a nod to the Spanish origins of the hotel. So without using the word tapas, “small plates” are featured along with four “large plates,” two of which are burgers, and a couple of toasts and salads.
After testing the bartender’s negroni skills (quite good), I ordered the meatballs cazuela and tortilla Espanolo from the list of small plates.
Meatballs are a mainstay of Madrid tapas bars (cazuela is the earthenware dish they’re served in). If indeed these were meant to be like those found in Spain, the meat was a blend of pork and beef – it isn’t specified on the menu here – and the looser texture came from milk-soaked bread. A romesco sauce of tomatoes and red peppers added a pulpy bit of flavor, as did a crumbling of sharp Manchego cheese.
The tortilla, another standard Spanish bite, is essentially a country omelet with onions and potatoes. AC’s was uncharacteristically topped with crumbled cheese and it could have been allowed to set a little more.
My companion chose the “large plate” AC burger, a fair-sized patty served on a brioche bun with thick slices of tomatoes, melted mozzarella and crisped prosciutto standing in for the more usual bacon. I don’t think you’ll see it on any “best of” lists, but it was a perfectly acceptable burger, paired with potatoes that are probably more popular at breakfast time.
(And by the way, chipped cups, even those holding only ketchup, should never leave a kitchen.)
The lobby is an expansive space, with the alabaster front desk at the far end, lounge seating and some conventional tables and banquettes in the middle, and a three-sided bar, also with an alabaster front, at the other end. An outside bar mirrors the one on the inside but it was closed when I visited, along with all balconies, because of lightning concerns.
The building has a parking garage with a rather confusing entry system (wave or insert your credit card when you go in – no ticket issued – then wave or insert same card when you leave; it seems to know how long you were there. The bar does not validate parking.)
Also a little confusing. The recorded phone message for the AC Sky Bar tells callers to check the website for menu details; there are none. The website says reservations are highly recommended; the voice message says they are not accepted except for Sunday brunch.
There are direct elevators to the lobby, but do take notice of the posted dress code. It’s all standard stuff, though I do wonder at what point holey and ripped clothing crosses the excessive line and becomes holey-er than acceptable.
The AC Sky Bar is hardly a religious experience, but it is nice to have a downtown venue that gets us closer to the heavens.