I was walking around downtown Orlando with a friend recently when we passed Kres Chophouse. It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I’d dined there, so we popped in for dinner. I’m glad we did.
I don’t know why, but Kres hardly pops into my mind when I’m asked about recommendations for downtown dining. Maybe it’s because the last couple of times I had dined there I found it to be only so-so. But sitting at the bar on the other night, I was reminded about the long history of this space.
Well, a short history in the grand scheme of the location’s timeline. It occupies space in the Kress building and was originally part of the S.H. Kress chain of five-and-dime stores. I first dined in the space when Bailey’s, a popular islands-themed restaurant on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park opened Bailey’s Cityside there.
The only thing I remember about Bailey’s Cityside is the squadron of Flying Ladies, as they were called, that flew overhead. I was delighted to see three of the old gals preserved and standing guard over the front door. I’d forgotten they were there. And if you never knew this space before Kres moved in, in 2004, try to imagine more than 70 of those figurines, in various sizes, hanging by wires from the ceiling. It was quite a sight.
Bailey’s Cityside opened in 1989, and a year later Manny Garcia took over the space and put in his popular Pebbles restaurant, calling it Pebbles Cityside (later Pebbles Downtown). Garcia kept the Flying Ladies in formation, at least for a while. Eventually, they were all grounded.
But Kres. Now.
We started with a salad of Warm Bacon & Spinach, which had crumbled goat cheese, sliced heirloom tomatoes, and a topping of crisply fried onion frizzles (so much better than croutons).
For the soup course, we chose the Lobster Bisque, a velvety smooth broth with a sweet tinge of lobster and a hint of sherry.
The New York Strip au Poivre couldn’t have been better. The steak had a wonderful crust that was blackened, partly from the sear and partly from the cracked peppercorns. It had been cooked to a lovely red medium rare and was every bit as delicious as it looked. A brandied mushroom sauce had been ladled over it, and it was accompanied by potatoes au gratin and thick-but-tender spears of asparagus. It was worth the $36 fee.
Service was prompt and efficient. And the space still has an air of elegance with its high ceilings and posh furnishings. You almost feel as if you’re in a private club.
I’m glad we stopped in to Kres, and I’ll be happy to put it back on my list of downtown recommendations.
Kres Chophouse is at 17 W. Church St., Orlando. It is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-447-7950.