Even when Orlando Meats was in its original location, on Virginia Drive in Orlando proper, I wondered if it knew what it wanted to be, a butcher shop or a cafe. It even sold doughnuts originally. I liked it – well not the doughnut – I just found its concept confusing.
That was in 2017, and there have been a few times over the years that I’ve stopped in in search of a good steak to cook at home. But the inventory was always limited, which isn’t surprising for a boutique butcher. Prepared foods were at a minimum, too, and the space was cramped.
Now the business has moved to Winter Park (Orlando improper?) to a spacious space in the Ravaudage plaza. Curiously, despite the larger digs the butcher shop offerings don’t seem to have grown and is still limited, though it does have some things you wouldn’t find at most other local butchers, such as duck beef tallow and ghee.
Most of the space is occupied by bare-top tables with lots of chairs for seating. And the menu is expanded, too. So is Orlando Meats leaning toward being more of a restaurant than a butcher’s market?
And if so, what kind of restaurant does it want to be?
I can’t quite tell by the bill of fare posted over the counter where orders are placed, whether for cooked foods or raw meats. The menu has sandwiches, including the Medium Rare Burger that was an immediate hit when OM first opened, and breakfast items, from an egg “MeatMuffin” to a Butcher’s Breakfast of country-fried steak with red eye gravy.
But then there’s a section for noodle dishes and another for pizzas, though the evening I visited the pizza oven was on the fritz.
And my first choice from the list of noodle dishes was unavailable. So instead I chose the Chicago Typewriter and my companion got the sandwich labeled Superb Owl.
I should mention that all of the food items have odd names that don’t necessarily have anything to with what they are. I couldn’t even begin to surmise what something called a Chicago Typewriter might have it it, though I’m sure I wouldn’t have guessed that it would more Far Eastern than Midwestern.
It featured crumbled bits of pork and freshly chopped celery tossed in a chili oil along with scallions and biang biang noodles. The noodles are a specialty of China’s Shaanxi province and are unusually long, thick and wide. I would think that if you had a recipe that called for them you could easily substitute lasagna noodles. I liked them, and I enjoyed all the flavors of the dish, which was served in a large bowl. But why Chicago Typewriter? Maybe the biang biang is supposed to onomatopoetically conjure stereotypical images of Chicago gangsters? But then where does the typewriter come in? Perhaps I’m looking too hard for meaning.
You won’t be surprised to learn that there was nothing owlish about the Superb Owl, which maybe is supposed to be a misplaced spacing for Super Bowl. (Maybe the Chicago Typewriter has a key that sticks.) But then this one wasn’t served in a bowl, either.
Instead it was a hot dog-like sandwich with a large and dense sausage fashioned out of ribeye steak served in a big roll with melted mozzarella and a chimichurri sauce. It was topped with crisply fried chicken skins (chickarones?). Big and messy and good.
As I said, the space is large, almost cavern-like. It seems like something is missing from the middle of the room, but at least the many table options allow for diners to keep a distance. There is also a side patio for outdoor dining.
Ordering is done at the counter and the food is brought to your table when ready.
I like the idea of a meat market that also serves prepared foods in a restaurant setting. I wish Orlando Meats could provide more symbiosis between the two entities. Maybe if they used the same brain power that went into coming up with the menu item names.