I'm sure the owners of Gaviota, the Peruvian restaurant that opened late last year in the former Nick's Italian Cafe in Thornton Park, have a good reason for opening a second location so soon -- and so close by.
The new -- or newer -- Gaviota is on Colonial Drive, just over three miles away. But perhaps even curiouser than the proximity are the differences between the two restaurants.
The Thornton Park Gaviota is in the sleek Sanctuary condominiums building. It offers white tablecloth dining inside and a patio overlooking Eola Drive.
The Colonial Drive Gaviota occupies a free-standing building that was once a fast food outlet -- the drive-up window lane is still there but not functioning. (This was the brief home of Casa Barcelona and before that California Burrito Express.) The dining room is more casual and tablecloth free. (It would be casual even without the step ladder that was standing next to the bar during most of my meal.) There is a patio here, too, but it comes with the whooshing of cars speeding along U.S. Highway 50. But the parking is easier!
The two restaurants share the name Gaviota, which means seagull, and a logo, with the v in the name replaced with gull wings in the style of the only wildlife I've ever been able to draw.
Apparently there is meant to be a bigger difference. The downtown restaurant is officially known as Gaviota Seafood and Fine Peruvian Cuisine and the new one is Gaviota Brasas & More.
I don't know what the More is, but brasas, which means embers, is meant to signal a more grilled-foods centric menu.
Mind you, none of this was evident when I dined there. I only saw the same name and a very different ambience. But the food was mostly good, and the service was friendly and welcoming.
The best thing my companion and I had was the Causa, a traditional Peruvian dish that is sort of a mashed potatoes terrine. The potatoes are yellow and served chilled, with either chicken or tuna between the two layers. Ours was topped with a decorative grid of piped aioli and a quartered hard-boiled egg, and it was all delicious. (When we told one of the servers how much we liked it, she said that the kitchen makes a really good one with shrimp for special guests. So there was that.)
For my entree I selected the Lomo Saltado, another traditional dish of Peru. It featured strips of beef sautéed in Pisco, a South American brandy, with onions and tomatoes and a dash of soy. It was served with both rice and fries -- I'm always down for double starch.
My friend had the Parrilla Personal Mixta, which included a pork chop with grilled sausage. The pork chop was thinnish but not too chewy. Both were served rather plainly and unadorned, as was the side of fried yuca.
That's a better representation of a brasas menu, so a better presentation would have been nice. And it's not like the $18 fee couldn't have bought some garnish. (The lomo saltado was $16.)
Still, it's nice to have more diversification in this part of town. And it beats driving the three miles to Thornton Park and hunting for a parking space.
Gaviota Brasas & More is at 3922 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-930-1446.