The first time I stopped in to the Porch it was in full Friday Night mode. That is, it was packed with young revelers relieved that they had made it through another week. There was something in the air that screamed T.G.I.F. — Thanks Guinness It's Friday!
Just getting a drink from one of the harried bartenders proved to be an ordeal. And when I attempted to order some food, the young woman acted as though she was practically unaware the place had a menu. She certainly didn't seem familiar with it. When I ordered the item called Speeders — Porch's version of sliders — she looked at me as though I was speaking a different language. Another bartender overheard and translated the order for her. But a half hour later, there was no food. So much for Speed. We figured that the order had never been placed, so my friend and I left.
A couple of weeks later we returned. It was another Friday, but towards the end of the happy hour hours, so it was a somewhat calmer atmosphere (although it had an inordinate amount of toddlers and even infants in attendance — not the sort of place I would want to bring my kids to, but then I don't have any kids, so I have to make do with criticizing other parents' choices).
This time I got my Speeders, and they were good, easily the best thing I sampled from the somewhat confusing menu. (Perhaps I owe the first bartender an apology for not knowing the menu in and out.) The four beef sliders were actually medium-rare, something that is rare for such small burgers. And they had a terrific crisp exterior that gave them a pleasant charred flavor. Sliders are hard to do well, and these were very good.
Onion rings are an even harder bar food to accomplish, and the ones that were served with the Speeders were some of the best I've had in a while. They were big and the batter was light and crispy, and there wasn't a hint of greasiness. Someone in the kitchen knows how to fry foods properly.
I wish someone back there knew how to do a good fish taco. The ones I ordered were completely devoid of flavor — no taste in the fish, none in the seasonings nor any in the accoutrements. The salad that was served with it was lifeless, and I couldn't tell you what the dressing was supposed to have been.
The menu is a study in chaos, and it tries to be too clever. People who are out primarily to drink — for, to be honest, the Porch is really a bar that serves food — don't want to have to decipher a cryptic roadmap to find something to eat.
Oddly, there isn't anything even remotely porchlike about the space. Perhaps the Garage would be a better name. It's a big, open space in two rooms. There is a lot of gray and nothing notable in decor. When they're not under siege, the staff is quite pleasant and capable.
The Porch is at 643 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park (located behind the Meat House). It opens at 4 p.m. on some days and 2 p.m. on others, and it's open until very late most nights (remember, its forte is as a drinking establishment). The phone number is 407-571-9101.