Hangry Bison, the new non-Italian restaurant from longtime pizzeria owner Joe Liguori, is doing a lot of things right with its burgers, bourbon and beer, the items that it lists as its specialties under that name.
Hangry is a portmanteau of the words hungry and angry and represents a condition wherein the need for food without any food foreseeable can cause a precipitous change in mood. It's a real thing. I myself am among the sufferers. We don't have a telethon.
But we have Hangry Bison to alleviate the symptoms.
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The new restaurant has taken over the space in Winter Park Village that most recently was Firefly Kitchen and Bar (it was Taps before that). Liguori has kept most of the Firefly decor intact, including the Mason jar lights suspended from the ceiling. Lettering on a back wall spelling "Let's Meat Here" is new as are, I assume, the various cutting boards hanging on the wall.
Burgers are the forte here, and they're nicely done. I had the Hangry Bison (I figure it's always a good sign when a menu item is named after the joint). It featured a big, thick patty fashioned out of ground bison, grilled to a juicy red medium rare and topped with a bit of melting pepper jack cheese and sriracha, both of which gave it a bit of heat, and fresh arugula for a bit of fresh spiciness. Tomatoes, green olives and brown mustard were also included between the pretzel dough bun.
My companion chose the Doddzilla burger, which is obviously also a portmanteaunic name but I didn't ask for explanation. This patty, though just as big and juicy, was made of shortrib meat and had melted cheddar, a slice of ham, onions sauteed in bourbon and bacon jam, plus a fried egg to boot. This was also to have been served on a pretzel bun, but my friend asked to have a brioche bun substituted, which was done cheerily. I'm not sure which burger I liked better, they were both pretty darn good.
I do know that I preferred the Sweet Potato Fries that my guest chose as the side dish. They were thick, fried just right and had a nice bit of saltiness. I preferred them to my Bison Beans, which were spicy-hot, as they were intended to be, but a tad too al dente. Plus, who wants to eat healthful veggies with a big fat burger?
Our server had an easy smile and showed good menu knowledge. She also showed enough savvy to give a heads up warning before my Smoked Bison cocktail arrived.
That was so I could be ready to record the showy presentation. The drink, which featured Basil Hayden Bourbon, bitters, cherries and a torched orange peel, delivered on a platter scattered with burnt cherry wood under a dome filled with smoke. Instantly Instagramable. I liked the smoky notes -- actually it was more like a smoky concerto -- and I appreciated the large format ice cube.
My friend had the Southern Sidecar with bourbon standing in for the traditional cognac. The bourbon gave it a nice edge.
From the list of appetizers we had the Fried Green Tomatoes, firm and well jacketed, and the Calamari, breaded and fried and tossed with sweet banana peppers.
Besides the many options of preordained burgers, there's a full section of the menu devoted to those who prefer to build their own burgers. You know, controlling types. Or just the chronically hangry.
Hangry BisonHangry Bison is at 480 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-677-5000.