It’s a little zenlike to consider, but the second location of TR Fire Grill & Lounge is also its only location.
As you may recall, the TR in the name stands for Tony Roma, the Orlando based Romacorp’s ribbery. The Fire Grill & Lounge was a new brand that opened in a former Tony Roma’s restaurant in late 2013. I was less than whelmed.
That prototype was shuttered in early September and, a few weeks later, a new TR Fire Grill & Lounge opened in Winter Park. The company characterized it as a relocation. Whatever. It appears that the operators have learned from some of the missteps that prevented the original from finding its footing. This is a better restaurant than the one it left behind.
A great restaurant? One that will win awards for its cuisine? No, probably not. But it has perfectly acceptable food that is served in a trendily gritty atmosphere that is conducive to informal gatherings.
My guests and I started our meal with the Farmhouse Flatbread, a crackerie crust topped with caramelized onions, yellow beets, cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette with both mozzarella and queso blanco, though not too much of either. A scattering of bright green fresh arugula gave it color and freshness. The farmhouse designation, by the way, is a nod to the restaurant’s dedication to local sourcing — as if it were possible to open a restaurant today without a commitment to shorten the distance between farm and table. But TR goes a step further to list its suppliers — Brooks Tropicals, Homestead; Hugh Branch Farms, South Bay; J&C Tropicals, Homestead; J&J Family Farms, Loxahatchee; and Premier Citrus, Fort Pierce, among them — without specifying who grew what.
I liked my 1/2 Pound American Burger (pictured at top), which I guess is distinguished from, say, an Armenian burger. It featured a patty fashioned out of short rib, brisket and chuck, each giving an appropriate amount of fat to the overall juiciness. It was cooked to the requested medium rare and served on a fresh, toasted bun with white American cheese, perhaps the most politically incorrect ingredient I’ve ever come across. Also the most redundantly named. It also had caramelized onions and some crunchy lettuce. Matchstick fries served in a hammered metal goblet accompanied the burger. I prefer my fries with a bit more meat on them, if you will, but others at my table appreciated the thinness.
The Braised Beef Short Rib ordered by one of my guests was the only really disappointing item. Besides being an unappealing presentation, the meat looked as though it had melted into a brown sauce and ladled atop fregola pasta, which resembled tapioca boba. The menu also mentioned that the dish was served with “angry vegetables.” Not sure what ticked them off other than to be sent out with this unappetizing dish.
Another guest found a winner in the Chicken & Waffles entree, which featured a waffle infused with bacon dust topped with a nicely breaded piece of fried chicken with a glaze of agave syrup.
And the Swamp Head Fish & Chips were good, the Atlantic cod clad in a beer batter that wasn’t too thickly coated. It was perfectly fried to crisp the outside and leave the flesh inside flaky and fresh tasting.
A side dish of roasted Brussels Sprouts, with bacon and pine nuts, also pleased.
I was less enamored with the service. Our waiter seemed determined to steer the dinner in the direction that he wanted it to go instead of allowing us to drive.
TR Fire Grill is part of the new construction at the Ravaudage complex at the corner of Lee Road and Orlando Avenue. The place has a bustle that gives it a vibrant air. (OK, it’s noisy.) If you’re one of those people who hates to see what’s going on in the rest of the restaurant or you’re hiding from your fan base, ask to be seated in one of the booths in the back of the room — you won’t see a thing and no one will ask for an autograph.
TR Fire Grill & Lounge 2.0 is a vast improvement, and I know that this second location, the first of its kind, will not be the only one.
TR Fire Grill & Lounge is at 1035 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The Phone number is 407-708-3600.