The folks who own RusTeak, the casual bistro with locations in Ocoee and College Park, have taken over the corner restaurant/bar space in the Sanctuary Condominiums building in downtown Orlando and installed the Stubborn Mule.
This space most recently was occupied by Sonoma Kitchen, which originally was called Sonoma Draught House, and before that was a place called Beacon.
If you’re a fan of the food at RusTeak, you’ll probably like what you taste at the Stubborn Mule. That’s not to say the menus are identical, but they do both have the same feel and approach to casual American cuisine. The Mule’s menu is smaller, something that isn’t unexpected considering that this is a smaller venue and the focus here, as with previous occupants, is more to offer edible sustenance to go with the sloshable quaffs. Indeed, the restaurant’s name is derived from the currently repopular classic Moscow Mule cocktail served in a copper cup.
Oddly, although there are several mulish variations on SM’s drink menu, none is called a Moscow Mule. The one named for the restaurant comes the closest to the recipe — vodka, lime juice and ginger beer — but adds orange bitters, just to be stubborn, I suppose. I found it refreshing, but I prefer my mule to, ahem, have a little more kick.
The burger that bore the restaurant’s name was good, if unwieldy. And by the way, extra points are added for not adding a dish to the menu named the Stubborn Burro-ito, or some other inane variation.
The Stubborn Mule Burger was impressive in appearance, and the taste was pretty good, too. But this is not a burger you can pick up and eat, at least not without having your tablemates stare at you with disgust. Besides an ample and amply juicy patty, there were rashers of maple and pepper cured bacon, melted gruyere, cider onion jam and a frizzle or crispy sweet potatoes between the brioche bun. That’s a lot to shove into one’s mouth, but it was quite good with a knife and fork. I liked the Garlic Bistro Fries, too, not too thin, not too fat, and not too garlicky, with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some herbs.
One of my companions ordered the fish sandwich, which for some reason is called the Beach Bum (points taken away). It was just as high-stacked as the burger but not as edible — my friend declared the fish overcooked after one bite. (A replacement was appropriately offered right away, which was declined but delivered anyway. Points added back.)
I also sampled the appetizer of Zucchini Fritters, sort of potato pancakes but with squash, served with something that was supposed to be sriracha crème fraîche but tasted like mild mayo. I liked the fritters — they had just the right amount of greasiness — but eight bucks seemed a bit dear. (The burger and bum were each $14.)
Although not polished, our server was attentive and eager and did a lot of things right. (See reference to overcooked fish above.)
I couldn’t tell that much had changed with the decor, though one of my friends pointed out that the square high-top tables had been replaced by round ones that better complemented the curved front window.
There often is a valet parking service in front of the Sanctuary but not on the night I visited. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time circling the surrounding streets looking for a place to park. I had to park so far away that it would have been nice if a donkey cart had come by to take me to the restaurant.
The Stubborn Mule is at 100 S. Eola Ave., Orlando. It is open for dinner daily and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The phone number is 407-730-3400.