I’m not exactly sure what Menagerie Eatery & Bar wants to be, and I’m not sure the people running it know either.
The Menagerie is the latest occupant of the corner spot on South Eola Drive and East Pine Street. It replaced Muddy Waters, which replaced Mucho. Perhaps there’s something in the deed that stipulates any business occupying the space must begin with the letter M.
The owners of Menagerie are Jonathan Canonaco and Brian Buttner, who also own Teak Neighborhood Grill, RusTeak College Park and, more pertinently, the Stubborn Mule, directly across the street.
The menu is a mishmash of cuisines, styles and food genres, which I suppose befits a place called Menagerie. The restaurant’s Facebook page says it is “chef driven,” but nowhere could I find the name of a chef. Or a driver, for that matter.
When Menagerie first opened, last fall, it was said to feature mainly small plates. But the menu seems to have morphed into one that offers more substantial fare. Indeed, when I visited recently, a Prime Rib dinner was the special offering of the evening.
It was served, oddly, in a sort of deep-sided baking dish that made it difficult to negotiate a knife and fork. It was accompanied by mashed potatoes infused with cheese that gave it a glutinous texture, which I rather liked, and spears of grilled asparagus. There were two slippers of sauces, an expected jus and an unexpected horseradish foam. The latter was not the least bit foamy but was watery and in fact looked like a sauce that had broken. And it did not taste like horseradish.
And the meat? It was a very nice slice, thick and a good medium rare cut. But it was not heated through — the veins of fat, which should have glistened were white and hard. There’s a reason you don’t see prime rib on many menus — it’s difficult to do it right.
Knowing that the owners also have Teak Neighborhood Grill, which is known for its burgers, you’d expect to find one on Menagerie’s menu, as well.
You have to look hard for it, though, and you’ll find it where you least expect it. I certainly didn’t think a burger would be hidden beneath the menu entry Bumble Bee.
But there it bee. I don’t know why it’s called that. Thank god it isn’t because it’s slathered with honey. Maybe the sriracha aioli is supposed to give it a sting? It didn’t. But the burger itself, an eight-ounce thick patty with melted white cheddar and a bit of brisket on a brioche bun, was quite good. And it was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The side order of Cauliflower Fried Rice that my dinner companion ordered was rather bland.
Menagerie Eatery & Bar has the bar part down pat. The bartenders were amiable and seemed to enjoy their craft. And the drinks were good, too.
The decor is eclectic and minimalistic. Let’s just say it isn’t designer driven.
I’m encouraged that Menagerie Eatery & Bar will eventually find its way because the Stubborn Mule suffered the same identity crisis when it first opened, and it has settled down nicely.
Menagerie Eatery & Bar is at 101 S. Eola Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-601-5219.