Saturday, January 28, 2012

Old Florida gourmet at the Redwing Restaurant

I've entertained several out of town visitors lately and it is always a struggle to think of good local restaurants with history and character. The transient nature of Central Florida seems to spread to its eateries, and few restaurants seem to endure for long periods of time. One notable exception is in tiny Groveland, located west of Orlando on Highway 50.

The Redwing Restaurant, which originated as someones' house, opened for guests as a restaurant in 1948. Back then it would have been surrounded by citrus groves and one can see a smattering of orange trees today on the way to this modest looking establishment. The bar is directly opposite the front door and the small paneled room is filled with taxidermy. Flanking the bar are two rooms, the "Pheasant Room" to the left and the "Boar Room" to the right, named after the stuffed critters that dominate each space. According to their website, the place has the feel of an "old hunting lodge."

On both my visits I sat in a booth in the room with the bar, the best place to see all the action. According to our waitress, the majority of their clientele are locals with the smattering of snowbirds and motorcyclists (who usually visit on Sundays.) The specials are written on a white dry erase board and they feature items like the Southernly Salad (Caesar Salad with fried green tomatoes), a Catfish Po Boy, and something called a Redneck Guido (basically an Italian sub.) I recommend trying the Fried Green Tomatoes, and I highly recommend the Fried Dill Pickles. On my most recent visit I had the crab cake sandwich which was good with Remoulade sauce on a sourdough bun. The apple cobbler was incredible, so I'd save room for dessert too.

Next door is a petting zoo, with turkeys, pigs, chickens, donkeys and goats, so it makes a good place to visit with kids. On weekends they have live music in a screened area in the back. The thing I like best about this place is that it has an earnestness and unpretentiousness to it that is rare these days in Central Florida. It's real down-to-earth and mighty tasty. Two thumbs up from Visual Ephemera!

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