Updated 3 weeks ago
The menu at East End Market in Orlando just won't quit, which is the point.
East End grows small crops of organic vegetables out front and a big crop of small businesses inside photographers, landscapers, antique dealers and most of all, food and drink startups.
Urban farmer, developer and market-explorer John Rife and fellow food activists have rebuilt a former church into a double decker of artisanal entrepreneurism complete with a windmill.
It has two kitchens and a dining room used by caterers; Cuisiniers, the home of chef/caterer Jamie Mac- Fadden, and an incubator kitchen where culinary startups can experiment. Plus another dining room and third kitchen for Txokos, a Basque restaurant opening this winter.
That restaurant is the brainchild of restaurateurs Henry and Michelle Salgado, who created Spanish River Grille in New Smyrna, then opened La Brexta seafood market in East End. TxokosÕ full menu of northern Spain includes grouper vizcaina, octopus gallego and Spanish cider.
At Fatto in Casa, Italian waterskier Elisa Scarpa now makes fresh pasta and bakes pear tortes and olive oil cake. Skyebird's juice bar offers kale chips and pineapple jerky. Plus, there's Hound stooth Sauce Co., Lineage Coffee Roasting, La Femme du From age cheeses, Olde Hearth Bread, Whisk and Bowl baking supplies and more in the incubator oven.
East End calls itself the culinary and social hub of central Florida; indeed, the neighborhood of Audubon Park is an incubator of edible, potable hipster creativity.
Once the Audubon Park Garden District was only modest houses and convenience retail a dozen blocks from any main drag. Now it hosts the city's hippest weekly market and the intersection of Corrine Drive and Old Winter Park Road is at the heart of a convergence of cupcakes, bakeries, bikeries and alternative enterprises.
The 6-year-old Bikes Beans and Bordeaux sells bike wear and hosts almost daily rides, whips up lattes, pours wine by the glass and serves organic dishes named for famous races and racers (the Lancewich is no longer). Newest in the neighborhood is The Smiling Bison with duck pizza and bison burgers served with pumpkin-farro salad.
You can also try vanilla black pepper cupcakes at Blue Bird Bake Shop or get a passport to the endless beer list at Redlight Redlight, a world-ranked beer parlor.
Chefs and artists who colonized Midtown and the Design District have moved into grittier Wynwood, where bold colors blaze on graffiti-covered walls as well as in studios and galleries between North Miami and NW 2nd avenues.
The key fuel is food and drink, especially Panther Coffee's precision espresso (East Coast or a more acidic West Coast blend) and a clientele of poets and fashion models lounging in the sun and on the concrete.
Food is a mash-up, too, and always handsomely designed. The Butcher Shop Beer Garden & Grill is a retail meat market, restaurant and bar while Cafeina is a cocktail hideaway with modern tapas and a large gallery space. At Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, huge artwork makes indoor and outdoor spaces pop with more color than its ceviches or pico verde. Jimmy'z menu runs from salad nicoise to mofongo seven ways.
In Tampa, culinary adventurers focus on Seminole Heights, a bungalow neighborhood five miles from downtown. The newest arrival, urban/rustic Rooster & the Till, brings the area a big-city standard of polished style and hand-crafted food. Chef Ferrell Alvarez packs house-made rillettes, wahoo crudo and sous-vide duck breast, roasted cauliflower and zucchini pickles into an under-$20 menu and a warm tiny space.
Already there among the used-car lots and repair shops with strong fan bases are Domani Bistro with creative hand-made Italian, the local-focused Refinery for the likes of kale Hot Brown or red pepper sour cream cake (and plans for a second venture called Fodder & Shine), and the pioneering Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, serving up outsider art, porterhouse pork chops and Sunday soul brunches.
It is also home to Tampa's busiest outdoor beer scene at The Independent, two young breweries, Cold Storage and Angry Chair, and Southern Brewing Supplies for home brewers and beer dreamers.
Across the bay, a craft beer boom spreads across St. Petersburg to the emerging Warehouse Art District. In the last year, Cycle Brewing and Green Bench opened; 3 Daughters, a massive 30-barrel brewery anchors the cluster of artists, potters and sculptors reviving an industrial zone.
When neighbors Karin Tucker and Barbara Bredehoeft opened Biscottis in 1993, the historic neighborhoods south of downtown were gracious but very quiet. The Fox, a beloved '50s diner, was the place for breakfast and lunch.
Tucker and Bredehoeft bemoaned the city's lack of a good coffeehouse, and so squeezed a big dessert case, espresso machines and 37 seats into a florist's shop. A dining revolution was on.
Twenty years later, they have a separate bakery, a busy catering operation and the bistro bb's, while the original site has expanded twice. It has a menu that includes crème brulee French toast, seafood Newburg pizza and 150 slices of desserts every day.
The neighborhoods around their enterprises throb with independent ventures flavored by Spain, the Deep South, the Middle East and craft beer.
Along St. Johns Avenue, the river and the rest of Avondale are Mojo No. 4: Urban BBQ/Whiskey Bar; retro milkshakes and local ice cream at Florida Creamery; the Blue Fish with its Old Bay mixed grill, and an upstairs lounge called Elevated Avondale, along with Brick, with burgers, prime rib and chilled couscous, plus brunch with seven eggs Benedict.
To the south, Riverside has a bigger menu and longer beer list centered around Five Points. You can eat vegan-friendly Spanish at Tapa That, hit the Blind Fig Southern gastropub for a pork belly and oyster sandwich with a fig-infused Manhattan, revel in local meats, cheese and produce plus collard greens and creamed peas at Black Sheep, or sample the flavors of 13 Gypsies' chorizo crepes and saffron scallops.
Riverside is home to two craft breweries, Bold City and Intuition Ale Works, as well as Kickbacks gastropub with 84 beers on tap, Dahlia's Pour House with 85, Pele's and Lola's, each with 50, and the Beer:30 store with 650 labels.
Away from beer, there's Bold Bean, where you have a choice of a dozen world coffees, all roasted in Riverside.