Downtown Orlando seems to have created a pretty vibrant restaurant scene, and change is necessary to keep that going.
For example, the popular Hue restaurant in Thornton Park is set to close this summer so the owners can bring something newer and more progressive to that space.
Anyway, so I took a quick trip a couple blocks around from my office on Orange Avenue and noticed several concepts coming into spaces that previously either had long-established clients that moved elsewhere or closed down shop.
• The Avenue Gastrobar Orlando — run by Bento Group, which operates Bento Cafe and Mochi Frozen Yogurt — took over the former Senso Supperclub space on Orange Avenue between Pine Street and Central Avenue. The restaurant and bar, which had a soft opening last week, has its grand opening set for May 24.
• Kasa Tapas & Raw Bar, Bento Group’s first upscale casual eatery, is being built out on the corner of Orange Avenue and Church Street and slated to open this summer. Owners David Yu, Jimmy Tung and Johnny Tung talked to me last November about their lofty goals of making Kasa tops in downtown dining.
The restaurant — which Orlando food blogger Tasty Chomps reports has a menu fashioned by former Next Food Network Star competitor Josh Lyons — took over the prime spot previously held by Urban Flats, which moved further west on Church Street to the 55 West development last summer.
• The former Dessert Lady space in Church Street Station is being transformed into a Pittsburgh Steelers fan haven. John Brown — who is from Pittsburgh and whose father owned the well-known J.J. Whispers nightclub in the 1980s — plans to debut Church Street Tavern in August. The 1,600-square-foot, 150-seat eatery will include a new area for patio seating and feature famous, fresh Pittsburgh dishes, including a version of the Primanti sandwich, pierogis and other Midwestern favorites like Cincinnati Chili.
And don’t go to Church Street Tavern expecting to watch anything else if the Steelers are playing, Brown said.
“We’re very much geared toward the Pittsburgh experience because there are so many northerners here,” Brown said. “It’s going to be like an old-school tavern from up north. We won’t really go after the hipster crowd.”
• Geno’s Pizza & Brew, long known as a downtown mainstay, earlier this year announced it was forced to close at 120 S. Orange Ave. In its place, restaurant/nightclub entrepreneur Jeff Gitto is gearing up to open Gitto’s Pizza Pasta Pub. Gitto wasn’t immediately available for comment, but the restaurant website said it will debut in June.