300 Dog Track Road, Longwood | 407-834-9800 | victoriosoysterbar.com | $$
Victorio’s Oyster Bar in Longwood is as unpretentious as unpretentious can get. If you’re up for a taste – or the smells, sights and sounds, for that matter – of Old Florida, step through its doors and feel yourself transported back to 1983, when wood paneling and fish tanks captivated the creative mindset of interior designers. No, not much has changed since its days as Suzanne’s Oyster Reef & Pub many years back, and that’s precisely the way the good patrons here like it. “It’s pretty much as I remember it,” says my wife, who grew up in the neighborhood, then emphatically adds: “Though it was a lot less family-oriented back then.”
Being situated directly across from the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, Victorio’s still gets its fair share of hardened gamblers, but with the Northland Church next door, there’s an intentional focus here to reach out to families. Indeed, we saw quite a few moms, dads and kids enjoying their Sunday supper, but we also saw grizzled guzzlers at the bar getting their drink on and talkin’ salty. Throw in one of the longest fish tanks I’ve seen in any restaurant and a slew of football-filled flat-screens, and a meal here can be as entertaining as watching Rick Scott order a fine Bordeaux at Wally’s.
Ultimately, it’s the seasoned shuckers that draw folks to Victorio’s delightfully divey digs, and whether you sit at the raw bar or in a booth, you’ll get fresh oysters from Apalachicola Bay and Louisiana. A dozen will run you $11.95, and a bucket can be had for $28.95. We opted for the Captain’s Platter ($17.99) and its representative seafood sampling, highlighted by the half-dozen steamed oysters and the sweet, succulent cluster of snap-happy snow crab legs. The breaded shrimp were nicely fried, while the scampi scallops suffered from a deep drench in butter. At the prodding of our effusively friendly waitress, we opted to give the blackened catfish ($13.79) a go. Having only ever had the whiskered fish fried, I can’t say I enjoyed it blackened. It came out a wee bit soggy, though the crunchy cole slaw and the delicately fried hush puppies were stellar side dishes.
Victorio’s claims to have the “best wings anywhere,” and after gnawing on seven of the 10 “suicide”-flavored chicken flaps ($8.99), I’d have to say the assertion, while well-meaning, is somewhat dubious. They take great pride in their Italian fare as well, but let’s face it, this isn’t the place to come for chicken marsala ($13.99) or baked eggplant ($7.99). It’s a fact that became evident long before we scarfed down the lemon mascarpone cake ($3.99) for dessert.
It’s an oysters-first joint, a place that provided us with countless entertaining distractions: an enormous Oscar fish clumsily trying to turn in a too-narrow fish tank; a sloshed sexagenarian discussing immigration policy with a Cleveland Browns fan; and best of all, a barfly with a knife tucked in the back of his pants walking in toward six police officers. You won’t find that at the Oceanaire Seafood Room.
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