200 W. Fairbanks Ave.,
When the Kristin Stewart doppelgänger handed us a pager in the shape of a lobster, the church pew and giant Connect-Four outside Shipyard Emporium's front entrance didn't seem so out of place. The disparate elements, in fact, lent an air of unpredictability to the restaurant/bar/bakery/market and fostered an expectant mood. Peering in through the glass, we saw shelves of beer from the Shipyard Brewing Company (no surprise) and couples seated at high-tops circling an empty kitchen used for cooking demonstrations. That wing of the emporium was a lot more subdued than the main room in which we were eventually seated, but there's a feel-good energy about the place. Saturday nights are loud, but not as deafeningly loud as the Boathouse, Shipyard's nautically themed neighbor down the street. The camaraderie among patrons is as striking as the sail above the bar, and when our buoyant and congenial server took our order, our attitudes were set to cheerful.
But then we sampled the suds from Shipyard's 28-gallon in-house brewery - a vanilla brown ale ($5.63) and an extra pale ale ($5.63). Neither really impressed me, a surprise considering they were fashioned by home-grown master brewer Ron Raike. Then came the trio of spreads ($12), all of which were disappointing - buffalo chicken dip mired with unspreadably large chunks of chicken and a Cheez Whiz flavor; a smackless puree of white-bean hummus; and instead of the promised roasted poblano-and-artichoke dip, a ho-hum olive tapenade. When asked about the latter, our server gave a strange response about how the poblano-artichoke dip was pre-portioned and only available in single ($7) portions. We could get another small ramekin (and they are small) of one of the dips we already sampled, we were told, but not the poblano-artichoke. Why put it on the menu then?
As we awaited our mains, two different waiters popped by with drink orders that weren't ours, and through the course of the evening it became evident that there was a bit of confusion among the serving ranks. Nevertheless, I succumbed to our server's urging to get the burger ($10) and the Harris Ranch patty was outstanding, cooked to a perfect medium. Of note, too, were the house-made bun and the dill-specked potato salad. The pulled pot roast sandwich ($9) on crisp-soft ciabatta with cheddar, banana peppers and horseradish mayo was everything a sandwich should be. Shipyard's breads are baked every morning and, in Winter Park, you won't find anything better. That said, pass on the goopy, too-sweet barbecue chicken flatbread pizza ($10) sauced with Pugsley's Imperial Porter. As my dining partner remarked: "You don't expect that kind of sweetness in a pizza." We did expect sweetness from the cupcakes baked by local outfit Bee's Knees Sweet Treats, and we got the right kind. The wee confections - vanilla- strawberry, whoopie pie and peanut-butter chocolate-chip banana - were right-sized endings. Lukewarm coffee tasted like it had been brewed that morning, but our server graciously replaced the coffees with espresso.
Shipyard Emporium shows a lot of promise, it really does, but changes are needed for the restaurant to realize its full potential. After much anticipation, the hit-and-miss affair we experienced took a bit of the wind out of our sails.
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