Thursday, April 11, 2002

Tucked in

Posted on Thu, Apr 11, 2002 at 4:00 AM

So this lady from England and this guy from Florida decide to open a restaurant ...

It could be the setup for joke, except that Sonya Condrey, who is the Englishwoman in question, didn't find much to laugh about when she and her husband, Darrell, opened Logan's Bistro a couple of months ago. "We had a rough opening," she says. "We did a lot of things backwards, and we had to start all over again."

Looks like the second start was the charm. The Condreys are no stranger to Orlando food -- they've run Logan's Deli in the downtown SouthTrust Bank Building for several years -- but this is their first full-service outing. The new place is near the Virginia-Mills crossroads, but on the less-traveled axis of Virginia Drive, between a frame store and a printing shop; it's a stretch that has few other dining choices, much less one that stands out. Yet the location might be the very thing that draws the crowds. A recent lunchtime visit found plenty of folks filling the tables in the earth-toned eatery, with Darrell playing gregarious host and Sonya handling orders behind the counter.

Logan's boasts that it makes everything fresh, so when the niçoise salad ($7.99) lists tuna as an ingredient, you get chunks of grilled fish atop crunchy romaine leaves, crisp green beans, potatoes and particularly nice little artichokes.

Even though potatoes appear in the niçoise, I still ordered a side of potato salad ($1.50) and was rewarded with a healthy serving of firm spuds mixed with tiny bits of tomato, red pepper and parsley -- almost a potato gazpacho.

Not gazpacho, but tabouli graces the "Mediterranean plate" ($7.50), and it's quite good, along with giant pearl couscous, hummus and fresh-from-the-grill peppers and eggplant.

Sandwiches are big, tasty and a value for the buck. I was very pleased with the chicken salad ($5.65): real roasted chicken mixed in a lemon mayo and served on a croissant.

The "Reuben with attitude" ($6.95) is a worthy interpretation, despite the strange name. (What attitude? Defensive? Intellectual but not stuck-up?) The vinegary sauerkraut pleasantly offset the lean pastrami and creamy Swiss cheese ($6.95).

Most of the salads and appetizers are on the dinner menu, with sandwiches replaced by entrees like marinated pork loin with mustard sauce ($15.95), beef tenderloin ($19.95) and roast chicken with sage butter ($10.95). Draft beers and wine are available.

There's parking in the back, with a tiny driveway that you'll have to look carefully for. Drive slowly, or you'll miss it, and that would be a shame.

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