Smiling Bison closing Orlando location

click to enlarge Smiling Bison chef/owner Josh Oakley
Smiling Bison chef/owner Josh Oakley
Smiling Bison, the highly lauded restaurant with a dive-bar aesthetic, will close its Bennett Road location at the end of December, says chef-owner Josh Oakley.

"After very careful consideration, we have notified our landlord that we will be vacating our location at 745 Bennett Rd. by the end of December," Oakley wrote in a Facebook post today. Oakley cited "circumstances well beyond our control" preventing Smiling Bison's long-term sustainability as the primary reason for leaving.

"Basic daily kitchen activities that would normally be efficient and easy have been an enormous challenge this whole time," Oakley told us. "While our menu could easily be called 'ambitious,' there is so much more we want to do that this building prevents us from doing."
click to enlarge The Bison's un-fancy aesthetic
The Bison's un-fancy aesthetic
In the past year, Oakley has been actively searching for new sites in which to re-home the restaurant, including the former Txokos space at East End Market, now occupied by Domu.

Though no hard closing date has been announced, Oakley says it will likely be sometime in the third week of December. In order to focus attention on their successful operation in Sanford, hours at the Orlando location will now be Thursday-Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. with Sunday brunch going from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Plans call for lunch and brunch to be served at the Sanford location soon.
Beef on Weck (my favorite sandwich)
Beef on Weck (my favorite sandwich)

Oakley tells Orlando Weekly that the final day will be in the vicinity of Dec. 20, and that they're currently planning a going-away bash or two.

That said, Oakley has every hope of re-establishing Smiling Bison in Orlando:

"While I'm very sad to go, my hope is that the opportunity to focus all of our time and efforts on our Sanford location will result in us finding our way back to Orlando bigger and better than ever."

In the meantime, the last six weeks will see some favorite dishes and musicians return to the restaurant.

So long, beef on weck. You'll be sorely missed.

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