Orlando Meats' whimsical daily menu is always worth checking out

The Dining-In Diaries

Orlando Meats' 'Birdperson'
Orlando Meats' 'Birdperson'

There are mad wizards in the kitchen of Orlando Meats and they're led by culinary director-owner Eliot Hillis, who positively prides himself on being the Merlin of his kitchen. He quite enjoys being a fearless killer of convention, preferring fermenting over butchering (yawwwn) and giddily experimenting with textures, ingredients, techniques and gastronomic esoterica of all sorts.

The menu is a daily whim of offerings – I popped by for takeout after seeing Hillis post an Instagram pic of a duck hot dog in a New England roll slathered in "sticky" char siu mayo and crunched with chicken skin and ginger onions. Absolute bloody magic. But as much as he's known for being a magus of meat, Hillis' interest is very much piqued by vegan cuisine. He sees a whole new world with endless possibilities in plant-based fare and so badly wants to offer his creations to the masses. Until he has a place of his own for that, you can sample his and head chef Seth Parker's vegan dishes at the Night Shovel pop-up at Eola General, 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 26-27.

"Night Shovel"? "It's a reference from Archer and a name that I love," says Hillis. "It's silly and stupid." Of course it is. Shaun Noonan of Eola General says the pop-up will be an outdoor, casual (i.e., non-ticketed) event with an à la carte menu and safety measures – sanitation stations, floor markers, masked servers and staff – in place. For those still leery of social events, curbside pickup will be available.

(Orlando Meats, 728 Virginia Drive, 407-598-0700, orlandomeats.com; Night Shovel pop-up, 5:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, June 26-27, at Eola General, 522 E. Amelia St., 407-723-8496, eolageneral.com)