click to enlarge bartlettimage-delaney_s_tavern-8012.jpg

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Delaney’s Tavern brings mass allure to Orlando’s SoDo District 

Delaney's Tavern: It's a hotel restaurant. It's a neighborhood bar. It's got a menu comprised of the globe's greatest hits. It's the "something for everyone" brand of eatery that won't blow studied gastronomes away, but won't disappoint them either. A "Cheers-style" joint "for family, friends, locals and visitors to Orlando," says the marketing-speak on their website. Walls are decked with pop culture icons through the ages – Dylan, the Dude, DiCaprio. Like I said, something for everyone.

The menu of shareables falls under the auspices of Anthony Albino, who knows a thing or two about shareables, having served plenty a small plate at Santiago's Bodega as well as the very short-lived bàcaro Tre Bambine. It's hard not to wince when you see tacos, Cuban sandwiches, baba ghanoush, vegan paella, and shrimp and grits listed on one bill of fare, but if reviewing restaurants has proven anything, it has, on occasion, proven me wrong.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Sitting in that very attractive lounge listening to our gracious server describe one dish to the next, we tried really hard to mask the snickering taking place in our bumptious little brains. Didn't help that the "magic martini" ($14) we sipped while giving the menu a once-over failed to bedazzle. The drink comprised of, among other things, butterfly pea extract was supposed to have a polychromatic effect when drops of lemon were added to the cocktail. Given the dim lighting above our high-top, a stable purple was about the only color we could discern. The bar manager (Brett Counts, who also came over from Santiago's Bodega) conceded it's a drink best enjoyed under more illuminated circumstances – like over at the bar, not in the dining area toward the back of the restaurant. That room's gloomy gray seems more fitting for necrologists, or possibly the English, but light or no light, we were colored impressed at the sight of blue crab beignets ($13) dressed with horseradish aioli and nested into a slaw of apple and fennel. They were crabby enough, sure, but when they drew comparisons to Tori Tori's blue crab croquettes, well, you know that they were legit good. Same goes for brie baked in puff pastry ($12), even if the promised maple-apple gastrique was replaced with a tart/sweet cherry version. Adding spiced dark cherries to the plate was a nice touch.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROBB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Robb Bartlett

"Shrimp tikka masala over here," said my dining comrade, staring down at a plate of shrimp and grits ($22). The remark was in reference to the orangey hue of the sundried tomato cream sauce slathered over shrimp, scallops, tasso and purple rice grits. Some peppery heat was needed, but there's no debating Albino's rendition does the Lowcountry proud.

"Scallops" also dotted the vegan paella ($15) – fashioned from the cut stems of baby bellas. Pillowy soft, yes. Sweet? Not so much. Can't say if the dish was made in a paella pan or not, but there were bits of socarrat and the sofrito, unlike that martini, was magic. Additional veg included artichokes, toy box tomatoes, asparagus and the best grilled tofu. An ancho chile-rubbed flank steak ($22) lay on the other end of the -vore spectrum, every medium-rare bite outmatched by a stirring Southwest potato hash.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

That cherry gastrique made a return appearance in the quatro leches cake ($7), which led to a bit of a flavor confusion. Use of the fourth "leche" (coconut) was just too heavy. Coconut milk was far better employed in the "orange creamsicle" ($12), a dessert cocktail with Ketel orange, Licor 43, orange juice and mango puree. It goes down easy and its appeal, much like Delaney's Tavern itself, is broad. Cheers.

This story appears in the Nov. 27, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.

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