I’ve been wanting to try The Aardvark (https://theaardvarkfl.com/) for a while now, even though it is in the SoDo district, south of downtown Orlando, far from where I live and work. It’s a restaurant, bar, and bottle shop that is kind of a hip gastropub. The menu is eclectic, and they have a huge selection of beer and wine for those who drink. They even serve brunch on Saturday, Sunday, and even Monday from 10 AM to 4 PM, with unlimited mimosas for $15!
Here is part of their selection of bottled and canned beer — almost entirely microbrews with lots of local choices, and some interesting and eclectic imports. Since I rarely even go down these aisles or hang out at bars, it was all pretty impressive to see. Where was all this variety when I still drank beer once in a while?
When I mentioned I would be in the SoDo area, I showed my wife this menu, and she requested the mushroom risotto ($19). She loves mushrooms, which stalwart Saboscrivnerinos know are one of the only foods I cannot eat, tasty though they are. So I didn’t sample this, but she seemed to really like it.
The Aardvark didn’t have any grouper sandwiches when I called in my order, so my second choice was their Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich, the Spicy Guy (kind of like your friendly neighborhood Saboscrivner). The sandwich is $15 and comes with an order of hand-cut fries, but knowing it would take almost 45 minutes to drive home, I paid an extra $4 to substitute chicharrones, crunchy fried pork skins, which would be more edible by the time I got home. They also had pimento macaroni and cheese as an upcharge option, but I knew my wife would prefer the chicharrones, so that’s why I chose ’em. The chicharrones were good — not so hard that you can’t bite through them, or worse yet, so hard hurt your teeth on them. That’s a pet peeve for sure! But the Spicy Guy was a terrific hot chicken sandwich. I’d consider it “medium” heat, and the boneless fried thigh had a nice crunch and a slight sweetness that I always appreciate in Nashville hot chicken. It came topped with some creamy blue cheese (I would have liked a little more), sliced house-made pickles (I would have definitely liked more), and romaine lettuce.
I wasn’t expecting to order a dessert, but when I walked into The Aardvark for my first time to pick up this pickup order, I saw the special dessert on this Saturday was maple bread pudding. Longtime readers also know I love maple anything, especially when they don’t add walnuts or pecans to it. I couldn’t resist, and I’m glad I indulged. The top got a little dark in some spots, but other than that, it was rich and delicious and truly mapley, not just flavored with artificial “pancake syrup” flavors. Warmed up back at home, it totally hit the spot on a cool evening.
Since my wife and I haven’t been eating in as many restaurants while the Omicron Variant rages (and so many friends, family members, and co-workers are still dealing with COVID infections), I appreciated that The Aardvark had some outdoor tables. It looked so festive, dining al fresco on a cool, sunny day, almost like everything is safe and normal. We may have to return and do that some time soon.