Orlando’s “Hourglass District” along Curry Ford Road is quickly becoming one of our most exciting dining neighborhoods. It’s pretty far from where I live so I don’t make it down there often enough, but it includes some real gems like Pizza Bruno, Cafe Madrid, Theo’s Kitchen, and its newest neighbor, right next door to Theo’s: Uncommon Catering and Eatery (https://www.uncommoncatering.com/eatery). The catering company owned and operated by J. Travis Smith and Tara Vernau-Smith just opened a lovely restaurant space in the former Gabriel’s Subs location in the Winn-Dixie plaza on Curry Ford and Crystal Lake Road. Their hours are just for lunch: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 4 PM.
I had never been to Gabriel’s Subs before, so I didn’t know what the space would look like. It turned out to be pretty and soothing with all the light wood and cool blue tones, like having lunch at the house of a friend with really good taste.
The antique typewriter had a list of their artisan cheeses (including one of my all-time favorites, Cahill’s Irish Porter cheddar) and charcuterie. BUT WHO TYPED THE LIST? It is a mystery.
They had some canned and bottled sodas (including Dr. Brown’s!), but this jug of strawberry and basil-infused water was complimentary, and it was a damn delight. Reminded me of staying in a really nice hotel. I could drink this every day of my life and never get tired of it.
Travis invited me to take a peek into their kitchen. I’ve never worked in a restaurant before, so I’m no expert on professional kitchens, but it was spacious and spotless. This is where Uncommon Catering is based now, in addition to their new Eatery concept, and they will be hosting catered events in this space as well.
I always talk about how much I love empanadas, and because I’m from Miami, I feel like I’m naturally an empanada aficionado. Well, I do, and I am, and I am, and these mini-empanadas (a plate of four for $10) were some of the best I’ve ever had in my life.
They were stuffed with picadillo, seasoned ground beef stewed in a tomato sauce with olives and pimentos. That’s my favorite empanada filling, and one of the only times I put up with olives (also as olive salad on a muffuletta sandwich). And these weren’t greasy at all, the way some empanadas can be when the filling oozes through the crispy fried pastry shell or even leaks out.
I put the remaining empanadas aside for later when my roasted pork sandwich ($11) arrived with a little ramekin of pork jus. I’ve had a very similar sandwich before, the house specialty at DiNic’s in Philadelphia’s legendary Reading Terminal Market, one of my favorite foodie destinations of all time. People always bring up the ubiquitous cheesesteak, but I think Philly’s finest sandwiches are the Italian hoagie (thankfully LaSpada’s serves the best version in Orlando, along with an excellent cheesesteak), and DiNic’s roast pork sandwich, which didn’t have a local equivalent until now. Chef Tara cited her Pennsylvanian roots as an inspiration for this sensational sandwich.
Close-up of the herb-roasted shaved pork tenderloin, sharp provolone cheese, broccoli rabe, and banana peppers on a soft, Philly-style roll (possibly an Amoroso brand roll, but also possibly something else). I’m always a huge fan of pickled peppers, but I wonder if some sliced hot cherry peppers would have been even better than the banana peppers. I don’t recall what kind of hot peppers I got on my sandwich at DiNic’s, and don’t get me wrong, I like banana peppers. I just like hot cherry peppers more, but I defer to Tara and Travis on issues of authenticity.
I had every intention of visiting a second time so I could review at least one more dish, but I decided to publish my review now due to so many restaurants and other businesses being affected by fears of COVID-19. (With any luck, new Saboscrivnerinos will discover this review months from now, long after life is back to normal, and they will think “Oh yeah, that was a weird few weeks!” with no lasting trauma.) Uncommon Catering just recently opened their Eatery, and it’s fantastic, and they could really use your business. Check them out, and order something to go! Tip well, wash your hands, and enjoy. You won’t be sorry.