Friends had been telling us of a place in the historic area of downtown Winter Garden (who knew that Winter Garden had a downtown let alone a historic one?)
The Chef's Table is located inside an old hotel called the Edgewater right in the middle of the restored old-time downtown on Plant Street. The kitchen is smack-dab in the middle of the restaurant with only about 15 tables in the whole joint. There just aren't many places like this in Central Florida. The building is older with all the accoutrements that entails (details in the ceilings and corners, random doors and entryways throughout the space, etc). The street it is on is another discovery - seriously cute with a nice mix of wine bars, low cost food options (BBQ, ice cream, pizza) and old-style stores (GE appliances etc) - all with ample free parking on- and off-street. The area itself has a real family vibe, but the restaurant is definitely for grown-ups. Even if the food was only OK, I'd still recommend a visit to the area as it is unique and a nice change of pace.
Ah, but the food is worth the trip too! The menu is prix fixe at $49 per person for a 3 course meal and changes constantly - you pick from 3-4 options per course. You can opt for a wine pairing at $22 pp or select from a nice list of bottles or by the glass. The chef visits you at the table and takes you through the menu explaining the dishes he's most excited by and answering any questions you have. This comes off as authentic rather than pretentious, and it was a really great way to start the meal. The dishes are all gourmet without being too avant garde or "out there". For instance, on the night I visited, I had an appetizer of a 3 mushroom torte with a rich sauce and my wife had a fresh green salad in a green goddess dressing - no seriously green goddess, but man was it a solid execution. My entree was called something like a Southern Love Plate, that featured pork two ways, a tenderloin and a fine pork belly, along with excellently executed grits. My wife had a generous rack of lamb with a tasty mint sauce. Desserts for us were an excellent play on a bananas foster and a creme brulee. I don't want to imply the food was unsophisticated as the flavors were complex and ingredients were fresh and worked well together. What I want to get across is this is not a chef's table experience where your likely get abalone, caviar, or something sous vide or foamed. Just tasty, solid, well-executed food.
The service and room really add to the appeal. The chef's wife served us and that was a nice touch. The room is warm and inviting and the atmosphere from the entire staff is friendly and family-feel. A real contrast from places in the tourist corridor or Winter Park with their professional staffs and/or high turnover. They are even charmingly clumsy at times, as when one of the runners managed to mix up who got which order every course - yet due to the vibe and her overall sweetness this actually added to the experience vs. harming it. It was just so REAL....
So you can guess I recommend this. It is a great date spot, romantic dinner or special occasion. It is also fun for groups of couples looking for a mellow night out with great food and conversation in an unrushed atmosphere. You can actually hear your conversation. I also believe they only have one sitting per table per night as our meal took over two hours with the multiple courses. I hear the chef is always in the dining room but not always behind the stove. We were lucky that night to have him cooking, yet he still hit every table.
As for the location, it is just 5 minutes off the freeway (429) or north of SR-50. You could get there in 20 minutes from Disney via 429 or 30 minutes from downtown using the 408 EW Expressway and the turnpike.
We so rarely get an authentic independent restaurant in Central Florida, so I encourage you all to try it out and support it not only for a wonderful meal and experience but also to ensure we are able to support independent places to augment the heavy number of chain places that dominate our increasingly homogeneous dining scene.
With the long meal time and prix fixe, you likely need a reservation, so be sure to call ahead.
Here's their website:
If you go, be sure to come back on here and let the community know what you think.
PS They also have an afternoon tea service with Finger Sandwiches, Scones, Clotted Cream, Desserts, and a Pot of Tea every Saturday - another unique experience for the area
99 W Plant St, Winter Garden, FL 34787