Concept bars generally fare well in Orlando. Just look at the art-bar trend, which started when someone set down a Bud Light next to a bar napkin drawing of boobs, and suddenly – boom – they're everywhere. The latest trend seems to be an old concept coming back to life: the supper club, a place your grandparents visited to eat, smoke, dance and yell Mad Man-esque things at each other. Two examples have cropped up recently in downtown Orlando. The first is Senso Supperclub (13 S. Orange Ave., sensosupperclub.com), though its handling of the "supper" part of the equation seems mostly confined to free snacks on ladies nights. Now there's also the brand new the Fifth (112 S. Orange Ave., the-fifth.com), the latest nightlife offering from the V Group (proprietors of Vintage Lounge, Vixen Bar and NV Art Bar).
While Senso appears a little stingy with the foodstuffs concept, the Fifth grabs it with a bear hug and runs with it right into the lounge scene. If you're on the hunt for some nighttime grub and looking for a typical late-night eatery, the scenery at the Fifth can be a little jarring. It's gorgeously adorned with sumptuous lighting, from the pink and blue hues creeping up the sparkling white-rock wall to the serpentine detail of the lit ceiling. The place is awash in posh from first glance, making the lack of a cover at the door all the more welcome. The bar is packed with stools, tall tables litter the floor, and the faux-snakeskin booths along a wall can seat about 25 comfortably.
The Fifth serves food at lunch, dinner and late night, but if you arrive hungry during crowded bumpin' hours, the dining protocol gets a little fuzzy. Here's the gist: try to stake out an open table space, then head to the bar, where the bartender will hand you a menu and tell you what's still available for late night. The daytime menu specializes in upscale bar grub, like chopped steak burgers, chicken sliders with six-year cheddar and maple bacon aioli and salsa meatloaf with a chipotle glaze. The night menu is limited but still appealing: Take, for instance, the grilled Haas avocado with black bean pico de gallo (half for $5), lump crab mac & cheese ($11, or $8 without crab) and assorted flatbreads ($10). So long as the bartender can see your seat among the horde of lounge-goers, your order will be delivered –
otherwise you need to trek back to the bar to pick it up. On the whole, the food is well-made and designed for quick, inconspicuous consumption, meaning that dining in a loud, bustling lounge isn't as awkward as you might think it would be … except for the thumping club beats rattling your fork.
In addition to food, the Fifth also serves specialty drinks, with about a dozen cocktails on the menu (generally priced around $12 a piece). Regular mixers are prepared fast and with aplomb, and at $8 are pretty fair for the lounge scene. Just about every bottled beer is about $6, which makes decision-making easier. The bar staff is quick, friendly and competent – the magic combo of talents for a packed lounge on a Saturday night. The crowd populating the place is a strange mixture of established yuppies dressed to the nines and loud youthful partiers spilling drinks everywhere (before escaping next door to the adjoining Vintage Lounge), which gives the place a sort of identity crisis: Is it a classy supper club, or a thumping lounge? For the moment it's both, but I'll raise my forkful of roasted avocado and toast a happy middle ground to be found sometime in the near future.