643 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park | 407-571-9101 | theporchwinterpark.com | $
Our first visit to the Porch was a mistake. We should’ve known better than to make our way to this Winter Park sports bar on a Saturday prior to the kickoff of the Florida-Missouri and Florida State-Notre Dame football games. The place was packed with sloshed and pre-sloshed fans, and the clatter and clangor sent our rapidly aging senses into a disquieting stupor. So off we went, only to return two days later prior to the kickoff of Monday Night Football. This time, the din was at a manageable level, and, thanks to the inherently addictive and competitive nature of our fantasy football league, we had a vested interest in the game.
We were ushered through the sitting area by the entrance (made breezy by retracted roller doors leading to an actual porch) and into the “indoor” portion of the Porch, where we beheld the industrial/garage aesthetic in relative dehumidified comfort. Picnic tables, paper plates and peanuts are part and parcel of the laid-back mood the folks here try to encourage, though broken glass appears to be a common sight when rowdy Gators fans wallow in their team’s sorrowful performances. The large square bar encompassing both indoor and outdoor areas is the natural gathering ground for a surprisingly eclectic clientele. Waitresses are predominantly in their 20s, and the ones tending to us were nothing but delightful.
The same could be said about some, though not all, of the Porch’s menu items. (Hey, it’s a sports bar, not the French Laundry.) We chomped on peanuts, drank our cocktails and beer (it’s a serviceable selection), then dove straight into a greasy plate of fried cauliflower and brussels sprouts tossed in a pancetta vinaigrette ($7.99). They were more soggy than crisp, and the dipping sauce was unexpectedly fiery. Bison meatballs ($9.99) slow-simmered in a peppery tomato sauce were better. The blue cheese fondue, served in a stainless steel measuring cup, cushioned the kick in a gooey sort of way.
Burgers can be had with your choice of bun (brioche, pretzel, multigrain) and protein (house-ground sirloin, chicken breast, turkey, quinoa patty). The meats, we were told, come from the Meat House next door. I opted for the sombrero burger ($9.50) on a pretzel bun with ground sirloin and I have to say, it was a worthy burger. They skimped on the avocado, but the pico de gallo, pepper jack, house-pickled jalapeños and cilantro-lime crème fraîche slaked my burger craving. The batter deployed on the onion rings made them look more like donuts – these hoops were a meal in themselves.
With thoughts of Thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving Day football!) on our minds, we set our sights on the holiday bird. “Mom’s Turkey” ($10.99), one of the house specialties, was a heaping mound of impressive. A stuffing waffle (yup, that’s what I said) is topped with mashed potatoes and two substantial house-roasted turkey breast patties, both slathered in turkey gravy. The plate – this one is actually served on china – comes with a side of sliced cranberry jelly.
Mildly addicting “fun fries” ($4.99), a bag filled with funnel cake and apple-pie fries served with a caramel dip, were the recommended dessert of choice. A tableside shake of the fun bag was a nice complement. Southern comfort came in the form of peach crisp ($4.99), served in a jar along with a mini tub of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.
The Porch’s entryway is oddly placed; you get to it from the parking lot that they share with the Meat House. Just look for the archway and walk toward the din – the Porch is sure to be swingin’.