Dexter’s – Orlando, Florida

Dexter’s has three restaurants in the greater Orlando area. We visited the Thornton Park location in downtown Orlando.

Dexter's Menu

Another couple picked Dexter’s, who said they had been going there for the past 20 years, loved it, and wanted us to experience it as well. They said everything they had eaten on the main menu (the same at all locations) was good and the cafe menu (which changes and is unique to each location) never disappointed.

I should say this couple is definitely NOT vegan. I’m pretty sure I remember the husband saying that if he could he’d put bacon on everything.

After surviving a downpour to get there, (ah, how I love Florida summer weather), the restaurant is located in a really cute area of town with cobblestone streets. Inside, the ambiance was nice – clean with a warehouse feel. The bar sits in the center of the tables, kind of like a rectangular bull’s-eye.

Inside Dexter's at Thornton Park

Inside Dexter’s at Thornton Park

The service was great. The hostess took our umbrellas for us when we arrived and kept them at the hostess stand. Our waiter was quick and attentive without being overly obtrusive.

One glance at the menu and I knew I was in trouble. This chef loves dairy. First I looked over the cafe menu that had plenty of interesting options my omnivore friends would love, including Chicken Schnitzel with Lemon and Thyme and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. There weren’t any vegetarian entrée options on it, let alone vegan. So I turned my attention to the main menu. There were no vegan dishes. Here are the vegetarian dishes available:

Mediterranean Pasta Toss: Cappellini pasta tossed with Kalamata olives, fresh tomato chunks, spinach leaf, artichokes, feta cheese and garlic. Sauteed with broth, white wine and fresh herbs. I had eaten pasta the night before and I’m not an olive fan. I also suspect the broth is chicken broth though I didn’t ask.

Eggplant Napoleon: Three slices of eggplant dredged in buttermilk and flour, crisp fried in olive oil, then layered with spinach, ricotta, provolone and parmesan cheeses and baked on a bed of marinara sauce. A bit too much cheese to leave off to make this a viable option. Plus it’s fried, so there goes any semblance of healthy.

Grilled Veggie Sandwich: Seasonal vegetables grilled and layered, with fresh pesto sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions, sprouts and your choice of cheese pressed on French bread. I considered this, and then remembered that pesto has cheese in it. Grrr. If there was some hummus with the veggies I probably would have gotten this, but I thought without a sauce of some kind the sandwich would be rather boring.

That left (besides the ever-present Garden Salad) two salad options (holding the cheese):

Rustic Cast Iron Skillet Salad: A tasty set of toppings including oven dried tomatoes, grilled asparagus, artichoke hearts, rosemary roasted potatoes, feta cheese chunks over mixed crisp greens laced with a lemon dill dijon dressing. Or the Summerset Spinach Salad: A tangy and texturous blending of apples, grapes, pecans, hunks of gorgonzola cheese, and shaved red onion mixed with fresh spinach leaves and tossed with an apple cider vinaigrette.

Since I’m not a huge mustard fan and the apple cider vinaigrette sounded promising, I opted for the Summerset Spinach Salad. It was, unfortunately, disappointing. There was a lot of spinach and the red onion was overpowering, but they skimped on the apples, grapes, pecans and the dressing. If the latter mentioned ingredients had been doubled – and the grapes tripled – the salad would have been a good option and tasted better. I left unsatisfied. I was hungry enough a few hours later to eat a second dinner.

Summerset Spinach Salad (no cheese)

Summerset Spinach Salad (no cheese)

My husband decided to order the Key West Mahi Sandwich (Dill, lime and shallot marinated mahi mahi, grilled and served on toasted pretzel bread with hand battered onion rings, lettuce, tomato and old bay tarter sauce. Served with a cucumber and tomato salad), another dish I also considered as a rare fish order. He got it without the onion rings or tarter sauce and thought it was good. The cucumber and tomato salad arrived with Parmesan cheese all over it, which was not stated on the menu.

Key West Mahi Sandwich, without onion rings or tarter sauce. The cucumber and tomato salad is on the right, you can see the parmesan cheese on top.

Key West Mahi Sandwich, without onion rings or tarter sauce. The cucumber and tomato salad is on the right, you can see the Parmesan cheese on top.

Dexter’s is definitely a restaurant you need to be an omnivore to fully enjoy. Our friends loved their meals, which included creamy tomato soup, chicken schnitzel and crab cakes. If you follow a plant-based diet and eat fish on occasion, I would recommend the Key West Mahi Sandwich as modified above, and request no cheese on the cucumber and tomato salad. You could also add salmon to one of their salads. If you don’t eat fish, plan to bring a snack with you for later since you probably will be hungry again. While I only tried one menu item, I will not being going back since there just aren’t that many choices and it requires a lot of substitutions and effort to make a meal.

Ratings from a plant-based eating perspective (1-5 scale, 1=Terrible  5=Excellent)

Ambiance: 5        Service: 5             Choices: 1           Taste: 3                Overall: 2

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One Response to Dexter’s – Orlando, Florida

  1. Pingback: The Swamp – Gainesville, Florida **Guest review by Dan** | Veg Out To Eat

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