The secret’s out; Audubon Park Garden District is officially one of three neighborhoods named a 2016 Great American Main Street. Not too shabby for an area formerly more known for its sprawl of indistinct strip malls and a big ol’ four-lane roadway. Now, places like Park Ave CDs, Stardust Video and Coffee, Blue Bird Bake Shop, Sushi Lola’s and the Bohn-Appetit-featured Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour have made Audubon Park an essential hangout spot that can easily go from quick stop to full-day adventure. But wait, there’s more!
Enter: East End Market, a place that has become synonymous with the success of Audubon Park Garden District. Unlike our previous picks for Bohn Appetit, East End Market is a bit harder to categorize — which is part of what makes the place so unique. It’s not just a restaurant, coffee shop, beer bar, farmer’s market or place that allows you to eat the weight of a small child in artisanal cheese — it is all of these at once, wrapped up in a bow and ready for your perusal and plundering.
Can East End Market measure up in the context of business lunches, dinner meetings, or off-the-clock hangout sessions with colleagues? Let’s see what Bohn has to say.
For me, East End Market is one of Orlando’s hidden gems that is significant to the spirit of the city. You could technically call it a startup incubator but there’s something a bit more organic (no pun intended) about the way they do things that I can’t quite find the words to describe.
My first adventure to East End Market started with Lineage Coffee and the need to fulfill my goal of visiting every coffee shop in Orlando. There, you’ll find something a little different than just a menu of over-flavored lattes. Instead, they offer a unique selection of roasted coffee beans. If you’re a black coffee type of person, my suggestion is to grab a pot of Chemex-brewed coffee to share with a buddy at one of the nearby tables. If you’re not feeling the Florida heat and are looking to keep it cool, pick up a bottled cold brew to take to your next stop in the market.
While you’re standing in line at Lineage, you’re sure to notice the brightly lit Konbini, a Japanese convenience store that plays very well into something you’d see on a Japanese street corner. If you missed your chance to try out Kappo (the restaurant that formerly resided in this spot), be glad to know you’ll still be able to try out an assortment of freshly made rice bowls and onigiri. Konbini offers just about all of the main staples you’d expect to find in a Japanese convenience store: quick snacks, candy, drinks (such as their bottled matcha latte), ramen, and some accessories. They also step it up by offering some harder-to-find Japanese goods, such as tea accessories, matcha Kit-Kats (yes!) and sake.
One little detail that I love about Konbini is the tray at the register. In Japan, you typically don’t hand them your card or money; transactions are made by placing them onto the tray to avoid any touching of hands. For me, this small detail really adds to the overall feel of the place, which works alongside touches like lighting and layout to make for a cool experience.
One of my new favorite spots at East End is La Femme Du Fromage, where Adam (writer), our friend David, and I ordered their three-cheese cheese board with a side of prosciutto. Not knowing anything about cheese, we asked our friendly cheese expert to simply give us a diverse selection of their own choosing. To make things legit, we also opted for their sangria to pair with the cheeses — pinkies out, for sure. Once we got our board, we were blown away by the incredibly diverse flavors that hit us square in the taste buds. To put it simply, I almost walked out of there with an entire block of truffle-injected cheese. Besides cheese, they also offer a list of small plates and wine pairings, which I am confident to say are probably all just as amazing.
La Femme Du Fromage is the work of Chef Tonda, who is not only a well-acclaimed chef, but also shares her love of cheese and wine through seminars and classes conducted across the country. Her recipes, combined with the private look and feel of the dining area, would make an optimal experience for clients visiting Orlando looking to talk business. You have the option to keep it light while still indulging in some of their delightful, delicious offerings.
If cheese and wine aren’t your thing, what appears to be a bar at the front of the market is actually a storefront for a local farm-to-restaurant distribution company. Need to pick up some cage-free eggs and grab a flight of some local beer selections? You’ve found the spot! Local Roots distributes to over a dozen of our favorite Orlando restaurants, which makes them my favorite spot in East End Market. The seating is ample and, aside from their nice selection of local brews, their menu is serviced by the neighboring Houndstooth Sauce Company which makes Local Roots a great, healthier lunch spot. If the weather permits, I would also take the food outside to enjoy some of the great weather Orlando likes to bless us with from time to time.
While each of the vendors at East End Market sport features that are sure to blow you away, I really don’t believe you should visit just one place here. All of the businesses have connected with one another, which really boosts the overall experience. It’s like they’ve formed a giant foodie Voltron that’s here to defend against Orlando’s tourist trap image and show how small ideas can turn into big wins for the city. In a place that tourists and students have chosen to make their temporary home, East End Market establishes a great sense of homegrown, local community. Community! That’s the word I was looking for.
- If you’re coming with a larger party, arrive early. Sometimes seating can be limited during prime time lunch/early afternoon hours.
- Don’t let the convenience store vibe fool you, the food at Konbini is quality and makes a great, fast, healthier lunch stop. They also have a microwave for their items that need to be heated up.
- There is additional parking across the street on the road that runs alongside East End Market.
- Even if the concept of the place doesn’t sound interesting to you, try it. What’s more to know about bread, right? WRONG! Ask the bread experts at Olde Hearth Bread Co. to suggest something for you and I’m positive you’ll be coming back for more.
- Lineage’s cold brew bottles can be returned for a discount on your next purchase. Grab a 4 pack for the office or early meeting. It’ll feel (and look) like you’re drinking beers at work, which is always a fun social experiment.
- Look out for small pop-up shops on the weekends. When we went, there was a barbeque spot up front that looked (and smelled) amazing. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try it since they closed up around 3pm, so make sure you get it while they are there.
- Treat your trip to East End Market more like you would a food truck event. Don’t plan on going to just one spot.
East End Market is a brilliant concept and one that collects together local entrepreneurs who continually bring new ideas, flavors and inspiration to the table.
“I think much of the magic at East End is due to the passion these owner-operated small businesses bring to their customers each day. The same can be said of the whole Audubon Park Garden District. Local needs are diverse and when businesses listen to their customers and serve these unique taste and yearning of their neighborhood customer base you end up with a main street and market full of authentically Orlando offerings.” – John Rife, Owner of East End Market
With scenic outdoor seating among the garden of herbs, fruits and vegetables, exotic and local flavors that will make your Tupperware-protected lunch weep and craft coffee to keep your meetings from being a snooze, East End Market could be the end-all and be-all for your next business lunch meetup. Though the early closing time (on weekdays in particular) can be a detriment to those trying to grab dinner or drinks after work, mornings, afternoons and weekends are all fair game for this collective of awesome.