Mark Baratelli, Owner
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Hillstone (215 South Orlando Ave. in Winter Park) has invited me on several occasions (two) to sample their food, and both times I was too in-disposey to attend. The first time I showed up two hours late due to some last minute procrastination I had to take care of, and the second time I actually had a legitimate reason to not attend. No seriously. The Taste of College Park asked me to be a judge. And who turns down the opportunity to loon around a roomful of strangers (wearing a homemade name tag) laying judgement on every marshmallow and turnip green.. and the people who made them?
So this afternoon, I felt it was my duty to go there myself. No invitation. No free meal. No fellow bloggers to chitter chatter with. Just me at lunchtime, a plate of food and the unexpected rule of "no phones allowed in the dining room." (FYI I think thats super classy and more restaurants should lay that gauntlet down to diners. Reason number one, it makes the place look classy. Reason number two, it doesn't cost the restaurant a dime!
The entrance is like a true rich person: you'd never know it was there. I seriously could not find the friggin' front door. The exterior walls are black, the door is nondescript and the trees beg you not to enter unless you truly belong. And I, as we know, never belong.
I don't eat healthy, but the vegetable plate called out to me on the menu for some reason. (It was not $20). When it arrived on my table, I was happy. Not only was it not three baby bowls of limp nasty green beans and corn, but the colors seemed to jump off the plate and slap the man-makeup off my chin. The flavors were huge and the veggies felt equal parts mush and crunch. Like a box of cereal left open for a week: perfect. The side dish of barley looked so tasty, before I even tried it, I ordered a second side of it. And it was as tasty as I thought it would be.
I should have taken a photo of the view all diners have from their tables of the lake and lush landscaping hidden behind the black building hidden from Mills Ave. Its lovely.
Also lovely is the interior. I cannot put my finger on it, but it felt like it was done by someone who knows *exactly* how to design a restaurant. And if you've been in the other kind, you know what I mean. Ghastly. Horrid. Disdainful. Cheesecake Factory. It felt like all the materials were thought through for weeks, and at the same time, the interior was humble enough to not be the star of the show. Classy bitch, that Hillstone interior.
The servers were all pretty thank God. Kidding. I only judge at Taste of College Park. And some of them were not pretty. Kidding again. The one odd thing, and it wasn't odd as much as unexpected, was that at the end of my meal, the person who handled my check was not my server. I understand servers at all restaurants hidden by rows of hedges help each other out, but I was wearing my "I missed a free meal here to judge at Taste of College Park" button. That should have made me stand out from the crowd. But then I turned and saw John "for the people" Morgan and realized I was in a league above my own bloggy food trucky not-a-restaurant-reviewer station. I was no better than those marshmallows and turnip greens I judged so harshly from last week.