Matilda's on Park is the latest restaurant at the corner of Canton and Park avenues in Winter Park.
The sports bar waltzed in shortly after Galopin closed in February.
Matilda's kept the chic and sleek red and black color scheme but added several televisions. The change from an American bistro to sports bar is still in progress: Credit-card receipts have the Galopin name across the top.
The restaurant is still a mix of several areas: a small dining room up front with outdoor cafe seating and another room in the back with a slightly more private vibe.
The menu is where Matilda's pub personality comes through. Starters include nachos and fritters. Sandwiches, tacos, wings and over-the-top mac and cheese dishes lead the offerings before you get to the handful of entrées.
We started with the blue balls ($8) and mad-mac bites ($7), both one- or two-bite fried spheres. The blue appetizers were a twist on chicken cordon blue, with rolled sweet ham, breast meat and Swiss cheese drizzled with Grey Poupon mustard. The texture and flavors hit the mark nicely. Mac and cheese was blended with bacon and drizzled in a sweet-smoky sauce for the mad-mac bites. The individual elements were promising but the spheres fell apart with little prodding.
The Popeye mac ($9 for a small serving) was an inviting rustic casserole of goat cheese, sautéed spinach, artichokes, roasted red pepper and roasted garlic.
We checked out Matilda's Aussie roots with the roo burger ($13) — yes, kangaroo, which tasted like beef but was a little more robust. The juicy sandwich served on a brioche roll was topped with a cheese sauce and sweet onion straws.
The trio of chicken tacos ($10) featured tender poultry that was marinated in a tequila, honey and lime mixture. The white meat was stuffed into soft tortillas with black bean salsa, slices of buttery avocado and a tangy lime-cilantro cream.
It was the grouper entrée ($17) that surprised all of us. Simply seasoned with white wine, salt, pepper and lemon juice, it was expertly baked. The bacon brussels sprouts on the side were a nice acidic foil to the sweet fish.
Service needs polish, but our waitresses couldn't have been more earnest.
Matilda's on Park is part of a Delaware company that owns Matilda's Pub and Barbie, and mad macs, a mac and cheese delivery service. After Matilda's is at full speed, owner Ryan Smith said he plans to open another sports bar near the University of Central Florida.
Other occupants of 358 N. Park Ave. have included Barbizon Restaurant and Gallery (birthplace of the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival), the original Beef and Bottle, Circa, Sage, Park Avenue Grill, Zak's, Chapters, East of Paris and Galopin. Some have been memorable — some not so much.
Will Matilda's beat the odds? The location deserves an occupant with a steady run. The menu is on the right course for a sports bar and the location is enviable for any dining format.
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Matilda's on Park
¿¿ out of four
Where: 358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park (at Canton Avenue)