The German-flavored Schumann's Jager Haus will be opening soon on Church Street. Don Jefe's Tequila Parlor is already bringing its Mexican spice to the same area a little further down the road. Is it me, or is downtown Orlando starting to look like EPCOT's World Showcase?
Not that I'm one to complain. I'm all for diversity, especially when I heard that the latest bar and eatery to open up on Orange Avenue would have a British theme. And from the lovely Union Jack mural on the wall to the slick logo that evokes the old London Underground subway signs, the Underground Public House practically shouts that theme.
Just one problem with that approach: Outside of Parliament, the English aren't known for their shouting. Yes, you'll get brick walls, but no quiet nooks and dartboards here. The Underground is anything but underground, with a single wide room and a decidedly open, metropolitan feel.
Mind you, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Since its opening two weeks ago, Underground is still finding its crowd in the space last occupied by Shakai Sushi. But with a solid menu of American and British pub grub and a decent array of beers, the Yankee regulars of downtown may not care which side of the pond they're supposed to be on.
Let's start with those beers: The drafts on tap aim to please a wide array of tastes from weekend warriors (Bud Light, on special for $3 during my visit) to craft beer snobs (Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout, $6.50). Other beers are due to arrive in rotation, but it's a good start.
In keeping with the theme, they also offer Fuller's London Pride ($5) and Guinness ($5), the latter of which I was duty-bound to try. Points off to Underground's bartenders on this one for the lack of a proper pour. (If you have to ask what that is, you're probably not a Guinness drinker — but if you're curious, head to the Harp & Celt downtown or Bull & Bush in the Milk District.)
My grumpiness didn't last long. A healthy pour of Jack Daniels and Coke ($5) put me back on track, and while Underground doesn't have a cocktail menu per se as yet, the bartenders seemed game for anything. The staff was eager to please even on a busy Saturday night, and one in particular (Jamie) remembered my name and was ready with a handshake on the second visit.
During the day, Underground is gunning hard for the lunchtime and happy hour crowd with a menu that includes plenty of American twists on English pub standards, like the Shepard's (sic) Pie Potato Skins ($8). I'm no connoisseur, but my English Stout Battered Fish & Chips ($10) soaked up the beer nicely, with a flaky texture and tangy house-made tartar sauce. Pair this dish up with some football (English or American) on one of Underground's 10 flatscreen TVs, and I may never go back to chicken wings again.
In the evenings, the tables stay put, but the dining area is still open enough to accomodate the drinking crowd after the kitchen closes at 10 p.m. — especially on the welcoming front patio, a must for Orange Avenue people-watching. The place was lively enough last Saturday, with an audience of 20-somethings nodding their heads along to a mainstream playlist of Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars and the like.
I spent much of my time out on the patio, since the DJ's mix wasn't my flavor. But what was I expecting, the Sex Pistols? This is America, where it takes all types — and Underground definitely knows its type.
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Underground Public House
Where: 19 S. Orange Ave., Orlando
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, noon-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday