Bolay, a quick-server from South Florida, is another assemblage restaurant, though I’m not quite sure what the assembly is based on – I mean besides the rice, noodles or greens that you’d find in other assemblage concepts. It’s sort of American meets Asian meets Cuban. The name, according to the website – which currently features a popup pushing holiday gift cards every time one navigates to a different page; hugely annoying – the name is a portmanteau of bol, the Spanish word for bowl, and olay, which is either an alternative spelling of olé or refers to “oil of”; I’m assuming the former. (And wouldn’t it be Bololay?)
It came into the Central Florida market a couple of years ago with a restaurant in Lake Nona, then spread to Oviedo and Winter Park. I found myself nearby the Winter Park store recently, so I figured it was time to give it a try.
I ordered via the online platform. The ordering form is easy to use and allows for immediate or later pickup of an order, with prepayment and curbside pickup in a designated spot in front of the restaurant. (And a staffer was standing at the curb with my order at the designated time anticipating my arrival.)
And I was glad to see the online menu include preordained assemblies. I chose the Havana pulled pork, which comes atop jasmine rice and potatoes and something called power beans. It was all topped with loosely chopped cilantro and served in a cardboard bowl with a clear plastic lid. I had requested sriracha sauce, which was served on the side, and it was needed to moisten up the pork a bit. I’m never one to complain about getting both rice and potatoes in one dish, but somehow they didn’t seem to logically go together here.
I went the build-your-own route with my other entree, choosing cilantro noodles Asian sweet potato noodles and rice. I didn’t really want all three but the ordering form would not let me choose fewer. Teriyaki chicken was my protein of choice and I selected roasted Brussels sprouts for my veggie and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese to top it off. I liked the soyish flavor of the chicken with the noodles, though the chewy sprouts didn’t bring much to the party. The cilantro cream sauce I selected was a nice touch.
Bolay was created by Chris Gannon and co-founded, not insignificantly, by his father, Tim, who started a little chain called Outback Steakhouse, in 1988, and also cofounded OSI Restaurants, now Bloomin’ Brands. (If I’m not mistaken, the Outback Steakhouse that is just a bloomin’ onion’s throw away from the Winter Park Bolay was the first in Central Florida.) Bolay is not one of Bloomin’ Brands’ brands. Yet.
Some of the elder Gannon’s history is noted on Bolay’s website, probably to establish the quick-serve’s pedigree. But there’s also a lot of talk about father and son as polo choices, which denotes a pedigree of a different stripe. Totally relatable.
Ultimately, the food from Bolay was OK, the smaller portions enough, and a decent price at $8.29. But not enough about the experience makes me want to jump back on my polo pony and visit again soon.