I’m not sure I would call F&D Cantina a sister restaurant to F&D Kitchen and Bar, the Lake Mary restaurant that opened in 2015. Other than the initials, which unimaginatively stand for Food and Drink, and, obviously, ownership, there aren’t many comparisons to be drawn. There isn’t even much of an effort to make a connection by the two entities, other than a small link on the Lake Mary F&D website to an Orlando Business Journal article about the “soon to open” Cantina.
The two are different concepts, which, for the Cantina, is a good thing. If you guessed that the concept here is Mexican, you’d be correct. But the way it is presented is a bit curious.
The menu is divided into sections with headings like “dip,” Social eats,” “Plates,” “Soups,” and “Greens.” Then there’s a separate section called “Mexican Stuff,” though there’s a Carne Asada under the “Plates” heading and another separate section called “Tacos.” Not sure why tacos aren’t considered Mexican but I do give kudos for not including the nachos among the Mexican Stuff. Points taken away, however, just for including nachos on the menu after the OBJ article quoted Charly Robinson, the F&D developer, that the menu would be authentic Mex, not Tex-Mex. (Complimentary chips and salsa are also proffered, a concept that definitely originated north of the wall.)
But let’s not niggle. You want to know how the food was.
Cold, actually. Not stone cold, but a lower temperature than tepid. With the exception of the Mexican Street Corn (found under Social Eats), which was an appropriate temperature. And good, too. Not sure how street-foody it is, or even how social, for that matter, but the fresh and crunchy kernels, served in a hinge-lidded glass pot and topped with melted cotija cheese were good. I don’t think the dish was worth six bucks, but I was happy to pay a little bit more to have them properly heated.
The kitchen might have dedicated some of the $15 for Beef Barbacoa Enchiladas towards the utility bill. The three enchiladas were well stuffed with good sized hunks of beef — better stuffed enchiladas than I think I’ve seen around here. And I liked the subtly spiced guajillo gravy, a red chile sauce, and the not-too-glopped Oaxaca cheese. How and when said cheese was melted is a mystery.
The refried beans and the rice, too, were just as cool. If you want to get an idea of what the beans were like, just eat some El Paso frijoles refritos right out of the can. And yes, I was a grad student at one time so I know exactly what that’s like.
F&D Cantina has a full bar but also features a pretty good selection of beers. I enjoyed my Crooked Can Kolsch, which was the only thing I appreciated being served cold.
I had a good chance to look over the bar. When I first arrived at F&D, I stood inside the front door waiting for someone to greet me. When it became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen, I took a seat at the bar with the smattering of other patrons. (The space, by the way, is the former Tap Room Grille.) The bartender didn’t seem to be much of a people person, although he did warm up a bit when he handed me the credit slip to tally up and sign.
Robinson, F&D’s F&D (founder and director), is formerly the CEO of California based Real Mex Restaurants (Chevy’s, El Torito) and, before that, was COO of Orlando’s e-Brand (Timpano, Samba Room).
I did request a box to take my leftovers home. The next morning I made a sort of huevos rancheros with them, topped with a freshly fried egg. It was all quite delicious when heated to the appropriate temperature.
F&D Cantina is at 12789 Waterford Lakes Parkway, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-674-7413.