White Wolf Cafe & Bar recently marked its 32nd year and is now firmly enshrined as an Orlando Classic.
Located in the Ivanhoe District, which in 1991, the year White Wolf opened, was more commonly known as Antique Row because of the abundance of antique shops along that stretch of Orange Avenue. In fact, White Wolf Cafe started out as an antique shop that added a coffee shop-like nook in one corner. The corner began to expand and take over the shop. Pretty soon, the owners, Michael and Anne Marie Hennessey, were out of the antiques business and full-time restaurateurs.
For those who don’t know the provenance of the name, there actually was a white wolf that roamed the store. Well, technically Casper was a German shepherd, but I’m sure he’d argue that his lineage linked back to canis lupus. He had full run of the antique store, and for a time, the restaurant as well – decades before there would be legislation allowing dogs on outdoor patios. He was a well-behaved and friendly dog, and all the customers wanted to pet him, which saved on napkins.
I met some friends at White Wolf recently for a Sunday brunch visit. Despite a heavy drizzle and heavier construction on Orange Avenue outside, the restaurant was at full capacity inside and at the few patio tables that weren’t exposed to the rain.
After a short wait, the four of us were seated at a table that mostly was meant for two people. White Wolf is one of the few places where it feels proper to order dessert before anything else. That is if you consider a cinnamon bun a dessert. And I do, especially one as sweet and gooey as this one. Big, warm and covered with vanilla icing as white as Casper himself, it’s an indulgence that defies guilt.
My companion went with the traditional Benedict, with poached eggs on English muffins with Canadian bacon and cloaked in a thick hollandaise. Grits were the accompaniment of choice, though I thought home fries would have been better.
I went with the hangover burger, even though my Saturday night had been fairly tame. The patty, eight ounces of brisket and short rib, was thick and juicy, a beautiful red and oozing medium rare. It also had a fried egg, melted cheddar cheese and a smathering of garlic aioli. There was also a layer of hash browns, which would have been more appreciated as a side dish than a burger component. I get the whole hangover theme, but loading a burger up with everything you can find is something you do while you’re still drunk.
My other brunch companions chose “the usual,” two eggs any style, with choice of sides, meat and bread. And the build your own omelet, which meant that one could choose the ingredients – the actual cooking was done by the kitchen staff.
Our server was patient and accommodating.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that White Wolf Cafe is still an antiques store (and apparently some of the items are for sale). The decor is a conglomeration of Tiffany style lamps, crystal chandeliers, mismatched framed artworks, and signs. Tabletops are fashioned out of rough-cut stone and most of the seating is at parlor-style iron-backed chairs. (Try to get one of the comfier booths or banquettes.)
Anne Marie Hennessey still runs the place; Michael has declared his retirement. Orlando is fortunate to have had White Wolf Cafe for so long. It’s a reliable place for good food in an atmosphere of camaraderie.