ORLANDO – I didn’t hear the Beatles’ music playing when I went to OLV for lunch recently, but I couldn’t help but feel the genuine vibes of their influence as I glanced around me during my initial visit here.
Because as this European-style café might be quick to point , OLV is “The Café You’ll LOV” – and if it’s very fine food and an easy going ambiance that you crave, then it’s true: all you need is LOV. And if you know the melody to that beloved Beatles song, let’s just say it sums up the atmosphere and mood inside OLV.
OLV is located at 25 N. Crystal Lake St. in Orlando’s SODO district, the latest in Orlando’s impressive downtown revitalization efforts — this time with an outdoor shopping plaza that includes restaurants like OLV, numerous other retailers, some office space, and plenty of residential units rising up into the sky in a 22-acre, mixed-use development built right off Orange Avenue south of City Hall. SODO has 300 housing units and 370,000 square feet of office space and restaurants, and without a doubt, OLV seems likely to be one of the businesses that survives the economic downturn, because this café with racks of bottled wine neatly stacked along the walls, artwork everywhere you turn, and couches along with tables … is as much of a delightful afternoon experience as it is a place to grab a quick lunch. In fact, if you drop by OLV on an otherwise hectic work day, I’m guessing you’ll find the carefree mood inside those brick walls so invitingly laid back that even if you are in a hurry, you may find yourself sorely tempted to brush aside your afternoon calendar and do nothing but sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself. As the web site notes, “Whether you’re up at daybreak, or just need a day ‘break,’ OLV is the café for you.” So true.
OLV looks and feels less like a traditional — i.e., just a bit stuffy — restaurant than the ideal place to unwind. If you bring along a laptop, you can relax on the couch and do some work courtesy of the free wi fi. You might want to order a drink, then get up and start checking out OLV’s impressive artwork collection. In fact, every Wednesday from 6:30-10 p.m., the café hosts “Art Night,” which is an opportunity to – as the café notes in its brochures – “do art, see art, talk art,” at a regular event hosted by award winning artist and illustrator Ernie Turner.
“You can paint and draw with us, sculpt, or just exchange ideas and concepts,” the café notes. “Join us for a wonderful weekly explosion of creativity.”
This L-shaped café has an impressive wine collection in those racks against the front wall, and a lengthy bar for anyone who wants to take advantage of the café’s daily happy hour or Sangria Saturdays. “Your World Café” reads a sign in the back, right above the lounge chairs. There are also a number of cozy wooden tables to sit at, as you join some friends to check out the menu of soups, sandwiches and salads that have made this cafe one of the true high points of SODO.
It’s hard to go wrong at a café that offers up soups like Italian Wedding, Lobster Bisque, and Tomato Basil – I tried the last one, which was creamy and delicious.
Entrees include the Antipasta Platter, Hawaiian Shrimp, Roasted Portabella Mushroom, Blackened Chicken and the Hummus Trio. They have an excellent Tuna Melt that comes topped with cheddar, lettuce and tomato on wheat-berry bread. But there are plenty of other sandwiches to pick from, including the Reuben, Cuban and Mahi-Mahi. All of the meals, by the way, come with a truly tasty appetizer: OLV’s own deep fried potaton “chips,” different from what you get in those supermarket potato chip bags. Try them, and fall in love with them instantly, as I did.
They also host special events like this upcoming Tuesday’s Wine Tasting at 6 p.m., and some special community events, such as hosting the Downtown South Coffee Club on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and the Conway Middle School PTSA Board Holiday Gathering on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. Like I said, this is more than just a place to get a good meal or enjoy happy hour. It’s really a community meeting place, and the decor welcomes you and makes it hard to get up and leave right away.
OLV Café at SODO is open Mondays through Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — and that includes their Sunday Brunch. Stop by, taste those delicious fried potato chips, have a beer or a glass of wine, check out the artwork – and I dare anyone to deny that they feel downright mellow and upbeat minutes after they get there. It’s that kind of place.
To learn more, call 407-722-5060 or log on to www.OLVCafe.com.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.