ORLANDO – Do you know what a Dirty Dexter is?

If you’re thinking of the creepy guy who drinks too much at this wine bar and then hits on far too many unsuspecting women, not quite. I’m not saying that’s never happened, although my own experience is that the crowd at Dexter’s is a lot like the staff: relaxed, friendly, just having a good time.

No, the Dirty Dexter is three ounces of chilled Ketel One vodka mixed with olive juice and served with cheese-stuffed olives, available for thirsty patrons for $10 each. It might, I think, make a nice companion piece to the Screwy Grapetine, which for $8 gives you grape vodka with Florida orange juice.  If you’re not perfectly happy after these two, you might want to check your pulse on the way out the door.

Great locations can help just about any wine bar, but if you happened to open your doors in Thornton Park, you’ve got a superb head start over the competition. One of Orlando’s truly great “Hey, come on out and walk and window shop” neighborhoods, Thornton Park is always going to seem inviting the minute your car begins searching for the sometimes elusive parking spots (it is a popular location, after all.)

But Dexter’s is one of the great additions to this sublime neighborhood. It’s got the wine bar, it’s got a funky menu, it’s got artwork for sale on the walls. The music is upbeat oldies, the mood is always festive. How do you get in and out the door feeling depressed when Dexter’s seems guaranteed to life your spirits?

And have you ever gone there on New Year’s Eve? Hey, start popping the champagne the second you walk in.

Located at 808 E. Washington St., Dexter’s has a cozy outside seating area, but if you opt to go inside, you’re likely to be impressed by the massive U-shaped bar that has enough chairs lined around itto accommodate the neighborhood football team, and more than enough liquor inside the bar to satisfy both the players and their fans.

Private tables are lined all around the bar, with two spacious booths in the back of the room. There are television screens in the middle of the bar, although the radio mostly drowns them out with a parade of 60s and 70s oldies. Along the wall are paintings or photographs for sale – right now, the fine talent of photographer Mike Bass is available to view and own in nicely framed works like “Café Havana” (available for $100.)

Try one of Dexter's fine salads for a healthy fit lunch meal.

Now, if you’re there to drink, keep some things in mind. Dexter’s has a generous Happy Hour on a daily basis – Mondays from 3 p.m. until closing, and Tuesdays through Fridays from 3-7 p.m.

Thursday is Ladies Night – that means $2 off everything for the ladies from 7 p.m. until the bar closes.

In addition, you’ve got Saturday and Sunday Brunch that tempt you with $2.95 Mimosas and $4.50 Bloody Marys. If you need a reason to relax and celebrate the sheer joy of life, Dexter’s has your ticket. 

Dexter's is a great place to relax and unwind over a good drink -- like The Dirty Dexter.

It’s not just a place for a fine glass of wine or, if you’re the designated driver, one of Dexter’s Raspberry Tea, Luzianne Fresh Brew (unlimited refills for just $1.50), or San Pellegrino waters. There’s the meals that have made Dexter’s a favorite lunch spot for years.

Did you know Tuesdays are $1 Burger Nite at Dexter’s?  Nice, although when I sampled their Bangers and Mash plate recently, I was more than happy to pay the higher price of $9 for this excellent dish made up of two pieces of sausage dipped in mashed potatoes and gravy – a tasty import from our friends in Britain, very well cooked by the Dexter’s staff.  (Is it any coincidence that I was listening to the Moody Blues when the waiter served my plate? Long live the British.) You have plenty of other fine meals to pick from – sandwiches, soups, salads, pasta dishes, even Dexter’s Famous Grilled Colby Cheeseburger, which offers you an eight ounce fresh ground burger topped with melted Colby cheese on a grilled Kaiser roll, and even a good helping of Idaho fries tossed into the mix. At $8.95, that’s a bargain.

Whenever I go to Dexter’s for lunch, I make it a habit to get there by 11:30 a.m., before the lunch crowd starts moving in. By the time I leave, the place is usually packed.

My fellow lunch patrons have excellent taste. Dexter’s is a favorite spot in a popular neighborhood for a good reason: they do what they do so very, very well.

Dexter’s also has wine bars in Winter Park at 558 W. New England Ave. and in Lake Mary at 950 Market Promenade Ave., Suite 1201. To learn more, call 407-648-2777 or log on to www.dexwine.com.

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