ORLANDO – If there’s any question whether some restaurant chains really click with customers, even in a weak economic recovery, and maintain a loyal fan base where ever they go, consider the case of Wildside Grill & Bar B-Q.
The restaurant known for its BBQ Beef Sandwiches, plate of ribs and smoked chicken has a choice location now in Thornton Park, a perfect place for pedestrain food traffic and plenty of old historic old Orlando charm.
When Wildside decided to start a new restaurant in College Park on Wednesday, with a quiet opening that didn’t benefit from any pre-publicity, the response, said Manager Jeremy Briginolo, was phenomenal.
“We were packed all day,” he said. “It was amazing.”
The new Wildside is at 2305 Edgewater Drive, at the corner of Vasser Street. The doors opened for breakfast at 10 a.m., and from then on, waitress Michelle Shontz said, the crowds just kept pouring in.
“We opened at 10 and switched to dinner at 4,” Shontz said. “We were still serving at 11:30. We were supposed to have closed the kitchen at 10:30, but we kept it open anyway.”
And, she added, Wildside’s management did absolutely nothing to let people know they were coming to College Park.
“It was packed, and that was just word of mouth,” she said. “We did no advertising.”
The owners did pick an ideal location, right past Princeton Avenue, in a 4,500 square foot building that used to house Harmony Market until it closed.
“It was here for years, and was very popular,” Shontz said, adding that she hopes Wildside picks up some of that regular lunch and dinner crowd. They did today, with another full house around noon, including customers filling all the inside and outside tables, and crowding around the bar to watch a soccer game on television — which frequently prompted loud cheers from the people seated around the bar.
Briginolo said the turnout on opening day caught everyone by surprise, although his staff was so professional, he added, that day one went off without a hitch.
“We had an army in here last night,” he said of his workers.
Wildside in College Park offers virtually the same menu as its popular counterpark in Thornton Park – the Gator Bites and Crispy Calamari appetizers, the Mushroom Swiss Burger and Mojito Cuban, the Pan Seared Sesame Tuna and Coconut Fried Shrimp.
But they also have a few original menu items to offer.
“We have our own Gourmet burgers,” Briginolo said, “like the Wild Fire Burger.”
Shontz said they also introduced something else that turned out to be a big hit in the first two days.
“This is something brand new that we’re trying at this location only – sushi,” she said. Wildside College Park has its own sushi meni, complete with signature sushi rolls.
“Yesterday that went over really well,” she said.
In a sense, Shontz added, that means people who love the Wildside in Thornton Park can get pretty much the exact same dining experience in College Park.
“We’re just a little more upscale here,” she smiled.
Wildside Bar & Grille of College Park can be reached at 407-730-7963, or by logging on to www.wildsideBBQ.com.
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