The stylish decor of El Bodegon invites you to come in and relax. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
WINTER PARK – There’s music playing in El Bodegon – European music, soft, and relaxing and easy going. Otherwise, it’s pleasantly quiet in there. The restaurant off U.S. 17/92 in Winter Park has home-made Sangria, as well as a very strong European coffee. It’s your choice – settle down with that glass of wine, or come to understand how watered-down American coffee is compared to the European counterparts.
El Bodegon is a Spanish restaurant, and one that, lacking the name recognition of the large franchise chains, absolutely deserves as much attention and recognition that it can get. It’s the kind of elegant place we want to have in Central Florida. It has a stylish décor, it has a very affordable lunch menu for $10.95 per person – with quite a bit that you get for that price (more on that later). Best of all, it has a charming European ambiance about it. It’s not the kind of place you go for a quick in-and-out meal – there are fast food restaurants nearby for that.
This is a place to visit when you want to take your time, enjoying a glass of wine with your three course luncheon meal. Being there, it lulls you into a relaxing mood that’s irresistible.
‘’A taste of Spain’s fine cuisine in the heart of Central Florida,’’ the restaurant’s web site notes of El Bodegon Tapas & Wine Restaurant at 400 S. Orlando Ave. in Winter Park. Open for lunch and dinner, it literally is meant to create the look and feel of a European tavern.
‘’The Spanish word bodegón means tavern in English—a place for fun, food and fiesta,’’ the restaurant’s Web site notes. ‘’We are Orlando’s premier Spanish restaurant featuring authentic cuisine from the Iberian peninsula. When you step through the varnished solid wood doors of El Bodegón, you will enter a world of flavor like no other that will transport you to Spain’s epicurean realm.’’
Those solid wood doors they mention do lead you into a spacious restaurant, where your host server is happy to explain anything on the menu, which is in both Spanish and English.
The luncheon menu is a culinary delight, served to you over three courses. You start with a choice of soup or salad – a house salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, or the choice of the daily soup, which can include Sopa de Pollo (chicken noodle) or Caldo gallego (Galician traditional soup with potatoes, beans and vegetables).
Next, you have a choice to make – either one of El Bodegon’s full meals, or a choice of two tapas.
A glass of home-made Sangria is a nice way to start your meal at El Bodegon. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
The meals include sumptuously cooked plates of chicken, fish, paellas, steak or lamb, depending on what’s on the daily menu, which changes. It could, for example, be Paella Marinara (Spanish saffron rice with seafood and conch), Bacalao a la Vizcaira (cod loin in Creole sauce), or Pechuga Rellera (stuffed chicken breast). Usually served with potatoes and vegetables, these meals are cooked to perfection by the skilled Bodegon chefs.
The tapas come with a nice variety as well. Tapa de la Casa is a mix of Spanish cured ham, chorizo, and manchego cheese with olives. Salpicon de Mariscos is assorted fresh seafood in balsamic vinaigrette house dressing. Tortilla Espanola is a traditional Spanish quiche. Pimentos del Piquillo Rellenos is Spanish baby peppers stuffed with crab meat in Romesco sauce.
If they all sound good, believe me, they are.
The final course is the Postres – desserts.

Dining in El Bodegon is like visiting a European tavern. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

They include the Peras al Vino (pears in white white), Spanish-style custard Flan, Crema Catalina – Spain’s own version of Crème Brulee – and Tarta San Marco, a Spanish-style cake.
Then, of course, once your meal is over and has been heartily consumed, you have the option to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine or coffee. The meals are so filling and delicious that it’s unlikely you’ll be in a rush to leave.
El Bodegón is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., and dinner from 5-11 p.m.
The restaurant also does catering for special events and engagements, including off-site birthday and anniversary parties, and celebrations at the restaurant itself.
To learn more, call 407-628-1078.
And if you haven’t been there, definitely take the time to learn more, because having a wonderfully specialized, European-style restaurant like this one in our back yard is something to be celebrated and enjoyed. El Bodegon deserves every bit of success and profit it can make in this tourist-friendly region’s very competitive dining climate.

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