The restaurant was long overdue for a menu reboot since the new owners took over several years ago.
By Jacob Engels
Many Avalon Park residents, myself included, have long frequented Eastside Bistro. For years, it was one of Avalon and East Orlando’s best eateries, but started suffering when the previous owners decided to expand to a second location at Fashion Square Mall off East Colonial towards Downtown Orlando.
Shortly after the opening of the second location by owner Shelly Gref, the restaurants original location started to suffer from poor or unfocused staff, and sub-par kitchen and bar service. Not long after the opening of the Fashion Square Mall location, Mrs. Gref shuddered Eastside Bistro’s effort at expanding and began looking for a new owner to take over the Avalon Park location as she planned to move her family to North Carolina.
In the following months, Eastside Bistro’s Avalon Park location was purchased by veteran J.C. Andrews, who had no experience in the service or restaurant industry. By December of 2013, Deborah Mazzone and her family took over just before New Year.
“It was a pretty quick transition. We had to jump right in,” Mazzone explained to the East Orlando Post.
That was almost 2 years ago, and Mazzone has been working hard to retool, re-brand, and re-imagine the local favorite without losing it’s originality.
The inside bar area, which is supported by an outside bar.
“Running a restaurant is no easy task. You have so many moving parts: the staff, the customers, and maintaining quality control in both the kitchen and bar.” Mazzone spent over a decade as a consultant in the real estate industry in the Central Florida area, before taking a leap and purchasing a once bustling watering hole and eatery.
She told us that it was only because she had such strong support from her family that it felt like the right decision. Her family also ran several restaurants in upstate New York and she is a culinary school graduate.
“We knew there was much to do and I will be the first to admit that it took time for us to gain our footing.”
After spending several years working off the longstanding menu and testing different specials and events, Mazzone told us that she finally felt comfortable unveiling a new menu and solidifying brunch, happy hour, and game day specials.
She shared with the East Orlando Post that several of the current standing menu items were guest inspired or crafted.
George Collins, a longtime Avalon Park resident and Valencia College professor has been visiting Eastside Bistro for years, dating back to the original owners. He said that he has been happy with Mazzone’s staff and the direction she has taken the restaurant.
Outside bar and seating area, where Mr. Collins prefers to sit.
“It’s always a treat to take a bike ride and enjoy a great burger and beer at Eastside, always cooked to perfection. I enjoy taking my daughter and wife, and you always end up running into someone you know. Deborah has done an amazing job taking the time needed to understand the industry and find her footing.
Several friends of mine who are veterans really appreciated the special honor they were shown during Veterans Day.”
Just in early November, Eastside released their new menu items and design. Eastside Bistro now offers wide ranging chicken wings, small salads, flat-breads, handhelds, and entrees in addition to the original pub-style offerings.
Having recently enjoyed their new menu and being a longtime fan of Mazzone’s weekly “Bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s” for Sunday brunch, I have seen the establishment grow in the right direction over the past two years.
However, my opinion on what it takes to run a restaurant and staff is less than adequate when it comes to judging these matters. That is why I asked my mother, who spent over 20 years in the industry and ran her own restaurant and bar with her father, what goes in to taking over an establishment like Eastside Bistro.
“Mazzone and her family have gone through what every new owner does in the first few years. Surrounding yourself with a trustworthy staff and finding your voice is a lot easier sad than done. But Eastside Bistro has made a lot of progress and as someone who has worked as a server, manager, bartender, and owner… I can tell you that they are in the final steps of securing a successful brand with their new menu and solidified weekly specials and events.”
Eastide Bistro has plans to unveil a new website after securing a long sought after domain and suggests the community follow their Facebook page for updates on specials, events, and new menu items.
“The Avalon Park and East Orlando community have been so welcoming. We could not succeed without their support and we are truly grateful. Here is to another great year… new menu and all. We will continue to partner with community groups like Kiwanis and Rotary to stay involved,” Mazzone concluded.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org