Remember the Mercado on I-Drive? If you’re like most people, it might have been a tiny blip on your radar, but its attempt to bring food and fun to I-Drive never really got off the ground. Nowadays, “getting off the ground” isn’t a problem. as the Orlando Eye wheel is soaring skyward in the old Mercado area and bringing a wide range of food and entertainment choices with it in the I-Drive 360 complex.
Tin Roof – A Live Music Joint is one of the additions that are set to revitalize this prime piece of property on International Drive. When I say it’s in the shadow of the Orlando Eye, I mean that quite literally as you can see by the photo.
By day, Tin Roof is a restaurant. By night, it turns into a rollicking entertainment venue. At first glance, it looks like the sort of place that would serve bar food, and indeed, you’ll find things like queso, burgers, wings, and crab dip…
…but many have a unique twist. How about some waffles with your chicken nuggets? Wouldn’t Smore Pie taste even better with just a dash of hot pepper?
I had the chance to try many of the Tin Roof’s menu items at a media event, and I give them a big thumbs up. It’s the sort of place where everyone can find something they like, even if you’re in a party of people with widely varying tastes. You;ll find the whole menu on the Tin Roof Orlando website.
So what did I like best among the eclectic offerings? Being a Southern transplant, I embrace chicken and waffles even though I didn’t know they existed for most of my life. But if I had to choose my favorites, I’d have to lean toward the seafood. Yes, I know that seems odd at a live music joint, but the tuna was so fresh and flavorful that I plan to have it again on a return visit.
Da Lox, a citrus cured salmon sandwich, ranked right up there as another fave. Despite its name, it’s not your typical salmon and cream cheese. Fresh veggies take the place of dairy, and the salmon’s citrus flavor is divine.
I’m all about anything with smores involved, so the Cowhorn Pepper Smore Pie was a gimme. Yes, it really does have pepper in it, just as the name implies. I know that sounds strange, and maybe even a bit alarming, but it’s just a pleasant bite that doesn’t detract a bit from the chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker goodness.
Even though I was there in the afternoon, and the music doesn’t typically start until the evening, I got a taste of the music at the media event, too. Look for a variety of local and regional acts to be playing at the venue. It’s a great spot to hang out and enjoy the entertainment while sampling libations from the liberal drink menu. Snack on bacon popcorn…just another example of the old adage that bacon goes with everything.
Being a local, I’m gunshy about going near I-Drive during the peak tourist season, but Tin Roof and the I-Drive 360 complex are located close enough to Sand Lake Road to make the trip tolerable at all but the busiest times. You can easily take I-4 to Sand Lake Road, which puts you just a couple of blocks away from I-Drive, or head over from the convention side. There’s a free parking garage right on site, which makes things even easier.
I expect this venue to really heat up once the Orlando Eye and the other attractions are complete this spring. It’s a perfect lunch spot to fuel up before you hit the Eye, SeaLife, the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, and the other attractions, or else you can have a nice dinner after a long day exploring all that International Drive has to offer. I think convention goers will also discover it as a place to unwind with a drink and some live music after a long day of conferences and exhibitions at the Orange County Convention Center just down the street.
In the meantime, I recommend checking it out while it’s still relatively unknown. I can easily see it becoming a favorite hang-out for locals who want a smaller, more friendly alternative to some of the bigger, more crowded tourist entertainment spots. Yes, it will draw its fair share of tourists, but as you can see by the sign below, it’s lookingto become a local hot spot too. I know that I, for one, will definitely be coming back.