Drinking (and Dining) Mount Dora
By Stephanie Hayes
Mount Dora might have a reputation as being Florida’s premier stop for sleepy antique hunting, leisurely walks along charming, scenic streets and an early-to-bed, early-to-rise mentality.
And Mount Dora is all those things, to be sure. But let’s say you like antique hunting and leisurely walks along charming scenic streets, but you also like to enjoy a glass of vino -- or three. And say you’re cool with your bedtime (and your rising time) coming just a little bit later.
Is this still a fun place to visit?
Turns out, quaint Mount Dora is also ripe for bar hopping, with lots of delicious food to help you soak up the spirits along the way.
We suggest alternating each bar stop on your journey with a spin through one of the dozens of compelling antique stores in town. We can’t promise that you won’t walk out with a vintage Wedgewood plate, a rusty hotel skeleton key and a bag of old 45s if you employ this method, but we can promise you’ll enjoy it all with a bit more lucidity -- and actually remember the trip.
It’s worth noting that nothing stays open too late in Mount Dora. If you’re in the market for food options past 10 p.m., you’ll probably have to drive into what locals call “town,” which means the area a few miles up the road with the Waffle House and the other chain restaurants in strip mall shopping centers.
But if you plan your day accordingly, you can enjoy hours of mellow sipping through this special little Florida gem, and you’ll leave stuffed to the gills by closing time.
Here are a couple key places to raise a glass -- and take some bites in between.
The Goblin Market Restaurant and Lounge
330 Dora Drawdy Way
On its face, the Goblin Market might beg for a major pants-unbuttoning dinner, but do the unexpected and give this Mount Dora staple a try for lunch on your sipping sojourn. This dark, cool eatery gives you the feeling of being huddled in your favorite college English professor’s living room, which makes it a calm starting point for a day of imbibing. Everything feels plush and secluded, and the air conditioning is crisp as can be on a hot summer crawl. Prices at lunch are more reasonable than at dinner, when plates can crawl up into the $30 to $40 range. But at lunch you can enjoy a bowl of Irish whiskey onion soup for $6 and the massive cashew-crusted chicken Montagu for $12.25, and still have room in your budget for a glass of crisp afternoon Riesling before heading out into the sun.
One Flight Up
440 N Donnelly St.
This café is exactly like it sounds – up one flight of stairs on North Donnelly Street, with killer views of the town below and a full menu of coffee, beer and wine. And that’s to say nothing of the giant towering slices of cake that will sail past your table and make your eyes bigger than your stomach. It’s the perfect stop for an afternoon snack or a glass of wine all on its own. Sample flavors from vintners including Sycamore Lane, Robert Mondavi, Milton Park and Dolium, all while noshing on some blue crab and artichoke dip or a praline bread pudding. And with happy hour from 4-7 p.m. most of the week, you can grab an imported beer for $2.50 or a glass of wine for $5.50. While you’re perusing the halls, be sure to take a look at some of the local art on display.
Just as the name says, One Flight Up is located above the shops on North Donnelly Street. Grab a coffee and cake to satisfy the sweet tooth or sit on the balcony, observe the shoppers, and enjoy happy hour.
The Lost Parrot
100 E 4th Ave.
This is a prime place to order a big plate of fried coconut shrimp or conch fritters, because at this point, you probably need it. Nosh your fried friends at the bar while knocking back a mixed drink, or take them to go and eat out in front of beautiful Lake Dora. The Lost Parrot has a tropical, wasting away again in Margaritaville vibe that will relax you, then get you motivated for the next stop. Different week nights have different themes at the Lost Parrot, from hats to martinis and jazz to football. Be sure to ask the staff about the family story involving an actual lost parrot named Paco de Garcia.
Colorful and Caribbean, The Lost Parrot, can get the dancing feet moving to the beat of the islands. Different weeknights have different themes, from hats to martinis and jazz to football. Enjoy some coconut shrimp, conch fritters and a tropical drink.
The Palm Tree Grille and Bar
351 N Donnelly St.
This classy eatery boasts an impressive range of wines and spirits by the hundred, from French options like La Griveliere Cotes Du Rhone to California’s Rodney Strong Chalk Hill. The restaurant has a package license, so you can buy a bottle (or a case, if the shoe fits) and take it back to the hotel. But perhaps the most dangerous option at the Palm Tree Grille and Bar is the heaping pitcher of sweet and spicy red or white sangria priced at a paltry $15 for the whole thing. You’re going to want more than two people to split this, but it will be well worth every penny.
Mount Dora Brewing and the Rocking Rabbit Brewery
405 South Highland St.
You could definitely hang out here until late — at least late for Mount Dora standards — until weekend closing time of 11 p.m. However, Mount Dora Brewing and the Rocking Rabbit also make a great day-after-drinking stop. The pub and restaurant are a little removed from the main drag on South Highland Street, a short drive from Mount Dora’s walkable shopping district. The Rocking Rabbit serves breakfast seven days a week, but it’s also a great stop if you need a nice, juicy cheeseburger to help you recover. Order a flight of the brewery’s creations to sample a little of everything. Varieties range from the Beauclaire Blond Ale made with organic malt and infused with the flavor of light brown sugar to — if you can get past the name — the Rabbit Pellet Porter, a mix of porter and the brewery’s signature red beer made with orange blossom honey. Make sure to take a picture with the brewery’s larger than life wooden rocking rabbit, built by owner Jeff Herbst. He was a furniture builder before getting into professional brewing.
Mount Dora Brewing and the Rocking Rabbit Brewery is a pub and restaurant just off the main drag. Owner, Jeff Herbst, says all the beer is made with organic malt. Flights are available for those that want to sample a little of everything from Ale to Porter.