Time for some unfortunate news. Three decent (not fabulous, decent) restaurants have gone the way of the economy and shut their doors: Strollo's Cucina Due in Winter Park, Beluga in Winter Park, and all of the Central Florida What-A-Burger restaurants (3, I think). I'll offer eulogies for these establishments now.
I only went to Strollo's once, but I was so impressed with their array of artisan dry pastas. I now regret not buying several boxes of bucatini (thick spaghetti with holes through the center, perfect for carbonara), and about a case of Orangina. The goat-cheese/portobello panini I had for lunch was divine, and they didn't scrimp on the goat cheese, an error too many places make. Strollo's had a gorgeous case of cheeses, olives, and salumis, perfect for organizing a cocktail platter, and they offered cooking classes in their fully-equipped cooking class kitchen, located in the far corner of the restaurant. It's really too bad this place is gone. Really.
My theory: too many things going on at once. Either do a case of deli food, bread baking, pastries, be an ethnic food store, have a cafe, and do cooking classes SEPARATELY, or don't do them at all. If you try too many things at once, you'll most likely implode.
As for Beluga, I read several articles online talking about why Beluga closed, and there was no conclusive evidence until I actually went to the location, in the Winter Park Village, and saw the property lien tacked to the glass doors. Non-payment of taxes can be a bitch - ask Wesley Snipes. I never went to Beluga, but it always looked swanky and fun, with potentially good signature cocktails. I guess I'll never know. I always imagined delicate caviar served on ice with shots of smooth vodka on the side. Probably unrealistic, but I'll just leave my dreams where they are.
My theory: Pay your taxes.
To me, the real tragedy is the What-A-Burger. Orlando has such a hard restaurant market to crack, but these guys really knew how to make a burger. I would choose a What-A-Burger over most of the fancier burger joints (did I just say 'fancy burger joints'?) like Graffiti or Hue. The fact that I could order pickled jalapenos on my burger was such a plus. Their fries were amazing. I miss the breakfast burrito.
Sure, Five Guys does burgers better than almost everyone, but I held a special spot in my heart for What-A-Burger. During the early days of my relationship with my current boyfriend, after a long night of watching horror movies or "studying," What-A-Burger would often be the only thing still open, and we'd frequent the place as a midnight love snack. You'll be missed, What-A-Burger. You can read the full What-A-Burger story here, from the Sentinel.
My theory: No one will take down McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's. To be honest, I'm surprised Sonic is still in business. But they have the girls-on-roller-skates thing going for them.
My sources tell me that the Drunken Monkey coffee bar on Bumby might be in trouble as well. They've cut down their menu severely (only 3 fabulous soups now, instead of the usual 6 or 7), as well as recently raised their prices. All signs of a nervous captain and crew.
My theory: Dunkin' Donuts. Also, I love the Drunken Monkey, but their service is horribly slow and they closed down briefly last year for health code violations. Pick your poison. Doomed from the start, in my opinion. Unfortunately.