Continuing my monthly review of the top restaurants in the valley, this month my wife and I chose The Tabernash Tavern. For those unfamiliar with the valley, this restaurant is “Located in beautiful lower downtown Tabernash”, and I can attest that indeed it is located in Tabernash! (6 miles outside of Winter Park). I’m not so sure about the rest of the location details obviously written tongue-in-cheek, but if great food and a cozy ambience are what you’re looking for, The Tavern is a real treat.
The reputation is borne of the Head Chef, Al Sapien, who formerly ran the Ranch House Restaurant at Devils Thumb, The Shed and then the Untamed Steakhouse in Winter Park, and has established such a following that it’s kind of like a “if you open it, they will come” scenario. Well, it opened in June 2008 and I noticed that the Tavern has a Facebook page with 623 fans! That’s quite a fan base.
It’s definitely advisable to make a reservation ahead of time. In so doing, we were taken straight to our table in the main (front) part of the restaurant which is the place to be. With dark-stained wooden (cedar I think) walls, cathedral ceiling and spot lighting, the dining area has a very warm feel to it, and all around is an eclectic mix of old cooking utensils, skis, sleds, tankards, cans, posters and other items no doubt collected over the years.
Al’s menu often changes, so don’t necessarily rely on what’s in the Menu Guide, or the telephone book if you’re into advanced menu selections. What he does however (which also applies to the wine list) is to present a variety of International choices, drawn from past experience and travels abroad. After Thai curry mussels for appetizer, which were sublime, we had the Steak Mazatlan – very tasty and very filling by the way– and the Paella which was absolutely outstanding. A bottle of Benton-Lane Oregon Pinot Noir was the perfect accompaniment and it was somewhat disappointing we didn’t have room for dessert as the choices were more than tempting. Perhaps we’ll just go for beer, apps and a dessert next time.
All in all, a very nice evening out. Al has recently opened an Italian restaurant in Winter Park – called Aleberto’s for some reason – which is where I think we’re heading next month.
Verdict: highly recommended.