Pardon me for a brief moment as I mourn the loss of our favorite speakeasy over the weekend. Pharmacy in Orlando tucked quietly behind a nondescript elevator door, served up amazing food and drink that we’re already missing.
I can still taste the pork chop.
With the closure of our Saturday night spot, we began the quest to find a suitable replacement. Having heard of Highball & Harvest inside the Ritz Carlton in Orlando before, I thought we’d give it a shot and see if this could be our new fave.
We didn’t make a reservation because we planned on sitting at the bar. We arrived a little after 8pm and pulled up to the resort’s valet (free with validation from the restaurant) and made our way downstairs to the large bar / lounge / restaurant.
There were two open seats at the bar, out of about a dozen, as if they were waiting for us. The restaurant was fairly packed and there was a guitarist/vocalist providing live music. Side note, the music was way too loud for the space. Loud to the point where we had to yell, or at least speak at the top of our voices, to have a conversation even though we were inches apart.
The concept of Highball & Harvest is craft cocktails and a farm-to-table southern menu. Ingredients are sourced from local farms and produce comes from their own 7,000 square foot garden.
We ordered cocktails (a dirty martini $17, and a rye Manhattan $21) which were average for the price. As we looked over the menu to pick a starter, I asked for an order of H+H Jerky (flank steak, peppercorn, soy – $10) and was told, “we don’t have that tonight.” So we ordered some of the “Kickin’ Wings (pickle brined, smoked, fried and served with “secret sauce” – $16).
The wings had a nice smoky flavor to them, were not sauced and had a bit of a crisp that held in some really good juiciness. The pickles served as a garnish, were unique and were very good! The “secret sauce” was not. Little did we know the wings would be the star of the evening.
For our next round of cocktails, I asked our bartender to make me one of her favorites. She whipped up a concoction based on my likes and dislikes. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t memorable either. It was $21.
The menu is broken out into many different sections. Under “Gettin’ Started” you’ll find the previously mentioned wings along with a crab beignet, spoonbread, fresh oysters, their version of charcuterie and a kale or grilled romaine salad.
Parker House Rolls ($8 by the way), soup, the jerky that they didn’t have, and deviled eggs are listed under “Bites.”
Main entrees include a cauliflower steak, real steak, local fish, grouper, and the ones we chose Shrimp & Grits and the High on the Hog.
First, the shrimp and grits (blackened shrimp, Anson Mills grits, roasted tomato, watercress and green onion – $29). There were about a half-dozen shrimp on top of the grits which had a very overpowering flavor. The grits tasted more like you were eating feta cheese than grits, the sour flavor detracted from the dish.
Next, the “High on the Hog” which is billed as a “collaborative idea amongst our chefs featuring southern market ingredients” and is market priced. This particular evening, it was a pork porterhouse served with vegetable lasagna.
The pork came served on a block of wood (if I knew that I would have asked for a plate) with the vegetable lasagna in a cast iron ramekins that dwarfed the size of the porterhouse. The pork itself was dry and tough, definitely not medium but more on the well side. The fact that I asked two times for a steak knife and never got one, made cutting this tough piece of meat even harder. The vegetable lasagna was something that would make my Italian grandmother cry.
We skipped dessert but opted for another round of cocktails – bartender’s choice – to see if there would be some last-minute “wow” to end the night.
I did have somewhat high expectations from Highball & Harvest, specifically because it’s one of the restaurants inside the Ritz Carlton. That, coupled with the restaurant’s farm-to-table and craft cocktail focus had me expecting more.
Unfortunately, we didn’t find a replacement for our favorite speakeasy this time around, but there’s always the next time. That next time won’t be at Highball & Harvest however, as this is a one-and-done for us.