There’s a lot of “American” chain restaurants out there offering pretty much the same thing – burgers, chicken, salads, and comfort food. From TGI Fridays and Miller’s Ale House to the new kid in O-town, Ford’s Garage.
The latest location of this Ford-themed (yes the automobile manufacturer) American fare restaurant opened in November 2018 at the Vineland Premium Outlets.
Built from the outside to resemble a 1920’s gas station, visitors can expect to see some vintage Ford vehicles and unique decor which pays homage to the automaker who brought us the Taurus.
Diners can choose to eat inside where a U-shaped bar is at one end of the restaurant while tables fill in the rest, or take a seat outside.
Ford’s Garage in Orlando features a pretty impressive list of rotating craft beers that are poured from a wall lined with taps behind the bar. They also have full bar service for those that want something other than suds.
The food menu features your typical stuff – but the stars here are the burgers. Ford’s Garage bills itself as “Prime Burgers and Craft Beer” which is pretty accurate. The menu is pretty much all burgers, with a few entrees.
The dozen or so burgers are made with a half-pound Angus beef, but you can substitute the beef for a grilled chicken breast or turkey burger at no charge, or the Impossible meatless burger for an extra $2.
Since opening, I’ve paid a few visits to Ford’s Garage, so let’s talk about some of the food that I’ve had so far before I get into whether or not this place should be on your “visit” list.
First, appetizers. The menu includes some usual suspects such as a tower of onion rings served on an oil funnel, nachos, pretzel sticks, wings, buffalo fried shrimp and one that I tried – Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna (sesame seared and served with Asian slaw, wasabi, sesame ginger, seaweed salad, and a fried wonton – $11.29).
This was a pretty typical preparation and was not really unique or notable. As one of the healthier apps on the menu, it’s a good choice.
If you want to go green and forget the fact that you’re about to order a big cheeseburger and fries and want to avoid the guilt that may be associated with that, as I did, grab a salad. While it’s just a salad, Ford’s puts together a pretty good Chop Chop Salad (chopped mixed greens with cucumber, vine ripe tomatoes, red onion, shredded Cheddar cheese, hard boiled egg, chick peas, and bacon, tossed in ranch dressing – $8.99).
Let’s talk burgers. Like I mentioned before, there’s a dozen of them. From their version of a classic bacon cheeseburger to more adventurous varieties such as The Jiffy Burger featuring American Cheese, bacon and Peanut Butter; and the BBQ Brisket Burger that’s topped with brisket, bacon, BBQ sauce, onion straws, and shredded Cheddar cheese. Prices range from $10.99 – $13.99.
The first burger I tried was the Distinguished Gentleman (black Angus, baby Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, arugula, lettuce, tomato, and garlic aioli on a brioche bun – $12.50). I added bacon to this Gentleman, as what’s a burger without bacon?
The burger was cooked to the temperature I requested, had good flavor, but there were a lot of greens. The aioli and the greens made for a bit of a messy burger, but nothing that napkins couldn’t fix.
Next was Ford’s Signature. The burger billed as the chain’s signature creation with black Angus, aged sharp Cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, bourbon BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on a brioche bun – $12.50.
Yes. That’s not a Photoshopped photo, that’s not something I did to the bun… that’s how they actually served their signature burger to me.
This is where I’m going to cut this review short – something I never did before, and here’s why.
Since Ford’s opened in November, I’ve been there probably about four or five times. I’ve never seen the same faces behind the bar. I’ve never been impressed with the service or lack thereof. The bar staff has never been friendly – they seemed more rushed and not in sync with what’s going on around them than anything else. One person takes your order, the bartender gets your drink, someone else delivers your food, nobody checks to see how things are going.
That’s pretty typical of this place when you’re eating at the bar.
I’ve had my menu taken away from me before I ever ordered food. I’ve played the “find a full ketchup bottle” game by going from seat to seat at the bar looking for the condiment. I’ve been given someone else’s food.
The list goes on.
I’m sure the restaurant does well as it’s located at the outlets where the captive audience of tourists fuel up and cash out. As far as a place for locals to go? Forget it.
That’s unfortunate because Ford’s has a solid lineup of burgers and beer that you’re not going to find at Friday’s or one of their competitors. It just seems that this location needs a management shakeup to whip it into shape, train good staff that’s going to stick around, and earn business from hungry locals looking for a good burger and a couple of beers.
It’s not a hard recipe to follow!
Ford used to have a slogan years ago – “Quality is Job One.” A quick look at the way they served their signature burger to me shows that quality isn’t a core focus here and neither is service.