Inspired by Great Urban Eateries Nationwide, Osprey Tavern Brings Upscale Cuisine and a Homey Ambiance to Baldwin Park. And it Reflects the Travels of its Adventurous Owner.

Joseph Burnett brings skills he learned at The Ravenous Pig and Norman’s to  Osprey Tavern’s open kitchen.

Joseph Burnett brings skills he learned at The Ravenous Pig and Norman’s to Osprey Tavern’s open kitchen.

Jason Chin was at a loss for words. The owner of Baldwin Park’s Seito Sushi knew he wanted his next restaurant to be a warm yet grand urban tavern with a familiar yet ambitious menu. Articulating that vision,
however, was a challenge.

Then Chin happened to come across the The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2013), a lavish book compiled by Michael Anthony, executive chef and partner at the cozy-but-chic Manhattan mainstay. This year Anthony won one of the most prestigious culinary honors in the U.S. — the James Beard Award as Outstanding Chef.

But it wasn’t so much Anthony’s recipes that inspired Chin. It was the introduction, written by legendary restauranteur Danny Meyer, whose über-successful Union Square Hospitality Group owns Gramercy Tavern and founded Shake Shack.

“It talked about striving for the restaurant to be a cornerstone of the community,” Chin recalls. “That struck a chord with me.”

When Osprey Tavern opened in March, Chin embraced the entire new urban tavern milieu. “I wanted guests to be able to have a nice time in a classy place that’s comfortable and feels like an extension of home,” he says. “But I wanted a chef-driven menu.”

He didn’t see much competition. “The Orlando dining landscape has very few places that offer a unique, higher-level culinary experience without breaking the bank,” notes Chin.

Add Osprey Tavern to that relatively short list.

At the center of the restaurant’s bustling dining room is an enormous bar. The kitchen is exposed and the space is bright, with light oak floors, a white marble bar and brass accents plus weathered wood from a century-old Midwestern barn.

The space feels like it’s been around forever. Yet it also exudes a contemporary energy, thanks to Chin’s wife, Sue, an interior designer. “If you use too many of the surface materials displayed at trade shows, the restaurant can feel commercial,” Chin says. “We were going for inviting and original. I think we nailed that.”

Complementing the colors are handpicked accessories including art, antiques and vintage luggage.

“We see the luggage as symbolic of our travels, which inspired this restaurant,” Chin adds. “We travel primarily to eat, and we were trying all these fantastic places. We were in awe of the dining scenes in places like Chicago, Atlanta and New York.”

In particular, the Chins were impressed with restaurants that offered “a kind of rustic approach to cuisine, but where the food was very well-executed.”

Examples included Chicago’s The Purple Pig and The Publican, New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Minetta Tavern, and San Francisco’s Wayfare Tavern.

For his new restaurant, Chin invited Joseph Burnett to head the kitchen. Burnett was most recently chef de cuisine at The Ravenous Pig. He also spent several years at Norman’s in the same position.

“It was time for Chef Joe to take the limelight,” Chin says, noting that Burnett’s success had previously been in support of other high-profile chefs.

Together, Burnett and Chin created a menu meant to appeal to both traditionalists and more adventurous diners. “Some people will always order the burgers or roast chicken,” Chin says. “And we’ll cater to them and make them feel welcome. But we both want to try to steer the culinary landscape here in Orlando.”

Chin has provided Burnett with top-of-the-line tools. For starters, the chef has use of a Josper grill, a European-inspired wood-fired contraption. “It allows for the ultimate expression of rustic cooking,” Chin says. Even peel-and-eat shrimp is enhanced by a Josper charring.

Pizzas have unusual toppings, such as eggplant caponata laced with orange zest.

Pizzas have unusual toppings, such as eggplant caponata laced with orange zest.

Pizzas doughs, which take two days to make, are baked in a domed stone hearth oven. The pies may be topped with eggplant caponata, lamb neck tikka or ham and cheese, for starters.

That eggplant caponata, like most Osprey dishes, is far from simple. The base consists of smoked, roasted and puréed eggplant mixed with rosemary and orange zest. Topping it is sautéed eggplant braised in burnt honey, caramelized onion and tomato.

“It’s our way of using this underappreciated summer vegetable,” says Burnett.

The steak dinner for two is plenty popular. But diners looking for a more unusual culinary experience can find an array of interesting entrées. For example, the Alaskan king salmon is dusted with a French four-spice (ginger, nutmeg, clove and white pepper) and served atop gnudi — a type of gnocchi made from butter, flour, herb purée and eggs — as well as black radish, artichokes and lobster broth.

Tagliatelle, a pasta, is a creamy concoction you’ll also want to try. The pasta, made with Seminole pumpkin, is tossed with Béarnaise sauce enriched with pumpkin juice and lemon.

Desserts are serious at Osprey Tavern, too. Instead of serving a simple carrot cake, Pastry Chef Kristy Carlucci concocted “peas and carrots,” with cake made from rainbow carrots “that are not only aesthetically pleasing but have a more intense carrot flavor,” says Carlucci.

Sharing the plate is a sweet-pea sponge cake with fresh pea shoots, which provide a crunch. Candied, dehydrated carrot shavings, which Carlucci calls “confetti,” add texture. Carrot curd and brown butter ice cream completes the dish.

If the crowd on a recent Friday evening was any indicator, then Osprey Tavern is becoming the culinary destination Chin had hoped for.

Some, however — usually social media “reviewers” who’ve clearly never been to the kind of places that inspired Chin — question why “tavern” is in the restaurant’s name.

The rest of us have no problem with it. We just order a craft cocktail, a burger or a Wagyu tartare with smoked mayo — and let our neighbors catch up to “tavern’s” evolved definition.

OSPREY TAVERN

4899 New Broad St., Baldwin Park

(407) 960-7700  •  ospreytavern.com