Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cave Inn BBQ

I have a friend who lives in Winter Garden and loves going out to eat just as much as I do. I saw on her Facebook page that she had tried a place called Cave Inn BBQ and liked it, so I told her that I wanted to go there as well. I love BBQ and so we made plans and she and I went a few weeks back.
It is located in a small desolate strip mall just outside of the larger, more populated area of Winter Garden. My first thought was that this was a poor location and they were going to have a difficult time getting traffic.

We were seated and my friend immediately ordered us two helpings of the Pungent Lily Rings (Thinly sliced, seasoned, crisp sweet onions $4). Everything on the menu had a Dinosaur-related name, which was kitschy and fun.


As I looked around I enjoyed the “Flintstones” themed décor, a little cheesy but kind of funny as well. Even the bathroom had a pre-historic theme and they had a really cool sink in there. There were probably 3 other tables there that evening and they were just starting Karaoke (which was a little annoying, but a couple people were enjoying it so whatever).

Our server quickly brought out our appetizer, as well as samplings of several of their house-made BBQ Sauces (They had several on their menu consisting of an Apple Butter and a Raspberry Chipotle). This appetizer was fantastic! They were crispy and there was something sweet about them. There must have been sugar in the batter as well as a little crack (LOL) because they were so addictive. I was glad that we each had our own order, and I really liked sopping up the different sauces with them.

My friend ordered a giant Burger and a House Salad that came with a house-made herb Vinaigrette. I ordered a Pulled Pork Sandwich (served on grilled Naan Bread) with Coleslaw and Baked Beans on the side. This also came out rather quickly, although by this time our server was a little slow when it came to refills and bringing out the BBQ Sauce that we had requested. This Pulled Pork was delicious and the fact that it was served on Naan Bread was a nice touch. I could only finish about half of it and took the rest home (and it was just as good the next day right out of the fridge). The Cole Slaw was decent. The Baked Beans could have been cooked a little longer but the flavor was awesome, super- sweet, and the portion was huge.

Then with our bill she brought out a bowl of Chocolate Candy Rocks. This added to the kitsch factor and was also a nice bonus at the end. We left loving the food and couldn’t wait to go back and take another friend of ours who we also thought would love it.

The next day I saw online that the show Restaurant Impossible was doing their makeover on Cave Inn BBQ the following week. Being a fan of the show I wondered why they were going to be there, they had been open less then a year (and the show usually only comes to fix a business has been open for several years). They usually are asked to a place to repair the Food, the Ambiance, or the Service. We tried to get a reservation for the Grand Re-Opening but they were fully booked. Our thoughts were that the place could use a little improvement on Décor, but we sure hope that they weren’t going to ruin the Food.

 A week or so after the renovations we ended up returning and taking our other friend. We were both excited and nervous. As we walked in we were amazed out how different the place looked. There was a fresh coat of paint, what looked like more seating, and plenty of new décor. The walls are now filled with Dinosaur artwork (some of which look like models that you would find for at a science store) and a large “Cave” structure built out of the wall. Although it is very impressive at first glance, when you get up close it seems to have been done rather cheaply. (This was the same case for another “Restaurant Impossible” makeover that I have visited… which incidentally closed within the first year of its renovation.)

We had the same server as the previous visit. As she brought our menus we noticed that they were much smaller and most of the things we had enjoyed before were gone. (Dear Lord, Please let the Food be good.) When expressing our disappointment that many of the things we were excited about were gone she told us about some of the new items and that hopefully they would be bringing back some of our favorites. She told us how good they were so we each ordered a House Salad (Market Vegetables, soft and crispy Lettuces, shaved Radish with Green Goddess Dressing $4). It took an unusually long time for them to be delivered, and when they finally arrived they seemed rather small. I enjoyed mine but missed the Salad from before with the Herb Vinaigrette (but the other girls did not enjoy theirs at all). By this time our Drinks (which were not even right) needed to be refilled, which also took forever… and one of them never got refilled at all. What is going on with the service here?

When she took our order I decided to get the Pulled Pork Sandwich again to compare it to my first visit (served with Mustard Slaw and House BBQ Sauce, on choice of toasted Brioche or grilled Naan $9). She asked if I wanted it on BRO SHAY? Or Naan? I laughed (knowing that she didn’t know how to pronounce Brioche, but was still attempting to sound fancy. LOL). I figured that I better stick with the Naan. She also asked if I wanted Regular Fries, Sweet Potato Fries or Sweet Potato Tots. I attempted the Tots, however when it was brought out it was definitely Sweet Potato Fries (Surprise).

The Pork Sandwich wasn’t bad, but the portion of Meat was much smaller then before. I also missed the selection of BBQ Sauces that they previously offered. The Sweet Potato Fries were pretty good, a little salty but still tasty. I didn’t even try the Slaw – it looked gross.

I also tried the Baked Beans. They were not nearly as good as the previous ones, this was more like a Chili.

Our table also had an order of Whole Chicken Wings ($6) and a Brisket Sandwich (served with caramelized Onions, Horseradish Sauce and melted Swiss $11). There were no complaints about these items, other then the fact that Ketchup was requested and never brought out.

By this time we noticed that the couple sitting next to us (who had already sent their food back because it was wrong) complaining to management. We started talking with them and they were also previous fans; who were upset by all of these changes to the menu. Robert Irvine… what did you do?

I had signed up to their website and was issued a 15% off our entire check voucher. I gave it to our server but was still not issued the discount when she brought our bill. We brought it to the manager’s attention and he was very nice and fixed it.

On my first visit I thought the Atmosphere and Service could have been better but it really didn’t bother me because the Food was so good. On the second visit although the Atmosphere got slightly better, the Food was worse and the Service was awful. A lot of things can be overlooked if the Food is exceptional, however this was not a good experience and I doubt that I will ever be back. Besides, like I said from the beginning the location is so far off the beaten path that it is difficult for them to even get the traffic to be a successful business.

Since my last visit I have noticed from their website that they have added the Pungent Lily Rings back on the menu as well as a few more items. I am looking forward to watching the Restaurant Impossible episode (which is scheduled for mid May 2014) and it will be interesting to see why they changed the things that they did. Maybe more will be revealed to me but as of now I have no pans to return, however I do wish them luck and hope that they can get it together. I never like to see a business fail.

Cave Inn BBQ on Urbanspoon

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