Ex­pe­ri­ence His­tory, Art and Fine Din­ing in Mount Dora

A Mount Dora ex­cur­sion of­fers some­thing for ev­ery­one, whether it’s an­tique hunt­ing, cruis­ing on a scenic boat tour or en­joy­ing an up­scale fine-din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that cel­e­brates fresh, lo­cal in­gre­di­ents.

Where Orlando - - Where now - By Jen­nie Hess


A day in the his­toric lake­side town of Mount Dora can quickly change a trav­eler’s per­spec­tive about Cen­tral Florida. It’s as sim­ple as crest­ing an un­ex­pected Lake County hill be­fore dip­ping into this charm­ing New Eng­land-style vil­lage about 35 miles north­west of Or­lando pop­u­lar for its art, mu­sic and other fes­ti­vals.


When Florida celebrity chef and James Beard Award win­ner Nor­man Van Aken tapped Mount Dora for his lat­est res­tau­rant—1921 by Nor­man Van Aken—the ex­cite­ment was pal­pa­ble. Renowned for mod­ern Florida cui­sine, Aken part­nered with Modernism Mu­seum Mount Dora to show­case mod­ern art trea­sures along­side his de­lec­ta­ble dishes. Visi­tors can start out at the mu­seum, home to note­wor­thy ex­hi­bi­tions like the cur­rent “es­h­er­ick to NAKASHIMA,” through May. As you wan­der, you’ll marvel at the rich wood Nakashima bench or the Es­h­er­ick spi­ral stair and learn more about the Stu­dio Arts Move­ment and how sculp­ture and fur­ni­ture can be one and the same. And you’ll work up an ap­petite.


Just across the street, step through a small court­yard to en­ter 1921 by Nor­man Van Aken, where stun­ning mod­ernist decor in a con­verted home (built in 1921), en­hances your din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Chef Van Aken calls 1921 “my love let­ter to Florida” re­flect­ing “its cui­sine to its art to its cul­ture and beyond.” Fa­vorite menu share­ables range from the Smoky Maduro Plan­tain Flat­bread with aged ched­dar and pork jowl ba­con to the Conch Frit­ters with hot pep­per jelly. The Korea Town Fried Chicken with col­lards and mac ‘n’ cheese is a crispy, juicy palate pleaser. The sig­na­ture chicken also ap­pears on 1921’s brunch menu with waf­fles, Asian-spiced syrup and moon­shine chut­ney. Fish caught fresh from Florida wa­ters, wood-grilled rib­eye, pan-roasted duck breast and other pop­u­lar en­trees round out the menu. Wine pair­ings are of­fered, and the 1921 cock­tail menu cel­e­brates mixol­ogy with fla­vors like laven­der and guava—there’s even a hibiscus gin and tonic on tap.


Other lo­cal din­ing hot spots in­clude the lake­side Pisces Ris­ing, where you can catch live mu­sic on the deck Thurs­days through Sun­days, The Goblin Mar­ket, and the club-like Beau­claire Din­ing Room in the his­toric Lake­side Inn. Mount Dora Brew­ing and the Rock­ing Rab­bit Brew­ery are fa­vorite lo­cal hang­outs for pub fare, and you’ll also find tea rooms and pizza and burger joints around town. Mag­gie’s At­tic of Florida—a fam­ily-owned wine and craft beer cel­lar—is the go-to spot for tast­ings and lively events. Mount Dora also of­fers Taste of Our Town guided tast­ing tours of lo­cal food and wine.


Ar­chi­tec­ture buffs won’t want to miss The Don­nelly House, built in 1893 in the Queen-Anne style by John P. Don­nelly for his wife, An­nie, and listed in the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places since 1975. Then spend time ex­plor­ing some of the lo­cal shops and bou­tiques. You’ll find clever and un­usual spe­cialty kitchen gad­gets, spices and rubs at the award­win­ning KaDee Kay Gourmet Kitchen Prod­ucts down­town. Dig up an au­to­graphed trea­sure at Un­cle Al’s Time Cap­sule, where signed photos of Frank Si­na­tra, Fred As­taire and other en­ter­tain­ment greats are for sale. An­tique ad­dicts will want to plan a visit to one of Florida’s largest venues for col­lectibles and an­tiques: Ren­ninger’s Twin Mar­kets, open Fri­days through Sun­days.


Bik­ing and Seg­way ad­ven­tures are fun ways to ex­plore the town, plus, there are 130-plus miles of nav­i­ga­ble wa­ter­ways via kayak, ca­noe and pad­dle­board.

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