Owner Joan Reidenbaugh in front of Jamaica Gardens as renovations are in progress.
(UPDATE: Jamaica Gardens opened on October 26.) Tropical cuisine, fruity cocktails adorned with umbrellas and the relaxing beat of reggae music are headed to Mount Dora. Jamaica Gardens, a new downtown eatery, is expected to have its soft opening in October.
Like a lot of visitors to the quaint Central Florida town, Joan Reidenbaugh fell in love with Mount Dora when she married her husband, Mark, twelve years ago at the historic Lakeside Inn.
“I saw a need for a great Caribbean-style location in the beautiful city and have been dreaming about this since,” said Reidenbaugh.
Fast forward and she is now busy transforming the large space at 322 Alexander Street into Jamaica Gardens, a restaurant offering authentic Caribbean cuisine. After painters finish turning the drab exterior into a vibrant sky blue, Reidenbaugh will add new awnings and a “beach area” to the outside to help bring an authentic island vibe to the location.
The cuisine will be mostly Jamaican with a touch of other Caribbean flavors. There will be plenty of the traditional jerk dishes, along with curried goat, Jamaican-style oxtails and Escovitch fish and conch fritters, plus coconut shrimp, fried chicken, salads and soups.
Reidenbaugh, a certified chef who majored in hotel and restaurant management, will be the primary chef until she trains a replacement. The Jamaican native of Christiana, Reidenbaugh said her authentic Caribbean recipes draw from her island roots just like her other restaurant in Longwood.
The interior of the restaurant, formerly The Pineapple Place, is also changing to provide an atmosphere that diners would find in Jamaica. The bar will feature specialty cocktails and a happy hour on Monday through Thursday. Jamaica Gardens will feature a live reggae band and steel drums Wednesdays through Saturdays.
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