Owner Joan Reidenbaugh in front of Jamaica Gardens as renovations are in progress.
(Article updated 9/10/18) 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 Jamaican-style oxtails and Escovitch fish and conch fritters, plus coconut shrimp, fried chicken, salads and soups.
A temporary 'Stop-Work' order was recently issued to the business by the City of Mount Dora so the owner can seek the required review and approvals by the city's Historic Preservation Board at a future public hearing. The owner also must secure the required building permits, according to a City of Mount Dora official.
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.
The restaurant will be hosting a series of job fairs in September at the location for servers, bartenders, hosts and kitchen staff. One event will be the middle of September and the other at the end of September. Watch for dates on the Mount Dora Word of Mouth Facebook page.
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