**EDITED: THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED AS OF THE END OF JULY 2013**
We had a Groupon to visit Fresh On The Fly in Lake Mary and after enjoying a wonderful meal there, I am kicking myself for not giving into my hunch to buy a second one. This place was delicious, fun and cozy. Tucked away off the beaten path in an upscale strip mall, Fresh On The Fly serves mostly seafood but also offers items like Chicken and Waffles, Pork Chops, and even a Buffalo Burger. We arrived on an early Friday evening to check out the dinner menu. It wasn’t very busy and we were seated right away.
We immediately decided to order the Cracker Crusted Fried Green Tomato Starter ($7, and yes, they have Bruschetta but we decided to try something new.) This isn’t a fine dining establishment (and not a dive either) and I had not expected the food to be plated and presented just like one of those fancy restaurants. The tomatoes came to the table stacked up nice and neat with a “brushstroke” of peppercorn aioli across the plate. The dish would score high just on the presentation. But one cannot judge a dish by presentation alone and no worries, the tomatoes were delectable! They were served hot with a thin layer of a cracker crust. The peppercorn aioli was just spicy enough to add a little kick but not overwhelm the flavor of the savory tomatoes.
Next we split the Granny Smith Apple Salad ($6) - they usually serve the salads as an entree as we learned because the salad was enormous! Sliced apples, toasted pecans, red grapes and blue cheese served atop a bed of greens then tossed with a brown sugar vinaigrette dressing. First of all, you can’t really go wrong with blue cheese and about any kind of fruit in a salad but it was the dressing that put this over the top. The dressing was sweet and delicate and you could really taste the essence of the brown sugar, but it wasn’t so sweet that you felt like you were eating straight sugar. There was a nice balance between the brown sugar and some type of a vinegary base. (It was so good that the next night I tried to duplicate at home- it wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t bad either.) You can add chicken, steak, Corvina, Mahi Mahi or shrimp to any of the salads for an upcharge and call it a meal and you will be satisfied.
We decided to split two entrees as we normally do. First we ordered the Cali Tacos ($12) with blackened Mahi Mahi, Chipotle coleslaw, red onions, Jack cheese and cilantro on a taco shell (we ordered the hard tacos though you can soft if you desire.) They were stuffed well (as in enough filling to fill out the shell), the Mahi Mahi was blackened well (not too spicy), and the Chipotle slaw was tart and tangy enough to bring together all the flavors. I think that next time we would maybe order the soft shells because the strong corn taste of the hard shells took away a lot of the flavor from the dish itself in my opinion. Lesson learned- our fault not theirs.
The second entree we got was the cheesesteak with Mahi Mahi ($13). I am going to refer to this as a “cheesesteak” because it wasn’t really a cheesesteak, it was more of a wrap. I expected it to be served on a hoagie roll but maybe that is just the Philadelphia in me. It was more like a smothered Mahi Mahi wrap (and in their defense it does state it is served in a wrap on the menu) but it was disappointing that a real cheesesteak roll wasn’t available. Don’t get me wrong- it was delicious. It had sautéed onions and peppers, melted Provolone cheese and a Chipotle aioli- it was very tasty- I just think the name “cheesesteak” was a little misleading (again- only speaking as a Philadelphian- perhaps the rest of the country categorizes cheesesteaks differently.)
If the worse I can say is that they named a dish wrong than this place is probably OK. While the starter, salad and main dishes were all delicious, each entrée came with two sides and we found most of those to be just average. We ordered the baked beans (meh), the broccoli salad (meh), the sautéed vegetable medley (needed more seasoning), and hand cut fries (maybe some of the best restaurant fries we have ever had!) It is obvious the fries were hand cut that day- they were hot and crisp and salted just right. We had a very minor wait for them but it was well worth it.
As we were leaving, the place was really filling up leaving me to believe that this a pretty popular spot. I also like places that have open kitchens where you as the patron can sort of see what is happening to your food “behind the scenes.” There are even barstools bellied up to the kitchen so you can really watch the food get prepared. There isn’t a liquor bar so to speak, but they do serve beer and wine.
Fresh On The Fly is open for lunch where they serve mostly items like the blackened fish of the day sandwich, a shrimp or oyster po’ boy or a burger. At dinner, they step it up a bit and serve platters like seared scallops or steak as well as a small selection of sandwiches like the fish tacos or the Mahi Mahi BLT. I wish I had bought a second Groupon but I think we will be making a return trip there again soon even without one. Four out of 5 sprouts!