Reprint from original publishing on January 11, 2015
Last month, I was lucky enough to receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the I-Drive 360 construction site. Great timing also allowed me a glimpse into the progress at Tin Roof, a “live music joint” which was in the final stages of construction at that time. I met with Regional Manager William Hodges for a little pre-opening insight, and his enthusiasm was beyond contagious. I could see how the place was coming together, and even in dusty construction mode, it was appealing on a level that excited me. I don’t usually get overly excited about a restaurant, but then again… that’s not quite what Tin Roof is!
Orlando’s Tin Roof is the first to open in Florida. Born on Nashville’s “Music Row” in 2002, Tin Roof has since opened 14 total locations nationwide. Claiming its place at the new I-Drive 360 complex, Tin Roof joins equally unique neighbors to create a dazzling, cooperative hot spot unlike anything we’ve seen in this city of wonder and amusement. And “unique” is the theme behind every aspect of the Roof – from the atmosphere, to the staff, and especially the menu!
Last week, I had the privilege of being invited to a special media event at Tin Roof, and I must say that it was absolutely worth the wait. I’m always a bit nervous when it comes time to review a restaurant. My worst kept secret… I’m a notoriously picky eater. The list of what I won’t eat far outweighs the list of what I will. I had previewed the Tin Roof menus prior to the event, and I was intrigued… but still unsure. I showed up with a mental commitment to ignore my inner child and dive right in. They describe their flavor as “Tenn-Mex”, after all, blending together the traditions and flavors of two of my favorite types of cuisine – Tennessee barbecue and Mexican. It’s a truly original mash-up of these mouth-watering favorites, and then some. And for once, I’m so glad I let my guard down! The Food
The brilliant minds behind Tin Roof’s menu go out of their way to insist it’s “better than bar food” – and it really is. While the atmosphere and style of the Roof have the vibe to set an expectation for sliders, chicken wings, nachos, and the like – the Tin Roof spin on American pub classics is just as surprising as everything else within these four walls!
Our tables were graced with little buckets that overflowed with popcorn. Popcorn is always a tempting snack, but when you combine this classic with another irresistible favorite, it’s impossible to resist. If Bacon Spiced Popcorn sounds good, you can’t even imagine how tantalizing it tastes!
I was quite impressed with my courage there, after all – I’m a plain ol’ buttered popcorn kinda gal. Well, I used to be. Tin Roof may have dethroned old reliable with this twist! But then… I was offered something that really tested my commitment – Da Lox! It was quite a pleasing item to look at, but my biggest no-no is seafood. Da Lox is a citrus-cured salmon gribiche on cucumber. Did I mention that I’m also not a fan of cucumbers? In order to bring you the goods, I had to sample them, right? Down the hatch it went, and I am stunned to admit… I liked it!
It was a lot less challenging to sample a few other Tin Roof favorites. Their famous Chicken and Waffles are topped in a homemade syrup that I would gladly buy by the bucket – the perfect sweet and sticky topper to this traditional Southern delight.
Speaking of Southern delights… I’ve never encountered such juicy, tender, meaty ribs – very well complimented with sauce choices that would be impossible to choose between. Even those of us from the great state of Texas will tip their hats to Tennessee here!
The menu just continues to surprise from there. Two stand-outs to note: Hoecake Pile-Up, and Cowhorn Pepper S’more Pie. For starters, what is a Hoecake? Hoecakes are cornmeal pancakes, “piled-up” with barbecue beef brisket, slaw and pickles. Bring your appetite for this one!
But somehow, you have to save room for the S’more Pie, which presents a classic with a cayenne twist! Somehow… this actually works! Dare I say, it’s yum-tastic!
Tin Roof also offers a wide selection of beer, wine, and signature cocktails. To take a peek at the full Tin Roof menu, visit their site.
Located at the base of The Orlando Eye, it goes without saying that the Tin Roof location is prime. Between the views of this modern marvel, and the lively allure of the entire I-Drive 360 complex, it’s easy to see that Tin Roof promises to become a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike. From 11am – 2am daily, Tin Roof will offer everything from quick snacks, full meals, or simply a drink or two before embarking on the next “360” adventure. Indoor and outdoor seating are available, but I strongly urge you to check out the goings-on under the roof.
Tin Roof doesn’t stop with the food and drinks. What about the music? Tin Roof has a reputation for appreciation of the local climate. This is demonstrated in the familial-friendly vibe put out by every member of the staff, and it is also evident in their support of the local music scene. All Tin Roof locations are well-known for providing generous exposure to local and regional talent, and Orlando’s “Roof” will be no different. On media day, we were treated to a performance by Bryan Malpass, who many may recognize as a regular performer at Downtown Disney. The music was the key to confirming the feel of Tin Roof. Taking requests, and displaying a broad repertoire, Bryan added the final touches to making the place feel so inviting and comfortable.
I spoke with Chef Ryan Hunt briefly, and praised him on helping to create something truly different at Tin Roof (and Orlando desperately needs some “different”). While we discussed the various aspects that enhance the original nature of the Roof, he really summed it up perfectly. It does feel like a cozy gathering of friends in the barn, with decorative help from “American Pickers”. The music is raw, the food is fast, service is over-the-top. It’s seamless, but casual, and it just feels like home. Tin Roof welcomes curious tourists and visiting convention-bound professionals, but they really strive to engage their community on a more personal level. They welcome guests to become a “regular”, and once you discover the charm of the Roof, that’s exactly what you’ll want to be.