Sunday, June 10, 2007

Restaurant Review - Hurricane Grill and Wings, 1700 W. Sand Lake Road (near Florida Mall), and 3120 South Kirkman Road (Metrowest), Orlando, FL

Hurricane Grill and WingsHurricane Grill and Wings, a new wings chain to arrive in Orlando, touts themselves as a "getaway for the whole family." This is a home-grown chain, originating in Ft. Pierce, FL, in 1995. Two locations recently opened in the Orlando area - one in Metrowest and one by the Florida Mall - and I tried them both (separate days of course), with the boys, and Grandma and Grandpa in tow.

The decor is very bright and beach-y inside. You get the feeling that you are on a bamboo-walled dock, on a pier somewhere, by the ocean. And the music adds to the atmosphere with 50's and 60's beach tunes like (natch) the Beach Boys. There are also large flat-screen TVs on every wall, which helps to keep the kids (and the dads) entertained. It's also a full-service restaurant (yay!) which is a welcome change to all the fast casual chains that have been opening up lately.

There is a kids' menu, complete with coloring and puzzles, which the boys were very happy about. The kids' offerings are pretty simple and mostly chicken. For $4.95, kids get a choice of wings, chicken bites, chicken strips, grouper fingers, Mac-n-Cheese, or a grilled cheese sandwich. The chicken and grouper items come with a choice of sauce. All the kids' meals come with two sides: either fries, applesauce, cole slaw, salad, or celery; and a drink: milk, juice, or soda. I like how milk is one of the choices, that's actually pretty rare to see nowadays. The regular menu is a lot more extensive, and frankly, a little overwhelming. There are appetizers, platters, sides, wings (both with and without bones), 33 sauces to choose from (yes, that's right... 33!), sandwiches, Philly sandwiches, entree salads, side salads, desserts, beers, and wine. Whew. We decided to take the easy way out and order wings. With 33 sauces, we figured we would have enough to decide on.

The sauces (FlowingWithFlavor Sauces & Rubs as Hurricane Grill and Wings calls them) are broken out into five categories, with Category 1 the weakest and Category 5 the strongest (get it - just like a hurricane is categorized?) Pretty much anything you can imagine is a sauce on this menu. For Category 1 there is a mild Hurricane sauce (basically a mild buffalo-style sauce), BBQ, teriyaki, Tuscan Herb Toss, etc. In Category 2 there is Mango BBQ, Honey Garlic, Maple Pepper Glaze, and more. Category 3 has Chile & Lime, Cajun, Spicy Pina Colada and others. Category 4 features Jamaican Jerk, a Citrus Chipotle and two others, and Category 5 has two offerings - Ridiculously Hot Hurricane Sauce, and Habanero Lime Toss.

On our first visit to the Florida Mall area location, I ordered the Garlic & Parmesan Fries ($3.75) as an appetizer and the 6-piece Boneless TenderWings with Mild Hurricane Sauce ($4.75). BB ordered the Kids Chicken Bites with Barbecue Sauce and fries and applesauce and LB ordered the Chicken Bites plain with fries and applesauce. Grandma ordered the 6-piece boneless wings with the Raspberry Ice sauce (a CategorIs this cup really made out of corn??y 2) which combines raspberry and horseradish. Grandpa order the regular wings with Mango Barbecue sauce (also a Cat. 2). We also ordered drinks ($2.25), with the boys getting lemonade (included in their kids' meal price). After the drinks arrived, in very normal looking plastic cups and lids, I read in the menu that Hurricane Grill prides itself on its beverage cups that are made from 100% corn which is 100% compostable. That led to ten minutes of us all marvelling at the cups and trying to figure out how in the world they were made out of corn! Our Garlic & Parm fries arrived and boy, were they good! They were definitely lick-your-fingers good. About 15 minutes later, our food finally arrived (both locations were slow in the service department - don't know if that is because they are new or if that is standard). My Mild boneless wings were fantastic - all buttery and vinegar-y, and actually a touch of hotness - not so completely mild. Grandpa though his Mango BBQ wings were "okay". Grandma thought her Raspberry Ice bites were too mild - just tasted like raspberry jam and were too sweet... until she reached the sauce on the bottom that really had a kick to it. So, Hurricane Grill Kids Mac-n-Cheesemake sure to toss your sauce when you get it! LB barely ate because he had loaded up on the garlic fries. BB decideHurricane Grill Mango BBQ Wingsd he didn't like the chicken bites already tossed in the BBQ sauce and wished he had ordered the sauce on the side.

For our second attempt at the Metrowest location, we all strived to do better in our ordering. This time, I ordered the Shrimp Tenders as an appetizer ($7.50), again with the Garlic and Parmesan sauce. LB decided to get the Mac-N-Cheese this time and BB went with the Chicken Bites again but with the sauce on the side and with cole slaw and celery this time. Grandma, Grandpa, and I decided to go for the 24-piece Flavor Sampler ($16.95) which comes with chicken tosHurricane Grill Kids Chicken Bitessed in four different sauces. We went with the boneless wings and choose Mild Hurricane Sauce again (really a winner), Chipotle Raspberry (Cat 3), Chile & Lime (CatHurricane Grill Shrimp Tenders with Garlic Parmesan Sauce 3), and Mojo Glaze (Cat 2). I also ordered a side of celery and bleu cheese dressing for 99 cents because I was worried some of the sauces would be too hot for me. The Shrimp Tenders came out and they were delicious. I pretty much think they could serve napkins drenched in the Garlic & Parm sauce and everybody would eat them. Grandpa thought the shrimp were a bit too pink and mushy for him but I was happy with the little shrimp and so were the boys. Our main courses came out a bit later and we did a lot better in choosing this time. The boys ate their food - BB was happy dippinHurricane Grill Flavor Samplerg his chicken in the sauce - LB liked the Mac-n-Cheese. All of our sauce choices were great. We couldn't decide which one was best - the mild was still very good, the Raspberry was sweet and smoky at the same time, Chile & Lime had a strong citrus/orange flavor and then a kick at the end, and the Mojo Glaze was citrus and garlic. Actually, we felt all of them were about the same in heat level - even the Cat. 3 sauces didn't get too hot. We cleaned the plate, with Grandpa swiping fries from LB's plate to sop up the leftover sauce. I'll definitely be back - there are still more sauces to try!

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