It’s a nice country restaurant where you can enjoy country fried steak or elk chops with a blackberry amaretto sauce.
photo: fred lopez
In the kitchen of Red Wing Restaurant in Groveland, they fix a mean breakfast with biscuits and home fries. If you come back for dinner, however, you might want to order the Hunter’s Platter, which includes quail, fried venison, a wild boar chop, and buffalo sausage. And there’s no need to bring your hunting gun and dog.
Red Wing Restaurant is one of those places that always surprises people with its varied menu, but it has been around since 1948 when the original owners built it as a restaurant with their house included. Local grove owners had their pickers have lunch there, and they paid a monthly tab. The orange groves kept the restaurant in business for many years.
These days Patrick Borsey owns it, only the fourth owner in the restaurant’s history, and he is proud to continue the traditions and menu items that have been around for decades.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” Pat says with a smile. “But we’re actually in the middle of everything. It’s 40 minutes to Downtown Disney, 40 minutes to The Villages, and 45 minutes to Tampa, and we have regular diners from all those places.”
The restaurant has a rustic hunting lodge atmosphere with paneled walls and hunting trophies—deer, elk, wild turkey, bear, and a big boar’s head above the fireplace—along with restroom doors that make you think you’re going to an outhouse. However, when you sit down for your meal, be prepared to have your taste buds stand up and sing.
Their famous Angus hamburgers are served at lunch only, and there’s no limit as to how you can have that burger. The Cowboy Burger has barbeque sauce and onion rings on it while the Knubby Burger comes with American cheese, bacon, and a remoulade sauce, which is also on the Cajun Burger, which has Cajun spices and pepper jack cheese.
“We like to call our menu ‘redneck gourmet,’” Pat says. “We’ve got something to please everyone.”
Though many people wonder if the chef gets his meat from local hunters, that’s not the case. “All our meat is FDA inspected,” Pat says. “Everything is raised on a preserve and once a year they decide what they’re going to use for breeders, what they’re going to sell, and what they’re going to slaughter. For the most part, it’s all naturally raised, free range.”
Red Wing Restaurant was named No. 1 among “9 ‘Hole in the Wall’ Restaurants in Florida” from OnlyinYourState.com in June.
Chef Michael Wahl is very happy to be back on the East Coast. The intrepid chef received his education at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked all around the country. Before coming to Groveland, he was teaching at the California Culinary Academy.
Why Groveland? “I was raised in a little town like this, and I was ready to come back to the East Coast,” Michael says.
His wife Courtney also works at the restaurant.
Michael butchers the meat himself, and his meat is always prepared fresh. “You have to buy prime chops so there’s no need to mask the flavors with a sauce,” Michael says. “And don’t overcook wild meat. That’s when it loses its tender, juicy flavor.”
The quail comes from the famous Manchester Farms in South Carolina. The birds are already marinated and ready to cook. “We make sure everything we cook is in season,” Michael says. “We feature items that are currently available in seafood and meat too. We have fresh calamari, and nothing we have is close to a chain restaurant meal.”
Michael also has a background in nutrition so the restaurant offers vegetarian and gluten-free meals.
Reading the menu provides ample entertainment. If you’re not in the mood for Redneck Surf ‘n Turf (fried catfish and country fried steak), maybe you’d like Grilled Duck Breast and Quail in a balsamic fig reduction. Or you might try Bourbon Chicken Breast or Maple Pecan Pork Chops.
Beware: when it says, “Fresh road kill, within one mile in either direction, at market price,” this is a joke that carried over from the restaurant’s original menu.
“We know it’s not the restaurant for everybody,” Pat says. “But we get groups from as far away as Weeki Wachee and The Villages that come here once a month. Since we’re at the in-between spot between here and Tampa, a lot of people plan a stop here when they make a trip to the West Coast.”
Don’t forget dessert when you dine at Red Wing Restaurant. Their famous cobbler recipe came from the original owners thanks to Pat’s skilled negotiations with the owners’ daughter. They have cherry, apple, peach, blueberry, and strawberry, which are served warm with vanilla ice cream on top.