Slate aims to stand out as neighborhood, chef-driven eatery on Dr. Phillips’ Restaurant Row
Slate creator Bob Amick and Chef Dominic Rice at the herb wall by Slate’s entrance
Bob Amick and Dominic Rice are no strangers to Orlando’s restaurant scene.
Amick, owner of Atlanta-based Concentrics Restaurants, has been a part of Central Florida’s restaurant industry for nearly 10 years, previously working with Daytona Beach-based NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France to create Luma on Park and Prato in Winter Park.
Meanwhile, Rice is a graduate of the Orlando Culinary Academy and worked his way up to executive sous chef at Luma on Park before leaving to work in New York City.
Now the two have teamed up with Chuck Whittall of Orlando-based Unicorp National Developments Inc. to develop and design the Dr. Phillips area’s newest restaurant, Slate, which is set to open June 10.
Why’d you get into the restaurant business?
Whittall: It’s the last opportunity to build a new restaurant on Restaurant Row. I wanted a local restaurant and there’s not many unique concepts there because of the big chains. I couldn’t find anyone to do it, so we’re doing it.
How did you come up with the concept for Slate?
Amick: Sand Lake has a lot of high-end restaurants, steak chains and casual chains, but there was a void in the market for great local neighborhood restaurants and that’s what we want Slate to be. It’s casual, accessible, with a great variety of food.
What can people expect on the menu?
Rice: A unique seasonal menu featuring local purveyors where someone can come in and have a casual sandwich or salad, or have a meal comparable to a high-end dinner at a steakhouse.
What’s the atmosphere like?
Amick: A very open, industrial look with steel copper and an L-shaped floating bar in middle. I like rooms with energy. It’s a 4,000-square-foot restaurant. You’re not going to hide anywhere, no whisper conversations.
What local suppliers will be used?
Rice: Pasture Prime in Ocala for Wagyu beef and Mangalitsa pigs, Florida Field Support in Cocoa and My Yard Farm in Winter Park.
Why was Rice the best fit for this?
Amick: He’s a great cook. There are all kinds of chefs, but if you’re going to drive a concept, you have to have a great chef. He’s committed and cooks all ends of the spectrum. We’re doing a modern American, casual restaurant, so what he can do with food helps elevate it to another level.
How do you plan to make Slate stand out on Restaurant Row?
Whittall: None of them are chef-driven, neighborhood concepts on Restaurant Row. And we have the best patio on Sand Lake Road. We designed the restaurant to feel 100 percent open and take advantage of the Florida weather. We installed four times the HVAC and dehumidifiers than a regular restaurant so we can keep the doors open all the time but keep diners comfortable.
Why have a garden area next to Slate?
Whittall: We wanted to offer a park to the community — a gathering place to read a book, have a sandwich outside. We stocked the pond with turtles and kids can feed them.
Why have a floating bar?
Amick: I love open kitchens and bars in the middle of rooms. I don’t like bars against a wall because people’s backs will be to the dining room. Orlando drinks well and drinks early. If you’re building a small bar in your restaurant, you’re making a big mistake.
What’s something different about Slate that you haven’t done elsewhere?
Amick: I’ve never done a restaurant on an end-cap before or with a shopping center next door.
What’s your advice to others?
Whittall: It costs a lot more than you expect. Team up with someone who’s an expert in this industry and for whom it’s an art. Hook yourself to the right wagon on this with those who deliver what you’re looking for.
What’s the wow decor factor?
Whittall: The chandeliers and sconce lights on the wall. Most of the lighting is done with gas, so you get the feel it’s all flickering flames for a peaceful, romantic candlelight feel.
What opportunities do you see developing in Orlando’s restaurant industry?
Amick: Orlando’s growing like crazy. I’m hopeful that downtown will develop more. It’s a market I’d be cautious going into, but that build-up will come.
Description: Chef-inspired, modern American cuisine
Address: 8323 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando 32819
Cost of buildout: $3.5 million
Restaurant employees: 60
Architect: Johnson Studio in Atlanta
Favorite menu items:
- Chuck Whittall: Braised beef sandwich
- Bob Amick: Steak with mashed potatoes and the mushroom soup
- Dominic Rice: Hearth-roasted snapper with zucchini lemon grass and cornmeal spoon bread
Price range: $30 and under
Contact: (404) 888-0659; www.SLATEorlando.com