The rapport that 903 Mills Market enjoys with neighbors is enhanced by its deliciously simple offerings.
By Joseph Hayes
903’s outdoor setting
One thing missing from most Orlando neighborhoods is a real neighborhood restaurant, the kind of place where you can decide at the last minute to take a short stroll and grab a bottle of wine or a dinner special and be back home in time for Game of Thrones on HBO.
Fortunately for the folks living around Lake Davis, there is such a place, where neighbors dash over in their pajamas for a gallon of milk and stop for a sandwich while walking their dogs. 903 Mills Market—the number being the address and, supposedly, the date the place was turned into a deli, in September 2003—fits right into the area. It’s perched at an intersection across from the lake, comfortably worn like a favorite shirt, a decades-old grocery that through serendipity and happenstance has survived in this residential area.
The latest owners, Nick and Miriam Pastore, bought the already-established sandwich shop in late 2010 and took to revamping the interior, which consists of a counter for ordering sandwiches, salads and soups, a bank of coolers for 100-plus craft beers and shelves of small vineyard wines. Aside from a few indoor tables, most seating is outside on the wraparound patio.
I was able to find a relatively uncommon bottle of organic cider from Samuel Smith’s Brewery in Yorkshire, England, which made me as happy as the Market Wrap ($7.49), an enormous sweet pillow of a sandwich stuffed with chicken, mango, papaya, pineapple and blue cheese. Unlike the pressed and reformed bits passed off as chicken in many places, the bird here is baked every day on premises, as is roast beef and corned beef.
The owners must pick through the salad greens with a magnifying glass, because the mass of leaves that made up the Lake Lurna Thai peanut salad (all salads $7.49) were immaculate and fresh, not a brown spot or wither among them. And the slightly spicy peanut dressing was a joy. Each salad is named after a local lake—Weldona (mozzarella, tomato and olives), Copeland (Caesar), Como (chef’s salad)—and makes for an interesting intellectual exercise while you eat. Where is Lake Olive exactly, and what does it have to do with roast beef?
Manager T.J. Burke says neighbors make up 80 percent of the customers, and most show up for the weeknight dinner specials, particularly Meatloaf Monday and the nights when owner Miriam, a chef from Rome, decides to take over the kitchen for one of her Italian specialties. Burke, by the way, is the one who has seen pajama-clad milk-seekers come through the door. I didn’t make that up, or the high quality of the food. Breakfast starts at 7:30 a.m., dinner runs until 10 p.m. (9:03 on weekends, of course).
903 Mills Market
903 S. Mills Ave., Orlando
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