Blake Shelton’s Ole Red Orlando on International Drive
The country music superstar has opened a new venue at ICON Orlando offering delicious eats and fantastic live music.
Opening during a pandemic might not be an optimal plan. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta do what you gotta do. And that’s certainly the case for Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, ICON Park’s latest hotspot, on International Drive.
Shelton chose Orlando as the location for his newest restaurant—there are four Ole Reds in all—because of the town’s fun factor. ” I think it’s impossible to visit Orlando and not have a good time, and that’s why I know Ole Red is going to fit right in,” he said when the project was announced.
Recently, Orlando Magazine and Where Orlando were invited to experience the newly-opened restaurant. Today, we’re sharing a tour with you.
A Look Around
Take an easy stroll from the ICON parking garage—don’t forget to snap that ICON Wheel pic for the ‘Gram—and you’ll find Ole Red at the other end of the complex.
Large patios offer plenty of outdoor seating to guests who prefer an al fresco experience.
Once inside, you’ll see that the stage and large screen dominate the space, with graphics celebrating the lyrics of Shelton’s hit “Ole Red” flanking both sides of the stage.
Art throughout the space pays homage to country greats. At present, tables are well-spaced to allow for social distancing, and menus are all touchless. All staff also wear masks to ensure safety for guests and for one another.
A Word About the Entertainment
But Ole Red is more than just a pretty face; it also boasts live music during open hours. Right. Like ALL open hours, with a break of one hour between each act.
When we visited recently, we were treated to a fantastic set by guitarist and singer Bryan Malpass, accompanied by Tanner Johnson on fiddle. The duo played a little bit of everything, including original material and country classics by artists such as Rascal Flatts and Charlie Daniels, to Matchbox 20 (a nod to the local Orlando music scene). They even took a request for some Billie Eilish (which they did surprisingly well).
Excellent music is part of Ole Red’s DNA—and not just because it’s named after Blake Shelton. The singer and star of NBC’s “The Voice” partnered with Ryman Entertainment to bring the concept to life, making for great entertainment. Because of the partnership with Ryman, “Ole Red can offer guests unprecedented access to world-class country music performers,” shared Colin Reed, Ryman Hospitality Properties CEO, in an interview with us recently.
So sit a spell, enjoy the music, and let’s check out the menu offerings.
As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Ole Red is currently offering a limited menu, but we still found plenty to enjoy.
While walk-up bar service currently isn’t available, you can still enjoy a wide array of beverages, from mocktails and cocktails to your favorite beer, with local craft beers appearing alongside mainstream favorites.
The bar serves a myriad of fun and festive drinks, with names such as the “Came to Forget” (Sauza Silver Tequila, ginger liqueur, orange juice, ginger beer and mint) and the “Redneck Maitai” (coconut rum, dark rum, Mountain Dew, melon liqueur, and pineapple juice).
However, I opted for a low-octane option from the mocktail list. I couldn’t resist the “Bless Your Heart” by virtue of its name alone. The refreshing, frothy drink, a combo of pineapple and lime juice, strawberry and club soda wasn’t too sweet, and felt special enough to impart that “Hey, I’m out having fun” vibe, without the alcohol.
It’s important to note that drinks are normally served in fun souvenir glasses. Currently though, the restaurant is using disposable serving pieces, so you can collect your glass on the way out at the gift shop.
We started with the Redneck Nachos, a generous combo of kettle chips, smoked chicken, beer cheese sauce, tomatoes, green onions, pickled jalapenos, avocado. The platter was drizzled with Ole Red’s barbecue sauce and sour cream.
While it may be difficult to tell from this photo, the portion could easily feed four hungry people, and would offer six or even eight folks a few bites. It was huge.
Interesting to note, the nachos are built on potato chips, rather than tortilla chips. I found that the chips held up nicely to all of the heavy toppings, and even reheated well.
Next, we tucked into a trio of sandwiches. While the current limited menu also offers a few salads, we wanted to get a good sampling of the handhelds during our first time out.
“Nacho” Average Vegan Burger
Our first selection was the “Nacho” Average Vegan Burger, featuring a Beyond Burger patty, vegan nacho cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickled jalapeños. Executive Chef Mark Boor (whose name you may recognize from his previous stint at Paddlefish) also pointed out that the bun is both vegan and gluten free—something that took a bit of work to source. “We work with a bakery out of Atlanta to ensure that the bun isn’t just gluten free, but is vegan as well,” he shared during our chat. Steak fries and house made pickles round out the plate.
The burger was delicious, with the spicy counterpoints from the nacho cheese and jalapeños bringing some kick.
And if there was a theme to our meal, it was “kick.” The Ole Red chefs seem to enjoy their fair share of spice. That should serve as a word of caution if hot stuff isn’t your jam.
Nashville Hot Chicken Biscuit
Next, we tried the Nashville Hot Chicken Biscuit. Topped with a vinegar slaw and served with pickles, all of the flavors worked nicely together. The breaded chicken thigh was tender with just the right amount of heat. The biscuit is served with a side of house made tots. As in “tater.” More about those in a sec.
Turkey Shoot Burger
Rounding out the entree selections, the Turkey Shoot Burger is a showstopper for more reasons than one. While we appreciated the flavors here, the onion rings topping the burger were extremely spicy—to our palates, anyway. I like some heat, but these had me reaching for my water to put the flames out.
But a word about those tots. Blame it on my childhood, but tater tots persist as a guilty pleasure for me, and these house made versions were the bomb. Chef Boor shared that they’re made fresh daily on the premises. Don’t skip these if you’re a fan of all things potato. They’re hearty, well-seasoned, and worth the calories, IMO.
And that left just one thing: dessert.
The Sweet Stuff
Chef Boor looks forward to introducing a lot of fun flavors in the future, but for now, there’s just one option. And if you’re only going to have one dessert, it should definitely be an Ooey Gooey Tub-O-Fudge Brownie, topped with Oreo crumbs and served with vanilla ice cream.
Definitely shareable, the dense brownie, layered with fudge, is a chocoholic’s dream.
The Final Word
Regardless of whether you’re seeking a fun spot to hang out and listen to music, a great place to grab a fun drink with friends, or some delicious takes on Southern comfort cooking, Ole Red is likely to fit the bill. Its convenient location at ICON Park comes complete with free parking, which is always a nice perk.
In the current COVID-19 climate, you can also expect to see good social distancing, staff wearing masks and cleaning, plenty of space due to the venue’s large size, touchless menu options and disposable tableware.
Overall, the venue brings something new, fresh and fun to the growing ICON Orlando space, and we look forward to more opportunities to visit.
Ole Red, 8417 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, 321.430.1200, OleRed.com/Orlando