Call of the Wild
At Bananas, drag queens upstage late-night dining.
Lately, I’ve been into visiting late-night locales that serve food as well as drinks. There’s just something cozy about ending a night out at a restaurant that double duties as a bar. Craving starchy and syrupy breakfast fare, I could have easily settled for the cliché chain restaurants such as Denny’s or IHOP. But neither serves drinks.
Bananas, a Modern American Diner, located on Mills Avenue in Orlando, serves beer and wine, and also offers a list of specialty drinks. My boyfriend, Gary, and I headed there around 1 a.m. after a Saturday night of bar hopping downtown. We knew we would have ample time to spend there since Bananas is open around the clock on Fridays and Saturdays (last call is 2 a.m.).
We walked into a room with retro-style tables and cherry-colored booths, which gave the place a greasy spoon vibe. Lighting from individual fixtures above each table was slightly dim, rare for a diner. Hipsters and late-night partygoers were scattered across the place in groups.
Our server, a curvy drag queen named “Ginger,” greeted us in full show makeup and extremely teased hair resembling a beehive. Drag queens fill in for servers on weekend nights and at Bananas’ Sunday Gospel Brunch. The “girls” are wildly funny in a walk-on-the-wild-side sort of way. That is to say, Rick Santorum would not find them funny at all.
A lot of the hype surrounding Bananas is due to the unique and risqué entertainment it offers. However, the food, while unique, is entertaining only in concept but not taste. The menu is extensive and includes comfort food choices with a twist, including stuffed French toast coated with Rice Krispies cereal. I ordered that with the Passionate Monkey, a specialty drink combining rum, passion fruit purée, orange and cranberry juices, and Sprite. Its fruitiness went well with my French toast. Seriously. But, then again, I had had a few drinks by then, too.
I think Bananas, with its nostalgic decor, lively atmosphere and bizarre but hilarious entertainment, has found its niche as an after-hours hangout. Come to think of it, maybe it created the niche.
Bananas, a Modern American Diner, 924 N. Mills Ave., Orlando; 407-480-2200, bananasdiner.com
Cocktails as Treats
If there is any chance for me to combine two of my favorite things, chocolate and vodka, I promptly take advantage of it. I did just that on a late Friday night while visiting The Dessert Lady on Church Street. Don’t let the name of the place fool you. While it is famous for serving some of the most delectable, oversized desserts in the area, The Dessert Lady also is an ideal spot for drinks away from the maddening crowd outside of its doors. But it closes at midnight on Friday and Saturday, so you will be back on the street before the other bars close.
My cocktail of choice, cleverly called “PMS,” combined Dutch chocolate-flavored vodka, chocolate liqueur, crème de cocoa and a splash of cream. Perfect-o. Later I ordered a “Blonde Moment,” a concoction of rum, peach schnapps, orange liqueur and pineapple juice. Its fruity taste helped balance out the chocolate overkill from the first drink. Each cost $10.
These are girly drinks, to be sure, but The Dessert Lady’s full bar also serves manly cocktails like 18-year single malt Glenfiddich Scotch. A slice of six-layer chocolate cake goes well with that, too.
The Dessert Lady, 120A W. Church Street, Orlando, 407-999-5696, dessertlady.com