On Labor Day weekend (which also happened to coincide with our anniversary this year), Mrs. Hackknife and I decided to spend the holiday visiting a quaint, arts-oriented community called Mount Dora, located in the Florida Rockies (elevation 184 feet above sea level) about 30 minutes northwest of Orlando. The town features a number of art galleries, wine bars, boutique gift shops, and restaurants, many of which we were able to visit on a food tour (led by locals John and Paula under the moniker Taste of Our Town). My original plan was to devote this whole posting to the many vittles we sampled over the weekend - yes, you can find good microbrews at Mount Dora Brewing (I could drink Beauclaire Blonde Ale and Pistolville Porter all summer long), a mean sausage roll at the Brit-themed Magical Meat Boutique, decent (if not overpriced) dinner fare at the frozen-in-1998 Goblin Market, and even a romantic meal enjoyed on the porch of our charming B&B Adora Inn (soon to be featured on an episode of Travel Channel's Hotel Showdown).
At the end of our trip, however, a single culinary experience stood out among the rest, and that is what I will focus on today. The missus and I took a kayak out onto Lake Eustis late Sunday morning, paddling through the famous Dora Canal (once described as the "most beautiful mile of water in the world", although I'd call that a bit of an exaggeration) into Lake Dora and back, working up quite an appetite in the process. Fortunately for us, a nearby soul food joint beckoned for lunch - Angel's Soul Food & BBQ, tucked quietly away in a strip mall off the main drag, Florida Route 19 (390 W. Burleigh Blvd. in Tavares if you want to employ your GPS).
We were a little past the lunch rush (such as it is on Sunday in these parts), so the restaurant was pretty sedate. I had read rumors about terrific fried chicken here that were reinforced by Angel's menu, which stated their chicken was so good "you'll slap your mama". While I wasn't quite incited to the level of matriarchal violence, I can say they fry up a damn delicious bird here, with moist dark meat and a perfect crispy skin (shattering almost like glass), putting Angel's squarely on my short list of top fried chicken in the South. I'd also advise diners not to miss the cornbread or the collard greens studded with shredded unknown pork parts (you can pass on the mashed potatoes and gravy).
Dessert in this type of joint means banana pudding and they mean business - cool, creamy, and loaded with crushed Nilla Wafers. Again, I defy any Texan or Carolina native to present me a better bowl (please try, though - I'm craving some right now).
Our meal at Angel's strengthens my opinion that Central Florida is the epicenter of soul food in this great state. Between Nikki's Place in Orlando and here (not to mention the many others I haven't yet discovered), I know where to go to satisfy my fix...