Must Eat Dishes and What exactly is The New Standard?
Congratulations to the team at Dexter’s New Standard! After the usual drama that comes from opening a new restaurant (or relocating and reinventing an old favorite such as Dexter’s), they officially opened with a ribbon cutting on Sunday January 12, 2020.
Located at Winter Park’s Ravaudage Plaza, on the corner of Lee Road and Orlando Avenue. The restaurant is described as “an upscale dining and live entertainment venue with New American cuisine.” The description is accurate but a bit boilerplate. And, most importantly, it’s missing the real reason why you would want to visit.
It also begs the question: “What exactly is The New Standard?
After an extensive media tasting and chatting with the team, I found my answer and many reasons to visit Dexter’s New Standard.
Is Dexter’s New Standard Worth The Drive?
I don’t usually write about new restaurants after one visit. I like to give a place the chance to settle in. With Dexters New Standard however, I’ve been craving many of the dishes I sampled on that initial visit and can’t wait to go back for more. So here’s my 9 Reasons to Visit Dexters New Standard so you can make plans to visit too.
Dexter’s in Winter Park was always known for a great wine list and live music. Those elements have remained. There’s a renewed focus on gorgeous local sourced food and well crafted cocktails. Fans of the old Dexter’s will need to embrace change. This is a new restaurant. The New Standard. But aside from the gorgeous food, it was the people in the room who inspire me to return and why Dexters New Standard belongs on your “Must Eat” List in Orlando.
Read on and see for yourself if Dexter’s New Standard is worth the drive.
The Dexter’s New Standard Team, a collaboration from start to finish.
“Know that everything will happen at just the right time, at just the right place, with just the right people.”– Wayne Dyer
The words of Wayne Dyer apply quite well to the opening of a new restaurant. So many elements must be just right to make it work. And the timing is never quite what was planned. If you’ve worked in restaurants, you know it takes a village. It requires passion and a bit of madness. It takes more than one talented chef or expert sommelier. It’s the spirit of collaboration and team that makes it a success.
At Dexter’s New Standard, I witnessed just that. They may have some opening kinks to work out, as is the norm in new openings. But the bones, and more importantly the heart are there to make that happen.
That collaboration is the coming together of the local farmers and fish mongers providing the freshest local produce and dayboat caught fish and oysters, such as Frog Song Organics from Ocala and Oyster Bobs Nautical Nonsense. To the kitchen team led by Executive Chef Ryan McLaughlin (formerly of Kevin Fonzo’s K Restaurant) with Sous Chef Ben Roche (formerly of The Smiling Bison) and Baker & Pastry Chef Lydia Murphy (formerly of Scratch Winter Park). They show respect to those purveyors by creating an ever-changing thoughtfully composed menu, exciting to the taste buds, but without pretentiousness.
From the wine purveyors and local distilleries like St. Augustine Distillery, Papas Rum in Key West and Horse Soldier in St. Petersburg, featured on the thoughtfully crafted wine and spirits list.
To the front of the house attentive service with Stephen Rock (formerly of K Restaurant) led by Director of Operations Erin Allport, who not only has years of experience in the finest restaurants in town but whose passion for wine infused the wine list with character, fun and most importantly, high quality.
Music is still a focal point at Dexter’s New Standard
The restaurant’s ambiance is just as important as the food and drinks. Music is still a main attraction at Dexter’s New Standard. “The restaurant seeks to shift the paradigm of dining in Orlando, offering a supper-club-style vibe, hearkening back to the days when guests would dress to the nines and go out for “dinner and a show.”
The open space allows full view of the large stage. Music Director, Thomas Wynn, books local, regional and national acts 7 days a week, making Dexter’s New Standard a place you’ll want to visit regularly and a place you’ll want to hang out. We really enjoyed Hannah Harber’s mellow tunes during our brunch.
The music level may or may not be a concern for some, so just keep that in mind. Your enjoyment of the overall experience will depend on it. Check out their calendar to see the artists scheduled.
To further the connection between great food and great music, on the last Tuesday of each month, the stage plays host to The Circle with Thomas Wynn, a live jam session and special collaboration menu between Chef McLaughlin and a guest chef.
It’s this collaboration that when done right, feels quite electric. They all have a role to play in the theater of a great restaurant. One where we can watch the action in the open kitchen, see the art on the walls, hear the art on the stage, and eat the art on the plate.
Must Eat and Drink Items on the Menu at Dexter’s New Standard
At the end of the day, we are here for THE FOOD. So let’s talk about the “art on the plate” at Dexter’s New Standard. Because these dishes are all gorgeous and delicious!
But beyond that, I use these simple rules of thumb when recommending restaurants to my friends (that includes you reading this even if we’ve never met):
- Is it worth the drive?
- Would I be happy if I ate this every day?
- Am I craving it the day after?
The answer to all of these is YES!
1. The Harvest Board & Fresh Local Produce
Gorgeous, fresh, colorful local produce from Frog Song Organics shines in this Harvest Board. The alternative (or add on) to charcuterie and cheese boards which are also on the menu. At $15, it’s a great deal for local sourced veggies.
The Heirloom Tomato and Feta Mousse Salad with cucumber, pickled red onion and kalamata olives was equally refreshing. When the ingredients are this good, you want them to be lightly dressed so they shine. Fresh, light and that mousse, oh my!
Chef Ryan is sourcing from fine local purveyors, including Waterkist Farms in Sanford, Zenn Naturals in Mascotte, Frog Song Organics in Ocala, Nearby Naturals from Downtown Orlando, Gulf Spring Sea Farms from Spring Creek, Boonedocks Oyster Co, Oyster Bay, and Hillcrest Farms in Eustis.
2. The Mushroom Ravioli & The Fish
“Ravioli and The Fish” almost sounds like the title for a TV show about two mobsters. I know these entrees are not permanently on the menu. But I wish they were. The menu changes almost daily. However, I’m certain these entrees are an indication of what other delicious dishes are yet to come. I’m not above begging Chef Ryan for the mushroom ravioli though.
Every bite of the local wild mushroom ravioli with ricotta filling, mushroom broth and shaved white truffle was heavenly. The mushrooms from Nearby Naturals and the broth made those earthy flavors shine. Beautifully paired with Patricia Green Estate Pinot Noir from Ribbon Ridge, Oregon.
The fish doesn’t get any fresher unless you’re on the boat. Dayboat golden tile caught the day prior and filet right in front of us before our lunch.
Served atop a creamy herb risotto with seafood broth and crisp broccoli raab. Paired with 2017 Hartford Court Chardonnay from Russian River Valley, California.
3. The Inventive Cocktails
The cocktails are inspired takes on popular favorites. Using local spirits and craft liqueurs where possible. On Monday nights, Dexter’s New Standard will host “Spirited Mondays” with bartender takeovers and fun cocktails to help you get over the Monday blues. Daily Happy Hour called “Sound Check” includes $5 wells and drafts, $4 sangria and wine. Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Here’s a few of the cocktails we sampled and enjoyed. If you’re familiar with the popular White Linen cocktail, here’s Erin Allport’s version. She calls it: “Mine’s Better” and I have to agree. Hibiscus-infused Benham’s Sonoma Gin, elderflower liqueur, lime, and Avive peach was as easy to drink as it was pretty to look at. Allport said this cocktail came to her in a dream and it was so pretty it inspired the restaurant’s new logo.
B.I.G. “Papas” Punch made with Hemingway’s “Papas Pilar” Blonde Rum, pepper water, pineapple, honey, and lemon. This is a tropical rum drink that goes beyond your Tiki libations. The sweet spice notes were a bit addictive.
“Tonic Blossom” made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, Chareau Aloe liqueur, and Jack Rudy elderflower tonic reminded me of a spa day. It’s on the sweeter more fragrant side.
4. The Pistachio Old Fashioned
This cocktail deserves its own separate mention. It’s now my new favorite and if you know me, you know I order Old Fashioned cocktails everywhere I go. And not everyone can make it properly. (I once had a bartender add sprite and I nearly died!) You can read my favorite Old Fashioned in Orlando here.
For Dexter’s New Standard Pistachio Old Fashioned, the chef sous vide the pistachios in Old Forester Bourbon! Enough said. It was damn delicious.
5. The Breads + Spreads
Dexter’s New Standard is NOT the place where you skip the bread. When I asked Chef Lydia Murphy what was her pride and joy on the menu, I was expecting her to say the gorgeous desserts like the Chocolate Ganache you see at the top of the page. Instead, she said “the bread” without skipping a beat.
She makes it by hand, using old world techniques all natural ingredients including her years-old starter, named “Junior,” and no preservatives.
The Breads + Spreads board featured sourdough, miche country loaf and ciabatta accompanied by seasonal jam (cranberry), churned butter and savory spread (a lovely feta mousse).
6. The Brunch Menu
You can’t be a posh place in Winter Park and not serve brunch. It’s a requirement. Dexter’s New Standard offers a varied brunch menu including house made pastries. On this day it was Chocolate Cream Cheese Whoopie Pies, Cinnamon Rolls, Cranberry Orange Muffins and Bacon Cheddar Scones.
My favorite brunch dish sampled was the Duck Tartine. I’m not one to order duck, but this one I would order again. Duck confit, caramelized onions, sunny side up egg, black truffle mornay, arugula, petite salad, mustard vinaigrette. The Mushroom on Toast was a gorgeous meat-free alternative.
Pair it with a Sicilian Spritz, a refreshing brunch cocktail made with Solerno Blood Orange, Cappelletti Aperitivo, blood orange juice, and Villa Sandi Prosecco. It’s like an Aperol Spritz meets Mimosa but way better. And it beats a Mimosa as a brunch drink any day of the week. But you can get a carafe of the classic if that’s your wish. No judgement.
For biscuit lovers, order the “BBLT” with housemade biscuit, topped with nicely cooked pork belly, lettuce, tomato and Pimento cheese topped with a sunnyside egg.
Want something more exotic?
Fans of Shakshuka would love this one with soft egg, lamb merguez, aussie feta, harissa vinaigrette, pickled red onions and piquillo peppers with housemade pita. It was super flavorful and the lamb was not gamey. The only observation we had about this dish is that it was a large portion. I recommend ordering it to share with the table.
Pair it with a White Peach Bellini made with Rothman & Winter White Peach Liqueur and Villa Sandi Prosecco to balance the bold flavors.
7. The Raw Bar
Fresh raw oysters are always a wonderful add on to a dining experience like this. At Dexter’s New Standard, they offer a small selection of oysters primarily sourced from nearby waters. And the house-made oyster crackers and condiments like the habanero jalapeno hot sauce took it to the next level.
Bob King, known as “Oyster Bob” from Oyster Bob Nautical Nonsense, has been the go to guy for catering oysters at parties in Central Florida. He was on hand to assist the team at Dexter’s New Standard with setting up a fine oyster bar. Shucking two types of oysters from Grand Battures, Bayou Labattry Alabama and Apalachee Bay, Florida. Although they have a gorgeous glass top bar and the quality of the oysters was superb, I don’t consider 2 oyster varieties a “raw bar.” I would look at this as a wonderful add on but not the only reason to visit. But who knows, maybe they will add more variety as they get settled in. That’s all part of their “New Standard” philosophy and opening a new restaurant. There’s opportunity to grow and change based on customer’s feedback.
8. The Desserts
Every fine restaurant must have great desserts in my book. There’s nothing more disappointing than a meal which ends with ho-hum sweets, making you regret the calories you just inhaled. That was not the case at Dexter’s New Standard. Desserts will also change regularly but if these were any indication, I’m excited to go back and see what else Chef Lydia Murphy comes up with.
The Strawberry Pistachio Tart made of pistachio sable, strawberry mousse, pistachio creme patisserie and pickled strawberries was delightful. This time of year Florida’s strawberries deserve to be highlighted on every menu in the area. This one did just that!
The Dark Chocolate Ganache topped with caramel rum foam and nuts was decadent. And gorgeous! Chocolate lovers would be in 7th heaven.
9. The Wine List
The wine program at Dexter’s was a big draw for wine lovers for years. Erin Allport continues the tradition but elevates it with an eclectic and fun selection of wines in a variety of price points from all over the world. They are categorized not by wine varietal but by flavor profile and style.
You will not find “Interesting Reds” here. Instead you can choose from categories like “Bright + Vibrant,” “Friendly + Approachable,” “Smooth + Refined”, and “Intellectually Satisfying.”
Being from Oregon, I loved seeing fantastic Oregon wines on the list that I don’t normally see in Orlando. Former Orlandoan John House’s Ovum “Big Salt” Riesling is on the list, as well as Oregon legend Patricia Green Estate Pinot Noir, which we loved paired with the Mushroom Ravioli.
Allport mentions that she wants to encourage guests to be adventurous and try new wines. So, don’t be afraid to ask for a taste and pair with the food. It will only take your experience to a new level. Check out Wine Not? Wednesdays featuring special pricing on select bottles and glasses of wine as well as a free tasting experience from 4 to 6 p.m. and $1 oysters.
What is “The New Standard”?
The question on everyone’s mind is “What is The New Standard? I think the answer will be unique to each person you ask.
Dexter’s has long held a special place in the Orlando restaurant scene. With new owners, a new location, new management and chef and new menu, I’m not sure this is still Dexter’s. “The New Standard” leaves it to our collective interpretation. They are paying homage to Dexter’s but doing things their own way. In the end, it gives Chef Ryan, Erin and the team carte blanche to be creative and try something new. Some things may work, others won’t. Time will tell. But I’m excited to see them try. They have the talent and the heart to do it. In the process, I do hope they continue to wow Orlando locals and visitors alike.
Dexter’s New Standard is open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information visit Dexters New Standard website.
Take a look at my Instagram Stories to see the full media tasting experience. I hope you’re inspired to make plans. Get friends together and go! #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time.
Disclosure: I was an invited media guest for promotional purposes only. I am under no obligation to share this post. As always, all opinions are my own. I only share with you products and experiences I love to inspire you to get together with family and friends, celebrate life and go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time! You can read more about my guidelines in my disclosure policy. Cheers!