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Florida Heritage Travel, August 2016
July 28, 2016
August 2016 News And Events
Mount Dora is a town of about 12,000 people located in the lake and hill country about 45 minutes northwest of downtown Orlando. The town is on the eastern shore of Lake Dora, one of the lakes in the Harris Chain. There is no actual "Mount" in the town, but it has more hills and oak canopied streets than almost any other place in Central Florida. Many visitors to Mount Dora say it reminds them of New England. Locals say New England reminds them of Mount Dora.
The modern history of the town goes back to 1874 when the first pioneer, David Simpson, settled in the area with his wife and children. The Alexander House, a two story hotel, opened its doors in 1883 and boasted 10 rooms. Not long after, the town received its permanent name, Mount Dora. It is said to have been named for Lake Dora, and the lake was named for Dora Drawdy, an early settler. The Alexander House was renamed at least twice and in 1903 it received its current name: the Lakeside Inn. This grand old hotel is still the centerpiece of the downtown area and is the oldest continously operated hotel in the State of Florda. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted some famous guests including Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Another pioneer of the early days was John P. Donnelly. He was Mount Dora's first mayor and his Queen Anne style house was built in 1893 and is also listed on the National Register. It is located on Donnelly Street just across the street from Donnelly Park. The railroad came to town in 1887 and the area developed a significant citrus industry with packing houses and large groves. The old train station is still in daily use as the Chamber of Commerce headquarters.
The main street in downtown Mount Dora is Donnelly Street. There are many restaurants in the downtown area and along the business perimeter highway. There are also dozens of inns, bed and breakfast establishments and rental cottages close to the downtown attractons. The residential streets surrounding the downtown area are beautifully canopied with ancient oak trees. The town does a good job of historic preservation and many houses have plaques identifying their historical status. The Chamber of Commerce has maps for self guided tours that allow you to walk by the historic homes and other buildings.
There are many gift shops and restaurants on Donnelly Street and the major east west streets - 3rd, 4th and 5th Avenues. Shopping is a major activity in Mount Dora and the shopkeepers all know each other and form a special community within a community. The Chamber of Commerce also has a map showing the location of all downtown businesses. One of my favorite shops is Julianne's Coastal Cottage. It specializes in gifts, linens, apparel, jewelry, quilts, bath and body items along with a host of other goodies almost all made in Florida.
Julianne is usually on duty in her shop and welcomes everybody as if they are old friends. She usually has a wine slushie on hand for her customers to help them cool off on a hot day.
Magical Meat Boutique has a funny name but once you've finished snickering you will enjoy its British charm and eclectic menu. MMB, as locals call it, is a British Carvery that specializes in freshly carved beef, pork, turkey, and lamb. They also make British sausages on the premises every day. The name derives from the Magical Meat Boutique in Camden Town, London, that is part of owner Phil Barnard's family heritage, Barnard Butchers. The family business goes back to the 1500s, and the boutique in London opened in 1967 and closed in 2003 when Phil's dad retired. The gastro-pub serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. This neat little place is only a few hundred feet from the historic Lakeside Inn and is adjacent to the railroad tracks that still take visitors on daily jaunts to Tavares and points beyond.
The first thing you notice when you enter from the front door is a realistic wall mural of the "tube" or subway in Camden. It looks so realistic you feel like you could walk into it and take the subway. The other thing that immediately catches your eye is the bar with its dozens of beer taps. MMB carries almost all of the English, Irish and Scottish beers, lagers and ales. They even have mead and stout. All of their beer is served in Imperial glasses of 20 ounces unless you request something smaller. They also have domestic beer and wine and other beverages from countries not in the British Empire like Denmark and Germany. They also have cider.
The entrees not surprisingly include many popular English standards. Breakfast is served all day and that's good because it's my favorite meal no matter the time. The Full Monty includes pork sausage, eggs, back bacon, black pudding, Heinz Beanz, grilled tomato, mushrroms, spuds, tatty scone and fried Yorkshire bread. There are many other breakast treats lke French toast, pancakes and pastry turnovers. You can dream up your own breakfast and they will make it.
There is a large outside patio with umbrellas and live music. Many days and evenings feature music on the patio. Owners Phil Barnard and Kate Bellamy Barnard are almost always on the job here and will make you feel like a member of their family. Magical Meat Boutique is open Monday-Friday from 700 am to Midnight, and Saturday and Sunday from 800 am to Midnight.
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