Updated September 16, 2020
Windermere is one of the nicest small towns in Florida.
In the years before the giant freezes of the 1890s and the 1980s, this small town was in the heart of one of the largest citrus regions in the world.
Founded in 1889, Windermere is one of the oldest communities in Orange County.
By 1910, the Windermere Improvement Company had been formed, homes were built and thousands of acres of citrus planted all around the area.
Many of these old homes and buildings have been preserved and add to the charm of this little place nestled among the old oaks and clear lakes of Central Florida.
About 2,000 people live in the quiet neighborhoods located on an isthmus between Lakes Down and Butler about 12 miles west of downtown Orlando.
In the early days of the construction of Walt Disney World, the 1960's and 1970's, many Disney executives lived in Windermere, including Don Edgren, Bob Allen and Admiral Joe Fowler.
In more recent years, plush golf course developments like Isleworth, home of Tiger Woods , Shaquille O'Neal and other celebrities, have popped up on the edges of Windermere.
Maybe these fancy new places have a Windermere address, but they are far removed from the laid back beautiful homes of what I guess I'll call "old Windermere".
Windermere's location on the isthmus puts it on the shortest path between the east and west sides of the chain of lakes. The next lake crossing to the south is 7.5 miles away at Lake Buena Vista where CR-535 and Apopka-Vineland Road intersect. The next lake crossing to the north is at Gotha, 2 miles north.
This has made Windermere a busy little place for traffic, but the town has handled it beautifully with roundabouts and other traffic calming techniques.
They don't mind handing out speeding tickets, either.
An interesting little place to see while you are in town is the Windermere School. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 113 West Seventh Avenue. Just park your car and walk right up to it.
Windermere is a pleasant and peaceful place to spend a day; you won't feel like speeding through this pretty little town.
Although the main drag is paved, most of the residential streets are not.
The residents want it that way and have resisted many times the efforts of some to lay down asphalt.
Very few tourists venture off the paved road into the unknown of the dirt trails that lead off through the tree canopies to who knows where.
Most folks do not want to take the road less traveled.
Windermere folks seem to know that and treasure and protect their solitude.
Stop and buy some wine at Tim's Wine Market, have lunch next door at the Dixie Cream Cafe, or go down the road to Gotha for lunch at one of the neatest restaurants in the area, Yellow Dog Eats Cafe.
Tim's doesn't sell wine by the glass. They allowed me to buy a bottle and drink some of it at their big guest table while watching the World Cup soccer match between Colombia and Brazil.
1236 Hempel Avenue
Yellow Dog Eats Cafe is owned by a former CIA man named Fish Morgan.
That's CIA as in Culinary Institute of America. This quaint restaurant has an Orlando address but is really in Gotha, a small village west of Orlando near Windermere.
When I lived in Orlando many years ago a trip to Gotha was often on the Sunday ride agenda.
There were no restaurants back then, only the large century old ramshackle Gotha Country Store where you could get a beef jerky, Twinkie, or saran wrapped sandwich.
There were very few houses in the area back in the day, but now it is surrounded by golf course communities like Islesworth inhabited by the rich and famous.
Tiger Woods lived nearby until he crashed his SUV into a big tree. I'm not sure where he lives now; maybe a dog house.
Fish Morgan loved the old country store the moment he saw it, and the rest is history. He has created a treasure among the orange groves and homes of the rich and famous.
That old country store was converted into the cafe. You have to try it, you will love it.
The food here is great, and the ambiance is super relaxed. It still looks like a big old country store, and you still order your food at the counter.
The restaurant specializes in sandwiches, soups and salads, and you will never be disappointed.
The Club Elvis is a huge sandwich stacked high with tender shredded pork and also a chunk of bacon. The coleslaw is great, the kind I like, a bit bitter and not sweet at all.
The Johnny Rocket is another favorite sandwich here. It is served with honey mesquite roasted turkey, homemade raspberry melba that is spread over the bread and mixed in with the peppers. It is a wonderful mixture of spicy and sweet.
Most folks also enjoy the Classic Yellow Dog Club, another sweet and spicy combination with turkey, smoked Gouda cheese, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce and cucumber on multi-grain bread.
They also have a good selection of Latin inspired wraps and sandwiches, like Classic Mexican Mutt, a wrap with wood smoked chicken or roast beef, black bean spread, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, onions, sour cream and a blend of three gourmet cheeses.
You can dine inside or out at Yellow Dog. To help cool you during the famous Florida summers, they have fans and misters in the outside seating areas.
Yellow Dog has a good selection of wines ranging upwards from $ 6 per glass. You can also buy jams, jellies, preserves and barbecue sauces in the store portion of Yellow Dog.
Yellow Dog Cafe is open every day from 11-9 or 10.