When French native Joel Martin was young, his family moved to Africa. While there, Joel learned to stalk many jungle creatures including crocodiles with the help of his Malgache friends. Years later, in 1995, Martin packed up his own family and moved them to Florida, where the heat and humidity reminded him of his beloved childhood in Africa. Today he owns and operates Black Hammock Adventures, located near some of Orlando's busiest attractions, and charters picturesque airboat rides on the gator-infested waters of Lake Jesup. His boat, equipped with Goliath's desk fan, skims earplugged riders past alligators and other lake fauna at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. During rides, experienced guides pilot the vessel safely through narrow creeks and shallow wetlands, and help tourists to spot sunning reptiles. After zooming by a congregation of gators, guests can stop by Black Hammock's free wildlife exhibit, enjoy a lively libation at the Lazy Gator Bar with live music every weekend, sit down at the full service restaurant featuring Executive Chef Barth that is known for its fried gator tail, or hand over their cameras as they pose for pictures with a live baby alligator or barter for an autograph with hunks of raw meat.
Hugo Joe’s seasoned culinarians answer the persistent calls of hungry bellies with a menu brimming with flame-licked specialties from the U.S. and around the globe seven days a week. Discuss the many traits of the multifarious cucumber over a pile of tangy fried pickles with sour cream ($4.99) before making your way to a hearty oven-baked chicken parmigiana sub ($7.49) or a texas burger, a veggie-and-swiss-topped slab of succulence nestled between slices of texas toast ($8.99). For a taste of Italy that doesn’t require an ample licking of a world atlas, order one of the shrimp and pasta dishes ($15.99) or opt for the baked ziti covered in three cheeses and house sauce ($10.49). The wings ($6.49/half-dozen), coated with a choice of sauce, target mouths in the mood for bison airfoils. Stamp a palette’s passport with the mark of Switzerland sans ink with a wienerschnitzel ($14.49), or conquer a bucket of Hugo Joe’s signature oysters ($24.99).
The view of Florida wildlife from the lakeview terrace at The Lazy Gator Bar needs no food or drinks to make it worthwhile. Over buckets of beers and colorful mixed drinks resting on tables, the setting sun casts an orange-pink glow that adds a charming touch to the airboats coming in from a tour. This glow even makes Hammy look friendly––the 11-foot-long alligator who soaks in a pool at the live gator and bird exhibit adjoining Black Hammock Gift Shop. Waiters bring out bar snacks from the restaurant, while guests to linger over drinks as bands play live music on weekends.
With its exposed bricks, arched doorways, and dim lighting, The Wine Room on Park Avenue evokes a medieval monastery. That may be why the sleek, Italian-made Enomatic wine dispenser, which controls bottle temperature and prevents oxidation, looks so much like a Star Trek–era gadget within the pleasantly rustic walls. With the push of a button, the metallic nozzles pour out precise 1-ounce sample-size, half-glass, or full-glass portions. To ensure spouts remain untainted from customer to customer, it cleans itself after every pour.
The Enomatic is one reason The Wine Room earned the title of Orlando's best wine bar from Orlando Magazine. The recently remodeled space now boasts additional seating, a new menu, and a new lineup of machines. Though the technology is impressive, the shop backs up their gadgetry with a staff of actual human wine connoisseurs. These friendly staffers help customers navigate the selection of 156 wines, and offer wine classes throughout the year. They can also recommend bottles to pair with The Wine Room's selection of cheeses, flatbreads, and yachts in need of christening.
Amid the melodies of nightly karaoke, Devaney's marries hearty pub fare with daily drink specials. Signature cocktails and beer—from breweries including Bell's, Lagunitas, Victory, and Stone—wash back burgers, sandwiches, and wings. A surfeit of sports décor represents various teams battling on the flat-screen TVs, which beam down on tabletops and bar seating filled with patrons cheering as their favorite mascot executes a perfect high-five. The bar further engages crowds with Wednesday-night bingo, Thursday-night trivia, and weekly live bands, who are only sometimes possessed by ventriloquist dummies.
A sea of framed snapshots of famous players sweeps across the newly painted wall of Friendly Confines. Sports games play on the dining room's numerous television screens, accompanying plates of hearty wings, burgers, and steaks. Outside, pint glasses, pitchers, and cocktail glasses clink beneath the colorful umbrellas that speckle the front patio. Throughout the week, the pub hosts games and contests, including Tuesday night bingo, Sunday night live music, and Wednesday afternoon competitive quilting.