Pros: Healthy choices, Unique selection and atmosphere
Cons: Not kid friendly, takes awhile to dine
Seasons 52 is a Darden restaurant and has a healthy choice grilled American cuisine. The restaurant opened in February of 2003 but we had not considered going there because we assumed it would be a high dollar plate considering the location in the ritzy part of town. We did not make our first visit to the restaurant until Papa was in town and needed to eat on the healthy side.
Seasons 52 was the logical choice after Papa described the type of meal he was looking for. Seasons 52 is unique in that it only has menu items that are 475 calories or less. Their food selection is inspired by the season hence the name Seasons and 52 for 52 weeks in a year. Their menu changes weekly which offers a variety to the consumer.
We are pretty hearty eaters so we were intimidated by the low calorie menu but went to enjoy our evening with Papas needs in mind and assumed it would be bland and that we would leave hungry which is why I suppose youre not suppose to judge a book by its cover.
Now, by mentioning Papa it is clear that there are grandkids tagging along, three to be exact. We walked into the restaurant and I immediately got uncomfortable because there were a lot of well-dressed business individuals that were socializing over expensive wine. It immediately became apparent that our children were out of place.
We went on a week night and although the restaurant was full there was not a wait. We proceeded to our booth and asked for a high chair. We were shocked to discover that they did not have any high chairs in the building. I looked around and there were a couple of children in the restaurant so I sat down. I didnt see the childrens choices on the menu so I asked our waiter who informed us that there wasnt a childrens menu. The restaurant is not a club and not a bar nor was it fine dining so Im not sure why children were so unwelcome.
The 475 calorie menu selection should not imply that your dinner will be 475 calories because I am sure that each of us tipped the scale that night. Each of the items on the menu contains no more than 475 calories so after sharing 4 appetizers, soup, main course, special drink, and dessert I was loosening up the pants at the waistline.
This restaurant opened our eyes that healthy does not need to be tasteless vegetables. There was a very large selection on the menu which made a tough decision for all of us. We started off with some appetizers all less than $10 each. There was an ample selection of non-traditional appetizers so it is no wonder that this restaurant won, Best Appetizers award from Orlando Magazine in 2004. We started off with Steamed Black Mussels, Lobster & Roasted Fennel Risotto, Double Garlic Chicken Breast Flatbread, and Vine Ripe Tomato Flatbread. Typically we dont order 4 appetizers but who could resist plus the flatbread is similar to pizza so we were sure the kids would eat most of it.
We also had a bowl soup which was light with a lot of seasoning, another excellent choice.
Their selections of entrees were reasonably priced in the mid teens and were equally appetizing. There were many things to choose from such as fish, shrimp, chicken, turkey, quail, and filet mignon. We had pork tenderloin as the entree and although the serving size was small, it was packed with flavor and was extremely tender. I had a glass of wine which complemented dinner superbly. (Wines range from $6-$15.)
Typically we dont have dessert because we are too full but Papa insisted. Desert comes in a tall shot glass for $2.00 each. There are only about three bites but it is full of flavor and very satisfying.
All things considered we ordered a lot of food which is why we were so full. If you were with someone you were trying to impress you probably wouldnt want to order 4-5 appetizers like we did (blush). I think I enjoyed this best because the foods were so different and I could not possibly recreate them at home. In fact, I couldnt even come up with the ideas. The selections are unique to this restaurant.
The environment is a very relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere. It took us 2 hours for our meal. A lot of the atmosphere is upscale and the staff treats you like you are the only guest in the building. They serve a lot of upscale beverages which go well with the relaxed socializing environment.
The restaurant follows the same sort of expectation that you would expect from any Darden restaurant. The waiter was REALLY working it. He gave a generous description of every item on the menu, checked on us numerous times, and did everything he could to make or visit pleasant.
This is an evening restaurant; it doesnt open until 4:30 PM. There is typically a full parking lot and valet parking is available. I would recommend making reservations because there is usually a line. Most people were dressed casual, but a little nicer than t-shirt and shorts. This would be an excellent place for small groups of old friends to gather, a date, or an anniversary. This is not kid friendly restaurant but is certainly not inappropriate for them.
Orlando was the test market for this restaurant and many more are being planned. So far there are only three locations. The first location is on Sand Lake road near International Drive. The other two locations are Altamonte, FL and Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
I would say that Chef Clifford Pleau is giving the competition in Orlando a run for their money. Seasons 52 has been awarded 20 titles by 9 different sources within the short 2 years of staring out which seems like quite an accomplishment to me. The awards are listed here: http://www.seasons52.com/media/awards.asp
Trip number 2
We recently revisited Seasons 52, this time at the Altamonte location for lunch. I can't blieve what a drastic change of heart we had about this restaurant.
Our service was poor. The waiter didn't bother to check on us, fill our glasses, or express any personality at all. We ordered and received the "appetizer" salad but was charged for a dinner salad which we realized after we paid. On top of all that, he took off with my plate before I was done which considering the price of the plate and the already small portion, really ticked me off.
The food tasted really good and had a nice presentation to it, but there wasn't enough food to fill us up. We ended up leaving hungry from a $40 meal which has never happend before.
We won't be back to Seasons 52. The novelty has worn off. It's a nice place to dine with others, or to visit once, but not a good place for the hungry.