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Apopka Restaurants

Apopka Restaurant Roulette: Brew Theory yes; Rodney Scott's no; Francesco's maybe


Restaurants are a hot topic in Apopka. 

During the mayoral and city commission elections, it was a core issue. In fact, the very first question asked to Commissioner Diane Velazquez in the Apopka City Commission forum was "How many restaurants are in Apopka?"

The restaurant issue is all-encompassing for Apopkans. It unfolds the entire approach to economic development, managed growth, and quality of life. The success of attracting restaurants to Apopka is one of the building blocks in proving it is not a mile behind cities like Mount Dora, Sanford, and the dreaded comparison to Winter Garden.

The Apopka City Center and Floridian Town Center are two projects that are touting strong entries into bringing restaurants to Apopka. During the election cycle, the City Center broke ground for Starbucks, Brew Theory, and Francesco's Italian Restaurant. The Floridian Town Center did not break ground but did make it known that the James Beard Award-Winning Rodney Scott's BBQ would be a part of the project. 

But now, almost three months clear of the election, what is the status of those three restaurants?

Brew Theory
Brew Theory

Brew Theory - Yes

 Although they broke ground in February, Brew Theory, a downtown Orlando contract brewing facility, officially announced it is coming to the Apopka City Center with a projected opening date of Summer 2023.  It's a 12,000 square foot that includes a full liquor bar, Brew Theory taproom, and various retail tenants.  It will also feature landscaping, a beer garden, and indoor/outdoor seating.

In addition to Apopka, Brew Theory is expanding to open a 50,000-square-foot production facility in Sanford next year and another location in Lowell, Massachusetts.

“We are thrilled to elevate the Brew Theory brand with the new Brew Theory Marketplace coming to Apopka next year and to expand with new production facilities opening in Sanford and Lowell,” said Owner/CEO Jeremy Roberts. “Brew Theory Marketplace will be a go-to destination for all Central Florida locals and visitors with Best of Orlando restaurants, retail, beer and, bar offerings, and beautiful grounds for folks to grab lunch, dinner with friends, have a meeting, shop around and stay for a while. Brew Theory has always been committed to making quality beer for our brewery partners since inception, and we will deliver that same top-notch quality, offerings, and overall experience with our food hall.”

Rodney Scott's BBQ
Rodney Scott's BBQ

Rodney Scott's BBQ - No

Rodney Scott's BBQ in Charleston, SC is a dining experience for the ages. Scott is a James Beard Award winner from the 2018 Southeast Region. Netflix featured him on Chef's Table, and he was a "Celebrity Chef" in an episode of Showtime's Billions. It's an incredible story of hard work, and a great attitude propelling a person of humble beginnings into an American success story.

If you are ever in Charleston, Atlanta, Birmingham, or Homewood, AL, you should look them up and enjoy what I think is the best barbecue in the south - except of course for Porkies BBQ in Apopka.

Scott also has restaurants opening in Nashville, and Trussville, AL.

There was a connection between Scott and Apopka by way of catering an infamous fundraiser for Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson at the Winter Park home of Tony Benge, but, apparently, that's where the connection to Apopka ends.

Benge is partnering with the Collier Companies to develop the Floridian Town Center in Apopka project on the northwest corner of SR-429 and 441. 

Among the features the Floridian Town Center will include are:

  • Roughly 600 apartments
  • A hotel
  • An assisted-living facility
  • A YMCA
  • A park
  • Retail space with a grocery store

Benge and Nelson both referenced Rodney Scott's BBQ coming to the Town Center at different times before the election.

"We feel like we've got restaurants," Nelson said during the mayoral debates. "Rodney Scott's is coming to the Floridian Town Center, which will be a James Beard award-winning restaurant."

Benge was less excited and more... well... this is what he said during public comments at the February 2nd Apopka City Council meeting to then-Commissioner Kyle Becker after losing a bid for the Station Street project:

"You were at the debate the other night and had a temper tantrum about restaurants," Benge said. "I brought Apopka the first James Beard award-winning restaurant it will have. Is there a thank you? No."

Unfortunately, Apopka may have to wait on that James Beard Award-winning restaurant a little longer.

I talked to Alyssa Braden, the Senior Account Supervisor for The Door Idea House. They are the PR firm that handles media inquiries for Rodney Scott's BBQ. I told her how much I enjoyed Scott's restaurant and was looking forward to his opening in Apopka. But Braden could not confirm that Scott was coming to the Floridian Town Center.

"Thanks for reaching out! Glad to hear you enjoyed lunch at Rodney’s Charleston store," she said, and then delivered the bad news. "At this time there are no plans for an Apopka store."

Benge and the Benge Development Corporation were both contacted by email and Facebook Messenger but did not respond by the time the article was published.

Francesco's Ristorante & Pizzeria
Francesco's Ristorante & Pizzeria

Francesco's Ristorante & Pizzeria - Maybe

According to its website, Francesco's Ristorante & Pizzeria could be a great fit in the Apopka City Center:

"Our boutique Italian scratch kitchen represents the best of the Mediterranean. Indulge in a tapestry of rich & vibrant flavors straight from the heart of Southern Italy. Our mission is simple: carefully preparing and serving the most flavorful Italian dishes using only the freshest local ingredients for an experience that will delight your senses. Make memories and celebrate life as you enjoy the signature flavors of our authentic hand-tossed pizzas, classic Italian pasta and seafood, and perfectly paired fine wines for an experience that is sure to delight!"

During the debates, Nelson referenced the Maitland-based restaurant as a prospect for the Apopka City Center.

"Today I have a meeting with Francesco's that is looking to maybe come to the town center," he said. "We'll have the groundbreaking on Thursday for the food hall with a brewery... and we'll have Starbucks coming in with the same town center feel."

But in an interview with The Apopka Voice on March 31st, about two months after the debates, the maybe was still a maybe.

"They're not a definite," Nelson said. "I called him back a couple of times. And probably one more call. See if I can get him."

Now, on May 31st, Francesco's remains uncommitted.

"Haven't heard back either yes or no," Nelson said in a text response about Francesco's coming to Apopka.

The Apopka Voice reached out to Francesco's through email but did not receive a response before the article was published.

Brew Theory, Francesco's Ristorante & Pizzeria, Rodney Scott's BBQ, Apopka City Center, Floridian Town Center, Apopka restaurants, Apopka, Restaurants