A Turkish restaurant decorated like a cowboy saloon and named for Dubai? 1881 in Kissimmee checks all those boxes – Orlando Weekly

3 minutes, 18 seconds Read

Following my review of Caravan Uzbek & Turkish Cuisine last November, I received messages from readers encouraging me to visit another Uzbek restaurant in Kissimmee called 1881. Only there seemed to be two restaurants using the palindromic date in their monikers — “1881 Restaurant” at 308 Broadway and “1881 Dubai Restaurant” around the corner at 315 Pleasant St. It wasn’t until I got to the historic W.B. Makinson Hardware building in downtown “Kowtown” that it all made sense.

Kind of.

The expansive space is home to both 1881 Restaurant (fronting Broadway) and 1881 Dubai Restaurant (on Pleasant). Both offer the exact same menu spotlighting the crossroads cuisine of Central Asia, but 1881 Restaurant looks like a modern saloon, which is fitting given the building was once a saddle shop and catered to cowboys of yore. But it’s attached to a somewhat posh wine bar and connected to a tropically styled outdoor pavilion. At the back of the sprawling complex is the “Dubai” variant, its booths resembling Bedouin-style tents and its decor festooned with the flavor of the Middle East. It’s where we chose to have this mid-Ramadan feast, and what a feast it was.

Location Details

Now if you’re wondering about the name, the “1881” refers to the year the original W.B. Makinson Hardware building was erected. As far as the “Dubai,” well, your guess is as good as mine. Dubai is nowhere near Uzbekistan, but a spread of kebabs pictured on the menu sort of looked like the skyline of that city — if the skyline comprised skyscrapers made of meat. “We want that!” we said to the helpful, friendly chap taking our order. And like that Emirati city in the desert, the meat board dazzled.

There were lamb kebabs ($14) nestled up against chicken kebabs ($10); grilled chicken wings ($12) and lamb chops ($25) sitting atop ground beef ($12) and ground chicken kebabs ($10). On the edge of the board sat beef kebabs ($14) with rice, along with vegetables ($10) like grilled eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini. The meats and veg were grilled over open charcoal and kissed with a smoky char that had me and a couple of food junkie pals picking away at every morsel. Nothing dry, nothing overdone. Enjoying it with an order of pilaf ($20) glistening with beef, lamb, carrots, raisins and chickpeas is “how Uzbeks like to do it,” said our server. It was hard not to enjoy the conviviality of it all. “Yo, I don’t even feel like I’m in Orlando,” said my pal.

“You’re not,” I joked. “You’re in Kissimmee.” But I know what he’s getting at. I had the same feeling at Caravan dining alongside Uzbeks and Turks, Kazakhs and Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Russians.

In fact, preceding slurps of shurpa ($13), a clear lamb and potato soup, as well as lagman ($18), hand-pulled noodles gorgeously stir-fried with beef, vegetables and topped with slivers of fried egg, proved plenty transportive, even before we indulged in 1881’s prized platter of proteins. Shreds of a doughy, sesame-flecked round bread called obi non ($3) were used to sop any and all meat juice/sauce/soup remnants. “That’s how Uzbeks like to do it,” repeated the server. A pot of tea ($5), along with a meringue roulette ($7) and a custard-light Napoleon ($7), lent a very Euro ending to this Eurasian affair.

An Uzbek restaurant in the middle of downtown Kissimmee may seem out of place, but when you consider that horses — they were first domesticated in Central Asia thousands of years ago — and beef are as important in Uzbek culture as they are in the history of Kissimmee, 1881 feels like a perfect fit. And by the looks of things, the restaurant seems to be giving the cow town’s parochial-minded a run for their money.

Subscribe to Orlando Weekly newsletters.

Follow us: Apple News | Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | or sign up for our RSS Feed

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

Similar Posts

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop