Have you heard about the Aardvark – the SoDo District neighborhood convenience store that turned into a true neighborhood Florida gulf coastal-inspired gastropub with some of the finest seafood and burgers in Orlando?
Aardvark Beverage’s story goes back over 30+ years, starting as a local convenience store. In early 2020, new ownership changed to a full service restaurant – a true gastropub. With the new ownership under Emmie Olivecrona, came new inspiration and a new menu with everything made in-house and sourced locally as much as possible – They source their brioche bread from Douce France Bakery in Winter Garden and fly in their po boy bread from New Orleans twice a week.
The Aardvark also offers a selection of sparkling, champagne , white, & red wine with hand selections from around the world. Beer lovers rejoice – there is also a rotating lineup of 22 beers on tap, many regionally sourced, and over 200 different beers offered in bottles or cans to enjoy in the restaurant or to take home.
For those brunch lovers, there is also a fantastic Brunch – Saturday, Sunday & Monday -10 am – 4 pm featuring $15 Unlimited Mimosas per Entree and frozen drinks.
We recently got a chance to interview owner Emmie Olivecrona – who smokes all the fish dip and smoked items in house her self – and got some insight behind The Aardvark.
Interview with The Aardvark’s Emmie Olivecrona
Ricky Ly of Tasty Chomps: Tell us about your experience growing up – What were some of your favorite memories around food growing up?
Emmie Olivecrona: My mother was from Japan so I grew up with some amazing Japanese food & traditions. She believed in always using the freshest ingredients in everything she made. I loved helping her in the kitchen. In addition, being a military brat, I got to live in some amazing countries with incredible food options. Hawaii & Sicily were probably my favorite countries to live in. In Sicily, our Landlady had an olive farm that she would take my brother & I to on the weekends. She had a coal fired pizza oven on her farm. She would make us the best pizzas! Visiting my family in Japan was always a treat as well. Getting to eat as much onigiri, natto, soba, & udon were my favorite things when visiting them.
What do you think makes The Aardvark special?
The nostalgia of the neighborhood convenience store turned into a Coastal Inspired Restaurant with full service dining. It’s definitely not what you expect when you walk inside. The amount of fresh seafood we have I think really surprises people when they see our menu
What inspired you to get into the food industry?
I have been in & out of the restaurant industry for over 30 years. In high school, I worked in several restaurants in Colonial Williamsburg, VA. When I moved to Florida, I worked in lots of different types of restaurants paying my way through school. My Japanese Grandmother had a Pub in Yokohama, Japan so maybe it was always a part of me to be in this industry.
What are some of your favorite lessons learned in your years in the industry?
You can never care too much about the quality of food or the level of service.
What is something you wish people to know about Aardvark for their first time dining there?
We make all our sauces & pickles in house and have some of the freshest seafood around. We have a rotating selection of seafood for our Fish Monger’s Special & Anchors Aweigh Sandwich. Our Butcher’s Blade Special rotates with different farmhouse meats weekly as well. Most importantly, people would not expect the Wine Selection we have such as Groth, Shafer, Orin Swift, & Louis M. Martini. It is not something you think you would find in an old convenience store in SoDo.
What is new at The Aardvark?
We come out with a seasonal menu with the changing of the seasons, well, what “seasons” we have in Florida . Some of our new summer menu items are Half Chicken, Burrata Salad, Smoked Gouda Mac, & Steak Frites. Our Fish Monger’s Bounty & Butcher’s Blade are Chef’s Weekly Specials that rotate. Recently, our Chef did a Butcher’s Blade with Elk Filet that was out of this world. We may add it to the next menu roll-out.
Tell us about your favorite menu items right now that people can get at your restaurant?
My favorite items are The Kraken & Fish Monger’s Bounty. Our Chef does a weekly special for Octopus & Seasonal Fresh Fish which are always amazing! I do love our Mahi Reuben & you can’t ever go wrong with our Aardvark Burger.
Top five most popular dishes at The Aardvark?
- The Aardvark Burger with our House made Garlic Aioli, Gouda, Smoked Bacon, Artisan Romaine on a Brioche Bun
- Grouper Sandwich with our House made Slaw, Cajun Remoulade & Pickles
- Mahi Reuben with our House Sauerkraut, Cajun Remoulade, & Baby Swiss
- Smoked Fish Dip House Smoked Fish with Chicarróns, Crackers & House made Seasonal Pickles
- Southern Benedict (offered during Brunch) with our House made Biscuit, Blackened Catfish, Poached Eggs, Fried Heirloom Tomato & a zesty hollandaise sauce
The Aardvark FL
2610 South Fern Creek Ave, Orlando, FL 32806