I am not going to mince words, here. We LOVE The Smiling Bison (107 S Magnolia Avenue) here at Sanford365. In fact, it’s safe to say that nearly all our Downtown locals enjoy treating themselves to a few craft cocktails and seasonal plates, the likes of which this town had never dreamt of prior to the restaurant’s opening last year. Sanford’s food scene continues to be bolstered by new chef-driven concepts, most recently the Tennessee Truffle and Jimotti’s, but no one can deny that the Bison took the admirable risk of being the first farm to table restaurant in Downtown Sanford– and has been killin’ it ever since.
Needless to say, when we heard that owners Ron Thomas and Chef Josh Oakley chose to close their original Smiling Bison location in
Orlando in order to consolidate both restaurants in Sanford, we knew this relationship was getting serious. The decision to leave Orlando was not an easy one, but due to a series of building issues at the original location and the challenges of running two locations, Ron and Josh chose to go steady with Sanford. While I know it will be an adjustment for the owners and restaurant staff, we here at Sanford365 really can’t contain our joy.
As Claudia writes, “We are so lucky to now have their full attention! And amazing things already start to happen: the Smiling Bison is now offering lunch and brunch!”
Our brunch scene has been steadily growing, but this announcement really put us over the moon! You can imagine our excitement when Ron and Josh invited the Sanford365 gals to a private peek at their newest offerings for brunch and lunch.
Chef Josh treated us to a brilliant Winter crudité dressed with beet vinaigrette, pork belly nestled on top of a bright celery-apple chutney, a warm bread pudding topped with heavenly whipped cream, and the pièce de résistance: his personal narration of the entire spread.
Josh’s dishes speak for themselves, but when you hear the history of each dish, the conception, the sourcing of ingredients, the forethought, straight from the lips of a person who has spent the better part of his life preparing for this process, you appreciate each bite that much more. This is what makes a farm to table experience exceptional, and it’s this that constitutes the enormous risk restaurateurs take when opening this type of concept in a town with a fledgling food scene.
Chef Josh broke down everything for us, from which farm each delicate component of the crudité comes, to the full journey of the pork belly, which is prepared sous vide, a precise cooking method in which the protein is encased in a clear bag and cooked in a temperature controlled bath for a perfectly even finish.
“I personally love hearing Josh talk about his food, the chemistry behind it is not only interesting, but you can see Josh’s love for what he does when he talks about it,” Jessica, our photographer, writes. “I was not aware that Smiling Bison supported so many local farms and that just makes me love them that much more.”
But onto the food! Personally, I fell in love with the Winter Crudité. As someone who loves to gorge herself on the Bison’s famous appetizers, such as the fried chicken skins and flaky cheddar bacon biscuits, I rely on a greener entreé to balance out my meal, and this dish does not disappoint. From lovely corn shoots to crisp, genuine baby carrots, all served on a splash of bright magenta beet vinaigrette, the crudité is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
Claudia: As hard as it is to pick a favorite dish, this time I am going with the pork belly on apple & celery salad with apple butter. I don’t know how chef Josh did it but he came up with the perfect combination of flavors in this dish.
Jessica: All of the food was delicious of course, but the bread pudding was my absolute fave and I can’t stop starring at the photos of that beautiful salad!
But of course, don’t just take our word for it, experience the Bison’s delicious lunch and brunch first hand when they begin service this week!
Excite your taste buds and stop by the Smiling Bison during these hours:
- Lunch: Wednesday-Friday11:00am-2:00pm
- Brunch: Saturday 11:00am-2:30pm
- Regular Hours continue: Dinner 5-10pm Tuesday – Saturday with daily Happy Hour 5-6pm