Exclusive: Orlando restaurant veteran to open Mexican eatery this spring

F&D Cantina

An Orlando restaurant veteran is expanding his presence in Central Florida, this time with a new concept.

Charly Robinson, who returned to Central Florida last year and opened F&D Kitchen & Bar at 1541 International Parkway in Lake Mary, told Orlando Business Journal he signed a lease for a 3,500-square-foot space at 12789 Waterford Lakes Parkway that will become F&D Cantina, a Mexican gastropub.

Before to returning to Orlando, Robinson lived on the West Coast and served as CEO of California-based Real Mex Restaurants. Prior to that, he worked for Orlando-based E-Brands Restaurants.

Robinson said his team will invest about $250,000 to build out F&D Cantina, which is set to open March 7 and will add about 40 new jobs in east Orlando.

“ This second opportunity came up, and it was a great deal,” he said. “I knew two months in we were good [at F&D Kitchen], and I said we were ready to go on to the next one. When I find real estate that works, I figure out what works in the space. I’m not going to make a square peg fit into a round hole. You have to figure out what the market is lacking. That’s why F&D Kitchen is [in Lake Mary], because I saw as huge opportunity here.”

F&D Cantina will serve a variety of authentic Mexican cuisine, but don’t expect a $2 margarita night or a giant burrito smothered in melted cheese. Menu items you’ll likely see will be dishes with authentic mole sauce, a variety of tacos and a charcuterie with Mexican meat and cheeses. And while Robinson said there will be plenty of tequila, there also will be an emphasis on bourbon.

“ For the Mexican concept, we’re bringing in a guy from California who’s been cooking Mexican food for 35 years,” Robinson said. “He’s coming in to help our chef and work out the menu. We want to do authentic food. We’re not doing Tex-Mex, so no fajitas or piles of rice and beans and cheese.”

Meanwhile, Robinson said he still wants to expand the F&D Kitchen concept and is in the process of looking for available space.

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