Only in Orlando can a restaurant change from "a fine Italian eatery with strolling musicians and the feel of a European Opera House" to "a speed-themed restaurant with enough horsepower to shake the earth" - without making any structural modifications.
Back in 1990, when I was a tour guide at Disney, my friend Chris was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. He used to tell me that when he "made it big" in the movie business, he'd take me to dinner at Caruso's Palace, that fancy restaurant on I-Drive with the columns. We both knew when the rich and famous came to town, they'd dine among the elite of Orlando at Caruso's.
Fast forward 17 years later and Chris is now a successful stuntman, living in L.A., directing documentaries and working in films alongside Johnny Depp and Nicholas Cage.
He never took me to Caruso's.
It wasn't his fault, really, because Caruso's bit the dust, and was eventually replaced with Race Rock -the race car themed restaurant with all the motorcyclie-boatie stuff inside.
The exterior stayed the same - columns and all, but the new owners (Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, etc) were brand-savvy enough to paint a black and white checkerboard flag on the domed roof. And of course, they put an 18 wheeler in the lobby and parked Big Foot, the Monster Truck, out front. Or was it Gravedigger?
But now, Race Rock is done, too. According to a March issue of the Orlando Business Journal, the new owners, Tavistock, plan to create an "entertainment-oriented restaurant concept." They were supposed to make a big announcement about it in April. I haven't heard anything, so I hope it's not to late to rally the cause...
WAKE UP ORLANDO...WE NEED A FREAKING WAX MUSEUM! Sorry to be crude, but really, enough is enough. It's nothing short of a sin that we don't have one here. I know, I know...there is one in Old Town in Kissimmee, but it's never open.
Or maybe it's not too late to try and return to the glory days of Indian World Museum and Trading Post or Weapons of the World: The Hands-On Experience.
(photos courtesy of vamosparadisney.com)