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Gordon's Be Back Fish House

558 E. Kennedy Blvd., Maitland, FL - (407) 644-6640
Posted By Michael Stern on 8/18/2014 4:19:00 AM
During a recent hunt for soul food restaurants in the Orlando, Florida, area, Jane and I spent some time in Zora Neal Hurston's home town of Eatonville, Florida (the first municipality in the U.S. to be incorporated by families of emancipated slaves). Our visit was in January, timed to coincide with Eatonville's yearly Zora! festival, which pretty much takes over the main street (Kennedy Boulevard) to celebrate the life and works of the seminal 20th century African-American writer. Of course, there is plenty to eat. A big, open-air food court offers such local faves as collard greens, candied yams, and oxtails along with more typical fair-food such as funnel cakes, gyros, and Polish sausages. The most memorable thing we found at the festival came from a humble tent where a local woman was selling six-foot-long sugar cane stalks as well as her baked specialties, which included brownies, cookies, and slices from a splendid 7-Up cake. Made in a bundt pan, the cake was a creamy pound cake with icing that added beguiling citrus tingle.

Just beyond the fair, at the town line with the municipality of Maitland, we hit Roadfood paydirt in the form of Gordon's Be Back Fish House. What curious eater could resist visiting a place with a hand-written sign outside boasting "YES WE HAVE MULLET" and a somewhat more formal sign, planted in the lawn, advertising "Hot Fish and Grits"? This corner cafe, the name of which was devised to suggest that if you eat here once, you will be back for more, is presided over by Abraham Gordon, Jr., who came to Eatonville over a half century ago and spent some time as its mayor and as a school teacher before opening his restaurant. Mr. Gordon, who told us that he first worked as a short order cook in a diner at the age of 12 sits at the cash register taking orders, holding forth for all in the restaurant to hear (it's that small), and giving advice about whether he thinks you are a mullet person or a catfish person. "We like anything where we don't have to battle with the bones," we tell him.

"That's the irony," he replies with great glee. "I eat all the bones and give you all the meat." Crisp-fried catfish is indeed boneless and meaty, clean and mild. It's good, but we prefer the character of Gordon's mullet, which is ineluctably unctuous, its succulent flesh fairly wallowing in a golden envelope of vividly-seasoned crust. Bones may be present, but they simply are not an issue. We also love the flounder, which is moist and cream-soft, breaded only enough to envelop the pure white meat. "Butter and cheese?" Gordon asks, regarding grits that are fish's de rigueur partner in this place. They are stout grits, especially indulgent when sopped with butter and crowned with molten yellow cheese. Fried okra is another immemorial companion. It has a thick, crunchy coat but is intensely green-tasting once bitten – a serious vegetable presence. Naturally, hushpuppies are included in every Styrofoam dinner tray (all dishware is disposable). They are crunchy and sweet, and oily enough to make fingertips glisten.

Gordon does not make the cakes, but he gets them from local bakers. A lady in Winter Park makes the bright green, and brightly flavored, Key lime layer cake. Red velvet cake, pound cake, and sweet potato pie are made by a gentleman up in Altamonte Springs.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Flounder Dinner
Grits
Key Lime Cake
Shrimp Basket (6 piece)
Red Velvet Cake
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Crisp-edged, creamy flounder fillets are accompanied by hushpuppies and fried okra.
"Crisp-edged, creamy flounder fillets are accompanied by hushpuppies and fried okra."
Michael Stern





Red velvet cake is a standard in the soul food restaurants of greater Orlando. Gordon's is a classic.
"Red velvet cake is a standard in the soul food restaurants of greater Orlando. Gordon's is a classic."
Michael Stern


Gordon's shrimp are double-crunchy, first the crust, then the snappy-firm flesh of the shrimp itself.
"Gordon's shrimp are double-crunchy, first the crust, then the snappy-firm flesh of the shrimp itself."
Michael Stern


Key lime cake is as vivid-tasting as it looks.
"Key lime cake is as vivid-tasting as it looks."
Michael Stern


If you are visiting Orlando and hanker for a soulful seafood meal, put Gordon's at the top of the itinerary.
"If you are visiting Orlando and hanker for a soulful seafood meal, put Gordon's at the top of the itinerary."
Michael Stern


Grits with butter and cheese
"Grits with butter and cheese"
Michael Stern


Dress code
"Dress code"
Michael Stern


Mullet used to be known as Biloxi bacon, back when real bacon was scarce. It is dense, oily, and truly bacon-rich.
"Mullet used to be known as Biloxi bacon, back when real bacon was scarce. It is dense, oily, and truly bacon-rich."
Michael Stern


All meals are presented in Styrofoam clamshell containers.
"All meals are presented in Styrofoam clamshell containers."
Michael Stern


Sign of good eats
"Sign of good eats"
Michael Stern


Long John Silver's, this is not.
"Long John Silver's, this is not."
Michael Stern


7-Up cake, found at the Zora Neal Hurston festival just up the road from Gordon's, is a beautiful balance of creamy cake and zippy frosting.
"7-Up cake, found at the Zora Neal Hurston festival just up the road from Gordon's, is a beautiful balance of creamy cake and zippy frosting."
Michael Stern



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