ORLANDO, Fla. – Three big names in Orlando’s food and hospitality industry have come together to bring Hawaiian-inspired cuisine to the Thornton Park neighborhood.
The 808 is now welcoming customers to its dining room located at 808 E. Washington Street, which used to house Dexter’s.
The restaurant is the brainchild of Wendy Connor, who also owns The Abbey and The MEZZ, and Todd Ulmer, the owner of Stardust Lounge and Aku Aku Tiki Lounge. The Hawaiian-inspired menu was put together by Daniel Weber, who is also the chief operating officer of the ghost kitchen Kitchen AF.
“The old Dexter’s building is an icon in Thornton Park and we are thrilled for the opportunity to put our spin on it and transform it to a fresh new hangout spot for residents and visitors alike,” Ulmer said in a statement.
The name of The 808 comes in part from the restaurant’s address, but 808 is also the area code for Honolulu.
The restaurant held its soft opening Wednesday evening, offering a limited menu that included several small plates along with two entrees and a selection of beer and wine.
“We just want to make sure we get our staff trained on everything, so it’s important for us to not maybe put everything out there right at once,” Connor said.
She also noted that there have been some challenges when it comes to getting some items, due to supply chain issues that are hitting many restaurants in Central Florida and across the country.
“There are definitely challenges,” Connor said. “There were challenges in getting equipment for the restaurant and all that, but there are some challenges getting the food, but we’re getting most of it. There [are] just a few items that, you know, it’s a little more difficult.”
The small plates included items such as Spam Musubi, Haole Wings (hot wings with a variety of sauce options) and Lay day Tacos (fried wahoo with pineapple salsa on flour tortillas).
The entrees offered are The Big Island Poke Bowl and a vegetarian Buddha Bowl. The rest of the menu will feature several sandwiches and burgers along with different takes on the Hawaiian plate lunch.
Connor said the menu will be expanding in the next week, along with the hours as the restaurant looks to open for lunch. She also said The 808 will be opening at 11 a.m. on Sundays for brunch, which will feature some specialty items such as Spam and eggs.
“We’ll be doing live music as well,” Connor said. “Our first live music that we have (is) Saturday night and we’ll be doing music Sunday morning, and then we’ll keep growing that and have like music as many nights a week as we can.”
The interior of the restaurant offers a surf shack-style vibe with high tables and a full bar sitting in front of a mural of Hanalei Bay.
“I just love the vibe in there. (It) turned out kind of exactly like we pictured it,” Connor said.
The 808 is set to hold its grand opening on Aug. 8, which is 8/08.