Rose Villa (Ormond Beach, FL)

As I mentioned in my previous review for Kona Tiki Bar, downtown Ormond Beach is a pleasant, quieter sibling to Daytona Beach, and sports a rather nice selection of restaurants on its own; walking to Kona Tiki Bar, I walked right by a rather nice Victorian-style large mansion done up as a restaurant: Rose Villa, that looked like it had some potential for a nice dinner, so when the next evening gave me another opportunity to grab some dinner around Ormond Beach, I decided to give them a try.

It’s worth noting that the business has been around a while, but not in it’s current form. I almost came here a few years ago, but at that time the place was called Fusion 43, and sported a fusion menu. Well, in the last few years, they converted the place back to “Rose Villa”, and gave the menu a large overhaul, focusing on Southern cuisine. And since I always like Southern food done well, it was hard for me to resist.

Walking into Rose Villa, they’ve got the Southern ambiance down pat. If you are looking for some outdoor patio dining (for which the weather was a bit humid for my like), they’ve got the classic wrap-around porch. Formal dining is in the dining room, with nice furniture and white tableclothes. And for informal dining, a rather elaborate and well appointed bar. As I was a single diner, I decided to sit at the bar and talk up the bartender, working my way through their happy hour drink specials: first up being a “Southern Style Old Fashioned with Bacon”, and it was indeed exactly that: a classic Old-fashioned, well assembled, a bit on the sweet end of the spectrum, served up with some candied bacon. A decent enough cocktail, especially at happy hour prices.

But the second cocktail that I had over dinner was the true winner here: The Line. This was a splendid cocktail: Peach Pecan Whiskey (a niche base liqueur if I’ve ever see one), sweet tea, and housemade sour, and here the combination really shone. I was expecting a slightly sweet cocktail, and this was more subtle than that: a rich peach base, nice tea notes, some good sour notes from the mix, and just enough of a smoky pecan taste to tie it all together. If I envision sitting under some fans on a warm summer day on a Southern Plantation, this is just about the sort of drink I imagine.

Dinner was quite impressive as well. One of the classic Southern dishes that I always enjoy is a good shrimp and grits, and seeing it on the menu I couldn’t resist. And the version at Rose Villa is quite enjoyable: perfectly cooked shrimp, a nice creamy bed of grits, and a smoky, peppery sausage with a lot of bits of Andouille sausage… well, this was one of the best renditions I’ve had in a while.

Finally, I was actually planning on skipping dessert, but seeing that one of the desserts was a blueberry peach cobbler, I decided to go for it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Too often a cobbler is a bunch of goopy fruit topped with something resembling Bisquik, but Rose Villa had a great, carefully assembled cobbler: a filling of equal parts blueberry and peach that made for a delightful flavor combination, without too much sugar, and a light fluffy batter topping crisped just enough… this was one of the better desserts I’ve had in recent history.

Overall, I loved Rose Villa. The staff is friendly, the cocktails good and affordable (especially during happy hour), and the Southern food spot-on. As a bonus, they also run a speakeasy-style Absinthe bar upstairs, which I’ll have to make sure to visit on my next trip to Ormond Beach (it was closed on my Tuesday visit). But even without that experience, Rose Villa is a great little dinner spot.

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