A new place in Ocala that’s taking fresh and organic food seriously is Dish Fine Grocer & Eats, located on Highway 27 in the Golden Hills Shopping Center. I’m reluctant to compare Dish to other restaurants because this is not your average sit-down, order-food-and-eat establishment. Dish is not a full-service restaurant, although it does offer tables and chairs for your dining pleasure. Confusing, isn’t it?
Consider Dish an upscale delicatessen/meat market. Partners Greg Mullen and Mary Gary set the stage by bringing on Regan Reid, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. All three have ties to Ocala, working in or running various local businesses.
In addition to managing Dish, Mullen and Gary also raise Wagyu cattle. The meat has a higher ratio of monounsaturated fat to saturated fat and is often described as more tender and tasty than “regular” beef.
But let’s get back to Dish. Upon entering, guests will notice a mini produce stand filled with fresh vegetables brought in by local farmers. Close by, refrigerated deli cases feature sweet treats like the famous bread pudding, tartufo, and pastries, along with savory meats like pâtés, sopressata (salami), prime rib, ribeye, and pork tenderloin. Dish also offers prepared vegetables—a perfect and healthy side dish for any meal. Other items I saw were chicken milanese, salmon, crab cakes, whole roasted chicken, and meatloaf.
While Dish serves more as a grocer than a restaurant, the staff can often prepare your selection for you.
“It really depends on the time of day,” Mullen says. “If time permits or if reservations are made, we will cook to order.” Some items in the cases are already cooked and can be heated up for those dining in.
Before leaving Dish, a visit to the sea salt table, which boasts 15 flavors, is a must! You’ll also enjoy perusing the wine area and open kitchen with its wood-burning oven. Even most of the sodas are naturally made with cane sugar and no high-fructose corn syrup. Intrigued? Call (352) 622-9977 for more information and store hours.
Another must-visit specialty store is Stella’s Modern Pantry in downtown Ocala on Broadway. With café-style seating, Stella’s is an ideal location for lunch, a glass of wine, an appetizer, or coffee and a gourmet dessert. It’s also a place to treat yourself to very modern cookware. Patrons can also customize gift baskets for any occasion.
Owners Stacey Atsides, Albert Barrett, and Felicia Tyler all have their own roles as partners. Stacey is the visionary, Albert serves as pastry chef, and Felicia is responsible for marketing and design. Manager Thomas Pestow gave me a tour of the store and made sure to point out specialty wines, mostly from Spain. He also discussed expanding the store’s beer collection.
In looking over the store’s stocked aisles, I not only spotted hard-to-find items, but I also found ones that I never knew existed, including many Stonewall kitchen products.
Other items that caught my attention included crepe and crème brulee mixes, festive napkins, stainless steel gadgets, olive oils and vinaigrettes, a terrific selection of party foods, and specialty dinnerware. You really do have to check out Stella’s to appreciate it.
On my visit, the dessert counter looked especially tempting and featured a variety of Barrett’s creations—Orange Crème Cake, Chocolate Trilogy, Apple Franipani, and huge cookies. Specialty cakes for any occasion are available to order. Visit stellasmodernpantry.com or call (352) 622-3663 for menus, hours, and information on Stella’s Socials.
Nibbles: Next issue, saying good-bye to Roger’s Bar-B-Q after 28 years and hello to the newest location of Fiore’s Café, now open in the old Giordano’s on Pine Avenue. Also, be on the lookout for Tilted Kilt, coming soon to the old Bennigan’s location on SR 40.