The Global Barfly’s Companion #13 by Susan Lilley (Photos by Phil Deaver)
Bar: Eden Bar
Location: 1300 S Orlando Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751
It’s five o’clock somewhere, but it seems to be forever five-ish at the lush and lovely Eden Bar, where the magical glow of twilight is filtered for hours through the moss-draped oaks that shelter this inviting outdoor hangout. I am waiting for a friend at the polished curved bar and gazing the vision of Eden portrayed in the trippy Bill Plympton mural on the back wall—think Alice in Wonderland meets Henri Rousseau.
A woman a few stools down is sipping a gin and tonic and reading a book of short stories by home-girl author Vanessa Blakeslee. What better omen than seeing a person you don’t even know reading your friend’s book?
The Eden Bar is attached to central Florida’s premier art cinema, Enzian Theatre, located happily on Orlando Avenue in Maitland within screaming distance of Winter Park and close enough to home for us to walk there. Bliss.
My friend Paula arrives, and we mull over some snacks on the menu—shall it be virtuous edamame? Mediterranean dips and pita? Or the full indulgence: fries laced with truffle oil? I order a French 75, rumored to be a favorite cocktail of The Lost Generation, and wonder if Zelda Fitzgerald ever had too many of these. Tending the bar today is Danielle—a writer and editor who also happens to be a whirlwind mixologist.
On another day you might see Peter behind the bar, a spectacular painter whose work I cannot afford. The music is always just what I want to hear when Peter is in charge. His cocktails are works of art and he treats his regulars like welcome pals. He’s also an affable host to first-timers. But don’t even think about being a drunken, loutish jerk at this bar; Peter ain’t having it, thank God. Having said that, you can be weird, quiet, chatty, tipsy, heartbroken, celebratory, or just in a hurry to grab a snazzy cocktail and get inside Enzian Theatre before the lights go down for tonight’s movie.
Yes, writers love this bar, but so do artists of all kinds and interesting folk of every stripe. During the annual Florida Film Festival in the spring, the place is crawling with filmmakers and film people and film lovers, which makes for superb people watching. But I love ordinary weeknights here, where a writer can bend over a moleskin notebook alone or talk ideas with a friend or colleague. Where someone very nice will bring you a beverage and some food to keep you going. Where you can make new friends and catch up with the old.
Susan Lilley (Episode 82, Episode 85) is a Florida native. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Slipstream, Sweet, The Apalachee Review, and The Florida Review, among other journals. She is a previous winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and her chapbook, Night Windows, won the Yellow Jacket Press contest for Florida poets. Her chapbook, Satellite Beach, is out from Finishing Line Press. She was stunned to be voted top choice for Best of There Will Be Words prose reading series in Orlando for 2013, which resulted in a chapbook of memoir essays called When We Were Stardust.