Review

Review: Culpepper's in Orlando scores for home team

University of Central Florida is gearing up for homecoming week, but another homecoming of sorts began in August when Daunte Culpepper helped open a restaurant near the east Orange County school.

The former UCF star quarterback is a force behind Culpepper's, an upscale-casual sports bar and restaurant about a mile from campus.

Culpepper's involvement with the Knight-themed eatery is part of a partnership with another former UCF quarterback, Kyle Israel; Tony Comas, a UCF alum and radio personality; and others.

The black-and-gold-themed restaurant is evolving, but by homecoming weekend it will certainly be ground zero for Knight fans who are fueling up before and after the Nov. 9 game against the Houston Cougars.

The eatery has an assortment of rooms. For graduates of Florida Technological University (UCF's precursor), the mural in the rotunda is a must-see. On the opposite side of the restaurant a small enclave has Culpepper and school memorabilia.

A long bar fuses the room together with a mixture of high tops and regular tables scattered about.

Offerings range from noshes to prime steaks with Culpepper's influence obvious on a few items. His favorite foods are highlighted on the menu.

We stuck with Daunte's picks and weren't disappointed.

The potato skin sliders ($9) featured three large russet halves piled high toppings. We opted to try all three: barbecue pulled pork with slaw, Italian meatball and cheeseburger. It's a meal for one and a shareable appetizer for three to six diners.

Burgers are a forte of the kitchen. We ordered the custom house burger ($12), a grilled patty on a brioche bun that was cooked a perfect medium rare. The burger included crunchy house-made chips and a dill pickle spear.

But no one was leaving without a taste of Miss Emma Lime's Homestyle Fried Chicken ($14). Miss Emma, who died in 2007, was Daunte's adoptive mother, a selfless woman who raised 17 children including nieces, nephews, orphans and outcasts, as my colleague Mike Bianchi aptly wrote at the time of her death.

The crisp and juicy platter of chicken included mashed potatoes and heavenly bacon creamed corn.

Many athletes get involved with franchising restaurants such as Papa John's (Peyton Manning) and Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza (Dan Marino). Legendary Miami Dolphin coach Don Shula has his name on six concepts including the new Shula Burger in Kissimmee, Shula's 347 Grill in Lake Mary and Shula's Steak House at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

But locally Culpepper's is part of an elite twosome of restaurants related to hometown sports icons. In Daytona Beach, current Dallas Maverick and former Orlando Magic player Vince Carter has created the gold standard of sports bars and restaurants. Carter first rose to local fame at Daytona's Mainland High School before playing college ball for the University of North Carolina and becoming an eight-time NBA all-star.

For football fans Culpepper's is the place most likely to run into Daunte and other UCF greats. Most recently Chicago Bears star Brandon Marshall stopped in for a bite.

"We are changing our menu soon," says Culpepper's partner Comas. "Culpepper's is still a work in progress," adding that the restaurant will begin to build out an area for patio dining in December.

hmcpherson@tribune.com

Culpepper's

Where: 11662 University Blvd., Orlando (between Technological Avenue and Quadrangle Boulevard)

When: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday

How much: $6-$25

Beverages: Full bar

Wines by the glass: From $6

Extras: Private dining, separate bar, televisions, UCF theme

Credit: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Call: 407-381-1999

Online: culpeppersorlando.com and Facebook

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