Welcome to The Gatekeepers, a monthly feature in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tough-to-get tables.
[Photo: Elizabeth Daniels 2/12. L- Beau Laughlin; R- Brett Cranston]
Two years and four months ago Beau Laughlin and Brett Cranston decided to break from the music/entertainment biz and venture into restaurants. The Hudson was born with the help of partner Michael Jay and quickly became a neighborhood institution for an easy dinner or drinks without the red velvet rope. Fast forward two years later and Laughlin/Cranston debut their sophomore effort, The Churchill, a grown-up version of The Hudson with a more food-focused approach to seasonal American gastropubby fare. The eatery, attached to The Orlando hotel, has been making waves since day one, thus Eater caught up with the men responsible to talk tables, menu musts, and future projects.
It's Saturday at 8 PM. What's the wait for two? BC: It’s tough to go to most places in town and pop in at 8PM, Applebee's is probably on an hour plus wait even. Always easier to squeeze a two in though... We'll always do our best to get you in. BL: 15-20. We keep a good amount of tables held for walk-ins, and our staff is great about working hard to accommodate everybody.
What is the best time to come in for dinner during the week if you don't want to wait? BC: Depends on the night, but walking in is pretty good between 6 - 8PM and again around 10 - 10:30PM if you eat late like I do. Thursday through Saturday the kitchen is open until 1:15AM. BL: I like Tuesdays. Cool vibe, half off bottles of wine, and not too crazy.
What's the strangest request that you've accommodated so far? BC: Maybe reading the entire menu for a takeaway order. Felt like story time.
Tell us about some of your favorite customers. BC: The regulars always! Love seeing the same faces and getting to know the neighborhood. MVP so far is a girl that lives across the street. She spent breakfast, lunch, happy hour through to late night in the same spot! Started with her computer during the day and turned into her holding court throughout the evening... I'd do a double take every time. Then there's James who just had a record 30 days in a row. Pretty remarkable. BL: People who live/work in the area. It's nice seeing the same faces multiple times per week. Gives the spot a nice sense of community.
The Churchill has earned a reputation for attracting a very good looking crowd. Why do you think this is? BC: The mirrors I guess. BL: Third Street is a very cool area in general so attracting a good crowd isn't that hard. Specifically the music, decor, attire of our staff, and other small intangibles definitely help. We try to always stay ahead of trends in that respect, and people seem to respond.
How do The Hudson and The Churchilll differ? BC: Think the right side is going gray from the Hudson and left from The Churchill. I might have it backward though. BL: The food and wine program mostly. The Hudson is elevated seasonal pub food. Delicious, but pretty straight forward. At The Churchill we take it very seriously. We make our own breads, pastries, pasta, ice cream, and sausage in-house, as well as cure our own meats. With the elevated food program we've increased the wine selection to match proportionally. The menu lends itself to someone looking for value, as well as those looking for a higher level dining experience.
When you're not at the restaurant, where have you been eating lately? BC: I like sneaking in at the bar up the street at ink. for a couple treats and some great cocktails from time to time. Same goes for our neighbors at Son of a Gun, that damn fried chicken sandwich is ridiculous. Love Salt's Cure, Loteria, Cactus is my go to late night... Beau keeps telling me he's taking me to Sizzler. BL: Home. If I go out I hit spots close to my house like Wood & Vine, La Poubelle, The Oaks Gourmet, Alcove.
What's the most popular dish right now? BC: People seem to be responding to the local sea bass, beef cheek, and pizzas of course. The chopped salad with our house smoked bacon flies out of the kitchen, too.
What are your favorite dishes on the menu? BC: For breakfast definitely the chile relleno. At lunch I can't get enough of our burger and it's becoming a problem. It's house-ground Meyer Beef with smoked bacon and I always eat it with fries. If there is a meat, bread, and potato diet, I'm on it. Dinner time usually looks like this... few oysters on the half shell, arugula salad, lamb bolognese with handmade tagliatelle, maybe cheese plate for dessert or the opposite end of the spectrum, the chocolate stout float with homemade ice cream. Late night it's all about the pizzas. Oof, now I'm hungry. BL: For brunch I love our chile relleno and grilled steak sandwich. For dinner the wild mushroom pizza with truffle oil, and grilled crispy skin salmon with dill creme fraiche are my go-tos.
Any off-the-menu secret dishes? BC: There are a couple, one of them the team calls the BC. I just sub the country ham for the bacon and add jalapeño on the breakfast sandwich. Reminds me of home.
What's on tap for the future? BC: Mucho for sure, stay tuned! Really focusing on getting better each day. Beau's got a great cliché for this one I bet! BL: Don't even know where to begin. We love what we do and are aggressively working on/looking for other opportunities all over town.
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