If it’s at the movies, as Andre Breton once observed, that the only absolutely modern mystery is celebrated, then the noted Surrealist would’ve been amused by the Enzian Theater’s appropriation of the movement he started to celebrate an ancient mystery – that of Biblical creation. A fantastical Floridian garden of Eden mural, created by Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton and executed by Spanky and Maureen Hudas, is the whimsical main feature of the Eden Bar, the outdoor restaurant/watering hole that’s making the Maitland movie house a bigger draw than it was before. The theme is certainly fitting considering how the beautifully lush, verdant surroundings add to the dreamlike mood, particularly at twilight.
The crepuscular hours can lend ambience to intimate moments, but, depending on where you sit, can also make it difficult to be noticed. I had to walk up to the horseshoe-shaped bar to get the attention of the waitress – which, incidentally, offered a surprising glimpse into the bar’s dating scene.
Also surprising was the number of Austro-Hungarian items on the menu. I later realized their inclusion was a result of the Tiedtke family heritage. They own the Enzian (the name, in fact, refers to an Austrian alpine blossom) and the building itself was “conceived in the spirit of Friedstein Castle,” home to founder Tina Tiedtke’s grandmother, Princess Felicitas Hohenlohe. I doubt the princess would’ve swooned after a serving of libtauer ($5), a paprika-laced but nonetheless bland cheese spread served with dry slices of farmers rye. Less was unquestionably more in the fritatten suppe ($6), a minimalist mélange of homemade beef bouillon, crepe ribbons and chives. The consommé’s beefy essence proved comforting on this especially cool night, as did a healthy serving of peppery goulash ($12), ladled atop a mound of noodle-like spätzle. The seasoning was good, but some chunks of beef weren’t as tender as others, and the dish could’ve been sauced more heavily.
None of the Austrian specialty items, it should be noted, are available inside the theater, but if you plan on dinner with your movie, a nice selection of sandwiches, salads and pizza is available. The meatball and wild mushroom pizza ($16.50) was goopy-good, but for the price, I wanted more of that savory organic meat. In any case, be sure to keep a pile of napkins handy if ordering the pie. The dessert menu needs a total overhaul – tiramisu ($6) amounted to nothing more than a glass full of cream; chocolate chip cookies ($4) were no better than average; and the one special of interest, apple strudel, was taken off the menu.
You’re better off enjoying a stiff cocktail, like the benign-sounding but vodka-heavy Love Is All ($8.50), mixed with grapefruit juice, or the syrupy-sweet Alpenrose ($7.50), flavored with elderflower and huckleberry. There’s a decent beer and wine selection, along with a few gimmicky yet impressive bottles of exceptional red seal scotch, pre-embargo Cuban rum and pre-Prohibition bourbon.