Smiling Bison coming to downtown Sanford

The owners of Smiling Bison (Website), a critically–acclaimed restaurant adjacent to Baldwin Park, plan to open a second location – in downtown Sanford.

The restaurant will open by the end of the year in the space formally occupied by Marco Dino on the east side of Magnolia Square (Gmap), said Smiling Bison co-owner Josh Oakley. Building owner Howard Marks confirmed he inked a lease agreement with the Smiling Bison owners.

 Oakley said he and his business partner, Ron Thomas, have not yet decided whether the Sanford restaurant will carry the Smiling Bison moniker or another name. Oakley and Thomas are also trying to finalize the menu concept.

“It will be similar to what we’re doing now – a focus on the craft of cooking using the freshest ingredients and making everything from scratch,” Oakley said.

The Smiling Bison has earned rave reviews for dishes like duck pizza, short rib tortellini and, of course, bison burgers.

The restaurant will offer several craft beers, wine and a full liquor bar.

Oakley said he had been encouraged to open a restaurant in Sanford by Mike Smith, general manager of the Imperial, the craft cocktail bar inside Washburn Imports furniture store, which started in Orlando before opening a second location in Sanford.

In May, Oakley visited downtown with the Smiling Bison food truck during the St Johns River Festival of the Arts. The response was positive, and a number of people asked Oakley to bring his restaurant to Sanford.

“We really like what we found in downtown Sanford,” said Oakley. “There’s a strong presence of the arts, and I really like the small-town feel.”

Oakley added that there is a a lot of buzz about Sanford. At a recent outing in Orlando, he was asked several times about his plans in Sanford. With available spaces and reasonable rents, Oakley says the Celery City is poised for growth.

“Sanford is really ripe for the picking.”

– by Dan Ping


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