We went to the new Manny’s Original Chophouse for diner on Wednesday, the first Wednesday the restaurant has been open in what used to be Sundown in what used to be Christy’s in Winter Haven.
The place was busy with happy people filling up on fine food .
And that makes me happy and sad at the same time.
Manny and I have known each other for close to 20 years, since he was part of The Seaflame. He went back to Greece for a few years and we kept in touch by computer.
He came back and opened the first Manny’s on Highway 27. It’s still there and hidden behind crowds waiting to get in almost all the time.
The Manny’s in Lake Wales has, I think, a family affiliation to the original.
I like Manny as a person and respect his ability to run successful restaurants. He serves honest food, reasonably priced in a fun atmosphere. He is an always-enthusiastic master of his craft, from the front of the house to the back. I have never had anything there I wasn’t happy with.
The new place should do well. It’s a Manny’s.
What bothers me is that it’s no longer Sundown Southern Eatery. Johnsons’ Sundown was as special in its own way, as was Christy’s.
Both were innovators, the Johnson family bringing modern decor and food ideas and tastes to a place that had been ahead of its time and grew to be a Polk County tradition.
I cut my shrimp and short ribs with my fingers crossed the first time we ate there in hopes the concept of “Upscale Southern” would work.
Sadly, local diners were not ready for it.
The Johnson family should make a success of the new operation. Diners will be happy. Staff will be busy and earn a good living.
Manny’s is a big plus for local diners and should be a hit with Lego visitors.
But I miss the innovation that Sundown Southern Eatery brought to town.
Maybe, in a few years, the Johnson’s will try it again. There is plenty of room for two fine restaurants.