UPDATE NOTE:   04/04/2019   My first entry was about a town INVERNESS Fl.  It is an incredible town, it is Americana at its best, patriotic and friendly.  Our first encounter two years ago was  McLeod’s Bistro.  The Chef’s vision was outstanding and the food and service was impeccable.    

Sadly the owner retired, we ate there twice and it was out of the stadium, that good.  But good news, and a new owner and head chef with tremendous credentials has taken the reins and upgraded things even more. It is called OSCAR PENNS.

I was surprised when my second great meal came also from Inverness and It’s Little Italy what a delight. It is an Italian delicatessen, not exactly a Pizza Place. This is excellent Italian authentic food.   And both were a break from corporate guano, a slower friendlier place than the big boys and better fresh food.

Inverness Florida is a great town period. I’m familiar with the area because of its close proximity to the Florida National Cemetery in the city of Bushnell in Sumter County, Florida. 

Administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it encompasses 512.9 acres, and began interments in 1988.

Our team built a Memorial in Inverness dedicated to the Infantry soldier.  Its  less than two hours from Tampa and a great place to spend a weekend, take an airboat ride and enjoy life at a slower pace.  The bonus...fabulous family owned places to eat.

This is the kind of place you want to eat in after you tried every franchise and groupee restaurant you can stand.  The difference?  Simply good food, prepared fresh, unique flavors, great and warm service and of course reasonable.

Four of us, members of a military charitable organization, doing some business in Inverness, dropped in for lunch at McLeods.  I had been hearing about it for a week.  

And we had three different dishes and when we got back in the car everyone was still raving about the food.  Two days later they are still talking about the lunch they had. Trust me this is not normal, they could eat at a five star and the next day forget about it.  It was all about being real

Each dish was that good and even the sides were a little different.  My partner had a sandwich with vinaigarette potato chips(fries) and after he tasted one, he hid his plate.  He didn’t want to share. My gal had the chicken and cleaned the plate.

I had the Mediterranean Pasta and Shrimp salad with cold pasta, artichokes, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil pesto feta cheese and an olive oil the chef told me was "Fonta de something'" I asked him from one chef to another. It was so different from most cold salads I have had. I found myself using bread to get the last minute of dressing

CHEF TALK:  If it was what I think it was,  it must of been the 
NY-IOOC  (New York International Olive oil Competition)  award-winning olive oil which went in competition against 820 brands from 26 nations around the world…. The Fonte di Foiano olive groves are from Tuscany hills
… that and a solid Basil Pesto made it.

For a chilled salad,  this was an incredible combination and I will attempt it myself as McLeod’s is located  two hours away located in Inverness, Florida.

OK, It’s located in Inverness, basically right in downtown in small home size building. You park in the back, follow the short boardwalk in and the hostesses will seat you.  Our server was informative, knowledgeable and we were well taken care of.

This is a must stop for me when in this area. I guess after critiquing corpo food for so long, something artistic, interesting, palatable and simple in a warm environment was a treat. Another great place in Inverness is Little Italy where a meatball on a roll is considered outrageous    


207 N Apopka
Inverness, FL 34450 

When visitors to downtown Inverness return to their homes in other parts of Florida or the country, Jason Counsil said they seldom brag or remember much about the chain restaurant they visited while on vacation.  But Counsil said they will remember a mom-and-pop restaurant that showcased the area’s history and offered something diners can’t get elsewhere.

Counsil is banking on that with his new restaurant, Oscar Penn’s. He opened the eatery in September at 207 N. Apopka Ave.The history is there: It’s in the same 100-plus-year-old building as the former McLeod House Bistro, which served as a restaurant and was an Inverness institution until the owners retired.  Oscar Penn McLeod was born to a pioneer family near Perry, Florida.

And Counsil said the newly redone menu — focusing on steaks, seafood and sushi — and cosmetic tweaks he made to the old building will make locals and out-of-towners alike remember the place and come back.

“I’m trying to create a place that is an experience,” said Counsil, whose 18 years in the restaurant management business includes stints as food and beverage director at Inverness Golf & Country Club and general manager of the old Rustic Ranch in the city.

Counsil said he shares the same vision as Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni, who said last April that the city’s future rests in mom-and-pop stores and not big-box chain restaurants and stores.  Chains are the same all over. But local eateries and retailers have a charm that can’t be replicated, DiGiovanni said.

Oscar Penn’s executive chef Jesse James said he moved to Inverness to escape the congestion of Naples, where he worked in a restaurant. James and Counsil collaborated on the menu, which includes some items not readily found elsewhere.  “Where else can you get venison meatloaf?” Counsil asked.

The two took a cue from a Savannah, Georgia, staple and added a she-crab bisque and chowder soup that he said has already proven a hit with diners.  “We’re just going to step out of the box without getting too crazy,” Counsil said.

Counsil and James also use only fresh ingredients and emphasize a healthy menu.   Counsil said regular patrons to the former McLeod House will notice more variety in the menu, enhanced lighting and expanded hours. More enhancements are on the way, including a covered canopy on the outdoor patio and new indoor artwork.

Counsil said he is already pleased with the response to Oscar Penn’s after so short a time and is working on attracting more of the lunch crowd.  He is impressed with the diversity of Citrus County.   “I love this area,” he said. “The people are what makes this area special.”

Given the history of the property, DiGiovanni said he was especially interested in the new ownership. After eating there and talking with Counsil, any concerns he may have had have evaporated, he said.

DiGiovanni said he was impressed with Counsil’s interaction with patrons.  “He fits in very well with what, we the city of Inverness and the entire community, enjoys — a personal touch,” DiGiovanni said. “That is exactly the definition of mom-and-pops.”

May 22, 2016, 8:13 AM