Friday, September 13, 2013

The Crooked Spoon

Several months ago, Chef Steve Saelg shut down his very successful food truck, The Crooked Spoon, which served gourmet dishes and desserts to the Orlando community for 2+ years. His reason? He was planning to open a restaurant in Clermont that would offer the truck's dishes - and much more - this summer. His dream officially came to fruition on September 11, 2013 as the restaurant (200 Citrus Boulevard in Clermont, FL) held its official grand opening.

I have been an avid fan and supporter of Chef Saelg's culinary creations since spring 2011 and thus was obligated to make the trip to Clermont yesterday to see the restaurant in person. It is quite a trek from Longwood to Clermont, but after just a few bites of food here I decided that making the trip was a worthwhile investment.

For lunch, I ordered my personal favorite from The Crooked Spoon's food truck days: the 420 Burger ($12; see below). It was at least as excellent as the 420s I've had in the past and perhaps was even better, perhaps as a result of Chef Saelg now having a whole kitchen with which to work. This burger really hit the spot; if you're a burger aficionado, this one is not to be missed. The candied bacon and pineapple relish perfectly mix with the delicious Florida Angus beef, melted Swiss cheese, honey mustard aioli and fried onion ring. The brioche bun is another highlight; I'm unsure if Chef Saelg used bread from the Old Hearth Bread Company for his burgers in the past, or if his burgers' buns now are from that company, but the ones he now uses definitely are similar in quality (read: amazing!). I'm not much of a meat-eater but this burger is, at least for me, very difficult to resist. I also can highly recommend The Crooked Spoon Burger ($12) and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Cocoa and Coffee Burger (also $12). (I had the latter only once, perhaps in 2011 or 2012, but I did enjoy it.)

The restaurant's interior is designed very well, in my opinion; there is a spacious bar area offering roughly 20 draft beers, at least one liquor station and a wine section. There is ample seating space both at the bar and next to it, as well as in the main dining area. I noticed maybe a half dozen televisions inside the restaurant. Several more are outside in a covered/shaded area, which I'm sure will be a big hit when the weather is a little bit cooler. Pictures of the aforementioned areas are below.

The menu (below) is extensive and offers such popular items from the food truck as the Cranberry Turkey Sandwich and the 6-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese. In addition to the regular menu, there also are at least two chalkboards in the restaurant that list such special items as fish tacos and fresh seafood, as well as an assortment of sides and appetizers. The 6-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese (last picture below) is excellent; I used to get that from the truck a lot and even brought home an order of it yesterday. I devoured it for dinner. It was great!

One piece of advice I have is to, in the event that you're having a beer/cocktail/glass of wine, ask about the beverage prices prior to ordering one. The beer I had with my lunch was $8, and I did not know that until I received my bill. Perhaps there will be a beer/drink menu with individual prices soon enough, but as of yesterday I did not see one, nor did my server provide me with one. I arguably would have ordered a different beer or beverage had I known what I ordered was $8. I'm not complaining, really, since my beer was delicious and was what I was expecting, but I likely would have ordered something in the $5-$6 range in most cases.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with my experience at the restaurant. I never had a bad experience or any bad food from the truck during any of my visits to it, and that carried over to yesterday. Chef Saelg, to me, is at the top of his game and any shortcomings that the restaurant has or will have (whatever they may be, they are likely to be minor) will be addressed. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone in and around Clermont, as well as to anyone in and around downtown Orlando who are willing to make a moderate trip to Clermont for some unique, delicious food. If you've had food from the truck before, you know what you're getting. If you're new to The Crooked Spoon's food, then welcome!