I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when I parked my car in the lot at the corner of Turkey Lake and Sand Lake Roads (Turkey and Sand Lakes Roads?) and began to approach Hot Krust Panini Kitchen. And it wasn’t just the K in Krust that gave me pause. Everything about the place -- the logo, the signage, and, inside, the look and feel -- screamed chain restaurant. I stopped short of the order counter and pulled out my iPhone to check the restaurant’s website. I wanted to see how many locations they had nationwide.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Hot Krust is a one-off restaurant. At least for now.
It all appears franchise-ready, and if what I experienced is the norm, it should do very well.
HK’s konceit is that all of its sandwiches are made using “only the freshest ... ingredients.” That’s a tired catchphrase used by too many restaurants who look to what’s in the walk-in refrigerator and grab whatever’s left over. Those would be the freshest ingredients available.
But Hot Krust seems to put some weight behind it, vowing not to use processed meats and establishing quality criteria for its suppliers. And they state that they roast all their meats and use no processed products. And the waffle fries are not fries at all; they’re baked.
My waffle “fries” were not served as a side item but rather were incorporated inside the sandwich, the burger-nini, which I assume is a burger served as a panini. (We’ll pronounce it burger neenie and not burger ninny.) I was asking the young woman behind the counter about the item when a fellow emerged from the kitchen with one, as if on cue; he held it up for me to examine. It was frighteningly large, but it sounded just too intriguing. I had to have one.
I placed my order, took the little standard with a number on it to one of the several tables available for indoor dining (nice tables outside, too), and a few minutes later my own monster burger was delivered.
It was delicious. Besides being the size of Cleveland, it was topped with melted cheese, lettuce, onions and diced tomatoes, and was served on a fresh multi-grain bun that had wonderful whole seeds to crunch on. It was slathered with a barbecue sauce that made the packets of ketchup I had grabbed from the condiment counter absolutely superfluous. There was a good meat-to-potato ratio (100% angus, if that matters to you) so it tasted more like a burger than a potato, but you could definitely get the waffle fries in the texture.
BK occupies the space that was a New York style deli. It is bright and impeccably clean. Overhead video monitors display menu items. This is quick-serve, so you order at the counter -- probably from one of the smiling young people who welcomed you when you walked through the door -- pay for your purchase then take a seat to wait for its delivery.
I liked Hot Krust and I felt as though they truly appreciated my business. I hope they can hold on to that as they grow.
Hot Krust Panini Kitchen is at 8015 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando (in the Whole Foods center). It is open for breakfst, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Most sandwiches are $5.99, $6.99 or $7.99; my burger-nini was $8.99. Here is a link to hotkrust.com. The phone number is 407-355-7768.