I finally got over to see the new K Restaurant the other day. Notice I didn’t say K Restaurant Wine Bar? The name is now officially K Restaurant, dropping Wine Bar from the name. Which is ironic given that the new location has a wine bar area that is far more welcoming and functional than at the old location.
Of course, the biggest thing about the “new” K Restaurant is its location, which is in the old house that previously held owner Kevin (he’s the K) Fonzo’s other restaurant, Nonna, which he owned with his brother Greg. Fonzo got rid of Nonna (kept the brother) and consolidated the menus of the two restaurants. So you’ll find Nonna’s Caesar salad and lower-priced pasta dishes next to K’s signature porcini dusted filet mignon and roast lamb rack.
But first more about the location. Before it was K, before it was Nonna, it was Babbo. Before that, and for a long time, it was a restaurant of some repute -- or ill-repute -- called JoAnn’s Chili Bordello. The conceit of the place was that the servers all wore lacy underwear-like costumes. (I probably should have mentioned it was an all-female serving staff.) It was the skimpy costumes that apparently packed the place. It sure wasn’t the chili. And it sure wasn’t the surroundings. My most vivid memory of the place is the carpeting (sorry, the girls ain’t it). The carpeting was black and red shag, the long shag that was in vogue in the late ‘60s. Problem was, when I visited the restaurant it was the late ‘80s, and I don’t think anyone had bothered to vacuum the carpets during the past two decades. I recall eating my lunch there while holding my feet off the floor.
I think it was the Babbo boys who first removed the carpeting and spruced the place up a bit. But the structure was still an old house, circa 1920s, the dining areas fashioned out of the home’s actual dining room plus the living room an enclosed front porch and an open porch in front of that. It was small, cramped, and, with the wood floors now exposed, quite noisy.
In moving his two restaurants to the house, Fonzo did some structural re-imaging of the space. he took out a wall here and there to open it up, turned a window that looked on to the enclosed porch into a doorway that now leads to it, and created a bar area separate from the dining area (in the old K the wine bar dominated the main dining room) with seating on both sides of the bar to accommodate more guests, whether they’re waiting for a table or just enjoying a glass of wine and some appetizers.
And there’s carpeting back in the main dining room, though thankfully not shag. It’s a functional but tasteful brown that, along with heavy drapes that can be drawn over doorways to create private dining areas, absorb the din of the diners.
I visited for lunch recently, a Wednesday, I believe, because it was $5 burger day. That was my choice for main course, but before that my guest and I shared the fried green tomato and crab and corn salad appetizer, one of the holdouts from the original K menu. The components are stacked to create a pretty tower, though the only way to properly eat it is to knock it over. It was delicious.
My burger was quite good, too. A big patty, cooked to the requested medium-rare, and served on a big doughy bun with a side salad. I had mine with oozy cheddar cheese. Certianly a bargain at five bucks.
My friend ordered the Florida trout, also served as a sandwich, with two fillets criss-crossed over a bun and dressed with mango salsa. A mound of potato salad accompanied.
All the dishes are elegantly presented, the the white tablecloths add to the upscale feel. Nice place for business meetings.
K Restaurant is at 1710 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-872-2332, and the Web site is kwinebar.com, although be warned that this is one of the worst -- WORST -- Web sites you’ll see for a restaurant. Click on it to see why I include it in my presentation titled “Why Your Restaurant’s Web Site Sucks.”