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Pine 22

Pine_burgerThe order process at Pine 22, the new burger bar on Pine Avenue in downtown Orlando, is daunting. Guests upon entering the restaurant, which occupies the space of the failed Black Olive and Blue Smoke, another burger bar, are presented with a clipboard with a menu that features a create-your-own burger scheme. Here are some of the choices you must make:

  • The type of patty you’d like (beef, turkey or black bean; chicken breast and pulled pork are options but then we’re not really talking burger)
  • What size patty (5 oz. or 8 oz.)
  • Whether you want it on a bun or in a bowl
  • Your preferred cheese (from among 10)
  • Your choice of four toppings (from among 19)
  • Optional “premium toppings” (guacamole, fried egg, seven others)
  • A sauce (22 available)
  • Choice of bun (six to choose from; negated if “bowl” was selected above)

I don’t know about you, but I find it rather unnerving to be faced with the prospect of ruining my own meal. I mean, if I choose dried cranberries, charred pineapple, sliced pepperoncinis and green olives in step three will they all work together? What if I add the peanut sauce when I get to step four?

It’s lunchtime and I’m supposed to relax for an hour, but instead I’m anguishing over whether I should have Greek feta or pepper jack cheese.

By the restaurant’s own calculation, there are 322,000 possible combination. (I come up with 322,004, but I may have miscounted.) Some of the angst can be alleviated by flipping over the menu where you’ll find a few preordained burgers to choose from. While my friend was ticking off boxes on the front of the menu, I simply checked the box next to the 22: a half-pound grass-fed beef burger with sauteed mushrooms, smoked bacon and charred onions. I felt a sense of serene calm.

There was, however, a choice I would have liked to have made but was not offered: nowhere on the menu, front or back, is there a way to designate the temperature you’d like your burger cooked. And no one asked when I stepped up to the counter to pay, either. (Fine print at the bottom of the menu states that burgers will be cooked medium-rare unless otherwise specified, so I guess you can do that when the cashier inputs your order.)

There was one other choice I had to make: sweet potato of Pine fries. Why would you put something like “Pine fries” on a menu without an explanation? Turns out they’re the thin, shoestringy kind. The sweet potatoes are the thick Lincoln Loggy type.

My burger was pretty good. It was a big patty, made with meat from Deep Creek Ranch, with lots of chewy mushrooms and tangy blue cheese on a deep brown bun. My friend had selected a turkey burger, and if I hadn’t known that I would have thought it was beef when I took a bite. As for the fries, neither one thrilled me. I liked the meatiness of the sweet potatoes more than the thin Pine fries.

By the way, all the beef is certified humanely handled and hormone and antibiotic free. There are no checkboxes for “mistreated” or “loaded with chemicals.”

I also had a cup of soup, which is listed on the menu as the soup of the moment. (To know what it is, you have to ask someone -- apparently it changes so quickly from moment to moment that there isn’t time to display it anywhere.) At this particular moment it was mushroom consomme, which seemed to contain the same type of mushrooms as were on top of my burger. The broth was an impressive deep brown, but it was ultimately a bit too salty.

It was also difficult to eat in the rather deep paper cup and the decidedly small plastic spoon.

Utensils are contained in small bins in the middle of each table, along with inadequately small napkins.

The restaurant is a big open space with high windows that flood the room with light, which fairly washes out the video image projected on a large screen on the wall at the far end of the room. The big white screen is where there once was a bas relief of Bacchus, back in the Black Olive days. (I wonder who ended up with that?) If there was sound associated with the video image it was drowned out by the raucously loud rock music. The bare wood tabletops and wood floor help loud up the room. Where once there was a bar is the place where customers pay for their selections. After paying, guests take a seat and their selections are brought to them when ready. All the staff I had contact with were friendly and welcoming. (It was also pretty obvious that they knew I was there.)

I suppose there are people who relish the idea of having so many choices. (Relish, by the way, is not among them.) But this is taking the Burger King notion to “have it your way” to the nth degree. I’d rather see them flip the menu and have more creative burgers pre-assembled by chef Kathleen Blake. Then let the control freaks flip it over if they want to take on a construction project.

Although these are not inexpensive burgers a la fast fooders, the prices, which range from $6.95 to $10.50, are not unreasonable, especially given the natural and organic-level quality of the ingredients. And here’s something I really liked: on the receipt I was presented after paying my bill was a note stating that my order “supported four Florida farms.” Nice touch.

Pine 22 is at 22 Pine St. (you’d figured that out already, hadn’t you?), Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. There is not yet a working Web site (should be at pine22.com when ready), but you can click this link to download the menu . The phone number is 407-574-2160.

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Wednesday, 22nd October 2014

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