If you head out to try Knife Burger at JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, you may want to take your swim suit along. The newest offering from meat master John Tesar is essentially a service of the resort’s pool bar, a covered but open-air pavilion with tables and bar seating and guests in various degrees of undress and dampness.
If you didn’t already know that Tesar, whose knife & Spoon restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton next door was recently awarded a Michelin star, was attached to the burger joint, you probably wouldn’t figure it out if you just hopped out of the pool with a craving for a bite to eat.
Neither the signage nor the menu, which features more than just burgers, give any indication that the celebrity chef is involved.
But visitors from the Dallas area, where the only other Knife Burgers currently exist, might make the connection when they see the entry for a burger called The Ozersky, Tesar’s homage to the late food writer Josh Ozersky, that has become Knife Burger’s calling card. It’s a simple burger, too, a straightforward patty with some red onions and melted American cheese on a plain white bun.
The patty was not thick – “You can have pink or no pink,” I was told when I ordered – but its flavor was impressive, thanks mostly to the grilling that gave the exterior – the part around the pink – a wonderful charred almost crispy crust. The high quality meat helps, too; Tesar is known for using ground sirloin from 44 Farms out of Texas. And for all its off-the-shelf appearance, the bun was fresh, which added to the overall enjoyment.
I sampled another burger called The Magic, which I had thought was localized for this Knife Burger but it appears on the Texas menu, as well. (No, it doesn’t have mushrooms on it.) It does not involve any special prestidigitation other than turning the bun into an English muffin. But it also includes bacon, cheddar cheese and lettuce, tomato and onions, items so burger-requisite they’re listed a LTO on the menu. It’s always nice to have bacon on a burger, and cheddar cheese is tonier than American, but I think I enjoyed the simplicity of the Ozersky burger more.
Burgers came with a choice of fries or fruit. There were plenty of fries but I can’t comment on the fruit because who orders fruit with a burger?
There are other things on the menu but I didn’t try them – after all, it’s not called Knife Hummus.
Knife Burger probably isn’t a destination restaurant unless you’re already at the resort and the bar is a short swim away. But with lots of locals choosing resorts for a staycation this summer (JW has a particularly good deal with 30 percent off in August, contact the resort for info), Knife Burger is likely to see a lot of business from Central Florida burger lovers.
Knife Burger is at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes. It is open daily.