The College Park neighborhood has a new eatery that even includes that word in its name. The Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen is charming and has a rustic mien that belies its newness. It isn't perfect — few restaurants are right off the starting block — but most of its shortcomings are from trying too hard, and that is something i'm hesitant to suppress.
I like the menu because it does not try too hard to be more than it should be. Fried or roasted chicken, pulled pork sandwich, a meatloaf melt — nothing haughty or overwrought, all very approachable. That makes sense for a restaurant that wants to cultivate a clientele of neighborhood regulars.
I started my visit with the broccoli cheese soup, which seemed to have equal parts of both named ingredients, the vegetable well pureed and offering a pleasantly grainy texture. It was flavored with a bit of beer — Bold City Killer Whale, to be precise — but not enough to thin the ultimately over thickened broth. It's my guess that the folks involved here had intended to open a few months ago when a hearty soup such as this would be welcomed on a cold day. It's going to be a tough sell during hellishly hot days, which should be upon us in 3, 2 ...
I chose the Outpost burger for my main and was delighted to be asked how I wanted it cooked. And even more thrilled when it arrived precisely as I had requested. It was a big, thick patty, delightfully juicy, and served with mesclun greens, a thick slice of tomato and onions. It also had bacon jam, which added something of a sweet note (I would ask to have that left off next time, but others might ask for more). A burger like this deserved a better bun, this one was too dry and crumbly. The accompanying fries were of the thin type; something meatier would go better with the meat.
The decor of the rather small space is cozily countrified with rough-hewn wood paneling and low lighting — woodcrate-like chandeliers offer a warm glow. The central bar looks over the kitchen area, so there's always a bit of bustle in the air.
Tables do not have tablecloths but are topped with butcher paper anyway. The only reason I can think of for this is so the servers can write their names on the paper in crayon. I thought we'd moved beyond this trite practice. Not only did my server write his name but also those of the manager on duty and the owner. He stopped short of giving their email addresses and personal cell phone numbers but only because the table wasn't big enough, I'm guessing. At least he didn't write them upside down and backwards (do they still do that at Macaroni Grilles?).
And of course I was visited, multiple times, by all of the people whose names were written on the annoying butcher paper (am I the only one whose sleeves are always getting hung up on the paper?). They were just trying to assure that their guests were being properly served and not trying to hover, which unfortunately is how it comes across. But like I said, it's hard to fault someone for over trying. They'll find the right balance, and Outpost will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen is at 2603 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-930-6282.