There are so few restaurants in the area that offer a kosher dining experience that when I hear of one I’m anxious to check it out.
So when I heard that Northview, a new off-campus housing complex at UCF, would feature a food service facility that would offer foods prepared following kosher dictates, I headed out to visit The Pantry at Northview.
Well, not right away. I learned a long time ago that one doesn’t just hop in the car and drive to the other side of Central Florida without first verifying that the destination restaurant is actually open. And especially as UCF’s semester came to an end. There are plenty of eateries on and around campus that close down for the summer session when there are fewer students to feed.
And indeed, many of my initial calls to the Pantry went directly to an answering device, and messages I left were not returned. The restaurant’s Facebook page offered no clues either because it was not regularly updated.
But then, last week, I finally got a live answer to a phone call and was assured that the restaurant was indeed open.
The space is capacious and has an austere, studentlike decor, with utilitarian tables and chairs on a black and white checkerboard tile floor.
It’s a quick-serve setup with guests ordering from a counter and then having a seat to wait. And wait, and wait some more, in my case. Even though I was the only guest in the place the entire time I was there, it took more than 25 minutes for my falafel burger to be delivered. The young woman who had taken my order and then brought me the falafel offered a cursory apology that some things hadn’t been prepped in advance. So, we’ll chalk that up to the likelihood that the people running the place are novices. Perhaps a course in Restaurants 101 would be helpful.
The falafel burger, which the menu describes as “unbelievably popular,” was good, though it was missing the coleslaw and hummus that the menu also promised. It was a flattened chickpea fritter on a too-large pretzel bun. The raw onion and prominent garlic of the pico de gallo that topped it were a bit overpowering, but without it the burger was enjoyable.
The burger was served rather drably in a brown carton with a bag of chips (no one tried to upsell me to fries, which probably would have required firing up the deep fryer).
I get that the people here are new to this, and I’m guessing that they’re operating on a barebones staff. Still, when a place is empty it’s a good time to do some cleaning around the place. The window sill I sat staring at for the long wait for my food had too many dead flies and what appeared to be droppings for any business, let alone a food service operation.
The Panty at Northview is at 3925 Lockwood Blvd., Oviedo. It is open for lunch and early dinner (closes at 7 p.m.) Sunday through Friday. The phone number is 407-326-6806, but don’t expect an answer.