There’s probably no better way to begin this review of Proper & Wild than with the owners’ Mission Statement, even though I generally am not a fan of mission statements because they’re so general and ethereal and lacking in specifics that they usually are meaningless.
But I like what Chelsie and Jamie Savage have to say here: “We believe community matters, food matters, and health matters, so we make damn good food that’s good for you, and we hold the space for Central Florida to come together and enjoy it.”
It still isn’t very specific in details, but the “damn good food” pretty much gets to the heart of what they’re doing with this Winter Park restaurant.
And here’s what they say in a partial explanation of the name: “We are wildly strategic in how we break the rules of proper cooking to bring you creative combinations even carnivores will love.”
Oh yeah, I should have mentioned that Proper & Wild is a meat-free restaurant. It isn’t strictly without animal product. You’ll find the occasional cheese or egg topping, which may be OK for some vegetarians but not for vegans. But the latter will find plenty to try from the mostly plant based menu, and if what I sampled on my visit is any indication, it will indeed be damn good.
I started with a cup of the soup of the day, a white cheddar and broccoli, a creamy broth with little micro nuggets of the chopped vegetable.
Because carnivorous tendencies are hard to break, I ordered the Proper Burger fully knowing that my notion of what makes a burger proper would have to be adjusted. Not only would there be no ground beef but it also couldn’t be cooked medium rare.
Instead, the patty, as it were, was fashioned out of legumes. What it lacked in circumference it made up in height. It’s density and texture did not mimic a meat burger, and I don’t think it was meant to. But with the dollops of tomato jam and smear of Dijonnaise mustard plus some fresh lettuce and house-made pickles, not to mention a soft and doughy bun, it was a fine and filling burger. Maybe they should take a cue from the Impossible Burger people and name it the Improper Burger. Just a thought.
My server had a pleasant and professional demeanor. The space is neat and bright, a long narrow room with a food bar that runs most of the length and hightop tables along the wall and the front window. There is also patio seating out front. The space has changed tenants roughly every two years. It was Le Merce most recently; Daya, another vegan restaurant, before that; and NOPA Grill prior to that.
This is the second restaurant for the Savages (the second of three, they tease on their website). They also own Sanctum Cafe in Orlando, with food just as proper if not exactly wild.
Proper & Wild is at 155 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-543-8425.