This is the sort of thing a clever restaurateur does to survive these difficult economic times.
K Restaurant Wine Bar in College Park is, of course, a fairly pricey place. With its signature porcini dusted filet mignon demanding $36, it isn't the sort of dinner you have to celebrate your latest 401(k) statement.
Many restaurants have made adjustments with less expensive ingredients, as I'm sure K has. And they're offering deals, such as prix fixe nights where the diner can have a three-course dinner for less than it would cost to order a la carte. K has such a deal. A prix fixe menu is offered each evening, and on Monday nights it is the only menu available. But increasingly it isn't whether it's a good deal you're getting, it's how much you're spending. So now, Thursdays though Saturdays, K is offering K2, a food lounge that specializes in small plates with small(er) prices.
K2 is set up in the side dining room that was added to the restaurant several years ago to handle overflow from the main dining room. Overflow doesn't happen too often these days, so instead of sealing the room off, owner Kevin Fonzo and general manager Dan Francoforte repurposed it with the very clever name K2.
Offerings here are more along the lines of a tapas bar. The menu includes "firecracker" quail legs (I told you they were small plates); braised escargot; K2 fries with applewood smoked bacon salt; beef carpaccio; dork (that's duck and pork) sliders; lobster corn dogs; and charcuterie and cheese options. Prices range from $4 to $10.
My friend and I stopped in on a Friday evening. Actually, we had stopped in before on a Tuesday not knowing K2 was not open nightly. There was a group mingling in the K2 area and it became clear they were using it as a staging area while they waited for the rest of the group to arrive for a dinner in the main dining foom (K1). There were no staff members in the area to greet us, so we took a seat and waited for someone to come by. Evenutally a server came into the area and looked around, then, ignoring us, left the room. So I got up and went to the main dining room to find out if we had done something wrong by entering K2 through its separate door and not through K's main entrance.
No, said the fellow who moments ago had ignored us, we were fine where we were. And when I pointed out that no one had come by to take our order, he actually looked a bit peeved that I would suggest he was being inattentive.
Once we were finally greeted properly and assigned a waiter (not that one, thank goodness) things started moving. We ordered the sliders -- how could you not try something called a dork? -- which were spiced nicely and complemented with a house-made ketchup. Very tasty. Fried oysters were a bit soggy and the cheese plate was interesting but fairly small, even for a small plate concept.
The by-the-glass wine list tries to reflect the lower price ideology, with choices as low as $5. Didn't find anything stellar, but I appreciated the effort.
The K2 space could use some spiffing up. It's a long narrow room with a very high ceiling. Something could be done with lighting to make it more comforatble. With the brick walls and the bowling alley effect I found the space cold and unwelcoming. K has always championed local artists by displaying their works on the restaurant's walls, but the narrowness of the room doesn't allow for good viewing angles.
Still, I think K2 is on the right track. People still want to go out to eat, and they want to go to good restaurants. Instead of trading down to a chain, they can visit K2, and have some decent food and affordable prices. No, the portions aren't big, but let's face it, restaurants serve too much food on a plate as it is. On the other end, this recession may turn out to be the best thing for the American waistline since Atkins.
K2 and K Restaurant Wine Bar are at 2401 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. The phone number is 407-872-2332. View the menu at the K Restaurant Web site.