Burgers Without Rules

At Pine Twenty2, the possibilities of what goes between the buns are endless. Just make a list.

Think of Pine Twenty2 as the midpoint of a downtown culinary journey, halfway between the casual flatbread fare of Urban Flats on Orange Avenue and the organic, local hand-crafting at Rusty Spoon on Church Street.

The three restaurants are owned by Lori Shew and chef Kathleen Blake. The Flats location at the base of The Plaza condo tower, one independent of the chain, does a massive date-night business, while Blake spends most of her time in the eclectic Rusty Spoon kitchen (which I reviewed in September 2011). Pine Twenty2 is the Spoon’s quirky sister, combining gourmet cuisine with choose-your-own-adventure, all wrapped in a multi-grain bun.

The location on Pine Street (number 22, naturally) is the former home of The Black Olive, which through economic hardship and shifting fashion was rebranded by its owners into Blue Smoke Burger Bar, a high-end griller that served bison, ostrich and Kobe beef burgers at a premium price. I never got a chance to eat there; it was out of business after a month. You may wonder why another burger place in the same location seemed like a good idea to anyone, and I can answer that: because now it works.

Blake, whom I’ve admired since her days at JW Marriott Orlando’s Primo, uses her experience with organic and humanely grown food to offer a carefully chosen menu of options , and then gets out of the way. The procedure for ordering at Pine Twenty2 takes some explanation, and it’s the part that probably needs the most work. In the time it takes to pore through the checklist-style menu, get someone to enter your choices into the computer at the counter, and handle the pay-before-you eat scheme, you could just have a server take your order at the table. But it can be fun deciding from the practically limitless combinations (300,000 by their count) of meats, breads, cheeses, sauces, toppings and more toppings. Angus beef with brie, peanut butter and pineapple? You got it. A moist and delicious bean burger topped with sour cream, sprouts, jalapeños and onion rings? No problem.

Or order from the pre-decided combo list. Since Blake was the first chef in town to use organic eggs from Lake Meadow Naturals, it’s not surprising to see one prominently featured in the “Burginator” ($11), layering a half-pound of beef with a fried egg, the smoky goodness of bacon and charred onions, gooey Gruyére cheese and a slathering of green and garlicky herb aioli.

Pulled pork is from Palmetto Creek Farms in Avon Park, grass-fed beef comes from DeLand’s Deep Creek Ranch and Meyers Natural Beef from Montana, chicken and bean burgers are all organic, and everything is fabulous. The burgers have the heft and texture of ground meat instead of the recent trend toward meatloaf. There was a temperature problem on my visit, as the usually toasted buns (get the multigrain) came out cold, but they were promptly replaced.

By my quick and arbitrary math, you can get an extraordinary cheeseburger with four toppings here for $6.99, or go mad and pile one ridiculously high for 30 bucks. And you’ll enjoy it either way.

Save room for the fried pies ($4), jam-filled flaky-crusted little hand-made versions of Hubig’s Pies, the favorite dessert of New Orleanians everywhere.

Pine Twenty2
22 E. Pine St., Orlando
407-574-2160 | pine22.com

Categories: Dining