CROOKED SPOON GASTROPUB
200 Citrus Tower Blvd., Clermont | 352-404-7808 | thecrookedspn.com | $$
In the shadow of the Old Florida observatory known as the Citrus Tower sits the Crooked Spoon, chef Steve Saelg’s cheery gastro-sports-pub catering to the tastes of a New Florida and its considerably less monolithic palate. Many of you will fondly recall the Crooked Spoon food truck, an early adopter in the mobile meal trend that drew wide accolades for its comforting, all-American gourmet concoctions, and you’ll be glad to know that Saelg’s Clermont brick-and-mortar operation doesn’t disappoint – well, aside from there being way too many TVs in the joint, and the fact that the converted Friendly’s restaurant feels about as unfriendly as a 1950s-era concrete watchtower.
One area that shines like the shellac on the wood tables: customer service. When our appetizers took a smidge too long to be served, we got a free round of drinks, and when said apps did finally arrive, they had our noggins nodding, so double win for us. A superbly crunchy corn tostada ($12) held together the competing flavors of duck confit, cumin-lime frisée, bean purée, queso fresco and crème fraîche very nicely. Coconut-crusted chicken along with cardamom-spiced waffles ($10) added some Desi comfort to a soul-food staple, even without the garam masala maple syrup. I didn’t quite understand the entirely unnecessary embellishment of alfalfa sprouts, though.
Now, dropping $16 on a sandwich might seem like a head-scratcher, but when it’s the lobster grilled-cheese sandwich you’re ordering, believe me, it’s worth every penny. Hefty chunks of lobster, not greasy in the least, were liberally layered between thick slabs of brioche bread along with Swiss and cheddar cheeses. As one of my dining comrades put it, “It’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten.” The sandwich came with a handful of homemade potato chips, a side Saelg served with his burgers back in the truck days. Speaking of, the 420 burger ($12) attained near-legendary status among food-truck cognoscenti, and both it and the original Crooked Spoon burger ($12) are available on the menu here. But it was the cocoa-and-coffee-crusted burger ($12) that caught my eye, and it’s easily a burger I’d order again: The subtle sweet and bitter notes on that Florida Angus beef patty topped with Boursin cheese and raspberry-chipotle barbecue sauce just came together oh so well. When we ordered the bacon-wrapped Angus beef meatloaf ($14), we expected an enormous slab of meat on a plate, but we weren’t displeased to see a manageable yet wonderfully moist and well-seasoned portion served to us. A creamy succotash of corn, edamame and cherry tomatoes made a refreshing and noteworthy side too.
Beer lovers will appreciate the dozens of craft and local beers available on tap, not to mention the rotating selection of beers scrawled on the chalkboard towards the back of the restaurant. Dessert lovers will appreciate the house-made carrot cake ($7) as well as the toffee bar ($7) baked with pecans and chocolate chips, then drizzled with raspberry sauce. The damage we inflicted on these cappers may have indeed bent the cutlery out of shape, but rest assured, every spoon, crooked or otherwise, was thoroughly licked.