- Photo by Jason Greene
- Do the math: Pine Twenty2 gives diners 322,200 burger choices - and great service to boot
Pine Twenty222 E. Pine St.
When the gourmet burger trend arrives in Orlando (if it arrives in Orlando), Pine Twenty2 could very well be credited with starting the bonzo beef-and-bun craze. Oh sure, Blue Smoke - a burger bar occupying the very same space - made a futile attempt in its five weeks of existence before it went up in smoke. But where it failed - passion, food preparation and, most notably, service - Pine Twenty2 excels. Approaching the counter, we were greeted by a bright-eyed and genuinely pleasant hostess-server who proceeded to enlighten us in the ways of creating our own burger. The steps: Choose your meat, bun, cheese, sauce, toppings and, if you're so inclined, premium toppings by filling out a menu form that I initially took to be a liability waiver. Given all the possible permutations and combinations (322,200, according to Pine Twenty2's mathematicians), processing all the options and then envisioning the ideal burger can be a taxing mind-body exercise. That's particularly true at lunch, when the place is packed and the pressure to order quickly can result in a turkey burger with blue cheese, peanut sauce, dried cranberries and guacamole on an English muffin.
Evenings are decidedly less bustling, and we took our forms to a high-top and perused them, pencils in hand, in a more leisurely fashion. While browsing our choices on the menu, we took in the surroundings and reminisced about the times we sat in the space when it was the Black Olive. The glass-encased wine vault is but a shell of the bottle-filled sanctuary it once was; gone are the satiny banquettes and white leather-backed chairs; the bas-relief of Bacchus has been replaced with a big-screen TV. Only the Fibonacci spirals flanking the boob tube held our interest. Why the mathematically generated whirls? Did the numerical sequence "0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 …" hold some sort of significance? I thought I even saw the spiral in the restaurant's logo (the "e" in "twenty").
As my mind spiraled, the vortex in my stomach reminded me of our purpose, so it was sweet relief to dive into an 8-ounce humanely handled, grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free Angus burger topped with smoked Gouda, chipotle aioli, roasted green chilies, tomatoes and avocados ($8.75). The heft, unfortunately, collapsed the onion bun and created a mess, albeit a pretty tasty one. We also sampled the Cobb burger in a bowl ($9.50) featuring a perfectly cooked turkey patty, lettuce, bacon, feta, tomatoes, avocado and a locally procured hard-boiled egg from Lake Meadow. Apart from the iceberg lettuce, the burger was a bunless wonder. Shoestring fries (called "Pine fries" here) were fine, but didn't compare to the ones served at Nordstrom's Café Bistro. (If you haven't tried those, just kill yourself.) A "50/50" side of cornmeal-crusted fried pickles and beer-battered onion rings ($4.50) was especially pleasing. Even the soup ($3) - Thai carrot with pineapple salsa - married sweet and spicy exquisitely. House-made fried pies ($4) resembled mini empanadas, but these sugar-dusted numbers filled with peanut butter and chocolate made ideal meal-cappers.
And numbers, clearly, play a role here at 22 E. Pine St. In the Fibonacci sequence, each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. In that context, it eventually dawned on me that Pine Twenty2 was the result of Black Olive's refined, customer-focused approach coupled with Blue Smoke's gourmet burger concept.