Clermont? Where is that, you ask? Expand your reach beyond Orange County and venture out to Lake County. Out west, not the wild west, but west, a little country side. The Florida Turnpike North bound, Hwy 50 West bound and East-West West bound all take you in the general vicinity of this sprawling county. Nestled among the gentle rolling hills is an expansion that shows no slow down anytime soon. Real estate prices and inventory can’t keep up with the growth. It is no surprise that eventually smart restaurateurs would flow. Looks like The Crooked Spoon Gastropub is amongst one of the first to take the plunge of fate.
Three years ago when the Orlando Food Truck craze was in it’s infancy, I first tasted the mastery of Chef Steve Saelg from The Crooked Spoon Food Truck. Back then if you were late to a food truck event by half an hour, you most likely encountered sold out items. Through a sold out item, the 420 Burger, I had a pleasant conversation with the smiling and confident chef through the truck’s window. He steered me to a Swordfish sandwich. I was blown away. Needless to say that swordfish recipe is now featured on the popular Cooking Channel TV show Eat Street Cookbook. The food truck success has led Chef Saelg to opening a stand alone restaurant in Clermont.
The restaurant sits along busy Hwy 27 that traverses through Lake County. A shaded front porch with fans and what looks like misters allow patrons to enjoy the wonderful Florida outdoors. The expansive interior presents a pub feel with leather booths and dark woods. Flat screen TVs line the walls. A large bar serves up specialty drinks. The wine list is of ample depth representing popular varieties. Although, I would have liked to see a Lakeridge wine since the winery is in close proximity. There is a enormous beer selection. Food takes regular pub fare up a few notches but still very approachable.
Smoked Fish Dip – Faint wafting of smoke on firm fish was delightful. Hard crisp bread was the perfect vessel to carry this delicacy to the mouth.
Avocado BLT Sandwich – Thick slices of bacon added a wonderful dimension to this sandwich. Lightly coated avocado was very meaty. Well composed sandwich. There was just too much chips on the plate. Who is complaining?
420 Burger – Florida Angus Beef, Swiss Cheese, Honey Mustard Aioli, Candied Bacon, Fried Onion Ring, Pineapple Relish, Toasted Brioche Bun. This was one of my all time favorite burger from the food truck scene. I am happy that it made the menu here. Moist, tender, juicy patty enhanced with all the other condiments put this burger in a league of it’s own.
This restaurant is definitely taking a whole new flavor to Clermont. Even though Chef Steve Saelg has passed, may his soul rest in peace, his spirit lives on in this restaurant. Here is hoping that keepers of this space and menu continue in his footsteps and carry on what he so boldly started. History will hold a place for this food truck chef who opened a restaurant in a distant land and blazed a trail for others to follow.