Sunday, April 26, 2009

Downtown Sanford’s Little Burger Shop that Could: Morgan's Burger Bistro Review

“Who has the best burger in Orlando?” It’s one of the most common questions I get on the blog, and I’m always looking for new contenders. Recently, I got word of a new place up in Sanford that just might give the likes of Graffiti Junktion, Hamburger Mary’s, Johhny’s Fillin’ Station and The Tap Room at Dubsdread a run for the money. When I heard it was a restaurant owned by a local chef, and whose entire focus is burgers, I jumped in my car and headed straight there.

Morgan’s Burger Bistro is a gem of a little restaurant in the heart of downtown Sanford. The owner and chef, Mike Morgan, is the former proprietor of Morgan’s Gourmet Café, a restaurant also in downtown Sanford that closed a couple of years ago. The former café’s vacated space has gone through a couple of iterations since then – the most recent being Two Blondes and a Shrimp.

Morgan’s Burger Bistro is a few blocks away, in a small space on Park Avenue, in the same block as The Black Swan and The Alley, both bars. The furnishings are modest but it does have a certain charm that is apparent as soon as you walk through the door. The restaurant is located in an old, historic building, and even though all the walls and ceiling have been painted a simple white, architectural details from days gone by show themselves in the molding and fixtures throughout. Quite a few locally-produced works of art add an artistic touch.

Morgan’s is set up to be “fast-casual.” You know the routine – order at the counter, sit down, wait for the food to be brought to your table. Not quite fast food, not quite a sit-down restaurant. Unfortunately, the counter where one is supposed to order was so cluttered with paperwork and various office supplies it didn’t seem to be a place for customers to see, much less place an order. There is a giant poster-board sign below the counter that screams “Order Here” in giant lettering, but the mess on top screamed to me “Employees Only.”

No matter; once I sat down, I was greeted by the chef’s mother, Jean. She was simply a peach, and kindly took my order at the table. To say she was personable and hospitable would be an understatement. She recited the specials to me, made suggestions, and explained items on the condiment bar to me. She even told me the history of the café and of the dining scene in downtown Sanford. Like a typical mother, she checked on me several times throughout the meal, asking if there was anything at all she could do for me. She was so gracious and endearing. She basically hovered about, tending to my every need, but never was intrusive in the least.

On my first visit, I ordered a ½ pound Black Angus Burger ($6.95) and added bacon ($1) and American cheese ($.50). The burger was delicious, cooked to the perfect medium, and served on a fresh-tasting Kaiser roll. When I cook a burger in the backyard on a charcoal grill, I like it charred on the outside and a nice pink in the middle. I don’t think they read minds at Morgan’s, but my burger was served exactly the way I like it. It even had that familiar grilled, charcoal taste I love from backyard cookouts. The bacon was crisp, and the cheese melted just right. The burger was served with lettuce and tomato and included a trip to the condiment bar featuring several hot sauces, relishes and dressings including bbq mustard, herb mayo and blackberry brandy bbq. There was an obvious "chef's touch" in everything on the menu, including the sauces.

Other burger meat choices were taco-seasoned beef, Thai-seasoned beef, Cajun-seasoned beef, lamb, turkey, crab meat, mahi mahi, oyster, Boca Burger and portabella mushroom.

For my side, included in the price, I chose onion rings. They were cooked perfectly brown, and had stringy onions that pulled out of the breading when you bite into them. Other sides included in the price were fries, sweet potato fries, homemade potato chips, slaw, potato salad and a side salad for $1.50 extra.

On my second visit, I tried the Crab Meat Burger served with Tiger Sauce and Fried Capers ($8.95). Call it a burger or call it a crab cake on a Kaiser roll - either way, it was delicious and filling, if not just a little underdone. I love crab cakes but the usual portions at other places leave me wanting more, not this time.

The fries that accompanied the crab meat burger were browned perfectly, were light, were seasoned nicely and were generously portioned.

Morgan’s Burger Bistro is, to use a cliché, a diamond in the rough. With a little polishing, the little gem could really shine: fix ordering process, turn the A/C down a notch or two, improve presentation (nix paper boats), add some outside seating, and expand the topping bar with items like pickles, cucumbers, onions, etc.

But I do like a lot of things about Morgan’s Burger Bistro, most of all the burgers. They're great, and they have to be considered top five contenders for best burgers in Orlando. If you’re in downtown Sanford, for whatever reason, and want to grab lunch, I recommend you stop by. If you’re craving a great burger, I even recommend you make the drive to Sanford. Tell Jean I said hi.

4 Backyard Burgers out of 5


Note: Morgan’s Burger Bistro has limited hours. Tues.-Wed. 11-3, Thurs.-Sat 11-9, Sun 12-6.

Morgan's Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon


William Beem said...

Thanks for pointing out another great choice in Sanford.

Eating Orlando said...

You got it. Sanford is really starting to show up on the Central Florida dining scene. I'm glad I could help expose a couple of gems.

Minor-Gross said...

Love this place, I had the cajun burger and it was melt in your mouth good. Fries were so-so.

Iveta Ramallo said...

I found your blog looking for burgers. Excellent food-blogging! After reading it, I'm feeling hungry! I love a burger. Mmm looks delicious have I never thought of that? It looks awesome. What is the best restaurant in Orlando. Yes i love this love this place. of course i will go in future this place. thanks for the wonderful info.

Anonymous said...

This place is awesome! Great food, super friendly people and a real "homey" atmosphere...