"You have Gators and you have Froggers, so why not have a Salamanders?" Said Charlie, the server who'd kindly opened the door for my party and I, as we entered the Winter Springs located restaurant. It 's Charlie's first day, he tells us, after flawlessly serving us our waters. He is sweating and obviously stressed, and he has every right to be. On this random Tuesday night, Salamander Sport Grill is packed. A family inhabits every booth that lines the windows, and the only seats available are the tables that are sprinkled on the open floor right in the middle.
Salamanders, despite the name, isn’t just a sports grill, although they have done their darnest to make that obvious by the flat screens that line every wall that there isn't already a window. It's a neighborhood grill, and with all the complexes surrounding Salamander's, this point is evident. Salamanders, although only open three months, is a place where families can go to just sit down and enjoy a meal in a place that almost looks similar to that open garage restaurant your eccentric father tried to open when you were a kid. No? Just me? Understandable.
Seriously, though, the place is cozy. It's like the living room you wish you had with the friends you wish you knew. Although, I'm sure the open space and plethora of windows can be off-putting during the day, at night, it's nice to sit down in comfortable booths with people you love and just have a meal.
And if that's not your thing, Salamander's also happens to have a bar. A small one, yes, set in front of a very interesting beer collection (especially for one so tiny as theirs) with a sprinkling of wines here and there. I’m not kidding, it's very small, but it is a bar nonetheless.
I was lucky enough to mosey on in to the sports bar o, their "free burger night". Seeing as the place has only been open three months, it would be silly to call this a tradition, but the owners are definitely hoping to make it one. Just like a few other places around town that boast a "free burger night", you buy one burger, you get a second one for free. Just by hearing that alone, I was falling for the place. It was comfortable, cozy and I could get a burger for free? Unheard of!
The burger menu isn't much a of a burger menu, boasting a whopping five choices, all uniquely named in reference to sports, and all a 1/2 pound of "fresh, never frozen" meat.
Now here's the thing about thick burgers. Yes, everybody loves them. The more meat the better, right? Wrong. The more meat, the better chance you have of eating a burger that is nothing but a slab of bland meat with a couple vegetables sprinkled in and some bread as the cherry on top. The thicker the meat, the more flavor your expecting, the juicer the meat needs to be, and the more there needs to be a balance of toppings (or at least some pizzazz to them) to compete and blend, making the burger whole. Sounds like a lot of hubbub, right? Ever had a bland burger with no toppings? Did you like it? Yeah, me neither.
So, I ordered the "You're Fired". The menu describes this burger as: "A kick in the pants burger topped with our freshly made salsa, melted pepper jack, and spicy ketchup."
For the most part, anything spicy usually catches my attention, so there really was no other choice for me. I gave Charlie my order, my friends did the same, and he shuffled back to the kitchen with it, avoiding the other servers and their trays full of burgers (and let me tell you, everybody in that place had ordered a burger. I firmly believe that if a burger isn't good, people won't eat them, even if one is free. Why? Because you still gotta pay for the other one. Needless to say, my hopes were high for this one.)
You know that feeling when you're sitting in a restaurant after having worked all day? You’re tired and you’re hungry, and it seems like everyone in the entire place has ordered what you ordered, causing you to be uber excited every time your waitress comes from the back with a plate only to beheld that the food belongs to the person behind you? Try sitting at a bar waiting, in perfect view of the kitchen, while this happens. I mean, literally, every person in the place had ordered a burger (Seventy burgers in 3 hours from what I was told). If my stomach were writing this, it would tell you that it had waited an eternity, but in actuality (despite the obnoxious estimation of 20 minutes that Charlie gave us for our wait) the waiting game was short-lived. The food came out in a timely manner and before we knew it, we were digging in.
Remember when I said that Salamanders was cozy? It's like the living room you wish you had? The food is the same. The burger had that homemade-family-reunion-BBQ-cookout taste to it, kinda burnt, kinda not, but it was delicious. The owner's, who apparently created the menu in their own kitchen before bringing it to the big leagues of restaurant owning, carried the tune of their surroundings into the way they prepare their food. There is a comfortableness to it, like they aren't competing to bring you the best burger, they just want you to eat the food, relax and enjoy it the way you would if you'd made it yourself.
The "You're Fired" is has a kick, not terribly spicy, but you can definitely feel a tingle no your tongue, which mostly comes from their spicy ketchup. Not sure that they put in the stuff, but it definitely is spicy. The salsa is homemade. It definitely wasn't their strongest point, fairly tasteless in the grand scheme of things, but it was a good addition to the meal. Paired with a small, and please, when I say small, people, I mean small, helping of fries, the meal leaves you feeling, not terribly full to the point of unbuttoning your jeans, but just good enough to wear you can probably kick back a beer and stay a while, watching the game.
In the end, Salamanders was a pleasant surprise, not a "diamond in the rough", but it was a definite shock for how delicious they were. The staff is superbly friendly and talking to the Manders was delightful. Anything you'd like to know about the food, the restaurant or anything else for that matter, they are more than welcomes to listen and talk to you. My friends and I stayed after for about twenty minutes after our meal talking to Mrs. Manders. While Salamanders admittedly didn't win my heart over completely with their burgers, the atmosphere, staff, and people, certainly did. I look forward to going there again. Perhaps trying the restaurant's most renowned burger, 'The Basketball Manager'.