Reviewing a restaurant doesn't just involve tasting food. It's watching the staff interact with customers. It's seeing how a server handles getting in the weeds. And it's checking to see if prices are right for the venue.
At Order Up Cafe in Casselberry it's easy to get caught up in the goings-on while you wait for the food to arrive.
During a recent visit, server Carry Hill said "hello" to every regular at this small Seminole County quick-serve, made a foursome of newcomers feel like one of the gang and jovially quipped with a nearby table when she realized an order was wrong.
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- 899 State Highway 436, Casselberry, FL 32707, USA
In a span of 90 minutes, Hill racewalked miles within the confines of this strip-mall eatery, managing her tables with grace and humor.
Order Up Cafe sits on a stretch of State Road 436 near Red Bug Lake Road that seems to be under endless construction. (Well, actually that describes that entire particular thoroughfare from U.S. Highway 17-92 to Orlando International Airport.) I mention this, because you have to want to be there to go through the effort to get there. I have watched small eateries crumble behind worn traffic cones, roadblocks and layers of freshly laid asphalt. Order Up Cafe seems to be faring its street distractions just fine and Hill was a good clue as to why.
"I've been waitressing for more than 23 years," says Hill, 34. "I run the front of the restaurant and I love it. I think the entire staff is some of the few people who are excited to go to work each day.
"I love the customers. They are part of our family. We laugh with them, meet their family and friends and tease them a little too."
Aaron Workman owns the restaurant. In addition to Hill, he is assisted by Brandon Mauldin, Amy Geniotto and William Ortiz.
You get a clear sense that the management rule here is all for one and one for all. While Hill scurried you could hear the organized chaos in motion through the kitchen door. Tables were cleared promptly and floors kept clean.
And, oh yes, the food is quite good.
The restaurant served perhaps the best BLT I have had in years. The classic favorite ($5.49, cheese 50 cents) rises from thick Texas toast with three strips of thick-cut sweet bacon, a judicious slather of lemony mayo, crisp lettuce and a full-flavored tomato. Chips come on the side.
The Order Up breakfast special ($5.99) is an appetite and budget pleasing platter of two eggs any style, two strips of thick-cut bacon or two sausage patties, freshly made home fries or grits, toast or a biscuit. Breakfast is served from open to close (7 a.m.-3 p.m.) and has many options including an impressive chicken hash ($7.49) with shredded white meat, diced green peppers, onions and tomatoes. The plate is finished with home fries, two eggs any style and a choice of toast or biscuit. Add cheese for an additional 50 cents.
The signature chicken salad sandwich ($5.99) gets a nice crunch from peppery celery and sliced almonds, and nice sweet notes from dried cranberries. Two diners at our table shared the sandwich.
Order Up Cafe is worth playing dodge-the-orange-traffic-cone and the constant barrage of brake lights. Grab a table and decompress from the roadway stress with Workman and his crew.
email@example.com or 407-420-5498
Order Up Cafe
Where: 899 State Road 436, Casselberry (between Wilshire Boulevard and Kewannee Trail)
When: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
How much: $2.49-$8.99
Beverages: Soft drinks
Extras: Breakfast served until closing, good for groups, family-friendly, table service, takeout
Wheelchair access: Easy
Noise level: Moderate
Credit: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Online: orderupcafe.com and Facebook