I found myself at lunchtime looking for a place to eat out in the vicinity of Colonial Drive and Alafaya Trail. What should we call this burgeoning area between UCF and Waterford Lakes? Colonifaya? Alafonial? Als50?
Anyway, I happened on to a new place called ‘Kesh Restaurant. And if you thought that all they have in the ColAlaf district is chain food, you’re going to be surprised.
‘Kesh is not a full-service restaurant. You order at the counter and wait for your name to be called to pick up your food. It may be the same person taking your order and your money, making the food and calling your name.
But the quality of the food is beyond what you would expect from a typical deli or quick serve.
You might guess from the name that ‘Kesh is short for Marrakesh. You would not guess that from the menu, which features sandwiches and “street foods,” only some of which might have a Moroccan flair. There is a Marrakesh Dog topped with lamb stew, for example, and a Moroccan Sloppy Joe. Otherwise, you’ll find a pastrami Reuben, a roast beef sandwich and a Cuban style pork taco.
On the day I visited, the menu was featuring a special breaded pork sandwich. I wondered if it was the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich that every person who grew up in the Midwest was familiar with: a pork cutlet, hammered flat, breaded and fried, usually with the consistency of cardboard but for some reason considered a delicacy worth seeking out.
No, this wasn’t anything like that. This was a thick cutlet, uncharacteristically juicy, served on toasted white bread slathered with barbecue sauce, with a slice of cheese, fresh, green lettuce, a thick slice of tomato, and mashed potatoes — not accompanying but included inside the sandwich. It was all quite satisfying. And the stack of potato chips that were included on the plate were really unnecessary.
‘Kesh occupies an interior corner of the strip mall at the southwest corner of the Drive and the Trail. It’s a small, typical storefront with walls painted the color of Grey Poupon mustard. There are a few small tables and chairs along the length of the room for those who wish to dine in.
‘Kesh is owned and operated by Jerry Helminski, who, according to his bio, is from Chicago (which makes it more curious that he did not know about the Midwestern style of breaded pork tenderloin, but as it turned out I’m glad he didn’t). He managed to greet guests, take orders, fulfill the transaction and carry on friendly conversations on his own. The Moroccan connection, he told me, was through his wife.
‘Kesh is at 11768 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for breakfast Monday through Friday, and lunch and early dinner (6 p.m. weekdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays) Monday through Saturday. It has occasional Sunday hours; check the website. Most sandwiches are around $7. The phone number is 407-203-0801.