The Glass Knife is a little cakebox of a bakery and cafe. The pink walls don’t appear to have been painted but frosted instead.
Indeed, cakes are the ostensible raison d’être of the Glass Knife. The name is a reference to cake slicers popular during the Great Depression. Glass didn’t tarnish or impart an off taste as metallic slicers could.
The mother of the restaurant’s owner, Steve Brown, collected glass knives, so the theme of his cafe was set with an ample stock of the delicate doodads to decorate. (My mother collected elephants; I will not be opening a restaurant.)
While cakes, pastries and other assorted baked sweets are a focus, chef Stuart Whitfield’s menu makes a few forays into savory territory, mainly with soups, salads and sandwiches. A chicken pot pie is offered daily. Well, nightly, only after 4:30 p.m. All of the food I sampled was of high quality and expertly prepared.
However, the experience of eating there is less enjoyable, at least when there is a full house, as when I visited for lunch with a friend. And the process is a bit confusing, even with someone at the front door attempting to explain it.
My companion and I waited in the line for our turn to place our order and pay for it, as others were doing ahead of us. We placed our order, but when I attempted to pay, the young woman behind the counter said we could just take a seat and pay later.
Taking a seat proved a problem. There are a few booths and tables, but the main area is dominated by a very long communal table that looked like something you’d find in a prison mess hall (a white-collar crime prison, but still). Perhaps it should be named the Glass Shiv.
My friend snagged the only two open seats, across from each other, and we sat down to wait for our food to find us. And while seated there, the two people next to us — fellow inmates, as it were — gave their order to a server at the table. Huh?
Actually, I said “Huh?” a lot. It was almost impossible to carry on a conversation across the table, at least not a confidential one. We had to shout to be heard.
But all was better once our food arrived. I had the Roasted Turkey Club Sandwich, which had plenty of sliced turkey breast topped with cheddar cheese and rashers of bacon with tomatoes and arugula and an aioli spiced with peppercorns. It was all on a pretzel bun. Most pretzel buns are shaped like conventional buns, just made with pretzel dough. But this one was whimsically in the shape of a twisted pretzel. All fresh and delicious.
My friend had the Egg Salad Sandwich, which had coarsely chopped egg and baby spinach on a multigrain croissant (tomato deleted at my friend’s request). I liked the choppiness of the egg salad.
Both sandwiches were accompanied by fairly pedestrian Terra vegetable chips and icebox pickles.
From the array of available cakes, I chose a slice of the carrot. Not as heavily spiced as some carrot cakes can be, this one was solid and layered with pineapple jam and cream cheese with a buttercream icing and flakes of gold.
I also tried one of the doughnuts on display at the checkout counter (which is only sometimes a checkout counter). I was tempted by some of the artisanal varieties but went with the classic glazed. It was denser than I want a doughnut to be, with a texture that was, not surprisingly, cakelike.
So we’re finished and I go up to the counter to pay. But the woman there says I can just take my seat and someone will come over to process my payment. How can this be made clearer?
And while we’re on the subject of payment, you should know that your money is no good here. That is, cash is not accepted. Not even if you’re stopping in just for a cup of coffee. You may use credit cards, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay. Not sure about Bitcoin. (I’m not altogether against this policy. It’s especially useful in the processing and tracking of gratuities. But it’s sure to be jarring to some people.)
The Glass Knife is a good addition to this stretch of Orlando Avenue, which has seen too many chain openings of late. It will do well, especially with its high-end cakes. But the process needs to be more intuitive. And it wouldn’t hurt if they added a few more tables and chairs.
The Glass Knife is at 276 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-500-2253.