Luke's Takes on American Classics

Remember prime rib? Parker house rolls? Key lime pie? Luke's takes on American classics like these in Maitland, Florida, a suburb of Orlando.

You pretty much have to start your meal at Luke's with "parker rolls," soft white buns. Since Luke's puts twists on American classics, the self-described Kitchen and Bar serves its takes on this old-timer with caramelized honey butter.

You pretty much have to start your meal at Luke's with "parker rolls," soft white buns. Since Luke's puts twists on American classics, the self-described Kitchen and Bar serves its takes on this old-timer with caramelized honey butter.

The restaurant isn't even a week old, yet I stopped in for a dinner on Saturday night and was kind of floored at how impressive the food and service were, even that early on. The decor is sleek, with grays and blacks and woods in clean lines. The menu is made of long-ago stars that have been reimagined them with modern-day enhancements.

Luke's mostly uses its smokebox to add a dimension of smokiness to mussels, oysters and fish for dip, but we went vegetarian -- and au courant -- with the shishito peppers -- soft and smoky with eggplant and yogurt.

Luke's mostly uses its smokebox to add a dimension of smokiness to mussels, oysters and fish for dip, but we went vegetarian -- and au courant -- with the shishito peppers -- soft and smoky with eggplant and yogurt.

It's no shocker that Luke's takes on American classics are done well. The folks behind Luke's Kitchen and Bar, Park Lights Hospitality Group, also run Luma on Park and Prato, two of nearby Winter Park's very best restaurants. Chef-partner Brandon McGlamery oversees all the kitchens, while Executive Chef Derek Perez, a long-standing figure in the Luma kitchen, is at the helm of this new enterprise. Super-GM/partner Tim Noelke keeps the dining rooms running smoothly.

Luke's ceviche is tiny, or at least the red snapper version with jalapeño, tangerine, avocado and sesame is. Yet it is likely the best ceviche I've ever had -- tender with intense flavor and bits of something chewy for texture. I'll take quality over quantity any day.

Luke's ceviche is tiny, or at least the red snapper version with jalapeño, tangerine, avocado and sesame is. Yet it is likely the best ceviche I've ever had -- tender with intense flavor and bits of something chewy for texture. I'll take quality over quantity any day.

We're talking about buying foods from thoughtful producers and preparing each dish using these exceptional ingredients from scratch. That's just the Park Lights way.

This may have been the headliner for us -- a generous slab of prime rib, peppered and plated with multi-color heirloom carrots and a Bernaise sauce.

This may have been the headliner for us -- a generous slab of prime rib, peppered and plated with multi-color heirloom carrots and a Bernaise sauce.

In the photos and captions interspersed throughout this blog post, you'll get a quick peek of what three of us ate for our first Luke's dinner.

From all accounts, Luke's rotisserie chicken is a top seller so far. That may be because the birds are roasted for hours in a giant rotisserie in the center of the restaurant's exhibition kitchen. The poultry has true flavor -- don't even bother eating the Publix version after luxuriating in Luke's version -- and was served with a baked potato puree and mushroom jus.

From all accounts, Luke's rotisserie chicken is a top seller so far. That may be because the birds are roasted for hours in a giant rotisserie in the center of the restaurant's exhibition kitchen. The poultry has true flavor -- don't even bother eating the Publix version after luxuriating in Luke's version -- and was served with a baked potato puree and mushroom jus.

Three of us couldn't take on the whole menu, so please know that hand-crafted cocktails, raw bar items, soups, salads, "smokebox" seafood options and sandwiches supplement the menu categories you see represented here.

The swordfish at Luke's, from local waters, is plated with romanesco and "green wheat," which is some sort of chewy flavorful grain. The sauce is called shrimp bisque, and the flavor is similar.

The swordfish at Luke's, from local waters, is plated with romanesco and "green wheat," which is some sort of chewy flavorful grain. The sauce is called shrimp bisque, and the flavor is similar.

Although the swordfish is a full meal on its own, I just had to try the Brussels sprouts side dish. The beautifully browned veggies were tossed with dried fruit and all kinds of other goodies.

Although the swordfish is a full meal on its own, I just had to try the Brussels sprouts side dish. The beautifully browned veggies were tossed with dried fruit and all kinds of other goodies.

For a sweet ending, try one of pastry chef Brian Cernell's desserts. Our server was pushing the skillet cookie, and that did sound fab, but we went '60s with a slice of German chocolate cake, above left, and  a Key lime tart, above right. Again, quality. I laughed while eating this frothy yet substantive Key lime tart, remembering the insipid bakery versions from my Long Island youth. Thank you, Luke's, for making the classics good again.