#MakeSomedayHappen mission accomplished at Christner’s Orlando with superb birthday celebration
The award-winning Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster has been on many “Best Steakhouse” lists and on my Orlando #MustEat list for years. Every time I heard about this Orlando institution, to quote a friend, “hands down the best steakhouse in Orlando!”, I would reply “we need to go there someday”. Sadly, busy lives got in the way. Weeks turned into years and that “someday” never materialized, until now. I’m happy to say I was finally able to Make Someday Happen. The celebration dinner at Christner’s Orlando that resulted was every bit worth the wait.
Previously known as Del Frisco’s, Christner’s is one of the oldest steakhouses in Orlando, opened in 1993 by Russ and Carole Christner. When the agreement to use the Del Frisco’s name expired, the Christner’s put their family name up on the marquis. Rather fitting as it was the Christner family that built this great steakhouse after all. Only the name has changed. It still continues to be a family run business, now with son David and his wife Alice at the helm. Recipes, standards of service, and commitment to providing the best steaks and seafood and making every visit a celebration have remained. Many of the staff has remained as well, some of which have been there since opening. A great sign for any restaurant. I had the pleasure of meeting David and Alice during our visit. Charming and engaging, they made us feel like we were being welcomed into their home. One of the greatest features of visiting a family owned and operated restaurant. We were not able to meet Carole that night. As the quintessential hostess, I am told she makes sure to visit every table and wish you a happy birthday or anniversary and thank you for coming. A sign of great hospitality!
We dined on a Monday night as part of my 12 Days of Birthday Celebrations. We enjoyed the setting at a round booth for two. The rich dark woods, red leather seats and white clothed tables décor was reminiscent of most classic steakhouses. The soft lighting by chandeliers and the background sounds of their resident pianist provided the perfect ambiance for a romantic dinner in the Piano lounge. The main lounge on the other side of the main foyer was much livelier.
What’s a steakhouse without good cocktails and here they offer two extensively stocked bars including this wall of Scotch and Whiskeys offering a great selection of single-malt scotches of various aging.
We started our celebration with “Scotchtails”, Christner’s creative way to introduce Scotch to a non-Scotch drinker like me. I was surprised to enjoy the Southern Lass made with J&B Scotch Whiskey and fresh sweetened iced tea and lemon. Basically, an iced tea with a kick. My BF ordered a traditional Rusty Nail with Johnny Walker Black and Drambuie. Next time, I look forward to trying the “Peach Scotch Smash” which sounded refreshing made with J&B Scotch, fresh peaches, Cointreau, lemon and mint or the “Mamie Taylor” with The Famous Grouse, Lime juice and ginger ale. I can’t believe I just said I look forward to trying more Scotchtails, but it’s true. It’s good to have an open mind and try new things. You just might surprise yourself.
The bread is delivered to the table piping hot, so hot we were warned to be careful. I’ve received that warning for fajitas, never bread. Most places you’re lucky if it comes out luke-warm. I typically pass on the bread as I prefer to leave room for dessert, but made an exception. Baked fresh in-house daily, the steam pops out as you rip a piece off the loaf. The proper way to eat it, according to Russ Christner, is never to cut it with a knife. We devoured that first loaf of crusty on the outside and soft on the inside goodness and quickly got seconds. It was that good.
Our server, David, reviewed the menu in detail and provided several, much-appreciated, recommendations. A restaurant pet-peeve of mine is when a server tells me “everything is good”. I expect everything to be good. I want to know about the can’t-be-missed stars. The menu at Christner’s is everything you expect of a fine steakhouse. In this age of uber-creative chefs and fusion cuisine, it’s nice to enjoy classic dishes, expertly prepared.
Appetizer standouts include Shrimp Remoulade ($ 18), Crab Cake ($18), and Ahi Tuna ($17). We chose to share the Crispy Shanghai-style Calamari ($16). Perfectly fried to a nice golden crisp, tossed with battered-fried jalapenos, black sesame seeds, a sweet chili sauce and sprinkled with green onions and cilantro. The dish had the right amount of spice and sweetness and there was not a crumb left on our plates.
For our salad course, we shared a Classic Caesar ($9) which was everything you expect of a properly made Caesar. Crisp Romaine lettuce, fresh Parmesan cheese shavings, house-made croutons, and a thick Caesar Dressing that coats the lettuce without leaving it wilted. All salad dressings are made fresh in-house and it was noticeable. Next time, I will try the Beefsteak Tomatoes & Sliced Onions ($10) with added blue cheese crumbles ($3) which looked delicious.
The pace of dining at Christner’s is whatever you want it to be. If you are in a hurry, they will expedite. If on the other hand, you are like us and like to take it slow and enjoy the ambiance and conversation, then let your server know. David and Eric, our service team, accommodated us beautifully. They were attentive without being intrusive and we wanted for nothing the entire evening.
In between courses, I did a bit of exploring around the restaurant. I was impressed by how large it is. Each area feels so intimate that you don’t realize there are multiple rooms and two sides of the building, the original restaurant and the new addition joined by an ample foyer. I loved the various sized private rooms, perfect for group celebrations or business dinners. I can imagine many power-deals being brokered here over a nice juicy steak and bottle of Cabernet. If you wish to impress someone, Christner’s Orlando is the place to do it! There is no charge to reserve a private room, even for only two people, which would make that special occasion over the top memorable (Think Valentine’s Day, anniversary, marriage proposals or the best reason simply “just because!”).
Their wine cellar boasts over 5,500 bottles of wine with over 800 different wines featuring a varied mix of Old-World and New-World wines at various price points. They also offer many large format bottles which are quite impressive and can make any dinner a celebration!
For entrees, beef is of course, the star of the show. Prime, aged corn-fed beef from the Midwest, cut right off the loin the minute you order. Standouts include the 8 or 12oz Filet Mignon ($39/48), 16oz USDA Prime Strip ($47), 22oz Bone-In Ribeye ($55) or the Flintstone-sized 24oz Porterhouse ($57). If you want to add the Surf to your Turf, try the succulent Australian Lobster Tails (MP), Fresh Fish of the day (MP), Salmon ($33) and Seared Tuna ($38). Entrees are a-la-carte and side dishes are served family style. The portions are quite large, perfect for sharing. The menu also includes smaller portions including a side dish on their “Lagniape” section.
We ordered the 8oz Filet Mignon with asparagus and a Pittsburgh-charred Prime Strip with Chateau Potatoes. We like our steaks medium rare and I find it is always a good idea to find out how the kitchen handles cooking temperatures. You and the chef may not agree on what medium rare looks like. I am happy to say both steaks were cooked perfectly. While chatting with David Christner, he mentioned he likes his steaks Pittsburgh-charred which intrigued me. The Strip had a nice charred crust on the outside and juicy on the inside. It takes great skill to perfectly char a piece of beef without turning it to charcoal and cooking it to the correct temperature. Kudos to the kitchen staff!
The filet was fork-tender and well-seasoned. I asked for Bearnaise sauce on the side, but it didn’t need it. Before you reach for the salt and pepper shaker on the table, I recommend taking a bite, you won’t need them either. The pencil-thin Asparagus were nice and crunchy, topped with almonds in a very light butter sauce. I loved the filet and was happy to have leftovers to take home.
No celebration dinner is complete without dessert. In some cases, I even order dessert first just to make sure I enjoy it before I get too full (please don’t judge). I selected Bread Pudding with an added scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream on top. The warm bread pudding had the perfect texture, a nice caramelized crunchy exterior and soft, but not mushy, interior. It was swimming in a bowl of whiskey sauce that was truly outstanding. It balanced the sweetness with a hint of smokiness which gave the dish body and depth without being overpowering.
My BF ordered the award-winning Mandarin Orange Cake, a must-order, and he was in heaven.
It’s amazing how food can transport us to another time and bring back memories with just one bite.
The cake reminded him of childhood birthdays when his mom would make a similar orange cake for him. This large slice of heaven is light yet rich, the flavor reminiscent of eating a creamsicle. The Pineapple-Citrus sauce and the ice cream that accompany it are perfect compliments and one must have all three in each bite.
I learned from our server that Lois March, “Miss Lois” as she is affectionately called, has been making all the desserts in-house for the past 14 years. This is one talented lady. In many restaurants desserts are often purchased from a local bakery or bought frozen. It was very nice to see Christner’s is doing dessert right. It is the last impression of the meal and ours was outstanding. We hadn’t even left the restaurant when we both looked at each other and said, almost in unison “I can’t wait to come back”.
I was definitely singing “On the fifth day of birthday celebrations, my true love gave to me… an awesome romantic dinner at Christner’s”.
Christner’s Orlando provided a delicious birthday celebration I will never forget. Superb fine dining in a comfortable setting, impeccable service and outstanding food. If you want a classic steakhouse, there is no better choice in Orlando. All the awards are truly well deserved. I want to thank David and Alice Christner for their kind hospitality and treating us to this amazing dinner experience. They are undoubtedly following the high standards Russ Christner set and continuing the family tradition, which I hope will be for many years to come. I was thrilled to “Make Someday Happen” and visit this Orlando landmark.
Now tell me, do you have restaurants on your list that you’ve been saying “we have to go there someday”? Now is the time. Do it! Pick a date, make a reservation and go Make Someday Happen. Don’t wait for a birthday or special occasion, instead make any day a celebration. Christner’s will definitely help you do that. I challenge you to surprise your significant other for no reason at all and take them to Christner’s for an incredible celebration. Life is short, celebrate with your loved ones every chance you get.
A perfect opportunity to try Christner’s is coming up on June 27 with “The Cutting Board Dinner Series” five-course wine dinner paired with world class wines. This month, Christner’s is featuring Banfi and ZD Wines. The evening’s speakers are Christner’s sommelier Dan Colgan and Butch Hoth from Republic National Distributing Company. Butch is a good friend and not only incredibly knowledgeable about wine but also a great storyteller. I am certain you will be thoroughly entertained as you enjoy this incredible feast. The cost is only $115 per person inclusive of tax and gratuity, which is a great value for this caliber of food and wines. Space is limited so make your reservation at Christners@Rockawaypr.com today.
Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster is located at 729 Lee Road, Orlando FL. Restaurant is open Monday-Thursday 5pm-10pm and Friday and Saturday until 11pm. They are closed on Sundays to allow the staff time with their families. Attire is business casual, coat and tie are optional. Complimentary valet or self-parking is available. Online reservations available on Open Table or by phone 407-645-4443.
Stay tuned for more reviews from my 12 Days of Birthday Celebrations
Disclosure: I was a guest of Christner’s this evening. No other form of compensation was received and the opinions are my own. As always, I only share with you experiences worth celebrating.