For some strange reason the Governor of Florida decided to move Florida into Phase 3 of the reopening from Coronavirus. There are no statewide rules on capacity or restrictions in restaurants in bars. Just weeks ago bars and breweries were closed due to the spike they contribute to the pandemic.
Governor DeSantis is now calling for packed football stadiums in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 15,000 Floridians and over 219,000 Americans in just a few months.
Some restaurants and bars said they will still maintain rules though and the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County have pledged to maintain things like mask rules in place (for now). Here are some of the places that are pledging to maintain rules:
It is well-known that Governor DeSantis is racing towards a plan to re-open Florida in the near future. Task force members have met in recent days to discuss plans. However, one grilled cheese restaurant in Orlando area jumped the gun (Florida proverb) though and announced recently on their Facebook page “we are over this” and said they plan to open their restaurant dining room on May 1st.
What ensued afterwards was a preview for what will happen when Florida forces itself back open. Polls today show that over 70% of Floridians support social distancing rules and the current stay-at-home orders, showing that those protestors appearing on television are nothing more than an astroturf campaign funded by political groups and do not represent any major group.
One comment read “You’re over this? My grandma f*cking died because of this so I’m sorry for inconveniencing you by trying to avoid more unnecessary deaths”.
Another one said, “Guess which cheese-themed restaurant we’re all gonna be going to from now on??? Idk, but NACHO RESTAURANT”.
Some threatened to report the business to the state and also dug up their inspection reports with one person commenting, “Would you like to comment on your 14 restaurant inspection violations on March 29, 2019? Or most recently the 5 violations on November 6, 2019? Surely you’re prepared to serve food and dine in guests in the most pristine restaurant available in a post-pandemic world, right??”.
The restaurant responded to customers and actively attacked them back in what can only be described as a PR nightmare that certainly is a warning sign for other businesses out there.
The Getaway in neighboring Tampa Bay also recently had major issues when the owner recorded herself discussing employee pay and caused an uproar that led to alleged death threats and a temporary closure.
33 & Melt has since been deleted their initial post as as well as an apology that went south.
Users flooded the restaurants Facebook page and left 1-star reviews across the internet. People tagged the media and attempted to voice their concerns and anger.
Here’s the thing: most people understand that small businesses are hurting, people are reading the news and doing their best to order take-out and delivery during this time despite salary cuts, layoffs, and all around economic depression.
At the same time, the public is very concerned about their safety and the safety of employees at businesses, who are are increasingly being hospitalized and dying across the nation in essential businesses from grocery stores to meat packing facilities.
Over 40% of Americans now personally know someone who has become sick or died from COVID-19. Over 45,000 Americans have died in 2 months and thousands are currently dying every day.
The public feels a general anxiety about opening and the best way to get their support is to gradually win it over and consider all parties involved as you make announcements. Taking too harsh of a tone invites pushback and only will lead to harm to your business.
With sagging profits already an issue, the last thing any business can afford right now is a boycott (ask Shake Shack).
If you plan to re-open, make sure you communicate how you’re going to do that in phases (when the time is right), how you will work to protect your employees and customers, and how you most importantly listen to the advice of professionals. Partner with your local officials, you will need it.
If your business is really struggling, make sure to communicate that. Ask for help. The public is willing to try and support you, but first you have to respect them as well.
One of the things I have noticed the most writing about food over the last 10 years is that businesses never communicate that they are dying until it is too late. Ask for help. Be real with your supporters.
The reason why the task force exists at all is because if businesses plan together, they will have more support for re-opening in the future. If large corporations feel like they need to win over consumer sentiment and safety, there is no reason that a small business won’t find itself in the same dilemma.
Situations like these harm the ability of all businesses to move forward in the future with plans to restore consumer confidence. The reality as well is that the Florida public does not currently support re-opening and that will play a big role in how businesses are able to move forward.
The 5th Annual Cuban Sandwich Festival is coming March 7th to Kissimeee on Saturday, March 7th, 2020 from 11AM to 6PM. The event is presented by FORD. The event is free and family-friendly.
The festival will occur at Xentury City Center located at 2925 International Drive in Kissimmee, Florida 34747 (East of I-4, off of 192 and International Drive).
Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla, Co-Founder of the International Cuban Sandwich Festival, shares:
“The Biggest Cuban Sandwich in the World will be made, 190 feet of deliciousness and the BEST Cuban Sandwiches in Central Florida will compete for the chance to make it to the FINALS where they will have a chance to win the GOLDEN TICKET to compete in the WORLD FOOD Championships”.
Event organizers will attempt to make the “Biggest Cuban Sandwich in the World” with a goal of 190 feet. The sandwich will be distributed to help feed the homeless.
Participants will include businesses from Metro Orlando, Kissimmee and Central Florida. Restaurants will compete for the title of “Best Cuban Sandwich” in Central Florida.
Live music will include Johnnie Rivera -Vaya DJ, Revelacion Salsera, and Orchestra FUEGO.
I will be a judge at the event, I have been judging the Cuban Sandwich Festival since it began years ago in Tampa’s historic Ybor City.
The Tampa fest will occur on March 29th, 2020. Tampa created the iconic Cuban Sandwich and no amount of bickering from Miami changes the fact that Miami was a swamp when it was created.
Other judges include Osceola County Commissioner Peggy Choudhry, City Commissioner Olga Gonzalez, Executive Director of Downtown Kissimmee Diana Marrerro-Pinto, Publisher of Osceola Star Guillermo “Bill” Hansen, Marytza Sanz, President/CEO/Founder of Latino Leadership, Carlos Guzman of the Puerto Rican Leadership Council.
We live in strange times. Chinese eateries are seeing a decline in business due to Coronavirus fears spreading throughout the United States and arguably the planet. Some Chinese restaurants in Orlando are reporting a 20-30% drop in business despite that fact that there isn’t a single case of coronavirus in Florida.
While there is nothing wrong with being prepared and conscious of what’s happening around the globe, there’s a simple fact that this virus is not in Florida at this time. I decided to eat at my one of my favorite Chinese spots in Orlando during my last visit in Mills 50 District called Chuan Lu Garden.
I have checked out a few dim sum spots nearby such as Peter’s Kitchen and Ming’s Bistro, but neither were as good as Chuan Lu Garden despite being more popular and busier establishments. Most people visit because Chuan Lu is open until 2AM and is a reliable late-night option, but for me it’s all about dim sum for breakfast.
It’s hard to find a good dim sum spot in Florida, nothing really compares to all the great spots in San Francisco. Lord knows that Yummy House in Tampa doesn’t even come close to any of the places in Orlando. I have long hoped for more dim sum options in Tampa, but that doesn’t seem to be materializing and it remains to see what kind of effect this drop in business will have on Chinese businesses.
One of my favorite dim sum choices is the egg tart. It seems simple enough, but the crust is really the key and so many places get it wrong. Some places also have terrible egg inside. It’s delicate, but delicious. Chuan Lu does it right. My only regret was not saving it for the end so I could savor the flavor in mouth for a little longer.
Salt and Pepper Squid. This is one of my favorite dishes. It was one of the only reasons I frequented Yummy House before they were closed numerous times for health code violations and slid in quality. This one was crispy and I especially enjoyed the peppers and onions. It reminded me of a breakfast hash without the potato. Not bad for a breakfast at all.
Sesame balls with red bean inside. I love red bean. It has to have just the right mix though because the flavor can be a little overwhelming for those not accustomed to regularly eating. These balls were just right for me. It was a satisfying dish that I would order again and again.
A look inside the sesame ball with red bean.
This is a must any time I grab dim sum. Shrimp and Pork Shumai. The dumplings with a mix of the two inside is savory and satisfied my craving for some meat without being just pork or beef. I personally can’t eat too much meat early on in the day.
These shrimp dumplings were probably the only disappointing part of my meal. I’ve had it before at Chuan Lu and it was much better in the past, but this time it had an aftertaste to it, probably something to do with the batter they were mixing since the other shrimp dishes were fine. It’s still one of my favorite dim sum choices so I would probably order it again in the future.
Steamed egg custard bun. This dish was tasty and a good end to our meal. It hit all the right flavors and was a nice sweeter ending to the meal. I don’t order as many buns normally because I get extremely full when I eat them.
So there you have it. Everything was mostly great and we enjoyed all this food and tea for around $30 total which is quite affordable. Dim sum in Orlando is great at many places and I hope everyone will consider supporting Chinese restaurants during this time.
Chuan Lu Garden. 1101 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (407) 868-8709.
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and there a number of places offering Thanksgiving specials. One of those places is Wine Bar George at Disney Springs in Orlando.
On November 28th, Wine Bar George will be serving a traditional turkey plate ($34 for adults, $16 for kids 9 and under) as well as new Santa Carota Short Ribs ($39) alongside select items from their regular menu. Choose from 140 wines all available by the glass, bottle and ounce for the perfect holiday celebration.
Black Friday and Thanksgiving are a busy time for tourism in Orlando. Wine Bar George is one of many places offering options for the season.
Universal Orlando Resort will open their 8th resort, Universal Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
The new hotel adds 2,050 guests rooms to the Universal Orlando hotel portfolio with standard rooms and 2-bedroom suites that can accommodate up to 6 people. It will join sister property, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort, Surfside Inn and Suites, which opened in June 2019.
Rates start at $85 per night and aims to be an affordable options for visitors to the Orlando area and theme parks. Hotel guests will receive early admission to Universal theme parks, complimentary transportation to and from theme parks, and other amenities.
Dockside Inn and Suites is the 8th Universal Orlando partnership with Loews Hotels & Co.
Some attractions guests can enjoy at Universal include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Jurassic Park River Adventure, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D, and The Bourne Stuntacular – which makes its debut at Universal Studios Florida in spring 2020.
Universal is also hard at work on a new theme park, Epic Universe, which will be the 4th theme park that Universal opens joining Universal Studios, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. The theme park is slated to open in 2023.
4 Rivers Smokehouse will break their “closed on Sunday” policy on Sunday, September 8th to help raise funds for Hurricane Dorian relief in the Bahamas. Contributions from Sunday will go to benefit World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that is devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.
World Central Kitchen is headed up by Chef José Andrés who led efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria with over 2 million meals served in the first month.
4 Rivers will be open from 11AM to 3PM and will offer regular dine-in, to-go, and takeout menus. The COOP in Orlando will also be open from 10AM-3PM.
“As Floridians, we know all too well the destruction hurricanes can cause and it saddens us to see the devastation caused in the Bahamas by Dorian,” said John Rivers, 4 Rivers Founder and CEO. “Community is the core of our brand, so the entire 4R family is proud to contribute to relief efforts in the Bahamas by raising funds on Sept. 8 at our 4 Rivers Smokehouses and The COOP.”
Participating locations include:
4 Rivers Smokehouse Carrollwood located at 14330 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33618
4 Rivers Smokehouse Coral Springs located at 2660 N University Dr, Coral Springs, FL 33065
4 Rivers Smokehouse Gainesville located at 3262 SW 35th Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32608
4 Rivers Smokehouse Jacksonville located at 9220 Baymeadows Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32256
4 Rivers Smokehouse Kissimmee located at 874 W Osceola Pkwy, Kissimmee, FL 34741
4 Rivers Smokehouse Longwood located at 1869 W State Rd 434, Longwood, FL 32750
4 Rivers Smokehouse Orange Park located at 220 Park Ave, Orange Park, FL 32073
4 Rivers Smokehouse South Tampa located at 623 S MacDill Ave, Tampa, FL 33609
4 Rivers Smokehouse Tallahassee located at 1817 Thomasville Rd #100, Tallahassee, FL 32303
4 Rivers Smokehouse UCF/East Orlando located at 11764 University Blvd, Orlando, FL 32817
4 Rivers Smokehouse Winter Garden located at 1047 S Dillard St, Winter Garden, FL 34787
4 Rivers Smokehouse Winter Park located at 1600 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
The COOP located at 610 W Morse Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32789
Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 16th, 2019 at 2PM – Orlando Beer Festival is happening that day at Orlando Festival Park located at 2911 East Robinson Street.
Over 200 craft beers will be poured at the event from over 50 breweries. Tickets are now sale for the beer festival and are discounted if you purchase them in advance, prices will rise on the day of the event, if available.
The event will feature over 10 local food trucks, live music, interactive games, college football streaming, local vendors, a wine tasting experience, and more. The event is for ages 21+ and will strictly enforce this policy. Orlando Beer Festival is a rain or shine event.
Limited VIP tickets are currently available and includes an hour and a half of early admission, parking, Orlando Beer Festival t-shirt, a commemorative beer glass, VIP zone with shaded seating and craft cocktail experience, complimentary lite bites of food, VIP lanyard, and more. Designated Driver tickets are available. Please do not drink and drive.
Proceeds will benefit the Central Florida Brewer’s Guild.
Event sponsors include Publix Apron’s Cooking School, Orlando Federal Credit Union, Drive Shack, Hard Rock Live Orlando, Universal Roofing & Contracting, and Renewal by Anderson of FL.
The team took over the culinary kitchen at Orange County Brewers back in May just two blocks south of the Orange County Courthouse on the corner of Orange Avenue and Jefferson Street in Downtown Orlando.
Culinary Director Eliot Hillis and Head Chef Seth Parker have developed an alkaline dough for their pizza crust that is being paired with their high-quality cuts from Orlando Meats and cooked in a wood-fire oven.
Some pizzas menu options include:
Kya: pork belly, halloumi, chimichurri, crema
Tammi: pulled pork, slaw, cheddar, spicy white stuff
The menu will offer more than pizza with hot sandwiches and salads available. Brunch will be available on the menu and launch during the opening. Online ordering will be available on Slice and delivery on Uber Eats and Grubhub.
Limited-edition pizzas will be available for the opening as well as beer specials at the brewery. A raffle will be held at the opening with an array of local partners. The event will be held during regular business hours from 11:30AM to 11PM.