Lamerce interior

Why is it so difficult for people strolling Park Avenue in search of a restaurant to turn a corner?

Sure, there are plenty of restaurants with a bona fide Park Avenue address that are worth dining at. But there are other eateries every bit as worthy of attention just off the main thoroughfare. And I’m talking mere steps, not blocks away.

Consider the space at 155 E. Morse Blvd., the current home of La Merce, a cafe with a Spanish-leaning European menu. On a recent day at the height of the lunch hour while most of the Park Ave restaurants were brimming with diners, I walked into a La Merce so empty that my arrival seemed to startle someone who walked out of the kitchen while I waited at the front door.

I remained the sole diner the entire time I was there, the only one to listen to the mournful-sounding songs of a flamenco guitarist and singer, Diego el Cigala, that played over the sound system.

Tip Jar

I recently told you about Posto 9, a casually upscale Brazilian gastropub in the heart of Lakeland. In that review, I noted the restaurant’s no-tipping policy. Instead of guests leaving a gratuity based on the check amount, the prices on the menu were a bit higher so that management could pay a better wage to more of the restaurant’s employees. A notecard on each table explained the policy and stated that any tips left would be donated to a local charity.

Experiment over.

Orlando Dish

Oh my gosh, just look at the calendar. It appears we’ve cycled back into the “Orlando Needs a Signature Dish” epoch. This is a period that occurs every couple of decades or so, brought on by lamentations that Central Florida has no regional foodstuff that cause people around the world to tell other, “Oh, when you go to Orlando you must have the [enter name of dish here]; they’re known for that.”

We’re not known for anything. It’s regrettable, but it’s true. And it isn’t likely to change.

But that isn’t stopping Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Visit Orlando from trying once again.

In her State of the County address earlier this month, Jacobs announced a new initiative launched with the help of local chefs. Here is how it was presented in the county’s recap of the address:

 Laurel sign

Paris-Bistro, the small French restaurant in a courtyard off Park Avenue, has closed. Laurel Latin Cuisine will open in its place. There are no details about when it will open.

Paris-Bistro had been sold recently but continued to operate under the same name and menu, much to the chagrin of the previous owner, Tatiana Cerruto. 

Cerruto moved the bistro to Park Avenue in 2009 from its original location on Aloma Avenue in the space currently occupied by Anna's Polish Restaurant (which was also the original location of Polonia, now in Longwood). Paris-Bistro was opened in 2005 by Jean-Marie and Roselyne Marlot, who owned Le Bon Appetit in Ocoee. 

On Park Avenue, Paris-Bistro was in the Shops on Park, a highly tiled enclosed space with koi ponds and an elaborate, full-sized fake tree. The space was small -- only about 50 seats -- but posh, a fine facsimile of, well, a Paris bistro.

More on Laurel soon.

Firefly menu

When my order of Chicken & Dumplings eventually arrived, I immediately noticed something was missing. I mean other than a spoon with which to eat it. It seemed to be devoid of dumplings. So not chicken & dumplings. Chicken &.

This was at Firefly Kitchen and Bar, the business that has taken over the former Taps space in Winter Park Village.

I confirmed the dumpling deficit after I was given a spoon — a teaspoon instead of soup spoon — and fished through the thick and tepid broth. Although ordered as a first course, the soup was served simultaneously with the burger that I had ordered as an entree. So I pushed the bowl aside and concentrated on the burger.