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Magdinmo checkBest Buddies ambassadors Seaira Sevison and Travis Morgan; Emily Hunt, director of state operations, Best Buddies Florida; Don Engfer, Visit Orlando Board Chair; Joanne Marsal Vassos, American Express; Amy Drow, development manager, Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida; and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida ambassadors Paige and Tristan McMillen. Image courtesy of Visit Orlando.

A record number of people dined at participating Visit Orlando Magical Dining Month restaurants this year, 251,766 to be exact.

How do I know that? Because for each dinner sold from the special $35 three-course menu, the restaurants donated one dollar to charities chosen by Visit Orlando to benefit from the proceeds. This year the dining program raised $251,766, more than any previous year.

The recipients of the dining dollars this year are Best Buddies, which fosters inclusion and one-to-one friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and The Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida, which strives for acceptance and empowerment for people with Down syndrome and their families.

“What another fantastic year for our Magical Dining program,” George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, said in a statement. “Along with our valuable members in the restaurant industry, we’re excited to make this record contribution to our friends at Best Buddies and the Down Syndrome Association.”

Visit Orlando estimates that it has donated more than $1 million to local charities since initiating the donation feature in 2009. Other charities that have benefitted include:

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FD Italian bar

I counted myself among the skeptics when it was announced that a developer planned to revitalize the area at Curry Ford Road and Bumby Avenue with new restaurants, brewpubs and other boutique businesses, unofficially dubbing it the Hourglass District. There was encouragement when Claddagh Cottage relocated the popular Irish Pub to one of the blocks. And a Foxtail Coffee bar moved into a small strip mall, but heck, Foxtail seems to be following a Starbuckian business model with plans to put them everywhere.

And there were initial signs of hope when a pizza restaurant, Peppino’s Organic Italian Pizzeria & Kitchen moved into a freestanding building that had been home to a long line of short-lived culinary concepts, most of them Latin American focused, that couldn’t make the inexpensive menu and low number of seats a successful combination. A pizzeria made sense because it supplement its dine-in business with takeout or even delivery.

But Peppino’s closed faster than many of those Latin restaurants — less than six months — due, I’m told, to the owner’s health (though mediocre food and stunningly dismissive service didn’t bode well for its longevity).

Then the people at F&D Kitchen in Lake Mary announced they would take it over, also with a pizza concept. I was skeptical again. My experiences with F&D have been mixed. The original F&D Kitchen brought only a shrug. I had a wholly unpleasant experience at its Mexican concept, F&D Cantina, when it first opened in Waterford Lakes, but then quite enjoyed the food, service and surroundings of its second location, also in Lake Mary. (The original Cantina closed.)

So what would I find at F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen? A cozy atmosphere, an exuberant staff, and a well-thought-out Italian menu that goes beyond basic pizza with pastas and even full entrees.

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Attic Door

Laurie and Kevin Tarter, owners of the wildly popular Chef’s Table at the Edgewater and companion restaurant the Tasting Room, have acquired a third Winter Garden venue.

The couple will take over the Attic Door, a wine bar and live music venue, from current owner Lori Gibson. In a Facebook post, the Tarters said that Gibson “has decided to move onto the next phase in her life and has chosen us to be the caretakers of her legacy.”

Speaking by phone Tuesday, Laurie Tarter said they had been friends with Gibson for many years because when they opened the Chef’s Table restaurant there wasn’t a lot going on in Winter Garden. “We played really well together,” Tarter said. Today, of course, Winter Garden is a vibrant community of restaurants and nighttime venues.

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Bauern stube

Bauern-Stube, the longtime German restaurant, has apparently closed. The restaurant had been in business since 1987, originally in the strip mall on South Orange Avenue at Hoffner Avenue, then for the past several years in a former Pizza Hut hut on Orange Avenue just north of Sand Lake Road.

The restaurant was owned by Barbara Hutto, a German native, who oversaw all aspects of the business. Attempts to reach Hutto Tuesday were not immediately successful.

Bauern-Stube specialized in Old World German dishes, from simple Currywurst to Sauerbraten and Wienerschnitzel. It was also known for its eclectic and chaotic interior, decorated with German gewgaws.

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Fairbanks exterior

It isn’t quite old enough to qualify for our ongoing series of the area’s classic restaurants, those 25 years or older, but Fairbanks Restaurant can boast of exceptional longevity in its 23 years of service.

Its name is Fairbanks Restaurant but I always think of it as Fairbanks Diner because it has all the trappings of one. The interior is a little worn. The booths, with cushions covered in plastic, are a bit creaky. One of the freestanding tables has metal folding chairs pulled up to it. Some tabletops have ad-splashed mats with menu items and the message that there are “No fancy napkins here, just good home style cooking.”

And that’s likely the reason for its longevity.