winemag logoWine Enthusiast magazine has named Orlando one of the world's top food and wine destinations it recommends its readers visit this year. The article in the current issue gives shout outs to local favorites Ravenous Pig, Eola Wine Co., Highball & Harvest, Hawkers Asian Street Fare and others. Orlando is listed alongside the Piedmont region of Italy and New York's Finger Lakes District. 

Here's a link to Wine Enthusiast's 10 Best Wine Destinations 2015.


Waiting tables is hard work. It requires skills that people who have never worked in a restaurant wouldn't understand. That's why not everyone is suited for a life as a waiter (though clearly some without these special abilities are nevertheless employed by restaurants all over). It's also why the system of tipping waiters for the quality of their service works. Give good service, get a better tip.

The problem is, the guest doesn't always go along with that reasoning. Tipping in America is not mandatory and the percentage the guest applies to the final check is discretionary and, at least officially, nonarguable. Because of that, servers go to work every day not knowing if they will be fairly compensated for their hard work.

A restaurateur in Pittsburgh is putting an end to that uncertainty. As reported in this article from Next Pittsburgh, Bar Marco will begin paying its servers a base pay of $35,000 a year, plus offer health benefits and private shares in the business. Co-owner Bobby Fry says he will do this without adding a service charge to guest checks or raising prices substantially.

But, I can hear you saying, if the servers don't have to be friendly and efficient to try to earn a better tip they won't put in the extra effort to provide a good dining experience. Possibly -- anyone who has been to Europe and been waited on by officious, unsmiling waiters might expect to see the same thing here with a policy like this. But considering that Bar Marco is being inundated with job applications following this announcement, I have to believe that the these positions will be treated the same as those in other professions, and the managers will have the final say: Do a good job or we'll find someone who will.

What do you think? As a guest, would you like to frequent a restaurant with a no tipping policy? And what about you servers -- would you rather have a guaranteed wage with benefits? Leave your comments below.


rollups 1I'm not a fan of the rollup.

I don't mean rolled up foods. I quite like a good sushi roll, wrap sandwich or even an oversized burrito, occasionally.

The rollups I'm referring to are the utensils that would be used to eat the food items folded into and rolled up inside the napkin. This package is then placed on the table or atop the plate awaiting the guest's arrival. It's the epitome of laziness on the restaurant's part, and it's tantamount to saying to the guest, "Here, set the table yourself."


Boca exteriorPhoto Be-1 Concepts

Moving the bar was a brilliant idea. Not just moving it, but making it a focal point of the room. It certainly worked for Prato just down the block.

It was Prato that came to my mind the first time I saw the renovated space that is now Boca and that has been a half dozen or so other restaurants over the years, Matilda's the most recent. (I won't run the whole list of names, but I mentioned them in this article.) The bar-central scheme may be one of the reasons that Prato is always packed. It just passed its three-year mark and I don't think I've ever been in there when I haven't had to jockey for a position at the bar just to get a drink — never mind getting a seat. Boca was enjoying the same sort of busy-ness when I visited for dinner recently. My dinner companion remarked that he couldn't remember when he'd seen so many people in that space. It's really wonderful to see, and I hope that it continues and Boca packs them in for a good, long time.

To that end, it would do well to emulate Prato in another area: its food.