tip jar

Back in August we discussed that there was another movement afoot to dismantle the largely American practice of tipping in restaurants. We noted at the time that this isn't a new thing -- people have been talking about it for decades -- but that with calls for paying higher wages to people in hospitality the time might finally be here.

Now Danny Meyer, one of the most successful restaurateurs in the country, has announced that he will do away with the practice of tipping servers at all 13 of his Union Square Hospitality Group properties. They include such celebrated restaurants as Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern. As the New York Times reported Wednesday, the Modern, the well-regarded Michelin-starred restaurant inside the Museum of Art, will be the first to make the change. Instead of adding a mandatory service fee to the bill, as some restaurants with no-tipping policies have done, Meyer's restaurants will raise menu prices. 

A person who answered the phone at the Modern Wednesday said that he did not know when the new policy would go into effect and that the staff members were having a meeting in the afternoon to learn more about it. He said there were a lot of mixed feelings among the servers. According to the Times, the other 12 restaurants would follow by the end of 2016.

Danny Meyer is also the man behind the popular Shake Shack chain, which will not be part of the new policy, so feel free to leave your change behind when you pay for your burger.


Market on South exterior

I have a new favorite vegan restaurant. Not that I had an old favorite, but there is much to like about Market On South, a new market. On, um, South Street. It’s charming, edgy and as enticing as any meat-centric eatery.

Now, I have to be careful here. I’ve learned from writing about vegan restaurants in the past that many of the people who follow the strict regimen don’t seem to have a sense of humor about it. I call it an irony deficiency. One of my favorite columns I wrote as the Chow Hound was about a vegan restaurant. It was located in a space that was a former (and future, as it turned out) gay bar, so I wrote the review as though vegan were a lifestyle choice. I made myself laugh; I made a lot of vegans angry. My goodness, the hate mail I received. Some of them, paradoxically, were out for blood.

So let me be perfectly straight<ahem>forward: The food I tasted at Market On South was terrific and I recommend you try it.


FFC logo

Flying Fish Cafe is next in line for a complete renovation. The popular restaurant at Disney's BoardWalk will not be taking reservations beyond January 31, 2016, and will close Feb. 1 for several months as the redesign takes place.

I also hear that when it reopens, Flying Fish Cafe will have a new bar and lounge, to be built in the sweets shop space between Trattoria al Forno and the Fish. That will be a great addition.

California Grill underwent a similar renovation a couple of years ago and was out of commission for about half a year. Both restaurants were originally designed by the late Martin Dorf of New York. no word yet on who will be doing the redo of the Fish; San Francisco's Puccini Group was tapped for the California refurbishing. Update: This may be an inside job handled by Disney Imagineering.

Dorf's design of Flying Fish Cafe recalled his childhood memories of Coney Island -- Flying Fish is a reference to an amusement ride -- and it was filled with all sorts of fun sights. (One fun fact about the original design: Dorf told me that before the restaurant opened, the wife of Michael Eisner, Disney's chief at the time, came in to tour the restaurant. There were a couple of fish finishes that showed the sea creatures standing erect. They looked, Dorf admitted, quite phallic. Mrs. Eisner took one look at them and said, "Those go." They went.)

The menu will be overhauled, as well, but just as California Grill kept its pork tenderloin with polenta, Flying Fish Cafe will retain the potato-wrapped snapper. Chef Tim Keating will stay on to work with the Concept Development Team.

Flying Fish Cafe is among the top tier of Walt Disney World restaurants, on par with California Grill and Citricos.

More to come.



It's a tough location.

In just the last several years, 200 W. Fairbanks Ave. in Winter Park has been home to three short-lived occupants. The latest, Frank & Steins, a second location for a downtown Orlando beer and brats place, closed on Sunday.

Before F&S, Shipyard Emporium had dropped anchor there, and before that Strollo's Cucina Due. Longtime residents will remember it as the location of the first Dexter's before that popular restaurant and wine bar (wine market, too, in that location) started multiplying and then moving from that location to the then just-emerging Hannibal Square in Winter Park's West End.

All of the occupants of the Fairbanks location have suffered from the same setback: parking is a bear. I don't know how Dexter's lasted as long as it did -- at that time it shared the lot with a laundromat. My guess is that some of the nearby businesses (a popular radio station was located next door) allowed guests to park in their lots after hours and that privilege wasn't grandfathered in when Dexter's moved out (and the building was remodeled into a larger restaurant and bar space.

I'll admit that several times I've driven by and thought I should stop in to see the new Frank & Steins but kept going when I saw no easy parking space.

But, I'm sure that won't stop someone else from trying to make a go of that space with the thought -- perhaps a mistaken one -- that with Rollins College within walking distance the students will be enough business to support it.

The downtown Frank & Steins, at 150 S. Magnolia Ave., remains open.


Hangar Bar interior

After attending the star-studded and decidedly flashy opening of Morimoto Asia in beautiful downtown Disney Springs, I decided to pop in to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, just across the way, which opened with much less fanfare than MA.

Maybe that’s because the Disney folks want you to believe the Hangar Bar has been there a long time. Sixty years, to be precise. That’s what it says on the coasters, anyway: Est.d 1955 (how’d I miss this before?). Must have been after Lindsey retired as a pilot for hire, a favorite of Indiana Jones, who hired him to plane him to adventure and to add comic relief when Jones encountered Jock’s pet snake. As we all know, Disney can’t open a restaurant or bar just to have a restaurant or bar; it has to have some sort of story attached. (Even the licensed Morimoto Asia is supposed to be housed in a former bottling plant; more on that another time.)

Let me just say that as a place to drink, Hangar Bar is way cool. It is, ironically, not large enough to be an actual hangar, and I like that about it. (Turning the World Showplace event space at Epcot into a Hangar Bar with a couple of 747s in it would be pretty neat, too.) It looks like the people who did the decor — let’s call them set designers — had a blast loading the place up with artifacts, posters, maps and gewgaws. The lighting and sound both add to the moodiness. Seriously, this is one beautifully curated venue.

I wish the food had been given as much attention.