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Citypub interior

City Pub is the new restaurant and bar that replaced North Quarter Tavern. The bones of the place are the same, with the central bar and surrounding dining tables. But some decorating touches have been added — royal blue paint, wood wainscoting over a tufted banquette along the back wall — that give it a traditional pub mien.

And the food is still above average, though not as creative as when NQT first opened. But then, in retrospect, that menu was probably too ambitious (and costly).

Yet there’s something about City Pub that just doesn’t seem to congeal. It lacks focus, and the staff don’t seem to have guidance to help them in finding the center. On both of my visits, I felt like everyone there would rather be somewhere else.

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Escargot

The restaurants listed here are nominated for Best French Restaurant in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants. 

You may vote for up to three restaurants. The top vote getters will advance to the finals. Nominations will be accepted through Wed., Feb. 27.

You may write in a candidate, but remember that the Foodster Awards are for Independent Restaurants, defined as those with three or fewer locations. Before writing in a name, please be sure it isn't already on the list -- dupicates will be deleted and the votes associated with the duplicate will not be transferred the original nominee entry.

After voting, please leave a comment about your favorite (be sure to mention the name of the restaurant in your comment or we won't know which one you're referring to).

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Valentines Bacon Final

Valentine’s Day has to be one of the worst days of the year for restaurants. Yes, most of them will have their reservation books maxed out, the dining room fully committed, as they say. But unlike other big dining occasions, Mother’s Day or Christmas or New Year’s Eve, they won’t do as much business.

Think about it: Most of the tables will be two tops, couples out for a romantic meal. So tables that on other evenings might have more butts in seats, also as they say, will be half set.

One exception might be a recent movement for groups of women to go out together on Feb. 14 for a Galentine’s dinner. My understanding of the concept is that it’s supposed to ameliorate the disappointment of being without a significant other on a day dedicated to romance.

I wonder if any guys have thought about organizing a Palentine’s dinner? You know, a boys night out, maybe take in a buddy movie, have a few brewskys, then go have dinner at a nice restaurant with low lighting and soft music to see if there are any Galentine groups they can meet up with.

I’m not saying that restaurants don’t welcome the extra business. Especially when it falls on a weeknight, Valentine’s Day can still be a better than average day of business.

And there are plenty of restaurants going all out to attract yours, whether it's you and your boo or you and your bros. Or BFFs. Or whatever. Here's a sampling:

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Cinco exterior

Well, it is pronounced sinko.

Cinco Tacos + Tequila has closed. The restaurant, which took over the former Carmel Kitchen Wine Bar in Winter Park, had been open only seven months or so.

Back in July, in those first weeks, Cinco was so packed that valet parking was almost mandatory. Who wants to valet park at a taco joint? But the crowds didn't last

My review, published on Nov. 15, after the new had worn off, may offer a clue as to why its popularity waned. “Unfortunately, much of what I had on my dinner visit was unexciting and bland. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good, like fill-the-parking-lot, wait-listed good.”

Cinco’s backers included former NSYNCer Chris Kirkpatrick and actor Mario Lopez. So, no, Cinco couldn’t be Saved By the Mario.

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Delavega exterior

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to tell you about De La Vega — I visited it some time ago. I had a pleasant enough experience, and I was actually anxious to have a non-chain, non-quick-serve restaurant to recommend to Oviedoans (Oviedoers? Oviedites?). People who live in the Oviedo/Winter Springs area.

But for some reason after I visited, my review got delayed and pushed aside. So let me correct that now.

De La Vega is in a development called Oviedo on the Park that features a well-tailored green space surrounding a lake. The evening I visited there was a festival of some sort in the park with music and food and lots of happy people drinking beer.

There were happy people inside the restaurant, too. The presumed De La Vegas of the restaurant’s name are Mano, the general manager and “rum & tequila catador,” and Nora De La Vega, the chef.