Cress exteriorPhoto: Cress

When Cress celebrates its ninth anniversary, in August, it will once again change concepts. The DeLand restaurant will essentially no longer operate as a conventional restaurant.

But then little about Cress has been conventional, including its chef and co-owner, Hari Pulapaka, who by day is a math professor at Stetson University, and his wife and Cress co-owner, manager and sommelier, Jenneffer, who is also a podiatric surgeon.

They last changed the concept two years ago, offering Taste Cress, a multi-course degustation, and Counter Cress, for the a la carters. Recently Hari has been performing all kitchen positions solely for the restaurant, which is open only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

When the concept changes yet again in August, it won’t even be open for those days, at least not consistently. In fact, it will not have any regular hours.

Why the change? “Because I’m bored with doing it this way,” Hari Pulapaka told me.

“Also,” he added, “I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a normal life and have a restaurant.”

Instead of regular restaurant hours, the new plan will will offer a “calendar of events,” with wine dinners, cooking classes, guest chefs and farm-to-table dinners. “There may be a week when it’s just cooking classes, maybe a week with just wine classes” he said. “We just won’t have any advertised hours.”

Pulapaka explained that being tied to a routine was beginning to weigh on them, and he isn’t comfortable with having other chefs take over when he’s not there. “I don’t know how chefs do that,” he said, “put their food in someone else's’ hands.” He also hopes the new concept will allow him to be more creative. “If I have to have escargot on my menu one more time I’m going to shoot myself.”

Cress opened in August of 2008 and has been well received critically. Pulapaka has been nominated on multiple occasions for the Best Chef South award from the James Beard Foundation. Cress recently was awarded the Gold Award for Most Romantic in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

Cress will continue to operate on its current schedule until the end of August.

Rikki Tiki

I went over to Cocoa Beach the other day for the dedication of the renovated pier and remodeled bar at the far end, now called Rikki Tiki Tavern.

The name might remind you of the story in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book Rikki Tikki Tavi. That, of course, is the story of the titular mongoose who saves a British family from a cobra. Fun reading for kids.

But Rikki Tiki Tavern has nothing to do with that.

Foodster Best TexFoodster Best Mex

It’s Cinco de Mayo, another obscure holiday from another country co-opted by Americans as an excuse to excessively eat and drink. (If you’re unfamiliar with the backstory of Cinco de Mayo, I explain it in this column from the archives.)

Personally, I’ve never needed an excuse to excessively eat and drink, but if you’re psyched for Cinco, consider visiting one of our newest winners of Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

For Best Mexican, the readers chose Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant. This is the restaurant on North Semoran Boulevard, just north of Colonial Drive. It is not associated with the similarly named Garibaldi Mexican Cuisine. Here’s the review I did of Garibaldi just after it moved into its larger space not very long ago.

Second place went to Agave Azul and voters chose Rick Bayless's Frontera Cocina at Disney Springs for third place.

In the Tex-Mex category, Winter Park’s Pepe’s Cantina took the Platinum award while the charming JJ’s Grille took the gold. Cocina 214, whose very name unabashedly identifies it as Tex and not authentic Mexican (214 is the area code for Dallas), was a show, to use a racing term. (Cocina 214 hosts an annual May 5 race of chihuahuas, with, I can only imagine, teeny tiny jockeys.)

We’ve also just launched an ancillary category: Best Craft Tacos. Head over to the Foodster page now and vote for your favorite. (One of the nominees, Black Rooster Taqueria, is offering a coupon so you can try before you vote.)

Congratulations to the recent winners, good luck to the Taco Crafters, and may the best chihuahua win.

Best Craft Tacos blank plaque

Today, as we contemplate Cinco de Mayo, we launch a new category in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants: Best Craft Tacos.

Creative craft tacos represent a significant food trend, and it takes more than just slapping some ingredients inside a tortilla and calling it a dias. More than with traditional tacos, these often take ingredients not necessarily associated with Latin or Southwestern cuisine. And because the ingredients might be unusual, they also must make sense.

The nominees have demonstrated that they know the craft taco game. Click here to see the list and to vote.