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  • Chan’s, the Mills 50 Cantonese restaurant, has announced that it will close after nearly 24 years. The owners announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page that the property has been sold to a developer and that its last Crispy Fried Pork Intestines (the menu was pretty authentic) will be served at lunch on Friday, Nov. 20. Besides having good Chinese food, Chan's was a reliable restaurant for Christmas Day dining for many locals, so it will be particularly missed this time of year.
  • It’s beginning to look a lot like a boozy Christmas, which is a lot like the boozy pre-holiday season but with tinsel. The Whiskey, the Restaurant Row pub and eatery, is hosting Maker’s Monday on Dec. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. During that time you can purchase a bottle of The Whiskey’s Private Label Maker’s Mark, have it personalized in festive green etching, and get a glass hand-dipped in MM’s signature red wax. A shaker, too. All for $60. There will be drink specials, as well.

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Ever since I first ate at Las Cazuelas, a small market and cafe on South Conway Road, it has been one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. Authentic food served in a cozy, spotless setting by people who seem genuinely happy that you’re there.

Now comes Taqueria Las Cazuelas, a storefront offshoot on Orlando’s east side. As the name indicates, it’s a taco-centric eatery, though there is no attempt to put a cazuela, or casserole, into a tortilla. Thank goodness.

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Eric Enrique, who was the opening chef at Eddie V’s on Sand Lake Road, has moved west on Restaurant Row to take over at Big Fin Seafood Kitchen. Enrique replaces James Slattery, who was the opening chef there.

Enrique headshotPhilippe Villain, Big Fin’s co-owner, confirmed the personnel change in a phone call Monday. He said he is excited to take Big Fin to the next level up, though he said, “We are going to stay primarily seafood,” but he sees the flavor profiles getting more innovative. “We’re not going froufrou or haute cuisine,” he said. “We have no intention of jacking up our prices.”

Enrique, 45, has been with the Eddie V’s since before it was purchased by Darden Restaurants, in 2013. He moved to Orlando to open the Sand Lake Road restaurant from Scottsdale, Ariz.

Enrique said he has not made any changes to Big Fin’s menu yet, though he is reexamining sources and purveyors. He said a new menu may come out in a month, but will not be a drastic change. “You’ve got to be sensitive to the locals and the dishes they really love.”

Villain said he wanted to make improvements at Big Fin in anticipation of changes along Restaurant Row. “Sand Lake Road’s going to get very competitive,” he said. “Norman’s is coming in,” Villain said of Norman Van Aken’s upscale restaurant that will be Big Fin’s neighbor at the Dellagio Plaza. “The game’s going to get elevated.”

Of Slattery, who had been with Big Fin since it opened in 2009, Villain said, “He’s obviously a great chef but we needed to take a big step up in innovation.”

“Change is never fun, but we needed to move forward.”

Replacing Enrique at Eddie V's is Matt Schmalle, who is moving from Darden's Stamfod Capital Grille where he has worked for 15 years.

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Thanksgiving Project

Thanksgiving is going to be pretty crappy for a lot of Central Floridians this year. Yeah, a lot of us are grumbling because we can’t have the usual gathering of family and friends – we’ll get over it.

But others who are out of work and without assistance can’t even think about a big meal for themselves or their immediate family members.

If you’re in a position to help, consider volunteering for Heart of Florida United Way’s Thanksgiving Project. The second annual effort aims to put together 1500 meals this year.

There are a number of ways to get involved starting on Monday, Nov. 16, with Load In Day. This involves sorting and moving supplies and setting up packing areas. It is not recommended for kids under the age of 10.

But all ages are invited to be part of the Packing Party Days, Tues., Wed. and Thurs., Nov. 17-19. This involves assembling the meal kits and resource packets and decorating Thanksgiving notes for the recipient families.

Friday is Load Out Day, checking the meal kits and loading them into vehicles for transport to the distribution sites.

Distribution Day is Sat., Nov. 21, though most of those time slots have been filled.

Load In, Packing Party and Load Out Days will be at the Orange County Convention Center West Concourse. Distribution will be there and at the Osceola Council on Aging and the Seminole State College Sanford/Lake Mary campus.

Check here for a list of volunteer opportunities and time slots.

If you’re unable to volunteer but would like to help out with a donation, click here.

And if you’re in need of food assistance and would like to register to receive a meal kit, this link will take you there.

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If you can get past the name, you’ll find some pretty good food at FK Your Diet, a Fort Myers/Cape Coral restaurant that recently opened an Orlando location in SoSoDo. It’s a breakfast and lunch eatery that features conventional dishes with creative twists served in copious portions.

But there is that name.

Technically, the F and K are meant to stand for Foster Kid. The concept’s owner, Doug Miller, grew up as a foster child and has dedicated his business to help children in similar situations, pledging a portion of the restaurants’ proceeds to the cause. Admirable.

But Foster Kid Your Diet doesn’t make any sense. FK Your Diet does as crude shorthand. This restaurant isn’t the only nor the first to resort to tongue-in-cheek uncouthness. The popular sandwich shop Bad As’s apparently thinks a well-placed apostrophe makes it more G-rated. And it’s not just independently owned local restaurants, either. The British owner of French Connection clothing retailer boldly uses FCUK as its logo. Not very subtle.

But I’m guessing it’s only those of us of a certain age, those who remember when television was scandalized the first time Johnny Carson said hell on The Tonight Show, will raise a prudish eyebrow.

And like I said, get past it and enjoy some good food.