I always gravitate to the same dishes when I order from an Indian restaurant. Part of it is the comfort of familiarity and knowing that it’s something I’ll probably enjoy. It’s also partly to have a benchmark that allows for comparisons.
But when I ordered recently from Mynt Fine Indian Cuisine in Winter Park, I decided to focus on dishes I haven’t had before.
Estefan Kitchen has opened its first location outside of Miami, one of several restaurants at the new Promenade at Sunset Walk near Walt Disney World.
Gloria and Emilio are the Estefans of the name, she the renowned Cuban-American singer who along with Miami Sound Machine gave us the effervescently zingy “Conga” and other classics.
The couple were also the owners of Bongos, the Cuban restaurant that opened in 1997 at what was then known as Downtown Disney West Side, now Disney Springs. It was in a distinctive pineapple-shaped building and served food that, well, let’s just say that when it was announced Bongos would close and the structure would be razed to make room for something else, I offered to push the plunger to detonate the explosives. No one returned my calls.
And so it was with hesitancy that I visited Estefan Kitchen, an offshoot of their Miami Design District restaurant, which remains closed at this time. (The Estefans also own Larios on the Beach on Ocean Drive in South Beach.)
Florida governor Ron DeSantis on Friday announced an immediate implementation of phase three, the final step of the state’s reopening plan.
As part of that plan, restaurants and bars may now operate at full, pre-pandemic occupancy levels. In addition, DeSantis declared that cities or counties would be prohibited from superseding the state’s directive to establish their own lower-capacity mandates. He also said he would hold in abeyance any fines that local municipalities had levied for pandemic-related violations, including mask requirements.
Speaking in St. Petersburg, the governor acknowledged that the pandemic was not over and that increased case levels were still possible. But he rejected any notion that the state would shut down again should a surge occur.
Despite Gov. Ron DeSantis announcing Friday: “Everybody in the pool, the water’s fine” (I’m paraphrasing), most restaurateurs are preferring to dip a toe first before diving into the deep end of questionably murky water. (I believe I’ve sufficiently overused that analogy.)
The Tap Room at Dubsdread posted a note to its guests on its Facebook page Friday that read, “Even though restaurants have been given the green light to go back to 100% capacity, we have decided out of an abundance of caution and respect for our guests’ safety to continue with fewer tables inside while utilizing our adjacent banquet room for extra social distancing seating.”
Greg Allowe of Delaney’s Tavern said his SoDo restaurant would start lifting the restrictions in phases of the next week and evaluate. “We respect what the governor is doing but we want to make sure our guests and staff are safe,” he wrote in a text message.
Denny Tornatore, owner of Tornatore’s Pizzeria & Cafe, also said his College Park restaurant would “ease into it.” “As much as we could use the money we don’t feel safe enough jumping back in.”
Comments to Friday’s article announcing the lifting of restrictions supported both sides of the issue. Some people said they were glad to see everything open back up, while others said they would be less likely to go to a restaurant that was operating at 100 percent of its prepandemic capacity.
I’d like to say the commenters all got along, ahem, swimmingly, but there were some rancorous exchanges.