I think the last time I was inside this building, the vast, freestanding structure at 800 E. Altamonte Drive, it was a restaurant called Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse and the year was 1998. Seltzer’s was a low-end steakhouse that served a pretty good product. But it didn’t last long – its greatest claim to fame was taking on city hall over some fiberglass steers and cows that were set up in front of the restaurant. The city claimed they were attention-getting devices subject to the same rules as signage; Harold Seltzer, the owner, countered they were “amusing lawn ornaments.” Never mind that there wasn’t an actual lawn or that they weren’t particularly amusing.
I don’t remember how it was resolved, but the the cattle of discontentment were eventually driven away when Seltzer’s finally fizzled.
I’m sure there must have been other food businesses in the building in the past 24 years but none caught my attention. Not until Las Lomas Mexican Grill, and really only then because it was the end of the year and I was actively seeking Mexican food to fulfill a seasonal craving.
The first Winter Flavors of New York, the food tour I hosted with Art In Voyage last month, is in the history books, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip.
The tour was Dec. 8 though 11 and we packed a lot into those four days. And we had a terrific group – 12 of us in all – most from Central Florida with one of the members joining us from Utah. They were a game group, up for just about anything, which is good because New York City – and Covid-caused closures – threw a few curves at us.
SoDoDoughCo, empty bread box, chef of record at Best New Restaurant winner, and three new tenants.
Remember all those times when I’ve said that naming a restaurant is hard? Well, sometimes it can be an easy thing, too. Like if you have a place in the Orlando district called SoDo and you want to open a pizza place. What else would you call it but So Dough Pizza Co.? That’s the inspired name Rob Bair, owner of Tin and Taco, has given his new concept, which will share space with the Michigan Street tacoteria. So Dough Pizza Co. (and I think you must pronounce Co. with a long O) will offer both Detroit and Chicago tavern style pies. Detroit pizzas are rectangle; Chi-tavern’s are round but cut into squares. There are other differences but that’s the only important thing right now. So Dough Pizza Co. is a great name but it might be a bit site specific if Bair wants to branch out. We’ll see.
Speaking of dough, Olde Hearth Bread Company, one of the charter vendors when East End Market opened in Oct. 2013, has vacated its booth there. OHBC is still baking bread, just not selling it at EEM.
Tap Room at Dubsdread has been voted the winner of the 2021 Best Overall Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants. Chef’s Table at the Edgewater in Winter Garden was second and Maitland’s Luke’s Kitchen and Bar was third.
Several restaurants were close behind, including: Stefano’s Trattoria; Delaney’s Tavern; Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe, which was recently named Best New Restaurant; Bull & Bear; Prato; and Kadence.
Tap Room at Dubsdread is a perennial favorite having won several Foodster Awards including those for Best Burger and Best Power Lunch.
It was supposed to be different, 2021. Which is to say it wasn’t supposed to be different, not the way 2020 was. It was meant to be the way things used to be. And for a time it was. We were able to get back to dining inside, new restaurants opened and some, of course, closed. But there were fewer closings this past year than in the previous year, which, even at the height of the pandemic had a more or less normal number go out of business.
Now, here at the end of ’21, things are looking iffy again. Maybe it’s just a case of two steps forward, one step backward – a temporary blip on the road to recovery. We’ll know soon.
In the meantime, let’s take a look back at past year’s reviews, notable openings, notable closings, trends, transitions and what’s to come.