Newsy Nuggets: Closings, openings and other stuff

Written by Scott Joseph on .

The Ramen interior

  • A ramen shop has closed in downtown Orlando. Not just any ramen shop, The Ramen, which opened just two years ago at the corner of North Orlando Avenue and Amelia Street. It was a quick-serve operation with a fast food mien, but the main dish was nicely done. I suppose this is another closing that can be attributed to Covid-19 and the loss of downtown office worker traffic, especially from the Orlando Sentinel, which is now permanently empty and due to be razed any time now.
  • A salty donut shop will open in Audubon Park on Friday. Not just any salty donut shop, The Salty, a small operation out of south Florida. The Salty will take over the space vacated by Gene’s Auto Services – no greasy donut jokes, please – on Corrine Drive. The company has two locations in the Miami area and two in Texas.

Let's have a big drawing for the holidays

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Gift three

It shouldn’t be so hard to give away gift certificates to good restaurants. But I’ve had a heck of a time lately.

As many of you know, I have weekly drawings for certificates with winners selected at random from the list of my weekly News from the Flog e-letter. If your name is on my list, you’re entered in every drawing.

Each week I “draw” a name – actually I use random.com to generate a number between 1 and the total number of recipients and then find that line on a spreadsheet of the downloaded list. Then I send an email to the corresponding address telling the recipient what he or she has won. All the winner needs to do is respond to my email. (I even give my phone number in case they think it’s a scam.

But lately, crickets. I send out the congratulatory email and I don’t hear back, probably because it was an invalid email address.

Here’s the thing, people. You need to sign up for the e-letter using a valid address or I can’t contact you when you win. Sign up here

And what’s so important about having your email? Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide is supported largely by banner ads that appear on the website. Each week’s e-letter, too, features one or two of those banner ads. They don’t pop out at you, they don’t sing and dance, they’re just there for your consideration. The good restaurants that advertise on my site want my readers to know about them.

Lately I’ve been offering a “winner’s choice” of a $50 gift certificate to Tap Room at Dubsdread; a $50 gift card to Big Fin Seafood Kitchen; or $40 to First Watch plus a First Watch cookbook.

But let’s do something special.

Despite fewer restaurants, Magical Dining raised a record amount for a particularly worthy charity

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Feed Need check copy

Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining event, pandemic edition, raised a record-setting donation of $345,378, thanks in part to its record-setting run that kept the promotion going nearly four weeks past its intended end date.

The funds represent 345,378 dinners sold by participating restaurants who pledge to donate one dollar from every sale.

The beneficiary of this year’s monies is Feed the Need, the initiative started in March to help people affected by the pandemic. Feed the Need is spearheaded by 4 Rivers Restaurants founder, John Rivers, and his company’s charitable arm, 4Roots. In the photo above, Rivers, right, accepts a too-large check from Visit Orlando board chairman Brian Comes.

Since March, Feed the Need has served more than 1.6 million meals with the help of public and private partners in its mission to support farmers, preserve and create jobs, and serve nutritious meals throughout Central Florida.

Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining is a much-anticipated annual event where participating restaurants offer a three-course dinner for $35, which often represents a tremendous bargain. Although there were fewer restaurants on the roster this year, many of them emphasized outdoor dining and offered the three course dinners to go, a first in the event’s 20 years.

First Watch expands its cocktail program to more locations

Written by Scott Joseph on .

First watch bloody

This is just what 2020 needed.

First Watch, the Florida-based breakfast and lunch brand, has announced that it is expanding its cocktail program to most of the Central Florida locations beginning Friday, Dec. 11. Twelve more First Watches (Firsts Watch?) will join the Waterford Lakes location, which had been a pilot for the program along with a few other locations across the nation. The soon-to-open Winter Park restaurant, in the former Cinco Tacos + Tequila building, had already announced that it would serve cocktails.

First Watch’s booze initiative does not include a full bar, nor will there be any bartenders on hand. You won’t be able to request a scotch and soda, say, or a dry martini. Instead, the alcohol selection will be limited to the curated cocktails, including the vodka kale tonic, morning glory (vodka, orange juice, lemon, turmeric, ginger and agave nectar), and the Million Dollar bloody mary (pictured at top), made with the popular Million Dollar bacon.

Initially, 13 of the area’s 18 First Watch restaurants will offer the cocktails (others are still awaiting licensing). To see if your location is on the list, check FW’s brunch cocktails page.