Newsy Nuggets: HomeCourt by Tracy McGrady, sky-high bars,

Written by Scott Joseph on .

HomeCourt by Tracy McGrady Exterior Photo copy

Former Orlando Magic player Tracy McGrady is getting into the restaurant business with the opening of HomeCourt by Tracy McGrady in Lakeland. The restaurant will be basketball themed (duh) but will also feature an “immersive golf simulator.” Decor will showcase Magic memorabilia, including jerseys and an Adidas show wall, which I can almost smell.

A 40-seat bar will have a top made of reclaimed planks from a basketball court. I’m hoping that whenever someone spills a drink, several guys with oversized mops will rush out to clean it up.

The restaurant, which will debut Wed., Feb. 24, is in conjunction with Salt Partners Group of San Francisco. So why Lakeland? McGrady is a native of Bartow, so where else would he put his HomeCourt?

Maitland First Watch closing Sunday. Winter Park opening announced.

Written by Scott Joseph on .

First Watch sign

Above, workers recently installed signs on the soon-to-open flagship First Watch restaurant in Winter Park.

After more than 25 years, the Maitland location of First Watch, the popular breakfast and lunch restaurant, will close after lunch service on Sunday, Feb. 21.

The closing is in anticipation of the opening of company’s new flagship and prototype restaurant in Winter Park on Monday, March 1. The new location, at 140 Orlando Ave., occupies the former Cinco Tacos + Tequila building, which began its restaurant life as Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar (it had been an office building before that).

The Winter Park First Watch will feature an outdoor patio and an indoor/outdoor bar. The bar will serve the restaurant’s line of brunchy cocktails.

Most of the staff from the Maitland First Watch will relocate to the new restaurant, according to Gina Merianos, spokeswoman for the Florida based chain.

Prior to the March 1 launch, the Winter Park First Watch will host a soft opening fundraising event of Feb. 27 and 28. The preview will be by invitation only, but those interested in attending can visit the restaurant’s website to sign up to receive an invite.

Matchbook Memories: Joe Allen: New York loses a legendary restaurateur, and Orlando loses a great friend

Written by Scott Joseph on .

JoeAllen front

I was rifling through my stashes of restaurant matchbooks, the pocketable souvenirs I’ve saved over the years, even though I’m not a smoker, and came across one for Joe Allen, the theater district restaurant. It seemed coincidental given that Joe Allen, the owner, died last week at the age of 87.

The stretch of 46th Street west of eighth Avenue has been known as Restaurant Row for decades, but Joe Allen was one of the first to move in to the rundown neighborhood and offer dining and drinking options to theatergoers and the people who worked on the shows, actors, playwrights, stagehands alike.

Joe Allen, which is currently closed because of the pandemic, is a small, cramped space a couple of steps below street level. Its gimmick was that its wall were lined with the posters of Broadway shows, but unlike those in other restaurants, Allen hung only the posters of bona fide flops.

Newsy Nuggets: Flavortown's in O-town and other stuff

Written by Scott Joseph on .

GF Flavortown Kitchen 1

Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen is the latest brand to join Virtual Dining Concepts, the don’t-call-it-a-ghost-kitchen project from Robert Earl. The shock-haired celebrity chef’s menu features such things as jalapeño pig poppers, s-m-cheesesteak egg rolls (the s-m apparently means super melty), and a variety of burgers and sandwiches, including the Chicken Guy! classic. Chicken Guy!, of course, is the Chick-fil-A-like fast-fooder that Fieri and Earl opened at Disney Springs.

Unlike ghost kitchen operations, Virtual Dining Concepts utilizes the kitchens of existing restaurants, and its foods are available only for delivery. Even so, Flavortown Kitchen’s website lists locations at Florida Mall, Millenia Mall, and in Maitland, all of which happen to be locations for Buca di Beppos (Bucas di Beppo? Bucas di Beppi?). Buca di Beppo is one of Earl Enterprises’ brands, so that makes sense. But the Virtual Dining Concept isn’t exclusive to EE kitchens – any restaurant may apply to cook the food of one of its brands.