How Tallahassee’s restaurant scene weathered the storm

tally tornado 2
Several places stepped up to fill a need in the face of so many food challenges over the weekend.

The weather hasn’t been kind to Tallahassee’s restaurants.

In April, Backwoods Crossing was temporarily closed due to flooding. This weekend, several restaurants were hit hard, either physically or financially, by the damage — or ramifications — of Friday’s deadly tornadoes.

City Dogs Cafe, owned by Michael Robinson (who also owns Ma’s Diner in Bannerman Crossings), had already been facing challenges due to construction on Railroad Avenue, but the storm damage dashed his hopes of overcoming tough times.

“CLOSED FOREVER,” Robinson posted on Instagram Friday. “Our building was completely destroyed by the tornado that ripped through this area. We’re in salvage mode now. Pray for everyone in this area. A lot of people lost their dreams today.”

That certainly seemed true in the Railroad Square Art District, which suffered so much devastation. But some businesses were left intact or fixable, and there was uncertainty as well.

On Saturday, Artesa Anderson, owner of Sweet Boozy Cakes and Cafe, in the former home of Crum Box Gastgarden, was still waiting for power lines at her front entrance to be cleared so she could determine the severity of the damage.

Making matters worse, Sunday was Mother’s Day. Anderson was among restaurateurs who had been planning a big brunch event to draw customers. Hers was called “Pretty in Pink.”

Sam Burgess had just opened the new location for his restaurant, Pineappetit, in Railroad Square’s food hall, on May 1. He had been promoting his first brunch at the new restaurant on Mother’s Day, with plans to give away 25 of his cookbooks and a free dessert to the first 50 people. Then the tornadoes hit on Friday.

But Burgess posted this encouraging social media post on May 12.:

“Bad news, our first brunch event is postponed until next Sunday, good news, our building is still standing strong. prayers to all business owners affected by the storm.”

While some restaurants weren’t damaged directly by the tornado they were impacted by the loss of power.

Casa Tapas & Cantina was among the restaurants on Apalachee Parkway without power over the weekend. A few days before the storm, the restaurant only had a few available slots open for its Mother’s Day brunch.

“Mother’s Day is typically one of our biggest days of the year, so not being able to open really stung, not just from a business perspective but because it is such a special day for the mothers in Tallahassee,” said Jose Martinez, the restaurant’s marketing representatives.”We had to cancel at the last minute and I know many people were looking forward to our brunch.

“There was no power in our three restaurants and a small part of the roof flew off,” Martinez said. But the restaurant is aiming to open for brunch next Sunday”

Restaurateurs Genaro Ramirez and his wife, Claudia, who also own C|G Margaritas & Cocina on Thomasville Road and their original restaurant, Casa Grande Bar & Grill on Apalachee Parkway.

The Governors Club in downtown Tallahassee was expecting about 500 customers on Mother’s Day, but it was unable to open on Sunday due to the power outage.

“It was a big disappointment for us,” said Barry Shields, the Governors Club’s general manager, who noted that Mother’s Day and Easter are two of the most popular days for dining out.

“It’s a $30,000 loss in revenue for the day,” Shields said. The club had power on Monday but it was still without Internet and phone service.

Across the street, Hayward House did have power on Mother’s Day and was open, offering brunch, mimosa carafes, and live music.

On Monday, the restaurant posted: “While thousands of Tallahassee residents are still without power, we humbly invite you to dine in or take out at Hayward House. For our take-out diners, you can park in the loading zone next to our building to easily park, pick up, and head out without the concern of parking. We’re here for you all, serving hot food and drinks as we all weather these storms.”

The National Restaurant Association cites Mother’s Day as the most popular holiday of the year to eat at restaurants. Business is often spread throughout the weekend, and not just for brunch.

Georgio’s isn’t open on Sundays but it was expecting a lot of business on Friday and Saturday night — “at least 200 covers on each of the evenings,” said Leni Spears, director of operations for Georgio’s and daughter of owners George and Karen Koikos. “We’re hoping to open on Wednesday.”

Another consequence of no power: A loss of food.

“I can assure you that at Sliders, we lost food and revenues,” said Drew McLeod, who launched Sliders with his son, Gabriel, and is the owner of Savour.

“Savour had two generators to keep food cold,” he said. Power was also restored to the downtown restaurant before Sliders in Midtown.

Several places stepped up to fill a need in the face of so many food challenges over the weekend.

Olean McCaskill, owner of Olean’s on Adams Street, near so much damage, was able to open her restaurant after the storm passed on Friday morning and cooked a lot of food. She offered it for free to people in the community in need of a hot meal.

Earley’s Kitchen was without electricity on Saturday, but the restaurant posted this: “Despite the challenges, we fired up our gas-powered kitchen to provide hot meals for our neighborhood. We’ve been closed yesterday and today, but we’ll keep you updated as we navigate this together. Stay safe, Tallahassee.”

On Sunday, Burrito Border was offering $3 tacos with chips and beverages.

Second Harvest of the Big Bend is aiming to help with the demand for food and water and is urging the community to “please stand with us and donate whatever you can to help us in this effort.”

Rochelle Koff of Tallahassee Table reports.

Rochelle Koff

Rochelle Koff is a dining blogger, freelance writer, former Miami Herald editor & restaurant critic. She currently writes for Tallahassee Table. Her goal is to try every restaurant and experience every food trend in and around the Capital City.


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