How Tallahassee's dining scene weathered the storm

The weather hasn't been kind to restaurants in Tallahassee.

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 aftermath — from Friday's deadly tornadoes.

City Dogs Cafe, owned by Michael Robinson (which also owns Ma's Diner in Bannerman Crossings) was already facing challenges due to construction on Railroad Avenue, but storm damage dashed its hopes of overcoming difficult times.

“Closed forever,” Robinson posted on Instagram on Friday. “Our building was completely destroyed by the tornado that swept through this area. We are now in recovery mode. Pray for everyone in this area. Many people have lost their dreams today.”

That certainly seemed to be true in the Railroad Square Art District, which suffered so much devastation. But some stores remained intact or could be repaired, and there was also uncertainty.

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

What made matters worse was that Sunday was Mother's Day. Anderson was among the restaurateurs who planned a large brunch event to attract customers. Its title was “Pretty in Pink.”

Sam Burgess had just opened the new location of his restaurant Pineappetit in the Railroad Square Food Hall on May 1st. On Mother's Day, he promoted his first brunch at the new restaurant and planned to give away 25 of his cookbooks and a free dessert to the first 50 people. Then there were tornadoes on Friday.

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

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

While some restaurants were not directly damaged by the tornado, they were affected by the power outage.

Casa Tapas & Cantina was among the restaurants on Apalachee Parkway that lost power over the weekend. A few days before the storm, the restaurant only had a few seats available for its Mother's Day brunch, but the owners had to cancel.

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

“It was a big disappointment for us,” he said Barry Shieldsthe General Manager of the Governors Club, who noted that Mother's Day and Easter were two of the most popular days for eating out.

“That’s a loss of $30,000 a day in sales,” Shields said. The club had power Monday but still no internet or phone service.

Across the street, the Hayward House had power and was open on Mother's Day, offering brunch, mimosa pitchers 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 dine out at the Hayward House.” For our take-out guests, you can do so in the loading zone next to our Parking buildings to easily park there, pick up and go without having to worry about parking. We are here for you all, serving warm food and drinks as we all weather these storms.”

The National Restaurant Association calls Mother's Day the most popular restaurant holiday of the year. Business is often spread over the weekend, not just at brunch.

Georgio's isn't open on Sundays, but expected a lot of business on Friday and Saturday nights – “at least 200 covers each night,” he said Leni SpearsOperations manager of Georgio's and daughter of the owners George And Karen Koikos. “We hope to open on Wednesday.”

Another consequence of a lack of electricity: the loss of food.

“I can assure you that we lost food and revenue at Sliders,” he said Drew McLeodwhich has started Slider with his son Gabriel and is the owner of Savour.

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

With so many food challenges over the weekend, several locations stepped up to meet the need.

Olean McCaskill, owner of Olean's on Adams Street, near where extensive damage occurred, was able to open her restaurant after the storm passed Friday morning and cooked a lot of food. She offered it free to people in the community who needed a hot meal.

Earley's Kitchen was without power Saturday, but the restaurant posted the following: “Despite the challenges, we have ramped up our gas kitchen to provide hot meals for our neighborhood. We were closed yesterday and today, but we will keep you updated as we navigate this together. Stay safe, Tallahassee.”

On Sunday, Burrito Border offered $3 tacos with fries and drinks.

Second Harvest of the Big Bend aims to meet food and water needs and asks the community, “Please stand with us and donate whatever you can to help us in this effort.”

Rochelle Koff from Tallahassee Table reports.

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