On Our Plate: Save on Taste of the Nation Tickets in LA + MSP; Grilled Romaine Lettuce; Portland Restaurant Month + More

Taste of the Nation Minneapolis HOTList is one of the hottest events happening this month in the Twin Cities.

Happenings on and around OpenTable…

* Save 10% on tickets to Taste of the Nation in Los Angeles on June 9th. Click thru for exclusive discount code.

* Save $5 on tickets to Taste of the Nation Minneapolis HOTlist in the Twin Cities on June 10th. Click thru for exclusive discount code.

* Palm Springs Desert Resort Restaurant Week reservations are live. Reserve to enjoy special $26 or $38 dinners, May 31-June 16.

* Dine About Town San Francisco is almost here. Book now for $18.95 two-course lunches and $36.95 three-course dinners, June 1-15Continue Reading

Last Call at Jo’s in NYC: Too Brief a Treat

The stylish-yet-seemingly-secret dining rooms at Jo’s in Nolita.

Every time a restaurant closes, a piece of my heart breaks — for a hundred different reasons. Primarily, though, it means a dream has, at least momentarily, been dashed.

So is the case with Jo’s in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. Established four years ago by Jim Chu and Johnny Santiago, Jo’s sought to fill a unique gap — that of neighborhood watering hole and everyday restaurant with a warm, welcoming vibe. They courted their regulars, held fun contests (Pancakes!), created an anti-social media postcard campaign, and tweaked their menu very carefully, seeking out kitchen talent who understood their vision and respected the price point they had set for their unusually accessible menu. Chu and Santiago, both longtime veterans of New York City’s bar and restaurant scene (despite their youthful looks), gave cheeky seminars on how to semi-succeed in business, always maintaining their optimism and good humor. On any given night, either one or both could be found on premise, greeting diners, pitching in when duty called, and making sure guests were having a good time.

Despite these careful and creative efforts, Jo’s will shut its doors at the end of service tonight after not even half a decade in business. What led to its untimely demise? Well, this piece by Josh Ozersky regarding the state of dining, blogging, and PR in New York City may shed some light on why only those with the deepest of pockets seem destined to survive. But, ultimately, says co-owner Santiago, “I think for us the biggest issue was our space itself. The location was tough, the physical location. In the end, that’s what did us in.” Continue Reading

On Our Plate This Week: TIME Touts Our iPhone App; Dine Out for No Kid Hungry Enrollment; Restaurant Weeks Continue in Vegas, Miami + Orlando

Josh Ozersky thinks our app is fit for foodies!

Happenings on and around OpenTable this week…

* Thanks to Josh Ozersky and TIME for naming our app one of its 10 great iPhone apps for foodies.

* Restaurants can help end childhood hunger by signing up to join the Share Our Strength Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign taking place September 18-24, 2011. Register here!

* Restaurant Weeks happening this week include Las Vegas Restaurant WeekMiami Spice, and Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month.

* Looking ahead, reservations are now open for additional restaurant weeks, including Center City District Restaurant WeekLouisiana Seafood Restaurant WeekMain Line Restaurant Week, and San Diego Restaurant Week.

* Have you found out what type of diner you are? What are you waiting for? Take our quick quiz and stop wondering!

* Le Bernardin will reopen on Friday after an extensive and impressive renovation.

* Meet the winner of Jo’s 2nd Annual Labor Day Pancake Eating contest!

Are You the Pancake King or Queen of NYC? Prove it on Labor Day at Jo’s!

Is this New York's most civilized competitive-eating contest?

Last year, our friends at Jo’s restaurant in Nolita held their very first pancake eating contest. It was a delicious success — so much so, that they’re doing it again this year, on Monday, September 5, 2011, at 4PM. I spoke with Johnny Santiago, Jo’s co-owner and the event’s co-conspirator, about it.

Whose idea was the pancake eating contest, and what was the impetus? Why pancakes?

Executive Chef Michael Barash came up with the idea, but the whys are that we wanted to do something fun, last summer had been a long, hot summer, and because our pancakes are $@8&in’ delicious. As a kid I always tortured my mom about pancakes. They had to look like the photo on the box! She became a pancake master! God bless her, putting up with my crap.

She sounds like a good mom. I might have swatted you with a spatula, if you criticized my ‘cakes. So, how do you and Jim Chu keep out the competitive eaters? Google? Or don’t you?

Last year two professional eaters got in. While that proved to be very entertaining and made for high drama, it was completely unfair. They murdered the competition! So, yes, we now Google everyone!

Industry professionals, including Nate Appleman, came down to cheer on the competitors.

What are some of the parameters? Can people eat with their hands? Are there beverages you can or cannot consume, etc.?

You must use a fork and knife, because Jo always said, “You can eat all you want, but don’t be an animal.” You can’t dip the pancakes in water, but you can drink water or whatever you’d like. Contestants are also encouraged to be entertaining.

Personality counts? Cool. So, tell me about the pancakes. What type are they (buttermilk, sourdough, blinkens, etc.). I’m not eating carbs at the moment, so the more you tell me about the pancakes, the vicariously happier I will be. Also, do they have to put syrup on the pancakes?

They are buttermilk-ricotta pancakes with cherry maple syrup.

Continue Reading