Around the State
Within a brief walk of the Florida Capitol, the House’s lead negotiator for a Seminole gambling compact can cast aside weighty concerns and thoughts of slot machine exclusivity and bite into a sandwich named after himself, the “Galvano” Tuscano Eggplant Supreme.
Rep. Bill Galvano's name is but one among many behind the lawmaker-inspired lunches lawmakers and the public can order at Andrew’s Capital Grill and Bar on Adams Street.
The Bradenton Republican's eponymous meal is just one example of how downtown Tallahassee restaurants attract lawmakers eager to get down to meat and potatoes after hours and hours of budget crunching, heated debates, and flowery speeches.
Andrew’s has been serving lawmakers, and the Capitol’s associated lawyers, lobbyists and aides, for about 37 years. The restaurant courts lawmakers with on-street dining, fast service and a friendly reputation. Owner Andrew Reiss has curried it all -- and how? By personally seeing to customer needs on the restaurant floor, said manager Chevy Farrell.
That can mean letting the high-profile clientele place orders not on the menu. One customer made the odd request for a New York strip steak with provolone cheese.
Earlier this session, the aide of a certain state representative asked the restaurant to create a personalized menu for a day and to change the names of several sandwiches.
“They kind of waited until the last minute, and they wanted pretty much us to do the work for them, to print out menus and stuff,” he said. “And it was, like, ’We’re a little busy for that. We’re more worried about making this place run correctly.
"But those kinds of requests, or complaints, are few and far between,” Farrell said.
“They don’t often complain due to the fact that they do get taken care of pretty well,” he said.
At Metro Deli Downtown on Monroe Street, time is of the essence when it comes to keeping lawmakers satisfied.
“We usually have to make it as fast as we can, as good as we can,“ said Josh Snead, an owner.
Snead said the deli has learned what dishes certain lawmakers prefer and tries to anticipate their needs. He sees his sandwhich and soup shop as an escape from the stress of the Capitol.
In a town that turns on the schedule of lawmakers, maintaining a restaurant's profitability in the slow season can take finesse. Businesses have learned to make the best use of the resources available to them in attempting to attract a steady stream of diners.
Andrew’s survives in the off-season by promoting its central location, happy hour, catering services, and streetside seating, all of which are big draws.
Goodies Eatery on College Avenue has built its customer base by catering to nearby lawyers’ offices and other businesses, said manager James Farrell. He said the city worked hard to compensate for the drop in business when lawmakers aren't in town by encouraging more downtown shopping and by staging regular festivals, such as Springtime Tallahasssee.
“It stays pretty busy downtown,” he said.
Reach Alex Tiegen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (561) 329-5389.