Tip Jar – local food news

In this week's roundup: Café Rouge, Clarkie's Diner and Timpano Chophouse close; Schakolad opens factory doors; and Taverna Opa owners launch a new venture

So I'm at the Lake Mary Food Truck Crave a couple of weeks ago chatting it up with Café Rouge owners Sam Walsh and Amine "Sam" Samhaoui as they prepared a Moroccan-inspired bocadillo burger (layered with harissa), when they informed me they've closed their restaurant on historic First Street in Sanford. Seems their expansion plans were put on the back burner when the landlord increased the rent, so for now they plan to focus on the food truck scene. Securing a second Café Rouge Express food truck is in the works, but they're still actively looking for a storefront to revive their restaurant in "a better location." A move to Orange County would be a win.

Edgar Schaked, the owner of the Schakolad Chocolate Factory chain, has made his Kissimmee facility a genuine tourist attraction. The Kingdom Factory Adventure Tour offers choco-hounds a bean-to-bar breakdown of the chocolate-making process and an opportunity to fashion their own chocolate bars. There's a museum dedicated to the history of chocolate and, yes, a river of chocolate. More at chocolate

Timpano Chophouse, the longstanding Rat-Pack-themed steakhouse on Sand Lake Road, suddenly closed its doors after 12 years of serving up steaks with a bit of swank. It seems that the Tavistock Group sold the space to Darden, who plan to transform the space into their latest concept – a combination kosher butcher and bicycle repair shop. Of course I kid: Darden plans to tear the place down and replace it with … a swank steakhouse, sans Rat Pack vibe. YAWWWN.

Katerina and Vassilis Coumbaros, co-owners and operators of Taverna Opa, are celeb-rifying with the creation of Healthy Greek Eats – a line of vegan and gluten-free food products they plan to sell at local farmers markets. Comestibles include tzatziki, Greek yogurt, dolmades and hummus, all priced between $3 and $5. It's a start, but they have a way to go before becoming culinary household names on the order of James and Julie Petrakis, another Orlando power couple with Greek roots.

Primo Hoagies on John Young Parkway south of Sand Lake is slated to open later this month, according to their Facebook page … Look for a second Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen to open in May close to the Altamonte Mall … In 2014 Mango's Tropical Café, one of the most popular nightclubs in South Beach, will open an outpost on I-Drive … On South Orange Avenue, Clarkie's – a fave dive diner since 1959 – has closed its doors. Sadly, finding a diner with bars on its windows is becoming an increasingly difficult endeavor.

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