If you compared the activities at Harbor View to an ice cream sundae, then eating out at night in restaurants would be the whipped cream on top (and in Florida that would include all-you-can-pile-on cherries, sprinkles, and nuts). Every evening, after a morning of activities or shopping, and an afternoon of lounging by the pool, the residents of Harbor View and other condo developments in Florida embark on their evening rituals, which usually begin with eating out. Eating out in Florida is an activity in and of itself, and I do believe that it is this activity, rather than golf or Mah Jongg, that many of the retirees at Harbor View actually come for.
To begin with, there are more choices of restaurants than your stomach can imagine – Chinese buffets, Jewish delicatessens, Greek diners, Italian trattorias, Cuban bodagas, Mexican cantinas, bagelries, bakeries, and more. And of course, there are several to choose from in each of these types. With so many restaurants, one might think that the best of the restaurants in each category would drive the others out of business.
But ‘the best’ is always subject to interpretation, and when it comes to old people and food in Florida, there’s a lot of serious interpretation going on.
“You must try the matzo ball soup at Nana’s Nosh,” Mom said to me on a recent visit.
“Only if you want your blood pressure to rise 20 points. It is full of salt,” her friend Flo retorted. “Bubbe’s is much better. The matzo balls are fluffier, too.”
Or in the case of some restaurants, there’s a general consensus that one food is the best at a certain restaurant, while another food in the same category is the best at another. So, if you are in the mood for chicken picata, you go to Giuseppe’s, where the chicken picata is fantastic, but all of the other entrees are lousy. On the other hand, if you are craving veal parmesan, you go to Antonio’s, where the veal parmesan is out of this world, but the picata is very much in it. If you are dying for some chicken picata, and your partner is craving veal parmesan, then you are out of luck. So you go to Tony’s where nothing is great, but it’s all-you-can-eat for $6.95.
Going out to dinner is an almost nightly event among Mom, Dad, and their friends. Like many other residents, Mom and Dad sometimes go out by themselves. Other times they dine with Flo and Irv, and still other times they eat with friends of theirs from the ‘Young in Spirit’ club. Furthermore, if Mom and Dad want to get together with friends who do not live in Harbor View (and who are unwilling to pay the $3 visitor’s fee to sit at the pool), what better way to catch up with them than over dinner? “Besides,” Mom says, “with the cheap prices at the restaurants here, it just doesn’t pay to cook.”