FOOD- DISH- Trouble in paradise: Bartender toasts, takes tumble

On the Saturday before Mother's Day, Dish happened to be enjoying a frosty beverage at the new Cheeseburger in Paradise in Seminole Square when a stocky bartender climbed up and stood on the bar.

Dish had been watching the lively bar crew perform their Tom Cruise/Cocktail-style bottle flipping and tossing as they served the capacity crowd, but when the bartender awkwardly attempted to scale the bar, Dish began to worry. After several tries, he finally towered above us, shouting for attention, and proceeded to offer a toast to the mural of the setting sun painted on the wall– a Cheeseburger tradition, he said.

We all raised our glasses, and in keeping with the spirit of the day, chorused "To Mom!" Then, before we had even wiped our lips, the hapless mixologist plunged from the bar and broke his leg. The crowd gasped, but it had happened so fast and the place was so crowed that the rest of the bartenders were forced to work around their fallen comrade, stepping over and around him as he writhed on the floor.

Finally, an ambulance arrived, and the injured toaster was wheeled out through the restaurant, giving everyone the thumbs up as he disappeared through the front door. All in all, Dish thought both the staff and the customers handled the mishap gracefully.

Dish later called Cheeseburger's to find out how the poor guy was doing and to see whether the nightly toast to the setting sun would continue to be a Cheeseburger tradition locally. However, the manager on duty was as frosty as the beverage Dish had enjoyed, refusing to give up the name of the bartender, or his own, or even to comment on the incident at all.

Undeterred, Dish contacted Cheeseburger in Paradise corporate headquarters . Maybe Jimmy Buffett himself could shine some light on this! Alas, Dish was given the runaround; one woman told us someone would "definitely" call us back (no one did); then media relations manager, Anna-Marie Zazzero told us to submit an e-mail about the incident that "might or might not" be responded to. Not exactly the laid back response we'd expected from a place that likens a visit there to a "trip to an island fantasy." Anyway, we hope the bartender, whoever he is, is one the mend.

Bodo's goes plastic

In other news, (our blog) reports some big news from Bodo's: they now take credit cards! Charlottesville's fastest-serving but slowest-evolving bagel chain has recently made a move. After 18 years of accepting only cash and checks, Bodo's Bagels has begun accepting credit cards for purchases. Signs went up two weeks ago at all three locations announcing the change."The world's going plastic- we're trying to get with the times," says owner Brian Fox, who implemented the change around May 11.

"The Corner store really pushed this," Fox explains, "because so many students carry only plastic." Fox says that he had resisted the change because serving inexpensive food requires speed, and old-fashioned card scanners might bog down the transaction. The new machines are "pretty instantaneous," says Fox, adding that sales under $25 require no signature. And while Bodo's alters its strictly scripted regimen in this way and others - remember how the place served warm brown water until switching to "BoJoe" coffee in the mid-1990s– certain things remain the same. For instance, buyers of a dozen bagels are often surprised to learn that they can get just three of the dozen sliced in half. Perhaps Bodo's has yet to invest in that $20 miracle known as the Bagel Guillotine. In case anyone thinks the 10-year effort to open the Corner location has over-taxed the owner's energy or that he's indifferent to the fact that self-slicing bagels is known as a key reason for Sunday morning emergency room visits, again Fox pleads speed. "Some of our services are limited because of speed," says Fox. "In order to be a good value, we have to be fast, and in the time it takes to slice a dozen bagels, we can make three sandwiches."

Samurai showdown?

With so many restaurants in town, can we handle two different restaurants with the same name? Such is the case with Sakura vs. Sakura.

In mid-May, Sakura, the Japanese steakhouse chain, opened a new restaurant at Hollymead Towncenter. The chain– founded in 1998 in Fredericksburg– now has 13 locations in Maryland and Virginia.

Meanwhile, the other Sakura (which, by the way, is the Japanese name for those ornamental cherry trees so familiar in Japanese art), Sakura Sushi & Noodle on the Corner– which opened in Charlottesville two years before the Sakura steakhouse chain was founded– is stuck taking phone calls from customers who think owner Wen Chen has opened a second location.

"Every day here people call to ask about the steak house," Chen laughs. "People say how happy they are that I've opened another place."

Despite his good humor, Chen thinks it might be worth seeking some legal advice about the situation. "I'm seeing my lawyer tomorrow," he reported. "Maybe I'll ask him about it."

'Cheeseburger' was no paradise for one of its bartenders the day before Mother's Day.