Regardless of age, most people enjoy eating a good meal out. Whether to celebrate a special occasion or just to take a break from their own kitchen, seniors love dining out, and some local restaurants cater to this clientele — beyond the early bird special.
At Ristorante Firenze in Reisterstown, local seniors enjoy leisurely lunches with the restaurant’s 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. lunch specials. For $10, the “pick due” option allows customers two choices between salad, soup, pizza, sandwich or pasta.
“They meet friends or their children to have lunch,” said Larry Leonardi, who owns the restaurant with his brother, Brian. “We have groups of seniors come in and relax. It’s a quiet, nice space, and a laid back place to have lunch. Some of them act like it’s dinner time — they get wine; some bring card games and socialize.”
A group of local seniors meet at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia for regular book club meetings and to socialize. History buffs will be interested to know that the restaurant has a 1907 Van Kannel revolving door in the front, which was originally in New York City’s Chrysler Building.
Tori Buscher, chief experience officer of Victoria Gastro Pub, speaks fondly of one regular customer who she said resembles Santa Claus. “I’d been telling him, ‘I want you to be Santa.’ A few years ago, he showed up to our pub in a Santa Claus outfit. He is literally the best Santa Claus. At first, he was a regular customer, and he has become almost like family.”
Many local restaurants pride themselves on their warm and welcoming environment. “Everyone who comes in our restaurant gets treated like family,” said Leonardi of Ristorante Firenze. The restaurant sees many regulars, including one gentlemen who comes in every few days and leaves with take-out orders to last him until he returns again for lunch.
For some seniors, accessibility and noise level are concerns when dining out.
“When I pick a restaurant, I look for a place with good food, that’s not too noisy, that’s easy to get into with not a lot of steps,” said Jean Foland (the author’s grandmother), who can frequently be spotted at Panera Bread and Crystal Thai in Pikesville. In her 80s she discovered a newfound love — sushi.
The Prime Rib offers easy access. “We offer indoor parking with an elevator that will bring guests to the main lobby of the building, so if a guest has a walker they can access the restaurant without having to navigate any stairs,” said manager Brad Black.
With a ramp to the main entrance, Ristorante Firenze gets groups from local elder care facilities. They also do presentations in local retirement homes, such as pasta-making demonstrations for the residents.
At Victoria Gastro Pub, the “adults only” dining room is an appeal for senior guests and adults who prefer a more peaceful dining experience. “We are very kid-friendly, but we know some people want a more quiet, intimate evening,” said Corey Mull, chief marketing officer. “We are able to meet the needs of both families and adults in our restaurant.”
In addition, Victoria Gastro Pub staff are heavily trained to handle dietary restrictions and accommodations, should they arise. “We can modify all of our food,” Mull said. “We’re making everything on demand.”
And it’s just not millennials who want organic. In keeping with more widespread dining trends, many seniors want locally sourced, fresh and healthy food options when they go out to eat, too.
And yet, they still love the classic corned beef sandwich or plate of latkes. For many in the community, the closing of Suburban House was the end of an era. It was often the go-to for gathering with family and friends, with many loyal longtime customers.
“When it comes to seniors, they enjoy a good steak,” said Buscher, who co-owns Victoria Gastro Pub, Manor Hill Tavern and Food Plenty along with her parents and sister under the umbrella of Victoria Restaurant Group.
Fortunately for its residents, the Baltimore area still has many great dining options for seniors who want a delicious meal out.
“I love going out to eat,” said Foland. And her family appreciates the many meals shared with her company.