DID YOU EAT YET? With Mason Jar Provisions
As I mentioned above, we’re kicking off a new weekly series in Pulptown today. It’s called Did You Eat Yet, and every Wednesday, I’ll “sit-down” with a local restaurateur, chef, or foodie to talk about how they got their start, their favorite meals in Orlando, and maybe even sneak in a secret recipe or two.
We’re kicking things off with a feature on AJ Haines, co-owner and chef of Mason Jar Provisions in Thornton Park. Full transparency, I know AJ from having worked with him at The Waterfront in SODO years ago.
In a few sentences or less, tell us when you knew you'd get into this business. I moved to Orlando in 2009. It was always part of the plan to open a restaurant here.
How did your role in the restaurant business come to be? I’ve worked in the industry for a long time (Besides The Waterfront, AJ also worked at Wolfie's Pizza Mia, The Parkview, Prato, Luma, and Via Napoli). I thought Mason Jar Provisions would get its start four years ago — that’s when I first started eyeing this space — but it got scooped up by another restaurant group before my investors got back to me. On April 20, 2020, I received a call that that space was available again. We (Jeff Darnell, business partner, GM of Burton's Bar) were both in our hometowns spending time with family during the shutdown. We immediately got to work on the opening of MJP.
You can eat one meal in Orlando that's not your own — where are you going and what's on the menu? King Cajun for the King Feast, and I’m definitely adding a cluster of king crab legs!
What is one Orlando food-related news story that you think people need to be paying more attention to? Supporting local restaurants is essential to their longevity right now and buying directly from those businesses is of key importance. Uber, Door Dash, Grub Hub — they all hurt our bottom lines and impact our survival as a sustainable restaurant.
How has the pandemic affected your business? Being able to reach our customers to start with: As a business, we tried and found ways to make things work. Thornton Park District and the city helped with our parklets out front. Burton's owners purchased picnic tables to help expand seating for both of our businesses. Word-of-mouth and social media have helped, and our social media supporters City 2 Nite and Kaleigh Gardner, otherwise known as @itsthepizzaslut, have also helped get our food to the public through photos and videos.
How can Pulptown readers best support you right now? Stop in and order from us. Support other locally-owned small businesses. Hopefully, you like us, and knowing that you will, share our info with friends and family.
▶️ Find out where AJ would order his “last meal” from in Orlando, what he'd cook up for his favorite movie star, and what he hopes to be remembered for in 100 years by reading our full interview here.
🥩 Are you hungry? Ready to eat yet? Mason Jar Provisions is serving up corned beef and cabbage tonight for the holiday. Tuesdays are Pasta Night and Fridays are Fish Fry Fridays. All of this in addition to its regular menu offerings of burgers, wings, ribs, fried pickles, and more southern delights.
📩 What restaurant/chef/foodie should we feature next time? Hit reply and let us know.