Love That BBQ, Knoxville, 4/15/22

exterior – 1901 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920

Love That BBQ is a family run, small casual place serving housemade barbecue and sides.  It looks to be in an abandoned gas station with the restaurant inside and a number of huge smokers under the awnings where pumps would have been.  You order at the counter and then pick up when ready.  They had seating inside but most seemed to pick up bags to go.  It was heavily patronized by the workers in the area, as seen by the number of labeled trucks in the parking lot.  Inside the large tables were covered with oilcloth and the walls and shelves held lots of photos and memoriabilia.  Christian music played fairly loudly in the background.  The counter person turned out to be the one who does the smoking and he wasn’t particularly friendly or helpful at first.  He got more chatty after there was a break in the stream of customers.  However, he didn’t bother to tell us that ribs come with hushpuppies and let us order a side of them.  He said he’d been cooking barbecue for 40 years and in this location for 12 years.  It is not worth driving out of your way for. Continue reading

J.C. Holdway (second visit), Knoxville, 4/14/22

entrance – 501 Union Ave SW, Knoxville, TN 37902

Back for our second visit to J. C. Holdway and it was a busier night at the corner restaurant.  The fairly large place goes fairly far back with tables in various places with an L-shaped bar taking up the first room.  On the way to the back portion we passed a couple cooking areas.  Exposed ducts run across the ceiling opposite the older wood floors.  Bench seating is along some walls and the tables are nicely sized bare wood set with large well starched towel shaped napkins. Lights are lowered but much light comes through the many windows before sundown, music is in the background and it was a bit noisy.  Service was once again very friendly but pacing was quite a bit slower probably due to the crowd and several large groups. Continue reading

The Front Porch, Powell, TN, 4/14/22

building – 1509 W Emory Rd, Powell, TN 37849

The Front Porch is in a 1910 house that was where the development of Powell, TN started – with a lumber company.  The Elkins family bought it 2013 and restored it in honor of its historical significance to Powell.  It now serves lunch and early dinner with southern comfort food and sells handcrafted decor on the second floor, as well as many of the decorations in the dining area.  Tables are scattered around the downstairs rooms and there are several more on the wrap-around porch.  No item on the menu is more than $20 and there is a parking lot out back.  Good smells greet you when you enter and there is a counter that sells some items to-go.  Staff were efficient and very friendly.  The food was generous and tasty.  It’s worth a visit. Continue reading

J.C. Holdway, Knoxville, 4/13/22

exterior – entrance – 501 Union Ave SW, Knoxville, TN 37902

J.C. Holdway is named after Chef Joseph Lenn’s late uncle, Joe Holdway, who sought quality food adventures throughout his life.  Now Chef Lenn hopes to provide that sort of dining experience to his customers, and that he does.  His professional career has certainly readied him to meet the challenge.  A Knoxville native, he so enjoyed cooking for friends and family that he decided to attend culinary school, after which he went to work as an intern at Blackberry Farm and then the Peninsula Grill followed by working with Sean Brock to open the Capitol Grill in Nashville. An urge to return to east Tennessee took him back to Blackberry Farm where he became executive chef of the Barn restaurant and received the James Beard Award for the Best Chef Southwest in 2013.  He opened his own place in 2016 in downtown Knoxville using primarily wood-fire techniques.  Lenn’s attempt to provide an outstanding experience to guests succeeds so well that we cancelled out next evening’s reservation in order to dine with him again.  Strong recommendation for this wonderful place and look for another chronicle of luscious dishes on this site in a couple days. Continue reading

Cruze Farm Ice Cream, Knoxville, 4/13/22

exterior – 445 S Gay St #3, Knoxville, TN 37902

Cruze Farm Ice Cream is made with milk and churned buttermilk from Earl and Cheri Cruze’s farm’s hormone-free Jersey cows.  The farm was established in 1980 and their not-homogenized milk is sold at some local markets.  In 1992 the family branched out to open a scoop shop  selling hand dipped ice cream churned from their products at a Target.   It closed after 8 years and the family concentrated on their milk business.  When their daughter Colleen joined her goal was to sell all the surplus milk and an ice cream store was the best way to do that.  In 2016 Colleen and her husband opened a store on Union and one on Gay Street in 2017 with plans for more.  They serve only soft-serve ice cream and mix it with multiple other ingredients and flavors.  We tried a Sassy Cow which contained sweet cream dipped in chocolate and drizzled with caramel and then sprinkled with salt.  A half order if called a ‘calf’ and a whole one is a ‘cow.’  It came in a cup and the chocolate sauce froze into a crisp layer.  Underneath the ice cream was smooth but tasteless.  It was all about the texture and not the taste.  I’d stick with their milk products – they sound fun. Continue reading

Pete’s Restaurant, Knoxville, 4/13/22

building – 540 Union Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902

Pete’s Restaurant has been around since 1986 in downtown Knoxville. Owners Pete and Rita Natour serve quality home-cooked food and customer service at breakfast and lunch.  It’s a long place with lots of windows to the street.  The wall is filled with booth seating and a row of small tables is opposite.  The tables are covered with an oilcloth and set with silver wrapped in a paper napkin.  There are also some counter seats in front of the kitchen. Service was totally efficient and friendly.  Pete was in front helping with everything, including cooking, but not too busy to have a friendly word.  It was pleasant place to sit and while the food was fresh and prepared to order it was very ordinary. Continue reading

Oliver Royale, Knoxville, 4/12/22

exterior – 5 Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902

Oliver Royale is one of the two restaurants in the historic boutique Oliver Hotel. They serve new American cusine with a focus on seasonal and regional products in the more upscale and smaller of the 2 settings.  There is an entrance from the Market Square as well as within the hotel.  The building dates back to 1876 but has been very updated to include a bench seating along the walls with tables in the middle for the first 2/3’s of the place and a u-shaped bar with stools for the last third.  Windows to the street, faint music in the background, lowered lighting, acid washed mirrors on the walls, sound panels lining the ceiling, and a enormous skylight make up the room.. The small bare wood tables are set fairly close and there are a few tables available on a front outside patio section.  It’s nicely done but comes off a bit sterile.  Service was friendly but the pacing that started out so fast slowed way down as the evening wore on.  The food was mixed.  There is also an old ‘speak-easy’ in the hotel if you want more drinks afterward. Continue reading

Kilwins Knoxville, Knoxville, 4/12/22

exterior – 408 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902

Kilwins has been in operation since 1947 and is now open in downtown Knoxville.  They sell 32 flavors of ice cream made from original recipes.  Waffle cones are available and also waffle bowls.  When you enter the long shop the front is filled with candies, caramel apples, fudges and other packaged sweets.  The ice cream is further in the back along with some stools and counters where you can sit inside and enjoy your treats.  The first time we visited they were making the waffles for the cones and cups as well as dipping Granny Smith apples in caramel.  The smell was heavenly and made you want to induldge.  We tried the Tennessee River Mud which is vanilla ice cream  mixed with chocolate chips and caramel and a praline pecan ice cream.  The praline pecan won the flavor contest, hands down, but both had excellent density and smoothness to the ice cream.  We tried the waffle bowl and it was a totally ingenious way to combine an often problematic yet very tasty cone.  The bowl was inside a plastic one so you could crack it up and eat with the tasty ice cream.  Get in there and try it.  I did try one of the caramel pecan candies but the pecans were on their way to rancid so be cautioned on the candies. Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 4/10/22

oysters – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

Cry Wolf is such a treasure, I can’t not post it when we go.  Chef Ross Demers has moved the bar high for other Dallas establishments and so has sommelier and General Manager Tim Case.  The menu is constantly changing but what is consistent is that there are no duds.  You won’t find me saying that about many places.  It doesn’t fill you with bread and there is only one small candy for dessert but somehow that all works magically.  When you find that rare place that is operating at such a level you really want your friends to experience it too.   So, here is the latest meal at this gem of east Dallas. Continue reading

Roots Southern Table, Dallas, 4/7/22

exterior – 13050 Bee St Suit 160, Farmers Branch, TX 75234

Roots Southern Table is all about Chef Tiffany Derry’s southern upbringing.  Eating with the seasons and never wasting anything were mantras of her family.  She has been nominated for James Beard awards in a couple categories.  The far north Dallas location opened in June of 2021 in a strip-like shopping center.  That means there is plenty of parking but it gives the place a slightly sterile atmosphere.  Reservations are a must and even with one we were kept waiting for 15 minutes as other guests were seated.  We were out with friends that evening so Frankie made less of an appearance and I didn’t make as many notes on our food.  Pictures will give you a good feel, though.  The food did have a nice amout of flavor but even with all the vegetables I left feeling heavy on the starch.  Our server could have helped with that but he was ‘all about the bread.’  They have a full bar, the noise level is high and portioning is variable. Continue reading

The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro, NC., 4/1/22

exterior – 230 Market St, Pittsboro, NC 27312

The Fearington House Restaurant is located in Fearington Village, just outside Chapel Hill in Pittsboro, NC.  They have been in operation over 40 years, with the restaurant being in the original farmhouse.  The couple that started it, R.B. and Jenny(she ran the kitchen) Fitch had a dream to turn the dairy farm into a community.  The property itself has an inn and homes for sale as well as stores and event space to rent.  The restaurant has several rooms in the building, one of which houses the bar.  The widely spaced tables are double clothed with matching napkins and armless chairs.  Lots of windows look out onto the property and the interior lights are lowered. They offer an a la carte menu as well as a Chef’s tasting with optional wine pairings.  We had the Chef’s tasting menu and the pacing was really slow and the portions were on the large side.  While service was trying to be friendly it was almost intrusive with the constant query of “what are your thoughts on this one?” It was a beautiful place to stay but the food would only rate okay – nothing made me want to lick the plate or wish I had more. Continue reading

Brewery Bhavana, Raleigh, 4/1/22

exterior – 218 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Brewery Bhavana is an interesting combination of flowers, books, beer and dim sum in one shop.  The Laotian siblings, Vanvisa and Vansana(since left) Nolintha, that owns the spot next door made friends with Patrick Woodson who brewed beer.  They decided to combine forces and also make room for friend Deana Nguyen that sells flower arrangments right across the street from historic Moore Square.  It’s a large striking space divided by sheer curtains.  A long bar is one wall and it has about that many taps for available draft beers.  Books are on one wall just to look at while you’re there and another cabinet of them is for sale.  The flower shop is in the middle space just behind the greeter station.  It is filled with lots of natural light from the windows along the street and from a massive skylight that is above the center room.  Music was in the background and staff were welcoming and super friendly.  While the food was good it was not great even though the prices were on the high side for dim sum. Continue reading

Herons, Cary, 3/31/22

dining room entrance –The Umstead Hotel and Spa, 100 Woodland Pond Dr, Cary, NC 27513

Herons is the signature restaurant in the Umstead Hotel and Spa.  The 98 seat restaurant features a view of the kitchen as well as the landscaped grounds and art on the walls.  The large, white cloth covered tables are appointed with chairs and couches with pillows.  The room is decorated in earthtones with lots of wood, lowered lighting and no music.  The elegant place takes itself seriously in that they have a dress code asking you not to wear jeans, shorts, sandals or tattered clothing. The menu changes seasonally and tries to feature local produce and proteins.  It is divided into 4 categories which each have about 5 choices for you to pick from  Some choices do have a supplemental charge.  Beverage pairings are available in addition to a huge wine list.  Service was first rate and the pacing and portion control were spot on.  The food was very good and they threw in lots of little things in between courses. Continue reading

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Raleigh, 3/31/22

exterior – 237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey is one of the Ashley Christensen restaurants (Death & Taxes, Pooles, etc.).  It’s a corner building with a long counter along one wall, above which the menu is written.  Across from that are lots of small tables set with adjustable stools, that looks out onto street views.  Parking is on the street at meters or there is a pay parking lot next to the building.  Music was in the background and a greeter asigns you to a table.  They are mostly about fried chicken and southern style sides but also offer meatloaf, catfish, pot pie and various sandwiches.   There is a separate menu for brunch.  Here the fried chicken is brined, then dipped in buttermilk, dedged in flour and finally cooked in a pressure fryer. The honey is drizzled on last.  Service was efficient. Continue reading

Crawford and Son, Raleigh, 3/30/22

exterior – 618 N Person St, Raleigh, NC 27604

Crawford and Son is a casual neighborhood restaurant in historic Oakwood.  It is medium sized, with dim lighting, loud music and a long bar across from the wall of small tables.  It was packed in the middle of the week so the crowd added to the noise level.  It also has no dedicated parking so allow time to hunt around the local streets.  It opened in 2016 and offers a full bar.  The small wine list has a pretty hefty mark up, albeit a nice selection.  Brick walls, exposed duct work in the ceiling and a few sets of antlers make up the interior.  Reservations are a must, even for the counter seating.  It was buzzing with people and the food was amazing.  Also the service was spectacular.  Our server, Sydney, really knew how to pace the meal and add just the right amount of conversation to enhance the evening.  Strong recommendation here. Continue reading

King’s Sandwich Shop, Durham, 3/30/22

exterior – 701 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

King’s Sandwich Shop is a family-run business that is an icon in Durham, symbolizing the simplicity of days gone by.  The original shop opened shortly after WWII, but closed in 2007 needing major rehabilitation.  It was bought by the McDermott family in 2009 and re-opened in 2010.  The corner building has limited parking out front but street parking is available.  They serve burgers, hot dogs, lots of other sandwiches,  breakfast, vegetarian hot dogs and fries along with milkshakes at at walk up counter with another window to pick up your food.  They have picnic tables and bathrooms around the side to eat at if you want to stay on site.  Many seemed to take the food to-go.  It is only open for lunch.  The place was a real throw-back and this time the food was good too.  The shake was amazing. A fun stop on your tour of the area. Continue reading

Watkins Grill, Raleigh, 3/30/22

Exterior – 1625 Wake Forest Rd, Raleigh, NC 27604

Watkins Grill dates back to 1947 and is in the spot formerly known at the Black Hawk Tavern which started in 1928.  Just outside of downtown, it serves Southern homestyle breakfast and lunch.  A fairly small place, it has parking adjacent to the free standing building.  Inside the sticky wood tables are closely spaced and there is also seating at the bar counter.  There is a sizable menu that is supplemtented by daily specials and a list of sides offered that day.  It accepts only cash or check.  The prices are on the cheaper side and most plates come with 2 side dishes, that included lots of vegetable options.  Windows to the outside add lots of light and no music was in the background.  It appeared to attract a large regular crowd that the servers knew.  The food was generous but had little flavor or seasoning.  Maybe we ordered wrong but both were daily specials.  We left much to go somewhere else. Continue reading

Second Empire Restaurant, Raleigh, 3/29/22

front – 330 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27603

Second Empire Restaurant is in the historic Dodd-Hinsdale House, whose architectural style is the Second Empire Victorian style developed in France under Napoleon III and marked by heavy ornate modification.  The home was built for Mayor Dodd and completed in 1879 but lost quickly due to finances.  Col. Hinsdale purchased it in 1890 and it remained in the family till 1971.  Till 1993 the house suffered vandalism and then Ted Reynolds and family bought it and started the restoration to transform it into a restaurant.  In Sept. 1997 the restaurant and tavern opened for business.  The structure retains its original exterior, heart pine flooring, masonry walls and windows.  Four main rooms of the main body now make up the restaurant and a tavern was made from additional rooms and a glassed atrium room.  There is a small parking lot by the back entrance and otherwise you’re on your own.  At the front entrance is a dramatic stairway lined with photos and awards.  High ceilings, soft music in the background, lowered lighting and art on the walls surround the widely spaced large white cloth covered tables.  Chef Daniel Schurr offered a couple specials in addition to the printed menu and offers many gluten free options.  His style was to stack multiple ingredients into each dish.  Service was friendly but the pace was slow. Continue reading

The Roast Grill Hot Weiners, Raleigh, 3/29/22

exterior – 7 S West St, Raleigh, NC 27603

The Roast Grill Hot Weiners has been serving hot dogs since 1940.  The tiny family-run spot serves only weiners and some Greek desserts along with a number of beer and soft drink options.  It is cash only.  Owner George Poniros and his wife Kathy are glad to be back in business after being shut down for over a year due to the Covid pandemic.   George’s grandparents started the place and there are pictures on the wall of them above the vintage register.  His 90 year old mother worked there until Covid hit and now she stays home.  The wall opposite the 10 seat counter has pictures of contest winners and regular patrons.  The weiners are grilled on the original grill and then topped with a chile made from a 100-year old recipe.  Wife Kathy makes the desserts.  Customers are family here and George knows how they want their weiners served.  It was a stop back in time to feel so welcome in a place and also be served some terrific food.  You can tell the pride the Poniros family has in the place and I urge you to visit if you get the chance. Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 3/27/22

exterior – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

Cry Wolf is a great place, and unfortunately too many people know that now.  We had to book a couple weeks ahead to find a reservation we were in town with.  Everytime I go I think I won’t post it cause it’s already on this site, but the food is so good I just can’t resist sharing the photos with you.  Another wonderful part of this place is the changing wine list, which introduces me to things I haven’t had that go with food well.  The ambiance is great and there’s a parking lot at the end of the shopping center.  Without further ado, I present photos of our latest fabulous meal (sweetbreads and escargot were amazing). Continue reading

Charlie’s Steak House, New Orleans, 3/23/22

building – 4510 Dryades St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Charlie’s Steak House was started by Charlie Petrossi in 1952.  It’s one of New Orleans oldest steakhouses and prides itself on its unique service model.  There is no menu passed out, if you ask for one you are laughed at as a first-timer.  You simply tell your waiter which steak you want, how you want it cooked and the server will suggest your sides.  They were closed for 3 years after Hurricane Katrina and only opened after the family sold it to Matthew Dwyer who had lived nearby and helped with bartending duties.  He purchased Charlie’s in 2007 and re-opened in 2008 but tragically died at age 49 in the summer of 2020 as Covid was taking over. Several couples joined forces to have the historic restaurant start up again in January 2021.  They do have a menu on their website <charliessteakhousenola.com>, so look it over before you go.  The food is good not great but it’s fun to go to such a retro place. Continue reading

Pascal’s Manale Restaurant, New Orleans, 3/23/22

building – 1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 

Pascal’s Manale Restaurant was started as just Manale’s in 1913 by Frank Manale.  Pascal Radosta, Frank’s nephew, was part of the original crew and took the place over in 1937 when Frank died.  Many years later he wanted to add his name to the restaurant but still wanted to honor his uncle and thus it became Pascal’s Manale.  Pas died in 1958 and his youngest brother Jake took over.  They are famous for their BBQ shrimp and raw oyster bar.  It is a large place with 2 main dining rooms and the good sized bar area that houses the oyster shucking bar.  The dining rooms have white cloth covered tables and windows to the street.  Some art is in the dining rooms but the bar is covered with lots of framed photos.  They offer a separate lunch menu, a parking lot and great service. Continue reading

Brigtsen’s Restaurant (update), New Orleans, 3/22/22

exterior – 723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118

Brigtsen’s was last written up here in 2017, but not much has changed here.  The small old home is quite a ways from the Quarter and it’s many rooms are filled with dining tables and happy people.  Chef Frank Brigtsen is still running the kitchen and his wife Marna manages the floor.  Frank apprenticed at Commander’s Palace and then worked under Chef Paul Prudhomme, who helped the couple open this place in 1986. He has since won numerous awards for his cooking.  The super friendly and efficient staff were all wearing buttons saying “I’m vaxed to the max.”  The polished bare wood tables no longer have cloths but white cloth napkins are still on the table.  Music is in the background, art is on the walls and a bottle of cold water is set on each table. Continue reading

Domilise’s, New Orleans, 3/22/22

exterior – 5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Domilise’s Po-boys and Bar was founded in 1930s by Peter and Sophie Domilise who lived in the house above. Sam and “Miss Dot” ran the place for over 75 years until her death in 2013.  The family evacuated in 2005, due to the impact of Hurricane Katrina but otherwise it has been continuously operated by future generations.  The single room place has been featured in numerous cooking shows and guide books like Food Wars and Chowdown Countdown – the day we visited there was a bit of chaos remaining from the filming there the day prior.  You entered on the side of the corner building and placed your order and paid at the bar.  You could wait there or claim one of the 5 indoor tables or one of the several outside.  The kitchen counter was at one end of the room and they called your name when your order was ready.  The interior walls were covered with photos and memorabilia.  Staff were friendly  and efficient.  The food was average. Continue reading

Commander’s Palace (update), New Orleans, 3/21/22

exterior – 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

It’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been to Commander’s Palace.  The last meal was so disappointing I haven’t wanted to go back but enter Chef Megan “Meg” Bickford, who has worked in the kitchen since 2008 but in Oct. 2020 became Executive Chef, following the 18 year reign of Tory McPhail.  She has livened it up and tonight’s meal was the best I’ve ever had at Commander’s.   It has been in the Garden District since 1893 and is still owned by members of the Brennan family.  Chefs such as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse have worked there to present leading-edge haute creole cuisine.  The large building has a patio/bar area in back which is overlooked by the upstairs Garden Room.  Downstairs is a more traditionally elegant room.  Service was great, attentive and friendly – something its struggled with in my past visits. Continue reading

Mandina’s Restaurant, New Orleans, 3/21/22

street exterior – 3800 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119

Mandina’s Restaurant was first opened as a grocery store at 3800 Canal Street by Sebastian Mandina in 1898.  With the addition of his sons in the 1900s it became a pool hall that sold sandwiches to the many Italian immigrants and others living in the mid-city area.  By 1932 the sons turned it into Mandina’s Restaurant, with the family living upstairs. It is now in the hands of fourth generation family members and has benefitted from its proximity to the Canal St. streetcar.  Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters caused damage to the place and they had to close for 18 months to make repairs and now are trying to bring it back to the way it was in 1930.  Today the large pink house on a corner, has 2 huge dining room and a long bar with a footrail but no stools.  Windows to the street bring in even more light to the high ceiling room.  No music was in the background, posters are on the walls and some TVs run but are muted. Continue reading

Liuzza’s by The Track, New Orleans, 3/21 & 22/22

exterior – 1518 N Lopez St, New Orleans, LA 70119

Liuzza’s by the Track is a couple blocks from the New Orleans Fairgrounds, where the annual horse races and Jazz & Heritage Festival  are held.  It has been family owned and operated since 1996, but the 1930’s corner building is an historical landmark.  Liuzza’s is known for its signature BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy and other genuine New Orleans staples. Only closed on Sunday, except if the Saints’ are playing, it is quite popular.  Entering at the corner the room is filled with photos and memoriabilia.  A long bar runs the length of the room and you can eat and/or drink here as well as at the tables inside and out.  Windows to the street add extra light, music is in the background and parking is on the street.  Specials are on a board to supplement the menu.  Staff were super friendly, helpful and efficient.  We had to go back for a second visit and another of their shrimp Po-Boys.  Good place. Continue reading

Mosswood Market, Cafe and Bakery, Boonville, CA., 3/14/22

building – 14111 CA-128, Boonville, CA 95415

Mosswood Market is a Cafe and Bakery selling bakery treats, coffee drinks and lunch fare in downtown Boonville.  It is small with some outdoor tables and lots of to-go business.  The sandwiches and wraps are made to order, as are the coffee drinks but the bakery items come straight from the counter to you.  You order at the counter and there is a separate place to pick up flatware and napkins, then they bring the hot food to you.  Music was in the background and many windows to the street provide lots of light for this daytime place.  The market is next door and you can walk through to it – it has the bathroom.  The Cafe’s interior was decorated with photos of cats in Morocco so Frankie and I loved that. Continue reading

Harbor House Inn, Elk, CA., 3/12 &13/22

exterior – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

The Harbor House Inn most importantly houses a fine 2 star Michelin restaurant but it was built in 1916 by the Goodyear Lumber Company as a place to entertain and showcase their redwood empire.  It is a lovely place to stay when, especially when you have reservations for dinner there.  I think a 2 night booking is mandated and they have rooms on two levels in the main house and several independent units on the property.  All come with breakfast in the morning, delivered to your room.  There is also an option to have dinner delivered to your room.  I wanted to share our delicious breakfast trays and a few photos of the grounds and wonderful staff. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant (second visit), Elk, 3/13/22

exterior – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Harbor House Restaurant had made a couple changes since our visit last summer.   Most importantly the wine list has really ramped up to include lots of French and Italian along with the large selection of Califorinia ones.   It’s an exciting list and Beverage director John Miller will lend wonderful help if you need it.  They also have added a pack of information cards to the table for you to take with you  and learn about the details of the place.  They cover the philosphy of the meal from Chef Matt Kammerer, a little history on the inn where it’s housed, about their new garden and ranch, their sustainability, cooking techniques and plateware and ceramics.  For their efforts to sustainability they’ve been awarded a Michelin Green Clover designation.  I can’t urge you enough to visit and enjoy a meal here! Continue reading

Trillium Cafe and Inn, Mendocino, CA., 3/13/22

exterior – 10390 Kasten St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Trillium Cafe serves lunch and dinner Friday thru Tuesday with indoor and outdoor seating.  It is on the bottom floor of the Inn of the same name in the heart of Mendocino.  On the second floor are several hotel rooms for guests.  Small tables are well spaced in the interior dining room and the patio winds around with a good supply of seating.  When you make reservations you can specify indoor or outdoor.  As it’s in an historic home, there are lots of windows to the street and a fireplace.  Art for sale is on the walls and there ‘s plenty of street parking.  It has obviously been restored with the old wood floors in good shape and the light fixtures replaced with those made by local artisans.  A bar was in a room to the right, when we entered but I only saw 2 vacant stools in front of it.  Service was friendly and efficient but not particularly knowledgable about the history of the place.  There were no daily specials just the changoing soup of the day flavor.  However when I compared the menu we had to what was on line there were some changes. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant, Elk, CA., 3/12/22

Harbor House building – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Frankie and I last visited the Harbor House Restaurant in Aug of 2021 and they were as pleased to welcome us back as we were to be there.  The 2 star Michelin Restaurant is run by Chef Matthew Kammerer in an inn built in 1916 by the Goodyear Lumber Company, to showcase their redwood empire.  They offer a tasting menu only that is determined by what is seasonally and sustainably available.  They have started a ranch/garden from which that bounty is now adding to their quality offerings.  Courses are thought out in detail but not overwrought with tweezer and squirt bottle decorating.  Many of their serving pieces are made by local artisans that add plenty of visual enhancements.  Service is top quality as is the view of the coast from the dining room.  This place is surely destined for a third star so book your reservation while you can still get in and if you can splurge for a room at the inn.  The breakfast the kitchen puts out for you the morning after is icing on the cake. We were lucky enough to get 2 nights there, so look for another array of lovely dishes from Chef Kammerer in a few days. Continue reading

Rollerville Café, Point Arena, CA., 3/12/22

building – 22900 Shoreline Hwy, Point Arena, CA 95468

Rollerville Café is a classic café serving lunch and breakfast in Point Arena, CA.   It opened in 2007 and is adjacent to a Lighthouse Pointe Resort that both claim to be the last stop before going to Hawaii and for fueling up to tour the nearby lighthouse attraction.  The interior is small but there is a patio with additional seating outside.  Some of the well spaced tables have fun salt & pepper sets as decorations.  There was faint music in the background – possible a radio in the kitchen and plenty of light in the room from all the windows.  There were daily specials for breakfast and lunch but serving time seemed to be divided by 11:00 am or noon on the weekend.  Service was friendly and efficient. It’s worth a visit. Continue reading

Valette, Healdsburg, 3/12/22

building – 344 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Valette is a medium-sized restaurant in Healdsburg, CA in Sonoma County.  It was the dream of two local brothers to create a dining experience featuring local farmers, winemakers and artisans.  They craft the menu around these local items along with sustainably raised meats.  Chef Dustin Valette is the kitchen partner and Aaron Garzini is the wine partner.  They have also opened a huge, more casual venue in town but their father often makes the ’rounds’ of dinner guests at Valette.  It offers Chef Valette’s ‘Trust me’ tasting menu, with a minimum of 5 courses at $18 each (a 5 course is required if you have a party greater than 7) and optional wine pairings offered.  There is a corkage fee ($25-45) if you want to bring your own wine. Continue reading

Clary’s Cafe, Savannah, 3/4/22

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Clary’s Cafe is a good sized place on a street corner with outdoor tables as well as 2 rooms for dining inside.  They even have a parking lot.  They serve breakfast and lunch all day.  It started as a drug store in the 1930’s  and later added a soda shop and now is a traditional diner.  It moved to its present location in the 1940s.  Featured in the book and film version of the novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”,  it was transformed back into Clary’s drugstore.   Today inside you’ll find brick walls, an old wood floor, faux marble tables, music in the background and a stained glass window of Savannah’s Bird Girl.  A hostess greets you outside and directs you to the old pharmacy room that only has tables or the room with a counter that used to be the soda shop.  It is pet-friendly.  Service was efficient and really friendly and the food was good. Continue reading

Husk, Savannah, 3/3/22

building

Husk in Savannah is in the Landmark Historic District with Executive Chef Chris Hathcock using locally sourced products to showcase Southern cooking.  The 1898  building is purported to be haunted and after being built as a home served as an Elks Lodge and a performing arts school until it was abandoned in 1985.   In 2008 it was severly damaged in a fire.  The Neighborhood Dining Group, parent company of the Husk brand (you’l find other Husks in Charleston, Nashville, Greenville, SC.) bought the 10,000 square foot building and its 3 stories of event space.  It has a capacity of over 200 including a bar area room for 84.  At the hostess stand is the list of area farms and ingredients they use and it’s the same at the other Husks. Executive Chef Sean Brock helped develop the concept and this one opened in Jan. 2018.  I thought the Charleston one was much better.  This one is too large. Continue reading

Crystal Beer Parlor, Savannah, 3/3/22

Exterior

The Crystal Beer Parlor building was the “Gerken Family Grocery Store” in the early 1900’s, with the owners living above it.  It sold in the early 1930’s  and was one of the first American eating establishments to serve alcohol after the repeal of Prohibition.  Rumor was that they had been selling illegal liquor as a speakeasy during Prohibition.  The walls were covered with scenes from Savannah’s past and portraits of people.  In one room were blown up copies of the original menus.  It’s a fairly large place in a wedge building on a ‘corner’ with a huge tented area in the back, where parking used to be.  Inside is a counter room with stools and some booth seating and other rooms are a mix of tables and booths.   Service was prompt, efficient and friendly.  They are known for their burgers and housemade onion rings.

Continue reading

The Grey, Savannah, 3/2/22

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The Grey is a restaurant in a 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal.  It was painstakingly restored to its original luster before opening in 2014 in historic downtown Savannah by Partner John Morisano.  He recruited Chef and Partner Mashama Bailey who was named the 2019 James Beard Foundation’s best chef in the southeast, to join him.  As you enter there is a small bar with a different menu and then you pass the kitchen, located in the old ticket booth, before you find the dining room. Within this room, filled with booths and tables is a large C-shaped bar.  Numbers on the wall represent former boarding gates, with #3 leading to outdoor tents set up during Covid.  In the dining room you’ll find a high ceiling, bench seating around the walls, small tables with white tablecloths, music in the background, lowered lights  with a neon display at the top of the ceiling and the echo-y feel of a bus station. The menu is a 3 course dinner which you pick from 4 choices in each category.  Some raw oysters and a few snacks, as well as dessert, are available if you want more.  It’s great – check it out. Continue reading

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, Savannah, 3/2/22

Building (entrance at street level)

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room is at 107 West Jones Street and based on a boardinghouse concept of 2 hearty meals a day.  In 1943 Sema Wilkes decided to make her living offering lodging and homestyle Southern cooking served family-style downstairs.  A line begins forming before the 11:00 opening to get seats at one of the tables for 10 inside the dining room. The menu changes but there are staples that seem to regularly appear.  It is $30 per person, cash only and that includes tax, drink and dessert.  You pay as you leave and there is a jar if you want to add a tip.  When you enter the table is set with about 20 different dishes of food and they suggest a direction for passing around.  If one dish goes empty they will quickly bring more.  Beverages included tea, sweet and unsweet, and water.  It was a delightful meal filled with wonderful, fresh flavors and fun conversations.  You should go if you can. Continue reading

The Olde Pink House, Savannah, 3/1/22

exterior – front

The Olde Pink House dates back to 1771 (Habersham House) where the soft native brick bled trhough the plastered walls to change the color from white to pink.  It housed the Habershams till the 1800s when it became the Planter’s Bank, with the old money vaults now serving as wine cellars.  It was added on to at that time and later occupied by the military during the Civil War.  After that it was used as a bookstore, colonial tea room and offices while suffering decay and neglect. In 1970 it underwent a one year structural restoration and the restaurant opened in 1971.  In 1992 it changed hands and had more refurbishing. A fire in 2018 damaged the upstairs ballroom and it closed for 4 months for repairs.  On the lower level is a tavern restaurant serving food in a more casual setting.  It was fun to see but the food was over-rated and mostly fried. Continue reading

Leopold’s Ice Cream, Savannah, 3/1/22

building

Leopold’s Ice Cream was founded in 1919 by three brothers from Greece, with one of their sons taking over after his father’s passing.  He later went on to pursue his dream of working in Hollywood and memorabilia of his 50 years in the industry decorate the shop today.  Other members of the family continued the business and the flagship store re-opened in 2004.  You can find their product being served at restaurants around the city and at the airport.  All of their super-premium ice cream is hand crafted  using the original, secret recipes handed down by the 3 brothers.  Walking by the store there was always a line to get in.  Once inside there were movie posters and old family photos covering the walls.  Several ‘scoopers’ were waiting to take your order.   The ice cream was very smooth and dense.  They served  ice cream in sundae, cup or cone form along with a variety of drinks. Continue reading

Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, Chicago, 2/24/22

entrance

Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf is a large steakhouse offering traditional cuisine with a French flair.  The place has no windows and so is quite dark with yellow lighting and music in the background.  There are a number of rooms with lots of booths, free standing tables and bar stools.  Lots of mirrors on the walls, candles on the table and large chandeliers give it a ‘cabaret’ feel.  It is a sister restaurant to Au Cheval, which does not take reservations.  The service was great and the bar made good strong cocktails.  In addition to the menu there were a couple nightly specials, one fish and one meat. The server was well informed about the menu and able to guide our selections and quantities.  They now have a second location in Las Vegas.  It is a fun and tasty place to eat. Continue reading

Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, Chicago, 2/24/22

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Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen is a huge place with a cafeteria style serving line.  It is a traditional Jewish deli that has been open for more than 75 years.  Going through the line you could tell that many of the customers are regulars that know the servers.  In fact during the pandemic, July 2020, when people were not dining-in, Manny’s alerted people on social media that they were struggling and needed support.  Supporters lined up around the block to order to go and keep the place in business.  They offer the usual meats but also salads and various hot dishes, with a couple specials every day.  They also have a bread and pastry shop which you walk through as you exit. It seems to have survived and is worth a visit if you are in the area. Continue reading

D’Amato’s Bakery and Subs, Chicago, 2/24/22

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D’Amato’s Bakery and Subs has been a family owned business since 1970, specializing in Italian breads, pizza, sandwiches and pastries.  They use a coal burning oven that has stood since 1912 in a building across the street. There is no eating inside the place but just around the corner is a heated tent attached to one of their walls with tables and chairs.  You order inside and they bring the food out to you in the patio.  There were counters with lots of food in the cases but most was uninspiring.  We were just there to split an Italian sub sandwich that the ride share driver raved about.   The subs come in 10″ or 12″ for a $1 difference.   Inside of it was a good balance of meat and cheese but the bread was way too dry and thus tough.  It was adorned with a pale tomato and we paid to add extra peppers.  They added a kick but not enought.  The lettuce was shredded and the meats were ham, salami and mortadella with provolone cheese.  It needed herbs or something to spark the flavor.  The staff was super friendly but I’m afraid most of the sub went in the trash. Continue reading

Moody Tongue, Chicago, 2/23/22

Exterior

Moody Tongue expanded their brewery to include The Bar, a casual restarant with snacks and drinks, and The Dining Room, a fine dining option which is paired with beer at the highest caliber, striving to unite beer and cuisine in an unprecedented, interactive way.  Chef Jared Wentworth was recruited by Moody’s President and Brewmaster Jared Rouben when they expanded their operation to include fine dining in 2019.   The small 28 seat dining room offers only a 15 course tasting menu alongside specialty beer pairings.  The Dining Room has recieved a 2 Michelin star rating.  It’s a dark room with dark wood walls, black tables and chairs and low lighting.  Music is in the background and some windows looks out to the street but they are covered with blinds.  They offer 2 seatings (5:30 & 8:30) each evening that start promptly and have a tough cancellation policy, so be sure before you book.  Everyone seemed to get the beer pairings with their tasting and they are a bargain at just $45pp.  It was a younger, more casual crowd but the service people felt programmed with their introductions of the dishes and often picked up the plates while you were still chewing.  The plates were often lost with so many ingredients. Continue reading

Kasama, Chicago, 2/23/22

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Kasama is a bakery and modern Filipino restaurant located in the East Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago.  They serve breakfast and lunch but started an evening tasting menu last fall.  It is a small place and you place your order at the front, where they also have the pastry counter.  Small tables line the wall on either side with bench seating along the wall and bar stools are on the opposite side in one room.  The other room has the open kitchen.  After you place your order you are assigned a table and they bring the food out to you.  Music is in the background, the tables are small and the wall behind the bench is windows to the street.  They seemed to also do a healthy to-go business.  Everyone was really friendly and the food was great.  I’d love to go back for the evening tasting. Continue reading

Ever, Chicago, 2/22/22

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Ever is the newest venture for Chef Curtis Duffy and his business partner Michael Muser, opening in 2020.  Duffy and Muser had previously collaborated at Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel and Grace.  Ever offers an 8-10 course tasting menu and has already received 2 Michelin stars, being on a rocket trajectory toward 3.  The exterior has an exterior sign that blends well into the wall and inside the gray  tones blend well with the shiny black tables and light wood dividers.  The large bare tables are well spaced and sound dampening in the ceiling keeps the noise level low with light music playing in the background.  Lights are lowered in the very tasteful room.  Tons of service personnel work to bring out dishes in unison and be on top of any needs.  Wine and non-alcoholic pairings are available for the menu but we chose to order our own wines from the large list. The menu is a surprise but they gift you with a copy of the night’s menu as you leave.  The pacing and portion control were both excellent, no lags and no rush.  The food is all beautifully presented. Continue reading

The Dearborn, Chicago, 2/22/22

entrance

The Dearborn opened in 2016 in a large corner space on the Loop in downtown Chicago.  Two sisters with lots of experience in the hospitality industry joined together to open the restaurant inspired by Chicago’s past, with scratch made approach to the food. Windows to the streets make up a couple walls of this multi room place. A combination of booths and wood topped tables as well as stools in the bar fill the space that has music in the background. Service is friendly and efficient.  They offered umbrella bags as well as a coat hanger stand before we were seated in the comfy large booth.  We had a wonderful relaxed meal while watching the place fill up at noon. I would go again. Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 2/17/22

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Frankie and I wrote-up visits to Cry Wolf in Nov. and Dec. of 2021 and then went back with my husband to enjoy their food again, without Frankie, in Feb 2022 (she was tired).  I am so glad we did!  The place has gotten much more crowded and now they have a reservation system which we were lucky to snag a table on.  Chef/Owner Ross Demers has changed the menu a lot each time we’ve visited, but a few items have been repeated.  The wine selection is small but extremely well selected and the sommelier, Tim can help find a wonderful wine to go with your dinner or the bartender was turning out lots of fancy cocktails.  The cozy place has lowered lighting, music in the background and lovely friendly service.  I can’t wait to go back and hope if you are in the area you will give it a try.   The plates vary in size but all have wonderful creative combinations full of flavor.  We were lucky to catch Chef Liam Byres before ordering and ask what he thought was special that night. Continue reading

Blue Heaven, Key West, 1/29/22

entrance

Blue Heaven is a well known destination in Key West serving breakfast, lunch and dinner – all al fresco.  The very casual spot does not take reservations but has a good sized bar across the street with chairs, tables, music stage and ping-pong table.  Roosters roam through the tables and lots of funky decorations give the place lots of character.  We got there pretty early and still had to wait 45 minutes – a fairly accurate estimate by the greeter –  but it was pleasant across the street and the drinks were actually a $1 cheaper.  They had a stage like the main dining area does but it was not active.  There is a window into the bakery that you could look into going to the bathrooms and also one to the gift shop.  An assortment of umbrellas and canopies help to provide shade in the dining area.  Some canned music was in the background before the band got started. Continue reading

Lola’s Bistro, Key West, 1/28/22

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Lola’s opened in 2019 and is a small place that uses menu-less dining.  The menu is an oral presentation without prices and only small descriptions.  Chef is at one end of the room where he prepares each dish while a couple staff circulate in the room collecting orders.  There are 2 seatings but they can’t seem to stay on schedule so our 8:00 started more like 8:30.  However it was fun to quiz the diners as they exited the place and find out what they enjoyed.  There are 2 small benches out front for a couple lucky waiters.  They provide water and one wine-glass per person, but otherwise it is a bring-your-own-beverage with no corkage fee.  One other idiosyncrasy is they accept only cash or maybe a local check. There are only about 10 tables so reservations are a must but according to the table next to us, the waitlist does work, as that’s how they got in. Lights are very low with lots of votive candles on the walls and one on each white cloth covered table.  Fairly loud music was in the background.  The menu changes daily.  The food is wonderful with everything cooked perfectly.  Without a doubt the best meal I had in Key West and one I highly recommend. Continue reading

El Siboney Restaurant, Key West, 1/28/22

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El Siboney, named for an indigenous tribe and now a town in Cuba, opened in 1984, changing owners in 2004 but is still family owned and operated.  There are 2 locations in the Key West area.  We were at the one at 900 Catherine Street and it was good sized with a nice amount of parking around the building.   They are well known for their reasonable prices, family-friendly ambiance, large portions and tasty food.  The exterior looks like a brick house and inside seating is throughout numerous rooms with lots of decorations on the wood walls in each room as well as a bar in the front room.  Tables are well spaced and the oil cloth is covered with a hard sheet of plastic (must be lots of sharing across the table) and music is in the background.  The staff are friendly and efficient. Continue reading

Eaton St. Seafood Market, Key West, 1/28/22

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Eaton St. Seafood Market is in an old gas station building where in the market you can buy and take home to cook, or order from their menu.  Things like fish sandwich, tacos or salad can be made from any fish in the sales case – all with the same price from the menu.   Most items come with plantain chips but you can substitute potato chips or fries for an upcharge.  After you order and pay, you grab your number and beverage and wait out on the patio in front.  There’s lots of shade from tenting and umbrellas.  Beverages include wine and beer as well as soft drinks and juices.  On the patio you’ll find a station with extra hot sauces and utensils as well as roosters and chickens roaming the area.  Some music was in the background from a radio somewhere.   The counter person was very friendly and helpful in making selections. Continue reading

Café Marquesa, Key West, 1/27/22

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Café Marquesa, serving contemporary American cuisine, seats just 50 people in the restaurant associated with the Marquesa Hotel.  The corner location had several tables outside with most of them inside along with bar stools that offered drinks and food for walk-ins.  The lights were lowered slightly but the numerous windows let in lots of street light.  No music was in the background and the small tables were covered with white cloths.  Chef Graham Dailey (from the Peninsula Grill) stood in the dining room in front of the trompe l’oeil painting that surrounded the kitchen window.  He looked over all the food before it was served but never came around to the tables.  Lots of mirrors and art were on the wall and bench seating was along a couple of the walls.  It had an elegant feel and efficient service.  I would recommend giving it a try. Continue reading

Louie’s Backyard, Key West, 1/27/22

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Louie Signorelli started Louie’s Backyard in 1971 in his ocean front Victorian home that seated just 12 people.  In 1983 Phil and Pat Tenney renovated the place and transformed it into what is there today.   The chef of 30 years prepares each dish to order using locally caught seafood and produce specifically grown for them from Island Farms.  That commitment to quality makes them quite popular but there are many tables in the house and a huge patio overlooking the water to accommodate guests. The back of the house is where the dining rooms are and the back is a wall of windowed doors that allow everyone to enjoy the view and fresh air.  Even so, the tables are set with white tablecloths and napkins.  Service was very friendly, helpful and efficient. One small room in the front serves as an interior bar.  The lunch menu is slightly smaller than the dinner menu but also less expensive.  There was one special and it’s a place I would happily go back to. Continue reading

Seaside Cafe at the Southern Most House, Key West, 1/27/22

Southernmost House / hotel

The Seaside Cafe is on the grounds of the Southernmost House just a few steps from the Atlantic Ocean.  The Queen Anne style mansion looks over the large outdoor area with the walk-up cafe.  There are several seating areas and a large bar.  Some umbrellas and other cover are available.  Once you are seated the server will come take your order.  Meanwhile you can watch the ocean and be entertained by the roosters, chickens and other birds that visit the area.  They have a number of options but are primarily known for their lobster pizza or lobster salad on honey butter biscuits.  We chose the latter but did not sample the menu further.  Service was efficient and the view was nice.  The food was interesting but once was enough for me. Continue reading

Latitudes, Key West, 1/26/22

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Latitudes is Sunset Key Cottage’s signature restaurant – a 7 minute boat ride from Key West.   The boat ride is available about every 30 minutes and once there you have a choice of “island cuisine” in the interior Ernest Hemingway Room or al fresco on the huge grounds, both overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and the lighted palm trees.  Your reservation time is the same as your ferry time and parking is available for guests at their sister property Opal Key West Resort (remember to bring your ticket for the restaurant to validate).  It is a large place but reservations are a must and need to be made several months ahead for dinner.  The place has an elegant feel and great service but people were dressed fairly casually.  The view in the daytime is said to be wonderful but I enjoyed the lighted trees. Continue reading

Nancy’s Hustle, Houston, 12/24/21

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Nancy’s Hustle opened in late 2017 on the east side of Houston and was named in Esquire’s list of “Best New Restaurants of 2018”.  It continues to garner awards and accolades.  The small innovative menu offers lots of small plates that are meant to be shared.  It’s a long space but most of the front part is taken up with a long bar that has seating.  The back end of the space is all small tables with a door that leads to the large patio outside. Lights are lowered and there is music in the background. Service was friendly and helpful with pacing good but reservations appeared to be a must, as it’s very popular.  We were lucky to be there with friends and got to sample a number of things.  Go if you can, it’s very good. Continue reading

Town Topic Hamburgers, Kansas City, 12/11/21

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Town Topic Hamburgers opened in 1937 at the same location it is today.  Claude Sparks began selling burgers for 5¢ each and 75 years later Town Topic is now part of Kansas City’s history. They are open 24 hours a day(hours may now vary during Covid), 7 days a week and still cook the burgers the same way – with grilled onions and a steamed bun.  They now have added 2 more locations but with more limited hours than the original at 2021 Broadway in downtown.  There are just 12 stools (3 look out to the street and the others face the counter) in the small space, so lots of food is to-go.  Music is in the background and there is a parking lot next door.  The griddle is on one end of the counter and a cooler filled with pies sits in front of you.  They have hand dipped shakes and lots of breakfast items but they out source their pies.  The people were all super friendly and service was quick and efficient.  The breakfast was good and I’d love to be able to try their burger. Continue reading

Corvino Tasting Room, Kansas City, 12/10/21

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Corvino Tasting Room is under the roof of the Corvino Supper Club, all run by Chef Michael Corvino, who has won numerous awards.  The Tasting Room is open Thursday to Sunday for one seating at 7:00 pm and offers only a 10+ course surprise tasting menu.  Optional beverage pairings are available. (We opted for a glass of sparkler and then a bottle of wine).  You enter in the Supper Club, where live music was playing and then are escorted into the small room with a large window into the kitchen, that cooks for you and the main club.  The tasting menu takes about 2.5 hours.  While they can make some adaptations with advance notice and they do offer a vegetarian menu they cannot accommodate  vegan or gluten-free menus.  It was refreshing that there were no options for upcharge items.  There are 4 tables for 2-4 and 2 seats are at the plating counter, that separates the dining area from the kitchen window. Lighting is dim in the room but spots help for each table and the kitchen window adds light.  Portioning is light and pacing is prompt.  No dedicated parking is available so allow time to search if you go.  They do give you a copy of the menu when you leave.  It is worth a visit. Continue reading

Garozzo’s Ristorante, Kansas City, 12/10/21

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In 1989 Michael Garozzo opened Garozzo’s Ristorante in the historic Columbus Park Italian neighborhood near downtown Kansas City.  He now has 2 locations and a catering business which is known for Chicken Spiedini, a signature dish that he created.  In 1991 he created his private label Chianti Classico after getting inspired during a visit to Italy. (You can order this by the glass or bottle for $10/$40).   Garozzo was named Restauranteur of the Year in 2001 by the KC Restaurant Association and several local magazines named Garozzo’s the Best Italian Restaurant in 2021.  Numerous celebrities have dined there and many are pictured in the photos that cover the walls.  We visited the original location in the corner of a 3 story building.  The small dark wood tables are spread throughout 3 different rooms all enjoying Frank Sinatra and that genre of music in the background.  Lights are lowered but at a good mid-range.  Service was helpful and extremely friendly and welcoming.  The food is old school with lots of flavor.  Portions are generous.  I would eat there regularly if I was local. Continue reading

The Restaurant at 1900, Mission Woods, 12/9/21

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The Restaurant at 1900 is in a late 60’s building that has been restored and turned into a mixed use space.  It was once the location of the Green Parrot Restaurant that ran from the 1920’s to the 1950’s.  It now displays a collection of salt and pepper shakers that were part of the late Rose Karbank collection.  It is a medium sized dining room with a large bar area that also includes a few tables.  The lighting is lowered and the tables are medium sized marble ones.  A wall of windows makes up the front of the place and spot lights are over each table.  There is a large patio.   The mostly older crowd was fairly dressy.  Service was friendly but really, really slow and the food is variable.  I would not go back. Continue reading

Kitty’s Café, Kansas City, 12/9/21

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Kitty’s Café opened in 1952 by Paul Kawakami and his wife Kitty, who they named the place after.  Since that time it has changed hands several times but stays in the same location.  It’s ownership has always been Asian-American and you can see the influence in the fine tempura batter on the pork.  They no longer have any indoor dining on the 6 stools that were inside prior to Covid.  Now there is a large covered patio next to the place but most seemed to take their food elsewhere.  You place your order at the walk-up and are given a number and told it’ll be about 15 minutes.  Most left and came back and payment is by cash only.   It is known for the pork tenderloin sandwich and tater tots.  If I lived nearby, I’d go all the time – it’s that fun and tasty. Continue reading

The Antler Room, Kansas City, 12/8/21

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The Antler Room was opened five years ago by Chef Nicholas Goellner and Leslie Newsam Goellner after many years of training and work in other establishments including Noma in Copenhagen.  It is a small 2 room place with one room serving as mostly a bar and pass-through window from the kitchen and the other filled with small tables for 2.  A long bench seat runs along the wall that ends in a huge window to the street.  Music is in the background, lights are lowered, the floor is tile, art is on the walls and exposed ductwork lines the high ceiling.  Parking is wherever you can get it along the street.  The name was a spur of the minute decision by the owners but now many donated antlers provide decoration, especially above the bar.  Service was friendly but know your entire order needs to be placed at the beginning of service.  The food was pretty good, interesting combinations and well flavored.  Continue reading

Vietnam Cafe, Kansas City, 12/8/21

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Vietnam Cafe is located in a corner building near downtown KC and is known for its Pho noodle soup, particularly the broth.  Long simmered bones and aromatic spices and to its flavor.  The interior was recently renovated and so with bare walls it appeared spartan but the crowds still arrived.  Faint music is in the background and the windows to the street let in plenty of natural light to supplement the already bright lighting.  Service was friendly and quick and portions were large. Continue reading

Real Chili, Milwaukee, 12/4/21

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Real Chili has 2 locations both on Wells St. One is near Marquette and the other at 419 E. Wells near Cathedral Square Park.  It is warm, friendly and really old-fashioned with red walls and black and white floor.  You order at the counter and then pick up when they call your number.  There are individual tables along the wall as well as bar seating and long communal tables with red topped stools.  The first location opened in 1931 by Francis Honesh who bought the recipe from Chili John’s in Green Bay.  The chili comes in 3 levels of heat and is served with spaghetti and beans – a Cincinnati style variety.  It also comes with a bowl of oyster crackers to mix in for crunch.  Cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, onions are in separate bowls and each cost extra.  It is nothing fancy but good, honest comfort food in a totally welcoming environment.  Go if you’re in the area. Continue reading

Kopp’s Frozen Custard, Milwaukee, 12/4/21

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Kopp’s Frozen Custard started in the 1950’s and now has 3 locations in the Milwaukee area.  It specializes in frozen custard and large burgers.  You could watch the large stainless makers extruding 3 different custards as we waited for our order.  It was a huge place with no chairs or tables.  Outside was a concrete patio with benches but also no tables.  It struck me as odd to have such a huge place and do only takeout and this didn’t seem to be a Covid reaction.  They also do a good business in takeout bulk orders of custard.  Elsa Kopp opened the place after her husband Karl developed Parkinson’s disease.  Initially it was just vanilla and chocolate custard but gradually she began experimenting with other flavors. Her son Karl now runs the chain and has opened out of state locations. Continue reading

EsterEv, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

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EsterEv is a small dining room inside the DanDan Restaurant that serves a tasting menu only.  Named for the great-grandmothers, Evelyn and Ester, of the owners Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, whose passion for cooking inspired a place for celebrating around a table with friends.  In 2015 the 2 Dan’s opened the Chinese food with midwestern sensibility, DanDan and not long thereafter their fine dining option EsterEv.  The menu changes regularly and wine pairings are available as are cocktails in the small room off the kitchen that looks to seat about 20 persons at individual tables.  Music from the surrounding restaurant bleeds in and the lights are lowered.  Many of the serving dishes are made by Dan Jacob’s wife, a ceramic artist.   The pacing is great and the portions are on the small side. Continue reading

Story Hill BKC, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

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Story Hill BKC (Bottle, Kitchen, Cocktail/Cup) is a medium sized wine and spirit shop that also serves upper-midwest inspired cuisine in brunch, lunch and dinner formats.   Lunch is a smaller menu but gave us a good idea of what they are capable of producing – and it’s a good pronouncement for those who are around Milwaukee.  There is a small parking lot behind and lots of street parking around this corner spot.  Music is in the background and lots of windows let in much natural light.  On one side of the room is the retail shop with wine, spirits and beers for sale.  You can also purchase a wine to drink with your meal there for a small corkage fee.  The bare blond wood table was nice sized and set with a cloth napkin.  Two daily specials were listed on the menu.  Service was friendly and very helpful. Continue reading

Sanford Restaurant, Milwaukee, 12/2/21

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Sanford was opened by Sandy D’Amato and his wife Angie in 1989 in the building that formerly housed the grocery store his family operated for nearly 80 years. In 2012 the D’Amato pair sold the place to longtime Chef De Cuisine Justin Aprahmian and his wife Sarah who continue to run the place in the tradition in which it was started.  They want to use the best quality ingredients from local farms if possible with seasonal fluctuations. They want guests to feel as if they’ve been invited into their home for dinner.  The white cloth covered tables vary in size and are accompanied by music in the background, lowered lighting and parking on the street or $10 valet.  The menu is a 4 course (you chose out of choices) or 7 course surprise tasting with optional pairings and there is a full bar.  Service was friendly and attentive.  Pacing and portioning of the tasting were good. Continue reading

Blue’s Egg, Milwaukee, 12/2/21

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Blues Egg is where the EGG stands for Everyone’s Good Graces.  Opening in 2010 it serves breakfast and lunch with the same attention to dishes that go into fine dining.  They offer standards and a few daily specials.  Known for their fresh hashbrowns that are cooked in butter and offered stuffed with various ingredients.  It’s a large place that can serve 4,000 eggs, 400 pounds of bacon and 700 pounds of hash browns in a busy week.  Inside there is a long bar with stools and a mix of high top and regular height tables.  Music is in the background and a good sized parking lot offers free parking out front. They have a full bar and friendly efficient service. Continue reading

Ardent, Milwaukee, 12/1/21

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Ardent is a small place that serves only a 12 course tasting menu from Chef Justin Carlisle on Wed. through Sat.  Set below street level, music is in the background and the blond-wood counter only has a few seats.  Opening in Oct. of  2013, chef stopped by the kitchen but was not there to cook.  Three others handled the evening’s menu (along with dishwashing, polishing and making coffees) and 3 other staff serviced the floor and counter which could  accommodate about 15 guests.   Service was excellent and interactive.  Wine pairings were available as well as bottles of wine and this time we enjoyed the pairings with the good menu of food.  They were a bunch of quality choices.  It’s a cozy, relaxed setting that’s fun to eat in. Continue reading

Bavette La Boucherie, Milwaukee, 12/1/21

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Bavette started out as a butcher shop and evolved into a restaurant.  It still has the butcher shop concept and procures the whole animals raised on local farms and then uses the entire carcass to generate less waste.  Now the consumer can buy retail cuts and/or prepared foods from the counter or sit back and enjoy the food in a restaurant setting.  Most of their produce also comes from local farms mandating a seasonal type menu.  Also available are craft beers, wines and cocktails.   It’s a medium sized place with music in the background, a high wood ceiling with exposed duct work and plastic partitions between tables. Although currently in the trendy Third Ward section, the word is that they want to move to a larger location soon, so check their website before going <https://bavettelaboucherie.com&gt;.  Service was relaxed and very friendly and the food was excellent. Continue reading

Môt Hai Ba, Dallas, 11/27/21

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Môt Hai Ba is currently owned by Chef Peja Krstic who wants to merge Vietnamese and French cuisines, stressing quality and seasonal ingredients.  The name means 1-2-3 in Vietnamese and it is only open for dinner.  Located in the Lakewood area of Dallas the place opened about a decade ago under different owners and had communal type of seating.  Krstic changed that to individual tables in the very small facility.  It does have a nice sized patio out front.  In the corner inside is the bar with 4 seats, lights are lowered, there are lots of plants and candles and music is in the background.  The really small tables are set with chopsticks only but the servers bring traditional flatware with plates.  Service was overly cheerful and bit amateurish and the food was disappointing. Continue reading

Jônt, Washington D.C., 11/21/21

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Jônt is located on the upper floor of Bresca and has a counter for just 14 persons and offers a surprise tasting menu only.  They have 2 seatings each evening and are closed on Mon and Tues.  Chef Ryan Ratino recently received his second Michelin star for the place that opened in Sept. of 2020 and is trying to take the diner on a culinary journey (Jônt).  Where Bresca and the small stairway up are dimly lit the tasting counter room is bright with a light concrete counter and lots of stainless steel in the kitchen.  Music is in the background and minimal art is on the walls but the place has lots of staff.  They offer levels of wine pairings for the meal and had to email the menu to me as it is not printed to give out. They also offered a white truffle option for a $300 upcharge (which we passed on).
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Le Diplomate, Washington DC, 11/21/21

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Le Diplomate is built in the image of a Parisian brasserie serving classic dishes in a well restored corner building.  It is a large place (300 seats) with a huge ‘enclosed’ garden room seating area on the sidewalk and unsheltered tables on the other sidewalk.  Inside you’ll find a combination of tables and bench seating and free standing small tables.  There is not much distance between them.  The red upholstery is dotted with brass as are the railings on the few stairs between levels, the columns are lit from within and the ceiling is high.  Windows are on 2 sides of the room and there may have been music in the background but it was hard to tell over the hum of the crowd.  Paper covers the wood table tops but it is set with a cloth napkin.  It’s been here 9 years and really popular so reservations are in order.  Service was reasonable but not overly friendly. Continue reading

The Lucky Accomplice, St. Louis, 11/19/21

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The Lucky Accomplice was opened in Fox Park in September 2020 by chef Logan Ely.  It is a long place with a bar with stools on one side and high top tables across from it and in the area beyond.  The kitchen is a light at the end of the room that is decorated with rabbit art and plants.  Also don’t miss the neon rabbit on the window to the street.  Rock music is in the background and the lights are very dim.  The menu is not printed, only available on a internet link.  A hum of conversation fills the place as well as a couple of large columns, exposed ductwork, a concrete floor and some chandeliers by the bar.  The tables are good sized and there are 3 large semi-circle booths at the front.  Service was friendly, open to making suggestions and very relaxed.  It is a pretty casual place. Continue reading

Blues City Deli, St. Louis, 11/19/21

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Blues City Deli opened in 2004 as a combination of the owners love of food and music in a New Orleans style sandwich shop.  There is no live music inside now because of the pandemic but piped in music plays.  There are lots of tables outside and seats inside the corner restaurant.  Lots of blues memorabilia decorate the walls and there is a long counter without seats, along the window wall to the street.  People often seemed to lean there while waiting for their number to be called.  The line to order stretches outside but it moves quickly as does delivery of your food.  They offer a large variety of sandwiches and muffulettas all made with top quality meats and cheeses. Bottled drinks and bags of chips are located along the line for you to pick up while you wait.  They also offer beer and wine.  It is a good place with a friendly vibe. Continue reading