Commander’s Palace (update), New Orleans, 1/6/23

exterior – 1403 Washington Ave., New Orleans, LA, 70130

Commander’s Palace has been on this blog several times, but this time we were back for lunch.  The menu is smaller and cheaper and they still off 25¢ martinis which come in several variations.  No wonder they had a good crowd but it also turned out to be KingsDay, which is the start of Carnival Season and so there were tables of people dressed and ready to start the celebrations.  It seemed like private parties were being seated upstairs.  There is a limit of 3 on the drinks “cause that’s enough” and it truly is.  They also have $5 deals on a couple other cocktails.  One caveat is that you do have to purchase an entrée.  The food was fine but mostly the ambiance won me over this time. Continue reading

Saint-Germain Nola, New Orleans, 1/5/23

exterior – 3054 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans, LA., 70117

Saint-Germain offers only a 10 course tasting menu that moves between the 2 rooms of the place.  They wanted to recreate the feeling of eating at a chef’s home and they certainly did that with their tiny dining room.   First to find the place, look for the sign that says “Sugar Park”  that marks the spot and reservations are a must.  The menu changes regularly and wine pairings are available.  The award winning chefs go for a French bistro type of fare and partnered with Drew DeLaughter, their business partner who runs the front of the house, to open in 2018.   It’s in an older house that used to house a pizzeria – you can see the marks in the dining room where the oven was pulled out.  You start at the bar with the lovely and friendly bartender, Hillary.  She like all the staff are lively and engaging and make the evening a delight.  Pacing and portion control were spot on and I’d encourage anyone to go there that can, – the food’s terrific.  They do give you a copy of the menu at the end of the meal. Continue reading

Saint John, New Orleans, 1/5/23

exterior – 1117 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA, 70116

Saint John is a large long space from Chef/Owner Eric Cook, who has worked at many fine restaurants in New Orleans. His first restaurant was Gris-Gris and this one opened in Oct. 2021.  There are several rooms as well as a long bar for seating.  Upstairs has balcony seating as well as rooms for rent for private parties.   As you walk to the back room, the long open kitchen is on your right but first you pass a huge mural by Deurty Boys that features tributes to deceased local chefs and hospitality leaders.  The same artist did pieces of stained glass art for each of the elevated booths across from the kitchen.   The space is quite bright, music is in the background and the tables are topped with marble.  Service was helpful but there were very few people there.  This surprised me as it’s right across from the way popular beignet restaurant.  It could be the coldness of the place, the high prices, the average food or the time of year.  Take your pick but I don’t recommend this one – it’s not bad but not worth the money. Continue reading

Lengua Madre, New Orleans, 1/4/23

exterior – 1245 Constance St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Lengua Madre offers a 5 course tasting menu of traditional Mexican cuisine as seen through the eyes of Chef Ana Castro’s grandmother’s kitchen.  This is now combined with her experiences from living in Denmark and now New Orleans. Open about one year, the menu changes seasonally at the small dark place.  Outside there is a pink glow in the windows and little signage.The neon glow coats the entrance hallway, but the dining room has more subdued orange hues.  Music is in the background, the small bare wood tables sit on large linoleum-like tiles and overhead is a dark ceiling.  They offer 5 oz. pours for wine pairings but also have some bottles.  In one corner of the room is the open kitchen which is well-viewed by the 6 stools by the counter framing it.  Service was friendly and efficient and the tasting was well paced with smallish portions.  We chose to drink a sparkler with the meal and a copy of the menu is presented with the bill. Continue reading

Galatoire’s Restaurant (update), New Orleans, 1/4/23

exterior – 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Galatoire’s has been written up on this blog numerous times but on our most recent visit we tried a few different items so I thought I’d post pictures and some commentary.  I had read that the food had gone downhill following Covid so I also wanted to re-visit.  While everything was not spectacular, and some even a little off, overall it was a fine meal.  The service there is so adaptable and the crowd too lively, it’s hard not to have a good time.  The menu seemed smaller but I learned a new thing – that you can order half sizes of many of the entrees.  This allows you to try more things.   I still recommend this place for a dose of wonderful seafood cooked nicely with lots of butter. Continue reading

Chat qui Rit, Venice, 12/17/22

exterior

Chat qui Rit opened in 2015 and is close to the Piazza San Marco.  However, the logo is from the 1940s when it was a cocktail spot and after-dinner place with a luxury feel that was named Chat Qui Rit or “the laughing cat”.  Owner Giovanni Mozzatto decided to maintain the 1948 logo as the logo for this new venture.  That thought of merging the old and new is also seen in the kitchen here, with established Venetian Chef Davide Scarpa paired with young Leonardo Bozzato, who also brings in some Asian influences.  It is a striking space with outstanding service and food.  Spread over several rooms, there is music in the background, lots of windows to the outside, a large bar area, seats outside and good-sized tables set with a beautiful napkin embroidered with the cat logo. Besides a full bar they also have a huge, well-chosen wine list.  In addition to the a la carte menu, they have a tasting menu that is well-composed, paced, and portioned.  I of course loved the cat logo, but the place lived up to the name and I give it high recommendations to any who have the chance to visit. Continue reading

Ristorante Al Covo (update), Venice, 12/17/22

exterior – Campiello de la Pescaria, 3968, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy

Al Covo has been written up on this blog numerous times but it’s been several years and on this trip we went for lunch instead of dinner and sat in a different room.  It’s been in business since 1987 and is always a favorite stop when we are in town.  Chef-owner Cesare Benelli and his wife Diane (who makes all the desserts) are now happy to have their son helping in the kitchen.  Diane is from Texas and always welcomes a bit of her old home visiting her current home.  A fairly small place, we’ve always been seated in the bigger dining room but this time we were ‘walk-ins’ and got to try out the smaller room to the left as you enter.  The small wood tables were fairly close and well-lit by the adjacent windows.  There was music in the background, as well as lively conversation and all the family was in the house.  In addition to the printed menu, there were a couple of daily specials.  We had a thoroughly delightful meal with great service in a very welcoming place. Continue reading

Ristorante Wistèria, Venice, 12/16/22

exterior – San Polo 2908, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy

Wistèria was started 4 years ago by Andrea Martin and Max Rossetti, business partners and friends since the 90s.  Named for the wisteria that grows around the patio area, the restaurant focuses on products sourced from the Venice water and lands as well as the Adriatic Sea, all with environmental sustainability in mind.  The restaurant was damaged by the high tide of Nov. 2019 and had to be closed for a month of repairs and then the Covid pandemic caused another shutdown after March 2020. In Nov. of 2021, their persistence paid off with the awarding of one Michelin star to the restaurant.  The generous marble tables are well spaced and set with large white cloth napkins, throughout the several rooms of the place,  Music is in the background, wood beams are overhead, lots of windows look outside, and a beautiful stone floor is below your feet.  Chef Valerio Dallamano offers only a tasting menu of 6 or 8 courses with optional wine pairings.  Service was outstanding with good portion control and pacing. We had planned to get the shorter menu but the server talked us into the longer one – it was a good choice but we ordered our own wine. Continue reading

Al Conte Pescaor, Venice, 12/16/22

exterior — Piscina S. Zulian, 544, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy

Al Conte Pescaor serves classic Venetian food with a global wine cellar of more than 1800 bottles.  They specialize in seafood from the lagoon, especially what is seasonal and have been in business 93 years, 32 of which have been at their current location.  On a corner, their 2 rooms are in an ‘L’ shape and there is a patio.  The walls are covered with memorabilia and wine bottles, the small tables have white cloths, their logo of “Al Conte Pescaor” is on everything, music is in the background, the room is well lit, some bench seating lines the walls, the second room has booth seating and the ceiling is wood.  It was not busy when we stopped in for lunch, but this is off-season.  The service was friendly, helpful, and knew what was in season for ordering purposes.  It’s a nice place with good but not great food.  One thing for me though, was that they had some of the small seasonal offerings like razor clams and Moeche or soft shell crabs.  Don’t go here looking for new and interesting combinations, go here for good preparations of typical Venetian food and you’ll leave happy. Continue reading

Vittoria 1938, Venice, 12/15/22

exterior – Calle lunga, Calle de le Chioverette, 745, 30135 Venezia VE, Italy

Vittoria 1938 is a small family-run business.  Giuseppe Rampazzo started it and named it after an amateur football team he had started.  After his death his wife, daughter, and now granddaughter took over the establishment.  It’s located very near the train station and serves some nightly specials in addition to the regular menu.  It was a fairly brightly lit place with small tables.  We met up with a friend there and so my notes are poor as we had much to catch up on and the food seemed secondary, for once.  The portions were large,  the service was relaxed, and they allowed us to keep the table without pushing us out.  They have outdoor tables but it was raining that night, so they were not an option.  The food was fine but not memorable however it was a lovely evening with a very dear friend, Marisa Convento who is a Venetian artisan of glass beads.  Apologies to my readers and the restaurant for the lack of commentary, but the photos will tell the story. Continue reading

Dama, Venice, 12/14/22

entrance

Dama opened in Feb. 2022 in a hotel that opened in 2019.  Both are lovely and elegant additions to the city.  The restaurant has 3 long tables, placed end to end, made from boards recovered from the “briccole” (mooring posts) in the Lagoon.  The table ends at the glassed-in kitchen.  The walls have black wood and curtains with brick archways lit by dampened overhead fixtures, that light the food well but not overly so.  Plants in the middle provide a soft touch as do the plates and glasses made by Venice artisans.  Hard to describe but it comes off as elegant yet comfortable.  Chef Lorenzo Cogo uses many products from the area, especially those of the lagoon.  They offer a la carte ordering as well as 5 or 8 course tasting menus with optional wine pairings.  The food incorporates some more unusual ingredients but re-inventing uses for what had been discarded is one of the joys for this chef.  This is sustainability in action.  Service was professional, efficient, and also warm.  We enjoyed the longer tasting and would highly recommend this place to anyone who has the opportunity to go.  It is a voyage of discovery for the tastebuds and a delightful evening. Continue reading

Estro – Vino e Cucina, Venice, 12/14/22

exterior – Dorsoduro 3778 Crosera, Calle S. Pantalon, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy

Estro – Vino e Cucina was opened in 2014 by brothers Alberto and Dario Spezzamonte with the former leading the kitchen and Dario in the front of the house and wine program.  It is a wine bar serving modern-style Venetian cuisine and Cicchetti.  Of the 2 rooms in the place, the first is the bar and snack area and the second room has a dozen small tables for seated dining.  The walls surround you with wine, the floor is stone, a wood ceiling is above that dangles candles, faint music is in the background, and spotlights illuminate the individual tables.  They have an a la carte menu, daily specials and 3 or 4 course tasting menus.  We created our own tasting of sorts by splitting a number of dishes.  The food is inventive and fun. Continue reading

Gastrosteria Ai Mercanti, Venice, 12/13/22

exterior – Corte Coppo, 4346/a, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy

Ai Mercanti is a family-run business with a large patio in addition to several indoor rooms.  It was opened in 1980 by Chef Nadia Locatello and her husband Diego and moved to its present location in 1996.  In 2013 their son Simone joined Diego out front and upped the decor as well as adding a French influence to the food.  The menu could be described as traditional Venetian dishes with a twist.  The interior is softly modern with gold disc light fixtures, bench seating around the perimeter, the wall-mounted CD changer, and a striking black and white bathroom.  Service was helpful and efficient, there is a huge wine list, the atmosphere was most pleasant and the food was very good. Continue reading

Osteria da Alberto, Venice, 12/13/22

exterior – Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina, 5401, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy

Osteria da Alberto has been around since the 1920s and serves homestyle Italian food.  The small place has 2 rooms with some windows overlooking the canal beside it.  The low ceiling is wood beamed with lots of pots hanging from it and also decorating the walls along with photos.  The dark wood tables have dampened lighting and paper cloths and napkins.  It has a cozy feel with efficient and friendly service.  They are known for their seafood and pastas and we took the wise recommendation to order the special of the day.  Looking around that is what many of the guests did too.    The food here was well made with a  good amount of flavor and an inexpensive price point.  The kitchen split our pasta dish for us but for the fish we were on our own. Continue reading

Eugene’s Gulf Coast Cuisine, Houston, 12/26/22

exterior – 1985 Welch Street, Houston, TX, 77019

Eugene’s Gulf Coast Cuisine is named for the owner’s (Kyle Teas) father, Eugene.  Kyle Teas was born and raised in Houston and grew up eating Texas Gulf seafood and wanted to acquaint more people with the cuisine and thus he opened Danton’s Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen in 2007.  When the Mockingbird Bistro space became available about a year ago, the restaurant moved and expanded the menu as well as the seating.  They stress serving fresh and seasonal fish, many cooked with Cajun influence.  The old school large place is in the River Oaks area with plenty of parking.  The staff is super friendly and helpful but also very professional and efficient.  In addition to their menu, they had nightly specials and discounts for happy hour snacks and drinks.  The food was delightful and I would easily recommend this place as one to visit when in Houston. Continue reading

Brass Ram, Dallas, 12/23/22

entrance – 2130 Commerce St., 2nd floor, Dallas, TX, 75201

Brass Ram is Chef Nick Badovinus’ ninth and newest restaurant which opened in early November 2022 on the second floor above National Anthem on the edge of downtown.  This place is all about prime rib and old-school steakhouse dining.  There’s leather, dim lighting, brass, exposed brick walls, cozy spacious booths, a large bar, vintage music in the background, and a private dining room decorated with photos of Marilyn Monroe.  Parking is mostly valet but be forewarned – they sent us to the end of the building to climb the open staircase and surprised the hell out of the staff leaning on the door.  There is a proper door on the downtown side of the building where you enter and have an elevator or enclosed stairs to take you up to the place.  Either way gets you in but the hostess stand is by the preferred door.  Staffing has been an issue with the parkers so these people probably really didn’t know how to enter.  The service is friendly, relaxed, and excellent in the restaurant but the food did not overwhelm me.  I love the look of the place, but as with many of Bodovinus’ places, I wish it were less noisy, and even though he was in the house he did not make it around to many of the tables. Continue reading

Don Chabe Steak, Dallas, 12/9/22

building – 3933 Main St., Dallas, TX  75226

Don Chabe opened in August of 2022 in the location that formerly had Mac’s Bar-B-Que.   It’s primarily a Mexican steakhouse but they also have breakfast items and salads.  Fronted by Oscar Rodriguez, the owners also have street taco and sandwich spots and thus some of that is also available.  There are plenty of tables and a dedicated parking lot and the bones of the place still scream Mac’s but they’ve painted the ceiling with fun designs and installed bright tiles around the baseboard.  The lights are bright and music is in the background as well as a large TV screen on one wall that was muted when we were there.  They were not crowded but our server said they have not put out much advertising as they are still working out the menu.  English was not the first language of our server but we were able to get by.  They do now have beer($4) and take credit cards. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant (update), Elk, CA., 11/27/22

building – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Harbor House Restaurant has been on this site a number of times but this was our first winter visit.  We were lucky to find an opening to stay at their lovely main house for 2 nights and also open reservations for dinners those evenings.  This is when you know you should have bought a lottery ticket cause your stars are aligned.  There are only 20 seats at this ocean-view dining room on the Pacific coast.  Matthew Kammerer is the chef of this 2 Michelin-starred restaurant, and other well-deserved honors like Food and Wine‘s Best New Chef of 2019.  However, as I’ve said before, a chef alone can not make a restaurant this great, it takes a wonderfully talented staff too.  It’s one of those amazing places where you can ask your server pretty technical questions about the food and they know the answers, without having to run to the kitchen.  Sommelier John Miller continues to add to the wine selections, especially those from this region.  At this point, the whole staff knows me but everyone who goes gets the same caring attention that makes this a magical place to dine. I heartily recommend it, especially now that their ranch is up and running and supplying some fabulous produce that you can enjoy along with the marvelously fresh seafood, also obtained locally.  They do stress sustainability and thus will highlight some less common items. Continue reading

Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, Geyserville, CA., 11/27/22

building –21021 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, CA.

Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria is in an historic building on the main street of Geyserville.  They bill themselves as serving Califorian cuisine with an “Italian state of mine.”  Their regularly changing menu features locally sourced meats, fish and produce.  Chef/Owner Dino Bugica spent 10 years in Italy learning local methods.  They are open daily for lunch and dinner, with a bigger menu at dinner.  It’s a good sized places with 2 interior rooms, the larger one also housing a long bar with seats and the kitchen.  The second room is a good bit smaller but there is also patio seating.   There is a full bar, music in the background, lowered lighting, tin ceiling, wood floors, brick walls and parking is on the street as you can find it.   In addition to the house cured salumi they make Neopolitan style pizza in the wood burning oven.  The bread for their sandwiches comes from a bakery in Healdsburg.  We were there to try the Prime Rib Sandwich which is only available on the lunch menu but got seduced by the oven to order a pizza too.  It’s worth a visit.  The food is great.

 

Set up

sign outside

entrance

interior

to another room

second interior room

kitchen

bar area

Frankie found some art

menu

drinks

wine

wine

 

Food

The Prime Rib Sandwich comes with thinly sliced prime rib, tonnato aioli, onions, giardiniera, salsa verde, Pt. Reyes Toma and horseradish.  It also came with a good portion of chopped salad on the side.  The well-stuffed sandwich was wonderful and plenty for 2, although it did not come cut.  It was so stuffed that some of the meat and cheese dripped out into the salad which made it even tastier.  The marinated cauliflower was almost meatlike and was part of one of the sauces on the beef.  There were a lot of seasonings and some oil on the ingredients that made it pretty drippy, but also full of flavor.  As I mentioned earlier, they did not make the bread it came on but it was great and nicely toasted.  It was really good.

prime rib sandwich

turned

turned

inside

salad

 

The Boscaiolo Pizza was topped with sausage, mushrooms, house-smoked pork belly, peppers, local greens, and creamed onions.  The onions were basically the sauce for the pizza.  There was a generous amount of cheese on the pie and a lovely rise to the edge of the crust.  The fresh mushrooms were thickly cut and added a wonderful amount of flavor as did the sausage.  The pork belly melted into the cheese and onions but added even more fun flavor.  Each table has a bottle of Calabrian Chili oil if you want to add it to the pizza.  It is not too spicy, it just added even more flavor.  This was a great one too.

Boscaiolo Pizza

another angle

closer

closer Calabrian Chili oil

Frankie enjoyed the bathroom arrangement

 

Vivian, Asheville, NC., 11/18/22

exterior – 348 Depot St., Ste 190, Asheville, NC., 28801

Vivian is the creation of Chef Josiah and Shannon McGaughey who started it as a kitchen pop-up in 2015.  Within a year they had their own food truck called Salt & Smoke but they still aspired to own an actual restaurant space.  They did just that, opening Vivian in the River Arts District in January 2018.  They serve a seasonal changing menu with French overtones.  It’s made up of 2 rooms, one with the long bar and counter seating and another room with just tables.  There was a patio that people came and went from but I didn’t go there to get a photo.  Lots of art is on the walls, sound panels are on the ceiling, the walls are of brick and wood, the lighting is lowered, the floor is concrete and the tables are bare wood.  The service was first rate with good advice and recommendations on ordering.  In addition to a nice wine list, they have a full bar from which we enjoyed a basic Negroni as we worked out a meal plan.  The food is outstanding and I would heartily recommend you try it. Continue reading

Epicure Restaurant and Bar, Dripping Springs, TX., 11/23/22

exterior – Clocktower Shopping Center, 1025 Cannon Dr Ste 105, Dripping Springs, TX 78620

Epicure Market is a tiny spot in a most unlikely location, where you’d never expect to find fine food and wine at a good price point.  Executive Chef Julio Llop turns out some fabulous foods to pair with the huge selection of wine put together by Wine Curator Jerry Gray.  They call it global cuisine but I call it really tasty as they use the finest quality meats and cheeses and locally sourced organic produce and proteins when possible.  Chef, with the help of Gray makes everything from scratch in their kitchen.  There are not many tables but a few chairs at the bar counter add to the options, however, reservations would be in order.  The walls are lined with wines and other items for purchase, with lowered lighting and excellent service.  It is a cozy atmosphere and it felt like I’d known Jerry forever, he’s that friendly, as was Kristine our terrific server.  It did help that we went with another couple that live in the area and frequent the place, but the vibe is to make the guest feel indulged, especially about eating and drinking.  If you are anywhere nearby or want to make a hill country trip, put this place on your agenda. Continue reading

Southern Porch, Canton, NC., 11/18/22

building – 117 Main St., Canton, NC., 28716

Southern Porch is a family-run operation not too far from Asheville.  The current couple that owns it started it with the wife’s mother and stepfather, who had chef experience.  The senior couple retired in March of 2019.  The building was constructed as a house in 1876, before Canton was even a town.  As the town boomed due to a paper mill the building was purchased in 1910 and made into a hotel.  A 4-story tower was added and it became The Imperial Hotel.  Much has since transpired but the ownership started restoration of the building’s appearance to the 1920’s look and then welcomed Southern Porch Kitchen and Drink onto the premises.  The inside dining rooms now are large and fairly unadorned.  The bar was off to the side when we entered the large room with well-spaced tables, a high tin ceiling, a wood floor and rock music in the background.  The menus were large and so worn that much of the print was wiped off.  There were a number of people working there but our server was not particularly experienced. Continue reading

The Admiral, Asheville, NC., 11/17/22

building – 400 Haywood Road, Asheville, NC

The Admiral opened in 2007 in a modest building that used to be a bar for cab drivers with a maritime theme – thus the name.  It’s a small interior with low ceiling, lowered lighting, vintage music in the background, bare blond-wood tables, and an open kitchen.  There is a full bar with a few seats in front of it as well as a plastic-enclosed patio section and a fully outdoor patio section.  It felt very cozy and inviting and the service was friendly to match that cool relaxed vibe.  They had installed plastic partitions above the backs of the booths which not only provided more privacy but also allowed conversations without yelling.  It looks like a dive from the outside and is not in the ‘hot’ section of town but that makes street parking a lot easier.  We decided to go with the flow and order a very traditional meal.   It was mixed on the food but the place was so fun I’d go back if I was in the area. Continue reading

Chai Pani, Asheville, NC., 11/17/22

exterior – 22 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC., 28801

Chai Pani translates to “tea and water” and is slang for going out for a quick bite.  The restaurant features the street food of India as well as some comfort food you might be served in a home.  Opening 13 years ago Chef/Owner Meherwan Irani and his wife wanted to offer an under-represented type of Indian cuisine in an affordable place.  In 2022  they were named an Outstanding Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation and in 2021 The New York Times included Chai Pani in their ‘America’s Favorite Restaurants’ list.  Chef Irani now has restaurants in numerous cities.  In Asheville, it’s a long one-room place with a half dozen seats at the bar and the rest at the booths that line the walls and tables in the center. One end of the room opens to the kitchen.  The windows to the street let in additional light, Indian music is in the background and the staff was friendly but not the most directive.  The food varied but for the most part, was full of flavor and texture. Continue reading

Cúrate Bar de Tapas, Asheville, NC., 11/16/22

exterior – 11 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville, NC., 28801

Cúrate offers a collection of ways to enjoy Spanish tapas. Cúrate Bar de Tapas is a large restaurant that opened in 2011.  (Other portions are shops, cafes, and to-go items.)  The menu includes many staples of Spain’s tapas culture as well as an all-Spanish wine list.  There were 2 rooms and a patio that were packed with people even on a weeknight.  High ceilings, windows to the street, and copper top or marble tables set with pens to mark your menu for your selections.  All plates are meant to be shared.  One room had a long bar facing the kitchen and the second room had the ham area in the back.  It was fairly well-lit inside but parking is as you can find it on the street, and it is an area with lots of restaurants and bars, so allow yourself some extra time to arrive.  We had a terrific server, Denby, who understood our desire for flavor in the dishes and helped craft a menu that was well-paced and tasty.  It is popular but get a reservation if you can. Continue reading

Baby Bull, Asheville, NC., 11/16/22

exterior

Baby Bull has 3 interior rooms, one with the order counter and a large outdoor patio.  Once you order, you get a number to place on your table till they bring your food out.  They are open Wed to Mon and have very friendly people working there along with really quick, cooked-to-order food.  Baby Bull opened as a result of the success of Bull and Beggar’s burger.  Management wanted a place to satisfy the burger’s followers on a regular basis.  Baby Bull is a fast food option to get that particular sandwich.  They serve all the sandwiches “all or nothing” so you get their condiments on the sandwich or on the side.  There is no customization, except the doneness amount.  They also have shakes and other well-regarded sandwiches but we were there for the burger.  Sides are extra and we chose French fries but they do offer options of pork rinds or hushpuppies.  However, the guy at the counter said their fries continue to be voted best in town, and I can see why.  An excellent spot if you want quick tasty food. Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 11/12/22

View from Chef’s Counter – kitchen

Cry Wolf is still turning out wonderful dishes to eat with a great selection of beverages.  Frankie and I have become regulars there and this visit we sat up at the Chef’s Counter.  This is what they call the first 4 stools at the bar opposite the cooking area.  It’s a terrific view to watch all the different dishes being prepared and the people working seem to enjoy interacting with guests.  I think it’s fun to talk with them and get their opinions on what to order.  If you get a chance, go there.  It’s a fun experience and some really different and exceptional food. Continue reading

Kitchen Little at The Mystic River Marina, Mystic, CT., 11/7/22

building –36 Quarry Rd., Mystic, CT., 06355

Kitchen Little is at the Mystic River Marina and serves breakfast all day except Tues. when they’re closed.  They also offer lunch options but close at 1:00 pm.  It is a medium-sized indoor room, on the second level,  with windows overlooking the marina and outdoor tables wrapping around the perimeter.  They are very popular so be prepared to wait for service – there was only one server with a helper the day we visited.  Food comes quickly once your order is taken but meanwhile, the server kept our coffee cups filled and the view was fun as some boats were being moved to dry dock in anticipation of the winter months.  The back wall is blank as the kitchen is behind it but another wall had a large window looking into the marina shop below.  The paper placemats on the table had ads for local businesses as well as an overhead photo of the marina and the restaurant’s location.  The food was fine but not exceptional but the service was friendly and I’d go again for the view. Continue reading

Via Emilia Mystic, Mystic, CT., 11/7/22

exterior – 24 W Main St, Mystic, CT 06355

Via Emilia is an Italian restaurant on the main street of Mystic.  It has 2 stories and we got a table on the second level by the window looking out on the street. It was a nice view.  Music was in the background for the small bare wood tables set with armless chairs.  A bar is on the first level and lights are lowered.   In addition to the menu there were several daily specials orally presented to us, but when we tried to order one it turned out they were out of it.  Service was spotty and our server was a bit manic that carried over to the diner.  We got our cocktails fairly quickly but the timing of the rest of the meal was uneven.  I understand small tables but restaurants need to understand you need room to eat without fear of pushing a dish onto the floor.  That said, the food was varied in quality.  If you’re in need of an Italian fix, this would be where to go but I’d recommend seafood in this town. Continue reading

Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock, New London, CT., 11/6/22

exterior – 80 Hamilton Street, New London, CT., 06320

Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock started in 1996 between the AMTRAK line and Crocker’s Boatyard.  The location is a little hidden and your car map will not take you exactly there but drive around the harbor and you’ll see all the parked cars.  It’s worth the hunt.  You order at the window and pick up when called.  Eating is at outdoor picnic tables, some with cover and others not.  They are open daily until Dec. 24.  You can bring your own beer or wine and try and get there early as reputation draws a crowd.  It was a fun place to sit while we waited a short bit for our food.  Several trains passed by in the meantime. Continue reading

Oyster Club, Mystic, CT., 11/5/22

exterior – 13 Water Street, Mystic, CT., 06355

Oyster Club is a farm-and-sea-to-table place that opened in 2011 and the night we were there Renee Touponce was Executive Chef.  Chef has made connections with various farmers and fishermen to present these local items in creative combinations.  Originally the building was a small carriage house in downtown Mystic and was renovated to become a restaurant.  The restaurant was re-modeled during the pandemic while management moved their food service to Stone Acres Farm where they could dine at a safe distance in 200-year-old gardens.  Now the expanded place has a daily changing menu but still delivers creative and delicious food with excellent service.  They always have several types of local fresh oysters available in the main dining rooms but in the Treehouse, which is outdoors on the top of the building, a limited selection is available.  It’s a fun place with art on the walls, music in the background, lowered lighting, and bare wood tables but enough dampening in the surroundings that the noise level was very acceptable.  We sat in one of the booths that line the wall opposite the one with street windows.  I understand there is a second-floor dining area but didn’t get up there.  It was a dressier crowd but maybe they knew they had arrived at the fine dining spot in town.  Put this one on your list when you travel to Connecticut and ask for Dru to be your server. Continue reading

Claudia’s Grinder Shop, Farmington, CT., 11/5/22

exterior – 1035 Farmington Ave, Farmington, CT 06032

Claudia’s Grinder Shop is a small house with five indoor tables and outdoor seating selling well-stuffed sandwiches, salads, and soups.   Opening in 1997 it’s on a reasonably busy road near other businesses.  Inside is the order counter with the menu on a chalkboard above the prep area.   They call your name when yours is ready, with everything made to order.  They had several popular sandwich combos as well as a build-your-own section.  The breads are fresh and the sandwiches are large and come cut in half.  Music was in the background and all the staff was friendly and happy to advise.  I would go often if I lived nearby and recommend you stop if you are passing through that part of Connecticut Continue reading

The Shipwright’s Daughter, Mystic, CT., 11/4/22

entrance in light – 20 East Main Street, Mystic, CT., 06355

The Shipwright’s Daughter opened in 2020 in the Whaler’s Inn in the heart of Mystic.  Chef David Standridge changes the menu regularly to present highlights of the Connecticut coast.  They also offer a tasting menu with optional wine pairings, but it must be reserved in advance.  Wine Spectator magazine gave them an Award of Excellence for their wine selection and they also have a full bar.  They also were the second Connecticut restaurant to be recognized by the James Beard Foundation’s ‘Smart Catch’ program. They are open for breakfast, brunch on the weekends, and dinner.  It is a fairly large place with lowered lighting, music in the background, windows to the street, bare blond wood tables, and a large bar area.  We were there on a Friday night and were glad we had a reservation as it was very busy, which also contributed to the noise factor.  The lights are so low that many of the photos turned out grainy, so apologies in advance for that.  Service was attentive but sometimes rushed and not engaging and the food was mixed. Continue reading

Fords Lobster/Haring’s Marine, Noank, CT., 11/4/22

exterior – 15 Riverview Ave., Noank, CT., 06340

Fords Lobster at Haring’s Marine is in Noank, CT, next to Mystic.  The Haring family started with a gas dock/bait and tackle store in the 1950s.  Orion Ford took over the business in 1970 and added a retail lobster shack, which still runs today.  He retired in 2005 when Kris and Kerrie took over but after 5 years they realized the business couldn’t sustain itself as it was and they purchased a hot dog cart to sell lobster rolls out of.  It was so successful that they were able to re-do the interior of the dining room in 2012.  They serve locally sourced ingredients right next to the fishing docks where the catch is brought in.  There is a small interior and a number of tables on the patio outside.  Their hours vary, so check the website and they are BYOB.   Inside they had table service and you can fill your short wait for food by looking at the old photos and articles that decorate the walls.  Windows to the outside let in plenty of light and music was in the background.  Most of the lobster items were labeled MK, so that varies but the server was glad to quote prices for us.  The lobster was excellent and I would heartily recommend this place. Continue reading

Honey-Road, Burlington, 10/20/22

building – 156 Church Road, Burlington, VT., 05401

Honey-Road is female owned and operated, serving Eastern Mediterranean food.  Chef Cara Tobin has been a James Beard award finalist 4 times and teamed up with Allison Gibson to open Honey-Road in 2017 that is only open in the evening.  (Recently the duo opened a brunch spot called Grey Jay.)  The corner building is in the popular pedestrian Church Street Marketplace and named for an ancient trade route in Turkey.  The small plates (mezze) are meant to be shared and focus on locally sourced ingredients.   For those that are unfamiliar with this cuisine the menu had a glossery on one side explaining the meaning of many terms, but the servers were also helpful in making selections.  It is a large place with a high ceiling, subdued lighting, music in the background, bench seating along most walls, small bare wood tables, windows to the street, brick walls, sheer curtains dividing portions of the room and decorations of small mirrors on the walls.  The crowd was made up of various age groups but skewed toward the younger side.  The food was mixed, with some being very good but others trying too hard.  If you want this style of cuisine, it’s the place to go.

Set up

exterior/entrance

interior

interior

interior

Frankie enjoys a candle

menu

wine list

dessert menu

menu after dinner drinks

wine front

wine back

 

Food

Baba Ganoush with pickled cauliflower and Za’atar Garlic Knot are ordered separately.  The menu has a number of dips and then you can pick your bread of choice to go with it.  The Baba Ganoush was well seasoned and tasty that was great with the garlicky bread.  The server suggested the combination and it was right on.  Good versions of the dishes, easy to split and excellent together.

Baba Ganoush and Za’atar Garlic Knot

 

Sweet Harissa Chicken Wings with dried lime labne came as 4 flaps and 2 drumette pieces.  The sticky excellent sauce was covered with sesame seeds and the moist pieces were good alone or also in the tasty sauce.  Fun to eat, it was a wonderful take on the “Buffalo wing” craze.  They were thoughtful enough to also send out a couple wet wipes to use after easy the messy food.

Sweet Harissa Chicken Wings

turned

Frankie liked that they gave us wipes to go with the chicken

 

Braised lamb, Simit bun, pickles and herb mayo was nice shreds of lamb on a good piece of bread and accented with pickles.  The pickles really accentuated the flavor but the lamb was on the tough, slightly dry side.  The first 2 plates were much better but this was fine.

Braised lamb, Simit Bun, pickles, herb mayo

from the side

 

Duck breast, ajvar, mushroom Tabbouleh, and hot peppers was 2 boneless pieces of meat cooked nicely rare.   This one had a terrific sauce and was absolutely full of flavor.  Lots of things with the meat that shall remained unidentified due to my lack of note-taking.

Duck breast, ajvar, mushroom tabbouleh, hot peppers

turned

 

Cauliflower with preserved lemon, buttermilk and lentils was suggested by our server.  It also had tons of things mixed with it.  Pomegranate seeds added crunch and the plump golden raisins added sweetness.  Some pickled onion added contrast to the milky dressing.  Lots of flavors and textures made this a fun one.

Cauliflower, preserved lemon, buttermilk, lentils

 

A special dessert was offered that evening with pistachio galette, raspberry and pistachio labna (cream cheese like), figs and a raspberry plum sauce.  The labna had a bit on honey on it in addition to the chunks of pistachio.  Most of the stuff was good but there were too many flavors competing to make it work for me.

Pistachio Galette

turned

 

House made walnut Baklava came in 2 pieces.  It was sticky with tons of walnuts and honey.  It was a very good version of the common dessert.  While I liked it better than the special neither of the desserts took it over the top.

House made walnut Baklava

turned

Frankie rested on the bench

Hen of the Wood-Waterbury, VT, 10/19/22

building – 92 Stowe St., Waterbury, VT

Hen of the Wood opened in Waterbury in October 2005 in an old brick feed mill building that is no longer functional.  Out back of the thick slate walls is the waterfall that once powered this business.  Chef Eric Warnstedt opened the place to showcase Vermont grower’s products. As you enter the old building you’ll find some seating to use while waiting for your table as well as the bathrooms.  Down the stairs is the restaurant and kitchen.  Upstairs is the residence of the owner of the building who plans to re-purpose the building and so this location will have to move sometime in the near future.  It will take a lot to match the ambiance of this place but according to the server it will offer the kitchen added abilities and space for a wood fire among other additions.  I’m sure there will also be added space for diners, as it is fairly small now.  For now the room is really dark, lit only  by candlelight, light from the kitchen and some small overhead fixtures.  The bare wood tables are small but well spaced, wood beams cross the ceiling and there is one large table dropped down a half level in the middle of the room.  Windows to the outdoors are dark but there is a porch where you can walk out and listen to the waterfall and probably eat out there when the weather permits.  They are only the second restaurant to be located in this historic building. Continue reading

Hero’s Welcome General Store, North Hero, VT, 10/19/22

entrance – 3537 US 2, North Hero, VT., 05474

Hero’s Welcome General Store serves sandwiches on wonderful housemade rolls along with having a huge country store of Vermont products.  Other buildings house the bakery and marina – where you can gas up or rent a canoe/kayak.  The main building is over 100 years old and packed with items from wine, cooking supplies, toys, clothing to interesting gift items.  There really was a wide array of items which were fun to browse while you waited for your sandwich to be made.  There were about 3 tables at the front of the place where you could sit and eat with the register and order counter directly to your right as you enter.  We read about it also in the Washington Post article about the Champlain Islands of Vermont.  The sandwich was wonderful and the browsing was good. Continue reading

Wally’s Place Bagel & Deli, South Hero, VT, 10/19/22

building – 260 US 2, South Hero, VT., 05486

Wally’s Place was named for owner Matt Bartle’s grandfather Wally Nieblin, who was a great supporter of the local food shelf/pantry.  It was established to provide a healthy and delicious alternative to current breakfast and lunch restaurant trends.  They bake their own breads and pastries and use locally sourced ingredients.  They are located in a shopping center just off the main highway between Burlington and Montpelier, VT in the small town of South Hero.  When you enter there are a number of counters that hold pastries, breads and refrigerated items.  The menus for breakfast and lunch are hanging above and the coffee bar is at one end of the counters.  Behind the cases is the kitchen that bakes all the bread.  The staff was super friendly and willing to customize.  There are tables inside to eat at but many got items to go.  Everything we tried there was first rate and I’d go back often if I could. Continue reading

Bistro de Margot, Burlington, 10/18/22

exterior – 126 College Street, Burlington, Vermont, 05401

Bistro de Margot is named for Chef Hervé Mahé’s grandmother.  He fondly remembers the aromas and flavors of her cooking, she being a foodie before it was fashionable.  Chef had over 30 years of experience before he opened this, his own place in 2015.  The 2 room place is decorated with black and white photos taken by a Burlington long time resident and physician while he was stationed overseas during the 1950s.  Windows to the street allow a bit more light in, music is in the background and white clothes cover the generously sized tables.  Bench seating is along 2 of the walls and the tables are well spaced.  The pandemic forced them to change the menu slightly and now they offer a fixed price menu of $73 for 3 courses.  The items are priced individually if you want to order just one or two courses.  Chef Hervé Mahé did visit the dining room after diners were served, to visit with his guests.  It’s not Paris but a really fun and real French meal in a little place like Burlington.

Set-up

exterior

sign by door

interior

interior

Frankie napped on the bench

menu

wine by the glass  list

wine front

wine side

wine side

 

Food

Bread and butter were slices of bread from a larger loaf served with a softened butter.  The bread had a good texture with large air pockets and a crisp crust.  It was easy to eat too much of this.

bread and butter

closer

 

The amuse bouche was cannellini beans that had been smoked, chilled and mixed with basil oil and tomatoes.  They had a wonderful texture and a great amount of flavor.

amuse bouche – beans

 

Tartare de Thon Rouge, Sauce Safran, Chips de Légumes, Herbettes du Jardin means Ahi tuna tartar, saffron sauce, vegetable chips and micro greens.  It was a good sized portion of raw tuna under some micro greens and sitting in a tasty saffron sauce.  The vegetable chips scattered around the plate added fun texture as did those greens on top.  It looked darker in the room’s lighting than I would have expected but with a quick inspection by that dreaded flashlight you could see the color was nicely pink.  Darker lighting is nice for ambiance but hell on food coloring.  Thank goodness for improved darkness photography but that doesn’t always work.  At any rate it was a good dish.

Tartare de Thon Rouge, Sauce Safran, chips de legumes, herbettes du Jardin

different lighting

Frankie enjoyed the candle

 

Filet de Loup de Mer Poêlé, La Ratte ad Poireaux au Beurre, Sauce Légere au Persil, Truffe Noire d’Alba translates to Pan seared “Bronzino” filet, buttered La Ratte potatoes and leek, light parsley cream sauce, and Alba black truffle shavings.  The fish was kept perfectly moist in the cooking process and wonderful with the foamy parsley sauce.  The truffles added more color and effect than flavor.  La Ratte potatoes refers to a type of potato rather than preparation.  They are a small potato with nutty, buttery flavor that are grown in France.  They were perfectly cooked and creamy.   The leeks were a star on the plate – really excellent.  Another fine dish that was very well executed.

Pan seared Bronzino filet

different angle

 

Paris-Brest Revisité is Revisited classic French pastry, that was created in 1910 in honor of the Paris-Brest bicycle race, with Chou pastry and pistachio cream.  This was a large portion and very tasty.  Not overly sweet but it was incredibly creamy and had a richness of flavor.  Chunks of pistachio gave more texture and added to the wonderful taste of pistachio.  A fine ending for a good meal.

Paris Brest

from the top

 

Last treats were a plate of small meringues.  They were sweet, light, airy and crisp.  I detected a hint of orange which added to the fun flavor.  Very good.

closing meringue

Chef Hervé Mahé and Frankie

Al’s French Frys, Burlington, 10/18/22

from the street – 1251 Williston Road, South Burlington, VT., 05403

Al’s French Frys was started in 1946 by Al and Genevieve Rusterholz and then purchased by brothers Bill and Lee Bissonette in 1983.  They have made some additions but still serve the same great fries that made the place famous.  Lee has now retired but Bill and his son continue with the business today.  It started as a french fry stand at various fairs around Vermont.  Now they serve burgers, hotdogs, seafood, sandwiches and fried chicken.  In addition outside they had a soft-serve window.  It was a large place with lots of stainless steel, tile, and ordering lines.  We were only there to try the frys.  They were as good as advertised.  Good potato flavor fried to a good crisp exterior available in various quantities.  Sorry, I can’t speak to the other options but the frys are worth stopping for – and take note of how they spell it. Continue reading

Handy’s Lunch, Burlington, 10/18/22

building – 74 Maple St., Burlington, VT., 05401

Earl and Flora Handy opened Handy’s Lunch in 1945, serving breakfast and lunch and selling groceries.  While on vacation in 1958 their son Robert replaced grocery sales with a horseshoe counter which is still there today.  The senior Handy’s were not pleased and Robert became the proprietor until his passing in 1996 when grandson Earl took over.  That third generation still runs the place today, which was featured in the 2017 Cooking Channel’s Cheap Eats program.   It is truly a family operation with Earl’s mom working there until she passed away.   Whether his twins will take over when Earl is done is in question but until then it’s a wonderful place to go, eat and visit with newly made friends.  They are open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch and Earl Handy was working in the place when we stopped by.  Parking is on the street wherever you can find a legal place.  Put this place on your list. Continue reading

Hen of the Wood – Burlington, VT.,10/17/22

entrance – 55 Cherry St., Burlington, VT., 05401

Hen of the Wood opened in Oct. 2013 in Burlington as the sister restaurant to the original one in Waterbury.  Menus change daily and feature wood-fired cooking.  They strive to present the products of regional ranchers, growers, and bakers.  It’s a fairly large place located next door to the Hotel Vermont.  The entrance end of the place is bar seating where they will serve walk-ins, but it was an hour and a half wait for those on the Monday night that we visited.  The other end of the room is the kitchen with fires blazing.   There are also some counter seats facing the kitchen but we opted for one of the relatively small bare wood tables.  Bench seating lines some walls and a low wall separates the dining area from the bar.  Music is in the background and in combination with the crowd it made it fairly noisy.  There are windows to the street outside along one wall but the lights were dim enough that I did want to turn on my flashlight but didn’t.  Service was friendly and helpful and got the first several things out very quickly and then died for about 30 minutes before it picked back up.   Parking is on the street or in the garage between the restaurant and the hotel. Continue reading