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

Homewood (Rosenthal Dinner), Dallas, 10/11/22

exterior – 4002 Oak Lawn, Dallas, TX, 75219

Homewood has been visited by Frankie and me in previous posts but tonight they hosted a Wine Dinner featuring wines distributed by Rosenthal Wine Merchants matched with an 8-course menu designed by Chef Matt McCallister.  The food was designed to showcase fall flavors and offered the opportunity to taste 11 wine selections from around the world.  The doors opened at 6:30 with the dinner beginning promptly at 7:00.  Wines were for sale in addition if you wished.  A brief introduction preceded the first course but there were no further comments during the meal.  Each seat had a menu for the evening with the corresponding wine/s and on the back was a list of the wines for sale.  I couldn’t see an empty seat in the entire restaurant.  That made for a moderate wait between the courses.  Wines were brought first and no refills were offered. The wine rep and her distributor did stop by each table to chat and answer questions. The event lasted about 3.5 hours. Continue reading

Landmark Restaurant at Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield, WI., 10/1/22

exterior – 303 Rittenhouse Ave., Bayfield, WI., 54814

The Landmark Restaurant is in the Queen Anne Victorian home called the Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield, Wisconsin.  Located on a hill, overlooking Lake Superior it provides a wonderful view of the water and quaint town.  The well-maintained brownstone also houses a bed and breakfast inn, there and in other buildings off-site.  Three rooms on the main floor make up the dining area, kitchen, and the beginning of the cherry staircase that leads to 12 guest rooms upstairs.  The 1890 house was purchased in 1973 by Mary and Jerry Phillips who began running the B & B.  It was expanded in 1985 to add more guestrooms upstairs.   Out back is a dedicated parking lot.  The menu is small and one special was featured the night we were there, but you do have the option of making it a 5 course tasting and choosing from the soup, salad, sorbet, entree, and dessert options, some of which have an upcharge.  Each small room has a different color scheme, with lots of windows to the outside, a fireplace, and various decorations.  The tables come in an assortment of shapes but most are large and are covered with white tablecloths.  They do not have a bar but your server can make cocktails.  The wine list is limited but there are some ‘special’ bottles in the cabinet out front you can additionally choose from.  Service was friendly and fairly efficient. Continue reading

The Park Inn (third visit), Hammondsport, NY, 9/24/22

exterior – 37 Shether St., Hammondsport, NY, 14840

The last of the 3 nights we were there may have been the best meal yet.  The menu had slightly changed from the previous 2 nights.  We were excited to have our server Ethan from the first night again.  He made the meal so relaxed and enjoyable.  It really is a fun place with good food and the surrounding area has lots to explore.  I hope you’ll visit and let me know what you think. Continue reading

Crooked Lake Ice Cream Company, Hammondsport, NY, 9/23 &24/22

exterior – 35 Shether St., Hammondsport, NY, 14840

Crooked Lake Ice Cream Company is a restaurant that pays tribute to Glenn Curtiss, a bicycle racer and aircraft developer.  A number of their dishes are named for him, striving to evoke the same creativity as his inventions,  and the walls are filled with mementos of his fame and success.  The restaurant has been in Hammondsport over 30 years and is open every day except Tuesday.  They have a long counter with stools as well as tables in two rooms, separated by a low wall and a few stools facing the windows to the street.  They had a makeover about 5 years ago but at least they kept lots of their older decorations however, the place feels new and fresh.  Service was very friendly and helpful and once your order is placed it came out quickly.  They do get a crowd and you pay at the front where people are also getting coffee/muffins to go, so there can be some wait there.  The food was fresh, with quality ingredients and good flavors.  Next trip, though, I’ll have to try their ice cream. Continue reading

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery 1986, Hammondsport, NY, 9/23/22

house – 9749 Middle Road, Hammondsport, NY, 14840

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery offers several tastings of their wines but the 1886 Food and Wine Experience is the most in-depth experience.  It is by reservation only and includes a seated educational wine flight paired with creative, small foods.  The visit also contains tours of some of the wine-making areas as well as some vineyards.  On the property, they also have a retail shop, seated tastings of 5 wines ($15), or Eugenia’s Garden (price varies with what you order) where you sample 3 wines with optional food for purchase.  The 1886 Experience is $75 and in retrospect, I don’t think it’s worth that.  It was a nice, small, informative tour and the paired foods for the different wines were attractive but not that good.  It was fun to see the different buildings and learn a lot about how sparkling wines are made, but I’d recommend one of the cheaper tours and if you really like the wine you can come back for the in-depth experience.  The Frank winery is significant because Konstantin is the one that elevated the Finger Lakes wine region of New York into a well-respected wine region. He planted the first vinifera vines from Europe in 1957 which forever changed the course of winemaking in New York. Continue reading

The Restaurant at The Park Inn (second visit), Hammondsport, NY., 9/22/22

exterior – 37 Shether St., Hammondsport, NY, 14840

We ate at The Restaurant at the Park Inn the night before and were scheduled to eat again the next two nights.  We opted for a cocktail in the room first so went straight to wine.  It is very approachable food with a menu that makes you want to try all of it.   See the post of 9/21/22 if you want more photos of the interior.

menu

Continue reading

Donna’s Restaurant, Corning, NY, 9/22/22

exterior – 58 East Market Street, Corning, NY, 14830

Donna’s Restaurant is a small place in the old downtown of Corning.  Inside you’ll find a fabulous display of Corning Pyrex through the ages and colors mixed in with cat objects, which is owner Donna Robbins’ other passion.  They are open Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch with daily specials posted on their Facebook page.  The restaurant opened in its current location in Nov. 2018 after being evicted from their home of 34 years on a corner down the street.  When the building owner decided to re-purpose the building they gave Robbins about a month to vacate and Robbins promised her loyal patrons she would find a new spot.  Robbins had started working at the spot 15 years prior when it was Bacalles Soda Bar and then the Kozy Korner until 1985 when she was able to buy the place and name it after herself.  We grabbed a couple of the stools at the counter but they also have tables.  Everyone was super friendly and the food was good. Continue reading

The Restaurant at The Park Inn, Hammondsport, NY., 9/21/22

exterior – 37 Shether St., Hammondsport, NY, 14840

The Restaurant at the Park Inn is made up of 2 adjacent rooms on the first floor under the small inn located on the second floor.  It’s an old building with the current chef arriving 4 years ago.  We read about their locally sourced and seasonal menu from Chef Dan Eaton and the accompanying wine program under the care of Sommelier Jason Ferris (who received a “Best of Award Excellence” from Wine Spectator Magazine in 2022) and wanted to try the wines of the Finger Lakes area.  We spent 3 nights in the region and managed to snag a reservation at the 60-seat restaurant each evening.   The entry room is long with a bar counter on one side and tables in the back, heading toward the fireplace.  The other room steps down to your right as you enter and has windows to the street with bench seating around the perimeter. The full menu is available at the bar counter as well as at all the tables.  Lots of historical photos are on the walls, music was in the background, lights are lowered, the floor is wood while the ceiling is tin and the tables are well-spaced.  Service is friendly and attentive and will offer guidance if requested.   Its menu has enough choices that it was no strain to go 3 nights in a row but we learned the first night that the portions are generous so don’t over-order.  I totally recommend visiting the region and staying and eating at the Park Inn. Continue reading

Penny Cluse Cafe, Burlington, 10/20 & 21/22

building – 169 Cherry St., Burlington, Vermont, 05401

Penny Cluse has been owned and run by husband and wife team Charles Reeves and Holly Cluse for about 25 years.  At the beginning of Oct. they told their staff that they would close by the end of the year – thus I am pushing this article ahead of others in case you have a chance to get there.  It’s a really popular place; our first visit we had to wait about an hour for a table.  It’s in a corner building with the main dining room slightly above street level with a smaller dining area up one more level.  The kitchen is below and you can look in the windows as you walk by on the street.  The couple opened the restaurant in a former Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in 1998.  He was a culinary arts graduate who always wanted a breakfast and lunch place and thus created this fine place named for his wife’s first dog, Penny. It has since become a Burlington ‘go-to’ spot and has hosted many famous people including Joe Biden, Janet Yellen, Suzanne Vega, and Jake Gyllenhaal to name a few.  The couple does not plan to sell the restaurant or the concept cause it wouldn’t be the same without their presence.  They also owned Lucky Next Door which hasn’t reopened since the pandemic.  The menu offers interesting options and a few daily specials are also available.  Not much time left, so get there if you can. Continue reading

Cry Wolf, Dallas, 9/16/22

counter seating – 4422 Gaston Ave., Dallas, TX, 75246

Cry Wolf is a local favorite, especially due to the ever-changing menu, casual atmosphere, interesting wine choices by Sommelier Tim Case, and excellent cooking by Chef Ross Demers and his staff.  We don’t always think ahead for reservations so the bar counter stools are for walk-ins but we’ve also learned for last-minute cancellations on the reservation system where you can snag a table.  I hesitate to overwhelm readers with the same restaurant but when you’re hot it’s too tempting to not post.  So I’ll keep it short but if the menu doesn’t tempt you to go even my poor picture-taking will make you want to stop by.   We shared all the plates. Continue reading

El Viñedo Local, Atlanta, 9/10/22

exterior – 730 Peachtree St NE #100, Atlanta, GA 30308

El Viñedo Local translates to ‘the local vineyard’ and that’s what this place is – a place to enjoy South American plates, wines, and coffees.  This is not Central American or Mexican food and so is not so spicy.  Empanadas and ceviche are a big part of what Chef Bruno Vergara brings to the menu.  Owner Robert Kaster was on site and came by to visit with every table and make sure that all was good – a nice touch.  We were there for a snack with friends and ordered some of their small plates to share.  It is one large room with most being inside the building with one wall open to the outside.  The roof over the outside tables is not solid, but the umbrellas would be better for sun than rain.   It did have one long table in the inside room and seats at the bar counter.  It’s right down the street from a theater so parking is as you can find it.  Good wine choices and tasty food make this a nice spot to visit. Continue reading

Lucian Books and Wine, Atlanta, 9/9/22

exterior –3005 Peachtree Rd. NE Suite 300, Atlanta, GA., 30305

Lucian Books and Wine is a book shop that also serves lunch and dinner Tues. through Saturday.  Named for artist Lucian Freud it is a small gem of a place.  It has a large, thoughtful wine list along with amazing food from Chef Brian Hendrickson, with a backdrop of books to browse and/or buy.  The single room has an aisle that passes by the tall bookshelves and on the other side of a low wall are small tables and a bar.  The bar is set with chairs also.  The menu changes with the seasons and is fairly small at lunch.  Since we were there with another couple we were able to try a great many of their offerings and they were all wonderful, some crossing over to the spectacular level.  The service was outstanding and I strongly urge you to try this place if you get a chance. Continue reading

Casita Tex-Mex, Dallas, 9/8 & 14/22

exterior – 5807 Blackwell St., Dallas, TX

Casita Tex-Mex has been in business for 40 years but in Dec. 2020 they closed for a year and a half after a fire.  The kitchen fire caused owners Norma and Alfonso Valles, who bought the place in 2007, to completely rebuild the interior, and this was on top of dealing with shutdowns due to the Covid pandemic.  The building was also a restaurant even further back, in the 1960s as Casita Dominguez, and thus has a lot of long-time and loyal customers.  They were back in force when it re-opened on August 30.  The interior is clean, bright, and new but the food is tried and true.  There are a number of square tile-topped tables that can be positioned to suit party size and several high-top tables in the bar area, which also has seats facing the bar.  A patio with tables runs along the front of the place and by the time we left, it was pretty much full.  Service was friendly but challenged by the crowd.   TVs are on the walls but the sound was muted.  It was well worth a visit and I went back a week later to try another plate. Continue reading

Tatsu, Dallas, 9/6/22

building – 3309 Elm Street, Ste. 120, Dallas, TX, 75226

Tatsu opened a couple of months ago in the Continental Gin Building near downtown.  The Sushi Omakase dinner included 15-18 courses made personally by Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi.  There is free parking out front and a comfortable waiting area inside as you wait for one of 2 seatings Tuesday through Sunday.  The wooden counter is set with comfortable chairs and bright lighting with music in the background.  An exposed brick wall backs up the counter and next door is a smaller room for 6 guests.  Service starts fairly promptly and lasts just under 2 hours (that depends on how many extra items are ordered at the end).  Each place has a menu card that also lists the origin of the day’s ingredients.  It is well thought out.  The sushi can be picked up with your fingers or chopsticks.  I prefer the former and they had a lovely little folded moist towel at your place where you can wipe the fingers before and after each bite.  When you go, and do put it on your list, don’t miss the elegant bathroom with bright fish roaming the walls and a fancy Toto toilet to use for the necessary.  It is a calming and beautiful meal, especially under the care of the delightful chef, who has worked with sushi for 27 years, and his wife. Continue reading

The Ranch Supper Club, Hayward, WI., 8/27/22

building – 10590 N. Ranch Rd., Hayward, WI., 54843

The Ranch Supper Club started out as The Aladdin in 1931.  It had a varied following from lumberjacks to timber tycoons to Chicago gangsters.  It changed ownership several times during the ’40s and ’50s but finally became the Ranch Supper Club in 1960 when the “colorful personality”, Vivian Levinson owned it.  In 1987 Beth and Barney Morgan partnered with Cheryl Haupt to run it for the next 30 years. After Haupt died in 2016 the Morgans were happy to have their daughter Haley and her husband Nathan Bochler take the helm a year later.   Haley was raised in the business and her husband is also from northern Wisconsin.  They spent 13 years in California learning more about the food industry where she earned a sommelier certificate.  We visited on a Sat. night and the place was packed.  A large parking area is outside with 2 doors that lead into the large bar area with tables too.  Don’t miss the beautiful counter at the bar that is made with colorful inset stones.  The dining rooms are behind the bar and have a separate hostess station for check-in.  Windows to the woods out back make up one wall with tables in the middle and booths along the opposite wall. Another dining room was in the opposite direction.  Faint music is in the background and farm and cooking implements decorate the ceiling and walls along with wood beams.  The lighting was lowered, the wine list was above average, the bare wood tables were set with flatware wrapped in a cloth napkin and service was friendly and attentive. Overall it was a good meal but I expected more. However, if you’re in the area I’d stop by and try it out I think it has potential and any drink would taste better drunk over that beautiful bar. Continue reading

Cranberry Over Superior, Herbster, WI., 8/26/22

exterior – 86985 Lenawee Rd., Herbster, WI, 54844 

The Cranberry Over Superior is so named as it overlooks Lake Superior and is on the Cranberry River. One block from the Herbster beach, they have drinks from a full bar as well as non-alcoholic choices, lunch and dinner. The regular menu has lots of fun-sounding options but they also have daily specials. Seating is at the bar, on the patio or in 2 inside rooms.  We sat on some bar stools looking out at Lake Superior and listening to the radio music from the kitchen.  Lots of memorabilia is on the walls for other visual entertainment.  The owner, Lacey Lynn Lueth, was tending the bar and taking orders but later moved into cooking in the kitchen.  She opened the place in Feb. 2022 and you can visit Thursday – Sunday.  All the people working there were super friendly and welcoming and the food is good – give it a try. Continue reading

The Local Bar and Grille, Ashland, WI, 8/10/22

exterior – 3000 Golf Course Road, Ashland, WI., 54806

The Local Bar and Grille is on the Chequamegon Bay Golf Course and the dining room and bar have views of it and the surrounding trees.  It’s a large space and open every day for lunch and dinner.  They opened in Dec. 2021 in a building that was and is available for rental – it’s a large space.  A husband and wife team, Mike and Natalie Skinnes, joined up with friend Brad Moulett to try and make some dreams come true for the three that grew up in Wisconsin.  They call their menu ‘pub fare’ with a twist.  There’s plenty of parking out front.  When you enter the bar is to your right with a few tables also.  The rest of the room is a large space set with 4 tops covered with brown cloths and a large fireplace is at one end of the room.  Windows look out on the golf course and lovely hanging baskets of plants.  A separate door is on the golf course side for those sports people to pop in for a short respite.  Between the windows and lights, the room is well lit.  Service was friendly and attentive and the food was good and generous.  With a smaller lunch crowd I might have closed off part of the large room, but everyone wanted a window table to watch the outdoors. Continue reading

Milkweed Inn, Wetmore, Michigan, 8/5-7/22

lodge building – 15.5 Rd, Wetmore, MI 49895

Milkweed is a small bed and breakfast in the Hiawatha National Forest in the UP of Michigan.  Totally remote, they will pick you up at the nearest convenience store or you can bravely follow them on a 45-minute trek on unpaved roads through the woods.  Chef Iliana Regan, a Michelin-starred chef in Chicago, grew up on a farm and wanted to re-create that environment for small groups, in an off-the-grid culinary experience.  She is joined in this effort by her wife Anna Regan, who provides the sommelier portion of the fine dining experience.  Numerous friends and neighbors support the duo in providing a dreamy vacation during the summer months in a hunting lodge they purchased.  Reservations are in advance through the website (www.milkweedinn.com), where you also reserve lodging that is either glamping tents, a small AirStream or 3 bedrooms in the main house.  Your reservation starts Friday evening with dinner, then continues Sat. with snacks, breakfast, lunch and a huge tasting menu in the evening.  It concludes with breakfast Sunday morning before you start the trek back through the woods. Continue reading

Arnie’s Cafe, Warrenton, OR., 7/31/22

entrance – 269 S. Main, Warrenton, OR., 97146

Arnie’s Cafe is really popular and they don’t even have a webpage.  They have been a part of the Warrenton community for decades and recently owners Crystal and Michael Green (took over in Sept 2014) decided they needed more space and moved to their current location.  It started out as The Sea Breeze and in the late 50s became the Donut Hole and subsequently the Ponderosa.  At the front of the current location is a coffee grinder, that belonged to Mike’s grandmother,  whose wheel has become the logo with Arnie’s written across it. In the move, they brought over lots of kitschy signs that line the walls.  At the hostess station, they have a list for seating.  A coffee bar is at the front end but didn’t seem to get much use yet.  Their plans include a liquor license and expanding their baked goods selection. There were about 7 stools in front of the kitchen window that was in the back of the place.  They have a good-sized parking lot out front and windows looking out to it and the lovely hanging plant baskets,  all along one side. They serve lunch and breakfast with large portions and friendly service. Continue reading

The Stephanie Inn, Cannon Beach, OR., 7/30/22

hotel exterior, restaurant on second floor – 2740 S. Pacific, Cannon Beach, OR., 97110

The Stephanie Inn Dining Room is of course in the oceanfront Stephanie Inn.  Chef Aaron Bedard creates a 5-course prix fixe tasting menu that changes often and in which you have a choice of entrée.  They have a full bar but also offer wine pairings for the meal.  Built in 1993 the inn is a luxury coastal retreat in Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast.  They do 2 seatings in the evening at 5:30 and 8:00 in the second-story room overlooking the mountains and nearby homes.  The large tables are set with cream-colored cloths and brown napkins in a room with a vaulted wooden ceiling.  The room faces east so the glaring sun is not a problem for diners.  Music is in the background and there’s plenty of parking out front. Some tables are on the outside veranda but they didn’t seem to get used for the dinner service.  They didn’t open early, in fact they were a bit late, and so a number of the diners lined up at the door.  The problem with that is many people wanted a cocktail and the servers were trying to get out an amuse bouche and take dinner drink orders – and basically, it felt clunky and ill-planned for a fine dining experience (we waited 25 minutes to place a drink order).  It is hard when the diners are all served at the same time so the place can accommodate more people, but there must be a way to make it flow more smoothly.  That said, the service was friendly and finely caught up with demands to provide a lovely evening with pretty good food too. After the salad was served the chef came out to talk about the evening’s menu and the 2 choices for entrées. Continue reading

Riverside Fish n’Chips, Nehalem, OR., 7/30/22

line to order – 35915 N Hwy 101, Nehalem, OR 97131

Riverside Fish and Chips is small trailer serving up hot fresh fried fish baskets and a couple of alternative items.  There are picnic tables in front, some with umbrellas and an additional patio with cover up a small set of stairs.  Across from this trailer was one selling seasoned mini-donuts, but they are not related.    It is really popular and by that I mean when we got there after standing in line 20 minutes to place your order we were told it would be about 45 minutes before the food was ready.  It’s a long wait but well worth it.  They do sell wine and soft drinks but they are right on the water and many just enjoyed sitting back and watching while they waited.  Lots of dogs and kids were there too, so I enjoyed the people-watching.  There’s a small sign on the street directing you down a fish-marked path to the site and if you like fish and chips, it’s worth finding. Continue reading

Yolk Restaurant, Manzanita, OR., 7/30/22

exterior – 503 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR., 97130

Yolk is a small place serving breakfast (all day) and lunch (beginning at 11:00) in the little town of Manzanita.  They have been in business since 2018 and strive to have your dining experience provide a level of flavor and service that reflects their zest for life. It was a very popular place but takes no reservations so show up early if you don’t want to wait.  Inside there was seating at small tables or a few seats were at the kitchen counter.  There were also stools on two sides of the large bar but they were only for those over 21.  On the patio, there were several additional tables.  The hostess at the entry had a list.  Music was in the background and the vibe was casual and fun with a concrete floor, metal siding on the bar, windows to the outdoors, tile front on the kitchen counter and lots of wood and mirrors.  The service was super friendly and would offer advice as well as joke around.  In addition to the menu, there were daily specials.  It was a good place. Continue reading

Neah Kah Nie Bistro, Manzanita, OR., 7/29/22

exterior – 519 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR., 97130

Neah-Kah-Nie Bistro was opened in the late fall of 2012 by Owner/Chef Lynne Hopper, who specializes in gourmet comfort food.  I’d call it a casual fine dining place, if that makes sense.  It is named for a coastal headland a few blocks away and located in a 1920’s house with just 7 small tables and a bar.  They added a cover to the tables on the patio to provide additional seating.  The bare wood tables are set with stuffed chairs and music is in the background.  The small kitchen is open behind the serving bar and there are windows around the room to the street and patio.   There were chairs at the bar, which turned out good cocktails.  The service was very friendly, welcoming and helpful.  It was a fun and tasty place to eat. Continue reading

Pasture PDX, Portland, OR., 7/29/22

exterior – 1413 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR., 97211

Pasture PDX bills itself as “a whole animal butcher shop and restaurant that offers a wide variety of meat cuts, cured products and sausages”.  Owner Kei Ohdera and John Schaible met while working in New York in 2014.  In early 2019 they started doing pop-ups in Portland featuring meat of retired dairy cows and European-style butchery – in an effort to recreate the experience they had with high-quality meats offered in New York restaurants.  They opened the permanent location near the end of 2021, with the aid of a “Kickstarter” campaign, and now offer lunch and dinner on Thurs. and Fri and a butcher case as well as locally sourced products, beer and wine.  It’s a small yet very tasteful space with tables out front, meal supplies (including cloth napkins) on a cart, and the order counter behind all that.  Next to the area is the butcher counter and shelves of local products for sale.  The menu is via smartphone link but can be found on their website <pasturepdx.com>.  They ask you to bus your own tables and orders can be over the phone.  There is music in the background and both owners were working in the shop and very friendly.  The sandwiches were great.  I totally recommend the place. Continue reading

The Pines Café, Ironwood, MI, 7/22/22

building – 120 S. Suffolk St., Ironwood, MI, 49938

The Pines Café had been running successfully for about 20 years and underwent a complete renovation in August 2019. Then the wife of the upstairs tenant poured lighter fluid on her husband’s bed and set the place on fire.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and she was sentenced to 11-50 years in prison.  The owners Susan Craumann and Janice Miskovich chose to not shutter the place and instead to rebuild.  A year later, in August 2020 it re-opened.  That’s why you feel the disconnect when the cute front of the place doesn’t match the clean, almost sterile interior.  On the main street of the old town, it is a good-sized place with booths along one wall opposite a long counter and tables in the middle.  They serve breakfast and lunch till 3 every day and have tried to decorate the place with woodsy bric-a-brac.  There are windows to the street and the lighting is turned up.  The only music is what bleeds into the room from the kitchen radio.  Service is friendly and efficient, portions are generous and the food is good.  They take no credit cards, have only a Facebook page, and no website.  It’s worth stopping by. Continue reading

Smyth, Chicago, 7/14/22

exterior – 177 North Ada Street, Chicago, IL., 60607 – ground floor

Smyth was last visited by Frankie and me in Nov. of 2018.  The interior hasn’t changed much – the main difference this time was eating there in daylight, as the days are much longer in summer.  It does give the room a different feel with the floor-to-ceiling windows being open to the street activity.  The large open kitchen is divided into 2 parts, one serving as the dessert area.  The small bare dark wood tables are well spaced and some bench seating is along one wall.  Music is in the background but you also hear the kitchen calling out orders to one another.  I don’t remember that.  It still serves only a tasting menu with optional drink pairings but there is only one tasting menu (except for allergy substitutions).  The wine list is small and on the pricy side.  The diners seemed more casually dressed than I’d expect in a Michelin 2-star place.  Service was attentive and efficient but not as warm as on our last visit.  We decided to have a bottle of champagne to accompany our tasting.  No menu was provided but one was emailed about a week later. Continue reading

Léa Parisian Sandwiches, Chicago, 7/14/22

exterior – 70 E. Lake St., Chicago

Léa Parisian Sandwiches was inspired by simple peasant foods the owners, Nicolas and Colleen Caulliez,  enjoyed in France.  They wanted to bring the artisan breads and pastries of Paris to Chicago.  They make traditional French baguette bread and pastries, without preservatives, in-house daily.  They now have 2 locations and you can find their full menu on <Leafrenchcafe.com>.  We went to the location near the Chicago Cultural Center and it was on a corner.  Windows line two sides of the place.  When you walk in a wall of rolling pins greets you and below are several computers where you can place you order and pay your tab.  An abbreviated menu is overhead.  They call your name out when  yours is ready.  A number of small tables are along the windows and a bench lines the other wall.  The tile floor is the main decoration.  To use the bathroom you need to get a key from the counter people.  I give 2 thumbs up to this place. Continue reading

Oriole (update), Chicago, 7/13/22

exterior

We last visited Oriole in Nov. 2018.  Opening in 2016, Chef / Owner Noah Sandoval’s restaurant has 2 Michelin stars.  They still offer only a tasting menu of contemporary American cuisine but their site mentions an extended tasting also.  Optional wine pairings are available.  The first difference we noticed was the entrance – which is now through an open gate on the corner of the alley-like street.  You still stay in that admitting area for a drink before being taken through the sliding door to the restaurant.  Inside has changed a lot with a bar area now opened up where you have your first bites and a drink.  From there you proceed to the kitchen, which is now a huge open space. You have a counter there where you also have a bite and a glass of champagne.  After that, you are finally taken to your large, white cloth-covered table with music in the background.  I’m not a big fan of having to rove around while you’re eating, maybe because it’s hard to take notes and photos, but I like to get settled and soak in the experience.  The staff is first-rate with our main server, Celeste, being a wonderful part of our time there.  They do present you with a ‘menu’ when you’re finished. Continue reading

Clementine’s Homemade Ice Cream, Middletown, RI. 5/27/22

exterior – 62 Wave Ave., Middletown, RI., 02842

Clementine’s Homemade Ice Cream opened in 2017 and served delicious ice cream with high quality ingredients.  They offer an array of flavors and some dog-friendly ice cream also.  The name of their shop is a tribute to a dog.  They make their own waffle cones and the aroma when you enter the shop is sweet and mouth watering.  The cones are also available stuffed into a dish in which you can put your chosen scoops.  It’s a small shop with a couple tables inside as well as counters to lean on.  Outside there were also some tables and 3 designated parking spots.  We chose 2 flavors – Coffee Heath Bar and Butter Brickle – and got them in one of the cones in a cup.  It made it much easier to share but the cone did stick to the cup a bit.  The ice cream was thick, sweet and well flavored.  It really hit the spot for a terrific sweet snack.  Strong recommendation here. Continue reading

Au Cheval, Chicago, 7/13/22

building – 800 W. Randolph, Chicago, 60607

Au Cheval is a diner-style bar and medium-sized restaurant serving traditional diner fare. The full bar has strong cocktails and a variety of draught and canned beers. They take no reservations and are quite popular so be prepared to wait or come early.  They did have a few outdoor tables as well as seats along the long bar.  Loud vintage music is in the background, walls are dark wood and the lights are lowered with the row of windows to the outside being heavily tinted to keep lighting low.  There are a few tables but mostly it’s large leather booths that line the length of the place.  Behind the zinc-wrapped bar is the open kitchen.  Service was friendly, helpful and quick.  We were there many years ago and couldn’t quite get why it was so popular, but we went for their signature burger.  While I saw the majority of lunch tables have one or more I found the other menu items much more creative and tasty.  They stood out much more than the burger to me. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant (update), Elk, CA, 7/7 & 8/22

exterior –5600 CA-1, Elk, 95432

Frankie and I have visited Harbor House Restaurant before and it is on this site numerous times.   Every time I go back I think I’ll just eat there and not do another write-up but the food is so good I really hate not to share the photos.  We were lucky enough to dine there 2 consecutive nights so Chef Matthew Kammerer was kind to vary the menu some but other courses just need to be repeated – and you don’t mind.  He continues to win awards for his culinary talents with the restaurant now having 2 Michelin stars.  Their ranch is also now producing some incredible produce which he includes in the dishes.  The wine program continues to evolve under the capable leadership of Wine and Beverage Director, John Miller.  Both nights he managed to delight us with interesting choices from the area.  The final component of the experience is the staff, which are all terrific.  Friendly and knowledgeable (many of our other dining choices came from their suggestions) they make a 2-star Michelin meal feel like you’re dining in a friend’s home.  The hotel it’s in, is a lovely place to stay, if you get the chance.  My highest recommendation here – I’ll go again and Frankie hopes to see you there too. Continue reading

Franny’s Cup and Saucer, Point Arena, CA., 7/8/22

building – 213 Main St., Point Arena, CA, 95468

Franny’s Cup and Saucer is a tiny shop on the main street of Point Arena.  There is no seating inside or out but don’t drive by because it’s filled with wonderful bakery treats.  It was opened in April 2006 by Franny and her mom who is an experienced, professional baker.  Franny bakes too but she also has picked out some trinkets to sell and fill out their small space.  They have sweet and savory baked goods as well as coffee and tea, but all items are to go.  They are open Wed – Sun and accept only cash or check.  If you are in the area, definitely go by.  We sampled a salted caramel pecan brownie and an oatmeal anzac cookie.   The cookie was huge, crisp, thick and filled with oatmeal, raisins and lots of other flavors.  The brownie was very fudgy and moist with nicely roasted pecans on top and inside.  The texture was great as was the flavor.  Can’t wait to go back and try more items. Continue reading

Café Aquatica, Jenner, CA., 7/8/22

building – 10439 Hwy. 1, Jenner, CA, 95450

Café Aquatica is a small place with a counter where one might eat but mostly it’s deck and garden seating outside, all overlooking the water and folks launching canoes.  They serve breakfast and lunch foods in a “coastal American cuisine.”  Featuring lots of local seafood and organic ingredients.  The menu evolves with the owner’s interests.  Currently, the most popular items on the menu are crab rolls, clam chowder and crab and eggs. They have some seasonal specials and coffee.  You order at the inside counter and they give you a buzzer which tells you your food is ready to pick up at another window.    We had a cup of their Pour Over coffee and a crab roll.  It is on a toasted brioche roll filled with Dungeness crab, aioli, celery and arugula which comes with a side of pickles.  The crab was freshly picked on a soft tasty bun with just the right amount of sauce.  A winner.  The pickles were well seasoned and tasty.  It made a fun lunch in a pretty setting. Continue reading

Sea Pal Cove, Fort Bragg, CA., 7/7/22

from the parking lot – 32390 N Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg, CA, 95437

Sea Pal Cove is on a local fishing pier in Noyo Harbor with all outdoor seating.  The assortment of tables overlooks boats going by.  The small walk-up window has beer and wine to go with your choices as well as non-alcoholic options.  Dogs are welcome and the service was very efficient.  They are known for their really fresh seafood but also have other options.  We tried the fish and chips but what was extra fun were their prawns and chips.  The fish was very moist with a really crisp coating that wasn’t so thick that it smothered the delicate fish.  Not too greasy either.  It was perfect with the tasty tartar sauce they supplied.  The prawns were dynamite.  Sweet and juicy with that fantastic coating, they needed no dipping or seasoning.  The tray also provided lemon and malt vinegar.  The fries were uninspired but adequate.  Some crisp ones and all with nice potato flavor, but they were a frozen slab variety.  Ketchup packets were also on the tray.  All in all a fantastic find that I’ll certainly go back to. Continue reading

The Ledford House Restaurant, Albion, CA, 7/6/22

entrance – 3000 N. Highway 1, Albion, CA, 95410

The Ledford House Restaurant is south of Mendocino on a bluff overlooking the Pacific ocean.  They can serve 65-90 people in 2 adjacent dining rooms that both are lined with windows looking through to the coastline.  It is owned by a couple Tony and Lisa Geer, where she manages the kitchen and he the front of the house.  The cuisine is influenced by southern France and the Mediterranean with an emphasis on using sustainable sources.  Open Wed – Sun for dinner, they have nightly live music but not sure when it begins as it wasn’t happening when we were there, but we were in early.  In addition to the menu, they have a 3-course bistro special and nightly appetizer and entree specials.  There is a full bar with seating and people were eating there too.  Both rooms had fireplaces and piped-in music in the background. There was plenty of parking out front and tables somewhere outside.  Inside had open windows.  Staff were all friendly and efficient.  It’s not a wow place just good solid food with fun choices. Continue reading

Sushi Bar, Montecito, 6/27/22

exterior – 1295 Coast Village Rd., Santa Barbara, CA., 93108

Sushi By Scratch is part of the historic Montecito Inn and the concept of Chef Phillip Frankland Lee.  It is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the area and serves an Omakase 17 courses to 10 diners three times in the evening.  It is part of the Scratch Restaurant group with different concepts in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and Austin. This dining experience starts 15 minutes prior in the hotel’s lobby with a welcome cocktail. (Parking is via hotel valet or they will direct you to the self-park lot).  With the meal you can order your own beverage or buy one of their pairing packages – house, sake, or wine – all $110.  We took the House pairing which served a combination of sake, cocktails and beer.   In hindsight, even though the pairings were well matched,  I would recommend getting your own bottle of something as the pairings felt over-priced.  Seating was comfortable and the 3 chefs preparing your bites were conversational and friendly.  The 16 items featured are on the wall in front and #17 is dessert.  Numbers by each entry are the price of each if there is time and you want another piece at the end of the meal.  The sushi is all outstanding and it is a fun experience that I recommend. Continue reading

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Santa Barbara, 6/27/22

exterior –728 State St., Santa Barbara, CA., 93101

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has been in business for 70 years, founded in 1949 by a husband and wife couple after running a health food store.  They were put off by the artificial ingredients and filler in ice creams and wanted to use seasonal ingredients as well as local milk and cream, fruit, nuts and produce.  The couple opted to not use any fillers, stabilizers or preservatives and use the European French Pot process.  In December of 1950 they opened their first shop.  They sold the shop to another Santa Barbara native in 1962 who expanded the locations and then it sold again in 1975 and lastly in 2012 when it underwent a major renovation of the systems, freezers and equipment.   Now in addition to 2 locations in Santa Barbara, they are in 4 other California cities and offer to ship anywhere.   Their State St. location felt pretty sterile considering all the ‘love’ this place has.  They had cone bowls but they were stale and not sweet enough.  The scoops seemed small but it turned out the server thought we wanted two flavors in one scoop, so that made sense.  Nevertheless, the ice cream was uninspired with a less than satisfying texture.  I do not recommend it. Continue reading

Bettina, Santa Barbara, 6/27/22

exterior – 1014 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA

Bettina is in a neighborhood shopping center which is too popular for the parking available.  It’s a good-sized place with a large outdoor patio for additional seating.  Windows inside look out onto it as well as the parking lot. They specialize in naturally leavened breads, fine dining and simple dishes based on the owner’s visits to Italy.  Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations are helpful if you want a table, but a bar is inside with first come-first served seating.  Inside the bare wood tables are small and nicely spaced and music is in the background.  The service was helpful and efficient and the pizza was good. Continue reading

Caruso’s, Montecito, CA, 6/26/22

hotel – 1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

Caruso’s is in the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel on the ocean front of Montecito serving Italian-inflected coastal cuisine.  It is the fine dining option at the hotel.  The facility was complete around 2019 and definitely delivers the pampered dining experience.  They offer a 4-course tasting menu with at least 4 choices in each category and also a 10-course Chef’s Tasting menu with optional wine pairings. Executive Chef Massimo Falsini was not there but the kitchen was in the most capable hands of Chef de Cuisine Shibani Mone.  We chose the 4-course menu and had our own wine after a well-made Negroni cocktail.  The large white cloth-covered tables are well spaced and are serenaded by the sound of the waves coming ashore.  There are lots of outdoor heaters for when the sun goes down.  When you pull up to the hotel the valet will park your car and then be prepared for a bit of walk down to the beach front.  You’ll have to cross an active railroad track and finally down a flight of stairs, but it’ll be worth the trek, I promise. Continue reading

Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, 6/26/22

entrance – 900 San Ysidro Lane, Santa Barbara, CA, 93108

The Stonehouse Restaurant is inside a 19th century citrus packing house on the grounds of the San Ysidro Ranch.   Dining is on a green walled patio, an upper story ocean-view terrace or indoors by the wood-burning fireplace.  The contemporary American cuisine stresses fresh, local ingredients of Central Coast California and Santa Barbara in particular.  The San Ysidro Ranch property covers 550 acres and has hosted many celebrities including John and Jackie Kennedy who honeymooned there.  We were seated on their upstairs patio with beautiful views on 3 sides, white cloth-covered tables, and live guitar music downstairs for their Sunday brunch.  They offer lunch and dinner every day except Sunday when lunch turns to brunch which is a 3-course meal of your choice accompanied by an endless glass of champagne. Continue reading

Bouchon, Santa Barbara, 6/25/22

exterior –9 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara, CA, 93101

Bouchon calls itself the ‘wine country cuisine.’  They specialize in local ingredients, “as-fresh-as-and-as-local-as-possible”  and local Santa Barbara wines.  It’s a medium-sized place with a patio out front.  Inside the white cloth-covered tables are on a wood floor, music is in the background, antiqued mirrors are on the walls and the end of the room opens into the kitchen.  Service was helpful, particularly the knowledgeable sommelier, and the staff all were friendly.  The food was very good and I’d go back again if in the area. Continue reading