Love That BBQ, Knoxville, 4/15/22

exterior – 1901 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920

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

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

building – 1509 W Emory Rd, Powell, TN 37849

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

Pete’s Restaurant, Knoxville, 4/13/22

building – 540 Union Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902

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

Brewery Bhavana, Raleigh, 4/1/22

exterior – 218 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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

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

exterior – 237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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

King’s Sandwich Shop, Durham, 3/30/22

exterior – 701 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

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

Watkins Grill, Raleigh, 3/30/22

Exterior – 1625 Wake Forest Rd, Raleigh, NC 27604

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

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

exterior – 7 S West St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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

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

building – 1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 

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

Domilise’s, New Orleans, 3/22/22

exterior – 5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

building – 14111 CA-128, Boonville, CA 95415

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

Clary’s Cafe, Savannah, 3/4/22

exterior

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

Crystal Beer Parlor, Savannah, 3/3/22

Exterior

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

Continue reading

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

Building (entrance at street level)

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

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

exterior

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

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

exterior

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

Kasama, Chicago, 2/23/22

exterior

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

The Dearborn, Chicago, 2/22/22

entrance

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

Blue Heaven, Key West, 1/29/22

entrance

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

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

exterior

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

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

Southernmost House / hotel

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

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

exterior

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

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

building

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

Kitty’s Café, Kansas City, 12/9/21

exterior

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

Vietnam Cafe, Kansas City, 12/8/21

building

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

Real Chili, Milwaukee, 12/4/21

exterior

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

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

building

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

Story Hill BKC, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

exterior

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

Blue’s Egg, Milwaukee, 12/2/21

building

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

Le Diplomate, Washington DC, 11/21/21

building

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

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

building

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

Pappy’s Smokehouse, St. Louis, 11/18/21

building

Pappy’s Smokehouse opened in 2008 serving Memphis style BBQ that is cooked daily.  They slow smoke their meats for up to 24 hours over sweet apple or cherry wood and offer 4 sauce varieties to add to your meat.  It is really popular with ribs being their main claim to fame as they were named the best ribs in America by the Food Network.  It is a large place with a dedicated tent outside for take out pick up.  You enter in the side of building as the front of the building is lined with smokers and that door shares an entrance with another restaurant.  There is a small parking lot and otherwise it’s street availability.  There was a line down the hall as we entered that mostly ignored the mask mandate posted on the door.  Many in line were regulars and also there were other first timers, like us.  When you finally get to the front of the line there is a small desk where you make your order and pay for it and then you are led to a table.  They seemed to be slowing the entry because there were a number of empty tables.  The number at your tables signals a service person to bring you your food.  A drink area is available for non-alcoholic beverages.  Lots of photos are on the walls and the small room beyond the drink area is a shop full of merchandise to take with you. Continue reading

Little’s Food Store, Atlanta, 11/9/21

building

Little’s Food Store is in the Cabbagetown section of Atlanta and has a grill as well as a small shop for basics.  Right now they are not offering inside dining but there is an open lot next to it that is set with 8 picnic tables.   Located on a really narrow steet, it is a neighborhood staple and when they thought about shutting down due to the costs to fix their kitchen the neighborhood fundraised the money needed.  They also have a 15 year old cat that sits outside and when it needed vet care the community once again rallied.  It opened in 2010 and been serving burgers and selling grocery essentials since that time.  Development in the neighborhood and surrounding areas have brought in more restaurant customers than shoppers and so their shelves have less fresh produce and their hours have them open later and longer.  Their menu has burgers, dogs and sandwiches as well as sides but they do offer breakfast sandwiches.  The place is funky and food was well made using quality ingredients.  Parking is as you can find it. Continue reading

Milagro Taco Cantina, Dallas, 11/4/21

Exterior

Milagro Taco Cantina opened July 6 and is the new restaurant of Jesus Carmona in the Trinity Groves area.  Carmona had owned Tacos Mariachi which gained fame after being featured on Diners, Drive-In and Dives and spawned the opening of a second Mariachi. During spring of 2020 Covid shuttered both.  Milagro means “miracle” in Spanish which is what re-opening a Tijuana street taco spot meant to Carmona.  The place has a large patio area out front and is adjacent to a free parking garage.  Inside is a long counter where you place your order and then get a number to take to the table and they bring out your order.  The paper menus describe the options but you have to use the signs on the wall to get the prices.  Non-alcoholic drinks are self serve opposite the counter and margaritas and beers are at the counter.  Service was friendly and welcoming – it’s a fun place for a casual meal. Continue reading

MoMo Italian Kitchen, Dallas, 11/2/21

building

MoMo Italian Kitchen originated over 35 years ago and in 2017 Wende Stevenson and Aaron Gross bought it from a member of the Gattini family to carry on the tradition of Fernanda Gosetti’s (the Julia Child of Northern Italy) recipes.  Actually Wende worked at the original MoMo in 1988, but both have much experience working/managing wonderful restaurants in Dallas.  Now they have their own piece of history and continue to serve tasty Italian food in a comfortable, welcoming setting.  I have to admit, I’ve known Aaron through a number of restaurants where he’s worked and enjoy his humor and commitment to quality.  I ate a number of times at the previous MoMo and was glad to enjoy a lunch at the present day incarnation.  Service was excellent and there is a large patio out front. Continue reading

Beckley 1115 , Dallas, 10/30/21

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Beckley 1115, a wine bar and casual restaurant, opened in early October this year by longtime chef Sharon Van Meter.  Van Meter currently also works with an event space at Trinity Groves and previously served as chef at Neiman Marcus downtown and later as executive chef.  Her inspiration here was to create something welcoming, casual and affordable and I think she has done just that.  There are lots of tables outside, an adjacent parking lot and a nice bar inside as well as tables.  Frankie and I caught up with a friend there and they were happy to have us sit and visit for several hours and kept the coffee coming during a Saturday brunch.  They also offer dinner and lunch and I took pictures of the menus for you.  I look forward to going back and trying more of her dishes and visiting with all the friendly service people. Continue reading

Al’s Breakfast, Minneapolis, 10/10/21

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Al’s Breakfast started in 1950 and has 14 seats at a counter.  They are in the Dinkytown neighborhood and don’t except credit cards.   They don’t have a freezer, microwave or deep fryer because they think meals taste best prepared without them and they don’t have room.  We found the line outside when we arrived and it moved fairly well.  As customers leave someone comes out and invites the number inside that they can now serve.  If your whole party is not there when you reach the door you will be move to the back of the line.  It’s all done in a very pleasant way.  Open everyday, they close at 1:00pm.  It is reported to be the most narrow restaurant in Minneapolis with a width of 10 feet.  It is built in a former alleyway.  Prior to Covid they let waiters line up inside behind stools when it was cold, now only vaccinated are allowed inside.  The food is worth the wait and hassle.  Behind the counter are boxes of yellow cards which are meals already paid for. Continue reading

Boludo Nicollet, Minneapolis, 10/9/21

street window

Buludo Nicollet is a small storefront off a street with only a to-go order/pick-up area.  They offer Argentinian dishes that Chef Facundo DeFraia learned from his grandmother.  The local newspaper food critic named him the “dough wisperer” and indeed he is.  They now have 2 locations since opening in 2018, there were a couple of outdoor tables for eating here whereas the downtown location has indoor seating.   They offer fresh made pizzas and empanadas as well as a couple salads and desserts.  It took about 20 minutes to make our order and it all came out at once.  It is well worth visiting for pizza and especially empanadas. Continue reading

Matt’s Bar, Minneapolis, 10/8/21

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Matt’s Bar & Grill opened in 1954 as a regular burger bar until founder Matt Bristol created the “Jucy Lucy” from customer requests for 2 patties and 2 slices of cheese in the middle.  Upon eating this option he said, “that’s one juicy Lucy” and the name and legend were born.  Minneapolis now has many imitations but this was the original.  When you enter the smell of frying beef and onions engulfs you.  The burgers are made with fresh beef and filled with molten hot cheese.  They even warn you about a spurt when you get the burger.  They offer a regular burger but from the look of the grill the Jucy Lucy is the thing to get.  Fries are by full or half order.  It is cash or local check only and there are no reservations.  Parking is on the street and expect a line.  While you wait you can look around at the memorabilia and pictures on the walls.  Besides a full bar they have a number of tap beers. Continue reading

Sleder’s Family Tavern, Traverse City, 10/2/21

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Sleder’s Family Tavern, in Slabtown, is Michigan’s oldest continuously-operated restaurant. It began when a Bohemian immigrant named Vencil Sleder wanted to build a tavern where men could relax after work.  Louie Sleder (1909-1993) and his mother turned the place into a ‘good will’ business.  Prior to 1930 women weren’t allowed in the barroom with its 21 foot solid mahogany sided and cherry wood bar and 12 foot ornate stamped tin ceiling, so they entered through a special back room door.  After 1930 they opened up both rooms to all.  It was sold in 1975 to the Classens who re-finished the woodwork and added a Victorian-styled side porch that is popular for private parties.  It was sold again in 1992 to the Cairns who held their own wedding there and now their son and daugther- in-law own it.  Numerous hunting trophies line the wall, in particular the moose named Randolph that you kiss for good luck.  The history in the place is amazing but the food is good too. Continue reading

Slabtown Burgers, Traverse City, 10/2/21

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Slabtown Cafe and Burgers offered indoor and outdoor seating with a variety of burgers and sides.  Slabtown was a part of Traverse City where lumber mill workers built their houses from leftover slabs of lumber from the mills.  This place is known for their grease factor, which the owners swear by, and the evidence can still be seen on your bag of food.  They serve homemade, hand pattied burgers and fresh cut fries and were rated at number 5 on TripAdvisor’s Top Ten Burger restaurants in America.  According to that report they serve 800 pounds of burger meat a day. There are several indoor tables but also a patio that runs around the house with tables.  The inside is decorated with photos of Slabtown residents and their homes and other historical things.   Music is in the background and the place is very popular.  I was not sold on their burger nor the fries. Continue reading

S2S Sugar 2 Salt, Traverse City, 10/1/21

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S 2 S or now Sugar 2 Salt started out as Sunrise to Sunset but when the owners came together they realized it was more sugar to salt as they wanted to serve breakfast.  The menu changes with the seasons and availability.  It is located in the complex that long ago housed a mental health hospital.  They have indoor as well as a large outdoor dining area.  Inside much of the room is taken up by a bar, the front of which is a case for pastries.   A large window to the kitchen serves as a pass through also, where you can see the single chef making and assembling the plates.   It is casual and laid back with lots of signs on the walls and herbs hanging overhead.  The white walls reflect all the sun that comes in the front windows to make it quite well lit.  With a concrete floor it looked like it could get noisy if it was full.  The staff was friendly and helpful. Continue reading

Farm Club, Traverse City, 9/30/21

front

Farm Club is a collaboration of several people to offer a restaurant, bakery, brewery and general store in one place on the Leelanau Peninsula.  The sales area and restaurant are in a modern barn with tons of windows that look out at the additional outside seating areas.  The brewery is on one end of the building and we didn’t go there but you can order their beer with lunch.  At the entrance are shelves of products and produce you can buy as well as breads, cookies, etc.  Light wood is on the tables, cabinets and bench seats, concrete is on the floor and music is in the background.  There is lots of outdoor seating and some tables have umbrellas.  Inside there is table service but for outside you make you order and come get it when your buzzer goes off. Staff were efficient and helpful, but the food was souless – good but not great.  Given its freshness things should have been more flavorful and some of the preparation was lacking. Continue reading

Bubbie’s Bagels, Traverse City, 9/30/21

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Bubbie’s Bagels opened in Feb. 2020  by Sam Brickman who named it for his grandmother who got him interested in cooking even though she never made bagels.  They use an old school technique making the bagels with a sourdough base and fermenting for 2 days before boiling them.  This allows them to a wonderful texture and chew. They have several kinds of bagels and cream cheese to make your sandwich or there are optional fillings of egg, tuna or lox.  You can buy one or quantities.  Masks are required and the number of people in the shop is limited, but it is one of a kind.  The bagels do have a marvelous texture and taste but there was too much cream cheese for me.  If I ever go again I’d have it plain. Continue reading

Gabriel’s Gate Restaurant, Buffalo, 9/2/21

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Gabriel’s Gate has been around for 50 years, located in one of the original Tift Row Homes built in 1864 in the Allentown District.  Inside it’s a mix of antique and hunting lodge.  Between the various objects, old wood booths, tin ceiling, lowered lighting, music in the background and stuffed heads it’s worth going to just to look around.  The large bar in the back room is solidly covered with decorations.  There is a patio when weather permits and fireplaces when it doesn’t.  But they are also a local favorite for Buffalo wings.  However, service is a huge issue and really slow. Continue reading

Swan Street Diner, Buffalo, 9/2/21

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The Swan Street Diner is an example of one of the early Sterling Company diner cars made by a Mass. company from 1936 to 1942.  Swan Street is No. 397 from  1937, featuring mahogany trim, barrel vaulted ceiling and walls of porcelain enamel.  This one was originally in Newark, NY as a diner and assembled onsite from pieces.  Since then it has had 3 owners and in 2013 Larkin Development Group purchased it, took it to Akron, Ohio and then to Buffalo for full restoration.  The interior enamel panels, bar stools and wood trim are original and the rest was fabricated onsite, trying to hold to the original design.  The Larkin Soap Company made china among other things and Swan Street was able to purchase some of the last plates and mugs made in Buffalo for the Diner.  They offer breakfast and lunch and have a couple specials.  The food is high quality and it’s a beautifully restored diner with a few original parts.  Great, friendly service. Continue reading

Acadia House Provisions, Stonington, ME., 8/29/21

front door

Acadia House Provisions is on one floor of a house overlooking the bay in Stonington, Maine.  Ryan McCaskey from Chicago opened it in 2019 as a spin off of a Michelin starred restaurant there.  It opened in the site formerly occupied by Aragosta, which moved to Goose Cove.  Outside there is a large deck overlooking the active fishing area.  Lots of windows inside also take advantage of the view.   Inside there is much painted light wood on the walls, floors and ceiling.  Art is on the walls and music is in the background to make up a very pleasant room.  They have an a la carte menu and a full bar.  Food and service are both quite good. Continue reading

F Street Station (update), Anchorage, AK., 8/1/21

exterior, 325 F Street, Anchorage, AK., 99501 / 907-272-5196

Frankie visited F Street Station almost 3 years ago and it hasn’t changed much. We saw the same chef in the kitchen and the place is very popular.  They have a number of beers, cocktails and wines by the glass and bottle.  The cheese hunk was back after having disappeared during the height of Covid, but it still wasn’t getting much action.  They offer lots of seafood and had our favorite fried halibut during our last trip and I’m here to tell you it is still excellent. Continue reading

Chugiak Cafe, Chugiak, AK., 8/1/21

drive through line

Chugiak Cafe is about 20 miles outside of Anchorage and worth the drive.  It started about 7 years ago (by my best information) in what was an old WWII barracks.  After about 3 years owner Trig Bjorklund had to expand to 2 more rooms to accommodate guests.  Then Covid 19 hit and they changed the system to drive-through only.  Tables outdoors are now set up, each set with a box of napkins, utensils and other needs and the front door is open if you want to eat inside.  However there is no staff to clean up after you or take orders, just put your trash in the convenient cans or take your food to another location.  To expedite the process a person is out front to take your order and hand it in to the kitchen who will then give it to the pick-up window.  The system works well and there are beautiful flowers and fun decorations for you to look at as you drive through the line.  Inside is a treasure trove of a lifetime’s memorabilia that is not to be missed.  Particularly the 1910 coffee roaster that roasts their coffee in small batches.  But the best part is the honest, wonderful food. Continue reading

Denali Brewpub, Talkeetna AK., 7/31/21

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Denali Brewpub is in the center of the small town of Talkeetna, nestled at the base of Denali. It is a large place with guests being those arriving by train, outdoor enthusiasts and families.  Dogs are welcome on the large outdoor patio.  Inside there is a log cabin feel with wood ceiling, walls and floor along with a large fireplace.  A bar dominates one of the several rooms and the kitchen is in back.  Lots of decorations adorn the walls, including some of the things for sale.  There is free wi-fi and music is in the background.  A large number of beers are from their brewery that is close by.  Service was good and very friendly but lunch does start at 11:00 not at 10:00 which was on the website. Continue reading

Talkeetna Spinach Bread Airstream, Talkeetna, AK., 7/31/21

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Spinach Bread has been available in Alaska for 20 years.  We found it in the small town of Talkeetna where the Airstream trailer is parked and open for business every day but Tuesday.  There are tables set up out front and a small menu to chose from.  The spinach bread is made with a spent grain bread base and then covered with a mix of cheese, garlic and spinach.  Hot sauce is optional and I advise adding it. They heat it while you wait at the window and you can see the server cut it into strips for easy eating.  It had a wonderful bread base and just the right amount of toppings.  Full of flavor and texture it was a perfect snack or meal, depending on how much you order.  With it we had the Brazilian limeade which is made with fresh limes, organic sugar, a touch of sweetened condensed milk and water.  It was slightly thick and cool with a perfect blend of sweet and tart.  There’s some good food coming out of this food truck! Continue reading

The White Spot, Anchorage, 7/30/21

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109 W. 4th Ave., 907-279-3954

The White Spot is in downtown Anchorage and even though the street out front was closed for repair the place was still packed with customers eating in and picking up to go orders. There are several tables but the best seats are at the counter overlooking the small kitchen show.  They are known for the halibut sandwich but you’ll find lots of house made, fresh options here.  The current owners have had the place five and a half years but it obviously goes way back.  An interim owner was an Italian lady that brought the place to notoriety according to the current owner.  The cook, Frank, was an amazing show to watch as he freshly breaded mushrooms, onion and the famed halibut for the sandwich all while grilling whatever.  The staff were all super friendly and it was such a fun tasty spot to have on our agenda, I recommend you try it when you’re in the area.  They are only open for lunch and breakfast (for which I could find no menu). Continue reading

Colony Kitchen/ Noisy Goose Cafe, Palmer, AK., 7/30/21

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The Colony Kitchen started in 1985 in downtown Palmer as the Frontier Café and moved to the present location in 1989 and became the Colony Kitchen but is more often referred to as the Noisy Goose Cafe.  The name is representative of the casual and conversational nature of the guests and staff.  Portions of the home-style cuisine are large and service is efficient.  The food is well prepared but on the bland side for me but nevertheless, even with Covid the place was incredibly busy.  Large groups, couples and families from all walks of life found it the place to go.  The walls are covered with stuffed birds, antlers, photos of animals and signs.  Several wooden bears are also placed around as well as a stuffed real bear and faint music is in the background.  Many windows add to the light level inside.  Outside there is a wrap around deck and a combination of booths and tables fill the inside. A scrambler option was offered as a daily special. Continue reading

Ray’s Waterfront, Seward, AK., 7/29/21

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Ray’s Waterfront is a seafood restaurant that offers views of the Seward small boat harbor and mountains beyond.  It is a large place on a couple levels, to afford everyone a view.  The walls are decorated with lots of mounted fish in between the numerous windows that overlook the water. Seward is the sight for many day cruises to go see wildlife, icebergs, etc.  They take no reservations and are fairly popular so you can expect a line to get a seat, especially now that they are short staffed due to Covid.  Music is in the background and it seemed to be a place for gatherings.  In addition to seafood they also offer chicken and beef items and there were a couple of daily specials.  The food here is good but fairly ordinary however it is made up for with the fun view of the active harbor. Continue reading

Café Beaujolais (The Brickery), Mendocino, CA., 7/23/21

indoor restaurant

The Brickery is the pizza part of Café Beaujolais’, a complex of restaurants in the artsy town of Mendocino.  On the street is Café Beaujolais, a fine dining option open for dinner and in front of the Brickery is The Waiting Room which is a coffee and pastry shop till dinner time when it becomes a lounge.  It is a bit confusing at first but we followed the path between the buildings and found ourselves in a lovely garden area furnished with an assortment of tables and a window to place your order.  The daily menu and specials are written on chalkboards that hang on either side of the order window.  Inside you can see the fired brick oven where the pizza is cooked.  They also sell beer and wine along with offering a free jug of iced water.  After you order you get a buzzer that makes a noise when you can walk back to the other window and pick up your pie.  It is a truly lovely spot with good pizza.  You can visit the Waiting Room up near the street if you need a bathroom break. Continue reading

Catelli’s Restaurant, Geyserville, CA., 7/22/21

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Catelli’s has been around since the 1930s in Geyserville, CA.  Opened by Italian immigrants, it is now run by third-generation siblings in the Catelli family.  They feature local ingredients, hand-craft their ravioli and have many local wines.  They currently offer patio and indoor seating as well as takeout on Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. Located in a two-story brick building on the main drag of Geyserville, it is a large place.  The entry room contains a long bar and the other 2 rooms have bench seating around the walls with bare wood tables  and some center tables and chairs.  Tables are set with a cloth napkin that contains the flatware.  Music is in the background, acoustic tiles are in the ceiling and windows are uncovered to the street.  Some decorations and art are placed about as well as historic photos.  Service was friendly and efficient, but be aware of numerous upcharges on innocently offered personalizations. Continue reading

Nelscott Breakfast House, Lincoln City, OR., 6/26/21

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Nelscott Breakfast House alternately called Nelscott Café is a small coastal cafe offering breakfast and lunch items. Located in Lincoln City, their patio welcomes dogs too and there are special items available just for our canine companions.  It’s in a strip of shops along the highway in what looks like a house and was started around 2009 by a couple with the names Nelson and Scott, but it has changed hands a number of times.  Inside you find a number of tables and stairs to another level of seating as well as a door to the patio.  Plenty were also getting food to-go.  A pass through window to the kitchen lets you get a small peek at the action, windows are all around, music is in the background and happy people are everywhere.  Service was outstanding – they promptly took our order and food was out quickly, which was great as we were on our way to the airport. The menu has a good selection of sweet or savory dishes but there are also specials, which were noted out front.  I would go back if I am ever anywhere close.    Continue reading

The Schooner Restaurant & Lounge, Netarts, OR., 6/25/21

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The Schooner Restaurant and Lounge is located at the boat launch for Netarts Bay on the Tillamook Coast.  The source of most of their oysters is from the bay next door and the rest of their seafood is mostly locally sourced.  During lunch we watched a number of small boats launch into the bay and clam diggers hunt for clams.  They are quite popular and there was a line when we arrived at the opening hour.  Most wanted to sit on the large outdoor deck but we chose inside where you could watch the kitchen and wood fired oven.  Indoor the bar is separate from the dining area that has a combination of copper topped tables and booths.  Service was hurried and poor – for example we were told when the server arrived that the daily special was all gone (15 minutes after they opened) then later were told it was still available but she could not change the order we placed. Continue reading

Side Door Cafe, Gleneden Beach, OR., 6/24/21

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Side Door Café is in an old brick and tile factory building.  It’s the restaurant part of the 7,000 sq. ft. warehouse also home to Eden Hall that all opened in 2000.  Family owned and run it serves New American dishes in an eclectic space decorated with many re-claimed items from other Oregon buildings.  They have some daily specials to add to the already large menu.  Their hours are shorter now and tables well spaced due to Covid, so changes may be coming in those areas. Lots of windows in the building add to the lighting during daytime and instrumental music is in the background.  The high ceiling is filled with fans and decorations are everywhere.  There were 2 large rooms, the first one having some booth seating and the second strung with little lights. Continue reading

James Hook and Company, Boston, 6/12/21

sign on building

James Hook and Co. started in 1925 with a father and his 3 sons trucking their catch to Boston.  It is still a family run business with 4 of the third generation siblings.  Somewhere along the line they developed retail outlets while still selling to restaurants and shipping across the U.S.   We visited a retail site near the water that also had a food truck on premises selling options.  Inside the little house were a couple tables to eat but mostly had tanks containing various sizes of lobsters and shelves with memorabilia and cooking supplies.  The retail counter had a number of fish and shellfish but also the lobster rolls, which they are famous for.  They come in 2 sizes and are cold with mayo or hot with butter.  Outside at the truck you could get the mayo variety and whole cooked lobsters as well as soups and some sides.  There is a large outdoor seating area to enjoy your selections. Continue reading

Earl’s Steak Sandwiches, Dover, N.H., 6/11/21

exterior (99 Oak St., Dover)

Earl’s Steak Sandwiches is family owned and specializes in shaved beef sandwiches.  Wife Mo (Maureen) Donovan works the floor, husband Jim cooks and their daughter Sophie, who is 10, makes rings and bracelets to sell in one of the booths.  Opening in October, in a location that had previously been a diner,  during the Covid pandemic they rose to the challenge by concentrating on take-out until indoor dining resumed.  The decor features a ‘vintage car theme’ with old hot rod magazines at the table and the walls decorated with oil signs and car parts.  The inside area is small, with a few counter stools, but there also is a good number of outdoor tables.  Behind the counter is a window to the kitchen where you can see, hear and smell the owner’s cooking.  One of the booths is “reserved for Earl” which is where the daughter assembles and sells her jewelry.  Earl has a photo but it is actually not a family member, they just liked his name.   They cure their own meats and make their own sauces. Continue reading

E Bar Tex Mex (update), Dallas, 5/27/21

 

building

Our last visit to E Bar Tex Mex was in 2018 and I wanted to update it as I was not wowed by the food on that visit but speculated that you had to find the items that spoke to you.  They continue to get crowds and now I know why cause I’ve found my item – Jorge’s Tacos.  The place is physically about the same except they’ve added a non-enclosed tent next to the enclosed one and their name is on a nearby parking lot to provide additional parking. Service is good, helpful and friendly. Continue reading

DanDan, Philadelphia, 5/21/21

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DanDan (126 S. 16th St., Philadelphia) serves Sichuan and Taiwanese dishes along with having a full bar.  It is a smaller place in Rittenhouse Square that also offers some outdoor seating.  Inside the downstairs has counter seating around the bar and in the window.  Upstairs are multiple tables in different combinations of sizes.  The spheres that are the light fixtures hang from the ceiling and give it a fun view from upstairs.  They appeared to do a lively takeout business but were not busy at any of the tables, but we were early. Music is in the background and some paintings are on the walls.  It is a large menu but several favorites had been suggested by local magazines and we got most of them.  This place got rave reviews but we seemed to hit it on an off day. Continue reading

Parc, Philadelphia, 5/20/21

entrance

Parc is an all day restaurant designed to represent a French sidewalk café.  It is a large, extremely popular place with inside dining in many rooms and more than 75 outdoor covered and uncovered spaces to dine.  Restaurateur Stephan Starr brought this place to a corner lot in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.  Inside dark wood tables are well spaced and set with red napkins to match the red booth seating along the walls.  Old wood floors are juxtaposed with elegant tile ones, especially around the large bar that was currently not in use.  On the table are a special set of directions about Covid and their policies – notably that you have just 90 minutes for your table, that you are not to move any of it and must wear a mask when not seated. We also found that they would not seat you until your exact reservation time.  It felt stiff but the lovely server soon relaxed the vibe.  The menu has a good range of things but there are even more drink options.  We got a bottle of sparkler to go with our meal. Continue reading

HUDA, Philadelphia, 5/19/21

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HUDA is “fast casual concept by Philadelphia based Chef Yehuda Sichel” who loves sandwiches. The sandwiches come on homemade milk buns and sourdough and they also offer salads. It’s a small shop with one indoor table and 4 outside ones. They do a lot of takeout. The menu uses seasonal and local ingredients and the staff were all super friendly. You go inside to place and pay for your order and then they bring it to your table. We went there for a late afternoon snack to split and it was perfect and really tasty. I’d go often if I had the chance. Continue reading

El Zarco Restaurant and Cantina, Grand View, WI., 6/4/21

front

El Zarco is on US Highway 63 in Grand View, WI.  It offers “homestyle fresh Mexican Cuisine and hand crafted margaritas. “  They have been open 4 months in a building with 2 rooms, one of which is dominated by a pool table and bar and the other having a combination of tables and booths. The website said they open at 11:00 but the sign out front said noon however, the owner was kind enough to let us come in and start early. On weekends they open earlier and have brunch options. Inside are tile floors, wood ceiling, AC, music in the background and walls decorated with photos and memorabilia. Two TVs were in the bar area but both just streamed scenery visuals and they have free Wi-Fi. Talking with the owner he asked if it was our first visit and when we said yes he pulled out 3 flavors of tequila and said we were due a complimentary shot to welcome us. He was so nice and friendly it felt like we had been coming for years. I know I’ll be back. Continue reading

Arnold’s Country Kitchen, Nashville, 4/16/21

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Arnold’s is an institution in Nashville.  Opened in 1982 by Jack and Rose Arnold, now their children run the place.  It has received acclaim from many publications like Southern Living, SAVEUR, and Bon Apetit and been featured on Diners, Drive in and Dives.  They received the James Beard Award in 2009.   It is a cafeteria style restaurant but don’t let that mislead you.   Food is made in house and in real southern style with fresh ingredients.  Their most popular order is meat and 3 sides.  The roast beef is a signature offering but the vegetables are well regarded.  We got there early to avoid the line but there is a parking lot adjacent to the building if you drive.  Presently they are only at 50% capacity due to Covid and there are less tables available. Cutlery is plastic, napkins are in a dispenser and salt and pepper are in packets as are other condiments.  They now have a bar where you can get cocktails or other alcoholic beverages but it didn’t appear to be open yet.  Servers on the line were helpful and friendly and well masked. Continue reading

Mama Chang, Fairfax, VA., 4/2/21

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Mama Chang opened early in 2019 in Fairfax, VA.  It focuses on family dishes from the Hubei province, where Peter Chang is from, ones his mother and other females in the family cooked.  There is less pepper than in the traditional Szechuan dishes.  The large interior is filled with light from the many windows and white walls.  Textured ropes hang from the ceiling, the well spaced light wood tables are bare and tons of green plants surround the room.  It feels open and spacious but a bit sterile.  Portions are generally large – we way over-ordered but wanted to try a number of the dishes.  The server was masked and willing to give advice. One note is about their to-go containers which were nice plastic dishes with good locking lids not the usual leaky styrofoam containers. Continue reading

Gris-Gris, New Orleans, 3/18/21

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Gris-Gris is in a two story corner building in the Garden district (where the restaurant Square Root had been).  Downstairs is the open kitchen enclosed by a stainless steel bar.  Many wanted to sit upstairs but I preferred to watch the kitchen action.  Music is in the background and light from the many windows filled the room.  Upstairs is a large bar and tables as well as a balcony for seating.  The staff all wore masks but the kitchen was mostly too busy to engage in much conversation with those at the bar.  The waitstaff was happy to help guide your choices and split items from the menu, which is similar at lunch and dinner. Continue reading

Local, Jackson, WY., 9/10/20

entrance

Local is a steakhouse and bar in the historic town square of Jackson.  It has many rooms, some of which are for dinner and some for lunch and others for both.  We sat in the room with the bar counter and it had plexiglass between the seats and bar as did the booths have plexiglas between them.  The black wood tables were set off by the brown wood floor and light wood walls with mirror insets.  The booths had a padded seat whereas the bar was set with dark wood chairs with backs that were unpadded.  Music was in the background and a TV was playing in the bar area but it was muted.  We made a reservation for lunch which the website recommended but when we showed up the person at the entrance seated the 2 walk-up parties ahead of us in line to get in.  Their lunch menu was mostly sandwiches, particularly burgers and they had one special of the day (a hot ham and cheese sandwich) as well as a soup that changes daily.  Service was helpful, opinionated and efficient. Continue reading

The Bird, Jackson, WY., 9/9/20

entrance

The Bird is a large place, located a bit out of town that opened in 2010.  Inside are 2 large rooms, one containing the oval shaped bar and outside is a good sized deck with a spectacular view of the mountains.  There are no umbrellas or heaters outside.  The bar offers all mixed drinks as well as a ton of tap beers.  The room with the bar is decorated with tap handles from those beers they no longer carry.  They are mounted on metal bars all over.  It’s mainly a burger bar but also is known for its wings.  Country music plays prominently and service is friendly.  They wore masks for the most part and limit the number of people that can be in at any time.  You must wait at the door to be let in by the server.  They don’t take reservations and are popular with locals. Continue reading

Cristinas, Ketchum, Idaho, 9/5/20

exterior

Cristina’s was opened in 1993 by Cristina Cook, 5 years after she moved here from Italy.  She has written 2 cookbooks.  The place is open for breakfast, lunch and brunch and is using their large outdoor seating area rather than the interior.  You enter into the small salmon colored house to find a counter filled with sweet and savory foods which are available for purchase.  There were a couple room inside but outside they have a large tent complete with chandeliers over the wood deck and individual tables with umbrellas on the lawns around the house.  The white cloth covered tables were well spaced and set with white cloth napkins.  Lots of plants and flowers surround the diners.  No music is in the background.  The small menu has the daily specials written in.  Chef Cook was in the kitchen but she never came out to greet guests.  Seating was only by reservation or waiting a couple hours.  Servers wore masks, were friendly and all seemed to work together to take care of the tables. Continue reading

Tidal Raves (re-visit), Depoe Bay, OR., 6/26/20

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old photos

 

We liked Tidal Raves enough to come back again the next day for lunch.  Once again the view was spectacular and we were seated on a different end of the place so it gave us another perspective, too.  This day was sunnier and the waiter pointed out some gray whales that were making water spouts in the water in our view.  I thought the service was good yesterday and today’s was even better.  He was kind enough to let us order leisurely and enjoy the food and wine while we took advantage of the view.  I should have taken his photo but in these times I’m not sure how much personal handling Frankie wants or people want to partake in.  Since the virus looks to be with us for some time to come, I’ll have to figure out delicately how to proceed with things I took for granted before.  Nevertheless we were equally delighted with our lunch and highly recommend this spot if you are ever anywhere near by.   Continue reading

Gracie’s Sea Hag, Depoe Bay, OR., 6/24/20

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sign

Gracie’s Sea Hag opened in 1963 and promotes itself as having the finest and freshest sea fare on the Oregon coast.  Gracie Strom and her husband Dic started the place but he died a few years after it opened.  From the reviews I read, she sounded like quite a character – playing the bottles behind the bar to create tunes and greeting all guests like they were long time friends.  Sadly in 2006 she sold the place and I’m not sure it has the same fun vibe, however that is hard to judge in this time of Corona virus.  It is a large place with large tables, booths on one side of the room and tables on the other.  The booths were all separated by panels of stained glass windows of sea life above the stuffed benches and got extra lighting via a hanging stained glass light fixture.  The bare wood tables on the other side are set with unstuffed wood chairs.  The floor is a mix of carpet and tile, the ceiling is of wood with exposed duct work running down the middle of the long room.  A counter at the front of the room had menus, souvenirs and a person who greets you and takes you to a table.  The other end of the room is a service area that leads into the kitchen.   Continue reading

Las Reses, Madrid, 3/7/20

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Exterior

Las Reses opened in 1964 and is set below street level.  It is spread over a couple rooms and bright with lots of red walls covered with decorations.  The floors are wood and no music is in the background.  The tables have adequate spacing and are set with white clothes which cover the floor length beige ones and large white napkins.  The staff were friendly but spoke limited English.   It is mostly a restaurant dedicated to beef steaks for which they have carts to come around to the table and show you the cuts of meat.  It is all a la carte and some of the cuts are sold by the kilo.  There were several larger parties there and it looked like they took their remainder of the meat back to reheat it after the initial serving.  Continue reading

Café Santiago, Porto, 3/6/20

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exterior

Café Santiago was a new looking and bright place, but has been in business since 1959 .  Windows to the street were on one end of the long place that reached through to the next block where there was another entrance.  A wood floor and tile walls are the room that housed the ‘lower level’ with closely spaced veneer topped tables.  Photos are on the walls.  Up a few stairs was the kitchen and a bar along with more tables.  It had a large menu but they are known for their Francesinhas – sandwich original to Porto.  It is commonly made with ham, fresh sausage and roast meat and then covered with melted cheese and maybe an egg and served with french fries. The sandwich comes in many variations and that seemed to be what most came for.  There were a combination of obvious tourists as well as some regular locals, who were recognized by the staff.   Continue reading