Los Pinos, Livingston, MT, 10/25/23

exterior – 102 Rogers Ln, Livingston, MT 59047

Los Pinos is operated by Cristian Ramirez and his nephew Brian.   It’s pretty non-descript and right next to a casino in an old Travel Lodge building, so you might easily pass it by.  Inside it’s a medium-sized place with booths, large tables, a long bar, music in the background and windows to the outside that remind you of where you are but inside it’s nice. You also wouldn’t expect to find good Mexican food in Montana but you can find it here.  They don’t show it online but they also offer a lunch menu with a lot of the dinner options at a cheaper price.  Service was friendly and efficient, as validated by the number of regulars who stopped in for quick and filling lunch.  It was a tasty lunch but not as spicy as I’m used to but a good lunch of well-made Mexican food. Continue reading

Fink’s Delicatessen, Bozeman, 10/24/23

building – 600 N Wallace Ave #4, Bozeman, MT 59715

Fink’s Delicatessen is a small place serving specialty sandwiches, soups and salads in addition to cured meats and cheeses sold by the pound.  Located in an area that has residential and warehouse buildings, it is in the same building as Wild Crumb the artisan bakery that supplies its breads.  Wild Crumb was opened by twin sisters Lauren Heemstra and Caroline Schwitzer, who is married to Jonathan Finkenauer who opened Fink’s Deli.  Lauren’s sister-in-law is the manager and cheesemonger at Finks – a truly family-owned business.  As you wind your way through the building you find the long room that houses Fink’s  Two refridgerated cases are at the end, one with pre-made sandwiches and salads and one with cheeses.  Bench seating lines one wall and a few small tables are around the various racks of good for sale.  Open every day except Sunday, the cold sandwiches are ready at 8 but the warm ones are available at 10.  They do make the warm ones while you wait and they are large and delicious.  I would be a frequent customer here if I lived closer.  I snapped some photos of the bakery but was way too full to try any of the stuff. Continue reading

Goldy’s, Boise, 10/21/23

exterior – 108 S Capitol Blvd, Boise, ID 83702

Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro opened in 1999 in downtown Boise.   It offers made-to-order breakfast using as many local ingredients as possible and lots of options for customizing your order.  With only 56 seats and taking no reservations, there is most always a line, but it moves quickly.  We got there early and were seated immediately.  There was a second floor with more metal tables and downstairs was a small semi circular bar with seating.  A tile floor was opposite the high ceiling on the first level where you could also see into part of the kitchen.  Lots of articles decorated the walls along with an interesting light fixture.  Parking is on the street and music is played in the background.  It served quality foods that were basically well prepared.  I would recommend it for breakfast or lunch. Continue reading

Ansots Basque Chorizos, Boise, 10/20/23

sign on building – 560 W Main St, Boise, ID 83702

Ansots was a medium-sized place set below street level.  Owned and operated by Dan(husband), Tamara (wife), and Ellie (daughter) Ansotegui.  Dan’s maternal grandmother was a seamstress by trade but became very well known for her cooking at the Basque boarding house she ran.  Famous folks like Ernest Hemingway and Bing Crosby were known to have eaten there and she has a small cookbook.  The evolution now has become Ansots  and the inside dining area is supplemented by patio tables and a second room which is also available for rental.  Lots of windows, photographs and musical decorations surround the pretty wood tables and chairs to make it feel homey and casual.   The food is all made in-house from family recipes and many of the plates are meant to be shared.  In addition, several of the plates were offered in half-size so we were able to try a lot of their options.   Service was efficient and super friendly as well as helpful.  This is a strong recommendation to put on your list to try. Continue reading

Schnitz Delicatessen, Grand Rapids, 9/29/23

exterior – 1315 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Schnitz Deli  seemed to be a local favorite with good sized portions and moderate prices.  It’s an old-school deli where you line up along the meat, cheese counter to place your order.  They did a steady to go order business also.  Lots of sandwich combos are in a numbered format but you can also order it your own way or by the pound.  They say the Reuben is the most popular, estimating they go through 300-400 pounds of corned beef and 100 pounds of pastrami a week.  The bread is from Schnitz Bakery that is close by.  The sandwiches come in half or full size with half sandwiches the same size but with half the meat.  Most of the sandwiches charged an extra dollar to go to full – to me that was a no-brainer.  Inside are scattered tables with extra condiments at the order counter, as is the drink dispenser.  The interior room opens into the “Common Ground Coffee House” space,   There were some fun decorations on the walls along with windows that looked out to the street.  It wan’t the best deli sandwich I’ve ever had but certainly good enough for me to go again if I’m in the area and I hope you’ll visit too. Continue reading

Choo Choo Grill, Grand Rapids, 9/28/23

exterior – 1209 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Choo Choo Grill is a family owned place that has been running for over 60 years and open 6 days a week for breakfast and lunch.  Inside is a step back in time with 8-10 seats at the wrap-around counter and 2 booth-like tables.   The cooking is on the griddle just in front of the bar and they’re known for their olive burger – a Grand Rapids tradition.  Rick Mack bought the place from his father in 1997 but now is tired of the 2 a.m. mornings and the daily grind.  So the place was listed for sale and no one knows if a buyer will keep it the same or what.  It’s obviously filled with regular customers where much of the talk centered on the possible sale and how that will change life.  The tiny place is actually next to the railroad tracks and it’s filled with train photos and replicas.  You’d hate to see a place like this change but profit and big rule our world.  Meantime you can still hurry in and enjoy a fresh made burger and malt.  They do a lot of take out and have parking so I encourage you to grab a stool while they’re still in business. Continue reading

Tony Packo’s , Toledo, OH, 9/27/23

front –1902 Front St, Toledo, OH 43605

Tony Packo’s is a huge place that’s been in business since 1932.  Tony and his wife got a $100 loan during the Depression to open a sandwich shop where he created his signature “Hungarian Hot Dog.”   They gradually grew the shop to the size and fame of what it is today.  Burt Reynolds was the first to sign a hot dog bun in 1972 and that started a trend that would go for generations.  Today, however, the famous put their autograph on a foam replica of the original bun.  The walls were lined with cases of these signed buns including the only few original real buns that remain.  There are now a number of locations in Ohio but this was the orginal and although the food is average it’s worth going to, to see all these buns. Service was available in the bar area otherwise grab a cafeteria tray at the order counter and pay, and by then your food is ready.  A drink station is in the center of the room for self-service.  They only offer Steudel or cookies for dessert. Continue reading

Olive et Gourmando, Montreal, 9/23/23

exterior – 351 Saint-Paul St W, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2A7, Canada

Olive and Gourmando is open daily from 9 to 5 for dine in or take out.  They are a bakery and a restaurant with breakfast available all day but lunch items only after 11.   It’s hugely popular with benches outside for waiting.  Inside the medium sized place  is a wood floor, exposed ducts, decorated chalkboards on the walls, and small tightly packed wood tables.  The music in the background is almost drowned out by the hum of conversation.  Some counter seating is available by the windows and the baked goods are in a display case by the register/sign-in area.  Lots of plants and decorations finish out the decor.  If you’re in need of breakfast or lunch I’d go get in line when you’re in town. Continue reading

Gia Wine and Grill, Montreal, 9/22/23

exterior – 1025 Rue Lenoir, Montréal, QC H4C 2Z6, Canada

Gia Vin and Grill opened in December and is known for their grilled meats, which unfortunately are only available at night.  It’s tucked away below the highway and in the shadow of the adjacent Home Depot.  However, once you get inside you’ll forget the location, except when you see the cars going by out the window.    Lots of light wood, marble, green tile, exposed ductwork and 60s and 70s music in the background.  A long bar also has seating in addition to the small tables.  As the name would imply they do have a lot of wines and the helpful servers (Tatianna was great) will guide your selection to go with the dishes you choose.  We enjoyed our lunch but I suspect evening offers a better selection of dishes.  They ranked #36 on the Best of Canada list. Continue reading

Monarque, Montreal, 9/21/23

exterior – 406 Rue Saint-Jacques, Montréal, QC H2Y 1S1, Canada

Monarque was a large place in the business district and was really three restaurants in one.  The front of the place had a more casual menu and feel and the back was modern and elegant with a set lunch menu.  The long bar had 20 stools for lounge dining.  Rock music was in the background, the wall had lots of mirrors and a striking tile pattern ran the entire length of the place.  An open kitchen was in the middle of the long room.  In the back were white clothes and napkins and some semi-circular booths to make up the stylish interior.   On Canada’s 100 best list it came in at #16.  At lunch there was a 2 course menu with the main plate determining the price or there was the option of ordering beef.  With the beef option, the first course is sold separately. Continue reading

Toqué, Montreal, 9/20/23

exterior – 900 Pl. Jean-Paul-Riopelle, Montréal, QC H2Z 2B2, Canada

Toqué was #45 on the most recent list of the 100 Best of Canada.  Owners Normand Laprise and Christine Lamarche emphasize the use of local products.  It started in 1993 on a much smaller scale until in 2004 they moved it closer to Old Montreal and downtown.  It is a tasteful place with an elegant interior, music in the background, white tablecloths and napkins, windows to the street and excellent service.  For lunch they offer a 2-course option with the price of your lunch dependent on the main plate and including coffee or tea.  Dessert is optional and extra.  It was a lovely place to eat with beautiful and tasty food.  We had a terrific lunch and I bet dinner would also be good there. Continue reading

The Shed, Santa Fe, 9/14/23

exterior sign – 113 1/2 E Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501

The Shed is an institution in Santa Fe.  Its sister restaurant La Choza (opened in 1983) is frequented more by locals whereas The Shed is on the main Square and has been there since 1953.  There are nine rooms within and a patio on the outside.  They are known for their blue corn options and red chile as well as margaritas.  Very popular, they do take reservations for dinner and otherwise be prepared to wait.  The bare wood tables are in rooms filled with paintings, not for sale, and plants. The bar has a large selection of tequila and mescal as well as some wines.  Chips are not included in your meal but can be ordered separately.  If you get to Santa Fe you must eat here, it’s a great starting point for your journey through New Mexican food. Continue reading

Trading Post Cafe, Taos, 9/14/23

exterior – 4179 NM-68, Ranchos De Taos, NM 87557

The Trading Post Cafe was an eclectic cafe with a deli offering meats and cheeses by the pound as well as coolers selling produce and other supplies.  There were several rooms with the main one having a long bar in front of the grill area.  The aroma of cooking burgers greeted you when you walked in.  We were there to have a snack and mostly visit with some friends so we didn’t try too many things.  I gather it’s only recently opened as they did not yet have a license for beer or wine, but that is in the process.  Also when I googled it to get details it sent me to a coffee roasting site and then another linked me to an Italian restaurant.  Regardless, if you’re in Taos and looking for a little spot to eat I’d give this one a try. Continue reading

Tomasita’s, Santa Fe, 9/13/23

exterior – 500 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Tomasita’s serves New Mexican food in Santa Fe as well as Albuquerque.   Named for Tomasita Leyba, the original cook at the place and whose recipes are still served 40 years later.  It started as a small café on Hickox Street in 1974 when Georgia Maryol took over the dying restaurant. Together they built a customer base that outgrew the space and in 1979 it moved to the 100-year old red brick building in the Santa Fe Railyard.  Georgia’s son now owns the restaurant and opened a branch in Albuquerque in 2017.  The railyard location was a large place with rooms scattered around set with bare wooden tables and chairs and a patio.  Music was in the background, there was a large adjacent parking lot, art decorated the walls and statues were on the patio.  Chips and salsa are not included in the meal.  The service was super friendly and efficient but the food was mixed. Continue reading

R Place Cafe, Cable, 8/30/23

building – 41080 US-63, Cable.WI., 54821

R Place Cafe is a small place on the highway in northern Wisconsin.  They serve a variety of breakfast options till 1:00 and dinner on Wed and Friday from 4-6.  They are closed on Monday and Tuesday.   It’s a small family-run place with mom cooking in the kitchen and daughter waiting tables.  There’s a variety of tables and a few seats at the counter.  They bake their own bread as well as biscuits.  We’d driven by many times and never stopped but this day we did and we weren’t sorry.  The menu is on a chalkboard on the wall and there’s lots of brick-a-brack on the walls and surfaces to look at while you wait for your food.  Our server was super friendly and the food was good, honest items made with care.  I will go again and hope I’ll see you there. Continue reading

Elk Store, Elk, CA., 8/24/23

building – 6101 CA-1, Elk, CA., 95432

The Elk Store is not just a deli but also a grocery and a general store, selling lots of specialty and locally made goods.  The old building has a good selection of meats, cheeses and breads some ready made into sandwiches which they will heat for you.  Filled with charm and a creaky old floor it is fun to browse around while you’re waiting for your order to be filled.  Near the cash register the 2 menu boards hang overhead and the counter on the opposite side holds the ingredients and heating area.  Other parts of the store have fresh produce, wines, dry goods, beans, teas and a surprising selection of things.  The people were all very friendly and I’d go if you’re in the area.  Such a unique little place and the sandwiches have good ingredients. Continue reading

Troubadour Bread and Bistro, Healdsburg, CA., 8/23/23

entrance – 381 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, CA., 95448

Troubadour, in downtown Healdsburg, is owned by Single Thread veterans Melissa Yanc and Sean McGaughey who bring the quality that their past experience would lead one to expect at a tiny bakery/sandwich shop by day and a French inspired prix fixe menu at night.   Founded in 2021, the place is getting lots of press and people for their evening service as well as their ready made sandwiches.  Desserts are on display, if you desire that too, as well as a huge array of beverages, stocked mostly for the evening service but available to daytime visitors.  It’s a small place with counters facing the windows on 2 sides and one larger middle table.  There were also some tables outside that people took their food to eat at. Music is in the background and a large jug of ice water is available with cups.  You place your order with the friendly clerks and pay up at the same counter and then it’s time to enjoy some really delicious sandwiches.  They were thoughtfully assembled and cut in half.  Both were on fabulous breads made in house.  This has my highest recommendation as well as me hoping I’ll get back for dinner too! Continue reading

Ikaika Bistro, Langley, WA., 8/18/23

building – 14096 WA-525, Langley, WA 98260 (soon to move)

Ikaika Bistro was in the American Foreign Legion building when we visited but you’re in luck because they’ll be in a new location by the time you read this.  Stephanie and Chris Balora own the place that serves Polynesian cuisine among other dishes.  Opening in Sept. of 2022, Chris named the place Ikaika which means “strong” or “warrior” in his native Hawaiian language.  It’s a 2-person operation with Stephanie taking your order and busing tables while Chris does the cooking.  They’ve had good success which is why in Sept 2023 they are going to move their restaurant to a food truck in downtown Langley where they’ll have indoor and outdoor seating and be near a coffee shop, which is good as they serve breakfast and lunch. So I won’t describe the AFL building, just include a couple photos, but the move will create a major improvement in the ambiance.  The couple are the nicest people and easily make conversation with guests filling them in our their journey to get to this spot.  The food was novel, generous and tasty and I hope you’ll give it a try if you are in the area. Continue reading

Langley Kitchen, Langley, WA., 8/17/23

building – 138 Second Street, Langley, WA 98260

Owner Jim Goodall opened Langley Kitchen in November 2020 after running a restaurant in Seattle.  He thought Langley needed more baked goods, especially cookies and set up shop there during the pandemic.  He was ready for portable food with the inside having no tables just the kitchen and items for sale.  You line up and order at the counter, then they call your name out a back window where there is a lovely patio to eat on.  The metal tables are surrounded by red Japanese maple trees with overhead heaters for when needed.  They offer a variety of salads, baked goods and sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch.  Their logo features an owl with a quiver holding a spoon and fork, rather than arrows.  We tried 2 of their sandwiches a bar cookie and it was all delicious.  This place should be on your list if you’re on Whidbey Island. Continue reading

Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar, Langley, WA., 8/16/23

exterior – 113 1st St, Langley, WA 98260

Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar was opened in July 2017 by Jenn and Sieb Jurriaans, who also operate the nearby Prima Bistro restaurant.  They try and source their seafood from Coupeville’s Penn Cove Shellfish except for the lobster which comes from Maine. It’s a fairly small place and they take no reservations so people start lining up before the doors open.  Inside are small wood tables (counter seating at the bar and in the middle of the room), music and photos of fish and other nautical items.   Some fish nets hanging from the ceiling are decorated with glass fish.  The full bar also offers a number of beers on tap.  Service was friendly, efficient and helpful.  It’s about the only seafood restaurant in town but my reaction to the food was mixed.  Dinner offered more choices especially if you don’t want fried seafood. Continue reading

Stationæry , Carmel by the Sea, 8/12/23

patio – 5th Ave between Dolores and, San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Stationæry is a medium-sized (11 indoor tables) place operated by Anthony and Alissa Carnazzo.  They offer brunch, dinner, coffee and wines in a casual setting.  Also available are tables on the patio that opens to other stores and a couple stools at the tile counter.  A bench seat lines the wall set with small wood tables.  Many windows add lots of natural light and plants provide the decorations with music in the background which was sometimes hard to hear due to the crowd noise.  It was very busy and walk-ins had a long wait.  We had reservations luckily and the attentive and friendly staff moved the meal along nicely.  One note to service is that there are no refills on coffee – this was just house pour not a specialty cup.  The food primarily is sourced from nearby farms and ranches and varies with what’s in season.  It was good food, especially the roll which could have been a meal in itself.  I encourage you to try it but have a reservation. Continue reading

Dad’s Luncheonette, Half Moon Bay, CA., 8/11/23

exterior – 225 Cabrillo Highway South at, Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Dad’s Luncheonette was in a historic train caboose on Highway 1, near a strip shopping center.   It was a dream of Chef Scott Clark, who we met when he was Chef de cuisine at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, to open something small and casual that also serves great food.  He wanted a lifestyle change after having a child with his partner, Alexis Liu.  When she saw this little train car he knew that was it.  That was 6 years ago and it’s still a successful business.   There are a few seats inside, where you order, and picnic tables outside, but many just eat on the hood of their car or get stuff to go.  The cooking is on the upper level of the caboose and bathrooms are in the shopping center.  Lo and behold when we entered we found he brought another friend from the close by San Francisco dining scene that we had also dealt with before, Anthony Keels (Eight Tables).  The place is surrounded by farms and they make the best use of that supply chain but have a small menu.  I didn’t get a photo of the menu but you can see much of it on their website or in the photos.  Unfortunately, they were out of the homemade chips today. Continue reading

Yolk (update), Manzanita, OR., 7/14/23

exterior (when closed) – 503 Laneda Ave, Manzanita, OR 97130

Yolk serves breakfast and lunch in Manzanita, on the coast of Oregon.  We visited there about a year ago and had fond memories so we were looking forward to dining there and interestingly found out it had been sold in the last couple of days.  The past owners were still there when we went, helping the new owners with the transition, particularly cooking.  Even so, a little snafu with the ordering process made it take longer to get the bill and impossible to check on our order.  It is still a bright and tasteful interior with music in the background, a patio, a full bar and lots of windows to the outside streaming in the sunshine.  The food is good but they don’t take reservations, so get there early or be prepared to wait.  It’ll be worth the wait. Continue reading

Pacific Roots Coffee and Mini Donuts, Nehalem, 7/13/23

sign on street – 35915 N Hwy 101, Nehalem, OR 97131

Pacific Roots Coffee and Mini Donuts is a food truck off the main street in Nehalem.  It is by the water in the same clearing as the Riverside Fish and Chips Truck, both of which we tried last year.  The signature mini donuts are made fresh, on the spot when you order them and come with a variety of toppings.  You order as many as you wish and they will mix the toppings in an order.   These little donuts are made in a remarkable machine and I have found them in a number of places but the flavor and quality do vary.  These are good ones, served nicely hot with a perfect amount of cinnamon sugar.  Another nice feature is that these are served in a styrofoam container as opposed to the usual paper bag.  They are perfect to order, especially while you wait for fried cod from the fish and chips stand.   While the fish was nice and the slaw interesting, the mini donuts were the star of this lunch for me. I encourage you to find a stand and try some. Continue reading

Wanda’s Cafe & Bakery, Nehalem, OR., 7/13/23

exterior –12880 H St, Nehalem, OR 97131

Wanda’s Cafe and Bakery is family owned and operated where you can dine in or grab something to go.  It’s a small to medium-sized place with additional seating outdoors.  They do not take reservations, so expect to have a wait, but while we waited for breakfast they had coffee available.  Parking is limited on site but there is free parking in a close city lot.  Named for the original owner’s grandmother, there is no Wanda associated with the place now.  Music was in the background and the entrance and check-out are filled with goods for sale, both edible and novelty.  The servers were efficient and friendly.  It’s a place I’d recommend but I’d like to go on a day they make the fresh cinnamon rolls. Continue reading

Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant (update), San Francisco, 7/7/23

entrance – 374 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94104

Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant is the fifth oldest restaurant in the US.  It was first listed here in 2015 but I didn’t write up subsequent visits.  They credit themselves for helping establish San Francisco as the culinary mecca it is today.  They serve local seafood, simply prepared, alongside local vegetables.  I thought of it as similar to Tadich Grill but it doesn’t seem to have weathered the pandemic as well.  The crowd at lunch was very light and the server was marginal (maybe some language issues here)  and tried to sell us on more items when we were ordering plenty.  The medium-sized place is full of wood and white tablecloths with some natural light from the windows to the street.  The walls are decorated with photos and nature shots.  The food was marginal to bad and they charge for bread service. Continue reading

Tadich Grill (update), San Francisco, 7/6/23

exterior – 240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Tadich Grill was reviewed here back in 2015, but we visited many times after that and I didn’t write it up.  But with the pandemic, it’s been at least 4 years since we were there.   It was old school and consistent quality, meaning little changes, but downtown San Francisco has changed with a lot fewer people working in offices and a lower number of tourists.  Tadich was ‘started’ by 3 Croatian immigrants in 1849 as a coffee stand that went through numerous moves when in 1871 another Croatian, John Tadich started working there.  It became known as The Cold Day Restaurant through a political incident and Tadich took ownership in 1887.  He joined with another restauranteur when both needed to recover from the 1906 earthquake, but when their partnership dissolved in 1912 and his partner named his new restaurant The Cold Day.  Tadich then named his place Tadich Grill, The Original Cold Day Restaurant.  It’s a fairly large place with wood tables and booths set with white clothes and napkins.  A long bar with stools runs the length of the place with the kitchen being partially open in the back. Staff are friendly and dressed in long white aprons and white jackets.  They have a large menu featuring much local and imported seafood with a few daily specials.  The food is fine but nothing to write home about.  You no longer seem to need a reservation at lunch, if that’s progress. Continue reading

Louie’s on the Lake, Cumberland, WI., 6/21/23

building – 1780 Arcade Ave, Cumberland, WI 54829

Louie’s on the Lake was the byproduct of Doris and Louis Muench Sr. moving to Cumberland from Chicago, where he had been a meat cutter. In 1970 they opened Louie’s Finer Meats and from that came the opportunity for family dining featuring Louie’s meats.  It’s a small place with booths on the sides of the room and tables in the middle.  A few more tables are in the entry room where there is also a counter selling meats.  There is a large outdoor patio which the dining room looks out to, as well as the parking lot.  The bare wood tables are set with flatware wrapped in a napkin and other condiments for seasoning the food.  You can see the lake on an angle from the back windows.  Open every day except Tuesday, they serve breakfast and lunch and close earlier on Sunday.  Service was friendly but not the most efficient, but then finding workers in small towns is difficult.  The food was very acceptable and I’d go again but it’s not worth driving out of your way for. Continue reading

Hankki, Banff, 6/16/23

exterior – 206 Buffalo St, Banff, AB T1L 1E4, Canada

Hankki means one meal in Korean and this meal is modeled after Korean street food.  They sell bowls or cupbop, and Korean hot dogs on a stick. The bowls are a stir-fry of different ingredients.  Cheap, quick and filling options which are a novelty in the tourist-laden Banff.  All the bowls contain Veggie Mandu which is edamame, sweet corn, lettuce, pickled carrot, sesame seeds and egg garnish along with some pan-fried veggie dumplings.  They are on a base of rice with sauce and then you pick your level of spiciness.  We both chose ‘hot’.  The Chee Bop bowl contained Korean-style crispy fried chicken and the Korean B.B.Q bowl contained sweet and savory marinated grilled pork, lettuce.  There were basic similarities but the flavoring was fairly different.  Both were quite tasty and best when all the stuff was mixed around.  Hot was a nice level of heat.  If you need a quick snack this is for you.  I saw some little kids getting and enjoying the hot dogs which are much less food, but we didn’t try one. Continue reading

Meat & Bread, Calgary, 6/15/23

building – Grain Exchange Building, 821 1 St SW, Calgary, AB T2P 7N2, Canada

Meat and Bread started in Vancouver and now has a number of locations in Canada but this one is in the old grain exchange building and opened in 2017.  Stylishly designed and decorated they make everything themselves.  They prided themselves on the simplicity of their products  – offer just a few things but use the highest quality ingredients and make it yourselves.  That simplicity is seen in the efficient layout of the space.  You enter and immediately see the porchetta roast and some sandwiches being assembled for to-go orders.  The menu is on a blackboard-like surface above the long prep area and the sides and drinks are arranged so you can see and pick.  You can watch your sandwich being made as you pay for it and then they’ll call your number when it’s ready.  We were there when they first opened, so no line, but my understanding is that it can have long lines however they move quickly.  The staff were super friendly and loved showing off a whole roast ready to go to the slicer.  This is a wonderful place and I hope I get to eat their sandwiches again. Continue reading

Silver Dragon Restaurant, Calgary, 6/14/23

exterior – 106 3 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0B6, Canada

The Silver Dragon Restaurant is located in the heart of Chinatown in Calgary.  They offer over 200 Chinese dishes as well as brunch dim sum cart service daily (till 2:30).  It’s a fairly large place on the second floor of the building that has been successful enough to now have a second location in Banff.  The tables were well-spaced but not set with pepper oil, soy sauce or vinegar.  It’s old-school Chinese food and service was friendly and fast with lots of carts coming to your table at any time.  However, if you didn’t see what you wanted on a cart they would get it for you if it was presently being served.  If it wasn’t they would only serve it if you had 2 orders of it.  That made it tough since there were just the two of us but there was plenty of selection to choose from.  They did bring us a tray with a bit of hot oil and some vinegar, but the hot oil was gone quickly.  Some items came with sauce and then I saw others asking for soy, etc. and they cut most items when served.   I would not call it outstanding but it was perfectly satisfying, just not extraordinary. The only specialty item worth commenting on was the ginger beef – a dish invented in Calgary.  It’s a fried strip of beef in a sweet/spicy sauce.  Fun to try something new. Continue reading

The Smoke Joint, Livingston Manor, NY., 6/2/23

building – 630 Old Rte 17, Livingston Manor, NY 12758

The Smoke Joint moved to the Catskills from downtown Brooklyn.  The chef/owners Ben Grossman and Craig Samuel have won accolades for their culinary ventures.  The tiny place is on the banks of the Willowemoc River and they are open from spring to fall.  Here they offer a variety of sandwiches, barbecue by the pound, fried chicken, hot dogs, a variety of sides and beverages (full liquor license).  They have a few tables inside but most of the dining was on the picnic tables right out the door.  The tables were set with napkins, flatware and hot and regular sauces.  You order and pay at the counter and then your food is brought out to you.  There were cans to dispose of your trash when you are through.  The people working there were pleasant and helpful and judging by the crowd we decided it was the place to grab a snack.  I’m no expert on barbecue as is John Tanner who publishes a restaurant blog you’d enjoy,  johntannersbbqblog.com but I think he’d appreciate the flavor of the brisket.  Check out John’s blog for not only barbecue but also Washington DC, the eastern USA coast and lots of other places.  You’ll enjoy his wit and writing style and add to your list of places to go and eat.
Continue reading

Nick’s Family Restaurant, Spooner, WI, 5/17/23


Nick’s Family Restaurant is a large place, with seats for 120, and famous for its ‘pizzaburger.’  It has been in business for over 50 years and with it being locally owned and family run by the Tyler family since 1979.  Windows to the street are on many sides with booths next to them.  In the middle of the rooms are tables of various sizes.  The first thing you see when you enter is the display case filled with pies and the check-out counter where you pay.  They have a large menu that is supplemented with daily specials for lunch and dinner and serve breakfast all-day.  Closed on Tuesday, they are open 6 am to 8 pm daily and are even open earlier during the week.  They serve wine and beer but no full bar.  Service was amazing considering how few were working there and how many people continued to arrive.  The food was mixed but edible.  It looks like a no-frills place and that’s the food it serves too.  Nothing wrong just not calling you back to eat there again. Continue reading

Alimentari Deli, Madison, 5/11/23

exterior – 306 S Brearly St, Madison, WI 53703

Alimentari is basically Italian for food/groceries.  This deli is in an 1,800 square foot former laundromat space and sells fresh pasta, sauces, freshly cut meats and cheeses as well as sandwiches and other dry goods.  The sandwiches are made to order and there is no place to eat in the store.  They also had a gelato counter but we didn’t try it.  It looked like a great place to shop for Italian ingredients but for us we wanted a sandwich for the car.  Similar to last week, we wanted a snack before we went on a tour of a Frank Lloyd Wright site, but this time is was Taliesin.  I must say this sandwich was way better than the last both because of the filling but also the bread.  The buns for their sandwiches are made daily by Madison Sourdough.  They have a great chew with a crisp crust and a soft interior but it’s not too big that it dwarfs the fillings or hard to get your mouth around.  I actually found myself wanting to eat parts of the bread without any filling, it was that good.  If you need ingredients or just a snack, I’d head to this place right away. Continue reading

The Plaza Tavern & Grill, Madison, 5/10/23

building – 319 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703

The Plaza Tavern and Grill is the home of the “world-famous Plazaburger.”   The burger is dressed with a Plaza sauce which is a secret recipe from 1964.   The Plazaburger is ordered separately from a regular burger but they also offer a number of other food choices.  Inside is a long bar that runs the length of the long room and booths run along the opposite wall.  The middle of the room is open but you’ll find various game machines around the room.  A number of televisions were around the room and midday they were playing an old animated show.  It’s conveniently located by the capital and UW and open Wed to Sat from noon to 2 am.  Goggle wrongly said they weren’t open till 3 pm on Wed but that is not the case.  They were super friendly and cooked our burgers on the grill right behind the bar.  It is a cash only place. Continue reading

Paul’s Pel’meni, Madison, 5/10/23

exterior – 414 W Gilman St, Madison, WI 53703

Paul’s Pel’meni is a small place near the UW campus serving Russian style dumplings.  The owner, Paul Schwoerer, once lived in Alaska and found that Russian cuisine was good for colder climates.  While there he learned to make these dumplings from a man who wanted to move back to Russia.  Now he and his wife are in their 3rd location having been in business for 18 years.  Everyday in the kitchen downstairs he rolls the dough and stuffs it with mashed potatoes or a savory ground beef mixture.  Sour cream is the standard accompaniment but they still seemed plain to him.  Now he adds a topping of yellow curry, butter, sweet chili sauce with vinegar and cilantro.  They are sold in full and half orders of the beef, potato or mix.  You order at the counter and they are out quickly.  In the next room are tables and a water jug and a room with a bar.  Later in the evening they’ll be serving lots of cocktails and draft beer to go with the dumplings.  It was a quick and very satisfying lunch for us and I highly recommend you check the place out. Continue reading

Oakcrest Tavern, Madison, 5/9/23

exterior – 5371 Old Middleton Rd, Madison, WI 53705

The Oakcrest Tavern opened in the 1950s and it’s famous for its burger made from “steak trimmings” but they offer a number of things on their menu, including a fish fry on Fridays.  It’s a casual place with the bar counter filling half of its space.  The cooking area is inside the bar area and a parking lot surrounds the building.  There were lots of TVs around the room but the sound was muted and music was playing.  Lots of beer paraphernalia decorated the wood walls.   The staff was all super friendly and they were quick with the food and you could see it was made to order.  We enjoyed Leinenkugel’s beer, which was served nicely cold in a bottle, with our lunch.  I suggest you give this place a try if you have a chance but be forewarned – it’s said to get quite busy at some hours. Continue reading

Di Anoia’s Eatery, Pittsburgh, 5/4/23

exterior – 2549 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Di Anoia’s is an Italian restaurant run by Chef/Owner Dave Anoia from Lebanon, PA. that opened in 2016 in the Strip District with his wife, Aimee DiAndrea (get how they came up with the name?).  They accept reservations 6 weeks in advance but do have a waiting list that actually works.  The bar and patio are for walk-ins.  It’s a large bustling place serving all ages on closely spaced faux marble tables with red-checked napkins.  Windows to the outside are on 2 walls and one looks like it used to be a garage door.  They are open for all three meals except for no breakfast on Sunday and closed all day Monday.  It’s a deli/cafe by day and a full-service restaurant at night.  You enter into the bar/cafe area where there is a pastry case and a full bar.  The dining room is to you right.  Service was helpful and friendly and the noise level is loud. Continue reading

Groceria Merante, Pittsburgh, 5/4/23

entrance –3454 Bates St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Groceria Merante is an Italian grocery store selling supplies and sandwiches.  It started in the late 1950s and moved to its present location in 1979.   The family had seven children and some of them still take part in this family run business.  We were on our way to visit Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright designed home about an hour and a half from Pittsburgh.  We wanted something we could keep in the car and eat before going in and this was perfect.  The little corner store had wonderful products and a deli counter in back.  Some sandwiches were ready made and in the cooler.  At check out she gave me napkins and mayo for our meal.  The sandwiches were well stuffed but did want the mayo for extra moistness.  If you need Italian supplies I highly recommend this place and if you want a sandwich to go it’s a fine choice.  There is no place to eat at the store. Continue reading

Primanti Bros., Pittsburgh, 5/3/23

exterior – 46 18th Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15222

Primanti Bros. started in 1933 during the Great Depression.  Joe Primanti had a sandwich cart that was successful enough to turn into a storefront feeding shift workers and truck drivers.  Their signature is potato fries on the sandwich.  The story is that someone came to the restaurant during the winter with a load of potatoes.  He was concerned if they were frozen but when cooked on the grill they were fine.  As other customers came in they wanted some so Joe put them on the sandwich and it was a hit.  It allowed the drivers to eat with one hand while they drove.   They now have 40 restaurants in over 6 states.  We tried to hit the original location of this Pittsburgh icon.  It is definitely worth trying and they are open daily 8 am – 10 pm and even later on Fri and Sat. The interesting thing was their menu had no prices and the drink menu on the table didn’t either.  You can order extra meat or cheese on your sandwich but then I heard another patron asking how much and the server had to go to the register to check.   On the website, most of the sandwiches are around $9 with $2 for extra meat/cheese.  Service was super friendly and the place has murals you could study while you wait a short time for your order.  They also had a full bar and several options for draft beer, which is what I tried. Continue reading

Wario’s Beef and Pork, Columbus, 4/26/23

building – 111 W Nationwide Blvd, Columbus, OH

Wario’s Beef and Pork was created by Chef Stephan Madias, who wanted to bring a chef-driven sandwich shop to Columbus.  He wanted customers to feel like family and to serve them quality food that is responsibly sourced and made from scratch.  Their signature semolina roll is baked and delivered to the shop daily from Matija Breads and he makes, cures and smokes the other ingredients in-house.  They opened in late fall of 2020 as a little sandwich window that quickly became a new city food spot.  Named for a character in Nintendo’s Mario Brothers video game series, they are open Wed. through Sun. and have a few tables inside and a large patio outside.  A really friendly spot, we immediately struck up a conversation with one of their regulars and their counter person was also friendly and helpful.  The sandwiches are huge and excellent.  I would eat there often if I lived nearby. Continue reading

Bluebeard, Indianapolis, 4/21/23

entrance – 653 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Bluebeard is an amazing farm to table restaurant open for lunch and dinner.  They have a full bar as well as lots of wine.  It started as a European-style bakery, as one was not in Indianapolis in 2010.  Tom Battista found a 1924 factory building in an historic Italian neighborhood in downtown and started Amelia’s Bakery which now supplies all the bread for Bluebeard.  The space was large enough to house more so Tom brought in Chef Abbi Merriss and his son Edward to open a restaurant that would have the same artisanal approach to food, and they did just that in 2012.   They named it Bluebeard after a book by Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut.  Many of the decorations in the place reflect Vonnegut’s books.  The winding space moves through numerous cozy rooms packed with fun decorations and happy people.  They take no reservations so get there early if you don’t want to wait in line.  The food is fantastic as is the service.  It will be a memory you won’t forget.  We didn’t get dessert but I snapped a photo of the menu for reference. Continue reading

The Workingman’s Friend, Indianapolis, 4/20/23

building – 234 N Belmont Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46222

The Workingman’s Friend is said to be the “best blue-collar burger place in town.”  Founded around 1918 by Louis Stamatkin, an immigrant from Macedonia, who was helped by his fellow Macedonian immigrants to open the place.  He served lunch to local railroad workers and other factory workers and called his place Belmont Lunch.  Beer and liquor were a big draw for customers.  When the workers were on strike he let them run a tab for which the place was given the nickname “The Workingman’s Friend.”  When he died at the young age of 46 his sons (Carl and Earl) took over and renamed the place in his honor, but they also added some more expensive items to the menu and live entertainment.  Carl’s daughter Becky started working there in 1978 and by 1980 the live music and steaks were gone.  The place again focused on burgers and beer, of which the burgers are thin with a crispy edge.  The expansion the sons planned never happened but it is still a large place filled with small closely spaced formica-topped tables.  There are a number of lots around to park in and they were all pretty much full at 1:30 as was the interior.  At one point a line formed waiting for the tables.  It took close to an hour to get our food but the wait was worth it.  It is a fantastic burger.  The service was friendly but the noise level is loud from conversations.  Televisions over the long bar were turned off, but a full bar of liquors is available. Continue reading

Goose the Market, Indianapolis, 4/19/23

exterior – 2503 N Delaware St, Indianapolis, IN 46205

Goose the Market offers a daily selection of sandwiches, soups and small plates as well as a deli counter with meats, cheeses, breads, gelato, specialty foods and beer/wine.  The market and butcher shop are all about the love of good food and the people who produce it.  Housed in a corner building, there are a few stools by a counter at the window to the street and some outside seating.  Inside is a long counter where the meats, cheese, and gelato are displayed and you can place your order.  Across from that are shelves of specialty items and downstairs is the wine cellar.  You could see them slicing and assembling your sandwich while you waited.  Different sandwiches are specials daily.  It’s a wonderful shop and the sandwiches are quite good. Continue reading

Garnett’s Cafe, Richmond, 4/8/23

exterior – 2001 Park Ave, Richmond, VA 23220

Garnett’s Cafe is a small neighborhood sandwich/salad shop on the lower floor of a 1908 corner building.  Parking is on the street and seating is limited.  There are several small tables in addition to seats at the L-shaped counter.  Art and other objects decorate the walls.  Wine and beer are available and there was a special sandwich of the day on the chalkboard outside.  They are open daily for lunch and dinner and also have a selection of desserts from Laura Lee’s.  Opening in 2009 they received a local dining award, an Elby, as the city’s Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant in 2014.  The place was named for the owner, Kendra Feather’s, grandmother Garnett Beckham, who lived to 103.  The staff was friendly and the food was good, with large portions.  We were there to catch up with a friend so apologies in advance as my note-taking and photo taking were distracted. Continue reading

Stella’s, Richmond, 4/7/23

exterior – 1012 Lafayette St, Richmond, VA 23221

Stella’s serves rustic and modern Greek cuisine.  Stella was born in 1942 and emigrated to the U.S. as part of an arranged marriage.  Her husband opened an American classic cafe in 1956 and she joined him working there in the 1960s bringing in Greek dishes.  In 1983 she opened a restaurant bearing her name a few doors down.  Expanding on its success she opened a second place in 1998 offering eclectic cuisine.  The current location opened in 2011 and Stella still comes by and the kitchen prepares her old family recipes. The medium-sized place is on a corner and parking is on the street.  Windows make up two walls and the large L-shaped bar is opposite, set with stools with backs.  A large table is midway to the back and that and the bar are for walk-in seating.  Otherwise, it is a bunch of small bare wood tables with some bench seating or larger tables for 4 with chairs.  The ceiling is tin, Greek music is in the background and it’s very busy.  However, the service didn’t rush you and was glad to bring things out individually so we could split them.  The server warned us we ordered too much as the portions were large but agreed to give the kitchen our apologies that we were going to waste some food in order to be able to try lots.  If you like Greek food try and get a reservation and otherwise get there early and snag an open seat. Continue reading

Perly’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, Richmond, 4/6/23

exterior – 111 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219

Perly’s is a Jewish Restaurant and Delicatessen serving “traditional Jewish cuisine with a twist.”  In the heart of downtown, they are open Wed. to Sun. from 9:00 am till 3:00 pm. The place originally opened in 1961 and has had 3 owners with the current ones taking over in 2014 and adding the twist.  It’s a long place with one side taken up by the long bar that ends in the kitchen space.  The area that’s left is divided in two with booths and tables.  The marble bar had stools opened and we took that as there was a wait for tables even later in the afternoon.  Music was in the background, windows to the street provided additional light to the many fixtures, a black and white movie played silently on the screen above the bar, the ceiling looked like an old tin one and a pair of larger semi-circular booths flanked the doorway. Continue reading

Frank’s Deli, Louisville, 4/1/23

exterior – 3342 Preston Hwy, Louisville, KY 40213

Frank’s Deli also sells meat and produce.  They offer a selection of made-from-scratch food choices, with sandwiches made while you wait.  Frank has been in business over 40 years.  His background was in butchering so he started the store with meat and produce in the late 70s.  The corner building offers an array of produce, meats, sauces, chips and snacks – as much locally sourced as possible.  Most of the folks in there were in the line to order food to go.  There is no seating inside or out but we were fine to eat in the car.  The line moved quickly and the person taking my order was nice enough to suggest the spicy mustard instead of regular with the corned beef.  The sandwiches were well stuffed and I bet if I lived in town I’d be there all the time getting something to bring home or eat in the car.   They do have a good-sized parking lot. Continue reading

J. Graham’s Cafe, Louisville, 3/31/23

entrance to restaurant – The Brown Hotel, 335 West Broadway, Louisville, KY, 40202

J. Graham’s Cafe is in the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville.   One of several restaurants in the hotel they are the ‘light and airy’ one.  They are famous for the “Hot Brown” which was invented there in 1926 and has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC’s Today Show and many other media outlets.  In the 1920s The Brown Hotel regularly had over 1,200 guests every evening for its dinner dance. As the guests grew tired and hungry they wanted something glamorous to eat and Chef Fred Schmidt created the open-face turkey sandwich he called the Hot Brown. The Cafe is on the first floor of the hotel and if you dine there you are given 2 hours free valet parking, which is nice in the busy downtown.  The room had windows looking out to the street which provided much natural light, bare wood tables, carpet, walls decorated with poster art and nicely padded seats and benches.  A full bar is available. Service was a tad pushy, trying to upsell a bit and not particularly attentive but there were enough service people you didn’t get forgotten.  The sandwich is an icon so I had to try it. Continue reading

Gualala Seafood Shack, Gualala, CA., 3/25/23

exterior – 38820 S, CA-1 Unit 104, Gualala, CA 95445

Gualala Seafood Shack is a small place with shared picnic-style tables inside and tables on the outside patio.   Located in a one-story shopping center, you order at the counter from the menu hanging above but there are also signs about specials hanging on the window as you walk in.  After you order and pay, you get a beeper to buzz you when your order is ready.  Afterward, there is a place to stack trays and baskets and throw out the trash.    Music is in the background and bathrooms are available inside but this is a no-frills place.  They advertise that their seafood is sourced locally and are closed on Monday and Tuesday. Continue reading

Ranelli’s Deli & Cafe, Birmingham, 3/17/23

exterior – 1225 20th St S, Birmingham, AL 35205

Ranelli’s Deli has been on the southside of Birmingham serving sandwiches, salads and pastas since 1971.  It is family owned and operated and has live music some nights.  The place was a former gas station so there is parking on 2 sides.  Inside you approach the counter and make your order from the sign above and pay.  They will call out your name when it’s ready.  In the meantime, you can look around at the jam-packed room filled with music memorabilia and other things.  In the back of the room is a small stage where live bands can play.  There is an assortment of small tables crowded into the room with soft music in the background.  Their Italian dinners looked like quite a deal and they were served all day.  I’d go back and try those but we just wanted a sandwich midway through the day.  We should have split one – they are large and packed with ingredients.  Nothing outlandish here, just good solid plain food. Continue reading

Johnny’s Restaurant, Birmingham, 3/16/23

exterior – 2902 18th Street South, Homewood. AL, 35209

Johnny’s Restaurant is a blend of Greek and Southern styles of cooking. Chef Timothy Hontzas has Greek heritage, naming the restaurant after his grandfather Johnny who also cooked.   Opening in 2012 this place offers a “meat and three” style with Greek specialties as well as traditional dishes like meatloaf.  It is located on the second level of a busy shopping center where parking could be an issue.  You place your order at the counter with the large chalkboard menu behind the counter but some additional specials were posted on the wall as you walked up.  You get a number and the servers find and bring your food out to you.  All lunch plates come with a choice of cornbread or yeast roll.  Music is in the background, the drink station is in the back and portions are generous.  The food is quite good, especially the vegetables.  I would love to go back and sample more dishes – hope you’ll get a chance to try it. Continue reading

The Essential, Birmingham, 3/15/23

entrance –2018 Morris Ave, Birmingham, AL 35203

The Essential is a medium-sized bar and cafe in an historic part of downtown Birmingham that serves contemporary American food.  They serve dinner, brunch on weekends and lunch, which is what we had there.  They have seating inside at tables and at a long bar or tables on a patio, which did have heaters.  Along with a full bar, they offered a nice wine selection.  Large windows in the dining area overlook the outside patio and street and music plays in the background.  A fun tile floor was opposite a decorative ceiling and one wall had a bench seat that accompanied the small round marble tables.  The back end of the room was a large opening into the kitchen. At lunch, they have fewer items to pick from than at dinner but whenever you go you’ll find fine food and service here.  This place should be on your list if you visit Birmingham. Continue reading

Hall’s Chophouse, Greenville, SC., 3/11/23

back entrance – 550 S Main St, Greenville, SC 29601

Hall’s Chophouse was started by the Hall family in 2009 in Charleston.  They now have 5 locations in this area of the country with Nashville set as the next to open.  They bill themselves as serving the finest steaks money can buy, offering an extensive wine list and serving hearty family-style sides all with great service.  The Greenville location is located in the refurbished part of downtown overlooking the water feature.  Parking is on the street as well as in several city-owned parking garages.  It was a fairly large place with huge windows taking in the view with an equally huge bar available for drinking and dining.  At lunch, they had some different menu options but the entire dinner menu is available too.  Be advised that portions are large.  The nice sized tables were cloth covered but I found the service to be a bit overdone bordering on intrusive and pushy.  We were there for a relaxed visit with a longtime friend and the constant picking up of plates we were using to replace them with larger ones, changing out flatware after plates were served and the pushing of extra orders did not endear their service to me. Continue reading

Comal 864, Greenville, SC., 3/9/23

exterior – 1112 Woodside Ave, Greenville, SC 29611

Comal 864 is the creation of Brownsville, Texas native Dayna Lee Márquez, who wanted to bring South Texas food to this region.  It started in July 2019 as a pop-up operation and in Nov. 2022  opened a storefront operation that also offers catering.  Chef Márquez was nominated in 2023 for a James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award.  The little house has parking on either side and picnic tables out front.  Inside a long counter with stools runs in front of the kitchen and order area and the rest is filled with tables and chairs.  You order at the counter and they’ll bring it to your table. Chef Márquez was in the kitchen and you could see her preparing plates along with her helpers.  For 2:00 in the afternoon, it was surprisingly busy but they are open all day.  The counter person was helpful in choosing what to order and the portions are very generous.  While the dishes may be novel to this area I found them very lacking in spice, but I admit I am surrounded by and love spicy Tex-Mex.   If I were closer I’d try the place again because the ‘bones’ of it were great but for me, the end result missed the mark. Continue reading

Riverstreet Family Restaurant, Spooner, WI., 2/22/23

exterior – 519 River St, Spooner, WI 54801

Riverstreet Family Restaurant is a fairly large place divided into 2 rooms by a partial wall.  The good-sized tables are mostly in one room with the other having the bar facing the service area and opening to the kitchen,  Plenty of parking surrounds the building and music from the kitchen radio bleeds into the dining areas.  The interior is a combination of wood, brick, shingles, metal and windows to the outside covered with blinds.  A couple of deer head mounts and various signs complete the eclectic interior.  The large menu features breakfast all day, a lot of burger variations and is supplemented by daily specials.  The portions are large and the staff quite efficient and helpful as well as knowledgable of the names and situations of many of the regular customers.  Coffee comes as a pot on the table and overall the food was good but regular.  In other words, I would go again but not go out of my way to get there. Continue reading

Chez Nous (second visit), Charleston, 2/9/23


We were excited to return to Chez Nous but slightly dismayed to not see Chef Jill Mathias in the kitchen.  This visit we got to sit downstairs and enjoy the jazz music that plays in the background.  There is a second fireplace at the base of the stairs to the upper level and the tables are just as small down here.  There are also a few stools at the bar counter in front of some of the wines.  The decorations in the place are from a local antique store that one of the owners is also involved in.  Also found out that the doors to the bathrooms are original to the house.  The setup was the same as before, with 2 choices for each of the 3 courses and that really befuddled the neighboring table that wanted French onion soup or any soup (they eventually left).  We however were happy with the choices but this trip wanted the same things and split the dessert as we knew a heavy dinner was on the schedule.  The food didn’t dazzle me as much as the first visit but I would still plan to visit this place every chance I get because the food is that good and the concept is very refreshing to me. Continue reading

Chez Nous, Charleston, 2/8/23

building – 6 Payne Court, Charleston, SC., 29403

Chez Nous is a small place in an 1835  2-story home. Around 9 years ago Chef Jill Mathias started serving the cuisine of southern France, northern Italy and northern Spain for lunch and dinner 6 days a week.  She serves the same menu of 2 appetizers, 2 entreés and 2 desserts both times of day but changes the menu daily.  Chef writes the new menu by hand every day in a very stylized script, with the first line in the language of the area and the second in English.  The place just holds 36 guests inside and 20 on the outside patio.  Music is in the background, light streams through the many windows, upstairs a bench runs along the long wall with no pillows and tiny tables.  Upstairs wide plank old floors are opposite exposed ceiling rafters and the end of the room has a crumbling brick fireplace.  It all works to feel like you’ve jumped back in time to enjoy a meal in a friend’s home.  Don’t let anything stop you from getting to this place and eating some of her great food.  We were so impressed we made a reservation for the next day’s lunch while we sipped coffee. Continue reading

The Obstinate Daughter, Sullivans Island, SC., 2/7/23

exterior- 2063 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482

The Obstinate Daughter is named for the American victory in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in 1776, where a British cartoonist illustrated the defenders of Charleston as “Miss Carolina Sulivan, one of the obstinate daughters of America”.  Their website describes the place as a ‘Lowcountry Food Fort.”  They have a wood-fired pizza oven as well as a raw bar and relationships with local fishermen and farms. It’s a large place on the second floor of frame house with a patio facing the street and a very small parking lot downstairs.  The eclectic menu has influences from Italian and Spanish cuisines and the interior is decorated with a nautical theme.  There were 2 main rooms, one with a bar and counter and the other with an open kitchen and an assortment of table types.  Music was in the background, lots of windows look to the outside and the staff was all super friendly and helpful.  The food was excellent. Continue reading

Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach, 1/26/23

entrance – 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL., 33139

Joe’s Stone Crab was opened as a lunch counter in 1913, before Miami Beach was a city, by Joe Weiss.   He moved south from New York due to his asthma and found he could breathe easier in Miami Beach.  It started as a lunch stand and by 1918 he and his wife bought a small house and set up tables on the porch, calling it Joe’s Restaurant.  For a number of years, they were the only restaurant on the beach and Al Capone was a regular customer (using a different name). Around 1921 a researcher discovered stone crabs, but they were not known to be eaten.   Joe gave them a try and they were an instant hit.  His son Jesse evolved into running the place and had the personality to attract many celebrities and the well-to-do crowd.  The place served food to Will Rogers, Amelia Earhart, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joe Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover to name a few.  The third and fourth-generation family members now run the place with some employees having worked there up to 50 years.  It is an institution, to say the least.  A huge place, there are several dining rooms, a large bar and a patio all appointed with formally dressed staff and double white clothed tables.  Service is fabulous as is the food.  An experience not to be missed. Continue reading

El Rey de las Fritas, Miami, 1/25/23

exterior –1821 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL., 33135

La Rey de las Fritas has been serving Cuban food in Miami for 40 years.  They originated and are known for “La original Frita Cubana” – a Cuban-style burger they invented.  It is a ground beef patty with sautéed onions that is topped with a mound of shoestring fried potatoes on a fluffy Cuban roll. There are several locations but we visited what we think was the original.  Located in a strip shopping center, it was a large place with 2 U-shaped counters with stools facing toward the kitchen and the opposite wall had booth seating.  It was bright and a bit sterile, but managed to get a fair number of people both eating in and taking out.  Their famous burgers are offered with a number of variations and otherwise they had a large menu of Cuban dishes.  They also had shakes and drinks made from lots of different fruits and so we also tried a mango shake or Batidos.  The sandwich was interesting but not killer however the shake was lovely. Continue reading

La Sandwicherie, Miami Beach, 1/24/23

exterior – 229 14th Street, Miami Beach, FL., 33139

La Sandwicherie was started in 1988 to bring simple sandwiches at a good price point to Miami Beach.  Since then they have expanded to include several Florida cities.  The sandwiches are on crisp white or wheat baguettes or soft croissants and all have the signature dressing vinaigrette on the side.  All include veggie toppings of lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, hot peppers, black olives, red onions, cucumbers, and  Cornichons (French pickle).  They also offer salads and a variety of fruit drinks, but no alcoholic beverages.  There is no interior; it’s simply a counter with a few stools and a space designated for ordering.  You can customize your French inspired sandwich in any way you’d like.  The counter workers take your order and make your sandwich and music is in the background.  They are super friendly and helpful.  The sandwiches are wonderful and on great bread. Continue reading

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

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

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

Saint John, New Orleans, 1/5/23

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

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

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

exterior – 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130

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

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

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

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

Al Conte Pescaor, Venice, 12/16/22

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

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

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

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

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

Osteria da Alberto, Venice, 12/13/22

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

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

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

building –21021 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, CA.

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


Set up

sign outside
to another room
second interior room
bar area
Frankie found some art



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

prime rib sandwich


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

Boscaiolo Pizza
another angle
closer Calabrian Chili oil
Frankie enjoyed the bathroom arrangement


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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