La Bicyclette, Carmel, 8/9/19

building
building

La Bicyclette is on a corner in the busy shopping area of Carmel.  It is basically made up of 2 rooms, one having windows to the street on 2 sides, the pizza oven, a long bar and kitchen pass through and the other smaller room having a lot of hanging copper pots and glassware storage.  It seemed much more lively in the bigger room.  The small bare wood tables are placed fairly closely together and set with cloth napkins that are more like small towels.  The rooms had a number of eclectic decorations.  Music is in the background and the place is amazingly busy.  It is a fun spot with good food, friendly service and casual atmosphere. Continue reading

Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery, Glasgow, 8/3/19

exterior
exterior

The Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery has been a restaurant for 60 years and it spreads over several rooms all filled with collections of decorative pieces.  The restaurant is not related to the television show of a similar name, that I could tell.  Our table was not ready immediately upon arrival so we sat at the bar area where the very friendly bartender told us tales of the history of the place.  When we were seated the very friendly staff were opinionated (in a nice way) about what to order from the a la carte menu.  The tables were fairly close and set with white tableclothes and napkins.  No music was in the background but the hum of people provided plenty of ambiance.  Lots of dark wood and some windows made up the walls and the floors were carpeted.  This place  serves pretty heavy food in large portions with rapid paced service.  They did ask if we wanted a break after the main course but we had already decided to skip dessert – it didn’t seem to have a good probability for success based on the rest of the meal. Continue reading

Ox and Finch, Glasgow, 8/3/19

exterior
exterior

Ox and Finch is a medium to large place with 2 sides of the room being windows to the street.  It has a Bib Gourmand rating in the Michelin guide. and has been at this location 4-5 years.   They are located right next to a bus stop so it is ultra convenient if using public transportation.  Music plays in the background and the kitchen is open at the front of the place with a bar and a few seats.  The rest of the seating is a combination of high top tables, booths and regular tables with bench seating.  A wall of wine, with a few decorative items, frames one side of the place and also is the back wall on the stairs down to the bathrooms.  Other walls are made of stone and brick with an old wide plank wood floor and decorated plaster ceiling.  It’s a very casual feel with a friendly staff and really fast pacing on the service.  The dishes looked small but they were rich and fill you up.  Their dishes are recommended to be shared and the server suggested we order 5 plates for the 2 of us.  We did just that and with leaving a little there was still room for dessert.  We had some of their draft beers with the meal.   They did offer wine by the liter as well as bottle and some beer specials. Continue reading

Bilson Eleven, Glasgow, 8/1/19

exterior
exterior

Bilson Eleven opened in 2016 in a townhouse building that dates to the 1800’s.   It was set up like a house on a quiet street, utilizing several small rooms over a couple floors to seat less than 30.  The name is representative of Chef/Owner Nick Rietz’s 2 children and the number of tables originally.  He, with the help of his father did much of the renovation of the building.  Small bare wood pedestal tables are set fairly close and appointed with large cloth napkins and padded arm and armless chairs.  Windows to the street are along the front of one room and the floors are a wide panel wood.  Ceilings have ornate detailing and the fireplaces in the room are covered with decorative items.  Minimal art is on the walls, music plays in the background and there are no flowers on the table.  They serve only a tasting menu and you chose how many courses you want when you make your reservation.  We chose the largest, eight course and had the wine pairings to go with it.  Our server was nice enough to line up all the bottles at the end of the meal for one “group” photo.  The staff spoke great English and were super friendly.  Pacing of the meal was good as was the portion control. Continue reading

Number 16 Restaurant, Glasgow, 8/1/19

exterior
exterior

Number 16 is a tiny restaurant with a few tables downstairs and even fewer upstairs.  Windows to the street are mostly blocked by the back of a booth bench seat.  The tables vary in design and the low ceiling is lined with wood beams.   Logs are decorations on the painted brick walls as are small mirrors.  At lunch they offered a 2 or 3 course menu as well as a la carte options.  They also have a changing house red wine available.   Service was friendly, helpful and efficient.  Open for ten years, the food here is good and a real value. Continue reading

Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow, 7/31/19

exterior
exterior

The Ubiquitous Chip is a large place on two stories within a maze of buildings.  You’ll see signs for it along the way, where you pass many bars and small restaurants.  Once inside, the stone and brick walls are decorated with plants and cooking/food related items.  Brick floors are in one room and then as you go up a couple steps there is a tile floor. Large farm tools are on one wall and the lighting is lowered.  Opening in 1971, it feels homey and rustic with a lots of visual interest on the interior.  For example a light fixture was composed of bottle stoppers and a light shade was made from crystal decanter with the bottom cut out.  The small polished wood tables are not set too closely so the noise level is not bad.  The entry room had wicker chairs whereas our side room had wood chairs with a padded seat.  The second floor was like an open balcony that framed the periphery of the room.  No music was in the background, just the hum of lots of people enjoying their time here.  The staff was friendly but not particularly efficient and the food was mixed. Continue reading

Crabshakk, Glasgow, 7/31/19

exterior
exterior

The Crabshakk is a small 2 story place filled with closely set rustic wood tables of various sizes.  Music plays in the background and the bar takes up a third of the downstairs eating area.  The walls are of stone and tile, which has prices of some the daily specials on it, and the floor is concrete all in some contrast to the ornate ceiling.  A window to the street is set with a wide high top table.  The menu is mostly seafood and there are daily specials that are offered in small and large sizes.  Service was friendly and helpful and not at all pushy.  The place is very casual and open all afternoon.  It is perfect for a full meal or a mid afternoon snack.  The seafood was all wonderfully fresh and tasty.  Thumbs up here. Continue reading

El Vecino, Dallas, 7/28/19

exterior
exterior

El Vecino is a good sized place in a small shopping center in the Casa Linda area.  The bare wood tables are well spaced and set with cloth napkins wrapped around the flatware.  The colors are bright and the place is too, but there are windows all across the front to the outside free parking lot.  They offer a good sized menu with lunch specials for weekdays, special selections for brunch on weekends and some summer specials.   They have a second location that has opened in Travis Walk but we were at the original.  They have a full bar and you will see it when you first enter.  It has stools so you could probably eat there if they were full.  There are benches on the covered patio out front, I’m guessing for waiting.  The name “El Vecino” translates to neighbor and they want to be a neighborhood place, opening in the fall of  2017.  The owners, the McBride family, have Mexican restaurants in their blood with his grandfather starting El Fenix and he working in NYC’s Rosa Mexicano.   Service was efficient but did try to ‘upsale’ extra stuff to order several times. Continue reading

Pepes & Mitos, Dallas,7/26/19

exterior
exterior

Pepes & Mitos is a large place in Deep Ellum.  The tables are covered with oilclothes and well spaced and good sized.  The restaurant has several rooms and an enclosed outdoor patio with fans.  In the entrance room you can see through to the kitchen and a counter houses a large selection of cold drinks.  The next room has a large bar where you can also sit and eat or just have drinks.  A concrete floor, brick walls and exposed ductwork in the ceiling give it a casual feel.   Lots of art is on the walls.  Even with all the hard surfaces noise was not a problem.  A number of large groups were there at lunch so it seems to be a good place for work people to lunch together.   They have a good sized menu and do offer lunch specials for weekdays.  Service was helpful and very friendly.  Parking is on the street by meter or in a paid lot. Continue reading

Cafe 43, Dallas, 7/24/19

entrance
entrance

Cafe 43 is the dining spot in George W. Bush Presidential library.  It is a good sized place and you don’t need to pay admission to the library to gain entrance to the cafe, but you will have to pay for parking on the SMU campus.  The nice sized tables are slightly spaced and bare dark wood set with mats.  Art is on the walls, some by Bush, and large windows look out onto the campus and surrounding grounds.  Service was attentive and very friendly and content for us to take a long visit with lunch. Continue reading

Beverley’s Bistro & Bar, Dallas, 7/23/19

exterior
exterior

Beverley’s is a good sized place that opened in March of this year.  It  serves American food on bare marble tables set on a beautiful tile floor.  There are a few booths for seating but most is at tables with some spacing between them.  A patio offers a few tables off to the side of the place and some small tables are out front and I’m guessing they’re for waiting when the large bar area gets filled.  The dining room is divided between the main eating area and the long bar with stools and tables.  An open kitchen is opposite the entrance that is on a busy street.  Valet parking is out front.  Windows to the street provide additional lighting to the already well lit room.  Acoustic tiles are on the ceiling but unfortunately with all the hard surfaces and packed, lively crowd the place does have noise level issues to deal with.  The patrons vary in ages and dress level.  The staff is very friendly and helpful with ordering.  Ours was willing to bring the food in courses and split plates.  The menu features some locally sourced products and a couple nightly specials were presented by the server as well as the nightly fish. Continue reading

Homewood (update), Dallas, 7/9/19

sign out front
sign out front

We visited Homewood again and had different things as much of the menu had changed.  The menu this time was for summer rather than spring.  It was still really busy but with a reservation we had a table waiting for us.   Walk-ins were waiting for a seat and the noise level is a struggle.    It is a lively, varied aged crowd.  Chef Matt McCallister was in the kitchen and out visiting with his guests. Continue reading

Fauna, Dallas, 6/22/19

exterior
exterior

Fauna is the newest addition to Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe in the Dallas Arts District.  It only seats 16 in the smaller dining room off to the side.  The setting is dressier and quieter than the larger front room, with nice sized tables draped in lovely linens and appointed with comfy padded chairs.  The tables are slightly close but it is a small room and there is adequate space between them.  They have purse stools, music in the background, art on the wall, a tall candle on each table, dark curtains on the windows and TV screens above the serving window with scenes of fire and water.  It has the southwestern touches, that Pyles is known for, like antlers above the monitors and branches in the ceiling fixture.  The room is completely enclosed when the meal starts and serves only the same tasting menu of about 12 courses to everyone there.  Pacing is a little slow but portion control is good.  The doors nicely shut out the hum of the front part of the place.  They do pass out a printed menu for you to take home at the end of the meal.   The pass through window to the kitchen is below the monitors and everyone is served at the same time.  Plan to spend a couple hours.  When we went they had only been open 3 weeks, so I’m sure some changes have been made to the set up. Continue reading

Homewood, Dallas, 5/7/19

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exterior

Homewood is Matt McCallister’s newest venture following the closure of his successful FT33.  It is more centrally located and has a more casual feel.  When we first visited he had only been open a couple weeks.  It is a bright and modern spot with large windows looking out on the patio and the busy street beside it.   Wood and tile are the surfaces and the open ceiling has painted wood rafter joists with acoustic tiles.  A low counter bar is the bar but also a place for walk-ins to have dinner.  It is appointed with stuffed chairs.  There is also a high counter bar where you can get a reservation as well as the many small, closely set tables around the room.  A few larger booths are along the windows that look out on Oak Lawn Ave. and some booths for 2 people face the low bar area.  A short wall separates the 2 sections of dining tables.  The section that also houses the higher bar is open to the kitchen.  McCallister can be seen in the kitchen as well as coming out to visit with guests and friends.  They have valet parking if you want to be in the lot adjacent to the  building.  Service was efficient, friendly and directive.  The menu changes regularly and features many locally sourced items as well as those that have been preserved, pickled, etc. by the restaurant staff.  They are happy to have you share things. Continue reading

Raymonds (re-visit), St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/29/19

inteiror
interior

The second time we went to Raymonds we went for the smallest tasting menu, the 3 course.  This one you get more a la carte sized servings.  My impression of the place was even better the second time around.  It was earlier in the evening so it was still light outside and that changed the room and really brightened things.  Music still played in the background and I think we got the same table but it was different to see the harbor outside and have a shorter meal experience.  For each of the 3 courses you have 3 options to pick from.   We also opted for our own bottle of wine this visit.   Continue reading

The Adelaide Oyster House, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/29/19

exterior
exterior

The Adelaide Oyster House is a small place on a main street of town that opened in 2014.  They have one large picnic table in the window and lots of stools around the long bar and small, closely set tables backing up to the wall.  They offer lots of locally brewed tap beers as well as a full bar.  Loud, older rock music plays in the background, exposed ductwork runs across the ceiling, the walls are a combination of wood and brick and one end of the place houses the small open kitchen.  On weekends they serve brunch all day.  It’s a friendly and welcoming place but the server was not overly directive in how much or suggestions to order.  Plates are easily split which we did so we could try a number of things. Continue reading

Seto Kitchen and Bar, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/28/19

exterior
exterior

Seto is in an historic house, that predates the Great Fire of Newfoundland,  with 2 rooms set up for dining.  They seat just 36 people with 5 tables in front and 6 in the back.  The old wood tables are set with padded armless chairs and large paper napkins.  New age music plays in the background and the lighting is low with some also provided by candles.  The small menu has lots of dishes suitable for sharing and one special of the evening was introduced by the server.  This is the 4th year they have been open and they also operate a food truck.  Service was super friendly and helpful.   In a really small kitchen Chef Ken Pittman creates all the dishes, many inspired by his grandfather who was among the first Chinese immigrants to Newfoundland.  He uses fresh, local ingredients that are native to the province while adding an Asian twist to the dishes.  It was a fabulous meal and I urge you to try it if you can. Continue reading

Chinched, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/28/19

exterior
exterior

Chinched is Newfoundland slang for being full and the tiny restaurant Chinched is good for that.  It is in an old house that has a small number of counter seats and a couple tables for about 8 people in the window that faces the street.  They do their own in-house chacuterie and make their own crackers and bread.  The small menu at lunch is mostly sandwiches and snacks with lots of beer choices.  At dinner they have a larger menu and also offer a happy hour menu.  Later in the day they have additional seating upstairs.  They also offer wine and a bar.  There is seating on a small patio out back when weather permits.   The super friendly staff were helpful in advising what and how much to order.  We way over ordered, but we wanted to try a number of their things.  Music plays in the background and there are a ton of pigs decorating the place.  It felt casual and cozy.   Continue reading

Mallard Cottage, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/27/19

other side
side

Mallard Cottage was built around 1830 as a one and half story home for the Mallard family in the Quidi Vidi area (rows of brightly colored houses); a house typical of the immigrants coming in from southeast Ireland.  We got to sit in one of the original rooms with the low ceiling but they’ve added on a larger high ceiling room that could seat way more people.  The old wood floors are set with new bare wood pedestal tables, wood uncushioned chairs and large paper napkins. In the larger room, that also housed a bar and stools, the music was quite loud whereas in the older rooms it was quieter.  Lots of quaint decorations give the place character.  Service was friendly but pacing was super quick and portions good sized.  The menu is small but they also offer a ‘family style’ option where they pick the appetizers and main courses for your table.  Wine pairings are available.  We chose the family style option but ordered our own wine.   Continue reading

Get Stuffed, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/27/19

exterior
exterior

Get Stuffed is a good sized place with several rooms on 2 stories of an historic house.  The small, closely set tables are covered with black cloths  and maroon or beige napkins that match the bench seat and cushions that lines the wall.  There are a few stools at the service counter across from the bench and then there are rooms upstairs with tables and bay windows.  Music is in the background and the windows on the front of the building look out over a park and its statues as well as the harbour down the hill.  It’s on an interesting street that is filled with funky shops good for browsing.  Service was very friendly, helpful but pacing was a little slow.   Continue reading

Raymonds, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/26/19

from the front
from the front

Raymonds is one large rectangular room filled with large, well-spaced tables appointed with padded armless chairs, white tableclothes and large white napkins.  Three wrapped chandeliers and real candles provide the lighting when the sun goes down and the 3 sides of windows no longer let in light.  The windows looks out over St. John’s harbour and passing boats.  The floor is carpeted and the high ceiling is decorated with heavy crown molding.  The room feels elegant and the crowd is more dressed up, many celebrating special occasions.  However it is noisy when the room fills up.  The building dates back to 1915 and previously was home to a cable company.   They opened 9 years ago after a couple years of extensive remodeling.  The menu offers 3 tasting menus (3, 5 and 7 courses)  with the 3 course one having a la carte size portions and the others appropriately scaled.  All  the menus had optional wine pairings available and the server said they would accommodate allergies or aversions.  We chose the 7 course tasting with the wine pairings. Continue reading

The Merchant Tavern, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/26/19

exterior
exterior

The Merchant Tavern is a large place with a combination of high top and regular size tables, a few stools by the kitchen counter and a huge u-shaped bar with seating in the middle.  Windows to the street are on one wall and the back wall is all open kitchen.   The tables are closely set with marble tops, exposed ductwork is in the ceiling and there are lots of hanging lights.  Wood and some art decorate the walls.   It is a more casual option offered by the group that owns the more upscale Raymonds.  The menu was all a la carte and had a couple specials offered.  It features seasonal, local foods.  The place was crowded, casual and noisy.  Service was friendly and helpful.  They did not have a business card but with a search to the name and place you will find their website for the place on 291 Water St., St. John’s NL. Continue reading

Oliver’s Restaurant, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/25/19

exterior
exterior

Oliver’s is a small place with mostly padded and tufted booth seating.  The dining room has bare wood tables, low lighting, music in the background, art on the walls and windows to the street.  One wall mostly holds wine and above the racks are huge piles of corks.  The wine selection is limited but they have lots of cocktails available.  The menu has a number of local seafood offerings as well as some seafood shipped into the area.  There were several nightly specials.  Service was efficient, super friendly and happy to have us share things and bring them in courses. Continue reading

Providence (update), Los Angeles, 6/1/19

exterior
exterior

It’s been 3 years since we visited Providence.  Since that time Michelin has issued a new California guide that reinstated the previous rank of Providence as a 2 Michelin star restaurant.  Also the restaurant has redone the dining space.  The new gray walls are in place of the patterned ones but are still decorated with the white flowers and the ‘netting material’ continues to cover the ceiling.  They retained an elegance in the room with a double white table cloth covering the large tables that are moderately spaced.  The bench seating is now covered with leather and dark velvet mated on the other side with comfortable chairs. Music plays in the background and service is friendly and very attentive.  They offer 3 tasting menus with optional pairings, additional options (oysters, caviar, uni, and spot prawns) and a full bar.  We chose the Chef’s tasting menu and ordered our own wines.  It was an excellent meal – full of wonderful flavors and textures.    This place gets 2 strong thumbs up from me.  Pacing started rapidly and then slowed down a bit.  Portion control was great. Continue reading

Animal Restaurant, Los Angeles, 6/1/19

exterior
exterior

Animal is a medium sized place that serves lots of plates made for sharing.  It is the first restaurant of the group that also owns Jon and Vinny which is across the street down a couple lots.  The menu adds brunch items on weekends but the regular menu is still available.  They have been open 10 years and the menu was originally known for its interesting meat cuts but now mostly features meaty, hearty food.  The dishes were well flavored and fun, so I’d put this one on your list if you’re in town.  Rock music plays in the background but is dampened by the sound tiles in the ceiling.  Plain white walls host just a couple paintings and windows to the street are at one end of the place.  The opposite end is a counter with seats that face the bar and a small window into the kitchen.  The bare wood tables are set with large cloth napkins and ceiling skylights add additional light for daytime dining.  Service was super friendly and helpful.   Continue reading

Somni, Los Angeles, 5/31/19

seating counter
seating counter

Somni means “dream” in Catalan and this place is the dream of Chef Aitor Zabala and Chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup.  It is inside the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills and offers a surprise tasting menu of about 20 courses.  The menu changes with the seasons and mostly as an individual item at a time and they did have a printed version of the tasting for you when you finished.  They received a 2 star Michelin rating in the new California Michelin Guide.  You entered into the hotel lobby, which felt more like a mini department store, where you waited to be ushered into the dining room.  The dining room is a lovely light wood curved counter with plush chairs for 10 people.  The large group of chefs work at the several counters in front of you and also in a back area that is less visible.  The white surfaces look pristine with the light woods and marble and small spotlights hang over every seat so you can enjoy the artistry of the dishes.  Some art is on the back walls but the real art is in the kitchen in front of you.  It felt elegant and serene.  Service was amazing along with questions easily answered by any of the chefs that served you.  It was a totally delightful and delicious experience.  I suspect that this is the work of manager Eric Jeffay (who we met at D.C.’s Minibar) and is well versed in providing the finest service.  I encourage you to go if you get the chance the food is gorgeous, as is the room, and explodes with flavor.   Continue reading

Jon & Vinny’s Restaurant, Los Angeles, 5/31/19

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building

Jon & Vinny’s is a medium sized place with bare blond wood tables for 2 and some booth seating.  The kitchen is on the left as you  enter and you can see the pizza baking and food being prepared.  There are some stools at the counter for eating too.  The two-tops had hinges that looked like they could be expanded for bigger parties.   All the tables are  set with paper napkins and a selection of paper placemats and there is older rock music in the background.   There are windows to the busy street at the front but no seats nearby.  However between those windows and the skylights there is plenty of light in the place.  Helen’s Wines is attached to the back of the dining area and you can go in to select your wine or do it from the list and they’ll bring it out.  Afterwards you can go and buy more of it or something else to take with you.  Service was efficient and friendly and pacing was fairly rapid.  They were happy for us to share everything and willing to bring it out in stages for us to eat but they did overlap sometimes which could make it tight on the small table.  The place was constantly full, especially with lots of young people, with tables turning several times. Stopped into the wine shop afterwards and they were extremely friendly too.   Continue reading

La Carniceria, Buenos Aires, 5/25/19

building
building

La Carniceria is a small place with about 10 small bare wood tables and a few counter stools.  Tables are placed fairly close together and a mural of hanging meat fills the back wall.  Opposite that is the cooking area behind the bar.   The chairs are a comfortable wire mesh and the floor is a lovely terrazzo.  Music plays in the background and windows look out onto the street.  It looks relatively new and is a comfortable ambiance.  It filled up quickly and the noise level rose with that, but it workable.  Our server was helpful and friendly and spoke great English. The menu is small and is heavy on the grilled meat.  Portions are generous and the food is simple and straightforward but seriously delicious.  Doing something simple really well can often dwarf the frilly, less flavorful options.  This place is highly recommended by me to visit. Continue reading

Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires, 5/25/19

line to get in
line to get in

Cafe Tortoni dates back to 1858 and moved to its present location in 1880 but has long been a part of Buenos Aires history.  A French style place where artists and scholars visited in the early 1920s it now hosts regular tango shows as well as serving up coffee, alcohol and a good variety of fresh pastries and snacks.  But this did not seem to be a place to have a meal, more just a drink and snack and people watch or to absorb some of the atmosphere.   It is typical to find a line to get in but the line moved quickly and we were in soon.  I read about a large basement room but didn’t get to see it.  There was a room more like a library filled with books and mementos.  The whole place was filled with stuff – photos, trophies, books, stained glass lamps, art and small marble tables.  There is a Tiffany glass ceiling and a collection of Tiffany lamps on top of the service area.  If you need to take some of the place with you there is a large number of souvenirs for sale. Continue reading

Bar Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires, 5/24/19

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building

Bar Plaza Dorrego is good sized and right across from the plaza where tango dancers perform and vendors sell trinkets.  It has been around a long time – I found one photograph dated 1904 – and the walls and furnishings look like they have not been replaced in a long while.  It is full of character.  The large u-shaped bar is the centerpiece of the room and the tables wrap around the walls.  Windows are on a couple sides as the building as it’s on a corner.  Photos line the wall and the bar is stocked with liquors and coffee.  The staff were friendly and welcoming.  We only stopped for coffee but it came with a little bowl of delicious amaretto cookies to snack on.  They do offer sandwiches, steaks and pastires, but most people were just drinking.  It felt like history surrounded us and was a wonderful place to pass a few restful moments. Continue reading