St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis, 4/21/23

exterior – 127 S Illinois St, Indianapolis, IN 46225

St. Elmo Steak House has been a landmark in Indianapolis since 1902 when it opened.  It is the oldest steakhouse in the city that’s in its original location.  The place is huge, covering several floors with lots of different rooms and private dining options.  It was founded by Joe Stahr and named for the patron saint of sailors, St. Elmo.  Having had several owners over the years it is now run by Stephen Huse and his son Craig. They’ve won awards, have a huge wine cellar, valet parking and professional tuxedoed waitstaff.  The large white cloth-covered tables are surrounded by brick walls and lots of photos with lowered lighting.  The evening we were there, there were a number of large parties in the private rooms as well as on the floor.  It had a very typical steakhouse ambiance that you have to be in the mood for.  It was mixed on food but service was outstanding. 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

Vida, Indianapolis, 4/20/23

exterior – 601 E New York St, Indianapolis, IN 46202

Vida offers innovative cuisine using locally sourced ingredients, when possible.   It’s a large building with a bar on one side and the dining room on the other.  The bar offers more casual dining and is in the original part of the building.  They offer a  6-course Chef’s tasting menu (optional wine pairings available) or a 4-course fixed price menu with several choices for each course.   Opening in 2016, it is an elegant space with a super high ceiling that has windows much of the way up.  One wall of the dining room had a cushy bench that was mated with medium-sized dark bare wood tables.  Carpet was on the floor and lots of wood in the room help keep the noise at a good level even with music in the background.  The service was very nice with the team working together.  The pacing was good as was portion control.  We chose the Chef’s tasting with a dessert substitution for me and our own bottle of wine. 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

Coat Check Coffee, Indianapolis, 4/20/23

building – 401 E Michigan St, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Coat Check Coffee is open daily in the historic Athenaeum building.    They offer pastries and bialy sandwiches in addition to coffee beverages.  There are tables in the lobby next to the counter as well as by the first-floor entrance.  They are located in what was the coat check area of the old theater.  It is a small counter but they are fairly quick.  We tried one of their sandwiches and some of their pastries.  It was mostly a younger crowd but with a variety of seating options.  I also saw groups with their computers possibly having a meeting at the one large table.  It is run by the Small Victories hospitality group that operates several other coffee shops in the area.  If you are nearby, stop by for a coffee and an almond croissant. Continue reading

Oakley’s Bistro, Indianapolis, 4/19/23

exterior – 1464 W 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260

Oakley’s Bistro was started in 2002 and continues to be run by Chef Steven Oakley today.  His dream was to create “an affordable, everyday destination where every meal is a special occasion.”  He started cooking at 16 years of age and has gathered experience from many restaurants and other chefs.  Now he and his restaurant have been recognized with many awards and he also donates a portion of the bistro’s sales to an Indianapolis food rescue program as well as opening his kitchen for training and hiring of those who want to go into the restaurant industry.  The place is medium-sized with some outdoor tables also available and located in a strip shopping center.  They offer an a la carte menu but also have 2 tasting menu time slots on Wed- Sat nights.  We opted for that which must be reserved 24 hours in advance.  As you enter the dining room you’ll see the curved booth slightly above and next to the kitchen and that is where the tasting is served by the chef himself.    The 5 – 6 course tasting can accommodate up to 4 people but if you are a couple it will be just you.  At $85 per person it is a good value with wine pairings available.  We had a lovely evening there and would recommend the place if you are in the area. 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

The Mercury, Dallas, 4/12/23

exterior –Preston Forest Square, 11909 Preston Rd #1418, Dallas, TX 75230

In 1998 the award-winning Chef Chris Ward joined the M Crowd Restaurant Group as Executive Chef of The Mercury.  Ward had garnered many honors including “Rising Star Chef” by the James Beard House Foundation.  Today he is still in the kitchen at this neighborhood staple and packing a crowd even in the middle of the week.  Located in a modest strip shopping center, inside you’ll find the lights lowered, dark wood tables, padded seating, stone and wood walls, shaded windows to the outside, and music in the background.  You enter into the large bar area and now next door houses a sushi bar that shares food with this place.  Along one wall is the opening to the kitchen where some terrific food is being offered to diners.  There was only one special that evening but the menu covers a good range of American classics.  The service was outstanding and we truly enjoyed an evening there with some friends. Continue reading

Longoven, Richmond, 4/8/23

entrance – 2939 W Clay St., Richmond, VA 23230

Longoven offers a seasonal 10-13 course tasting menu highlighting local products.  Owned by a trio of chefs – Andrew Manning, Patrick Phelan and Megan Fitzroy Phelan – it opened about 5 years ago.  The trio united after varying careers to do a series of pop-up dinners for 4 years starting in 2014.  They didn’t start out intending to offer fine dining but evolution found them receiving tons of awards as they refined their concept of flavors.   Open for dinner Wed through Sat, there are few tables so get your reservation early.  Wine pairings are offered and cocktails can be acquired at the Lost Letter which is the bar in the front of the building.  The Lost Letter and the patio on the side also serve food made in the same kitchen, just a more casual and a la carte version. Fittingly the name refers to the community ovens of the Civil War period.  They do give you copy of the menu at the end of the meal.  The space is fairly dark with dark wood tables and carpet and excellent service.  It is star for the Richmond dining scene and a bargain at $155/person.  Go if you get the opportunity. 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

L’Opossum, Richmond, 4/7/23

entrance – 626 China St, Richmond, VA 23220

L’Opossum offers a quirky take on traditional French cuisine in a very eclectic interior, masterminded by Chef/Owner David Shannon.  Opening in 2015 it immediately won the Elby (Richmond-region award) Dining award for Best New Restaurant and in 2017 won the Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year.  You can see why it also has claimed fame as the most romantic restaurant with a number of sexual references in the food and art.  Inside you’ll find a small darkly lit place with booths on one side of the long room, cut-outs holding statues between tables on the opposite wall and small tables in the middle.  The tables are embossed with gold patterns underneath heavy plastic coating that brought Rorschach to mind and the lighting is from dozens of colored balls hanging from the ceiling.  The walls are covered with plates, paintings and statues.  Service was great – helpful and friendly, offering advice when needed.  It may not be the best food I’ve ever had but the place itself is worth a visit and a chance to soak up the vibe. 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

Lemaire Restaurant, Richmond, 4/6/23

hotel exterior – The Jefferson Hotel, 101 W Franklin St, Richmond, VA 23220

Lemaire is the fine dining restaurant in the historic Jefferson Hotel.  It is named for President Thomas Jefferson’s maitre d’ Etienne Lemaire who is credited with introducing cooking with wine to America.  The menu changes seasonally and is under Chef Patrick Willis, a Virginia native, since 2009 when the place underwent a major renovation.  The hotel was lovely and had a nice bar just outside where you could wait for your table.   Inside the elegant dining room was one room with elaborate plaster moldings,  Italian chandeliers, mirrors, custom draperies and double-clothed large tables. Some windows were on two sides of the room and provided additional light to the small votive on the table.  The padded leather chairs, carpet and well-spaced tables make a conversation easy yet private.  Service was professional yet friendly and guests varied from those celebrating a special occasion to casual hotel guests.  We wanted to split a number of things and they were happy to course it out for us.  This place is worth a visit. 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

Buck’s Restaurant and Bar, Louisville, 4/1/23

exterior – 425 W Ormsby Ave, Louisville, KY 40203

Buck’s Restaurant is in the heart of Old Louisville in the historic Mayflower building.  Established in 1992 they wanted to create a “moon garden” and filled the restaurant and bar with white flowers against the dark green walls.  The continental menu is served on artfully mismatched china and nightly live piano music adds to the ambiance.  The medium-sized place felt very retro with a large bar dividing the 2 rooms.  The tables were covered with white clothes and set with black napkins.  The lighting was lowered, the bar is decorated with liquor bottles, the crowd was a bit more casual and there is a dedicated parking lot.  Service was super friendly but in all honesty we were thrilled to have the young chef from our B & B be our server for the evening. 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

610 Magnolia, Louisville, 3/31/23

exterior –610 W Magnolia Ave, Louisville, KY 40208

610 Magnolia was in a 125-year-old carriage house in Old Louisville – the creation of Chef Edward Lee.  In 2003 he wanted a modern take on the Southern Table and so offers a 5-course tasting menu with 2 options on 4 of the courses.  Wine pairings are available as well as a full bar.  Since there were 2 of us we decided to each order one of the options so we could try the whole menu.  The menu focuses on seasonality and locally sourced produce including their own greenhouse and farm.  It’s a medium-sized place with rock music in the background.  A large bar filled one area but it did not have seats.  The nice-sized tables were bare wood set with white cloth napkins and windows to the outside helped with the otherwise dim lighting.  They do 2 seatings a night and reservations must be made by calling.  We were in the early seating and as such the noise level was good at first but then became difficult as the later crowd arrived and more drink was consumed.  The food was mixed but Chef Lee was in the house and did come around to visit with guests.  We tried their pairings which were okay and small pours. 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

Jack Fry’s, Louisville, 3/30/23

exterior – 1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY, 40204

Jack Fry’s is celebrating 90 years in business.  Jack and Flossie Fry opened in 1933 and the restaurant was mostly a sportsman hangout due to his love of horse racing and boxing.  He closed the business in 1972 and then the space served Mexican food until it was re-established as Jack Fry’s in 1982.  Susan Seiller bought the restaurant in 1987, the year Jack died.  She transformed the restaurant into fine dining and then sold it to Stephanie Meeks in 1996, who started working there in 1996.  She further upgraded the dining area and bar as well as adding climate-controlled wine storage.  The place has won many awards and is filled with photos of its history, including the photo of Jack with the winning Derby ticket that made it possible to purchase the restaurant.  It’s a cozy medium-sized darkly lit place with a small parking lot adjacent to one side.  The white tablecloths, tin ceiling and full bar are complimented by the lovely live piano music.  Service was friendly and helpful and I would heartily recommend this place if you find yourself in Louisville. 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

Harbor House Restaurant (update), Elk, CA., 3/24/23

Harbor House Inn and Restaurant – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA, 95432

Harbor House Restaurant has been written up on this site numerous times and they continue to excel even with the weather challenges California has faced.  The most recent rains and wind did real damage to their ranch and all the growing produce but, other than less vegetables on the menu the food there just gets better and better.  The wine list also grows and a new beverage director will be in place very soon but in the meantime sommelier Jason is doing a fine job with new additions.  The setting is beautiful and I encourage you to stay either in one of the rooms of the Inn or the cottages on the property.  Breakfast is another fun treat.  We were thrilled to spend 2 nights and enjoy 2 dinners with Chef Matthew Kammerer and the dynamic team working at the place and I’m sure you’ll see more posts about dinners there in the future.  Put this one on your list! Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 3/23/23

Chef Ross Demers

Frankie took the night off and we slipped into Cry Wolf for a delicious dinner.  We were lucky to snag reservations for the Chef’s Counter seats where you are able to see all the dishes get prepared and chat with the talented chefs.  What a treat to find owner Ross Demers at the grill.   The menu had changed quite a bit in the month since we were there and many exciting choices were available.  Also, Sommelier Tim Case had added some fun new wines and Sous Chef Mike Stites was doing the finishing touches before the plates were served.  I’ve described this place before but my rule of thumb is to go as often as you can while a place is hot – you never know what the future holds.  So, get there now cause this place is on the top of its game. Continue reading

Chez Fonfon, Birmingham, 3/17/23

exterior – 2007 11th Ave. S, Birmingham, AL, 35205

Chez Fonfon was a casual French bistro that opened in 2000.  It is under the helm of Chef Frank Stitt but the night we were there it was his wife Pardis Stitt who was on site.  (She also is a co-owner of Highlands Bar and Grill).  The large place was crowded and busy with a large bar taking up about a third of the room.  Music was in the background, lights were lowered, windows looked out to the street and parking, and the good-sized tables were bare wood set with cloth napkins.  The vibe was of younger people and lively conversations.   We were lucky to get a table in a corner, otherwise, the noise might have made me like the place less. Service was good as was the food, which was first-rate.  I’d go back, especially for the dessert. 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

Bottega Restaurant, Birmingham, 3/16/23

exterior – 2240 Highland Ave. S, Birmingham, AL, 35205

Bottega is open for dinner Wed through Sat and now reservations can be made 4 weeks in advance, online and by phone.  The formal dining room opened in 1988 in the historic Beaux-Art building.  A Café opened next door 2 years later which offers more casual dining.  The building originally was an upscale clothing store and later housed some medical care units until it became a restaurant, but it retains the original facade and front windows and tile floor.  Chef and Owner Frank Stitt received the James Beard Foundation’s Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2001 as well as many other awards during his time in the industry. Now the good-sized tables are covered with two white cloths, large metal chandeliers provide soft lighting supplemented with votive candles on the tables and some tract lighting in the high ceiling.  Currently, they are not using their upstairs seating due to staffing shortages.  It has a feel of elegance, the noise level is good and the crowd seemed a bit older.  Service was wonderful as was the food.  I heartily recommend this place. 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

Helen, Birmingham, 3/15/23

exterior – 2013 2nd Ave., N. Birmingham, AL, 35203

Helen is a contemporary Southern grill under the helm of Chef Rob McDaniel and his wife Emily.  Helen was Rob’s grandmother who cooked on an indoor grill.  The large restaurant is in downtown Birmingham in a 2-story 1920s shotgun-style building.  Opening in the summer of 2020 they serve diners downstairs with upstairs having private party rooms or it can seat diners as needed.  Small bare wood tables sit opposite a wood bench with movable pillow backs.  Some larger tables accommodate bigger groups.  Windows look out to the street, a small bar has chairs for waiting, pictures are on the walls, valet parking is available out front and a long open kitchen is in the back.  The noise level was acceptable but the service could border on pushy.  The food was good but once again we encounter “the small table and lots of plates at one time” issue. 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

Scoundrel Gvl, Greenville, SC., 3/11/23

exterior – 18 N Main St, Greenville, SC 29601

Scoundrel was opened in October of 2022 by Greenville native Joe Cash.  He wanted to create a French bistro like he’d find in NYC or LA.  It’s a good-sized place that’s divided in half by curtains, with the bar and its seating on one side and a long bench seat facing small tables on the other side.  Opposite those tables are semi-circle booths with larger tables and padded seating.  Music was in the background and lights were lowered, supplemented by spots on some of the tables.  Wood floors, exposed ductwork above, and art featuring the ‘scoundrel’ cover the walls.  they have 2 unisex bathrooms and one is marked with a warning that it is not ‘family friendly’ due to the provocative photos on the wall.  I’m betting the notice was posted after several comments were posted about it on the trip advisor reviews.  The full bar offers lots of options but the wine list was mostly uninspired.  Noise was not a problem here maybe due to spacing or design but that was nice as was the excellent and friendly service. 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

The Anchorage, Greenville, South Carolina, 3/10/23

exterior – 586 Perry Ave, Greenville, SC 29611

The Anchorage was a small place in the Village of West Greenville serving an eclectic menu.  Partnered with Horseshoe Farms the restaurant brings the farm-to-table concept to life by having a variety of vegetable dishes on the menu. Executive Chef/Owner Gregory McPhee opened the restaurant in early 2017 and the place was a semi-finalist for the 2018 Best New Restaurant James Beard Award.  Carlos Baez, Chef de Cuisine has cooked in many places but joined the team in August 2020 and was in charge of the kitchen the evening we dined.  It’s a small 2-story place with a dining room and partially open kitchen on the first floor and dining and bar area on the second floor.  Next door is a tiny wine shop where you actually enter the restaurant, but wines are available for purchase. We were a little confused about where to enter and some of the regular patrons found us wandering and showed us the way in.  They were local people who said it was their favorite place and I can see why.  Parking was on the street, music was in the background, wood and brick made up the walls, and lighting was lowered with a bench seat lining one wall. The guests were made up of a range of people but it never got too noisy to talk.  The service was fabulous.  The menu offers 9 plates a la carte but there is a tasting option where you get to try all of the dishes in 3 groupings, with scaled portioning.  It is the way to go, which you should – as soon as you can. 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

Coral, Greenville, SC., 3/8/23

exterior – 654 South Main Street, Greenville, SC., 29601

Coral was a large place in the West End district of downtown.  It’s basically divided into 2 rooms, one bar and one dining.  The kitchen is under the helm of Joshua Dill and Addison Stone, both South Carolina natives but it is owned by 3 friends who all were born elsewhere and ended up in the Greenville area.  It’s a busy and loud place that stresses the bar and cocktails as well as local seafood.  Painted brick walls are lined with booths and small bare wood tables.  The lighting is quite low but spots set in the black ceiling shine intensely on the outer ring of tables.  The floor was carpeted and there were sound panels on the walls, the only music was in the bar that blended slightly into the background but the crowds made noise an issue for me.  Service was friendly and helpful but it’s hard for servers when plates are large and tables are small.  The food was mixed but it’s definitely a happening place. 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

FIG (update), Charleston, 2/9/23

exterior – 232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401

FIG opened in 2003 and this was our third visit, the last being in March 2017.  More plants are growing on the sign over the front door but you still enter into the bar area and then proceed to the big dining room.  The lights were lowered, white cloths covered the large tables, the ceiling dark, floors wood, and walls red with no music in the background.  We were privileged to be seated in one of the two red booths in back with really comfy seats.  The place was still very popular with tables being turned regularly even on a Thurs. night.  We were very happy to get to chat with Chef Jason Stanhope who was recovering from ankle surgery, but stopped by the table at the end of the meal as I requested getting an updated photo of him.  The place is named for “Food Is Good” rather than the fruit and it is well-named indeed.  When you have the chance I suggest you dine at this fine restaurant. Continue reading

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

patio

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

Wild Common, Charleston, 2/8/23

exterior – at Cannon Green, 103 Spring St., Charleston, SC., 29403

Wild Common promises “bold and inventive cuisine” in several dining spaces.  We chose the Chef’s Counter but there is also the indoor dining room or private courtyard.  The space is large and also accommodates a couple of event spaces, neither of which were in use nor was Chef Orlando Pagán in the kitchen.  You enter the plain building and go down a long hall, thinking you’ve entered the wrong space.  When you find the dining area there is also a marble bar that looks into the kitchen and a large changing digital painting that dominates the dining room.  Opening in the spring of 2019, you’ll find high ceilings and music in the background. They offer a tasting menu (with supplements) only and have optional wine pairings.  The pricing of the menu and supplements was off in that each supplement was as much or more than the whole menu – seemed odd.  We chose our own bottle and a cocktail from the bar to go with our tasting menu as printed. The menu had good portioning and very fast pacing.  Staff were all friendly and helpful. 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

Chasing Sage, Charleston, 2/7/23

exterior – 267 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403

Chasing Sage is a medium-sized place that tries to focus on locally grown produce and locally sourced meat and seafood.  They were scheduled to open in March 2020 but due to the pandemic instead sponsored a series of pop-up take-out meals.  They officially opened for dinner in June 2021.   The Chef, Walter Edward is a graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park, NY and then worked internationally before opening this place.  His wife, Cindy Edward runs a farm, that has been in her family and will now supply produce for the restaurant.  The space is long with a bar on one side, a long service table in the middle and small tables filling the rest of the space that ends with a window to the kitchen.  Faint music is in the background, the lights are fairly low, candles are on the tables, and the walls have decorations of wine bottles, books and such.  It’s a cozy feel but the food did not live up to my expectations.  The menu is a la carte but they offer a ‘let us pick for you’ option which we tried.  The pacing was varied as were the portions. Continue reading

Circa 1886, Charleston, 2/7 & 10/23

building – Wentworth Mansion, 149 Wentworth St, Charleston, SC 29401

Circa 1886 is the restaurant in the carriage house of the historic Wentworth Mansion.  Guests of the mansion are entitled to one entrée of their choosing for breakfast, however they also serve dinner.  We were scheduled to have dinner there but let it go when an opening became available at another place we wanted to try – so many good places to eat in Charleston.  We did stay at the Wentworth so we had breakfast there twice but skipped the other 2 days due to planned lunches.  After passing through the lovely patio the door opens into the cozy bar room.  The main dining room is a small but elegant space with double clothed large tables, well spaced and a few large booths along one wall.  Service was great and friendly and the food was good.  The pastries were a real surprise, being house-made, probably by Ashley Cardona the pastry chef.  It would have been easy to fill up on them.  I suspect dinner there would be very nice. 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

Vern’s, Charleston, 2/6/23

exterior – 41 Bogard St., Charleston, SC., 29403

Vern’s is a small corner place that opened in July 2022 by Daniel “Dano” and Bethany Heinze.  Dano previously worked as Chef de Cuisine at McGrady’s where Bethany managed the bar.  They also worked in Los Angeles at Animal and Jon & Vinny’s.  The restaurant is named for Dano’s grandfather who is featured on a postcard that’s presented with the bill.  Currently, they are open Thurs. to Monday for dinner and brunch on Sat and Sun.  Windows to the street are on 2 sides and the kitchen is through an open window behind the limited bar seating, which is first come-first served and serves only wine and beer, no liquor.  The bare wood tables are closely set and matched with a variety of chairs and wall benches and set with towel sized napkins.  The menu has various-sized dishes that are all meant to be shared.  In addition, there were a couple of specials on the chalkboard over the fireplace, one of which ran out and a line was drawn through while we were there.  The food was creative and delicious and the vibe was casual and welcoming. Go if you can. Continue reading

Ariete, Coconut Grove, 1/26/23

exterior – 3540 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, FL., 33133

Ariete was created by Chef/Owner Michael Beltran to combine his Cuban heritage with French technique.  It was awarded one Michelin Star in 2022.  They offer 2 tasting menus with optional wine pairing or an a la carte menu.  It’s a small place with very low lighting, small tables and a patio.  A bar counter is in the main dining room.  Music was in the background and the kitchen is open to both dining rooms.  Staff was super friendly and helpful.  We opted to try one of their signature a la carte dishes rather than the tasting.  The duck dinner is for 2 and involves a press brought to the table where parts of the duck are made into a sauce tableside.  It’s a fun show with a fabulous result. The order comes with a number of side dishes also.  I give this place high recommendations but be prepared for the dim lights. 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

Stubborn Seed, Miami Beach, 1/25/23

exterior – 101 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

Stubborn Seed has Bravo’s Top Chef Season 13’s winner Chef Jeremy Ford in charge of the kitchen.  It’s a medium-sized place that serves only a tasting menu in the main dining room and various snacks at the bar.  It was very lowly lit, which made photos difficult, had music in the background, got fairly noisy when full, and the small tables were unclothed dark wood.  Paintings and mirrors decorate the walls.  The menu for the evening is on the table and wine pairings are available as are supplements of Perigord truffles, Ossetra caviar and a course of Chawan Mushi.  The server informed the kitchen of our visit and we were gifted several supplements.  A kind and generous gesture but that didn’t win me over, the food did.  It was wonderful, as was the service.  They were justly awarded a Michelin Star in the new Florida guide.  Put this one on your list to visit, sorry my photos don’t do justice to this tasty and inventive cuisine. 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

Boia De, Miami, 1/24/23

exterior – 5205 NE Second Ave., Miami, FL., 33137

Boia De is a small restaurant in a strip shopping center with closely set small tables and a long bar inside.  There is a patio also.  In the new Michelin Guide for Florida they were awarded one star.  Lights are lowered, windows look out to the patio, the open high ceiling has exposed ductwork and there’s music in the background. The food is definitely American with a strong Italian influence – they make their own pastas.  They stress natural wines and the place sells no liquor.  The plates are small, meant to be shared and multiple ordered per person.  The place is lively and fun with touches of that seen in the decorations and particularly their signature ‘!’, which is in neon outside and on the wallpaper inside.  That ‘!’ well describes their food with an amazing amount of flavor and texture in each bite.  Couple that with some outrageously friendly and helpful servers and you will have a great dining experience.  Get a reservation and go! 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

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 2/4/23

exterior – 4422 Gaston Ave., Dallas, TX., 75246

It’s been several months since Frankie officially visited Cry Wolf but she always enjoys her time in this place.  Chef Ross Demers was back to finishing out the plates before being served while others enjoyed some vacation time.  Since we were sitting at the Chef’s Counter this was a plus.  The place was really hopping with returning and new customers all enjoying some heavenly food and the lively atmosphere.  The bar turns out some fun-sounding cocktails but I prefer to put us in the capable hands of Sommelier Tim Case.  He always has something new and different to try that compliments the food turned out by the kitchen staff.  In fact, all the staff seem to enjoy working here and translate that into the fine service delivered to the diners.  The menu changes regularly but staff will help you make decisions if you want.  Put this one on your list to visit soon. Continue reading

Quarter Acre, Dallas, 1/10/23

exterior – 2023 Greenville Ave., Suite 110, Dallas, TX

Quarter Acre opened the last day of 2022 in the space that used to house Rapscallion on Greenville Ave.  Their intent is to combine upscale dining with Chef Toby Archibald’s New Zealand roots.  Chef likes to use seafood, flavors of, and other meats from New Zealand and their wine list has some wines from there. In New Zealand “quarter acre” symbolizes your dream – a quarter acre of land with a house and space for kids to run and grow.  This is Archibald’s dream to showcase his cooking.  Prior to this he served as Chef de Cuisine at Bullion and Executive Chef at Georgie, here in Dallas.  He also has worked in NYC, London and Toronto kitchens.  The place is one large room with a bar running the length of it.  The middle section is crowned by some huge bamboo/rope  fixtures with larger tables underneath and the other long wall is a long bench lined with tiny 2-top tables.  The open kitchen is in the back.  Lots of plants, fairly loud music, and windows to the street are part of the scene.  Service was good but mixed – the same as the food.  Portion sizes vary. Continue reading

Dakar, New Orleans, 1/6/23

building – 3814 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA., 70115

Dakar is a Sengalese tasting menu highlighting seafood from local waters and produce form Southern Louisiana farmers.  Chef Serigne Mbaye presents a menu inspired by his childhood in Senegal, where his mother taught him to cook.  He has garnered additional experience in kitchens at Atelier Crenn, Joel Robuchon and Commander’s Palace, to name a few and was a finalist in the James Beard award for Emerging Chef.  Many Africans came to Louisiana during slave trade times and his multi-course tasting menu pays homage their traditions while incorporating the flavors of New Orleans cuisine.  He operated as a pop-up called Dakar NOLA for a couple of years before opening the permanent location in November 2022.  It’s a one-room older home with a tasteful modern decor inside.  There are 2 communal tables and several smaller individual ones.  You designate a preference when you make your reservation.  They have yet to obtain a liquor license so for now it is BYOB, but there are 2 stores close by where we had time to run and get a bottle of wine.  The people there were familiar enough with the menu to make recommendations. Lighting is lowered, windows are open to the street scenes outside and before the meal they come around and wash everyone’s hands. It was not only very tasty food, it was a fun evening to visit with other adventurous eaters.  Chef Mbaye spoke before the tasting started (a menu is on the table) and after it was over.  He is young, charming and very talented.  Go if you can! 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-Germain Nola, New Orleans, 1/5/23

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

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

Saint John, New Orleans, 1/5/23

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

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

Lengua Madre, New Orleans, 1/4/23

exterior – 1245 Constance St, New Orleans, LA 70130

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

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

exterior – 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130

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

Chat qui Rit, Venice, 12/17/22

exterior

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

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

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

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

Ristorante Wistèria, Venice, 12/16/22

exterior – San Polo 2908, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy

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

Al Conte Pescaor, Venice, 12/16/22

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

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

Vittoria 1938, Venice, 12/15/22

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

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

Dama, Venice, 12/14/22

entrance

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

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

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

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

Gastrosteria Ai Mercanti, Venice, 12/13/22

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

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

Osteria da Alberto, Venice, 12/13/22

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

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

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

exterior – 1985 Welch Street, Houston, TX, 77019

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

Brass Ram, Dallas, 12/23/22

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

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

Don Chabe Steak, Dallas, 12/9/22

building – 3933 Main St., Dallas, TX  75226

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

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

building – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

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

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

building –21021 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, CA.

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

 

Set up

sign outside
entrance
interior
to another room
second interior room
kitchen
bar area
Frankie found some art
menu
drinks