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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fitzgerald’s (update), Mohawk, MI, 7/22/22

exterior – 5033 Front Street, Eagle River, MI, 49950

We visited The Fitzgerald in 2018 and much has changed at the Eagle River Inn where it is located.  The dining room is the same but the menu seems smaller.  They still have the whiskey bar but the 12 rooms have now become 6 and they are (you guessed it) twice as big and have air conditioning.  The waves of Lake Superior are still right off the dining room or any room at the inn, so the scenery is excellent.  The dining room is wood-filled with lots of light from the windows.  The crowd is casual and they did have specials for the night.  Service was excellent, friendly and helpful.  They still specialize in barbecue and you can see evidence of adding-on to the kitchen in front of the building, so not sure what will be added.  Portions are generous and combined with the beautiful scenery, this is a lovely place to spend a meal and then retreat to your room to sleep with the sound of the waves.  It’s out of the way but go if you get the chance, especially if you’re a whiskey lover. Continue reading

The Pines Café, Ironwood, MI, 7/22/22

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

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

Léa Parisian Sandwiches, Chicago, 7/14/22

exterior – 70 E. Lake St., Chicago

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

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

exterior

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

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

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

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

Au Cheval, Chicago, 7/13/22

building – 800 W. Randolph, Chicago, 60607

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

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

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

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

Café Aquatica, Jenner, CA., 7/8/22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bettina, Santa Barbara, 6/27/22

exterior – 1014 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA

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

Caruso’s, Montecito, CA, 6/26/22

hotel – 1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

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

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

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

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

Bouchon, Santa Barbara, 6/25/22

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

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

Cold Spring Tavern, Santa Barbara, 6/25/22

main building – 5995 Stagecoach Road, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105

Cold Spring Tavern offers lunch and dinner at a stagecoach stop that dates from 1868, on the San Marcos Pass near Santa Barbara.  The place is filled with history and an amazing amount of detail is on their webpage <coldspringtavern.com> about the various buildings on the property and the furnishings within.   You can’t miss it as the cars are parked on both sides of the winding road for some time before you hit the place.  On weekends they have live music, a stand where you can buy their barbecue Tri-tip sandwich as well as an outside bar.  If you prefer table service there are a number of outdoor and indoor tables.  Lunch has a smaller menu than dinner, so I’ve included photos of both lunch and dinner menus.  Service was enthusiastic and efficient which really enhanced the dining experience.  The A/C is ‘open windows’ so we left smelling of barbecue smoke, which was no problem.  The onion rings are worth a trip alone but I would love to be able to try some of their dinner options too. Continue reading

Sky Rocket Burger, Dallas, 5/31/22

exterior – 111 S. Hall St., Dallas, 75226

Sky Rocket Burger now has 4 locations in the Dallas area.  I visited the Deep Ellum spot and you can’t miss the bright red and yellow building at Hall and Main.  It started in Frisco and moved here about 3 years ago.  It’s a simple concept selling fresh, made to order smash burgers, fries, tots and milkshakes.  They offer a grilled cheese for the non-burger eating person in the group.  They come with an option of 1, 2 or 3 patties and all-the-way includes lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle and secret sauce.  Options include cheese, bacon, onions or even a fried egg.  I tried the double cheese all the way with large fries and with tater tots.  The burgers seem pricey but they are Angus beef, never frozen and ground at the place. They are smashed on the grill to give them a nice crispy edge but not enough to dry them out.  The bun is soft and the lettuce cut in pieces.  The secret sauce has a bit of spice in it that is tasty but most importantly the meat is really good. I preferred the tots to the fries.  I’ll go again. Continue reading

Bouchard Restaurant & Inn, Newport, 5/27/22

exterior – 505 Thames Street, Newport, RI, 02840

Bouchard Restaurant has been in business over 20 years and also has a few rooms/suites to stay in.  They have a parking area but you need to go into the restaurant and get a pass to place in your car before parking there.  They have a dress requirement that is on their website as well as reminded about when they call to confirm your reservation.  No jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, etc but I saw no enforcement of that whatsoever.  There were many casually dressed people in the dining room that were obviously regulars due to their rapport with the staff.  There were also ‘dressed-up’ people there but this was only the first odd bit of this place.  They have a full bar which is located adjacent to the check in desk.  Further inside is a medium to small dining area with small white cloth covered tables with full drape underneath.  Lighting is lowered, there is music in the background, carpet is on the floor and the ceiling is low.   They offer a tasting  menu which is 5 courses at the second seating.  Most courses have choices, some with an upcharge.  The food was average at best but the service was awful.  Slow and inattentive, it aggravated me and probably affected the way I perceived the food.  The captain spent little time with many tables and concentrated on the ones he knew.  It’s a fine line to walk, but it bothers me to see tables sit for 20 minutes with their menus still in their hands and staff carrying on conversations neglecting their job. Continue reading

Flo’s Clam Shack, Middletown, RI, 5/27/22

entrance – 4 Wave Ave, Middletown, RI 02842

Flo’s Clam Shack was recommended by one of the servers at the previous night’s dinner.  It has been serving clams since 1936 in Newport, RI.   They are known for their fried clams.  It’s a 2 story place and filled with brick-a-brack.  The building has been hit by at least 5 hurricanes and continues to rebuild. They are open seasonally and closed at the threat of a hurricane.  The place is a little hard to find but they do have a parking lot in back.  They tout their fresh seafood but mostly all I tasted was filler and fried coating.  We tried a number of clam preparations but none of them would ever call me to come back and eat here again. Continue reading

Gracie’s, Providence, 5/26/22

exterior – 194 Washington Street, Providence, RI., 02903

Gracie’s is a medium sized place in downtown Providence with Matt Varga as chef.  There is no valet or assigned lot, so allow some extra time if you need to hunt for street parking.  In addition to the nice sized white cloth covered table they had a number of booth like seats around the perimeter.  Large windows to the street make up one wall of the dining room and they are heavily tinted which darkens the room quite a bit.  Patterned cut outs are on some of the windows and gauzy drapes hang between some of the perimeter tables.  There are a few tables outside.  The wood floor is opposite the high dark ceiling with hammered copper inserts in some of the wood columns and booth dividers.   The view out the window is of the street that is mostly filled with a bank building and its sign.  They offer an a la carte menu as well as 2 tasting menus of 5 or 7 courses.  Optional wine pairings are available and they have a full bar.  We had pre-ordered the 7 course tasting and ordered our own wine.  They promised to email and menu but never did.  It is a good place anyway. Continue reading

Modern Diner, Pawtucket, RI, 5/26/22

exterior – 364 East Ave., Pawtucket, RI

The Modern Diner was chosen to be the first diner in the nation to be accepted on the National Register for Historic Places.  It is a Sterling Streamliner, manufactured in the late 1930’s and early 40’s and one of 2 still in operation.  They serve breakfast and lunch daily with a ton of specials posted on the walls.    There is a counter with stools and a number of booths for 1 – 4 people.  A back room was added but sitting in the front gives you the real feel of the place.  The curved ceiling and shiny surfaces have the diner feel you’d miss in the addition.  The once silver roof is now red and marked with a “Modern Diner” sign that really makes you want to go in the place.  They do have a parking lot next to it.  Service was friendly and efficient.  I would go again if I’m in the area, not as much for the food as for the ambiance. Continue reading

Al Forno, Providence, 5/25/22

exterior –  577 South Water Street, Providence, RI

Al Forno Restaurant was opened in 1980 by Johanne Killeen and George Germon to use New England’s farms and waters to produce renditions of Italian food.   Al Forno means “from the oven”  and they use wood burning ovens and open flame grills to incorporate that concept into their dishes.  It is where the concept of grilled pizza was first used, which is served as an appetizer.  It’s a larger place with a dedicated parking lot.  Inside there are 2 floors for eating and a bar area that also serves food.  Small white cloth covered tables are quickly turned for the constant flow of people.  The downstairs room we were in had a wall of windows to the parking lot with the opposite wall’s windows being mirrored.  The lighting is lowered and no music was in the background.   Service was very friendly but not well coordinated.  Restaurants need to learn that if you provide very small tables you can’t bring too many dishes to the table at the same time.  Our pizza came out first following the bread bowl and then quickly followed by clams.  Food was piled to an uncomfortable mess.  I asked the server to slow down a bit and then it was 30 minutes after we finished that before anything else came.  It was good food but timing can really make me less fond of a place. Continue reading

Olneyville New York System, Providence, 5/25/22

exterior – 18 Plainfield St., Providence, RI

Olneyville New York System was opened in the 1946 by Anthony Stevens and his son Nicholas after emigrating to Brooklyn from Greece in 1920.   They ran a candy shop in NY then opened a restaurant serving hot wieners and a small lunch menu when the family moved to Rhode Island.  The original restaurant at Olneyville Square moved in 1953 to its present location on Plainfield Street and then was open 24 hours a day.  In 1981 they opened a second location in Cranston and to this day the Stevens family operates both restaurants.  The compact place has 2 rows of small booth seats in bright yellow and orange next to a row of counter stools that run the length of the place.  You ordered as you entered where you can see the wieners roasting on the griddle.  They have some other options but this place is about hot wieners ‘all the way’.  Staff were very friendly and super efficient.  It’s worth a visit. Continue reading

Coneflower Creamery, Omaha, 5/8/22

exterior – 3921 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68131

Coneflower Creamery is the inspiration of Founder/Chef Brian Langbehn and Katie Arant Chef/Co-Owner.  They had both worked as pastry chefs in various kitchens and dreamed of opening a farm to table ice cream shop featuring small batch artisan ice cream.  Their website even lists the local farms where they get the flavoring ingredients for their ice cream.  Their flavors have the Classics that are always on the menu as well as Signatures which highlight seasonal ingredients and plays on favorite foods and drinks. They also have sauces, toppings, floats, sundaes and the ice cream can be in a cone or a cup.  Their waffle cones were especially great.  One thing that impressed me was the way the end was folded over so no leaking while you’re eating occured.  The rich, thick and smooth ice cream is perfect in one of these cones.   The end of March they announced that a second location is pending in the Ashton Building.  If you can, try this place. Continue reading

Au Courant Regional Kitchen, Omaha, 5/7/22

exterior – 6064 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104

Au Courant offers a 6-course chef’s tasting menu that changes weekly.  Chef/co-owner Benjamin Maides works with local producers to find and feature the freshest ingredients.  Maides partnered with local restauranteur Carlos Mendez to open Au Courant in Nov. 2016 and now “Chovy” Caniglia is the Chef de Cuisine with “Barnie” Barnard serving as Sous Chef.   They serve some really fine food.  It’s a long space with the front half taken up by a U-shaped bar surrounded with stools.  Art and mirrors decorate the unfinished walls on either side and lots of plants are everywhere.  The high tin ceiling has lighting that was pretty bright and then turned down midway through out meal.  The small tables are topped with marble and set on an old wood floor.  They have an a la carte menu at the bar whereas the dining room is offered the tasting with an optional addition of oysters on the halfshell.  They also offer wine pairings.  We got a half dozen of the oysters and our own wine.  One quirk was that you could buy a ’round’ for the kitchen and then they’d ring a bell in back. Continue reading

Block 16, Omaha, 5/7/22

exterior – 1611 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68106

Block 16 is in downtown Omaha and owned by Paul and Jessica Urban who met in a culinary program.  They have a family farm that supplies a lot of their produce and otherwise shop for local and sustainable food sources.  They like to feature a daily special and have offered a different one 1,400 times in the last four years; they call it fun, street-style food.  It’s a fairly small place of 2 rooms.  The first one is where you order and there are some stools around the edge and counters, also the hall to the bathroom.  The second room is where you wait for you food to be brought out and has small 2-tops along the edges with 3 larger tables in the center.  There were a couple tables outside also.  The dining room had large windows to the street and tables on one end, music in the background and bright interior lighting.  The person at the order counter was very helpful.  They do sell beer as well as non-alcoholic beverages. Continue reading

V. Mertz, Omaha, 5/6/22

exterior – 1022 Howard St, Omaha, NE 68102

V. Mertz is in the Old Market Passageway of Omaha.  The space between two close buildings was covered with a roof and V. Mertz  came to be  44 years ago on the lower level, as a wedding gift.  The location allows the inside rooms to open to the ‘patio tables’ that are in the passageway.  There is no dedicated parking – it is either at street meters or paid lots.  The interior rooms are fairly dark with brick walls lined with wine bottles and the wall between rooms is filled with lit liquor bottles.  The small tables are cloth covered under a low tin ceiling and no music is in the background.  They presented us with the a la carte menu but when asked they brought out the tasting menu with optional pairings.  Menus change regularly, as both were dated. There is a large wine list and full bar.  We chose the tasting and ordered our own wine.  The food is fun, creative and tasty – go if you can. Continue reading

The Drover Restaurant & Lounge, Omaha, 5/6/22

entrance – 2121 S 73rd St, Omaha, NE 68124

The Drover invented the whisky marinated steak idea over 40 years ago. It opened in 1969 as the “Cork ‘N Cleaver” and changed to the current name 10 years later.  It is a large place divided into several smaller rooms of 4-5 tables each, all with no windows.  A large bar is in one room, the lights are lowered and no music is in the background.  Bare wood tables, brick walls, lower ceilings and carpet keep the conversation noise very manageable.  There is a different menu for lunch but most of the steaks on the dinner menu are available if you want.  The steaks are marinated in a combination of secret ingredients for just 15 minutes before grilling so the marinade does not overwhelm the flavor of the beef but does enhances tenderness.  Steaks can be ordered without the marinade soak but you would lose out, even if you are not a whisky fan.  All dinners are served with bread, soup or salad and choice of potato or vegetable.  At lunch they skip the bread and the salad is via salad bar.  It’s old school and good. Continue reading

The Prime Rib, Baltimore, 5/1/22

street entrance – 1101 N Calvert St, Baltimore, MD 21202

The Prime Rib was founded by brothers Buzz and Nick Beler in 1965 and is still a family run business.  It evokes feelings of 1940s Hollywood with lower lighting, live music, stiff drinks and fabulous food and service.  They now have several locations.  The Baltimore location is a dark place with art on the walls, white clothes on the tables, comfortable seating, black walls with gold trim, leopard print carpet and complimentary valet parking in the garage below.  It’s the kind of place that makes you feel welcome, that they’re glad you’re there.  Timing was relaxed as we enjoyed a terrific martini and live piano music.  The server was fantastic and really added to the overall experience.  If you are in the mood for beef, put this place on your list.  We were one of the last ones out so I took interior photos then.  (Didn’t get a pic of the menu but you can find it on their website <https://theprimeribs.com&gt; and make sure you pick the city you want).

Continue reading

Petit Louis Bistro, Baltimore, 5/1/22

building – 4800 Roland Ave, Baltimore, MD 21210

Petit Louis offers classic French bistro dishes with emphasis on seasonal and regional ingredients.   It opened in June 2000 and was the second restaurant of Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf.   They chose the location of a former neighborhood hot spot in a 1897 era Tudor style building that was the country’s first strip mall.  There were not many French bistros in Baltimore then and it was popular as soon as the doors opened.  They re-did the interior and hired Chef Chris Scanga to run the kitchen. It has 2 indoor rooms and a large covered patio area.  Inside the small marble topped tables are closely set and lots of windows to the street add natural light.  A large bar is part of one room, no music is in the background and there is a parking lot our front as well as street parking.  It had a fun ambiance with attentive service as well as good food.  I’d go back. Continue reading

Magdalena, Baltimore, 4/30/22

exterior – 205 E Biddle St, Baltimore, MD 21202

Magdalena is in Mt. Vernon’s Relais & Chateaux Ivy Hotel and run by Chef Scott Bacon.  Closed for about 7 months during Covid the historic mansion did a major re-design to the restaurant.  Now it is labeled as a Maryland Bistro rather than the former fine dining concept.  The color tones of all 4 of the dining rooms now are similar and there is a more variation in the cost.  Patio dining is available and one of the rooms is in the wine cellar.  Exposed brick walls have some display cabinets of historic objects and rugs to fit each room are on the floor.  Music is in the background and well spaced small tables are now marble topped yet still set with nice white cloth napkins.  The lighting was fairly bright but pleasant and staff were knowledgable about the menu.  Valet parking is available and there were a few specials offered that evening.  It was good. Continue reading

Attman’s Delicatessen, Baltimore, 4/30/22

exterior – 1019 E Lombard St, Baltimore, MD 21202

Attman’s Deli was established in 1915 by Harry Attman and is now run by the third generation of the same family.  It is the oldest continuously family-owned deli in the country.  They have 2 locations – the one we went to in Baltimore and another in Park Potomac.  The location on Lombard Street opened in 1933, on what was then known as “Corned Beef Row” because there were 7 delis on the street. (Now just 2 delis remain operational.) They are known for their corned beef and on a busy day can sell 2,000 pounds of it at the Baltimore location only.  Hot dogs are another signature and are topped with a slice of bologna or pastrami – a consistent favorite.  They also sell lots of sides and other meats.  When Harry’s son Seymour took over in 1968 he bought the building next door to open a place for customers to eat and talk, named the Kibbitz Corner, and established names for a number of sandwich combinations.  When we went the line was long, but people were friendly and it gave you a chance to walk by the counters and decide what to order.  The corned beef was worth the wait. Continue reading

Charleston, Baltimore, 4/29/22

entrance – The Promenade at Harbor East, 1000 Lancaster St, Baltimore, MD 21202

Charleston was opened  by restaurateurs Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf in 1997 in the Harbor East neighborhood of Baltimore, MD.  They now have at least 6 restaurants in the city.  Chef Wolf offers a constantly changing menu and even cooked lunch at this place for Julia Child in 1999.  Chef’s reputation is that she cooks at this, her flagship, most every night.  Unfortunately she was not there when we visited and I wonder if that’s why our meal was so unsatisfactory.  The food is a combination of French and Southern cuisines and she has been nominated 9 times for the James Beard Best Chef Mid-Atlantic award.  The fairly large place enters from a side street, which is not where Google Maps directs you to go.  The bar is to your right as we were led to a table that looked directly into the large open kitchen.  Table sizes varied but all were set with white cloths and napkins and well-spaced, no music was in the background and the lighting was lowered.  The menu offers prix fixe menu of 3-6 courses, which you pick from the entire menu, with optional wine pairings.  Desserts are complimentary with your meal and an optional cheese course is available. Continue reading

Carl’s Deli, Cincinnati, 4/23/22

exterior – 2836 Observatory Ave # A, Cincinnati, OH 45208

Carl’s Deli dates back to 1938.  The owner Anne McManus was practically raised there as her parents owned the deli in 1968 but sold it in 1990.  When that owner decided to sell he contacted McManus first and she was then ready to take over.   Now a local hangout, there are tables inside and outside but they also do catering, ready to eat take out and gift baskets.  They also sell wine.  It’s a small place with most of the interior taken up by sales counters.  The menu on the wall lists lots of sandwich combinations or you craft your own combo.  We ordered at the counter and they pretty quickly had our delicious sandwiches ready to eat.  This is a good place.  I can see why it’s so popular. Continue reading

Nicola’s Restaurant, Cincinnati, 4/22/22

exterior – 1420 Sycamore St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Nicola’s Restaurant is in the building that once was a barn for the city’s 19th century incline trollies.  It was established in 1996 by owner Nicola Pietoso and after 20 years his son Cristian now is in charge. He added some new second floor seating and expanded the wine cellar.  In addition to seating downstairs there is also a bar with seating.  The brick walls are punctuated by the structural beams and high ceilings.    Downstairs a giant chandelier hangs overheard and windows to the outside let in light and look out onto the patio tables.  White tablecloths and napkins are on all tables and music is in the background.  Valet parking is available out front.  The place is really popular so a reservation is a must and even with a reservation we still had to wait in the bar until out table was ready.  They serve Italian cuisine and offer a chef crafted 5 course tasting menu.  We happened to be there during restaurant week and so a 3 course menu was also available as well as the a la carte selections.  We ordered a la carte. Continue reading

Graeter’s Ice Cream, Cincinnati, 4/22/22

building – 332 Ludlow Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220

Graeter’s Ice Cream began with Louis Charles Graeter selling ice cream on the street in 1870.  By 1900 he and his wife, Regina, sold it out of a storefront while making it in back.  After 20 years Regina was widowed with a couple young sons and despite the stigma of women running a business she made the business thrive under her direction.  She began to expand in 1922, now competing with mass market options that didn’t use her small-batch French pots system.  Her sons eventually took over the business with one adding a bakery to the store and the other developing a unique way to blend chocolate into a batch.  The business continues to be in the family’s hands and now they have numerous locations here and in surrounding states and grocery stores.   The store we went in had the bakery and then the ice cream as well as lots of packaged products for sale.  By the front door was a freezer with pints of ice cream if you wanted to take some home.  I hope you’ll try it if you have the opportunity. Continue reading

Carmen’s Deli, Dayton, OH., 4/22/22

exterior – 40 N Main St, Dayton, OH 45423

Carmen’s Deli is in downtown Dayton, opening in 2009.  Chef Haitham Imam was encouraged by his wife Carmen to leave corporate dining and open his own place.  When the downtown tower where they were located went into bankruptcy the owners of the Kettering Tower across the street, saw their popularity and offered them a spot in their building.  The deli is open 8:30 – 2:30 weekdays and the bar runs 4-9 on Thurs. and Fri.  As we entered we were greeted and directed to the counter where you place your order.  There you can watch you sandwich being made and direct the toppings.  After it’s ready you proceed to the register and pick a table.  There were also tables outside.  The pair cooking that day were personable and gave a good show.   The food was fine, not outstading but very edible and satisfying. Continue reading

Boca Restaurant, Cincinnati, 4/21/22

exterior – 114 E 6th St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Boca came to being in October of 2001, the concept of Chef/Owner David Falk.  It opened in the Northside community featuring flavors of Italy and France, then moved to the Oakley neighborhood in 2004 and stayed for 9 years.  It moved to the heart of downtown Cincinnati (the former Maisonette space) in 2013, where it is today.  It’s a fairly large space with a few seats at the kitchen counter, stools at the bar and a second story.  Downstairs there is a combination of booths, various sizes of tables and bench seating with music in the background.  Lots of pillows were on the bench seats and lights were lowered.  The large open kitchen allows you to see some other foods as they come out.  Valet parking is available, otherwise it means using a paid garage.  Staff were super friendly and helpful.  We wanted to try lots of things and the server was willing to course them out for us.  Tables are close enough that conversation can happen between occupants.  I can see why many use this as a ‘special occasion’ place but if I lived closer, I’d go all the time – it’s that good. Continue reading

Herb and Thelmas Tavern, Covington, KY., 4/21/22

building – 718 W Pike St, Covington, KY 41011

Herb and Thelmas Tavern is just across the river from Cincinnati in Covington, Kentucky.   They are known for their burgers and cold beer – serving the area for 83 years.  They buy local ingredients and make the hamburger patties fresh daily.   In 1939 Henry “Heine” Boehmker opened Heine’s Cafe.  In 1965 his son and daughter-in-law renamed it Herb and Thelma’s Tavern, after themselves.  In 1969 another Boehmker began working at the tavern and then buys them out in 1982.  In 2015 the Fessler family became the owners, but a photo of the original Herb is still on the front door.  It is a small place with 2 rooms, one of which houses the cooking/bar area and the other just tables and the bathrooms.  The main room has seats at the bar area as well as tables.  The lights are lowered, there is either TV or music in the background and lots of memorabilia cover the walls.  They have a few draft beers as well as a full bar. The owner and patrons were all super friendly.  In fact one of the gentlemen stopped by on his way out to say hello and wish a good day. Continue reading

Jeff Ruby’s Precinct, Cincinnati, 4/20/22

exterior – 311 Delta Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45226

Note 7/19/22 – Just had a call from the customer service person at Jeff Ruby’s Precinct that saw my write-up and was concerned that we were unhappy.  Now that’s some incredible service.  She took the effort to find a phone number to reach me and that is impressive.  That said, so many people raved about this place, don’t be turned off by my experience.  I’d love to hear about your experience if you go.  If I ever get back to Cincinnati I would consider going myself.  They didn’t pay me to say this but honest caring is what can make a great restaurant and they do care.

Jeff Ruby’s Precinct started in 1981, in the former Cincinnati Police Patrol House Number 6 – a turn of the century Romanesque style structure – that holds the ‘longest, continuously running white tablecloth restaurant in the city.’  It has been recognized by a number of publications and is well known in the city.  They pride themselves on the excellent service, quality of food and overall dining experience. Some street parking is available nearby but they also offer valet service.  Inside the lights are lowered and there is lots of red upholstry to go with the brick walls.  Some stained glass windows are in the downstairs dining rooms and chandeliers.  Most notable are the large cut-outs of groups of policemen on the walls.   It feels clubby.  In the entry there are numerous awards and press along with photos of famous diners.  Although this place gets lots of praise our experience was not the best.  Our steaks were both overcooked and tasteless while the potatoes were undercooked.  In their defense they offered to cook others but I didn’t think they could do better.  They ended up comping the steaks which was more than gracious so I think the place has promise but I will never go back. Continue reading

Camp Washington Chili, Cincinnati, 4/20/22

exterior – 3005 Colerain Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45225

Camp Washington Chili has been in business since 1940.  They are in the Camp Washinton area of Cincinnati and are open 24 hours a day on weekdays and until 4:00pm on Saturday.  They  have recieved a James Beard Award as an “American Regional Classic” and have been featured on television programs and magazines.  The original building was razed for street widening but the original vertical sign stands over the newer, bigger location.  Now it is a fairly large place with a drive-through window.  There is a counter or you can be waited on at any number of tables.  Lots of windows look outside and music is in the background.  A large open kitchen is faced by the counter seating.  The dining room is striking with a large black/white/gray tile floor accented by red chairs.  A couple booths are available.  The walls are lined with photos and copies of press articles.  Service was friendly and efficient.  If you haven’t had Cincinnati chili, this is a good place to try it. Continue reading

Love That BBQ, Knoxville, 4/15/22

exterior – 1901 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920

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

J.C. Holdway (second visit), Knoxville, 4/14/22

entrance – 501 Union Ave SW, Knoxville, TN 37902

Back for our second visit to J. C. Holdway and it was a busier night at the corner restaurant.  The fairly large place goes fairly far back with tables in various places with an L-shaped bar taking up the first room.  On the way to the back portion we passed a couple cooking areas.  Exposed ducts run across the ceiling opposite the older wood floors.  Bench seating is along some walls and the tables are nicely sized bare wood set with large well starched towel shaped napkins. Lights are lowered but much light comes through the many windows before sundown, music is in the background and it was a bit noisy.  Service was once again very friendly but pacing was quite a bit slower probably due to the crowd and several large groups. Continue reading

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

building – 1509 W Emory Rd, Powell, TN 37849

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

J.C. Holdway, Knoxville, 4/13/22

exterior – entrance – 501 Union Ave SW, Knoxville, TN 37902

J.C. Holdway is named after Chef Joseph Lenn’s late uncle, Joe Holdway, who sought quality food adventures throughout his life.  Now Chef Lenn hopes to provide that sort of dining experience to his customers, and that he does.  His professional career has certainly readied him to meet the challenge.  A Knoxville native, he so enjoyed cooking for friends and family that he decided to attend culinary school, after which he went to work as an intern at Blackberry Farm and then the Peninsula Grill followed by working with Sean Brock to open the Capitol Grill in Nashville. An urge to return to east Tennessee took him back to Blackberry Farm where he became executive chef of the Barn restaurant and received the James Beard Award for the Best Chef Southwest in 2013.  He opened his own place in 2016 in downtown Knoxville using primarily wood-fire techniques.  Lenn’s attempt to provide an outstanding experience to guests succeeds so well that we cancelled out next evening’s reservation in order to dine with him again.  Strong recommendation for this wonderful place and look for another chronicle of luscious dishes on this site in a couple days. Continue reading

Pete’s Restaurant, Knoxville, 4/13/22

building – 540 Union Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902

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

Oliver Royale, Knoxville, 4/12/22

exterior – 5 Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902

Oliver Royale is one of the two restaurants in the historic boutique Oliver Hotel. They serve new American cusine with a focus on seasonal and regional products in the more upscale and smaller of the 2 settings.  There is an entrance from the Market Square as well as within the hotel.  The building dates back to 1876 but has been very updated to include a bench seating along the walls with tables in the middle for the first 2/3’s of the place and a u-shaped bar with stools for the last third.  Windows to the street, faint music in the background, lowered lighting, acid washed mirrors on the walls, sound panels lining the ceiling, and a enormous skylight make up the room.. The small bare wood tables are set fairly close and there are a few tables available on a front outside patio section.  It’s nicely done but comes off a bit sterile.  Service was friendly but the pacing that started out so fast slowed way down as the evening wore on.  The food was mixed.  There is also an old ‘speak-easy’ in the hotel if you want more drinks afterward. Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 4/10/22

oysters – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

Cry Wolf is such a treasure, I can’t not post it when we go.  Chef Ross Demers has moved the bar high for other Dallas establishments and so has sommelier and General Manager Tim Case.  The menu is constantly changing but what is consistent is that there are no duds.  You won’t find me saying that about many places.  It doesn’t fill you with bread and there is only one small candy for dessert but somehow that all works magically.  When you find that rare place that is operating at such a level you really want your friends to experience it too.   So, here is the latest meal at this gem of east Dallas. Continue reading

Roots Southern Table, Dallas, 4/7/22

exterior – 13050 Bee St Suit 160, Farmers Branch, TX 75234

Roots Southern Table is all about Chef Tiffany Derry’s southern upbringing.  Eating with the seasons and never wasting anything were mantras of her family.  She has been nominated for James Beard awards in a couple categories.  The far north Dallas location opened in June of 2021 in a strip-like shopping center.  That means there is plenty of parking but it gives the place a slightly sterile atmosphere.  Reservations are a must and even with one we were kept waiting for 15 minutes as other guests were seated.  We were out with friends that evening so Frankie made less of an appearance and I didn’t make as many notes on our food.  Pictures will give you a good feel, though.  The food did have a nice amout of flavor but even with all the vegetables I left feeling heavy on the starch.  Our server could have helped with that but he was ‘all about the bread.’  They have a full bar, the noise level is high and portioning is variable. Continue reading

The Fearrington House Restaurant, Pittsboro, NC., 4/1/22

exterior – 230 Market St, Pittsboro, NC 27312

The Fearington House Restaurant is located in Fearington Village, just outside Chapel Hill in Pittsboro, NC.  They have been in operation over 40 years, with the restaurant being in the original farmhouse.  The couple that started it, R.B. and Jenny(she ran the kitchen) Fitch had a dream to turn the dairy farm into a community.  The property itself has an inn and homes for sale as well as stores and event space to rent.  The restaurant has several rooms in the building, one of which houses the bar.  The widely spaced tables are double clothed with matching napkins and armless chairs.  Lots of windows look out onto the property and the interior lights are lowered. They offer an a la carte menu as well as a Chef’s tasting with optional wine pairings.  We had the Chef’s tasting menu and the pacing was really slow and the portions were on the large side.  While service was trying to be friendly it was almost intrusive with the constant query of “what are your thoughts on this one?” It was a beautiful place to stay but the food would only rate okay – nothing made me want to lick the plate or wish I had more. Continue reading

Brewery Bhavana, Raleigh, 4/1/22

exterior – 218 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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

Herons, Cary, 3/31/22

dining room entrance –The Umstead Hotel and Spa, 100 Woodland Pond Dr, Cary, NC 27513

Herons is the signature restaurant in the Umstead Hotel and Spa.  The 98 seat restaurant features a view of the kitchen as well as the landscaped grounds and art on the walls.  The large, white cloth covered tables are appointed with chairs and couches with pillows.  The room is decorated in earthtones with lots of wood, lowered lighting and no music.  The elegant place takes itself seriously in that they have a dress code asking you not to wear jeans, shorts, sandals or tattered clothing. The menu changes seasonally and tries to feature local produce and proteins.  It is divided into 4 categories which each have about 5 choices for you to pick from  Some choices do have a supplemental charge.  Beverage pairings are available in addition to a huge wine list.  Service was first rate and the pacing and portion control were spot on.  The food was very good and they threw in lots of little things in between courses. Continue reading

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

exterior – 237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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

Crawford and Son, Raleigh, 3/30/22

exterior – 618 N Person St, Raleigh, NC 27604

Crawford and Son is a casual neighborhood restaurant in historic Oakwood.  It is medium sized, with dim lighting, loud music and a long bar across from the wall of small tables.  It was packed in the middle of the week so the crowd added to the noise level.  It also has no dedicated parking so allow time to hunt around the local streets.  It opened in 2016 and offers a full bar.  The small wine list has a pretty hefty mark up, albeit a nice selection.  Brick walls, exposed duct work in the ceiling and a few sets of antlers make up the interior.  Reservations are a must, even for the counter seating.  It was buzzing with people and the food was amazing.  Also the service was spectacular.  Our server, Sydney, really knew how to pace the meal and add just the right amount of conversation to enhance the evening.  Strong recommendation here. Continue reading

King’s Sandwich Shop, Durham, 3/30/22

exterior – 701 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

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

Watkins Grill, Raleigh, 3/30/22

Exterior – 1625 Wake Forest Rd, Raleigh, NC 27604

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

Second Empire Restaurant, Raleigh, 3/29/22

front – 330 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27603

Second Empire Restaurant is in the historic Dodd-Hinsdale House, whose architectural style is the Second Empire Victorian style developed in France under Napoleon III and marked by heavy ornate modification.  The home was built for Mayor Dodd and completed in 1879 but lost quickly due to finances.  Col. Hinsdale purchased it in 1890 and it remained in the family till 1971.  Till 1993 the house suffered vandalism and then Ted Reynolds and family bought it and started the restoration to transform it into a restaurant.  In Sept. 1997 the restaurant and tavern opened for business.  The structure retains its original exterior, heart pine flooring, masonry walls and windows.  Four main rooms of the main body now make up the restaurant and a tavern was made from additional rooms and a glassed atrium room.  There is a small parking lot by the back entrance and otherwise you’re on your own.  At the front entrance is a dramatic stairway lined with photos and awards.  High ceilings, soft music in the background, lowered lighting and art on the walls surround the widely spaced large white cloth covered tables.  Chef Daniel Schurr offered a couple specials in addition to the printed menu and offers many gluten free options.  His style was to stack multiple ingredients into each dish.  Service was friendly but the pace was slow. Continue reading

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

exterior – 7 S West St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 3/27/22

exterior – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

Cry Wolf is a great place, and unfortunately too many people know that now.  We had to book a couple weeks ahead to find a reservation we were in town with.  Everytime I go I think I won’t post it cause it’s already on this site, but the food is so good I just can’t resist sharing the photos with you.  Another wonderful part of this place is the changing wine list, which introduces me to things I haven’t had that go with food well.  The ambiance is great and there’s a parking lot at the end of the shopping center.  Without further ado, I present photos of our latest fabulous meal (sweetbreads and escargot were amazing). Continue reading

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

building – 1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 

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

Brigtsen’s Restaurant (update), New Orleans, 3/22/22

exterior – 723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118

Brigtsen’s was last written up here in 2017, but not much has changed here.  The small old home is quite a ways from the Quarter and it’s many rooms are filled with dining tables and happy people.  Chef Frank Brigtsen is still running the kitchen and his wife Marna manages the floor.  Frank apprenticed at Commander’s Palace and then worked under Chef Paul Prudhomme, who helped the couple open this place in 1986. He has since won numerous awards for his cooking.  The super friendly and efficient staff were all wearing buttons saying “I’m vaxed to the max.”  The polished bare wood tables no longer have cloths but white cloth napkins are still on the table.  Music is in the background, art is on the walls and a bottle of cold water is set on each table. Continue reading

Domilise’s, New Orleans, 3/22/22

exterior – 5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115

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

Commander’s Palace (update), New Orleans, 3/21/22

exterior – 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

It’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been to Commander’s Palace.  The last meal was so disappointing I haven’t wanted to go back but enter Chef Megan “Meg” Bickford, who has worked in the kitchen since 2008 but in Oct. 2020 became Executive Chef, following the 18 year reign of Tory McPhail.  She has livened it up and tonight’s meal was the best I’ve ever had at Commander’s.   It has been in the Garden District since 1893 and is still owned by members of the Brennan family.  Chefs such as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse have worked there to present leading-edge haute creole cuisine.  The large building has a patio/bar area in back which is overlooked by the upstairs Garden Room.  Downstairs is a more traditionally elegant room.  Service was great, attentive and friendly – something its struggled with in my past visits. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

building – 14111 CA-128, Boonville, CA 95415

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

Valette, Healdsburg, 3/12/22

building – 344 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Valette is a medium-sized restaurant in Healdsburg, CA in Sonoma County.  It was the dream of two local brothers to create a dining experience featuring local farmers, winemakers and artisans.  They craft the menu around these local items along with sustainably raised meats.  Chef Dustin Valette is the kitchen partner and Aaron Garzini is the wine partner.  They have also opened a huge, more casual venue in town but their father often makes the ’rounds’ of dinner guests at Valette.  It offers Chef Valette’s ‘Trust me’ tasting menu, with a minimum of 5 courses at $18 each (a 5 course is required if you have a party greater than 7) and optional wine pairings offered.  There is a corkage fee ($25-45) if you want to bring your own wine. Continue reading

Clary’s Cafe, Savannah, 3/4/22

exterior

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

Husk, Savannah, 3/3/22

building

Husk in Savannah is in the Landmark Historic District with Executive Chef Chris Hathcock using locally sourced products to showcase Southern cooking.  The 1898  building is purported to be haunted and after being built as a home served as an Elks Lodge and a performing arts school until it was abandoned in 1985.   In 2008 it was severly damaged in a fire.  The Neighborhood Dining Group, parent company of the Husk brand (you’l find other Husks in Charleston, Nashville, Greenville, SC.) bought the 10,000 square foot building and its 3 stories of event space.  It has a capacity of over 200 including a bar area room for 84.  At the hostess stand is the list of area farms and ingredients they use and it’s the same at the other Husks. Executive Chef Sean Brock helped develop the concept and this one opened in Jan. 2018.  I thought the Charleston one was much better.  This one is too large. Continue reading

Crystal Beer Parlor, Savannah, 3/3/22

Exterior

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

Continue reading

The Grey, Savannah, 3/2/22

exterior

The Grey is a restaurant in a 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal.  It was painstakingly restored to its original luster before opening in 2014 in historic downtown Savannah by Partner John Morisano.  He recruited Chef and Partner Mashama Bailey who was named the 2019 James Beard Foundation’s best chef in the southeast, to join him.  As you enter there is a small bar with a different menu and then you pass the kitchen, located in the old ticket booth, before you find the dining room. Within this room, filled with booths and tables is a large C-shaped bar.  Numbers on the wall represent former boarding gates, with #3 leading to outdoor tents set up during Covid.  In the dining room you’ll find a high ceiling, bench seating around the walls, small tables with white tablecloths, music in the background, lowered lights  with a neon display at the top of the ceiling and the echo-y feel of a bus station. The menu is a 3 course dinner which you pick from 4 choices in each category.  Some raw oysters and a few snacks, as well as dessert, are available if you want more.  It’s great – check it out. Continue reading

The Olde Pink House, Savannah, 3/1/22

exterior – front

The Olde Pink House dates back to 1771 (Habersham House) where the soft native brick bled trhough the plastered walls to change the color from white to pink.  It housed the Habershams till the 1800s when it became the Planter’s Bank, with the old money vaults now serving as wine cellars.  It was added on to at that time and later occupied by the military during the Civil War.  After that it was used as a bookstore, colonial tea room and offices while suffering decay and neglect. In 1970 it underwent a one year structural restoration and the restaurant opened in 1971.  In 1992 it changed hands and had more refurbishing. A fire in 2018 damaged the upstairs ballroom and it closed for 4 months for repairs.  On the lower level is a tavern restaurant serving food in a more casual setting.  It was fun to see but the food was over-rated and mostly fried. Continue reading