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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, Chicago, 2/24/22

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Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf is a large steakhouse offering traditional cuisine with a French flair.  The place has no windows and so is quite dark with yellow lighting and music in the background.  There are a number of rooms with lots of booths, free standing tables and bar stools.  Lots of mirrors on the walls, candles on the table and large chandeliers give it a ‘cabaret’ feel.  It is a sister restaurant to Au Cheval, which does not take reservations.  The service was great and the bar made good strong cocktails.  In addition to the menu there were a couple nightly specials, one fish and one meat. The server was well informed about the menu and able to guide our selections and quantities.  They now have a second location in Las Vegas.  It is a fun and tasty place to eat. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Kasama, Chicago, 2/23/22

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

The Dearborn, Chicago, 2/22/22

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

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 2/17/22

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Frankie and I wrote-up visits to Cry Wolf in Nov. and Dec. of 2021 and then went back with my husband to enjoy their food again, without Frankie, in Feb 2022 (she was tired).  I am so glad we did!  The place has gotten much more crowded and now they have a reservation system which we were lucky to snag a table on.  Chef/Owner Ross Demers has changed the menu a lot each time we’ve visited, but a few items have been repeated.  The wine selection is small but extremely well selected and the sommelier, Tim can help find a wonderful wine to go with your dinner or the bartender was turning out lots of fancy cocktails.  The cozy place has lowered lighting, music in the background and lovely friendly service.  I can’t wait to go back and hope if you are in the area you will give it a try.   The plates vary in size but all have wonderful creative combinations full of flavor.  We were lucky to catch Chef Liam Byres before ordering and ask what he thought was special that night. Continue reading

Blue Heaven, Key West, 1/29/22

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

Lola’s Bistro, Key West, 1/28/22

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Lola’s opened in 2019 and is a small place that uses menu-less dining.  The menu is an oral presentation without prices and only small descriptions.  Chef is at one end of the room where he prepares each dish while a couple staff circulate in the room collecting orders.  There are 2 seatings but they can’t seem to stay on schedule so our 8:00 started more like 8:30.  However it was fun to quiz the diners as they exited the place and find out what they enjoyed.  There are 2 small benches out front for a couple lucky waiters.  They provide water and one wine-glass per person, but otherwise it is a bring-your-own-beverage with no corkage fee.  One other idiosyncrasy is they accept only cash or maybe a local check. There are only about 10 tables so reservations are a must but according to the table next to us, the waitlist does work, as that’s how they got in. Lights are very low with lots of votive candles on the walls and one on each white cloth covered table.  Fairly loud music was in the background.  The menu changes daily.  The food is wonderful with everything cooked perfectly.  Without a doubt the best meal I had in Key West and one I highly recommend. Continue reading

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

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

Café Marquesa, Key West, 1/27/22

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Café Marquesa, serving contemporary American cuisine, seats just 50 people in the restaurant associated with the Marquesa Hotel.  The corner location had several tables outside with most of them inside along with bar stools that offered drinks and food for walk-ins.  The lights were lowered slightly but the numerous windows let in lots of street light.  No music was in the background and the small tables were covered with white cloths.  Chef Graham Dailey (from the Peninsula Grill) stood in the dining room in front of the trompe l’oeil painting that surrounded the kitchen window.  He looked over all the food before it was served but never came around to the tables.  Lots of mirrors and art were on the wall and bench seating was along a couple of the walls.  It had an elegant feel and efficient service.  I would recommend giving it a try. Continue reading

Latitudes, Key West, 1/26/22

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Latitudes is Sunset Key Cottage’s signature restaurant – a 7 minute boat ride from Key West.   The boat ride is available about every 30 minutes and once there you have a choice of “island cuisine” in the interior Ernest Hemingway Room or al fresco on the huge grounds, both overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and the lighted palm trees.  Your reservation time is the same as your ferry time and parking is available for guests at their sister property Opal Key West Resort (remember to bring your ticket for the restaurant to validate).  It is a large place but reservations are a must and need to be made several months ahead for dinner.  The place has an elegant feel and great service but people were dressed fairly casually.  The view in the daytime is said to be wonderful but I enjoyed the lighted trees. Continue reading

Nancy’s Hustle, Houston, 12/24/21

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Nancy’s Hustle opened in late 2017 on the east side of Houston and was named in Esquire’s list of “Best New Restaurants of 2018”.  It continues to garner awards and accolades.  The small innovative menu offers lots of small plates that are meant to be shared.  It’s a long space but most of the front part is taken up with a long bar that has seating.  The back end of the space is all small tables with a door that leads to the large patio outside. Lights are lowered and there is music in the background. Service was friendly and helpful with pacing good but reservations appeared to be a must, as it’s very popular.  We were lucky to be there with friends and got to sample a number of things.  Go if you can, it’s very good. Continue reading

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

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

Corvino Tasting Room, Kansas City, 12/10/21

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Corvino Tasting Room is under the roof of the Corvino Supper Club, all run by Chef Michael Corvino, who has won numerous awards.  The Tasting Room is open Thursday to Sunday for one seating at 7:00 pm and offers only a 10+ course surprise tasting menu.  Optional beverage pairings are available. (We opted for a glass of sparkler and then a bottle of wine).  You enter in the Supper Club, where live music was playing and then are escorted into the small room with a large window into the kitchen, that cooks for you and the main club.  The tasting menu takes about 2.5 hours.  While they can make some adaptations with advance notice and they do offer a vegetarian menu they cannot accommodate  vegan or gluten-free menus.  It was refreshing that there were no options for upcharge items.  There are 4 tables for 2-4 and 2 seats are at the plating counter, that separates the dining area from the kitchen window. Lighting is dim in the room but spots help for each table and the kitchen window adds light.  Portioning is light and pacing is prompt.  No dedicated parking is available so allow time to search if you go.  They do give you a copy of the menu when you leave.  It is worth a visit. Continue reading

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

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

The Restaurant at 1900, Mission Woods, 12/9/21

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The Restaurant at 1900 is in a late 60’s building that has been restored and turned into a mixed use space.  It was once the location of the Green Parrot Restaurant that ran from the 1920’s to the 1950’s.  It now displays a collection of salt and pepper shakers that were part of the late Rose Karbank collection.  It is a medium sized dining room with a large bar area that also includes a few tables.  The lighting is lowered and the tables are medium sized marble ones.  A wall of windows makes up the front of the place and spot lights are over each table.  There is a large patio.   The mostly older crowd was fairly dressy.  Service was friendly but really, really slow and the food is variable.  I would not go back. Continue reading

Kitty’s Café, Kansas City, 12/9/21

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

The Antler Room, Kansas City, 12/8/21

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The Antler Room was opened five years ago by Chef Nicholas Goellner and Leslie Newsam Goellner after many years of training and work in other establishments including Noma in Copenhagen.  It is a small 2 room place with one room serving as mostly a bar and pass-through window from the kitchen and the other filled with small tables for 2.  A long bench seat runs along the wall that ends in a huge window to the street.  Music is in the background, lights are lowered, the floor is tile, art is on the walls and exposed ductwork lines the high ceiling.  Parking is wherever you can get it along the street.  The name was a spur of the minute decision by the owners but now many donated antlers provide decoration, especially above the bar.  Service was friendly but know your entire order needs to be placed at the beginning of service.  The food was pretty good, interesting combinations and well flavored.  Continue reading

Vietnam Cafe, Kansas City, 12/8/21

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

Real Chili, Milwaukee, 12/4/21

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

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

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

EsterEv, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

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EsterEv is a small dining room inside the DanDan Restaurant that serves a tasting menu only.  Named for the great-grandmothers, Evelyn and Ester, of the owners Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, whose passion for cooking inspired a place for celebrating around a table with friends.  In 2015 the 2 Dan’s opened the Chinese food with midwestern sensibility, DanDan and not long thereafter their fine dining option EsterEv.  The menu changes regularly and wine pairings are available as are cocktails in the small room off the kitchen that looks to seat about 20 persons at individual tables.  Music from the surrounding restaurant bleeds in and the lights are lowered.  Many of the serving dishes are made by Dan Jacob’s wife, a ceramic artist.   The pacing is great and the portions are on the small side. Continue reading

Story Hill BKC, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

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

Sanford Restaurant, Milwaukee, 12/2/21

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Sanford was opened by Sandy D’Amato and his wife Angie in 1989 in the building that formerly housed the grocery store his family operated for nearly 80 years. In 2012 the D’Amato pair sold the place to longtime Chef De Cuisine Justin Aprahmian and his wife Sarah who continue to run the place in the tradition in which it was started.  They want to use the best quality ingredients from local farms if possible with seasonal fluctuations. They want guests to feel as if they’ve been invited into their home for dinner.  The white cloth covered tables vary in size and are accompanied by music in the background, lowered lighting and parking on the street or $10 valet.  The menu is a 4 course (you chose out of choices) or 7 course surprise tasting with optional pairings and there is a full bar.  Service was friendly and attentive.  Pacing and portioning of the tasting were good. Continue reading

Blue’s Egg, Milwaukee, 12/2/21

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

Ardent, Milwaukee, 12/1/21

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Ardent is a small place that serves only a 12 course tasting menu from Chef Justin Carlisle on Wed. through Sat.  Set below street level, music is in the background and the blond-wood counter only has a few seats.  Opening in Oct. of  2013, chef stopped by the kitchen but was not there to cook.  Three others handled the evening’s menu (along with dishwashing, polishing and making coffees) and 3 other staff serviced the floor and counter which could  accommodate about 15 guests.   Service was excellent and interactive.  Wine pairings were available as well as bottles of wine and this time we enjoyed the pairings with the good menu of food.  They were a bunch of quality choices.  It’s a cozy, relaxed setting that’s fun to eat in. Continue reading

Môt Hai Ba, Dallas, 11/27/21

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Môt Hai Ba is currently owned by Chef Peja Krstic who wants to merge Vietnamese and French cuisines, stressing quality and seasonal ingredients.  The name means 1-2-3 in Vietnamese and it is only open for dinner.  Located in the Lakewood area of Dallas the place opened about a decade ago under different owners and had communal type of seating.  Krstic changed that to individual tables in the very small facility.  It does have a nice sized patio out front.  In the corner inside is the bar with 4 seats, lights are lowered, there are lots of plants and candles and music is in the background.  The really small tables are set with chopsticks only but the servers bring traditional flatware with plates.  Service was overly cheerful and bit amateurish and the food was disappointing. Continue reading

Le Diplomate, Washington DC, 11/21/21

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

The Lucky Accomplice, St. Louis, 11/19/21

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The Lucky Accomplice was opened in Fox Park in September 2020 by chef Logan Ely.  It is a long place with a bar with stools on one side and high top tables across from it and in the area beyond.  The kitchen is a light at the end of the room that is decorated with rabbit art and plants.  Also don’t miss the neon rabbit on the window to the street.  Rock music is in the background and the lights are very dim.  The menu is not printed, only available on a internet link.  A hum of conversation fills the place as well as a couple of large columns, exposed ductwork, a concrete floor and some chandeliers by the bar.  The tables are good sized and there are 3 large semi-circle booths at the front.  Service was friendly, open to making suggestions and very relaxed.  It is a pretty casual place. Continue reading

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

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

Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis, 11/18/21

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Sidney Street Cafe offers a melting pot of New American cuisine with the chef blending in New Mexican and French training.  Since 2003 it has been located in a century old storefront in the Benton Park neighborhood.  The lights are very low, music is in the background, brick makes up the walls, an old wood floor and a high wood ceiling are all parts of the semi-elegant setting.  Mirrors on the walls add a feeling of space but there is lots of room between the good-sized tables.  There were several rooms for dining but ours had an enormous wood chandelier that was quite striking.  One room has the antique bar.  Overall the lighting was biggest problem with the place cause it make photos hard, especially since I refuse to use a flash.  Appetizers were offered through a chalkboard on the table and the small menu was printed in a really tiny font but is online to study beforehand.  Entrees come with either soup or salad. Continue reading

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

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

Spring Restaurant, Marietta, 11/11/21

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Spring is a small neighborhood restaurant located in Marietta, about 30 minutes from Atlanta city center.  Opening in 2016, it is named for Chef Brian So’s favorite season.  The small menu changes with the availability of ingredients.  The front door is tucked around the corner from the street and the train tracks are right next to it.  Inside it is bright with bench seating along the walls meeting up with small 2-top tables.  Brick and painted walls reach to the high ceiling with exposed ductwork.  Faint music is in the background sometimes, so maybe it just bled out of the kitchen window.  The wine list is reasonable and contained a lot of half bottle sized choices.   Service was friendly but not totally perfect.  The server did help us determine how much to order, so we split the first 2 courses and then each had our own main. Continue reading

The Silver Skillet, Atlanta, 11/11/21

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The Silver Skillet has been in business since 1956 has been featured in many movies, television shows, magazines and newspapers.  Their homemade lemon ice-box pie was voted one the “5 Best Pies in the the USA” by Life Magazine.   It is a 50’s style diner that serves breakfast all day and is considered an Atlanta landmark.   Inside you’ll find lines of booth seating with a few stools at the counter that look into the kitchen.  Windows to the street are on two sides and memorabilia and items for sale decorate the other walls.  Country music is in the background, acoustic tile makes up the ceiling and old linoleum serves as the floor.   Lots of parking is around the building and inside you are greeted by friendly, helpful staff.  The menu breaks no food barriers but it is well done using quality ingredients.  I was skeptical to go there but it was well worth the visit and if it was closer, I’d go back. Continue reading

Buena Gente, Atlanta, 11/10/21

Buena Gente is a Cuban bakery and sandwich shop in Decatur that opened in Aug of 2020, that started running out of a camper in 2016.  Now it has found a home in a strip shopping center filled with many ethnic restaurants.  It is takeout only and masks must be warn at the counter when making your order.  You wait outside with a buzzer to go back inside and get your food.  The food is well seasoned and really tasty.  It’s hard to chose what to get but the counter person guided us.  All sandwiches and pastries are well filled and it didn’t take long to get the hot sandwiches, whereas you can walk out with the pastries. Continue reading

Lyla Lila, Atlanta, 11/9/21

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Lyla Lila opened in Nov. of 2019 and serves southern European cuisine in Midtown Atlanta.  It sits on a corner with windows on two sides in the Lilli tower, right down the street from the Fox Theater.  There is no dedicated parking area, so you hunt for spaces on the street.  Chef-partner Craig Richards daughter’s name is Lyla and his partner in the restaurant, Billy Streck’s daughter’s middle name is Lila, so they forged the 2, to name the restaurant.  The large bar area is where you enter and people do eat at the bar.  In the dining room music is in the background and the lights are lowered.  The menu changes with the seasons and while they wanted your whole order at the beginning they were willing to course it out and split items.  Some couch like seats were at the tables around the wall and the interior bare wood tables with chairs were quite small.  Tables are close enough that you can easily make friends with those adjacent and we did visit with another couple celebrating their first anniversary there.  The wine list was mostly Italian with a few French and Spanish options and chef is known for his pastas.  Service was slow and uneven. Continue reading

Victory Sandwich Bar, Atlanta, 11/9/21

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Victory Sandwich Bar was located near Inman Park and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.  It offered a large covered porch, inside seating and a backyard patio filled with picnic tables, each having a dog bowl at the end.  Music from inside blended into the outside.  Inside was booth seating, high top tables and a long bar where you place your order.  You are given a number after you pay and then they bring it to your table.  The sandwiches are small but only cost $5 each.  They have a full bar but are known for their Whiskey Coke Slushie, made with Jack Daniel’s and Coke, which come in 2 sizes.  You get those when you finish placing your order so you can work on it while your sandwich is made.  They are just like the frozen drinks from convenience stores but these have that whiskey twist.  It’s a fun drink but you still have to be careful to avoid a ‘brain freeze or cold headache’.  It’s a  pretty place to sit and prices are reasonable but the food didn’t wow me. Continue reading

Little’s Food Store, Atlanta, 11/9/21

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

National Anthem, Dallas, 11/4/21

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National Anthem, Nick Badovinus’ (Town Hearth, Neighborhood Services) latest restaurant, opened Oct.6.  It’s in the 100 year old triangular shaped building on the east side of downtown, almost to Deep Ellum.  There is street parking and valet and it’s a lot like Badovinus’ other places – noisy, heavily decorated and serving good food.  His concept is to further develop the floor above and the rooftop into other restaurants.  Here you enter into the bar area with a few high top tables and stools around the u-shaped bar.  Then you pass into the main dining room which has a combination of booths and tables and a long open window into the kitchen.  There are tons of people working – providing good service, but between the TVs, windows to the street and various decorations there’s a lot of eye distractions.  The large menu includes everything from raw oysters to prime steak and there are a few daily specials.  It’s worth going to. Continue reading

Milagro Taco Cantina, Dallas, 11/4/21

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

MoMo Italian Kitchen, Dallas, 11/2/21

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

Garden Cafe, Dallas, 10/30/21

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Garden Cafe had been a staple in East Dallas but closed for over a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  During the time closed they were able to do many renovations and also finally obtain a liquor license, so you no longer need to bring your own.   They still have a large patio out back and now have a real bar serving cocktails out front, Thursday through Saturday with brunch on Sunday.  There is music in the background and the lights were dimmed midway through our meal.  Inside are booths with tile topped tables, high-top tables and regular small tables for 2.  On the walls were photos for sale.  Service was friendly and well paced but the wine list had already sold out of a number of options.  The menu reads nicely but the food has little spark. Continue reading

Beckley 1115 , Dallas, 10/30/21

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

Cry Wolf, Dallas, 11/26/21 and (update) 12/18/21

Cry Wolf opened 3 days ago at 4422 Gaston Avenue, a  space that formerly held a Subway and you’d never know it.  Chef/owner Ross Demers and his team have done a miraculous makeover to present a cozy, fun spot to have a delicious meal.  Chef Demers previously owned On the Lamb but also held positions at Flora Street Café and Beverley’s Bistro.  Alongside Demers in the open kitchen is another Fauna (part of Flora Street) alum, Liam Byres and also from there is sommelier Tim.  The less than 30 seat stylish place offers a small seasonal menu of gradually-increasing-in-size options – to mix and match as the diner prefers.  The plan is to change options as ingredients become available.  The interior has a long concrete counter facing the kitchen and bar where diners can eat and interact with staff.  There are also standard tables on the other side of the room.  Music is in the background and the lights are lowered but you can still see.   Get here before it gets so popular that you can’t.  This is a new favorite restaurant and highly recommended. Continue reading

Al’s Breakfast, Minneapolis, 10/10/21

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

P.S. Steak, Minneapolis, 10/9/21

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P.S. Steak opened in 2019, an elegant steakhouse to add to the Minneapolis meat options.  Located in a classic building the dining room is dark with lots of brown leather in the roomy booths (now separated by plexiglass too) and dark walls decorated with mirrors and prints.  One wall has the refrigerated cases housing the aging meats, all prime cuts or better.  As you enter to your side is the large modern looking bar where customers can eat as well as drink.  The dining room is further down the hall with a much more clubby feel, with no music in the background.  The menu is mostly steaks but a number of potato choices are there as well as vegetables and seafood.  The one area it fell very short was in our server who really got up on the wrong side of the bed.  She poured the wine with no tasting, repeatedly asked about ordering appetizers, chastised us for ordering too many desserts.  It was surreal, as every other person who attended our table was friendly and pleasant.  I tried to not let it spoil a fun evening. Continue reading

Boludo Nicollet, Minneapolis, 10/9/21

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

Matt’s Bar, Minneapolis, 10/8/21

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

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

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

Slabtown Burgers, Traverse City, 10/2/21

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

Rose and Fern, Traverse City, 10/2/21

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Rose and Fern is a small cafe where all food is pre-ordered on their website <roseandferncafe.com> and then you can either pick it up or have it delivered.  There are a couple outdoor tables and chairs but most seemed to take their food elsewhere.  It’s definitely a neighborhood cafe with families gathered outside eating and chatting.  Unfortunately after 3 years they have lost their lease and are hunting for a new location, as they must move by year’s end.  They offer a range of breakfast sandwiches made with quality ingredients and they are good.  They also have coffee, whose beans are roasted in house.  It would be worth tracking down if you’re in the area.   They are super friendly and our sandwich was a great way to start the day. Continue reading

The Riverside Inn, Leland, 10/1/21

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The Riverside Inn is on the Leland River, about 40 minutes from Traverse City.  It is a 114 year-old historic inn and restaurant in the heart of Leelanau County.  It sits on the waterfront offering lovely views for the diners and has a dock for those that wish to arrive by boat. It was built in 1901 but mostly burned in 1924 and began business as both restaurant and inn again in 1925.  The Vilter family bought it in 1997 and did major renovations in 2017 but have recently sold the property.  Downstairs is the bar, as well as the restaurant and upstairs are the 4 guestrooms.  They have a large wine list and focus on locally sourced ingredients.  The large tables are set with white tablecloths and black napkins and music is in the background.  Some bench seating is along the wall matched with black upholstered chairs and the tables are set with wooden black chairs.  Lots of wood is on the ceiling and walls, some of which have mirrored inserts, with painted brick making up some of the walls.  Lighting was lowered except for the sun pouring in the windows. Continue reading

Trattoria Stella, Traverse City, 9/30/21

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Trattoria Stella opened in 2004 in the basement of a refurbished and re-purposed mental hospital.  An upscale restaurant, it offers a farm to table concept with Italian overtones through a changing menu supplemented with daily specials offered.  The kitchen makes pasta, bread and cheese and a full bar is available.  The large place has lots of brick arches and cozy spots with lowered lighting throughout.  The white cloth covered tables are nicely sized and set with black napkins with music in the background.  They have a large wine list with lots of local wines.  We ordered some of their nightly specials for our meal. Continue reading

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream, Traverse City, 9/30/21

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Moomers Homemade Ice Cream is a family owned business with that overlooks the family dairy farm.  They make more than 160 flavors of ice cream, with 20 available daily and also serve ice cream treats.  The milk from the cows next door is put into making the cones.  The ice cream has won numerous award and most recently was a part of President Joe Biden’s trip to get support of his infrastructure package in July 2021.  A tour bus pulled up as we were exiting, so there can be a wait, but it’s worth it.  The ice cream is thick, really smooth and the freezer containers store it at the perfect eating temperature/consistency.  We tried 2 double scoop cups and both were very good.  Not intensely flavored but the texture easily wins you over. Continue reading

The Cooks’ House, Traverse City, 9/29/21

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The Cooks’ House was opened 13 years ago by Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee who  worked together in Las Vegas and wanted to open a small restaurant focused on locally grown and foraged foods.  There are about 8 marble topped tables inside on a wooden floor in a room decorated with art and cookbooks.  A small bar is in the corner but it is only for making drinks not sitting at.  They offer tasting menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses with the smaller ones having some choices and wine pairings available for each.   Menus are only online and change with ingredient availability.  Music is in the background, the place is well lit, benchs are along the walls for seating and street parking supplements the small attached lot.  It is casual with flatware in a box on the table as well as a bottle of chilled water and very friendly service.  We chose the 7 course tasting and got the wine pairings. Continue reading

Sister Restaurant, Dallas, 10/11 & 16/21

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Sister Restaurant was opened by Duro Hospitality (behind The Charles) in the spot where the Grape Restaurant had been for 40 years.  It serves an Italian/Mediterranean loosely inspired selection of dishes.  They make their pasta which is served 7 nights a week.  Barely open a month, it is already packed with hungry excited guests.  The large porch dining area is still there but inside it has been completely transformed.  Two large faux trees are in the center which is surrounded by cozy booth seating and tables.  A sleek bar is at one end and opposite are shelves containing an assortment of objects.  The previous 2 rooms are now one and it is much brighter with music in the background (louder on the porch than inside).  Some of the tables have clothes and others a polished finish.  It is a pleasant space, service is excellent and the food is good too.  Plates are meant to be shared which always makes for a more interesting meal. Continue reading

Rye, Dallas, 9/12/21

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Rye opened in McKinney in 2018 and the owners, Tanner Agar, Nic Cain and Executive Chef Taylor Rause, decided to open a second location in Dallas, which happened on August 25, 2021.  The menu stresses small plates to share, filled with dishes prepared from local sources, as much as possible.  They also have a large bar offering lots of cocktails and of course rye.  Next door they have a bar called Apothecary where you can wait for your table in a darker, cozy setting.  Rye is a medium sized long room with small bare wood tables – some paired with benches along the wall, lots of plants, music in the background, mirrors and frames decorate the walls and lowered but fairly bright lighting.  The server told us that the kitchen prefers to have the whole order placed at one time and then the kitchen will portion out the plates so you are not overwhelmed.  The server was helpful in determining just how much to order.  It’s a fun place with an adventurous and flavor filled menu that I look forward to getting back to. Continue reading

The Black Sheep, Buffalo, 9/3/21

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The Black Sheep is a long space with a bar in the space out front and patio outback.  The lighting is lowered, music is loud, art for sale is on the walls, wooden benches line the wall to match up with small wood tables, walls are brick and votives are on the table.  It is a farm-to-table concept with a small menu of interesting items that is supplemented by a daily list of specials.  The bar serves up modern and classic cocktails as well as beer and wine.  The owners are James Beard nominated chefs Steven and Ellen Gedra, with Ellen being the baker and pastry chef.  The chefs prefer a farm-to-table approach and have learned the value of selecting the proper ingredients and then handing them with care.  It’s a small but inventive menu of small and large plates supplemented by interesting specials.  It was a tasty meal filled with flavors with a little twist to the ordinary. Continue reading

Charlie the Butcher Carvery, Buffalo, 9/3/21

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Charlie the Butcher is another Buffalo staple.  Charlie Roesch came from a family in the meat business and is now a media personality as well as a restauranteur.  The family had several generations of Charlies who were butchers and carvers in the meat industry.  The original Charlie also served as Mayor of Buffalo from 1930-1934 but he was the one who started the butcher shop that was operated by the family for 80 years. The current Charlie likened his roast beef on a Kummelweck roll (The traditional sandwich is on a salt-topped roll) to be equal to Buffalo wings for spreading recognition of Buffalo.    To get the word out Charlie appeared on lots of media including ABC’s Good Morning America, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and made personal appearances across North America.  Feature stories were in Gourmet magazine and in advertising campaigns for Alto-Shaam roasting ovens.  In addition to food trucks and independent storefronts you can also get their food in the grocery store.  We stopped in to try one and found a number of sides, soups, pies and to-go items also available.   It is a simple roast beef sandwich that is nicely done. Continue reading

Chef’s Restaurant of Buffalo NY, Buffalo, 9/3/21

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Chef’s Restaurant opened in Buffalo in 1923.  One of the neighborhood busboys worked his way up to restaurant manager and became the owner in 1954.  They started with a limited menu of Italian options which has expanded over the years, most notably to include ‘Chef’s Spaghetti Parm’.  A second dining room was added in 1966 with another addition 3 years later making their current capacity 325 persons and a banquet room for 125.  The owner’s daughter and her son now run the business.  The several bright rooms are filled with photos of notables who have eaten there and red-checkered cloth covered tables.  Music is in the background there are some windows to the street outside.  There is even a dedicated parking lot across from the building.  In addition to the regular menu there is a menu of specials for the lunch hour.  An announcer calls out numbers over the sound system, probably to alert the servers to pick up trays to serve.  Service was amazingly efficient and super friendly. Continue reading

Hutch’s Restaurant, Buffalo, 9/2/21

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Hutch’s Restaurant has been serving fine cuisine to folks in Buffalo for over 25 years. They call it “an American take on the French Bistro”.  Named for chef/owner Mark Hutchinson it closed a year ago for a renovation that was to be in stages but instead was done all at once while the restaurant was closed 144 days for Covid.  They were able to double the capacity of the old Floristry building to accommodate 100 socially distanced diners (probably 175 post-Covid) and expand outdoor seating to 20 people.  Today the large restaurant has several rooms with brick walls, carpeting, low lighting, loud music, art on the walls, votive candles on the tables and a large window looking into the kitchen where you could easily spot Hutchinson.  Sound panels on the ceiling helped with the noise level cause it was filled to capacity and buzzing with people celebrating an occasion or closing a business deal.  In addition to the menu they had a large list of daily specials.  Service was slow but in their defense many restaurant workers have not returned to work, but this would be a good job to land in that line of work. Continue reading

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

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

Swan Street Diner, Buffalo, 9/2/21

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

The Dapper Goose, Buffalo, 9/1/21

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The Dapper Goose opened in 2016 in Buffalo, NY.   It is on the first floor of a long building with wood floors, large bar, tin ceiling, lowered lighting, music in the background, smallish tables and windows to the street.  Out in back they also have a sizable patio that does not take reservations like the bar seating, but inside is by reservation.   The menu is small, composed of small and large plates of fun combinations of ingredients.  Our server helped us decide what choices gave us the best range of flavors without ordering too much.  There were no off the menu items but halibut was replacing the cod tonight.   It was a really fun and tasty meal, but they need to work on the salt content. Continue reading

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

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

Harbor Cafe, Stonington, ME., 8/30/21

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The Harbor Cafe is in a large white house on on the main street of Stonington, Maine. There were a couple rooms but mostly one was in use and it was lined with booths on the side and a couple tables in the middle. Art was for sale on the walls and maps were laminated on the table tops. The booths were divided with plexiglas but masks were not required for the vaccinated. It felt like a very local spot with people ordering ‘the usual.’  In addition to the menu they offered a ham and cheese omelette which we both chose. You could chose your bread product, cheese and potato preparation. We both took cheddar and the skillet then deep fried potatoes. I had an English muffin and my husband had white toast. The potatoes were crisp and really good and the omelette was filled with chunks of ham. The egg exterior was fluffy and good. Unlike the menu indicated (one refill only) they refilled your coffee numerous times. It was a good solid way to start a day of travel. Continue reading

Aragosta, Deer Isle, ME., 8/29/21

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Aragosta is Devin Finigan’s fine dining restaurant on Goose Cove in Deer Isle, Maine. They opened in 2012 in Stonington but bought a 22 acre waterfront resort in January 2019 to be able to offer lodging as well as dining. A team of craftsmen transformed the property and now the dining room is a large open space with painted wood walls and ceiling. They also have outdoor seating overlooking the water but it gets pretty cool in the evening for that. Lighting is lowered and music is in the background. The place is noisy with so many hard surfaces but it was made worse as we were given a large table right next to the swinging doors to the kitchen. Up one step were more tables and a lounge area near the bar, in front of the fire place. Plenty of parking is close by but the walk to the restaurant is poorly lit. They offer only a tasting menu and also offer wine pairings if you don’t want to order your own bottle. Pacing was eratic, service was an issue for us and the food was mixed so I can’t give a solid recommendation for the place.  Continue reading