The Blue Door Kitchen & Inn, Flint Hill, VA., 4/3/21

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The Blue Door Kitchen & Inn has been the collaboration of Chef Andrea Pace in the kitchen and his partner Reem Arbid directing the front of the house for almost 3 years.  Located in a 100 year old schoolhouse, now the dining rooms take 2 downstairs rooms and 4 suites accommodate guests upstairs.  Their refurbished large patio out back would make a lovely place to eat or read.  The place gets its name from the highly polished blue front door and an additional blue one decorates one of the dining rooms.  Lots of parking is available out front and clear plastic partitions divide the various tables.  Polished wood tables, lots of mirrors, large cloth napkins and decorations of building materials make up the dining areas which are separated by the bar/reception area.  Service was well masked, helpful, well paced and super friendly.  The food is in generous portions that you won’t want to leave any of on the plate. Continue reading

Claire’s at the Depot, Warrenton, VA., 4/3/21

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Claire Lamborne started her restaurant in 2004 by replacing a Mediterranean restaurant with Claire’s at the Depot serving delicious food with a southern twist. The building used to be the town’s railway depot built in the 1850s and features a patio as well as indoor dining.  In the patio area are beds where many of the fresh herbs they use are grown.  Inside you’ll find brick walls, wood floors, paper on top of the  cloth covered well spaced tables, music in the background and a large bar area.  Lots of windows kept it well lit for the lunch service.   They serve lunch, dinner and brunch and offered a couple of lunch specials.  They have a small wine list with some by the glass and many cocktails.  Servers were friendly and well masked. Continue reading

The Inn at Little Washington; Washington,VA.; 4/2/21

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The Inn at Little Washington is a 42 year old restaurant about 70 miles east of Washington DC.  It is the only restaurant in the area to have been awarded 3 Michelin stars and the chef, Patrick O’Connell received the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to American food.  The town with a population around 200 and the oldest of the 28 cities in the U.S. with that name, got the nickname Little Washington due to its proximity to DC.  The Inn/Restaurant had to overcome some resistance in the town but now most of the town seems to revolve around it.  The main inn has 18 bedrooms and suites and now there are a number of buildings in town that it also has rooms in, with one under construction across the street that will be a casual restaurant. Continue reading

Mama Chang, Fairfax, VA., 4/2/21

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Mama Chang opened early in 2019 in Fairfax, VA.  It focuses on family dishes from the Hubei province, where Peter Chang is from, ones his mother and other females in the family cooked.  There is less pepper than in the traditional Szechuan dishes.  The large interior is filled with light from the many windows and white walls.  Textured ropes hang from the ceiling, the well spaced light wood tables are bare and tons of green plants surround the room.  It feels open and spacious but a bit sterile.  Portions are generally large – we way over-ordered but wanted to try a number of the dishes.  The server was masked and willing to give advice. One note is about their to-go containers which were nice plastic dishes with good locking lids not the usual leaky styrofoam containers. Continue reading

Breakfast Republic, San Diego, 3/25/21

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Breakfast Republic is part of a chain of places in southern California.  They serve innovative breakfast combinations surrounded by tons of fun, almost kitsch decorations.  We visited the location in Liberty Station built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style which was the site of the Naval Training Center in 1923.  The chain supports composting of uneaten foods and recycling.  This location had 2 good sized heated patios to dine on.  They are open daily from 7 to 3.  Service was friendly, masked and efficient.  While the food sounded great in the menu I would rate it acceptable + with generous portions. Continue reading

Addison Restaurant, San Diego, 3/24/21

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Addison, San Diego’s only Michelin starred (one) restaurant, has been on the property of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar for 15 years.  Chef William Bradley is in charge of the kitchen where they offer 5 and 10 course tastings featuring California gastronomy.  Wine pairings are available but there is a huge wine list also.  Due to Covid the recently renovated indoor area is closed but there is seating on the large heated outdoor terrace.  It you stay at the Fairmont it is a bit of a hike to get up the hill so the hotel graciously provides car service up for you and the staff call for a pick up when you are finished.  It’s little touches like this that make it a lovely experience.  The staff anticipate your needs – like bringing a glass of ice for my water or a stool for my purse -and yet it never feels stuffy, and there is the beautiful back drop of the hotel’s golf course with bubbling streams.  We chose the 10 course menu and got bottles of red and white to pair with courses as we chose.  In addition, it is a surprise menu but they were kind enough to email a copy of what we had that actually did have the courses detailed.  There was only one supplement offered that night and that was to substitute A5 Wagyu for Barbecued Squab.  I chose the supplement and my husband had the pigeon. Continue reading

Sushi Ota, San Diego, 3/24/21

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Sushi Ota Restaurant is in a nondescript strip shopping center in San Diego.   They have some indoor tables that are well separated with wood partitions and have also built an outdoor dining area that has plastic roofing and some sides.  At the entry is the large sushi counter that due to Covid has no seating but fresh seafood is in the counter.  The large menu has many options for ordering – lunch specials, the traditional check list or there are 3 plates of sushi combinations.  The combination “C” contains the local sea urchin for which Chef Ota is known, and that was the one we chose.  With the combination plates you also get miso soup and ice cream. Service was well masked, efficient and friendly and tables were distanced and thoroughly cleaned between customers.  The menu offers a good number of beers, wine and saki. Continue reading

Stanley, New Orleans, 3/20/21

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Stanley is on a corner in Jackson Square by St. Louis Cathedral.  In a tribute to Tennessee Williams their location is near the restaurant Stella that closed in 2014.  They feature all day breakfast/brunch as well as sandwiches and desserts in a casual location.  They are open Thursday to Monday from 8 am to 4 pm.  Outside is a lot of outdoor seating and some well distanced seats inside the place.  It is really popular so be prepared for a wait in popular times.  Service was efficient and friendly.  No reservations are accepted. Continue reading

Coquette (update), New Orleans, 3/19/21

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Frankie last wrote up Coquette in Sept of 2015 and it remains a favorite of hers.   The lovely corner building has 2 floors for dining, with well spaced small wood tables, lots of dark wood, fun tile floors, lowered lighting and high ceilings.  Downstairs has mirrors on many walls, music in the background and a large bar that is used just for storage now.  The evening menu offers a la carte options as well as a 5 course surprise tasting menu -composed of things not on the menu.  Wine pairings are available.  We chose to do the tasting and pairings and were very happy with the choice.  The staff who brought the food out from the kitchen were knowledgable about the food and happy to share information.  Servers were masked and also very friendly and efficient. Continue reading

Mosquito Supper Club, New Orleans, 3/18/21

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Mosquito Supper Club is a cajun restaurant that wanted to celebrate all the bounty of local fishermen and farmers.  Starting as a family style place at large farmhouse tables, Covid has had them shift to single party, well-spaced tables with a fixed price 5 course menu for all diners. They are open Thursday to Sunday with 2 seatings and offer wine pairings to go with the meal.  After our cocktail we chose to try their wine pairings with the meal.  They were nice and appropriate pairings but no refills were offered.  Located in an older house, there are many rooms where dining service takes place with wood floors, plaster walls and high ceilings.  A bar is in the first room where there are stools if your table isn’t ready.  Rock music plays in the background and lighting is lowered.  Diners are pre-paid with reservations but cocktails and wine can be paid for at the restaurant.  If you pre-buy the wine pairings you will also pay the 25% gratuity added to your meal charge whereas at the restaurant you can determine your own.  Staff was friendly but not overly. Continue reading

Gris-Gris, New Orleans, 3/18/21

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Gris-Gris is in a two story corner building in the Garden district (where the restaurant Square Root had been).  Downstairs is the open kitchen enclosed by a stainless steel bar.  Many wanted to sit upstairs but I preferred to watch the kitchen action.  Music is in the background and light from the many windows filled the room.  Upstairs is a large bar and tables as well as a balcony for seating.  The staff all wore masks but the kitchen was mostly too busy to engage in much conversation with those at the bar.  The waitstaff was happy to help guide your choices and split items from the menu, which is similar at lunch and dinner. Continue reading

Cosmo’s Bar and Restaurant, Dallas, 9/29/20 and 10/10/20

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Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar (1212 Skillman St., Dallas, 75206, <cosomosbar.net>) is a medium sized neighborhood lounge that has been in business for years.  My understanding is that it started as a bar with a small pizza kitchen and several years ago the manager/chef Jackson Tran (now part owner) wanted to expand the menu with Vietnamese specialties from his family, to see how that would impact business.  It was a terrific idea that has really caught on with more than just the locals.  It’s a small kitchen so food may take a bit of time but while you wait there is a full bar with well made drinks.   The interior has lots of vintage furniture and decorations.  They were ready for Halloween the evening we went.  The heavily tinted windows to the street along one wall keep it dark inside even before sunset.  Tables are well spaced and there is hanging plexiglass between seating areas.  A large u-shaped bar has spaced stools for eating and/or drinking.  Music was in the background and there was a patio.  Besides the tasty Vietnamese items the menu features pizzas.  Unfortunately the night we were there they were out of the Beef Pho, but I will definitely go back to try it and some of the other things on the menu.  Service was friendly, helpful and well masked. Continue reading

Snake River Grill, Jackson, WY., 9/11/20

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Snake River Grill was founded in 1993 and is a large place that offers spaced indoor seating (recently opened) and a couple of options for outdoor dining (as long as weather permits).  All the seating is on the second level with one patio directly adjacent to the indoor area and the other on a large rooftop across some stairs, but it’s covered by a tent and has heaters.  Inside you get the full ambiance of the place’s Western decor with the log walls, the candles hanging from antlers, skin wrapped light fixtures and a ceiling defined by logs and held up with log columns.  The lighting is lowered and carpet is on the floor.  The tables are well distanced and covered with white clothes and diners are given a matching cloth napkin once they’re seated.   Some of the tables have bench seating to match the un-cushioned wood chairs.   A bar is immediately in front of the entry, no music is in the background but there is lots of conversational hum and there are many windows on the walls of the various rooms. Service was slow to start but then was nicely paced and very friendly with helpful opinions.  Reservations are needed and to get a good time you need to do that at least a month ahead. Continue reading

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, Jackson, WY., 9/11/20

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The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar opened in 1937 and is a landmark in Jackson, WY.  Everything I read about the place suggested you just have a drink and see the interior.  It is famous for the seats at the bar which are real horse saddles, complete with under blanket.  Our server said they were cute but she couldn’t sit and drink on them.  There are no reservations and often a line, but we went off hour and there was still a wait to get a saddle stool but you could have a table right away.  We opted for a table.  The place has lots of live music which thankfully wasn’t playing when we were there but recorded music filled the room.  There are Western decorations everywhere including stuffed animals, a huge round moving scene light, horns, and pictures.  The tables are divided by large wood pieces and tables are distanced now as well as some saddles are covered.  The pool tables were covered.  It is a place to see if you’re in town but not a peaceful place to drink and talk. Continue reading

Persephone Bakery, Jackson, WY., 9/11/20

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Persephone was a really popular place, that served excellent baked goods, coffee and sandwiches.  You line up to make your order and then can take it with you or eat at one of the tables on the outside patio.  There were tables inside but no one sat there.  We wanted to get stuff to take with us during our drive through the national park and so placed our order online and they gave us a time when we could pick it up at a separate window around the side.    They serve only breakfast foods until 10:30 after which they do offer lunch salads and sandwiches.  They also offer pre-packaged cookies, teas and other foods.  We scoped out the order counter one day and ordered from them the next day.  Later we got some cinnamon brioche to eat in the hotel the next morning but they did not work out as well as our other orders.  I don’t know if they came dry or just turned that way being held overnight.  Either way they found their way to the trash rather than our stomachs. Continue reading

Trio An American Bistro, Jackson, WY., 9/10/20

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Trio opened in 2005 by the two chefs that also operate Local.  They serve a seasonal menu with nightly specials in a relaxed atmosphere.  They have a number of specialty cocktails and cook primarily in a wood-fired oven.  It is a good sized place with the blond wood bare tables well spaced by taking the 2-top tables, setting them with candles and using them as spacers.  Therefore everyone gets a nice size table which are set with lovely large linen napkins.  One end of the very modern room is an open kitchen, with plexiglas in front of it.  There are seats at the bar in front and some tables outside.  Bench seats run along the walls with very comfy seating.  No-arm blond wood chairs are on the other side.  Art is on the wall and it’s for sale.  Music is in the background.  Eating outside is preferable regarding the virus but the inside here is very lovely and very well done, so I would chose sitting inside.  Service was really friendly, opinionated and timing was very nice. Continue reading

Glorietta, Jackson, WY., 9/9/20

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Glorietta is an Italian Trattoria with a focus on housemade pasta and wood-fired cooking.  Located in the Anvil Hotel they offer both indoor and patio seating.  Inside the medium room the tables have a lot of space between them, which is good for slowing the spread of virus but leaves the room feeling empty.  The focal point of the room is the large bar with the kitchen and wood burning fire behind it and another seating bar in front of it.  They finally seated someone at the front bar but without much overhang it looked pretty uncomfortable.  The floor is tiled, the ceiling is painted wood and bench seating is on many walls to match up with chairs on the other side of the good sized tables.  The bare wood tables are set with a large cloth napkin and lighting is lowered, but there are a number of windows in the room so that is only an issue after the sun sets.  Service was friendly but rushed.  We wanted to try a number of things and I specifically asked that it not be served on top of the last one but it was.  In fact the main plates came out before all the appetizer plates were cleared.  I realized with limited seating they want to turn the tables quickly but in these times we must find a way to make the experience pleasurable for the diner and profitable for the restaurant. Continue reading

Irene’s, New Orleans, 2/22/20

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Irene’s opened in 1993 and gradually expanded to 3 rooms over time.  Owner Irene DiPietro from Noto, Sicily is still active with the place but now her son Nicholas Scalco does most of the cooking.  In 2018 it moved to a new, much larger location on Bienville because of a problem with the lease on the original location.  It had been a hard table to get because of its size but delicious food made you try.  Going now to this location was a different feel.  There are about 5 eating areas, depending if you call the large bar area one.  Music is in the background, mostly old rock and despite the small rooms the noise level can be loud.  The small tables are set with white clothes and napkins and the lighting is lowered.    Walls, some of which are red, have lots of decorative items.  Our room had red paint on the top and wood below, an open beam ceiling, a fireplace and tile floor.  The service was very friendly but it was a little slow in getting our meal started and then moved quite rapidly, bringing the main plates out before appetizers were finished.  It didn’t lend itself to a relaxed fine dining feel.  The menu had a special entree and appetizer as well as a changing soup.  All is a la carte. Continue reading

Brennan’s (update), New Orleans, 2/22/20

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We had lunch at Brennan’s in Dec. 2016 in their garden room but this time we were in one of the front dining rooms for brunch.   It feels more formal in this room where the walls are decorated with oyster plates and audubon prints.  The cloth covered tables are set fairly close and some of the seating is banquette style.  It is a huge place and located across from the police station in the French Quarter.  Service was friendly but not particularly efficient.  The menu  is a la carte but they do offer a 2 course special with 2 choices for each of the courses.  We chose that option with a couple side dishes for our meal.  For drinks they had a special drink of the day that was strawberries, sparkler and something as well as several wines by the glass and half bottles.  They also had some good prices on what they called “breakfast bubbles” and we chose a bottle of that to go with out meal.

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Sylvain, New Orleans, 2/21/20

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Sylvain is named after the first opera done in New Orleans which was a raucous comedy and they wanted to emulate that in their atmosphere.  Located just off Jackson Square it is  in a late 1700’s carriage house in the French Quarter.  It has one long dining room that ends in windows to the street out front and some patio seating in the back.  Inside there is a long bar where guests can eat and/or drink.  Small bare wood tables are set with a variety of chairs and the distressed concrete walls are decorated with art.  The lighting is lowered, there is music in the background and the floor is very old wood.  They specialize in southern style food and lots of cocktails.  It was a lively crowd but service was a bit slow.  We started with Sazeracs which were well made but took a while to get to the table.  In fact they didn’t get to the table before we started to order including wine and almost cancelled their order because the timing was off for the meal but they did arrive and everything moved forward at a leisurely pace. Continue reading

Doris Metropolitan, New Orleans, 2/20/20

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Doris Metropolitan has two other locations, Houston and Costa Rica, besides this location in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  The climate controlled meat aging room can be seen from the street through some windows.  It also is adjacent to the reception area that is on the end of the room which has the kitchen on the other end.  In between is a curved bar that is as much about eating as drinking.  At the front of the kitchen is a counter with cuts of meat for sale by the pound.  Lights are on but not overly so and music plays in the background.  The fairly large polished wood  tables are closely spaced and set with striped cloth napkins and a large paper napkin.  The server said the paper napkin was so your flatware would never have to be on the bare table.  Some of the tables use bench seating and others are set with armless chairs.  Wine bottles and art cover the walls, the floor is concrete, there is exposed ductwork all of which does not provide much sound dampening.  Service was friendly and helpful in making choices.  A starter menu included a choice of caviar and champagne.  The regular menu has a number of starters but for main dishes there were lamb and fish options but otherwise everything was cuts of beef.  They do offer A-5 Japanese Wagyu as well as there regular steak options aged either 21 or 31 days.  They also had some nightly specials. Continue reading

Taberna Malvasía, Granada, 1/25/20

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Taberna Malvasía is a small place with a “L” shaped bar counter and a couple of small high top tables and wall counters.   Opening in September 2016, it is a very stylish place with sound board on the ceiling mounted in various shapes, a distressed wood floor, some stone walls and one wall featuring bottles of wine.  Beer is on tap but this seemed to cater much more to wine drinkers.  The kitchen was tiny but turned out some really fine food.  We enjoyed several free tapas with our glasses of wine but also bought a couple plates that sounded too good to pass up and I’m really glad we did.  Everything was really well done and the atmosphere is relaxing and sophisticated.  The owner, Miguel Vázquez,  was at the bar and spoke great English.  He was super friendly and glad to talk about the qualities of the different wines he had by the glass. Continue reading

Rosario Varela, Granada, 1/25/20

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Rosario Varela was a large tapa bar.  There were some outdoor tables as well as a ton of spaces inside to enjoy drink and food.  There were a few seats at the long bar but lots of little alcoves and assorted tables to accommodate people.  The walls were covered with decorations of interest and the staff was pretty friendly.  We got there when they first opened and so weren’t too busy yet, but our destination around the corner wasn’t open yet.  We didn’t stay long but it was a comfortable place to enjoy a glass and a snack.  It seemed to cater mostly to a younger  crowd and it was packed when we walked back by later.  With our glass of wine they served a little chicken salad sandwich on a soft roll with some lettuce as a garnish.  It was tasty and well seasoned. Continue reading

Restaurante La Farala, Granada, 1/24/20

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Restaurante La Farala is on the second story of a building that has a Flamenco club on the first floor.   They have been open one and a half years.  Music is in the background and the lighting has a yellow tint to it.  The polished bare wood tables are set with a gray or black stone placemats and a contrasting white or black napkin. Bench seats are along the walls for some of the closely set tables and others are free standing with just chairs.  Several large square columns divide the room and one wall had some heavily draped windows overlooking the street.  The floor is a nice wood plank and the ceiling had some recessed portions.  The show downstairs was over so there was no noise from there but seating is available when the shows are on and in that case there is another way to enter the restaurant.  The menu offers a la carte items and 3 tastings of different sizes.  Optional wine pairings are available.  We ordered the middle size menu and our own wine.  The waiter said the longer menu would take over 3 hours and you should be really hungry with it. Continue reading

Bar Los Diamantes, Granada, 1/24/20

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This Bar Los Diamantes was just as busy as the other we visited but had a different vibe.  The people were packed around the bar and at the shelves across from there.  Near the entrance were a couple high top tables and the people at the bar would just pass the drinks and food over to the guests that were further than the arm at the bar could reach.  It was a symphony of service from the bartenders who kept the small beer glasses floating in an ice water bath and pulled them from there to fill your beer from the tap.  They were filling and passing as fast as they could move.  It was lively and friendly and really fun.  Also the tapas were all really good.  This place like the other Diamantes, specializes in seafood and it was all remarkably fresh and perfectly cooked.   Continue reading

Bodegas Castañeda, Granada, 1/24/20

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Bodegas Castañeda is an old school tapa bar that serves mostly Manzanilla sherry or Spanish vermouth.  Upon arrival you immediately notice the large barrels stacked behind the bar that have taps to partake of their fortified wines.  We sampled from one of casks and it came served on ice.  The  long place is dominated by a matching wood bar set with stools.  There are a couple small tables next to the windows and lots of standing room at the bar and around the room.  The other end of the bar features a number of hanging hams.  It was a less frantic atmosphere with people drinking, eating and visiting with one another.   With our glass came a free tapa of Spanish rice and meat  mixed with vegetables.  It was topped with a slice of light but crusty bread.  The well cooked risotto style rice dish was nicely seasoned and studded with small bits of meat and well cooked vegetables melded into the mix.  It was a  fun stop. Continue reading

la Fábula, Granada, 1/23/20

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La Fábula was in the Hotel Villa Oniria and has had the same chef for 10 years.  The 10 large tables were widely spaced and draped with white clothes and set with napkins embroidered with the restaurant name.  There were lots of banquet seats opposite the well stuffed armless chairs.  Carpet and sound panels in the ceiling assured that conversations would be private and noise level would remain low, even with music in the background.  Cute decorations were on each table instead of the standard flower or candle.  Lighting was lowered but it was not dark.  Staff were super friendly, spoke great English and could easily talk about each dish.  The menu offered a la carte options as well as a tasting menu that had an optional addition of 4 more courses.  Wine pairings were available for both sizes of tasting.   We chose the smaller tasting and ordered our own wines.  The meal had good pacing and portion control. Continue reading

La Botillería Granada, Granada, 1/23/20

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La Botilleria was a larger place with a long counter, tables and tables outside.  They obviously serve lots of wine as there were corks everywhere – in tables, in old register – but they also served beer and mixed drinks.  It was a much more laid back atmosphere with out the bustle.  We only had one drink here and with it got a chicken on cous cous dish.  It was covered with a lovely curry sauce.  The chicken was not dry and the fish filled with flavor.  A good experience and nice atmosphere.  With the chicken they also brought a dish of olives.

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Bar Los Diamantes II, Granada, 1/23/20

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There are several locations of the Los Diamantes tapas bar, but they all specialize in seafood and have different atmospheres.  This one was a little larger and brightly lit. As with most of the tapa bars in Granada, the place serves you food with each round of drinks.  It had different age groups but most all were drinking beer.  They had the small glasses lined up on the counter filled with ice water.  When you order a beer they pour that ice water in another glass and run the beer into the chilled glass.  The beers come in 2 sizes but you’re best to order small ones because you get the same food whether you have a large or small pour.  This place didn’t have a lot of decorations it mostly was decorated with tons of people at the long counter.  There were a few high top tables in the large part of the room and people gathered about them.  Along the narrow hall to the bathroom were a few wall shelves and people were there too.  The crowd came and went constantly but the pace was always busy and fast. Continue reading