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

S2S Sugar 2 Salt, Traverse City, 10/1/21

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S 2 S or now Sugar 2 Salt started out as Sunrise to Sunset but when the owners came together they realized it was more sugar to salt as they wanted to serve breakfast.  The menu changes with the seasons and availability.  It is located in the complex that long ago housed a mental health hospital.  They have indoor as well as a large outdoor dining area.  Inside much of the room is taken up by a bar, the front of which is a case for pastries.   A large window to the kitchen serves as a pass through also, where you can see the single chef making and assembling the plates.   It is casual and laid back with lots of signs on the walls and herbs hanging overhead.  The white walls reflect all the sun that comes in the front windows to make it quite well lit.  With a concrete floor it looked like it could get noisy if it was full.  The staff was friendly and helpful. Continue reading

Trattoria Stella, Traverse City, 9/30/21

building

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

Farm Club, Traverse City, 9/30/21

front

Farm Club is a collaboration of several people to offer a restaurant, bakery, brewery and general store in one place on the Leelanau Peninsula.  The sales area and restaurant are in a modern barn with tons of windows that look out at the additional outside seating areas.  The brewery is on one end of the building and we didn’t go there but you can order their beer with lunch.  At the entrance are shelves of products and produce you can buy as well as breads, cookies, etc.  Light wood is on the tables, cabinets and bench seats, concrete is on the floor and music is in the background.  There is lots of outdoor seating and some tables have umbrellas.  Inside there is table service but for outside you make you order and come get it when your buzzer goes off. Staff were efficient and helpful, but the food was souless – good but not great.  Given its freshness things should have been more flavorful and some of the preparation was lacking. 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

Carte Blanche (update),Dallas, 10/12/21

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Now that they’ve been open several months we wanted to re-visit Carte Blanche and see how it’s evolved, and I’m happy to say they’ve made some positive changes to the place and menu.   It’s more subdued inside with lights from the kitchen being dampened by a partial shield and curtains added for the front windows. Parking out back is now well marked, there are way more people in the kitchen, the wine list has greatly expanded, flatware is delivered by servers (instead of the roll up) mellow music is in the background and the interior bar has lost the rail and hanging baskets.  It’s a lot of little things but they all add up to a more elegant and softer ambiance all while providing excellent service and delicious and beautiful food.  Put it on your list to visit Carte Blanche and enjoy the tasting menu of Chef Casey La Rue’s dishes. 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

building

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

Exterior

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

Duff’s Famous Wings, Buffalo, 9/1/21

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Duff’s Famous Wings starting serving wings in 1969 and by 1985 established that their wings were indeed famous in Buffalo, NY.  Duff’s started in Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo in 1946 as a bar.  It is a ‘classic’ in Buffalo with numerous locations.  We tried one in Depew, another suburb, that was close to the airport.  It was a large sterile place with a big parking lot.  Inside was a large bar and many booth-like tables.  The menu offered wings by the count, not pound but also had salads, wraps and sandwiches.  The wings come in several degrees of hotness and with your choice of dipping sauce, but blue cheese is standard.  We had an order of 10 of medium (which is called hot) that came with a couple stalks of unpeeled celery and milled carrots.  The blue cheese dip was tasteless and the medium was what I’d call mildly hot.  The thick sauce adhered to the chicken well and had a nice lingering spiciness in the mouth.  The drummies were on the dry side but the flats had good moistness.  Overall I wouldn’t call them anything special and can getter better in the bars in Texas. Continue reading

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

front door

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

Arborvine, Blue Hill, ME., 8/28/21

building

Arborvine is a large restaurant in Blue Hill, Maine that has been serving locally sourced American cuisine for 21 years.  They have turned an 1823 farmhouse into a fine dining establishment with fireplaces, area rugs, memoriabilia and cozy window filled rooms.   Music is softly played in the background and there’s lots of flowers.  A large outdoor patio is covered but open air for those that want to eat outside, but I thought it was too bright compared to the soft lighting inside. Continue reading

Captain’s Catch, Castine, 8/28/21

order window

Captain’s Catch is a little shack by the wharf area in Castine, ME.  The building was given by the Castine Community Partners for the greater good of the area.  It does a lot of ice cream and hot dog business but the also have an excellent lobster roll.   We found it walking around the shops and the boats for the Maritime School.  The roll came on a butter toasted piece of bread and was stuffed with lobster chunks in Mayo dressing.  The lobster tasted fresh and sweet and the butter on the bread added more flavor as well as texture to the sandwich.  Stop by if you’re in the area.  Can’t comment on any of their other items. Continue reading

Bagaduce Lunch, Penobscot, ME., 8/28/21

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Bagaduce Lunch was opened as a roadside fish shack in 1946 in Brooksville Maine.  The original owner’s granddaughter and husband have run the place for 25 years.  They have a system where you order at the window and they call your number when it’s ready.  The area behind the restaurant is set up with picnic tables, outhouses and trash cans.  The site is on the water and so it is lovely backdrop.  The place states they serve only fresh and locally sourced seafood.  The cooking process has not changed since they opened and everything is fried.  It was a strange thing how each item worked differently with the same coating.  They won a James Beard Award in 2008 and are really popular. Continue reading

The Hichborn, Stockton Springs, ME., 8/27/21

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The Hichborn is in a large historic house with bare wood tables, faint music in the background, lots of art on the walls (for sale), numerous plants, sound dampening panels on the ceiling and lowered lighting.  The house is named for Nathan Hichborn a prolific boat builder who was also a politician.   Owner Kirk Linder manages the front while his partner Charlie Zorich serves as chef in back.  They offer only a printed tasting menu (with a couple extras thrown in) with optional wine pairings for a capacity of about 30.  There is a full bar for cocktails as well as a wine by the glass or bottle menu.  We chose the pairings and while they were well matched with the courses they were small pours and not topped off, especially when they were meant to go with extra courses. Both the owner and chef did come by and introduce themselves, which was very nice. Continue reading

Tinder Hearth, Brooksville, ME., 8/27/21

front

Tinder Hearth is a wood fired bakery of pastry, bread and pizza.  The owners, Tim and Lydia Semmler, started the bakery in 2007 and they added making pizza a few years after that.  They currently make pizza on Tuesday – Friday nights (this will change when the weather gets colder) for take out and outdoor dining but reservations are required for either option.  You need to call (207-326-8381) on the Tuesday morning of the week you want to come and make a reservation – and they go fast.  They also offer salad, ice cream and beverages.  There was a good amount of on-site parking  and then you walk up to the check in booth where you will be assigned a table and given your water, glasses, plates and flatware.   A separate ‘building’ sold the flavored beverages including wine and beer.  The tables are spaced throughout the garden area and there is a good sized sand pile for the little ones to play in.  Hours are from 4:30 to 8:00 and the menu is posted weekly on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Continue reading

Perry’s Lobster Shack, Surry, ME., 8/27/21

service area

Perry’s Lobster Shack is in Surry, ME.   Everything here is outdoors with picnic tables on the grounds and out on a private peer.  Some have umbrellas for sun and others do not.  Parking is across the road. The place overlooks the waterfront and boats will pull up and sell their catch. This place seemed out in nowhere but was really popular.  The server brought a bucket to the table for shells and trash.  The seafood is outstanding, the service is efficient and the view is outstanding. Continue reading

Pentagoet Inn & Wine Bar, Castine, ME., 8/26/21

exterior of Inn

The Baron Pub and Wine Bar is in the Pentagoet Inn in Castine, Maine.   The place dates back to the 1800’s and is an old house with lots of rooms set up with tables.  On the wraparound porch are more tables.  Lots of art is on the walls as well as memorabilia, rugs are on the old wood floors, music is playing softly in the background, lighting is lowered and lots of windows let in light and/or view.   Fans were running because it was warm outside and there is no air conditioning.  It’s full of character and the food is good, although portions are on the small side.  The really friendly staff are helpful and friendly. Continue reading

F Street Station (update), Anchorage, AK., 8/1/21

exterior, 325 F Street, Anchorage, AK., 99501 / 907-272-5196

Frankie visited F Street Station almost 3 years ago and it hasn’t changed much. We saw the same chef in the kitchen and the place is very popular.  They have a number of beers, cocktails and wines by the glass and bottle.  The cheese hunk was back after having disappeared during the height of Covid, but it still wasn’t getting much action.  They offer lots of seafood and had our favorite fried halibut during our last trip and I’m here to tell you it is still excellent. Continue reading

Chugiak Cafe, Chugiak, AK., 8/1/21

drive through line

Chugiak Cafe is about 20 miles outside of Anchorage and worth the drive.  It started about 7 years ago (by my best information) in what was an old WWII barracks.  After about 3 years owner Trig Bjorklund had to expand to 2 more rooms to accommodate guests.  Then Covid 19 hit and they changed the system to drive-through only.  Tables outdoors are now set up, each set with a box of napkins, utensils and other needs and the front door is open if you want to eat inside.  However there is no staff to clean up after you or take orders, just put your trash in the convenient cans or take your food to another location.  To expedite the process a person is out front to take your order and hand it in to the kitchen who will then give it to the pick-up window.  The system works well and there are beautiful flowers and fun decorations for you to look at as you drive through the line.  Inside is a treasure trove of a lifetime’s memorabilia that is not to be missed.  Particularly the 1910 coffee roaster that roasts their coffee in small batches.  But the best part is the honest, wonderful food. Continue reading

Altura Bistro, Anchorage, 7/31/21

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Altura Bistro opened in 2019 and serves New American cuisine in a less casual atmosphere.  Located in a strip shopping center outside of the downtown area they were still very much practicing Covid separation of guests.  Along one side of the room was bench seating for 2-top tables and opposite were booths.  A couple tables were in the middle of the room.  The tables were bare wood and set with black cloth napkins.  Windows to the outside were partially shaded but the sun streamed in for a good part of the evening, defeating the low light chandeliers.   The other room had the bar and a few stools facing the bar and a couple small tables along the wall.  It was not clear if these tables were for walk-ins.  Music was in the background.  Service was so-so, with timing issues, not clearing or wiping between courses and less than good advice on ordering. Continue reading

Denali Brewpub, Talkeetna AK., 7/31/21

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Denali Brewpub is in the center of the small town of Talkeetna, nestled at the base of Denali. It is a large place with guests being those arriving by train, outdoor enthusiasts and families.  Dogs are welcome on the large outdoor patio.  Inside there is a log cabin feel with wood ceiling, walls and floor along with a large fireplace.  A bar dominates one of the several rooms and the kitchen is in back.  Lots of decorations adorn the walls, including some of the things for sale.  There is free wi-fi and music is in the background.  A large number of beers are from their brewery that is close by.  Service was good and very friendly but lunch does start at 11:00 not at 10:00 which was on the website. Continue reading

Talkeetna Spinach Bread Airstream, Talkeetna, AK., 7/31/21

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Spinach Bread has been available in Alaska for 20 years.  We found it in the small town of Talkeetna where the Airstream trailer is parked and open for business every day but Tuesday.  There are tables set up out front and a small menu to chose from.  The spinach bread is made with a spent grain bread base and then covered with a mix of cheese, garlic and spinach.  Hot sauce is optional and I advise adding it. They heat it while you wait at the window and you can see the server cut it into strips for easy eating.  It had a wonderful bread base and just the right amount of toppings.  Full of flavor and texture it was a perfect snack or meal, depending on how much you order.  With it we had the Brazilian limeade which is made with fresh limes, organic sugar, a touch of sweetened condensed milk and water.  It was slightly thick and cool with a perfect blend of sweet and tart.  There’s some good food coming out of this food truck! Continue reading

The Marx Bros. Cafe (update), Anchorage, 7/30/21

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We last visited the Marx Bros. Cafe in 2018 and gave lots of history in the that write up.  The two rooms now seem to have less tables, probably to do with Covid.  Otherwise it looked very similar with music in the background and the front door open for ventilation.  It is a more elegant spot on the Anchorage dining scene and lots of special occasions were being celebrated the night we were there.  The food is good but seemed more tired this visit. Continue reading

The White Spot, Anchorage, 7/30/21

exterior
109 W. 4th Ave., 907-279-3954

The White Spot is in downtown Anchorage and even though the street out front was closed for repair the place was still packed with customers eating in and picking up to go orders. There are several tables but the best seats are at the counter overlooking the small kitchen show.  They are known for the halibut sandwich but you’ll find lots of house made, fresh options here.  The current owners have had the place five and a half years but it obviously goes way back.  An interim owner was an Italian lady that brought the place to notoriety according to the current owner.  The cook, Frank, was an amazing show to watch as he freshly breaded mushrooms, onion and the famed halibut for the sandwich all while grilling whatever.  The staff were all super friendly and it was such a fun tasty spot to have on our agenda, I recommend you try it when you’re in the area.  They are only open for lunch and breakfast (for which I could find no menu). Continue reading

Colony Kitchen/ Noisy Goose Cafe, Palmer, AK., 7/30/21

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The Colony Kitchen started in 1985 in downtown Palmer as the Frontier Café and moved to the present location in 1989 and became the Colony Kitchen but is more often referred to as the Noisy Goose Cafe.  The name is representative of the casual and conversational nature of the guests and staff.  Portions of the home-style cuisine are large and service is efficient.  The food is well prepared but on the bland side for me but nevertheless, even with Covid the place was incredibly busy.  Large groups, couples and families from all walks of life found it the place to go.  The walls are covered with stuffed birds, antlers, photos of animals and signs.  Several wooden bears are also placed around as well as a stuffed real bear and faint music is in the background.  Many windows add to the light level inside.  Outside there is a wrap around deck and a combination of booths and tables fill the inside. A scrambler option was offered as a daily special. Continue reading

Club Paris (update), Anchorage, 7/29/21

Club Paris was visited by Frankie in 2018 for lunch so this visit we decided to have dinner.  It is an old school place but the interior has been changed quite a bit to deal with the Covid pandemic.  Tables are now separated by dividers and so room shots are difficult.  The building dates back 100 years and the current restaurant to the 1950s when I understand the owner married a French woman and he decorated the place with lots of Paris images to make her feel at home. The Selman family bought it in the 1970s with many of the staff having worked there for more than 25 years.  They are known for their steaks and seafood as well as their pink neon sign out front featuring an Eiffel Tower.  It is a long space with a curved bar taking up most of the front room.  Music is in the background, the lights are low and they did have one nightly special to add to the menu.  Their wine selection was not as appealing as their cocktails so we enjoyed martinis with dinner. Continue reading

Ray’s Waterfront, Seward, AK., 7/29/21

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Ray’s Waterfront is a seafood restaurant that offers views of the Seward small boat harbor and mountains beyond.  It is a large place on a couple levels, to afford everyone a view.  The walls are decorated with lots of mounted fish in between the numerous windows that overlook the water. Seward is the sight for many day cruises to go see wildlife, icebergs, etc.  They take no reservations and are fairly popular so you can expect a line to get a seat, especially now that they are short staffed due to Covid.  Music is in the background and it seemed to be a place for gatherings.  In addition to seafood they also offer chicken and beef items and there were a couple of daily specials.  The food here is good but fairly ordinary however it is made up for with the fun view of the active harbor. Continue reading

Café Beaujolais (The Brickery), Mendocino, CA., 7/23/21

indoor restaurant

The Brickery is the pizza part of Café Beaujolais’, a complex of restaurants in the artsy town of Mendocino.  On the street is Café Beaujolais, a fine dining option open for dinner and in front of the Brickery is The Waiting Room which is a coffee and pastry shop till dinner time when it becomes a lounge.  It is a bit confusing at first but we followed the path between the buildings and found ourselves in a lovely garden area furnished with an assortment of tables and a window to place your order.  The daily menu and specials are written on chalkboards that hang on either side of the order window.  Inside you can see the fired brick oven where the pizza is cooked.  They also sell beer and wine along with offering a free jug of iced water.  After you order you get a buzzer that makes a noise when you can walk back to the other window and pick up your pie.  It is a truly lovely spot with good pizza.  You can visit the Waiting Room up near the street if you need a bathroom break. Continue reading

Harbor House Inn Restaurant (update), Elk, CA., 7/22 & 23/21

exterior (5600 CA-1, Elk, CA, 95432 / (707)-877-3203)

The  Harbor House Restaurant is the Michelin starred restaurant in the Harbor House Inn in Elk, CA (Mendocino County).  Super talented Chef Matt Kammerer and his excellent staff continue to turn out innovative and delicious tasting menus and thus Frankie chose to re-visit.  The Inn is still lovely and they are now able to seat guests inside as well as outside, all over-looking the beautiful coast line.  We were lucky to eat there 2 consecutive nights and Chef Kammerer was kind enough to make changes for the second night’s dining.  They have a small kitchen so some dishes were repeated but there were a number of different dishes.  I’ll present the two night’s meals but may omit photos for repeats, depending on which night I got the better photo.  Frankie and I highly recommend visiting and if you can even stay at the Inn.  The staff will make you feel very welcome and do allow several hours for the meal. Continue reading

Catelli’s Restaurant, Geyserville, CA., 7/22/21

exterior

Catelli’s has been around since the 1930s in Geyserville, CA.  Opened by Italian immigrants, it is now run by third-generation siblings in the Catelli family.  They feature local ingredients, hand-craft their ravioli and have many local wines.  They currently offer patio and indoor seating as well as takeout on Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. Located in a two-story brick building on the main drag of Geyserville, it is a large place.  The entry room contains a long bar and the other 2 rooms have bench seating around the walls with bare wood tables  and some center tables and chairs.  Tables are set with a cloth napkin that contains the flatware.  Music is in the background, acoustic tiles are in the ceiling and windows are uncovered to the street.  Some decorations and art are placed about as well as historic photos.  Service was friendly and efficient, but be aware of numerous upcharges on innocently offered personalizations. Continue reading

Carte Blanche, Dallas, 6/29/21

exterior

Carte Blanche opened in mid-June in the space previously occupied by Mudsmith Coffee on lower Greenville Ave.  In the evening it offers a fine dining tasting menu and in the day it sells baked goods and coffee.  The 4 or 12 course tasting menus are offered Tues – Sat.  Husband and wife, Casey and Amy La Rue are the co-owners and chef and pastry chef, respectively.  The tasting menu features native Texas ingredients and wine pairings are available.  One interesting fact is that he doesn’t serve beef, focusing instead on smaller animals but the menu does stress seasonal items and will change regularly.  Inside the large area are well spaced fairly large bare wood tables divided into 2 sides by a huge bar, which holds the pastries in the morning.  Exposed ductwork runs across the high ceiling, art decorates the walls and music is in the background.  The tables are set with a nice cloth napkin and a wrap of flatware that you chose from during the meal.  We had the 12 course tasting and wine pairings however should I go back I would order my own wine.  Portion control was good as was pacing, however the meal was over 2 and a half hours. Continue reading

Nelscott Breakfast House, Lincoln City, OR., 6/26/21

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Nelscott Breakfast House alternately called Nelscott Café is a small coastal cafe offering breakfast and lunch items. Located in Lincoln City, their patio welcomes dogs too and there are special items available just for our canine companions.  It’s in a strip of shops along the highway in what looks like a house and was started around 2009 by a couple with the names Nelson and Scott, but it has changed hands a number of times.  Inside you find a number of tables and stairs to another level of seating as well as a door to the patio.  Plenty were also getting food to-go.  A pass through window to the kitchen lets you get a small peek at the action, windows are all around, music is in the background and happy people are everywhere.  Service was outstanding – they promptly took our order and food was out quickly, which was great as we were on our way to the airport. The menu has a good selection of sweet or savory dishes but there are also specials, which were noted out front.  I would go back if I am ever anywhere close.    Continue reading

Local Ocean Seafoods, Newport, OR., 6/26/21

exterior

Local Ocean Seafoods specializes in sustainable wild seafood from Oregon and has a retail outlet downstairs with dining rooms upstairs.  Opening in 2005, the lively fish counter on the ground level notes which vessel caught the fish and the technique used.  Owner Laura Anderson is the daughter of a commercial fisherman and has a Masters degree in Marine Resource Management. The dining room has windows looking out on the working port (Yaquina Bay) with fishing boats coming and going.  When you visit know that there is dedicated parking in the lot adjacent to their building otherwise it is hard to find a free space.  In the dining room, small light wood tables are set with matching wood chairs, no music is in the background and there is a bar area with some high-top tables for seating. Continue reading

Restaurant Beck (update), Depoe Bay, OR., 6/24-26/21

sign at the inn

We visited Restaurant Beck and stayed at the beautiful Whale Cove Inn about one year ago.  The facility hasn’t changed but the town of Depoe Bay has revitalized with the dispersal of a vaccine for Covid.  Since there are the previous entries on this lovely place I thought I’d make one post of the 3 dinners we had there.  They still offer three and five course tastings as well as an a la carte menu (wine pairings are available). The first night we enjoyed the 5 course tasting menu, but last year we realized that with their small menu, changing what we get every night is not possible.  So the second two nights we ordered a la carte.  I will post pictures of the items but not repeat pictures if we had the same item another night.  They still have a limited bar as well as bottles of wine.  It is a beautiful and tasty place to stay and/or eat. Continue reading

The Schooner Restaurant & Lounge, Netarts, OR., 6/25/21

exterior

The Schooner Restaurant and Lounge is located at the boat launch for Netarts Bay on the Tillamook Coast.  The source of most of their oysters is from the bay next door and the rest of their seafood is mostly locally sourced.  During lunch we watched a number of small boats launch into the bay and clam diggers hunt for clams.  They are quite popular and there was a line when we arrived at the opening hour.  Most wanted to sit on the large outdoor deck but we chose inside where you could watch the kitchen and wood fired oven.  Indoor the bar is separate from the dining area that has a combination of copper topped tables and booths.  Service was hurried and poor – for example we were told when the server arrived that the daily special was all gone (15 minutes after they opened) then later were told it was still available but she could not change the order we placed. Continue reading

Side Door Cafe, Gleneden Beach, OR., 6/24/21

exterior

Side Door Café is in an old brick and tile factory building.  It’s the restaurant part of the 7,000 sq. ft. warehouse also home to Eden Hall that all opened in 2000.  Family owned and run it serves New American dishes in an eclectic space decorated with many re-claimed items from other Oregon buildings.  They have some daily specials to add to the already large menu.  Their hours are shorter now and tables well spaced due to Covid, so changes may be coming in those areas. Lots of windows in the building add to the lighting during daytime and instrumental music is in the background.  The high ceiling is filled with fans and decorations are everywhere.  There were 2 large rooms, the first one having some booth seating and the second strung with little lights. Continue reading

Tasting Counter, Somerville, MA, 6/12/21

exterior of building

Tasting Counter is a dining room/kitchen experience for the diner.  A 9 course tasting menu is offered to all diners with optional wine pairings and vegetarian options.  Choices are made when you book your reservation, offered Thursday through Sunday at 5:00 and 7:30 pm.   The pre-paid tickets include the menu, beverages, service and tax.  The menu is a surprise but guests receive a copy with their Parting Morsels.  Chef Peter Ungár opened the restaurant in 2015 and is in the kitchen and makes all the explanations of the courses.  The restaurant is located in a building that houses a large brewery.  We sat at some of their extra tables while we waited for the doors to open.   Inside there were 12 of us at the counter but I read they can seat up to 20, so I suspect they were still trying to keep people spaced for Covid-19.  Inside it is fairly bright, music was in the background and the walls are decorated with preserving foods and wine bottles.   Pacing was excellent and portion control was great. Continue reading

James Hook and Company, Boston, 6/12/21

sign on building

James Hook and Co. started in 1925 with a father and his 3 sons trucking their catch to Boston.  It is still a family run business with 4 of the third generation siblings.  Somewhere along the line they developed retail outlets while still selling to restaurants and shipping across the U.S.   We visited a retail site near the water that also had a food truck on premises selling options.  Inside the little house were a couple tables to eat but mostly had tanks containing various sizes of lobsters and shelves with memorabilia and cooking supplies.  The retail counter had a number of fish and shellfish but also the lobster rolls, which they are famous for.  They come in 2 sizes and are cold with mayo or hot with butter.  Outside at the truck you could get the mayo variety and whole cooked lobsters as well as soups and some sides.  There is a large outdoor seating area to enjoy your selections. Continue reading

Santarpio’s Pizza, Boston, 6/12/21

building

Santarpio’s Pizza in east Boston is in a corner building that was a bakery in 1903.  In the 30’s the Santarpio family began selling New York style pizza from there and they still are along with barbecued lamb, beef and sausage.  It is open daily and accepts only cash.  Walls are adorned with boxing paraphernalia and posters.  There are 2 main rooms filled with booths and tables along with a long bar divided from the rooms by a partition.  The grill area is at one end of the bar whereas the pizza oven is in the back of the two dining rooms.  The bar sells beer and wine, which is also available by carafe.  The lighting is lowered and no music is in the background.  Staff was friendly and helpful. Continue reading

Stages at One Washington, Dover, N.H., 6/11/21

building

Stages at One Washington is in the small town of Dover, NH on the third floor of an historic mill building.  Chef Evan Hennessey offers just 6 seats for his fixed price tasting menu Thursday thru Saturday evenings.  There are 2 seatings each night but he recently added “the Living Room” which is not only a place to wait for your seating but also where you can get some of his fabulous food and drinks in a no-reservations setting resembling a living room.  It is in the room adjacent to the kitchen where for nine years the lucky few are seated at a counter and can casually converse with the chef while he prepares your food and/or pours your wine.  Pairings are available as are a number of cocktails and bottles of wine.  The meal is 8-10 courses and no menu is provided as he often changes as he goes along with a menu that features local farms and foraged ingredients. (I wrote as fast as I could but apologies if I didn’t get all the ingredients or preparations written down.)  It is full of interesting combinations and lots of flavors in the foods.  Definitely off the beaten path, but if you have a chance to eat with this native chef of Dover, I suggest you jump on it. Continue reading

Earl’s Steak Sandwiches, Dover, N.H., 6/11/21

exterior (99 Oak St., Dover)

Earl’s Steak Sandwiches is family owned and specializes in shaved beef sandwiches.  Wife Mo (Maureen) Donovan works the floor, husband Jim cooks and their daughter Sophie, who is 10, makes rings and bracelets to sell in one of the booths.  Opening in October, in a location that had previously been a diner,  during the Covid pandemic they rose to the challenge by concentrating on take-out until indoor dining resumed.  The decor features a ‘vintage car theme’ with old hot rod magazines at the table and the walls decorated with oil signs and car parts.  The inside area is small, with a few counter stools, but there also is a good number of outdoor tables.  Behind the counter is a window to the kitchen where you can see, hear and smell the owner’s cooking.  One of the booths is “reserved for Earl” which is where the daughter assembles and sells her jewelry.  Earl has a photo but it is actually not a family member, they just liked his name.   They cure their own meats and make their own sauces. Continue reading

E Bar Tex Mex (update), Dallas, 5/27/21

 

building

Our last visit to E Bar Tex Mex was in 2018 and I wanted to update it as I was not wowed by the food on that visit but speculated that you had to find the items that spoke to you.  They continue to get crowds and now I know why cause I’ve found my item – Jorge’s Tacos.  The place is physically about the same except they’ve added a non-enclosed tent next to the enclosed one and their name is on a nearby parking lot to provide additional parking. Service is good, helpful and friendly. Continue reading

Suraya, Philadelphia, 5/22/21

building

Suraya is a Lebanese restaurant in Fishtown that started as a bakery and market.  In 2018 it opened a huge dining room and large outdoor patio for evening service.  Across from the seated area is the large open kitchen, surrounded by bar seating that was not used probably due to Covid.  Sections of the dining room have partitions between them.  Booth seating is matched with armed chairs with music in the background.  It is a striking, stylish place.  On weekends they have a brunch menu where you get a set of cold mezze served with pita and then chose a mashawi for a fixed price.  They also offer 2 possible sides and whatever pastries you want from the bakery.  A server brings your food, wine and whatever you might need but you order and pay through the QR code on the table. Continue reading

Vetri Cucina (update), Philadelphia, 5/22/21

mural on the outside of the building

Vetri Cucina opened in 1998 through the collaboration of Chef Marc Vetri and business partner Jeff Benjamin.  In 2005 Chef Vetri was named Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Awards.  Frankie last visited here in 2014 and although the menu has changed the format is still the same and the giant mural of Chef and others is still on the side of the building. The 3 story building has the Vetri dining room on the first floor with private parties, classes and events taking up the higher 2 floors.  The lights are lowered, music is in the background, old wood floors are opposite Italian chandeliers with the glasses on the table also being Italian. They offer all diners a 4 course fixed price menu where you choose from several options.  You can add an add several supplements for a fee.  Wine pairings are available but the sommelier was able to help us pick a great bottle to go with our meal.   Service is fabulous with great pacing and portion control.  I highly recommend this place. Continue reading

Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia, 5/21/21

exterior

Vernick Food & Wine (2031 Walnut St., Philadelphia) opened in 2012 by Chef Greg Vernick, who won the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation in 2017.   He serves “an honest, no-fuss menu featuring his version of new American cooking.”  The menu is divided into small and large plates with some sides to supplement.  This is a place where a tasting menu would be fun – to have more dishes in smaller quantities.  There are a couple outdoor tables but otherwise dining is in a relatively small room upstairs across from the 2 windows to the kitchen.  They offer dinner only with a few seasonal specials and you have a 2 hour window for your reservation. The full bar downstairs offers lots of cocktails to those at the small light wood tables in lowered lighting.  Music is in the background.  Service was helpful and friendly but pacing of service felt hurried with the small table getting crowded. Continue reading

Cleavers, Philadelphia, 5/21/21

exterior

Cleavers opened in March 2016 near Rittenhouse Park (108 S. 18th St., Philadelphia).  They use 100% domestic ribeye meat in the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich creations and freshly baked bread.  The menu has a chicken version made from fresh chicken breasts or a vegetarian option from Portobello mushrooms.  Also they have salads, sides and a full bar. They are open 7 days a week, do take-out and have dine in and out seating.  We chose to sit inside near the bar to enjoy their wonderful air-conditioning on a warm day in Philadelphia.  The bar has multiple cocktails and an amazing number of tap beers.  We tried one of the latter. Continue reading

DanDan, Philadelphia, 5/21/21

exterior

DanDan (126 S. 16th St., Philadelphia) serves Sichuan and Taiwanese dishes along with having a full bar.  It is a smaller place in Rittenhouse Square that also offers some outdoor seating.  Inside the downstairs has counter seating around the bar and in the window.  Upstairs are multiple tables in different combinations of sizes.  The spheres that are the light fixtures hang from the ceiling and give it a fun view from upstairs.  They appeared to do a lively takeout business but were not busy at any of the tables, but we were early. Music is in the background and some paintings are on the walls.  It is a large menu but several favorites had been suggested by local magazines and we got most of them.  This place got rave reviews but we seemed to hit it on an off day. Continue reading

Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia, 5/20/21

building

Friday Saturday Sunday is a small restaurant that is actually open Thurs. through Sat. evenings.  Chef Chad Williams offers only an 8 course tasting menu and 5:00 and 8:00 seating times.  He and his wife Hanna took over the Rittenhouse Square restaurant in 2017.  Covid has restricted dining to the second level (no elevator) of well spaced tables and the bar on the first floor only makes drinks.  The couple tables outside are for cocktails.  Benches line the walls of the second floor and face the tables set with armless chairs. Fairly loud music is in the background and there are dampening panels on the ceiling.  One wall holds a number of large paintings of lush scenery with a large metal palm tree in the middle while the opposite wall has windows and mirrors.  No wine pairings were offered so we ordered our own bottles of wine.  The meal had good portion control and pacing. Continue reading

Parc, Philadelphia, 5/20/21

entrance

Parc is an all day restaurant designed to represent a French sidewalk café.  It is a large, extremely popular place with inside dining in many rooms and more than 75 outdoor covered and uncovered spaces to dine.  Restaurateur Stephan Starr brought this place to a corner lot in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.  Inside dark wood tables are well spaced and set with red napkins to match the red booth seating along the walls.  Old wood floors are juxtaposed with elegant tile ones, especially around the large bar that was currently not in use.  On the table are a special set of directions about Covid and their policies – notably that you have just 90 minutes for your table, that you are not to move any of it and must wear a mask when not seated. We also found that they would not seat you until your exact reservation time.  It felt stiff but the lovely server soon relaxed the vibe.  The menu has a good range of things but there are even more drink options.  We got a bottle of sparkler to go with our meal. Continue reading

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, 5/20/21

Market exterior

Reading Terminal Market is one of America’s oldest and largest public markets in a National Historic Landmark building. They have produce, meats, fish, flowers, cheese, bread and sweets to create your own meal or they have a number of restaurants. While we enjoyed walking the aisles and seeing what was for sale we tried two of the most famous sandwiches there -Tommy DiNic’s and Hershel’s East Side.  Both often have a line but we got there early and were able to easily buy from both and find a table in the center dining area, where all the tables are separated by plexiglas. Continue reading

Laurel, Philadelphia, 5/19/21

exterior

Laurel is an American restaurant with French influences. They have 2 rooms, one of which housed a large bar and the other the well-spaced tables and opening to the kitchen. There was also patio dining available. The bare wood tables are set with armless chairs in a room with lowered lighting and wood floors. Assorted rock music is in the background but sound panels on the ceiling help keep the noise level down. They offer only a surprise tasting menu and had one addition offered that evening- a 3oz Japanese A5 Wagyu beef for $75 designed to be split. The wine list was limited but they do offer pairings and limited bar service. We added the supplement and opted for the pairings (which turned out to be pretty small pours). Portion control and pacing of the menu were great. Chef de Cuisine that evening was Alex Beninato and the menu changes seasonally. Continue reading

HUDA, Philadelphia, 5/19/21

exterior

HUDA is “fast casual concept by Philadelphia based Chef Yehuda Sichel” who loves sandwiches. The sandwiches come on homemade milk buns and sourdough and they also offer salads. It’s a small shop with one indoor table and 4 outside ones. They do a lot of takeout. The menu uses seasonal and local ingredients and the staff were all super friendly. You go inside to place and pay for your order and then they bring it to your table. We went there for a late afternoon snack to split and it was perfect and really tasty. I’d go often if I had the chance. Continue reading

Le Bernardin, New York City, 4/12/21

entrance

It’s been several years since Frankie visited Le Bernardin, Chef Eric Ripert’s 3 Michelin starred restaurant.  It’s an elegant interior with lots of wood, windows, flowers and a massive wave art piece at one end.  In the daytime, light flows in through the windows but at night the lights are lowered and windows are shaded.  Now plexiglas partitions are between the tables and servers are masked.  Every table was full and turned by regulars and those celebrating something, but it was still easy to talk at the table.  Heavy white linens drape the smallish tables and service is excellent.  The menu offers 2 longer tastings, one seafood and one vegetarian, or a 4 course fixed price where you choose from a large selection in each section with an optional addition of a cheese course.  Wine pairings are available for the tasting.  In the front part of the restaurant is the Lounge with a limited menu. We decided on the Chef’s tasting menu and ordered our own wines. Continue reading

Keens Steakhouse, New York City, 5/11&12/21

front door

We last visited Keens Steakhouse in May of 2018 and this trip we made a visit to the pub for a late snack and had a full lunch with friends in the main dining room the next day.  It is dark wherever you sit so photos are harder but it is worth the visit.  The dark woods, white table clothes, tile floor in the bar and pipes on every square inch of ceiling, give it the feel of a classic.  For the pandemic they have erected individual pods outside that are still there even though NYC is now allowing indoor dining.  Inside the tables and bar stools are all separated by plexiglass barriers and seating is spaced.  The nice thing about that is that it made conversation very easy as did the relaxed pace our server gave us both  days.  The food was all very good and nicely prepared in generous portions.  They are famous for their mutton chop and this time we were smart and split one. Continue reading

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York City, 5/11/21

exterior of building

We were last at The Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in May of 2019 and not much has changed in the physical place but Covid 19 has made spacing between guests larger (50% capacity).  Brooklyn Fare is the grocery that is the front of the building and the Chef’s Table is in the rear.  Chef César Ramirez was in the kitchen and doing much of the plating of courses.  It is a tasting menu only with seats around a large C-shaped wood counter and booth seating around the perimeter.  The open kitchen is the center of the well lit room with older rock music in the background.  Wine pairings are available or bottles can be individually purchased.  There are a lot of staff and all are very friendly with guests but Ramirez is more about cooking than visiting with diners.  The beautifully presented luxury foods are filled with flavor and texture, but many of the courses were quite similar to what we had 2 years ago. Continue reading

El Zarco Restaurant and Cantina, Grand View, WI., 6/4/21

front

El Zarco is on US Highway 63 in Grand View, WI.  It offers “homestyle fresh Mexican Cuisine and hand crafted margaritas. “  They have been open 4 months in a building with 2 rooms, one of which is dominated by a pool table and bar and the other having a combination of tables and booths. The website said they open at 11:00 but the sign out front said noon however, the owner was kind enough to let us come in and start early. On weekends they open earlier and have brunch options. Inside are tile floors, wood ceiling, AC, music in the background and walls decorated with photos and memorabilia. Two TVs were in the bar area but both just streamed scenery visuals and they have free Wi-Fi. Talking with the owner he asked if it was our first visit and when we said yes he pulled out 3 flavors of tequila and said we were due a complimentary shot to welcome us. He was so nice and friendly it felt like we had been coming for years. I know I’ll be back. Continue reading

Delta Diner (update), Delta, WI, 5/3/21

exterior with coffee shop showing

Almost 2 years ago we visited the Delta Diner and that was an update on their new addition of a Chicken Shack and Tin Tap House to the left as you look at the Diner. Five years ago we looked at a lot of the food and some of my consistent favorites to order there, like the Deli sandwich.  But today we visited on a Burger Monday and that’s what they serve all day every Monday.  There are a number of ways to have your fresh meat patty prepared or you can enjoy the vegetarian option of a black bean burger.  All are served on soft, fresh griddle toasted buns.  After a long year of Covid closures and curbside service the Diner is finally open for limited inside seating.  New additions of partitions are between booths and stenciled with a drawing of the Diner.  They are incredibly tasteful and fit right in.  No plastic partitions and the staff are all properly masked and vaccinated. The counter stools are limited and space is left open between customers.   There are plenty of picnic tables with beautiful settings if you want to order and carry your food outside. Continue reading

Buskey Bay Resort, Iron River, 4/30/21

exterior

Buskey Bay Resort was previously Hyde’s and before that the Hermitage.  Deciding to make a change from their city lifestyle Chris and Brenda Diesing and Valerie and Kevin Zimmerman purchased it the first part of 2021.  Next to the restaurant/bar building are cabin rentals and across the highway is an available dock for your boat or pontoon rental.  Covid-19 has made it a challenging time to open but they are gradually being able to open back up with in house dining Wed. thru Sunday and specials most night.  Inside now you will find 2 rooms decorated with numerous animal head mounts shot by the owners and muted TVs.  The entrance room is surrounded by windows and the more interior room houses the large bar that does have stools available for drinking and/or dining.  Fun instrumental music was in the background and Chris was at the bar making cocktails.  Tables were well spaced and staff wore masks.  We went on a Friday which is fish fry and had good martinis to go with it.  The server was slow in getting our order but once it was in, service progressed rapidly. Continue reading

D’Andrews Bakery & Cafe, Nashville, 4/17/21

exterior

D’Andrews Bakery and Cafe in downtown Nashville was opened by David Andrews after studying his craft in NYC. It offers pastries, breads, coffees and sandwiches.  Everything in the restaurant is house made, even the meats are roasted and seasoned there and the mayo, etc is also made there.  Pastries are in the counter, and they will heat them for you.  There is a patio out front and some tables inside for dining.  Lots of folks got items to go.  Masks are required to enter and the line forms by the pastry counter.  It is well lit and you can watch Andrews making hot items on the stove behind.  Staff was friendly and helpful and the food was fantastic. Continue reading

Bastion, Nashville, 4/16/21

exterior

Bastion is a little different during Covid.  They are a 24 seat restaurant with dining Wed through Sat and a special small bar for restaurant guests however that is currently not open so dining is in the well spaced big bar and there is no chef counter.  I suspect that the set up will change as Covid becomes more under control.  Either way it is a comfortable place to sit and eat tasty food while listening to actual records being played.  Chef Josh Habiger serves a selection of seasonal, creative dishes in a casual atmosphere.  The ‘big bar’ area has a long bar counter and some tables, all well spaced.  Exposed duct work, brick walls, hanging lights and lots of art make it a visually interesting place to be.  The staff all worked together to give a fun and interactional dinner. We chose to have their wine pairings with the tasting. Continue reading

Manny’s House of Pizza, Nashville, 4/16/21

exterior

Manny’s House of Pizza is in the historic Arcade Building in downtown Nashville.  As you walk up don’t be surprised to see a line out the door but be assured it moves quickly and as you wait you can watch Manny toss the pizza dough and spread the tomato sauce.  Born in Sicily, Manny started in a Brooklyn pizzeria where he learned the skills needed to open his shop in the mid-80’s down in Nashville.  (His brother has a shop in Brentwood).  You can also get calzones, pastas, subs and pastas there but the majority in line with me were just getting a slice.  They are open weekday from 11 am to 4 pm.  When we went it was cash only. Continue reading

Arnold’s Country Kitchen, Nashville, 4/16/21

exterior

Arnold’s is an institution in Nashville.  Opened in 1982 by Jack and Rose Arnold, now their children run the place.  It has received acclaim from many publications like Southern Living, SAVEUR, and Bon Apetit and been featured on Diners, Drive in and Dives.  They received the James Beard Award in 2009.   It is a cafeteria style restaurant but don’t let that mislead you.   Food is made in house and in real southern style with fresh ingredients.  Their most popular order is meat and 3 sides.  The roast beef is a signature offering but the vegetables are well regarded.  We got there early to avoid the line but there is a parking lot adjacent to the building if you drive.  Presently they are only at 50% capacity due to Covid and there are less tables available. Cutlery is plastic, napkins are in a dispenser and salt and pepper are in packets as are other condiments.  They now have a bar where you can get cocktails or other alcoholic beverages but it didn’t appear to be open yet.  Servers on the line were helpful and friendly and well masked. Continue reading

Catbird Seat, Nashville, 4/15/21

entrance

We last visited the Catbird Seat in Sept of 2017 and they have changed teams since.  Chef Brian Baxter now leads the u-shaped kitchen of 22 lucky people who scored a seat at the serving bar.  His last cooking positions were at Husk and Bastion.  A ‘chef’s table’ has been added which is a booth for a party of 3-4 in the back corner of the room, but the counter does not get all 22 seats filled due to Covid restrictions.  When you arrive you see a wood door next to the Catbird sign but it is locked.  You can not enter until it is the exact time of your reservation.  Up the short flight of stairs is a ‘speak-easy’ bar that is a fun place to have a cocktail while you wait. Staff will come for you and then you can enter that door and ride in the elevator, complete with a bench, to the large room that houses the restaurant.  All diners are served a 10-12 course tasting and when you make your reservation you can request an extended tasting.  Pairings are available but you don’t have to decide on beverages until you arrive. We ordered the extended tasting and bought our own bottle of red wine and a glass of white to begin with.  Older rock music played in the background. Continue reading

Merchants Restaurant, Nashville, 4/15/21

exterior

Merchants Restaurant is in an historic building in downtown Nashville.  The 3 story building has a casual bistro and bar on the first floor, a steak house on the second level and private dining on the third story.  In 1988 Ed Stolman opened the restaurant as an upscale dining establishment.  In 2010 on the brink of closing again, Benjamin and Max Goldberg assumed control and started to make changes, but never closed. This 19th century building (1872) started as a 3 story pharmacy but has hosted a restaurant for 125 years now.  We ate lunch on the large street level floor which has 2 rooms divided by a large u-shaped bar.  Dark painted wood floors are well worn and complimented by black booths/chairs and the dark wood bar.  Brick is on many of the walls and there are lots of windows out to the street.  Oscillating fans hang from the ceiling, the tables and bar are topped with white marble, music is in the background and there is some wonderful old tile on some of the floor.  Booths are divided by plastic partitions for Covid 19 and the staff is well masked. Service was super friendly and not rushed. Continue reading

Henrietta Red, Nashville, 4/14/21

sign at door

Henrietta Red is the dream of Nashville born Julia Sullivan with a focus on fresh, simple ingredients and a variety of raw oysters and seafood.  The name is in honor of her grandparent’s low-country hospitality.  It is a fairly large place with widely spaced tables over 2 rooms and an overall modern feel.  The entry room contains the large bar as well as a few tables in a less lit space.  The second room has more lights, lots of windows, sound panels in the ceiling, the opening into the kitchen, a large center table for service and the oyster shucking area.  There is a wood fired oven in the kitchen and a patio for seating.  The menu has a number of smaller plates, larger main course plates – but all seemed fine to split.  Our friendly server was helpful in making selections and willing to bring out in a spaced format to create our own tasting of sorts.  Overall the food was delicious and full of wonderful flavors with good attention to textures and fun compositions. Continue reading

Capitol Grille, Nashville, 4/14/21

exterior of hotel (dining area along second floor windows)

The Capitol Grille is the restaurant in the Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville that originally opened as the Grille Room in 1910, serving traditional southern cooking.  Not associated with the chain of a similar name it is currently is being renovated and so is operating in the hotel lobby.  The hotel has partnered with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has restaurants in NYC, Paris, Shanghai and others to direct the food service once it re-opens in the fall.   The main dining room is on the street level and is currently closed so seating is on the second level enclosed terrace of the hotel, overlooking the 6th street entrance.  The present room has carpeting, coved painted ceilings, double clothed tables with coordinating napkins and music in the background.  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Tables were well spaced and service was friendly but not especially polished. Continue reading