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

exterior – 364 East Ave., Pawtucket, RI

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

Al Forno, Providence, 5/25/22

exterior –  577 South Water Street, Providence, RI

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

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

exterior – 18 Plainfield St., Providence, RI

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

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

exterior – 6064 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104

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

Block 16, Omaha, 5/7/22

exterior – 1611 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68106

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

V. Mertz, Omaha, 5/6/22

exterior – 1022 Howard St, Omaha, NE 68102

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

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

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

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

The Prime Rib, Baltimore, 5/1/22

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

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

Continue reading

Petit Louis Bistro, Baltimore, 5/1/22

building – 4800 Roland Ave, Baltimore, MD 21210

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

Magdalena, Baltimore, 4/30/22

exterior – 205 E Biddle St, Baltimore, MD 21202

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

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

exterior – 1019 E Lombard St, Baltimore, MD 21202

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

Charleston, Baltimore, 4/29/22

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

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

Shoyo, Dallas, 4/26/22

exterior – 1916 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75206

Shoyo, opened in fall 2021 on lower Greenville Ave.  It is a 12 seat Omakase restaurant, meaning the chef choses your menu.  Chef/owner Jimmy Park worked with Sous Chef William Yoon behind the counter to provide our meal, Chef Shin Kondo was missing ( instead there was a soft-spoken chef not authorized to make sushi).  Together they have more than 50 years of restaurant experience.  Reservations for the following month are released on the first of the month and go quickly.  There are 2 seatings, Tues through Sat, at 5:45 and 8:15, with dinner lasting about 2 hours. There is parking behind the building or as you can find it on the street.  There is a small waiting area until you are escorted to your seat the counter.   While getting settled you can order sake, wine or beer to go with the meal if you chose.  They have halves as well as full sized bottles of sake.  There is also a list of extra courses you can order toward the end of the meal. Continue reading

Carl’s Deli, Cincinnati, 4/23/22

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

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

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

exterior – 1420 Sycamore St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

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

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

building – 332 Ludlow Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220

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

Carmen’s Deli, Dayton, OH., 4/22/22

exterior – 40 N Main St, Dayton, OH 45423

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

Boca Restaurant, Cincinnati, 4/21/22

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

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

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

building – 718 W Pike St, Covington, KY 41011

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

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

exterior – 311 Delta Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45226

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

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

Camp Washington Chili, Cincinnati, 4/20/22

exterior – 3005 Colerain Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45225

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

Love That BBQ, Knoxville, 4/15/22

exterior – 1901 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920

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

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

entrance – 501 Union Ave SW, Knoxville, TN 37902

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

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

building – 1509 W Emory Rd, Powell, TN 37849

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

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

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

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

Cruze Farm Ice Cream, Knoxville, 4/13/22

exterior – 445 S Gay St #3, Knoxville, TN 37902

Cruze Farm Ice Cream is made with milk and churned buttermilk from Earl and Cheri Cruze’s farm’s hormone-free Jersey cows.  The farm was established in 1980 and their not-homogenized milk is sold at some local markets.  In 1992 the family branched out to open a scoop shop  selling hand dipped ice cream churned from their products at a Target.   It closed after 8 years and the family concentrated on their milk business.  When their daughter Colleen joined her goal was to sell all the surplus milk and an ice cream store was the best way to do that.  In 2016 Colleen and her husband opened a store on Union and one on Gay Street in 2017 with plans for more.  They serve only soft-serve ice cream and mix it with multiple other ingredients and flavors.  We tried a Sassy Cow which contained sweet cream dipped in chocolate and drizzled with caramel and then sprinkled with salt.  A half order if called a ‘calf’ and a whole one is a ‘cow.’  It came in a cup and the chocolate sauce froze into a crisp layer.  Underneath the ice cream was smooth but tasteless.  It was all about the texture and not the taste.  I’d stick with their milk products – they sound fun. Continue reading

Pete’s Restaurant, Knoxville, 4/13/22

building – 540 Union Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902

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

Oliver Royale, Knoxville, 4/12/22

exterior – 5 Market Square, Knoxville, TN 37902

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

Kilwins Knoxville, Knoxville, 4/12/22

exterior – 408 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902

Kilwins has been in operation since 1947 and is now open in downtown Knoxville.  They sell 32 flavors of ice cream made from original recipes.  Waffle cones are available and also waffle bowls.  When you enter the long shop the front is filled with candies, caramel apples, fudges and other packaged sweets.  The ice cream is further in the back along with some stools and counters where you can sit inside and enjoy your treats.  The first time we visited they were making the waffles for the cones and cups as well as dipping Granny Smith apples in caramel.  The smell was heavenly and made you want to induldge.  We tried the Tennessee River Mud which is vanilla ice cream  mixed with chocolate chips and caramel and a praline pecan ice cream.  The praline pecan won the flavor contest, hands down, but both had excellent density and smoothness to the ice cream.  We tried the waffle bowl and it was a totally ingenious way to combine an often problematic yet very tasty cone.  The bowl was inside a plastic one so you could crack it up and eat with the tasty ice cream.  Get in there and try it.  I did try one of the caramel pecan candies but the pecans were on their way to rancid so be cautioned on the candies. Continue reading

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

oysters – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

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

Roots Southern Table, Dallas, 4/7/22

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

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

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

exterior – 230 Market St, Pittsboro, NC 27312

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

Brewery Bhavana, Raleigh, 4/1/22

exterior – 218 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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

Herons, Cary, 3/31/22

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

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

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

exterior – 237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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

Crawford and Son, Raleigh, 3/30/22

exterior – 618 N Person St, Raleigh, NC 27604

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

King’s Sandwich Shop, Durham, 3/30/22

exterior – 701 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

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

Watkins Grill, Raleigh, 3/30/22

Exterior – 1625 Wake Forest Rd, Raleigh, NC 27604

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

Second Empire Restaurant, Raleigh, 3/29/22

front – 330 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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

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

exterior – 7 S West St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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

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

exterior – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

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

Charlie’s Steak House, New Orleans, 3/23/22

building – 4510 Dryades St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Charlie’s Steak House was started by Charlie Petrossi in 1952.  It’s one of New Orleans oldest steakhouses and prides itself on its unique service model.  There is no menu passed out, if you ask for one you are laughed at as a first-timer.  You simply tell your waiter which steak you want, how you want it cooked and the server will suggest your sides.  They were closed for 3 years after Hurricane Katrina and only opened after the family sold it to Matthew Dwyer who had lived nearby and helped with bartending duties.  He purchased Charlie’s in 2007 and re-opened in 2008 but tragically died at age 49 in the summer of 2020 as Covid was taking over. Several couples joined forces to have the historic restaurant start up again in January 2021.  They do have a menu on their website <charliessteakhousenola.com>, so look it over before you go.  The food is good not great but it’s fun to go to such a retro place. Continue reading

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

building – 1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 

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

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

exterior – 723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118

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

Domilise’s, New Orleans, 3/22/22

exterior – 5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115

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

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

exterior – 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

building – 14111 CA-128, Boonville, CA 95415

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

Harbor House Restaurant (second visit), Elk, 3/13/22

exterior – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Harbor House Restaurant had made a couple changes since our visit last summer.   Most importantly the wine list has really ramped up to include lots of French and Italian along with the large selection of Califorinia ones.   It’s an exciting list and Beverage director John Miller will lend wonderful help if you need it.  They also have added a pack of information cards to the table for you to take with you  and learn about the details of the place.  They cover the philosphy of the meal from Chef Matt Kammerer, a little history on the inn where it’s housed, about their new garden and ranch, their sustainability, cooking techniques and plateware and ceramics.  For their efforts to sustainability they’ve been awarded a Michelin Green Clover designation.  I can’t urge you enough to visit and enjoy a meal here! Continue reading

Trillium Cafe and Inn, Mendocino, CA., 3/13/22

exterior – 10390 Kasten St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Trillium Cafe serves lunch and dinner Friday thru Tuesday with indoor and outdoor seating.  It is on the bottom floor of the Inn of the same name in the heart of Mendocino.  On the second floor are several hotel rooms for guests.  Small tables are well spaced in the interior dining room and the patio winds around with a good supply of seating.  When you make reservations you can specify indoor or outdoor.  As it’s in an historic home, there are lots of windows to the street and a fireplace.  Art for sale is on the walls and there ‘s plenty of street parking.  It has obviously been restored with the old wood floors in good shape and the light fixtures replaced with those made by local artisans.  A bar was in a room to the right, when we entered but I only saw 2 vacant stools in front of it.  Service was friendly and efficient but not particularly knowledgable about the history of the place.  There were no daily specials just the changoing soup of the day flavor.  However when I compared the menu we had to what was on line there were some changes. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant, Elk, CA., 3/12/22

Harbor House building – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Frankie and I last visited the Harbor House Restaurant in Aug of 2021 and they were as pleased to welcome us back as we were to be there.  The 2 star Michelin Restaurant is run by Chef Matthew Kammerer in an inn built in 1916 by the Goodyear Lumber Company, to showcase their redwood empire.  They offer a tasting menu only that is determined by what is seasonally and sustainably available.  They have started a ranch/garden from which that bounty is now adding to their quality offerings.  Courses are thought out in detail but not overwrought with tweezer and squirt bottle decorating.  Many of their serving pieces are made by local artisans that add plenty of visual enhancements.  Service is top quality as is the view of the coast from the dining room.  This place is surely destined for a third star so book your reservation while you can still get in and if you can splurge for a room at the inn.  The breakfast the kitchen puts out for you the morning after is icing on the cake. We were lucky enough to get 2 nights there, so look for another array of lovely dishes from Chef Kammerer in a few days. Continue reading

Rollerville Café, Point Arena, CA., 3/12/22

building – 22900 Shoreline Hwy, Point Arena, CA 95468

Rollerville Café is a classic café serving lunch and breakfast in Point Arena, CA.   It opened in 2007 and is adjacent to a Lighthouse Pointe Resort that both claim to be the last stop before going to Hawaii and for fueling up to tour the nearby lighthouse attraction.  The interior is small but there is a patio with additional seating outside.  Some of the well spaced tables have fun salt & pepper sets as decorations.  There was faint music in the background – possible a radio in the kitchen and plenty of light in the room from all the windows.  There were daily specials for breakfast and lunch but serving time seemed to be divided by 11:00 am or noon on the weekend.  Service was friendly and efficient. It’s worth a visit. Continue reading

Valette, Healdsburg, 3/12/22

building – 344 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

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

Clary’s Cafe, Savannah, 3/4/22

exterior

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

Husk, Savannah, 3/3/22

building

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

Crystal Beer Parlor, Savannah, 3/3/22

Exterior

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

Continue reading

The Grey, Savannah, 3/2/22

exterior

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

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, Savannah, 3/2/22

Building (entrance at street level)

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room is at 107 West Jones Street and based on a boardinghouse concept of 2 hearty meals a day.  In 1943 Sema Wilkes decided to make her living offering lodging and homestyle Southern cooking served family-style downstairs.  A line begins forming before the 11:00 opening to get seats at one of the tables for 10 inside the dining room. The menu changes but there are staples that seem to regularly appear.  It is $30 per person, cash only and that includes tax, drink and dessert.  You pay as you leave and there is a jar if you want to add a tip.  When you enter the table is set with about 20 different dishes of food and they suggest a direction for passing around.  If one dish goes empty they will quickly bring more.  Beverages included tea, sweet and unsweet, and water.  It was a delightful meal filled with wonderful, fresh flavors and fun conversations.  You should go if you can. Continue reading

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

exterior – front

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

Leopold’s Ice Cream, Savannah, 3/1/22

building

Leopold’s Ice Cream was founded in 1919 by three brothers from Greece, with one of their sons taking over after his father’s passing.  He later went on to pursue his dream of working in Hollywood and memorabilia of his 50 years in the industry decorate the shop today.  Other members of the family continued the business and the flagship store re-opened in 2004.  You can find their product being served at restaurants around the city and at the airport.  All of their super-premium ice cream is hand crafted  using the original, secret recipes handed down by the 3 brothers.  Walking by the store there was always a line to get in.  Once inside there were movie posters and old family photos covering the walls.  Several ‘scoopers’ were waiting to take your order.   The ice cream was very smooth and dense.  They served  ice cream in sundae, cup or cone form along with a variety of drinks. Continue reading

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

entrance

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

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

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

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

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

Moody Tongue, Chicago, 2/23/22

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Moody Tongue expanded their brewery to include The Bar, a casual restarant with snacks and drinks, and The Dining Room, a fine dining option which is paired with beer at the highest caliber, striving to unite beer and cuisine in an unprecedented, interactive way.  Chef Jared Wentworth was recruited by Moody’s President and Brewmaster Jared Rouben when they expanded their operation to include fine dining in 2019.   The small 28 seat dining room offers only a 15 course tasting menu alongside specialty beer pairings.  The Dining Room has recieved a 2 Michelin star rating.  It’s a dark room with dark wood walls, black tables and chairs and low lighting.  Music is in the background and some windows looks out to the street but they are covered with blinds.  They offer 2 seatings (5:30 & 8:30) each evening that start promptly and have a tough cancellation policy, so be sure before you book.  Everyone seemed to get the beer pairings with their tasting and they are a bargain at just $45pp.  It was a younger, more casual crowd but the service people felt programmed with their introductions of the dishes and often picked up the plates while you were still chewing.  The plates were often lost with so many ingredients. Continue reading

Kasama, Chicago, 2/23/22

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

Ever, Chicago, 2/22/22

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Ever is the newest venture for Chef Curtis Duffy and his business partner Michael Muser, opening in 2020.  Duffy and Muser had previously collaborated at Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel and Grace.  Ever offers an 8-10 course tasting menu and has already received 2 Michelin stars, being on a rocket trajectory toward 3.  The exterior has an exterior sign that blends well into the wall and inside the gray  tones blend well with the shiny black tables and light wood dividers.  The large bare tables are well spaced and sound dampening in the ceiling keeps the noise level low with light music playing in the background.  Lights are lowered in the very tasteful room.  Tons of service personnel work to bring out dishes in unison and be on top of any needs.  Wine and non-alcoholic pairings are available for the menu but we chose to order our own wines from the large list. The menu is a surprise but they gift you with a copy of the night’s menu as you leave.  The pacing and portion control were both excellent, no lags and no rush.  The food is all beautifully presented. Continue reading

The Dearborn, Chicago, 2/22/22

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

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

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

Blue Heaven, Key West, 1/29/22

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

Lola’s Bistro, Key West, 1/28/22

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

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

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

Eaton St. Seafood Market, Key West, 1/28/22

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Eaton St. Seafood Market is in an old gas station building where in the market you can buy and take home to cook, or order from their menu.  Things like fish sandwich, tacos or salad can be made from any fish in the sales case – all with the same price from the menu.   Most items come with plantain chips but you can substitute potato chips or fries for an upcharge.  After you order and pay, you grab your number and beverage and wait out on the patio in front.  There’s lots of shade from tenting and umbrellas.  Beverages include wine and beer as well as soft drinks and juices.  On the patio you’ll find a station with extra hot sauces and utensils as well as roosters and chickens roaming the area.  Some music was in the background from a radio somewhere.   The counter person was very friendly and helpful in making selections. Continue reading

Café Marquesa, Key West, 1/27/22

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

Louie’s Backyard, Key West, 1/27/22

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Louie Signorelli started Louie’s Backyard in 1971 in his ocean front Victorian home that seated just 12 people.  In 1983 Phil and Pat Tenney renovated the place and transformed it into what is there today.   The chef of 30 years prepares each dish to order using locally caught seafood and produce specifically grown for them from Island Farms.  That commitment to quality makes them quite popular but there are many tables in the house and a huge patio overlooking the water to accommodate guests. The back of the house is where the dining rooms are and the back is a wall of windowed doors that allow everyone to enjoy the view and fresh air.  Even so, the tables are set with white tablecloths and napkins.  Service was very friendly, helpful and efficient. One small room in the front serves as an interior bar.  The lunch menu is slightly smaller than the dinner menu but also less expensive.  There was one special and it’s a place I would happily go back to. Continue reading

Seaside Cafe at the Southern Most House, Key West, 1/27/22

Southernmost House / hotel

The Seaside Cafe is on the grounds of the Southernmost House just a few steps from the Atlantic Ocean.  The Queen Anne style mansion looks over the large outdoor area with the walk-up cafe.  There are several seating areas and a large bar.  Some umbrellas and other cover are available.  Once you are seated the server will come take your order.  Meanwhile you can watch the ocean and be entertained by the roosters, chickens and other birds that visit the area.  They have a number of options but are primarily known for their lobster pizza or lobster salad on honey butter biscuits.  We chose the latter but did not sample the menu further.  Service was efficient and the view was nice.  The food was interesting but once was enough for me. Continue reading

Latitudes, Key West, 1/26/22

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

Nancy’s Hustle, Houston, 12/24/21

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