Fink’s Delicatessen, Bozeman, 10/24/23

building – 600 N Wallace Ave #4, Bozeman, MT 59715

Fink’s Delicatessen is a small place serving specialty sandwiches, soups and salads in addition to cured meats and cheeses sold by the pound.  Located in an area that has residential and warehouse buildings, it is in the same building as Wild Crumb the artisan bakery that supplies its breads.  Wild Crumb was opened by twin sisters Lauren Heemstra and Caroline Schwitzer, who is married to Jonathan Finkenauer who opened Fink’s Deli.  Lauren’s sister-in-law is the manager and cheesemonger at Finks – a truly family-owned business.  As you wind your way through the building you find the long room that houses Fink’s  Two refridgerated cases are at the end, one with pre-made sandwiches and salads and one with cheeses.  Bench seating lines one wall and a few small tables are around the various racks of good for sale.  Open every day except Sunday, the cold sandwiches are ready at 8 but the warm ones are available at 10.  They do make the warm ones while you wait and they are large and delicious.  I would be a frequent customer here if I lived closer.  I snapped some photos of the bakery but was way too full to try any of the stuff. Continue reading

J. W. Heist Steakhouse, Bozeman, 10/23/23

exterior – 27 E Main St STE B, Bozeman, MT 59715

J. W. Heist Steakhouse was named for the great-grandfather of co-founder Brett Evje, who was a cattle rancher.  The other co-founder, Michael Ochsner is a sommelier, who maintains the wine list.  Opening Jan. 3, 2023, the place is all about wood fire cooking under Chef John Thayer.  It was a fairly large classic steakhouse interior with very low lighting, jazz music in the background, white tableclothes and candles, lots of dark wood, red leather upholstery, brick walls decorated with paintings and animal head mounts.  A large U-shaped bar took up much of one room where you could eat and/or drink.  Interestingly the 2 animal mounts near us were not native Montana breeds.  Service was first rate and the food was pretty good, especially if you’re in a beefy mood. Continue reading

Goldy’s, Boise, 10/21/23

exterior – 108 S Capitol Blvd, Boise, ID 83702

Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro opened in 1999 in downtown Boise.   It offers made-to-order breakfast using as many local ingredients as possible and lots of options for customizing your order.  With only 56 seats and taking no reservations, there is most always a line, but it moves quickly.  We got there early and were seated immediately.  There was a second floor with more metal tables and downstairs was a small semi circular bar with seating.  A tile floor was opposite the high ceiling on the first level where you could also see into part of the kitchen.  Lots of articles decorated the walls along with an interesting light fixture.  Parking is on the street and music is played in the background.  It served quality foods that were basically well prepared.  I would recommend it for breakfast or lunch. Continue reading

Amano, Caldwell, ID., 10/20/23

building – 702 Main St, Caldwell, ID 83605

Amano is owned by Chef Salvador Alamilla who was inspired to cook from watching his mother.  He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to Executive Chef quickly and also spent time as house manager for several restaurants in Boise. In 2019 he opened Amano in downtown Caldwell, a 30 minute drive from Boise.  Since then he has been nominated twice for a James Beard Award.  It shows in the popularity of the large place.  The room was divided into sections set with small tables and various seating options.  The very high “plaster” ceiling was actually made of wood to look like plaster and music was in the background.  There was dining on the second floor also and a full bar with seats downstairs.  Our server stated that the bar squeezed their own juices so we did try one cocktail.   Service was friendly but not particularly efficient.  Overall the food was acceptable but not as inspiring as I’d hoped it would be. Continue reading

Ansots Basque Chorizos, Boise, 10/20/23

sign on building – 560 W Main St, Boise, ID 83702

Ansots was a medium-sized place set below street level.  Owned and operated by Dan(husband), Tamara (wife), and Ellie (daughter) Ansotegui.  Dan’s maternal grandmother was a seamstress by trade but became very well known for her cooking at the Basque boarding house she ran.  Famous folks like Ernest Hemingway and Bing Crosby were known to have eaten there and she has a small cookbook.  The evolution now has become Ansots  and the inside dining area is supplemented by patio tables and a second room which is also available for rental.  Lots of windows, photographs and musical decorations surround the pretty wood tables and chairs to make it feel homey and casual.   The food is all made in-house from family recipes and many of the plates are meant to be shared.  In addition, several of the plates were offered in half-size so we were able to try a lot of their options.   Service was efficient and super friendly as well as helpful.  This is a strong recommendation to put on your list to try. Continue reading

KIN, Boise, 10/19/23

sign outside – 999 W Main St Suite P101, Boise, ID 83702

KIN was a five course tasting with an optional beverage pairing or drinks from the full bar.  Each menu runs about 5 weeks and is unique and changes with the seasons along with being designed to reflect the art on display.  This season the art was by Esther Oppenheimer, another Boise resident.  The communal seating was at a long line of adjacent 2-top tables and the menu.  Due to the set-up they do not accept odd number party reservations.  Chef Kris Komori is a fan of the farm-to-table movement and works with the growing seasons of Idaho along with being active in his community.  His abilities won him the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mountain Region in 2023 after being a semi-finalist five times.  Next to the dining room was a lounge and a cocktail bar.  Various members of the kitchen staff introduced each course including Chef Komori who also came out to greet the diners after the meal.  Another member of the staff closed the evening with an acapello song.  It was a lovely evening and one you should reserve if you are in Boise.   One note was that the beverage pairings were very small pours so you might want to allow time for a drink in the bar first and the noise level made it hard to talk to your partner across the table. Continue reading

Via Triozzi, Dallas, 10/16/23

exterior – 1806 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75206

Via Triozzi was opened a couple of months ago on lower Greenville by Chef Leigh Hutchinson.  It’s named for a street in the small town near Florence where she lived and got inspired by the food and culture.  It helped that her grandmother added some Sicilian into her heritage and memories of all-day Sunday dinners at her house.  It’s a fairly large place with an upstairs that I understand will someday house a rooftop bar.  The beautiful high ceiling is opposite a terrazzo-like floor and surrounded by distressed brick walls and paintings.  You can’t help but notice the pasta-making room that first greets you when you enter.  Fresh pasta drys in there, but the semi-open kitchen is in the back of the room.  A full bar takes up another portion of the room and bench seating lines the long walls.  It’s quite stylish and attractive and even with music in the background the noise level was good but I could see where it could get out of hand.   It’s pretty new so still finding its stride, but already quite popular.  I  hope there will be seasonal specials added to the menu. Continue reading

Grove Restaurant, Grand Rapids, 9/29/23

exterior – 919 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Grove was a medium-sized place that offered a number of dining options.  A Tasting for 2 ($125) included bread, 5 courses of your choosing and dessert and is available on Fri. and Sat,  A Taste of Grove ($50) was 3 courses and available Tues thru Thursday, and the Grove Experience ($300) serves the table the entire menu.   The prices are per table on the first and last option and per person on the middle.  The portions are not scaled, though, so the last option is better if you have 4 or more people.  We chose the 5 course but were hard pressed to pick the courses, every server had a different opionion.  It was a comfortable, modern  looking place with larger natural wood tables nicely spaced on wood and tile flooring with a lowered ceiling and lighting.  Music was in the background but the designer had made a successful effort to keep the noise level amenable to conversations.  A full bar with counter seating took up a portion of the room and there were lots of plants on the walls and placed around.  It opened around Feb. 2022 after the Covid shutdown as a new concept with a rennovated interior.  Service was friendly and helpful, especially in directing the meal plan.  He brought each dish separately so we could enjoy it rather than filling the table with too much at once. It is recommended if you find yourself in GrandRapids. Continue reading

Schnitz Delicatessen, Grand Rapids, 9/29/23

exterior – 1315 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Schnitz Deli  seemed to be a local favorite with good sized portions and moderate prices.  It’s an old-school deli where you line up along the meat, cheese counter to place your order.  They did a steady to go order business also.  Lots of sandwich combos are in a numbered format but you can also order it your own way or by the pound.  They say the Reuben is the most popular, estimating they go through 300-400 pounds of corned beef and 100 pounds of pastrami a week.  The bread is from Schnitz Bakery that is close by.  The sandwiches come in half or full size with half sandwiches the same size but with half the meat.  Most of the sandwiches charged an extra dollar to go to full – to me that was a no-brainer.  Inside are scattered tables with extra condiments at the order counter, as is the drink dispenser.  The interior room opens into the “Common Ground Coffee House” space,   There were some fun decorations on the walls along with windows that looked out to the street.  It wan’t the best deli sandwich I’ve ever had but certainly good enough for me to go again if I’m in the area and I hope you’ll visit too. Continue reading

Cafe Mamo, Grand Rapids, 9/28/23

exterior – 1601 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 

Cafe Mamo is a small place where the menu changes every week based on what they get from local farmers.  The couple that opened it in July 2021 are Chef Michael Goessman and Sommelier Summer Knoop.  On a corner lot, the building looks like a drive-through cleaners from the outside but inside is new and cozy.  Inside are seats for about 32 people at natural wood tables and chairs with a few seats at the kitchen counter and they added the patio that can house 16 more guests outside.  They named the cafe for Goessman’s garden-loving grandmother.   Windows look out to the street and patio while music plays indoors.  There was a full bar, nice wine selection and the Chef was in the house and managed to speak with all the guests at one time or another.  Service was helpful and enthusiastic which made for a delightful experience.  If you find yourself in this part of Michigan I would encourage you to try and have a meal here – the food is good and innovative and the menu changes regularly.


Frankie checked out the patio
wine storage / display
wine front
wine back



We ordered Rolls and butter to go with the Tomato Pumpkin Soup.  The rolls, two to an order, are a regular on the menu and served with good butter.  They are soft and doughy and presented with softened butter.  If you’re looking for crusty bread these won’t fill the bill but if you want a yeasty dough fix this is it.  The soup was thick and needed a touch of salt to clarify the flavor.  The pumpkin worked fairly well with the tomato but it needed a bit more seasoning to give it zest and depth.  It would rate okay.

Tomato pumpkin soup and rolls
inside rolls
closer soup


Spaghetti was dressed with midnight roma pomodoro and pecorino.  It was a flat cut spaghetti that was cooked nicely al dente in a good sauce.  Some browned breadcrumbs added a nice crunch and the sauce adhered well to the pasta.   A tasty pecorino cheese added flavor.  My objection to the plate was a price of $25 for what felt like a appetizer portion of food.  If I had ordered this as my entree I would have left hungry but as an appetizer it was good and tasty but seemed overpriced.



Half Chicken was served with garlic and baguette.  This plate was said to be a regular on their menu and it truly is a star.  It reminded me a lot of the Zuni Cafe’s chicken in San Francisco.    The skin was perfectly crisped and underneath the chicken was the baguette that had been soaked in the chicken juices.  It also absorbed some of the wonderful thicked jus that was plated with the chicken.  This was a plate of food to swoon over.  It had terrific flavors and textures and made you want to lick up every bit of it.

Half chicken


Porchetta Rosmarino came with a hearty salad and lemon, according to the menu.  It was thin slices of pork belly that were well seasoned with rosemary.  It was full of flavor and very tender with a tiny crispy layer on the edge.  The “hearty” salad was a mix of incredibly fresh greens that were dressed with oil.  The lemon on the side was great with them.  The plate was one with lots of flavors for the eater to savor.



Dessert was brown sugar Ice Cream with chocolate chunks topped with olive oil.  It came in 3 small scoops.  It was not a heavy creamy ice cream but still easy to eat and well flavored.  The olive oil topping was new to me and turned out to be a nice one.

brown sugar ice cream
Frankie posed with some wine

Choo Choo Grill, Grand Rapids, 9/28/23

exterior – 1209 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Choo Choo Grill is a family owned place that has been running for over 60 years and open 6 days a week for breakfast and lunch.  Inside is a step back in time with 8-10 seats at the wrap-around counter and 2 booth-like tables.   The cooking is on the griddle just in front of the bar and they’re known for their olive burger – a Grand Rapids tradition.  Rick Mack bought the place from his father in 1997 but now is tired of the 2 a.m. mornings and the daily grind.  So the place was listed for sale and no one knows if a buyer will keep it the same or what.  It’s obviously filled with regular customers where much of the talk centered on the possible sale and how that will change life.  The tiny place is actually next to the railroad tracks and it’s filled with train photos and replicas.  You’d hate to see a place like this change but profit and big rule our world.  Meantime you can still hurry in and enjoy a fresh made burger and malt.  They do a lot of take out and have parking so I encourage you to grab a stool while they’re still in business. Continue reading

Butcher’s Union, Grand Rapids, MI., 9/27/23

exterior – 438 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Butcher’s Union is a large gastropub that does not take reservations, it’s strictly first come, first served.  They do have an online waitlist that turns on when they are full.  When you can add your name to it they will give you an approximate wait time and then text when your table is ready.  They are open 7 days a week but close a little earlier on Sunday.  They offer a meat heavy menu and a large selection of alcoholic beverages.  They try and source their products locally.   There are plenty of seating options with the large and long bar, the first thing you see.  There was another dining room off to the side and patio tables somewhere outside but we were ushered to a roomy booth across from the bar.  The music was loud as was the packed crowd.  TVs were hung around the bar but their sound was muted.  Parking is as you can find it but there was a public lot across the street which was convenient.  Service was helpful and efficient and the food was fine but the noise level would make me not want to visit often. Continue reading

Tony Packo’s , Toledo, OH, 9/27/23

front –1902 Front St, Toledo, OH 43605

Tony Packo’s is a huge place that’s been in business since 1932.  Tony and his wife got a $100 loan during the Depression to open a sandwich shop where he created his signature “Hungarian Hot Dog.”   They gradually grew the shop to the size and fame of what it is today.  Burt Reynolds was the first to sign a hot dog bun in 1972 and that started a trend that would go for generations.  Today, however, the famous put their autograph on a foam replica of the original bun.  The walls were lined with cases of these signed buns including the only few original real buns that remain.  There are now a number of locations in Ohio but this was the orginal and although the food is average it’s worth going to, to see all these buns. Service was available in the bar area otherwise grab a cafeteria tray at the order counter and pay, and by then your food is ready.  A drink station is in the center of the room for self-service.  They only offer Steudel or cookies for dessert. Continue reading

Olive et Gourmando, Montreal, 9/23/23

exterior – 351 Saint-Paul St W, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2A7, Canada

Olive and Gourmando is open daily from 9 to 5 for dine in or take out.  They are a bakery and a restaurant with breakfast available all day but lunch items only after 11.   It’s hugely popular with benches outside for waiting.  Inside the medium sized place  is a wood floor, exposed ducts, decorated chalkboards on the walls, and small tightly packed wood tables.  The music in the background is almost drowned out by the hum of conversation.  Some counter seating is available by the windows and the baked goods are in a display case by the register/sign-in area.  Lots of plants and decorations finish out the decor.  If you’re in need of breakfast or lunch I’d go get in line when you’re in town. Continue reading

Le Mousso, Montreal, 9/22/23

entrance – 1025 Ontario St E, Montreal, Quebec H2L 1P8, Canada

Le Mousso is a 30-seat restaurant offering a tasting menu and optional pairings 3 nights a week.  They dropped to #41 on the Canada’s 100 Best List.  Two backlit murals by Jean-Paul Mousseau decorate the room.  He was not only a prominent Quebec artist but also the grandfather of the chef and founder Antonin Mousseau-Rivard.  The whole room starts at the same time and there’s one seating that lasts about 3 hours.  The chef presents a description of the dish, as each is served, in both English and French.  Then another person presented a description for each wine pairing and mercifully it was only in French.  The descriptions went on way too long with French taking twice the amount of time as English.  I found the setup tedious maybe because the food deteriorated as the evening wore on.  So much thought was given to the preparation, that the end result was lost.  The color palate was too bland, it was over-priced and the flavor profile was lacking.  I applaud what they are doing but I can’t give this one a recommendation. Continue reading

Gia Wine and Grill, Montreal, 9/22/23

exterior – 1025 Rue Lenoir, Montréal, QC H4C 2Z6, Canada

Gia Vin and Grill opened in December and is known for their grilled meats, which unfortunately are only available at night.  It’s tucked away below the highway and in the shadow of the adjacent Home Depot.  However, once you get inside you’ll forget the location, except when you see the cars going by out the window.    Lots of light wood, marble, green tile, exposed ductwork and 60s and 70s music in the background.  A long bar also has seating in addition to the small tables.  As the name would imply they do have a lot of wines and the helpful servers (Tatianna was great) will guide your selection to go with the dishes you choose.  We enjoyed our lunch but I suspect evening offers a better selection of dishes.  They ranked #36 on the Best of Canada list. Continue reading

Restaurant Mastard, Montreal, 9/21/23

exterior – 1879 Rue Bélanger, Montréal, QC H2G

Mastard is owned and run by Chef Simon Mathys and his wife Viki Brisson-Sylvestre.  They offer a 5-course tasting menu of local and seasonal items with an array of cocktails and natural wines.  Opening in Jan. 2021, it feels like a neighborhood restaurant but can accommodate 54 people.  They made #55 on the 100 Best of Canada list.   Windows look out onto the street and the lights are lowered.  The tin ceiling was opposite the very wide plank wood floor.  The bar, which makes many of its own fruit infusions was set with 5 chairs and the long wall opposite had bench seating that was a higher level than the chairs on the opposite side of the marble table.  Two of the walls had paintings on the wall and otherwise, the decorations were plants.  Chef Mathys was in the house and brought food out to some but not all the tables.  Optional pairings are available with the tasting but we chose our own bottle of wine and started with a cocktail.  The food was mixed but the service was first-rate. Continue reading

Monarque, Montreal, 9/21/23

exterior – 406 Rue Saint-Jacques, Montréal, QC H2Y 1S1, Canada

Monarque was a large place in the business district and was really three restaurants in one.  The front of the place had a more casual menu and feel and the back was modern and elegant with a set lunch menu.  The long bar had 20 stools for lounge dining.  Rock music was in the background, the wall had lots of mirrors and a striking tile pattern ran the entire length of the place.  An open kitchen was in the middle of the long room.  In the back were white clothes and napkins and some semi-circular booths to make up the stylish interior.   On Canada’s 100 best list it came in at #16.  At lunch there was a 2 course menu with the main plate determining the price or there was the option of ordering beef.  With the beef option, the first course is sold separately. Continue reading

Joe Beef, Montreal, 9/20/23

exterior – 2491 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec

Joe Beef opened in 2005, named for Charles McKiernan, a tavern owner who died at 54 due to gluttony and generosity.  Joe Beef offers a casual take on French fine dining in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighborhood.  The menu changes daily depending on what is fresh and available but oysters seem to be ever-present as are rich, heavy sauces. The menu lists plates of the day, most to be shared and a chalkboard has additional specials.  Additionally, they had 3 types of oysters, caviar service and fish (maybe raw?).  It won the #24 spot on Canada’s 2023 100 Best list.  A couple rooms are closely set with small wood tables and lively music in the background.  A full bar is available as is a large wine list and the diners are furnished a towel-sized napkin.  Service was great and helpful and the food was wonderful. Continue reading

Mon Lapin Montreal, 9/19/23

interior – 150 Rue Saint-Zotique East, Montréal, QC H2S 1K8, Canada

Mon Lapin was created by Marc-Olivier Frappier and Vanya Filipovic, a chef and sommelier husband and wife team.  Joining the team were Jessica Québécois (chef), Alex Landry (sommelier) and Marc-Antoine Gélinas (front) to move the restaurant to #1 on Canada’s 2023’s 100 Best list.  Opening in 2018 in the area called Little Italy, they present an ever-changing menu of seasonal and local ingredients accompanied by natural wines.  It started quite tiny but they were able to expand after a couple of years and now have room to accommodate a few walk-ins.  The beautiful tile floor is set with small tables of wood or marble under lowered lighting and fairly loud upbeat music.  The vibe is energetic and the service is outstanding.  The servers know about the food and wines and will help you make a meal plan that works together.  For example, after we selected our shared plates the server brought out several wines at different price points, described them and then we chose one. It was a fabulous evening and I would recommend it to anyone who can get there. Continue reading

Geronimo (update), Santa Fe, 9/15/23

entrance – 724 Canyon Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87501

We last ate at Geronimo in 2019 and as usual, had a fine meal in this 1756 adobe home built by Geronimo Lopez.  The menu doesn’t change much here but you can expect an elegant atmosphere, lowered lighting, music in the background, art on the walls, white tableclothes, valet parking and friendly professional service.  Everytime I visit I seem to get the foie gras and Elk steak so tonight I went off script and ordered differently as did my husband.  It ended up nice but not as satisfying as my usual order.  Either way, it’s still a very fine meal and one I’d recommend if you can get there. Continue reading

The Shed, Santa Fe, 9/14/23

exterior sign – 113 1/2 E Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501

The Shed is an institution in Santa Fe.  Its sister restaurant La Choza (opened in 1983) is frequented more by locals whereas The Shed is on the main Square and has been there since 1953.  There are nine rooms within and a patio on the outside.  They are known for their blue corn options and red chile as well as margaritas.  Very popular, they do take reservations for dinner and otherwise be prepared to wait.  The bare wood tables are in rooms filled with paintings, not for sale, and plants. The bar has a large selection of tequila and mescal as well as some wines.  Chips are not included in your meal but can be ordered separately.  If you get to Santa Fe you must eat here, it’s a great starting point for your journey through New Mexican food. Continue reading

Trading Post Cafe, Taos, 9/14/23

exterior – 4179 NM-68, Ranchos De Taos, NM 87557

The Trading Post Cafe was an eclectic cafe with a deli offering meats and cheeses by the pound as well as coolers selling produce and other supplies.  There were several rooms with the main one having a long bar in front of the grill area.  The aroma of cooking burgers greeted you when you walked in.  We were there to have a snack and mostly visit with some friends so we didn’t try too many things.  I gather it’s only recently opened as they did not yet have a license for beer or wine, but that is in the process.  Also when I googled it to get details it sent me to a coffee roasting site and then another linked me to an Italian restaurant.  Regardless, if you’re in Taos and looking for a little spot to eat I’d give this one a try. Continue reading

Sazón, Santa Fe, 9/13/23

exterior – 221 Shelby St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Sazón was started by Chef Fernando Olea in 2015.  He originally was from Mexico City and incorporates the indigenous and culinary traditions of Old Mexico into his fabulous foods.  He started cooking in 1991 with a green chili cheeseburger at Bert’s Burger Bowl.   In 2022 he was the winner of James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest.   The many rooms feature the work of some Mexican artists, many of which are for sale, white tablecloths and napkins, Spanish music in the background and lowered lighting.  The menu is fairly small but they also offer a Chef’s Degustation Tasting Menu at 5:00 and 7:30 if reserved in advance.  They also offer a curated tequila, mezcal and wine pairing or a large menu of wines from Mexico as well as other countries.  There is no printed menu for the tasting and some of the courses are not on the menu but I highly recommend it as a way to sample this chef’s excellent cuisine.  Olea presents a wonderful depth of flavor to his dishes as well as a healthy dose of spice and richness.  I enjoyed it immensely. Continue reading

Tomasita’s, Santa Fe, 9/13/23

exterior – 500 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Tomasita’s serves New Mexican food in Santa Fe as well as Albuquerque.   Named for Tomasita Leyba, the original cook at the place and whose recipes are still served 40 years later.  It started as a small café on Hickox Street in 1974 when Georgia Maryol took over the dying restaurant. Together they built a customer base that outgrew the space and in 1979 it moved to the 100-year old red brick building in the Santa Fe Railyard.  Georgia’s son now owns the restaurant and opened a branch in Albuquerque in 2017.  The railyard location was a large place with rooms scattered around set with bare wooden tables and chairs and a patio.  Music was in the background, there was a large adjacent parking lot, art decorated the walls and statues were on the patio.  Chips and salsa are not included in the meal.  The service was super friendly and efficient but the food was mixed. Continue reading

Cry Wolf, Dallas, 8/29/22 (Now Closed)

bar with cooking behind it – 4422 Gaston Ave., Dallas, TX., 75246

Cry Wolf has been on this site many times, most recently from our July visit, but each time it’s a little different and I wanted to share photos. (If you search my site you will find numerous write-ups with more info and photos).    So this time with little commentary I’ve just got the menu and photos of the food.  You need to put this one on your list whenever you are in Dallas.  It’s a favorite of ours!  Everything was wonderful yet very different. Continue reading

Louie’s (update), Dallas, July- August 2023

building – 1839 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas, TX., 75206

Louie’s has been written up here before but it was time for an update.  It’s one of our favorite spots, we probably go weekly.  The ambiance is dark and friendly and the martinis are first rate.  All the staff know us and that probably helps but the food is good, although there have been some changes since Covid came through.  They are now closed Monday and Tuesday as well as most major holidays.  You must be over 21 to enter and parties cannot be larger than 6.  The school building nearby has remodeled their parking lot but for now seems to be a regular spot where you can still park, as street spots are limited.  The pork chop is totally different from before and not as juicy and the baked potato is off the menu.  Menus are by icon/link to be viewed on a smartphone rather than printed.   They are still fairly busy but now often have a waiting list at the door which helps.  We generally eat sandwiches there rather than the pizza and if we eat pizza we ask for it to not be heavily browned on the edge.  It’s hard for me to judge how it would seem to a stranger but for newbies or singletons,  I’d recommend sitting at the bar.  Casey, one of the bartenders will help guide your journey and he’s suggested many new options for us to try, food-wise. All the table servers are friendly and helpful too if you go as a couple.  It’s not a great wine spot but they have it.  I encourage you to go for the martinis and strike up a conversation with whoever is sitting next to you.  I hope you like it as much as I clearly do. Continue reading

R Place Cafe, Cable, 8/30/23

building – 41080 US-63, Cable.WI., 54821

R Place Cafe is a small place on the highway in northern Wisconsin.  They serve a variety of breakfast options till 1:00 and dinner on Wed and Friday from 4-6.  They are closed on Monday and Tuesday.   It’s a small family-run place with mom cooking in the kitchen and daughter waiting tables.  There’s a variety of tables and a few seats at the counter.  They bake their own bread as well as biscuits.  We’d driven by many times and never stopped but this day we did and we weren’t sorry.  The menu is on a chalkboard on the wall and there’s lots of brick-a-brack on the walls and surfaces to look at while you wait for your food.  Our server was super friendly and the food was good, honest items made with care.  I will go again and hope I’ll see you there. Continue reading

Harbor House Restaurant, Elk, CA., 8/24/23

interior – 5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

The restaurant at Harbor House has been on this site numerous times (3/23, 11/22, 3/22, 7/22, 7/21, 8/20) but I never get tired of taking photos and writing descriptions of the exquisite food produced in the 2- Michelin-star kitchen of Matthew Kammerer and his team.  The Harbor House Inn is situated on a beautiful piece of property overlooking the Pacific Ocean and jutting rocks.  The 1916 Craftsman-style house has around 20 ocean view seats for this Coastal-cuisine-focused tasting menu experience that is not to be missed.  The place also received a Michelin Green Star for the sustainable nature of its processes.  Now there are 2 farms raising produce for the restaurant and local farms and fishermen supply the rest.   The staff treat all like royalty and the food is as delicious as it is stunning.  With the addition of Sommelier Kelly Eckel, who most recently was at Single Thread, there should be some exciting new additions to their wine list also.  I urge you to plan a trip here, stay a couple nights and enjoy the very fine food and ambiance.  I know I’ll be back soon and post it again here. Continue reading

Elk Store, Elk, CA., 8/24/23

building – 6101 CA-1, Elk, CA., 95432

The Elk Store is not just a deli but also a grocery and a general store, selling lots of specialty and locally made goods.  The old building has a good selection of meats, cheeses and breads some ready made into sandwiches which they will heat for you.  Filled with charm and a creaky old floor it is fun to browse around while you’re waiting for your order to be filled.  Near the cash register the 2 menu boards hang overhead and the counter on the opposite side holds the ingredients and heating area.  Other parts of the store have fresh produce, wines, dry goods, beans, teas and a surprising selection of things.  The people were all very friendly and I’d go if you’re in the area.  Such a unique little place and the sandwiches have good ingredients. Continue reading

Café Beaujolais, Mendocino, CA., 8/23/23

building – 961 Ukiah St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Café Beaujolais is a French style restaurant that opened in 1968 and garnered some fame when Chef Margaret Fox purchased it and started serving breakfast and lunch in 1977.  Chef Christopher Kump came on in 1984 and started the dinner service.  The Brickery was added in 1990 that sells wood-fired brick oven bread and later pizza.   After several other turnovers, in 2016 Peter and Melissa Lopez bought the cafe and set their Michelin trained son, Julian up as Executive Chef.  The location is in a house that dates back to 1893 where it served as a shoemaker shop later becoming a maternity home.  It has been updated but still holds much of the original charm with music in the background, white tableclothes and black napkins, windows to the outside array of plants and photos on the walls.  The wide plank wood floor looks new and the wood ceiling has been painted but it’s obviously an old house.  Service was delightful, with our server turning out to be the owner of a farm that supplies much of the produce to the restaurant.  It was a lovely meal in a pretty setting and a fine choice for dinner when in Mendocino. Continue reading

Inn at Langley Restaurant, Langley, WA., 8/19/23

building – 400 1st St, Langley, WA 98260

The restaurant at the Inn at Langley was one of the reasons we traveled to Whidbey Island, besides also wanting to escape the Texas heat.  Chef Matt Costello started the restaurant in 1989 and now also is co-owner of the Inn.  However his cooking duties have been passed to a fellow named Landon and the tasting menu we looked forward to has been dumbed down to a 5-course menu, one of which is your roll.  Chef was in house and called it a “transition time”.  They also serve an a la carte menu but it is mostly bar snacks now.  Thank goodness we found another place to eat one of the 2 nights we hoped to eat there.   That said, the breakfast included with your stay at the Inn was very nice and a good assortment of options.  The place itself is wonderful and I heartily endorse it as a place to stay but caution you against reserving dinner there until they finish the “transition.”  We left hungry and dis-satisfied even though we had a delicious bottle of champagne with the meal and they took off some for the over-cooked salmon. Continue reading

Pickles Deli of Whidbey Island, Clinton, WA., 8/19/23

exterior – Kens Korner Shopping Plaza, 11042 WA-525 STE 122, Clinton, WA 98236

Pickles Deli is in a strip shopping center and open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., except Sunday.   You can order in or call ahead and get your order to go.  The space has a high ceiling and a variety of pickle decorations as well as souvenirs for sale.  Lots of tables of different sizes in addition to a few outside are available.  In the entry room the walls are hung with bead-art pictures for sale and music is in the background.  The counter was busy filling to-go orders when we arrived and so it took a minute to get our order taken but it gave me time to look around and admire the beautiful cash register as well as the many containers of pickles.  They had a 3D hanging sign of a girl riding a pickle that was like the flat one on the wall outside the building. The people were friendly and the order came out pretty quick.  After you pay at the counter they bring the food out to your table.  The sandwiches were well stuffed with nice flavor so add this to your list when you visit Whidbey Island.  My main criticism of the place involves the assembly of the sandwich.  It was not evenly done, which is tough if you want to split one but it also changes the balance of the flavors. Continue reading

Savory Restaurant, Langley, WA., 8/18/23

door sign – 220 1st St, Langley, WA 98260

Savory was opened in 2021 by Ron Rois and Stefen Bosworth.  They serve a menu inspired by their family, friends and travel from Tuesday to Saturday 4 – 9pm.  The restaurant takes no reservations but you can drop by or call ahead and they will give you a waiting list time estimate.  From that they call you and you have 15 minutes to show up or your table is passed on.  We simply ate earlier in the day and got in the line by the door that formed at 4:00pm.  It’s a small place with some patio tables available but they were able to expand seating when they acquired a space at the front of the building. The desire was to make the diner feel like they’ve entered someone’s home and it does just that with the big stuffed chairs and surrounding art pieces.  Service was friendly and you could see partially into the kitchen from our table.  It was good but not great.


Frankie shared the restaurant’s details
added room
main dining room interior
Chef in kitchen
dessert menu
wine front
wine back
Frankie and the table candle



We started the meal with Greens, a mix of greens topped with crumbled goat cheese, roasted sunflower seed and diced tomato and tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.  You can substitute Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue cheese for an additional $4 and we took that option.  The fresh greens were nicely dressed and the cheese was flavorful.  A classic done well.

Greens Salad


Bread was a Baguette with garlic and parmesan spread that is ordered separately.  The baguette was from Seabiscuit Bakery and served warm with a good crisp to the crust.  The spread was nicely softened with a bit of salt on the top.

bread and butter


Short Ribs were braised boneless beef short ribs intensely flavored with the house blend of Chinese five spice blend (including anise, Szechuan peppercorn and cinnamon), tamarind, fresh garlic, ginger and date molasses along with a broth of aromatic vegetables.  They are served over sour cream mashed potatoes which includes butter, heavy cream, sour cream and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. The tender meat chunks were served with a reduction of the braising juices.  The recipe for these was inspired by a sticky ribs dish from Korea.  I found the meat to have more the texture of pot roast than a short rib cut but either way it was tasty.

Short ribs


For dessert we tried the Hello Dollies whose recipe was inspired by Ron’s mom who sent a tin of them every holiday season.  Known by many names like ‘magic cookie bars’ or ‘coconut dream bars’ they are a classic of the 1960’s American south.  They are made with layers of graham cracker, chocolate, butterscotch and shredded coconut that are melded together with butter and then cut into squares.  They came 4 bars to an order and were dense, buttery and sweet.  Call these very nice.

Hello Dollies
from the side

The Chocolate Stout Cake was a rich chocolate cake made with chocolate stout and drizzled with bittersweet chocolate and cognac glaze.  The drizzle on the cake was very light and between the 2 desserts, the bars were much better. This one being based on cocoa which did not satisfy my chocolate craving but it did have a nice light texture.

chocolate ckae
Frankie doesn’t eat chocolate

Continue reading

Ikaika Bistro, Langley, WA., 8/18/23

building – 14096 WA-525, Langley, WA 98260 (soon to move)

Ikaika Bistro was in the American Foreign Legion building when we visited but you’re in luck because they’ll be in a new location by the time you read this.  Stephanie and Chris Balora own the place that serves Polynesian cuisine among other dishes.  Opening in Sept. of 2022, Chris named the place Ikaika which means “strong” or “warrior” in his native Hawaiian language.  It’s a 2-person operation with Stephanie taking your order and busing tables while Chris does the cooking.  They’ve had good success which is why in Sept 2023 they are going to move their restaurant to a food truck in downtown Langley where they’ll have indoor and outdoor seating and be near a coffee shop, which is good as they serve breakfast and lunch. So I won’t describe the AFL building, just include a couple photos, but the move will create a major improvement in the ambiance.  The couple are the nicest people and easily make conversation with guests filling them in our their journey to get to this spot.  The food was novel, generous and tasty and I hope you’ll give it a try if you are in the area. Continue reading

Orchard Kitchen, Langley, WA., 8/17/23

seating area – 5574 Bayview Rd, Langley, WA 98260

The Orchard Kitchen was the most farm-to-table place I’ve eaten.  The summer dining tasting menu was served behind a barn, housing the kitchen, in between the planted fields that have served as farms since 1914.  Chef Vincent Nattress and his wife Tyla own Ebb Tide produce, the farm that surrounded us and produces much of what is served there.  They offer one seating at communal tables Thursday through Saturday with an ever-changing menu, depending on what is fresh and available.  In the winter they move indoors and also offer cooking classes.  Chef Vincent is from Whidbey Island and he and his wife returned there buying this 5-acre farm after operating another restaurant elsewhere and wanting to get back more to basics.   Chef starts off the evening with an explanation of what’s to come and acknowledges that the menu is just as new to him as the diners.  They offer wine pairings to go with the menu but also have wines by the bottle and glass but no liquor.   As the evening went on and people relaxed our table came alive with conversation and bonding over fun food.  It helps that they have great weather that can support outdoor dining but regardless it was a wonderful experience filled with fine food and new friends. Go if you can, it’s magical. Continue reading

Langley Kitchen, Langley, WA., 8/17/23

building – 138 Second Street, Langley, WA 98260

Owner Jim Goodall opened Langley Kitchen in November 2020 after running a restaurant in Seattle.  He thought Langley needed more baked goods, especially cookies and set up shop there during the pandemic.  He was ready for portable food with the inside having no tables just the kitchen and items for sale.  You line up and order at the counter, then they call your name out a back window where there is a lovely patio to eat on.  The metal tables are surrounded by red Japanese maple trees with overhead heaters for when needed.  They offer a variety of salads, baked goods and sandwiches for both breakfast and lunch.  Their logo features an owl with a quiver holding a spoon and fork, rather than arrows.  We tried 2 of their sandwiches a bar cookie and it was all delicious.  This place should be on your list if you’re on Whidbey Island. Continue reading

Ultra House, Langley, WA., 8/16/23



exterior – 221 Second Street # 9A, Langley, WA 98260

Ultra House opened in 2018 when the owners, Denis and Cheryl Zimmerman were ready for a lifestyle change and Denis wanted to honor his Japanese roots.  Already living on Whidbey Island they thought the town was ready for a ramen shop.  It’s a tiny shop in Langley Village, where you can’t park in front of it.  There are a few counter spots and several large interior tables as well as some tables on the patio.   The larger tables can be shared.  Shelves line the walls, housing items for sale and some art is scattered about. They have a good selection of beer, sake and wine and a small menu that features variations on ramen and rice bowls.  It is very casual but if you need a ramen fix this is the place to go. Continue reading

Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar, Langley, WA., 8/16/23

exterior – 113 1st St, Langley, WA 98260

Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar was opened in July 2017 by Jenn and Sieb Jurriaans, who also operate the nearby Prima Bistro restaurant.  They try and source their seafood from Coupeville’s Penn Cove Shellfish except for the lobster which comes from Maine. It’s a fairly small place and they take no reservations so people start lining up before the doors open.  Inside are small wood tables (counter seating at the bar and in the middle of the room), music and photos of fish and other nautical items.   Some fish nets hanging from the ceiling are decorated with glass fish.  The full bar also offers a number of beers on tap.  Service was friendly, efficient and helpful.  It’s about the only seafood restaurant in town but my reaction to the food was mixed.  Dinner offered more choices especially if you don’t want fried seafood. Continue reading

Chez Noir, Carmel by the Sea, 8/12/23

Exterior – 5th Ave between Dolores and, San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Chez Noir was the result of the husband and wife team collaboration of Jonny and Monique Black.  He runs the kitchen and she manages the front of the house, both with lots of fine dining experience.   The craftsman house that holds the 36-seat restaurant also houses the couple above it.  Out front are enough patio tables for 22 more guests that also can be reserved.  Another 8 seats are in front of the small bar in a separate interior room.  A small seasonal menu relies on local products but they also offer a “let us cook for you” option.  They call it a shareable feast and it is.  The whole table must participate and wine pairings are offered.  It is a fantastic way to sample much of the menu and I heartily recommend it.  It is relatively new on the dining scene of Carmel, opening in Oct. 2022 and already has one well-deserved Michelin Star.  Trust me, this is a fabulous place to go if you get the opportunity. Continue reading

Stationæry , Carmel by the Sea, 8/12/23

patio – 5th Ave between Dolores and, San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Stationæry is a medium-sized (11 indoor tables) place operated by Anthony and Alissa Carnazzo.  They offer brunch, dinner, coffee and wines in a casual setting.  Also available are tables on the patio that opens to other stores and a couple stools at the tile counter.  A bench seat lines the wall set with small wood tables.  Many windows add lots of natural light and plants provide the decorations with music in the background which was sometimes hard to hear due to the crowd noise.  It was very busy and walk-ins had a long wait.  We had reservations luckily and the attentive and friendly staff moved the meal along nicely.  One note to service is that there are no refills on coffee – this was just house pour not a specialty cup.  The food primarily is sourced from nearby farms and ranches and varies with what’s in season.  It was good food, especially the roll which could have been a meal in itself.  I encourage you to try it but have a reservation. Continue reading

Aubergine (update), Carmel, 8/11/23


exterior –L’Auberge Carmel, 7th avenue Monte Verde St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Aubergine has re-done the dining room since we were there in 2019 (in 2020 we were there but it was during the pandemic and we ate outside) and it looks even better.  It has fewer tables but they’ve added some upstairs and dining outside is a regular option for the 5 nights a week they are open.  Chef Justin Cogley runs the kitchen with skillful pastry chef Yulanda Santos to offer an ever-changing 8-course tasting menu.  (There was an optional Japanese A5 wagyu supplement that night which we took).  A huge wine cellar supplements the meal as does the full bar.  They have maintained the Michelin Star they earned in 2019.   Music is in the background and artistic fish swim around the walls for the 5 tables in the dining room.  Gone are the dark beams above but they’ve added a cabinet for glassware and burled wood center fixture topped with candles and flowers.  The staff are all friendly and ready to help with any requests.  Chefs bring out some of the plates and explain them.  It was a wonderful dining experience and I recommend it to anyone who can get there. Continue reading

Dad’s Luncheonette, Half Moon Bay, CA., 8/11/23

exterior – 225 Cabrillo Highway South at, Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Dad’s Luncheonette was in a historic train caboose on Highway 1, near a strip shopping center.   It was a dream of Chef Scott Clark, who we met when he was Chef de cuisine at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, to open something small and casual that also serves great food.  He wanted a lifestyle change after having a child with his partner, Alexis Liu.  When she saw this little train car he knew that was it.  That was 6 years ago and it’s still a successful business.   There are a few seats inside, where you order, and picnic tables outside, but many just eat on the hood of their car or get stuff to go.  The cooking is on the upper level of the caboose and bathrooms are in the shopping center.  Lo and behold when we entered we found he brought another friend from the close by San Francisco dining scene that we had also dealt with before, Anthony Keels (Eight Tables).  The place is surrounded by farms and they make the best use of that supply chain but have a small menu.  I didn’t get a photo of the menu but you can see much of it on their website or in the photos.  Unfortunately, they were out of the homemade chips today. Continue reading

Fitzgerald’s, “The Fitz” (update), Eagle River, MI., 7/31/23

exterior – 5033 Front St, Eagle River, MI 49950

We were at the Fitzgerald about a year ago (as well as in 2019) but this time we stayed on the second level in the newly re-done large rooms.  The view and sounds of Lake Superior are fabulous and with so many hot places, the cool breeze here was refreshing.  The staff are super friendly and there’s plenty of parking out front.  The restaurant does get full, so reservations are a must.  Guests at the hotel have first grab at reservations and I found out they hold the window tables for guests.  This visit the fires in Canada were making a haze on the horizon but last time we were at the windows and the sun is so bright I believe I prefer the inner tables.  It’s a small place though, so there aren’t any tables without a great view.  Another thing I learned is to come early as they have limited quantities of some items and the later in the evening the more they’ve run out of.  Unfortunately, they were out of ribs again when we arrived and no ends were available.  They did look large and meaty from what I saw on earlier tables.  Service is friendly and helpful but their wine list is small, especially compared to the array of whisky that is available.  It’s a fun lovely place but the food is mixed.  Some of the desserts looked and sounded good but those were all gone by the time we finished. Continue reading

Parkview Lodge and Grill, Toilvola, MI., 7/30/23

exterior – 32423 State Hwy M-26, Tiovola, MI, 49965

Parkview Lodge and Grilll is a large place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The lodge has 16 rustic rooms ready to house those enjoying the snowmobile and ATV trails nearby.  Attached is a large bar and restaurant open 11 to 9, seven days a week.  It was opened in 2005 by two sisters and their husbands, but after 10 years they closed for 2.  In the middle of being closed, it was taken over by their brother, Scott Johnson who started doing renovations.  The bar and restaurant can hold up to 200 people and one new feature was the addition of some cutout trees dividing the bar and restaurant.  They are fabric covered to help with noise.  We didn’t have any noise issues as it was empty when we stopped but the middle of the afternoon would be prime time for the explorers to be outside.  The bartender took our order, helped with suggestions and was very friendly.  I don’t know about staying here but it’s definitely a place I’d recommend for a good burger. Continue reading

The Ranch Supper Club (update), Hayward, WI., 7/29/23

exterior – 10590 N Ranch Road, Hayward, WI., 54843

We visited The Ranch Supper Club in 2022 and had a great time so decided to go again, but this time we didn’t have a reservation.  Not a good plan for a Saturday night.  The wait wasn’t as bad as they thought so it was only a half-hour – time for a martini and a look around the bar area.   The bar is a hopping place and they turn out a decent cocktail but their wine list is not too exciting, so we stayed with cocktails for the evening.  The bar itself has a beautiful inlay of stones and the wood room is decorated with fishing objects and sporting goods.   It’s a good meal with nice service. Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 7/25/23

exterior – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

Cry Wolf is a regular on our schedule if you haven’t noticed.  The menu like the wine list is ever-changing.  Some things work fantastically and others miss the mark slightly, but it’s never dissatisfying as I always leave in a great frame of mind.  It’s a vibe some restaurants can achieve but it’s tough to maintain, however, they do and so I’ll keep posting updates to our dinners there.  It helps that they know us and this night they brought a couple of dishes to us just to try.  It made for a lot of food but what fun.  Even though Chef Ross Demers was not in the house, Tim Case was there finding excellent wines to go with our order and Chef Mike Stites sent out terrific dishes.  If you’re in Dallas this place is a must for you to go relax and enjoy a fantastic meal. Continue reading

Yolk (update), Manzanita, OR., 7/14/23

exterior (when closed) – 503 Laneda Ave, Manzanita, OR 97130

Yolk serves breakfast and lunch in Manzanita, on the coast of Oregon.  We visited there about a year ago and had fond memories so we were looking forward to dining there and interestingly found out it had been sold in the last couple of days.  The past owners were still there when we went, helping the new owners with the transition, particularly cooking.  Even so, a little snafu with the ordering process made it take longer to get the bill and impossible to check on our order.  It is still a bright and tasteful interior with music in the background, a patio, a full bar and lots of windows to the outside streaming in the sunshine.  The food is good but they don’t take reservations, so get there early or be prepared to wait.  It’ll be worth the wait. Continue reading

Neah Kah Nie Bistro (update), Manzanita, OR., 7/13/23

exterior – 519 Laneda Ave, Manzanita, OR 97130

We visited Neah Kah Nie Bistro last year and it was much better than this year’s visit.  They were really short-staffed, meaning one person working the floor and one in the kitchen so any walk-ins were turned away and service was tremendously slow.  It’s a small place with some outdoor seating, although the tarp over those seats was gone.  I felt for the server but they should have canceled some reservations or notified guests.  This was horrible.   We didn’t try for a cocktail and instead were thankful to finally get to sit down.  We also didn’t try for multiple courses, it took so long to get our wine and then it was the wrong bottle and vintage too.  She took it back to try again but finally came back with what we drank and said they’d been delivered it by mistake.  (The bill tried to reflect the charge for what we ordered and we waited to have that corrected as this wine was half the price of what we ordered – and was awful).  They have a small parking lot but lots of street parking is available.  Music was in the background and there was lots of light from the windows in the room to supplement the low lighting.  Even so, you could tell the menus were well used and no daily specials were available.    I’m sorry to say I can’t recommend this place. Continue reading

Pacific Roots Coffee and Mini Donuts, Nehalem, 7/13/23

sign on street – 35915 N Hwy 101, Nehalem, OR 97131

Pacific Roots Coffee and Mini Donuts is a food truck off the main street in Nehalem.  It is by the water in the same clearing as the Riverside Fish and Chips Truck, both of which we tried last year.  The signature mini donuts are made fresh, on the spot when you order them and come with a variety of toppings.  You order as many as you wish and they will mix the toppings in an order.   These little donuts are made in a remarkable machine and I have found them in a number of places but the flavor and quality do vary.  These are good ones, served nicely hot with a perfect amount of cinnamon sugar.  Another nice feature is that these are served in a styrofoam container as opposed to the usual paper bag.  They are perfect to order, especially while you wait for fried cod from the fish and chips stand.   While the fish was nice and the slaw interesting, the mini donuts were the star of this lunch for me. I encourage you to find a stand and try some. Continue reading

Wanda’s Cafe & Bakery, Nehalem, OR., 7/13/23

exterior –12880 H St, Nehalem, OR 97131

Wanda’s Cafe and Bakery is family owned and operated where you can dine in or grab something to go.  It’s a small to medium-sized place with additional seating outdoors.  They do not take reservations, so expect to have a wait, but while we waited for breakfast they had coffee available.  Parking is limited on site but there is free parking in a close city lot.  Named for the original owner’s grandmother, there is no Wanda associated with the place now.  Music was in the background and the entrance and check-out are filled with goods for sale, both edible and novelty.  The servers were efficient and friendly.  It’s a place I’d recommend but I’d like to go on a day they make the fresh cinnamon rolls. Continue reading

Offshore Grill and Coffee House, Manzanita, OR., 7/12/23

exterior – 154 Laneda Ave, Manzanita, OR 97130

Offshore Grill and Coffee House is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday and tries to showcase local foods. The Coffee Shop is open all day on those days.  They moved from nearby Rockaway to Manzanita during the pandemic when they added the coffee house.  It’s a medium-sized place with art for sale on the walls.  Polished wood makes up the tables and wood is on the floor as well as the curved bar.  Lots of families were diners and there was faint music in the background.  A few parking spaces are out front but mostly it’s street parking or walk-in guests.  Lowered lighting was supplemented by bright sunlight from the windows.  Service was friendly but only would rate okay.  All though there is a bar area they serve just wine and beer, no hard alcohol.  No specials were offered that evening and the food was mixed. Continue reading

SAISON (update), San Francisco, 7/7/23

entrance – 178 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94107

SAISON had been a favorite restaurant of ours for years but had gradually drifted away from yummy so we haven’t been back since 2016.  The introduction of a new team lead by Chef Richard Lee sparked our curiosity and so we decided to re-visit and are so glad we did.  They still stress open hearth cooking and the use of local products all while expanding their wine list.  The space is the same with well-spaced polished wood large tables with music in the background.  The walls of brick and piles of wood give it a softer feel than the large open and modern kitchen that takes up one end of the space, which is the show people come to see.  The other end is the bar with an abbreviated menu. Chef Richard Lee led a large team of chefs, each with different assigned tasks, and coordinated the serving the same tasting menu to all of the guests.   It’s about a 2.5-hour meal and they do turn the tables.  Wine pairings are available and a supplemental A5 Wagyu is offered when booking.  They were dropped to 2 Michelin Stars a couple of years ago but with the level of service and the quality of the meal, I can see that third star back in their pocket soon.  It’s pricey but if you can go it is once again well worth the money.  At the end of the meal, you will receive a menu. Continue reading

Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant (update), San Francisco, 7/7/23

entrance – 374 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94104

Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant is the fifth oldest restaurant in the US.  It was first listed here in 2015 but I didn’t write up subsequent visits.  They credit themselves for helping establish San Francisco as the culinary mecca it is today.  They serve local seafood, simply prepared, alongside local vegetables.  I thought of it as similar to Tadich Grill but it doesn’t seem to have weathered the pandemic as well.  The crowd at lunch was very light and the server was marginal (maybe some language issues here)  and tried to sell us on more items when we were ordering plenty.  The medium-sized place is full of wood and white tablecloths with some natural light from the windows to the street.  The walls are decorated with photos and nature shots.  The food was marginal to bad and they charge for bread service. Continue reading

Acquerello (update), San Francisco, 7/6/23

entrance – 1722 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94109

We last visited Acquerello in 2018 and you can read that one here.  It is in Nob Hill in a building that had housed many businesses but the main was a chapel which you can recognize by the high peaked ceiling. For 3 decades they have offered Italian-inspired cuisine and have been recognized with 2 Michelin stars.  It’s a good-sized room with music in the background and friendly yet very professional service, including purse stools.  Executive Chef Suzette Gresham still co-owns the place and runs the kitchen.  Co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini was at another of his restaurants that evening but his most capable sommelier son was on site.  They offer 2 tasting menus, one seasonal and one where you select 3-5 courses from several choices.  We specified the seasonal tasting on our reservation so didn’t even see the other menu but their website has it online.  Wine pairings are available as are some supplemental courses of caviar and cheese.  We opted for our own wines and no supplements.  It is a lovely place but should I go back I’d pick the menu with choices because although the plates were gorgeous they didn’t pack the flavor punch I remembered. Continue reading

Tadich Grill (update), San Francisco, 7/6/23

exterior – 240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Tadich Grill was reviewed here back in 2015, but we visited many times after that and I didn’t write it up.  But with the pandemic, it’s been at least 4 years since we were there.   It was old school and consistent quality, meaning little changes, but downtown San Francisco has changed with a lot fewer people working in offices and a lower number of tourists.  Tadich was ‘started’ by 3 Croatian immigrants in 1849 as a coffee stand that went through numerous moves when in 1871 another Croatian, John Tadich started working there.  It became known as The Cold Day Restaurant through a political incident and Tadich took ownership in 1887.  He joined with another restauranteur when both needed to recover from the 1906 earthquake, but when their partnership dissolved in 1912 and his partner named his new restaurant The Cold Day.  Tadich then named his place Tadich Grill, The Original Cold Day Restaurant.  It’s a fairly large place with wood tables and booths set with white clothes and napkins.  A long bar with stools runs the length of the place with the kitchen being partially open in the back. Staff are friendly and dressed in long white aprons and white jackets.  They have a large menu featuring much local and imported seafood with a few daily specials.  The food is fine but nothing to write home about.  You no longer seem to need a reservation at lunch, if that’s progress. Continue reading

Cry Wolf (update), Dallas, 6/28/23

Chef Ross Demers – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

Cry Wolf has become a regular on our playlist and I swear I am not on their payroll – but the food is just too good not to share with you.  The combinations continue to evolve and are different week to week and the atmosphere is comfortable and welcoming.  Chef Ross Demers was finishing the plates tonight so we got to chat with him as we had the two “chef’s table” seats adjacent to him. He and Chef Mike Stites share cooking and finishing rolls, which helps the evolution of the menu.  Sommelier Tim Case always has some fun and new wines to tell you about and is very mindful of your menu choices in helping you make a selection.  In fact we had picked one wine and he came back and said we needed another under consideration based on our menu choices.  I was closing the end of a week of birthday celebrations and Tim started our evening with a complimentary glass of champagne.  If you haven’t been here, I strongly urge you to put it on your agenda.  Maybe Frankie and I will see you there! Continue reading

Louie’s on the Lake, Cumberland, WI., 6/21/23

building – 1780 Arcade Ave, Cumberland, WI 54829

Louie’s on the Lake was the byproduct of Doris and Louis Muench Sr. moving to Cumberland from Chicago, where he had been a meat cutter. In 1970 they opened Louie’s Finer Meats and from that came the opportunity for family dining featuring Louie’s meats.  It’s a small place with booths on the sides of the room and tables in the middle.  A few more tables are in the entry room where there is also a counter selling meats.  There is a large outdoor patio which the dining room looks out to, as well as the parking lot.  The bare wood tables are set with flatware wrapped in a napkin and other condiments for seasoning the food.  You can see the lake on an angle from the back windows.  Open every day except Tuesday, they serve breakfast and lunch and close earlier on Sunday.  Service was friendly but not the most efficient, but then finding workers in small towns is difficult.  The food was very acceptable and I’d go again but it’s not worth driving out of your way for. Continue reading

Shokunin, Calgary, 6/17/23

exterior – 2016 4 St SW, Calgary, AB T2S 1W3, Canada

Shokunin is a 50-seat Japanese Izakaya-style (informal place for drinking and snacks) restaurant serving charred yakitori and other small shared plates. On the 100 Best Restaurants of Canada, they ranked at #82.   They have a seasonal menu for the room as well as a full bar and lots of bottles of sake.  There are 4 seats at the bar in front of the cooking area that are reserved for the Shokunin Yakitori Omakase tasting.  It also has optional drink pairings and an additional course of 45-day aged beeswax-wrapped wagyu.  It is not A-5 from Japan but rather a Wagyu from Australia.  One item on the menu, the chicken ass (tail), is only available to those having the omakase.  The place was packed and service was well-paced and friendly.  I was surprised by how little interaction there was between the 4 guests and those in the kitchen, but that was affected by plexiglass between us and the grilled area.  It felt a bit impersonal with slight explanations of courses and a rushed feel.  Some of the food was outstanding and others were just so-so.  The tasting was a good way to get to know the place if you’re a one-time visitor. Continue reading

Hankki, Banff, 6/16/23

exterior – 206 Buffalo St, Banff, AB T1L 1E4, Canada

Hankki means one meal in Korean and this meal is modeled after Korean street food.  They sell bowls or cupbop, and Korean hot dogs on a stick. The bowls are a stir-fry of different ingredients.  Cheap, quick and filling options which are a novelty in the tourist-laden Banff.  All the bowls contain Veggie Mandu which is edamame, sweet corn, lettuce, pickled carrot, sesame seeds and egg garnish along with some pan-fried veggie dumplings.  They are on a base of rice with sauce and then you pick your level of spiciness.  We both chose ‘hot’.  The Chee Bop bowl contained Korean-style crispy fried chicken and the Korean B.B.Q bowl contained sweet and savory marinated grilled pork, lettuce.  There were basic similarities but the flavoring was fairly different.  Both were quite tasty and best when all the stuff was mixed around.  Hot was a nice level of heat.  If you need a quick snack this is for you.  I saw some little kids getting and enjoying the hot dogs which are much less food, but we didn’t try one. Continue reading

River Cafe, Calgary, 6/15/23

entrance – 25 Prince’s Island Park, SW, Calgary, AB T2P 0R1, Canada

River Cafe dates back to 1991 when it started as a full-service café on Calgary’s Prince Island for the summer only.  In 1995 they enclosed the space and began operating year-round.  The desire was to create a restaurant space that would blend into the Bow River setting and they ranked at #22 on the 2023 100 Best In Canada.  Attempting to serve cuisine from local areas was also part of the plan.  To this day there is no access to the place except to walk there across the pedestrian bridge and through the friendly geese.  It’s a fairly large space with bare wood tables set with towel-shaped napkins, faint music in the background and decorated with a fishing/nautical motif.  An open kitchen is part of the rambling room as is a long bar.  They are open 7 days a week and serve lunch/brunch as well as dinner. At dinner, they offer a Chef’s Tasting menu as well as an a la carte menu.  We chose the tasting and they were willing to give me a copy of the night’s menu, but the dessert listed was not accurate. Service was friendly but the pacing was off and the food was good but not outstanding.  It’s such a pretty spot, though I would recommend you try it. Continue reading

Meat & Bread, Calgary, 6/15/23

building – Grain Exchange Building, 821 1 St SW, Calgary, AB T2P 7N2, Canada

Meat and Bread started in Vancouver and now has a number of locations in Canada but this one is in the old grain exchange building and opened in 2017.  Stylishly designed and decorated they make everything themselves.  They prided themselves on the simplicity of their products  – offer just a few things but use the highest quality ingredients and make it yourselves.  That simplicity is seen in the efficient layout of the space.  You enter and immediately see the porchetta roast and some sandwiches being assembled for to-go orders.  The menu is on a blackboard-like surface above the long prep area and the sides and drinks are arranged so you can see and pick.  You can watch your sandwich being made as you pay for it and then they’ll call your number when it’s ready.  We were there when they first opened, so no line, but my understanding is that it can have long lines however they move quickly.  The staff were super friendly and loved showing off a whole roast ready to go to the slicer.  This is a wonderful place and I hope I get to eat their sandwiches again. Continue reading

D.O.P., Calgary, 6/14/23

exterior – 1005A 1 St SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0T8, Canada

D.O.P. is a small place that merited the number 23 spot on the 2023 list of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants.  In the next few months, around Sept. they are moving a couple blocks away to the Grain Exchange Building because their current building is being demolished.  This will allow them to have a bigger kitchen and add about 10 seats.  The name roughly translates to “Protected Designation of Origin” meaning that its products are locally grown or made, as much as possible.  The narrow place had small tables running the length of the room opposite the bar/counter seating.  The end with the entrance had windows to the street and a couple of side-by-side tables and the other end houses the 6′ x 8′ kitchen.  The server said they have a room downstairs for some prep work and storage but this was about the smallest kitchen ever.   The room’s long wall is decorated with posters and art, has a high ceiling, music in the background and the small bare wood tables are set with cloth napkins.  It filled up quickly and was quite noisy, with reservations being a must unless you’re a singleton for the bar seating.  Service was friendly and helpful and the food started with a flourish but then fizzled slightly. Continue reading

Silver Dragon Restaurant, Calgary, 6/14/23

exterior – 106 3 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0B6, Canada

The Silver Dragon Restaurant is located in the heart of Chinatown in Calgary.  They offer over 200 Chinese dishes as well as brunch dim sum cart service daily (till 2:30).  It’s a fairly large place on the second floor of the building that has been successful enough to now have a second location in Banff.  The tables were well-spaced but not set with pepper oil, soy sauce or vinegar.  It’s old-school Chinese food and service was friendly and fast with lots of carts coming to your table at any time.  However, if you didn’t see what you wanted on a cart they would get it for you if it was presently being served.  If it wasn’t they would only serve it if you had 2 orders of it.  That made it tough since there were just the two of us but there was plenty of selection to choose from.  They did bring us a tray with a bit of hot oil and some vinegar, but the hot oil was gone quickly.  Some items came with sauce and then I saw others asking for soy, etc. and they cut most items when served.   I would not call it outstanding but it was perfectly satisfying, just not extraordinary. The only specialty item worth commenting on was the ginger beef – a dish invented in Calgary.  It’s a fried strip of beef in a sweet/spicy sauce.  Fun to try something new. Continue reading

Major Tom, Calgary, 6/13/23

view from the restaurant – Scotia Centre, 700 2 St SW #4000, Calgary, AB T2P 2W3, Canada

Major Tom is a restaurant and bar on the 40th floor of Stephen Avenue Place in downtown Calgary.  It is the only restaurant in Alberta to be ranked in the top 20 of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants for 2023, claiming #13.  Opening in the summer of 2021 it offers spectacular views of downtown (and further depending on the weather) with a menu that is heavy on steakhouse fare.  While they offer other dining options, the menu highlights their beef selections which are all broiled at 1800º and brushed with Major Tom butter.  It’s a large place and very popular, judging by the crowd and reservation options.  The attractive interior is nicely lit by the walls of windows on the perimeter.  Music is in the background, as well as much conversational noise and a full bar is available.  Service is excellent and very friendly, with our great server Raven willing to pace out our meal and offer guidance on how much to order.  Fortunately, the food matched the wonderful views and it was a fantastic evening.  I recommend you include this one when you visit Calgary. Continue reading

The DeBruce (tasting), Livingston Manor, 6/3/23

dining room – 982 Debruce Rd, Livingston Manor, NY

The current owners have run the place for 6 years and offer 6 “seasons” of menu to span the year.  We were there for the ‘Stream’ season which features the many trout in the area.  We were fortunate to get the same wonderful server both nights and he really made the meal enjoyable.  Knowledge and friendliness are important in a great server and Giovanni Costantino has plenty of both.  The tasting is offered at 6:30 and 8:00 pm so it moves at a fairly rapid pace.  However, we had the later time and were there past 10, so the early seating moves more quickly.  Portions are well-modulated.  The beautiful landscape outside made a perfect backdrop for a meal of fish, that I didn’t have to catch or clean.   I imagine the other seasonal tastings are well-crafted too.  I recommend this place. Continue reading

The DeBruce (breakfast), Livingston Manor, 6/2 &3/23

dining room – 982 Debruce Rd, Livingston Manor, NY

When you stay at the DeBruce breakfast is included the next morning.  The sun-filled dining room opened at 9:00am and the menu changed slightly the 2 days we were there.  We tried some of the same things and new items the second day.  The menu says you are allowed to pick two items per person but I did hear some people customizing there order.  This may have worked as the place was not full or maybe they are flexible.  It never hurts to ask.  Also included was coffee, tea, orange juice and apple juice.  The service was not nearly as good in the morning as in the evening.  For example, I asked for a coffee refill and the server complied but never offered my husband any.  The service was also slower and that was probably due to fewer people working in the kitchen.  The food was more mixed at breakfast and it sometimes made me wish they offered a simple omelet.   But all that said, it satisfied and readied me for the day ahead. Continue reading

The DeBruce (a la carte), Livingston Manor, 6/2/23

building – 982 Debruce Rd, Livingston Manor, NY

The DeBruce Lodge and Restaurant, built in the 1880s, sits on a ledge overlooking the Willowemoc Vally and river in Catskill Park.  There are 12 rooms whose stay includes dinner and breakfast, as well as access to many fishing spots.  On Friday the menu is ‘a la carte’ and Saturday is the tasting menu (which will be in a later write-up).  They sometimes offer a Carte Blanche menu for Fridays but it was not available the time we were there.  Some reservations are taken for diners not staying in the lodge, but reservations are recommended.  Downstairs is a club room if you desire additional drinks but upstairs, or the main floor, has the small glass-walled dining rooms that has around 8 tables.  A larger table is in the Great Room for bigger groups.  Music is in the background with wood walls and wooden benches lining the perimeter of the room.  The seats are padded and pelts and horns provide the decorations.  Skylights provide additional lighting to the votives on the tables and natural light coming in the 2 walls of windows.  Once the sun goes down the room did get much darker.  A large opening goes to the kitchen which is kept amazingly dark, which is nice for diners but more challenging for the chefs.  Eric Leveillee is the Executive Chef but he spends most of his time in Philadelphia and Chef de Cuisine Robert West runs the kitchen here.  It is a lovely spot and if you like fly fishing, pack your bags now.  If you’re not a fisherman you can still enjoy this place’s wonderful hiking and food.  We enjoyed both types of menus and they are quite different, so stay 2 nights if you can.


dining room
Frankie explored



For dinner we were told we could order whatever we wanted off the menu.  We wanted to try a lot and were willing to share all.  The server was most helpful in crafting our meal.  Our Sourdough was their bread topped with peas, fiddleheads and ricotta.  The thick slice of bread was heavily spread with their housemade ricotta and then decorated with fresh fiddlehead ferns and English peas.  It was delicious and a delight to have the ultra-fresh vegetables.

Our sourdough
another angle


Roasted carrots were mixed with coffee, maple and pistachio.  These might have been my husband’s favorite plate of the evening.  The beautiful fresh carrots were perfectly cooked and seasoned with the nuts adding a bit more texture to the dish.  They were great.



Chilled mussels were mixed with white beans and topped with housemade potato chips.  It was described as chilled but it still jolted me to have the cold mussels but they were fun and tasty.  The chips gave the texture some crunch and a bit of salt which the beans needed.  There was also some briny liquid mixed with the beans underneath.  Some of the beans could have been cooked a tad more but better this than turned to mush.  The large mussels were great.

Chilled mussels


Ricotta dumplings were mixed with wild mushrooms and parmesan.  The large pasta wrappers were stuffed with the tasty ricotta and then blended with tons of mushrooms and topped with lots of grated cheese and a bit of cream.  They were rich, heavy and wonderful.

Ricotta Dumplings


Mangalitsa pork chop au poivre was served sliced and de-boned on a fabulous sauce.  The large fat cap on the meat gave it extra richness and a wonderful depth of flavor.  It was slightly chewy, but this one you didn’t mind working on, especially the delectable bone meat.

Mangalitsa Pork Chop


Beaverkill trout was topped with fiddleheads and smoked roe.  It was a boneless fillet but the head and tail were on the plate for a faux whole-fish effect.  The cooking and flavor were excellent and the roe made a nice accent seasoning.

Beaverkill Trout


Rice pudding was with almond and sea buckthorn.  The thick round of rice was underneath a layer of cream and sitting in the sea buckthorn sauce.  It was light and yet full of flavor.  I love rice pudding and this was a interesting rendition.

rice pudding


Chocolate mousse with raspberry sorbet was topped with lime shortbread. A final drizzle of cream finished off the dish.  The cookie was buttery and short and the dish had lots of textures.  Some herbs were mixed in and sprinkled on the top to add another layer of flavor.  It looked goopy but it was nice.

Chocolate mousse
Frankie explored the place

The Smoke Joint, Livingston Manor, NY., 6/2/23

building – 630 Old Rte 17, Livingston Manor, NY 12758

The Smoke Joint moved to the Catskills from downtown Brooklyn.  The chef/owners Ben Grossman and Craig Samuel have won accolades for their culinary ventures.  The tiny place is on the banks of the Willowemoc River and they are open from spring to fall.  Here they offer a variety of sandwiches, barbecue by the pound, fried chicken, hot dogs, a variety of sides and beverages (full liquor license).  They have a few tables inside but most of the dining was on the picnic tables right out the door.  The tables were set with napkins, flatware and hot and regular sauces.  You order and pay at the counter and then your food is brought out to you.  There were cans to dispose of your trash when you are through.  The people working there were pleasant and helpful and judging by the crowd we decided it was the place to grab a snack.  I’m no expert on barbecue as is John Tanner who publishes a restaurant blog you’d enjoy, but I think he’d appreciate the flavor of the brisket.  Check out John’s blog for not only barbecue but also Washington DC, the eastern USA coast and lots of other places.  You’ll enjoy his wit and writing style and add to your list of places to go and eat.
Continue reading

The Bocuse Restaurant, Hyde Park, NY, 6/1/23

entrance – 1946 Campus Dr, Hyde Park, NY 12538

The Bocuse Restaurant is the French restaurant in the Culinary Institute of America.  Named aptly for Paul Bocuse, it is staffed by students at the CIA who learn modern cooking techniques to bring diners classic French cuisine.  It’s in a large room at one end of a main building that has a parking garage next to it.  Tons of windows added even more light to the fairly bright white room.   Modern ceiling fixtures add soft light as does the see-through wine cellar.  One end of the room is the open kitchen.   Students not only do the cooking but also the service, drinks and wine service.  They were all very pleasant but varied in their competency.  Bench seating lines the walls with free-standing tables in the middle of the room and music was in the background.  The menu is set up as a prix fixe 3-course menu with several choices in each category.  They offered a nice wine list as well as many cocktails and mocktails – some made tableside. We were there with family so I got more pictures than I got to eat, but pictures tell a lot.  Overall the food was nice but some menu descriptions were off the mark. Continue reading

Garvan’s Gastropub, New Paltz, NY, 5/31/23

building – 215 Huguenot St, New Paltz, NY 12561

Garvan’s was opened 6 years ago by Garvan and Leonie McCloskey to bring a bit of Ireland to New Paltz, NY.  It is located in an historic home that was built in 1759.  The restaurant is spread over 5 spacious rooms in the building that have carpet and lots of windows to the outside.  With the addition of drapes and well spaced tables the noise level is quite nice.  There were no special that evening but the place does offer a full bar.  We were there with family and so my note-writing and picture-taking were limited.  The service was friendly but not particularly attentive.  Our main server took our orders and then disappeared for long periods of time while others brought the food and drinks.  The food was mixed with some plates good while others were quite ordinary.  The bar did turn out good cocktails though and as I said the noise level made it easy to talk.  We didn’t get dessert but I got a photo of the menu. Continue reading

Nick’s Family Restaurant, Spooner, WI, 5/17/23


Nick’s Family Restaurant is a large place, with seats for 120, and famous for its ‘pizzaburger.’  It has been in business for over 50 years and with it being locally owned and family run by the Tyler family since 1979.  Windows to the street are on many sides with booths next to them.  In the middle of the rooms are tables of various sizes.  The first thing you see when you enter is the display case filled with pies and the check-out counter where you pay.  They have a large menu that is supplemented with daily specials for lunch and dinner and serve breakfast all-day.  Closed on Tuesday, they are open 6 am to 8 pm daily and are even open earlier during the week.  They serve wine and beer but no full bar.  Service was amazing considering how few were working there and how many people continued to arrive.  The food was mixed but edible.  It looks like a no-frills place and that’s the food it serves too.  Nothing wrong just not calling you back to eat there again. Continue reading

Nook, Madison, 5/11/23

exterior – 2138 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704

Nook is a tiny 12-seat tasting menu experience.  It’s what I continually search for – a relaxed, fun-filled evening filled with wonderful flavors and textures.  The restaurant is family owned by Noah and Julie Przybylski and they cook and present the evenings’s meal.  Aided by some extra servers in the service, you can’t help but be consumed by their joyous and adventurous spirits.  The couple met in Chicago in 2005,  where the dream of opening their own restaurant hatched.  They married in 2007 and welcomed a son in 2014 (whose artwork you can see downstairs).  Now they have brought the dream to life with a restaurant that celebrates all that Wisconsin has to offer. A bargain at $125 per person for a 12-14 course meal.  Wine pairings are available, but we ordered our own bottle.  The tables each seat 2 and they’re lined up about 3 inches apart from each other.  As the evening moves on conversations begin to cross over the small separation.  Noah presented and explained each course as it came out with good pacing and portion control.  I strongly recommend this fabulous place, if you can get a reservation – they go quickly. Continue reading

Alimentari Deli, Madison, 5/11/23

exterior – 306 S Brearly St, Madison, WI 53703

Alimentari is basically Italian for food/groceries.  This deli is in an 1,800 square foot former laundromat space and sells fresh pasta, sauces, freshly cut meats and cheeses as well as sandwiches and other dry goods.  The sandwiches are made to order and there is no place to eat in the store.  They also had a gelato counter but we didn’t try it.  It looked like a great place to shop for Italian ingredients but for us we wanted a sandwich for the car.  Similar to last week, we wanted a snack before we went on a tour of a Frank Lloyd Wright site, but this time is was Taliesin.  I must say this sandwich was way better than the last both because of the filling but also the bread.  The buns for their sandwiches are made daily by Madison Sourdough.  They have a great chew with a crisp crust and a soft interior but it’s not too big that it dwarfs the fillings or hard to get your mouth around.  I actually found myself wanting to eat parts of the bread without any filling, it was that good.  If you need ingredients or just a snack, I’d head to this place right away. Continue reading

L’Etoile Restaurant, Madison, 5/10/23

building – US Bank Plaza, 1 S Pinckney St, Suite 107, Madison, WI 53703

L’Etoile Restaurant was opened by Odessa Piper in 1976.  She was an early supporter of the sustainable food or farm-to-table movement.  In 2005 she sold the restaurant to her Chef de cuisine, Tory Miller and his sister Traci.  They continued the tradition of supporting local farmers and expanded to open a bakery and a casual lunch spot also.  Dianne Christensen became a co-owner in 2007 and envisioned a new space for ‘L’Etoile and the addition of a gastropub.  Chef Miller was the recipient of the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Midwest in 2012.  The new space is in the US Bank Plaza building with 3 walls of glass looking out at the dome of the Wisconsin capital building.  The widely spaced tables are covered with white cloths, sitting on carpet with a high ceiling overhead and music in the background.  Parking is on your own, so allow extra time to make your reservation.  They offer a “5” course tasting with 2 levels of optional wine pairings as well as an a la carte menu.  The full bar and wine list has a fairly hefty mark-up but it is a good selection.  We chose the tasting menu which included multiple extras and chose a half bottle of white and full bottle of red to accompany the meal.  The food is excellent as was the service and if you have the chance this is a place I would recommend, but it’s not cheap. Continue reading

The Plaza Tavern & Grill, Madison, 5/10/23

building – 319 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703

The Plaza Tavern and Grill is the home of the “world-famous Plazaburger.”   The burger is dressed with a Plaza sauce which is a secret recipe from 1964.   The Plazaburger is ordered separately from a regular burger but they also offer a number of other food choices.  Inside is a long bar that runs the length of the long room and booths run along the opposite wall.  The middle of the room is open but you’ll find various game machines around the room.  A number of televisions were around the room and midday they were playing an old animated show.  It’s conveniently located by the capital and UW and open Wed to Sat from noon to 2 am.  Goggle wrongly said they weren’t open till 3 pm on Wed but that is not the case.  They were super friendly and cooked our burgers on the grill right behind the bar.  It is a cash only place. Continue reading

Paul’s Pel’meni, Madison, 5/10/23

exterior – 414 W Gilman St, Madison, WI 53703

Paul’s Pel’meni is a small place near the UW campus serving Russian style dumplings.  The owner, Paul Schwoerer, once lived in Alaska and found that Russian cuisine was good for colder climates.  While there he learned to make these dumplings from a man who wanted to move back to Russia.  Now he and his wife are in their 3rd location having been in business for 18 years.  Everyday in the kitchen downstairs he rolls the dough and stuffs it with mashed potatoes or a savory ground beef mixture.  Sour cream is the standard accompaniment but they still seemed plain to him.  Now he adds a topping of yellow curry, butter, sweet chili sauce with vinegar and cilantro.  They are sold in full and half orders of the beef, potato or mix.  You order at the counter and they are out quickly.  In the next room are tables and a water jug and a room with a bar.  Later in the evening they’ll be serving lots of cocktails and draft beer to go with the dumplings.  It was a quick and very satisfying lunch for us and I highly recommend you check the place out. Continue reading

The Harvey House, Madison, 5/9/23

exterior (daytime) – 644 W Washington Ave, Madison, WI 53703 

The Harvey House is a modern take on a supper club and train travel,  located in an historic train depot.  The old Baggage Claim House and a train car next door make up the interior spaces.  Opened by Shaina and Joe Papach, he runs the kitchen and she provides the design and business development portion.  Lots of Wisconsin classic cocktails are served as well as newer craft cocktails, but the wine list is limited.  The private car, which we could see out the window in our dining room, is used mostly for private parties according to our server.  Even so, it is a large place winding around different floors and rooms with music in the background.  A parking lot outside can handle some of the cars but parking can become an issue.  There were some area rugs on the hard floor but with all the brick walls and marble-top tables, noise quickly became an issue.  The lighting is very lowered which also became difficult as the sun went down.  The food was mixed but service was fine.  I do love supper clubs, but as much as I admire what the owners bring to the dining scene I probably wouldn’t go back. Continue reading

Di Anoia’s Eatery, Pittsburgh, 5/4/23

exterior – 2549 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Di Anoia’s is an Italian restaurant run by Chef/Owner Dave Anoia from Lebanon, PA. that opened in 2016 in the Strip District with his wife, Aimee DiAndrea (get how they came up with the name?).  They accept reservations 6 weeks in advance but do have a waiting list that actually works.  The bar and patio are for walk-ins.  It’s a large bustling place serving all ages on closely spaced faux marble tables with red-checked napkins.  Windows to the outside are on 2 walls and one looks like it used to be a garage door.  They are open for all three meals except for no breakfast on Sunday and closed all day Monday.  It’s a deli/cafe by day and a full-service restaurant at night.  You enter into the bar/cafe area where there is a pastry case and a full bar.  The dining room is to you right.  Service was helpful and friendly and the noise level is loud. Continue reading

Groceria Merante, Pittsburgh, 5/4/23

entrance –3454 Bates St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Groceria Merante is an Italian grocery store selling supplies and sandwiches.  It started in the late 1950s and moved to its present location in 1979.   The family had seven children and some of them still take part in this family run business.  We were on our way to visit Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright designed home about an hour and a half from Pittsburgh.  We wanted something we could keep in the car and eat before going in and this was perfect.  The little corner store had wonderful products and a deli counter in back.  Some sandwiches were ready made and in the cooler.  At check out she gave me napkins and mayo for our meal.  The sandwiches were well stuffed but did want the mayo for extra moistness.  If you need Italian supplies I highly recommend this place and if you want a sandwich to go it’s a fine choice.  There is no place to eat at the store. Continue reading

Altius, Pittsburgh, 5/3/23

exterior/day – 1230 Grandview Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15211

Altius was a combination of fine dining and spectacular views.  Located next to the top spot for the Mt. Washington Incline, the 2-story restaurant makes the most of its views with windows on three sides and 2 levels on each floor, so everybody can look around.  The comfy seats have adequate-sized tables on carpet with only faint music in the background.  Most of the lighting was from the windows and that would have been an issue if we hadn’t been lucky to be located under one of the ceiling spots.  Some tables got quite dark as we watched the sun go down and the city’s lights go on.  Bridges, stadiums and buildings are all within view as was the Duquesne Indian station and its car.  A more casual crowd seemed to be celebrating special occasions among us regular diners.  Service was good as was the food but the view was exceptional. Continue reading