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

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

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

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

Carte Blanche, Dallas, 6/29/21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mural on the outside of the building

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

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

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

DanDan, Philadelphia, 5/21/21

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

Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia, 5/20/21

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

Parc, Philadelphia, 5/20/21

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

Laurel, Philadelphia, 5/19/21

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

Henrietta Red, Nashville, 4/14/21

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

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

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

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

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

Addison Restaurant, San Diego, 3/24/21

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

Clancy’s Restaurant (update), New Orleans, 3/19/21

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Frankie has been to Clancy’s many times but always finds a good meal there with excellent service.  It is important to ask to sit in the main dining room as the vibe is much better.  Tables have more space between them, due to Covid, and all the staff wear masks, as do guests when they are away from their table.  They have a bar in addition to the wine list and we enjoyed a Negroni as we decided what to have.  The servers are usually opinionated if you can’t decide and guide you in ordering, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Continue reading

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

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

Herbsaint Restaurant (update), New Orleans, 3/17/21

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We last visited Herbsaint in the end of 2018 and it is just as good as before.  They still have white paper on top of the white tablecloths but now the well-spaced tables are also placed in the bar area.  Two walls of the front rooms are glassed looking out on the street with lowered lighting inside.  No music is in the background but there is a hum of conversation.  Service was masked, attentive and friendly. Continue reading

Lucia at Macellaio (re-visit), Dallas, 11/21/20

We visited and wrote this one up just a couple weeks ago but were fortunate to get back and try again.  In Dallas we finally have the perfect weather to eat outside and the Lucia folks do such a nice job of distancing and masking that it feels almost like a bit of normal in what has been a crazy restaurant blogging year.   Tasting menus are not for all but I sincerely urge all to give this one a chance, especially because during pre-Covid times you could hardly get a reservation to Lucia.  This is the opportunity to eat the fabulous Lucia food only on the patio of their sister restaurant Macellaio.  The menu really changes weekly as you’ll see below but the portions are generous and tasty.  I even enjoyed the wine pairings.  Frankie slept through the meal but urges her followers to check this one out.

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Continue reading

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

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

Local, Jackson, WY., 9/10/20

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Local is a steakhouse and bar in the historic town square of Jackson.  It has many rooms, some of which are for dinner and some for lunch and others for both.  We sat in the room with the bar counter and it had plexiglass between the seats and bar as did the booths have plexiglas between them.  The black wood tables were set off by the brown wood floor and light wood walls with mirror insets.  The booths had a padded seat whereas the bar was set with dark wood chairs with backs that were unpadded.  Music was in the background and a TV was playing in the bar area but it was muted.  We made a reservation for lunch which the website recommended but when we showed up the person at the entrance seated the 2 walk-up parties ahead of us in line to get in.  Their lunch menu was mostly sandwiches, particularly burgers and they had one special of the day (a hot ham and cheese sandwich) as well as a soup that changes daily.  Service was helpful, opinionated and efficient. Continue reading

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

old entrance (now go through the side door)

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

Cristinas, Ketchum, Idaho, 9/5/20

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Cristina’s was opened in 1993 by Cristina Cook, 5 years after she moved here from Italy.  She has written 2 cookbooks.  The place is open for breakfast, lunch and brunch and is using their large outdoor seating area rather than the interior.  You enter into the small salmon colored house to find a counter filled with sweet and savory foods which are available for purchase.  There were a couple room inside but outside they have a large tent complete with chandeliers over the wood deck and individual tables with umbrellas on the lawns around the house.  The white cloth covered tables were well spaced and set with white cloth napkins.  Lots of plants and flowers surround the diners.  No music is in the background.  The small menu has the daily specials written in.  Chef Cook was in the kitchen but she never came out to greet guests.  Seating was only by reservation or waiting a couple hours.  Servers wore masks, were friendly and all seemed to work together to take care of the tables. Continue reading

Noyo Harbor Inn Restaurant and Tavern, Fort Bragg, CA., 8/13/20

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Noyo Harbor Restaurant is part of the historic Noyo Harbor Inn in Fort Bragg, CA.  They have a good sized multi level patio for outside dining that overlooks the active marina and flowing river.  Many of the metal tables, but not all, had umbrellas to provide shade, were set on the patio’s tile floor, had some heaters and no music was in the  background.  Servers wore masks and each table had a small bottle of hand sanitizer.   The bathroom was inside by the inn’s check-in desk.   The lovely view and multiple levels made it a very pleasant place to sit enjoy your meal.   The restaurant had wild caught and daily catch from the harbor as well as vegetables and herbs from the Chef’s garden.  We were there midday and they had a brunch menu as well as daily specials.  It offered the aforementioned seafood as well as a number of breakfast items.  They had cocktails, beer and wine by the glass or bottle.  Service was friendly but less refined (one of the servers splashed coffee on my blouse while pouring).  I saw some of the breakfast food come out and the plates looked generous. Continue reading

Wild Fish, Little River, CA., 8/12/20

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Wild Fish was opened on November of 2011 by a British couple, Liz and Kelvin Jacobs, who had relocated to California.  She was a food writer and he a chef and they wanted to create a restaurant that served local, seasonal  and sustainable seafood and organic produce.  They have an additional place in Pacific Grove, CA.  They have been offering take out options but in Little River they also had a small patio behind the restaurant  that overlooked the ocean and greenery leading up to the shore.  There were only 6 small bare wood tables and one actually was on the parking lot.  The restaurant was behind a gas station/convenience store/post office and there were no umbrellas for shade but heaters were there for later in the evening.  There was music in the background, a small bottle of hand sanitizer on each table and  lots of plants on the patio.  Servers were friendly and wore masks.  They had a small but well chosen wine list and many wines were offered by the glass (a good pour) as well as by the bottle.  Each food item had a suggested wine to go with it and we chose to try their suggestions, creating our own tasting. Continue reading

Nepenthe, Big Sur, 7/31/20

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Nepenthe is 808 feet above sea level in Big Sur on the site of The Log House that was built in 1925.  Nepenthe, named for a plant ancient writers described as inducing a pleasurable sensation, was designed by Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright using native materials of red wood and adobe so the building became one with the landscape.  It is a facility on several levels with the main dining area on the top, the gift shop on the first and a more casual dining spot on the second level.  You can drive up much of the hill but then there are several sets of stairs to climb to the top.  Each level has magnificent vistas to take in of the water and tree covered hills.  The main dining room for Nepenthe was a large room with a long counter that now serves as a staging area for the plates to be served on the outside seating on the balconies around it and the large patio in front of it.  There was music inside the room but none outside.  You need to walk through the room to get to the bathroom.   It is really busy so we got there before they opened and checked in to get a beeper that went off when they were ready to seat us. Continue reading

Aubergine (update), Carmel, 7/30/20

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L’Auberge Hotel

We visited Aubergine one year ago but currently California does not permit indoor dining.  Luckily Carmel has great weather for this change and the L’Auberge Hotel has a beautiful courtyard to move the restaurant guests to.   The polished wood tables are well spaced from each other and set with placemats and large linen napkins.  The patio has a brick floor, lots of plants and is punctuated with various lighting sources and heat lamps.  It is a lovely place to sit in the lighted hours as well as after the sun sets.  Various benches and chairs on the perimeter are used by people who ordered a separate drink from the bar.  All staff wore masks and were extraordinarily welcoming (as are all the staff at the hotel), especially Chef Justin Cogley who served some of the courses and visited with guests.  They now offer just one tasting menu to all and wine pairings are available.  You can view the wine list on your smart phone with the link provided.  Portion control was good and pacing was leisurely but never lagged.  It started quicker and then slowed slightly.  It still has one Michelin star but I see this place moving to 2 stars soon.  Put it on your list of places to go. Continue reading

La Bicyclette (update), Carmel, 7/30/20

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restaurant

Frankie and I visited La Bicyclette just a year ago and while the food is still good it is a much smaller place as all the seating has moved to the outside (due to Covid 19 regulations of CA.)   They have built a small deck so that seating is at sidewalk level but there are not many tables (I counted seven 2-tops and two 4-tops) and they do not take reservations.  We lined up before they opened and snagged one of the first round of seatings.  The small wood tables were set with a hand towel for a cloth with some umbrellas  and heaters dividing the tables.  The heaters would be good in the evening but during the daytime they could use more umbrellas as it gets quite sunny on this less busy street.  The menu offered a couple specials as well as a daily soup.  Service was friendly and helpful with all servers wearing masks and trying to afford distance  between them and patrons when possible. Continue reading

Flying Fish Grill, Carmel, 7/29/20

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entrance and patio

The Flying Fish Grill website still lists Tina and Kenny Fukumoto as owners rather than Honza Prikryl who bought it 3 years ago but has not been able to get control of the website to change things.  The menu is correctly reflected on the website except they temporarily don’t offer Clay Pots as that was part of the indoor service.  It looked like a cozy place but currently dining was outside of the restaurant, along the bricked corridor of a shopping plaza, set off the street.  The good sized tables were unclothed metal ones some with umbrellas attached.   Service was friendly but with a few glitches, but then everyone is adapting to new rules and systems.  The inside restaurant was down a set of stairs so staff had to bring everything up to the “new” dining area.   The menu is all about Asian fusion seafood and a couple specials were also offered by the server. Continue reading

Dametra Café, Carmel, 7/29/20

IMG_6596Dametra Café specializes in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food.  The small cafe opened in 2008 and is even smaller now having only outdoor dining due to Covid 19 restrictions of California.  The same table set up runs along the street in front of the building with tables divided by planters and heaters and separated from the street by a wooden fence.  The narrow, small tables are covered with bright yellow oil-cloth tableclothes and set at street level rather than sidewalk.  It makes some difficult to get in and out but didn’t seem to keep the crowd away.  It’s reputation is that there is often a line for walk-up guests but we were lucky and got a table when we arrived. They offer the same menu at lunch and dinner but add sandwiches to the lunch offerings.   They also have a more limited menu for curbside pickup.  Service was friendly, helpful and efficient.  Even with an ever-changing supply of table guests they did not rush us to finish up our wine so they could reseat the table. Continue reading

Tidal Raves, Depoe Bay, OR., 6/25/20

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Tidal Raves has been in business since 1990 on a beautiful spot on the central Oregon coast. Whales are a regular sight out the large windows that frame the good sized dining room.  They do have a tint on them that keeps the sun from being too intense but will also tint some of your outdoor photos.  It is primarily a seafood restaurant but a few meat choices are there for the those not in the mood.  The a la carte menu was supplemented by a fresh catch special that was on the chalkboard on both our visits.  The long room has well spaced large bare wood tables along the windows and another series of tables on a second level (separated from below by a plexiglass barrier)  that is just high enough to afford them a good view also.  Instrumental music was in the background, carpet was on the floor, ceiling fans helped to keep it a nice temperature, additional light fixtures add to the incredible day light and the friendly, efficient staff wore masks. Continue reading

Salum, Dallas, 5/16/20 and 6/6/20

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exterior

Chef Abraham Salum opened Salum in 2005 which could seat 84 people pre-Covid 19.  It has re-opened after sustaining itself with take out orders.   I’d been there a number of times for both dinners and lunches and honestly don’t know why I never visited with Frankie.  But it was well worth going back to and the food and service are especially appreciated now.  The nice sized white cloth covered tables are well spaced and waitstaff wear masks and gloves.  The kitchen area is shielded with a curtain now as it also serves as a staging area for take out orders.  The guests are a varied crowd but most are attired with a dressy casual look.  Windows to the street are covered with a darkening shade and the light fixtures that hang from the ceiling are covered with a gauzy fabric.  It all yields a lower lighting level but not so that you can’t see your food.  Also the extra spacing of patrons eliminated one of my objections from the past, that being noise when the room was full.  Music plays faintly in the background.  The restaurant has a full bar and so offers a specialty cocktail menu as well as a nice sized wine list.  There is no tasting menu but the menu does change regularly, with the “Build your own Burger” always on the menu, both lunch and dinner.  Service was attentive and friendly and the chef who was in the kitchen greeted all his guests.  There is a dedicated parking lot in front. Continue reading

Irene’s, New Orleans, 2/22/20

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exterior

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

Taverna dell’ Arte, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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outside

Taverna dell’ Arte was a small place that opened in 1990.  The small tables were closely positioned and covered in beige cloths on top of black ones and set with beige napkins.  Outside there was a porch area with lots of candles.  Inside the lighting was lowered and music was in the background.  There are several rooms divided by half walls and some full partitions.  There was lots of dark wood and various decorations were on top of things and hung on walls.   The windows were covered.  The staff was friendly and spoke fairly good English, as I heard several tables speaking English.   There was a large menu in both English and Italian and everything was a la carte.  There were a lot of drink options.  The chef came out and visited with some but not all of the tables.  Overall this place was okay, not great. Continue reading

Essencia Restaurant, Naples, Italy, 12/19/19

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exterior

Essencia Restaurant just opened last May.  The building has a bar and kitchen downstairs and upstairs are a couple rooms for dining.  Window doors open to the outside and music is in the background.  The small tables are set with beige or white cloths on top of a contrasting floor length cloth.  Coordinated napkins and different colors of fabric on the chairs complete the stylish set up.  Bench seating was on one wall and the seats were pretty comfortable although the small tables are fairly close.  The walls are decorated with various pieces of art.  The menu offers a la carte selections and tastings of 4 or 5 courses.  I didn’t notice wine pairings being offered but the wine list was fairly reasonable.  Staff were very friendly, welcoming and spoke great English.  We chose the 5 course tasting.  Pacing and portion control were both wonderful. Continue reading

Cafe Pasqual, Santa Fe, 11/3/19

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building

Cafe Pasqual is almost an institution in Santa Fe.  They don’t take reservations so be prepared to wait an hour for a table.  They have a list that you get on at the door and they call your name when it’s your turn to enter the medium sized place.  The tile walls add to the colorful interior that is decorated with lace things hanging from the ceiling and t-shirts and calendars.  There is a large communal table in the center of the downstairs and a few tables are up a couple steps at the front of the place.  At the front counter they have desserts to go but also sell many souvenirs.  Tables are of unvarnished wood, there is music in the background and the floor is wood and tile.  Tables are closely set and relatively small and set with paper napkins.  Service is efficient but it takes a while as the crowd is pretty much non-stop.  When we ate there years ago the food seemed worth the wait but now I’m not sure I’d wait again for it.  It was good, it just didn’t have the soul that some of the other New Mexican spots we visited. Continue reading

Brasserie Les Trois, Basel, 10/23/19

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hotel exterior

Brasserie is the casual restaurant in the Les Trois Rois Hotel.  It is a good sized L-shaped place with one wall made up of windows overlooking the Rhine River. Another wall has murals painted on it to back up a long bench seat.  Music is in the background and the nicely spaced tables are covered in a double ecru cloth and matching napkins.  The room was lovely and peaceful to watch the various sizes of boats go by.  At lunch they offered an a la carte menu as well as a 2-3 course menu with glasses of wine to go with the plates.  We chose the lunch 3 plate menu and got glasses of their featured wine.  Each course had several options to chose from.  Service was friendly, helpful and the server spoke great English. Continue reading

GW Fins Restaurant, New Orleans, 8/28/19

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exterior

GW Fins is a large place in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  At the entrance there is a large bar area to the left and a several tiered dining space to the right, separated by a huge fish sculpture.  Booths are set in arcs around the room and tables are in the middle.  Wood pillars break up the huge space and art is on the walls, except for the one wall that is windows to the street.  No music is in the background and the lights are lowered in the room but spots accent many of the tables.  While there is noise in the room from the many diners, conversation at the table seemed easy and private.  Double white clothes and folded napkins are set at the good sized tables.  They have been in business for 17 years.   They have an a la carte menu but also offer a fixed price meal where you chose from 3 options for 3 courses.  Service was helpful, friendly and opinionated.  Various personnel stoped by often to check on everything.  It was nice, not intrusive. Continue reading

Il Grillo Carmel, Carmel, 8/10/19

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building

Il Grillo has a small indoor seating space and a larger patio outdoor.  The small light wood bare tables are set closely, but the night we were there most of the space was taken up by a giant party so I’m not sure what the normal spacing would be.  On the end of the room is a service counter with foods for sale or to be used in meal preparation.  Overhead are bottles of wine.  The white ceiling has painted white beams, the floor is tile and the walls are decorated with art.  Music plays in the background and service was friendly.  The menu here changes daily to reflect the availability of local products. Continue reading

La Bicyclette, Carmel, 8/9/19

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building

La Bicyclette is on a corner in the busy shopping area of Carmel.  It is basically made up of 2 rooms, one having windows to the street on 2 sides, the pizza oven, a long bar and kitchen pass through and the other smaller room having a lot of hanging copper pots and glassware storage.  It seemed much more lively in the bigger room.  The small bare wood tables are placed fairly closely together and set with cloth napkins that are more like small towels.  The rooms had a number of eclectic decorations.  Music is in the background and the place is amazingly busy.  It is a fun spot with good food, friendly service and casual atmosphere. Continue reading

Homewood (update), Dallas, 7/9/19

sign out front
sign out front

We visited Homewood again and had different things as much of the menu had changed.  The menu this time was for summer rather than spring.  It was still really busy but with a reservation we had a table waiting for us.   Walk-ins were waiting for a seat and the noise level is a struggle.    It is a lively, varied aged crowd.  Chef Matt McCallister was in the kitchen and out visiting with his guests. Continue reading

Chinched, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/28/19

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exterior

Chinched is Newfoundland slang for being full and the tiny restaurant Chinched is good for that.  It is in an old house that has a small number of counter seats and a couple tables for about 8 people in the window that faces the street.  They do their own in-house chacuterie and make their own crackers and bread.  The small menu at lunch is mostly sandwiches and snacks with lots of beer choices.  At dinner they have a larger menu and also offer a happy hour menu.  Later in the day they have additional seating upstairs.  They also offer wine and a bar.  There is seating on a small patio out back when weather permits.   The super friendly staff were helpful in advising what and how much to order.  We way over ordered, but we wanted to try a number of their things.  Music plays in the background and there are a ton of pigs decorating the place.  It felt casual and cozy.   Continue reading

Mallard Cottage, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/27/19

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side

Mallard Cottage was built around 1830 as a one and half story home for the Mallard family in the Quidi Vidi area (rows of brightly colored houses); a house typical of the immigrants coming in from southeast Ireland.  We got to sit in one of the original rooms with the low ceiling but they’ve added on a larger high ceiling room that could seat way more people.  The old wood floors are set with new bare wood pedestal tables, wood uncushioned chairs and large paper napkins. In the larger room, that also housed a bar and stools, the music was quite loud whereas in the older rooms it was quieter.  Lots of quaint decorations give the place character.  Service was friendly but pacing was super quick and portions good sized.  The menu is small but they also offer a ‘family style’ option where they pick the appetizers and main courses for your table.  Wine pairings are available.  We chose the family style option but ordered our own wine.   Continue reading

Get Stuffed, St. John’s, NL, Canada, 6/27/19

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exterior

Get Stuffed is a good sized place with several rooms on 2 stories of an historic house.  The small, closely set tables are covered with black cloths  and maroon or beige napkins that match the bench seat and cushions that lines the wall.  There are a few stools at the service counter across from the bench and then there are rooms upstairs with tables and bay windows.  Music is in the background and the windows on the front of the building look out over a park and its statues as well as the harbour down the hill.  It’s on an interesting street that is filled with funky shops good for browsing.  Service was very friendly, helpful but pacing was a little slow.   Continue reading

Rookery Pub Fine Dining, Cable, 1/4/19 & 2/8/19

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building

Bill Brakken opened the Rookery Pub Fine Dining restaurant in 2008.  The building originally was constructed in 1978 and had the restaurant on the upper levels.  Bill made those areas into the lodge when he bought it in 2005 and then renovated the downstairs to become the Rookery Pub Fine Dining, named for the breeding colony of Blue Herons nearby and to signify a general place for social gatherings.  Interestingly, Bill worked as a bartender at the original Kliszcz’s Karczma, the Polish Palace as it was known then, the first year it was in business.  Now as you enter the place you see a building on your right with stairs and that is to the lodge and the lower sidewalk goes to the restaurant.  You enter into the large bar area and to the right is a hallway, opening onto a row of 4 booth seats, which leads to the small main dining room.  The walls are lined with prints of animals (most of which have prices if you want to buy one) and in the corner is a fireplace.  The bare wood tables are good sized and well spaced.  The menu covers a good breadth of choices with some changes for seasonality and the wine list is better than most.  You can have cocktails at your table or enjoy them at the bar before you are seated.  Service was efficient and super friendly.  Portions are large. Continue reading

Carrollton Market, New Orleans, 12/28/18

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building

Carrollton Market is a medium sized place out in the suburbs that has been open 4 years.  The entry is into a bar area that is not very well separated from the main dining room.  The small marble tables are set closely together, a tin ceiling, wood floor and wood and painted walls all add to the loud noise level in the room, even without background music.   Windows along the front wall look out onto the street but otherwise there are no windows except for the interior one that looks into the open kitchen and the general light level is low.  They offer only a small a la carte menu.  The staff were friendly and helpful but the food was mostly unexciting and the overall ambiance is ear numbing, yet it was packed with people.  There is no subtlety in the food, it tends to be over-seasoned with large portions of heavy food.   Continue reading

Restaurant A ma Vigne, Lyon, 12/15/18

exterior
exterior  (23 Rue Jean Larrivé, 69003 Lyon, France)

A ma Vigne is a small place with just 2 dining rooms, one containing the bar, and a tiny kitchen in back.  The closely spaced small tables are set with nice white tableclothes and napkins and then covered with white paper.  The casual atmosphere is heightened with the array of art, photos (done by the server Alex) and mirrors along with windows to the street decorating the walls.  They had a large menu that was not translated and served all day and a set menu of 2 or 3 courses that featured their famous steak in butter and fries.  They had wine by the bottle as well as by centiliter, as well as lots of cocktails.  It didn’t take long at lunch for the place to be packed and most seemed to be repeat customers and having a good time.  Service was really friendly, welcoming and helpful yet staffing was minimal – one guy sat people, took orders, dispensed the food, took care of billing and cleaned the tables and one guy did all the cooking and kitchen cleanup. The guy who did all the cooking was actually Chef and Owner Stéphane Giraud, whose grandparents started the place.  His grandmother Josephine,  perfected the amazing French fries.  Food was great as was the ambiance.  It was really reasonable for the quality of flavor.   I would go back here in a heartbeat – check it out if you can.  The server told us that Paul Bocuse ate steak and fries there every day  for years and showed us the table he always sat at.  I can see why. Continue reading

L’Arcane (update), Paris, 11/28/18

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exterior

We visited L’Arcane for the first time about 18 months ago and they hadn’t been open long (opened June 2016).  On this re-visit pretty much every thing that bothered me about the place has been corrected and food remains outstanding.  Get it on your list as soon as you can.  The tables are still small but well spaced and the lighting is at a good level.  Soft music is in the background and some decorative changes, like wide planked wood floors and nice artwork, have been made that are all for the better.  They now have a well deserved one Michelin star rating.  Chef Laurent Magnin is now married to Sophie Keller who runs the front of the house.  They offer a tasting menu only with the option of 3, 4 or 5 different courses, but there are a couple of amuse bouche to add to it.  There is no printed menu.   Portion control was good and pacing on the slower side but nicely regular as opposed to having long gaps. Continue reading

Monteverde Restaurant, Chicago, 11/17/18

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entrance

Monteverde is a large place on a corner so two sides have windows to the street.  Walls are decorated with pizza peels and mirrors and a really long bar adds seating.  High top tables sit opposite the bar, that is decorated with hanging pasta, TVs and windows into the rest of the kitchen.  On one end is the pastry chef and cabinets of their labors.  The main dining room is filled with closely set small bare wood tables, benches and chairs as well a good sized area of pasta and cookware items for sale.  The menu is all a la carte and many items are designed to be shared.  We ordered a lot of things to try and intended to share all.  Some were quite good but others were really lacking.  Pacing for all was extremely rapid and plates and flatware were not replaced between several of the courses.  Service tried hard and they did refund the price of 2 unacceptable items as well as bring a complimentary dessert.   This place was really bustling, so more is good than not but they also have some kinks to work on. Continue reading

Lucia, Dallas, 10/31/18 and 11/24/18

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exterior

Lucia is in the Bishop Arts District in Dallas, a small chef owned Italian restaurant.   It was opened in 2010 by Chef David Uygur and his wife Jennifer, who also serves as wine coordinator.    There are just 32 seats in the place and is still a hard reservation to come by but there are 4 seats at the counter that are reserved for walk-ins, on a first come first served basis.  Parking is another issue, as there is no valet, only street parking and a few spaces in a lot to the side of the building.  If you don’t get dropped off make sure and allow time to circle around looking for a place to leave your car.  Inside you’ll find a cozy place with benches and pillows lining the walls and small bar wood tables fairly close together.  A couple of windows are on one wall that look out onto the busy street.  Lights are lowered and there is no music but the hum of a full house provides plenty of background noise to keep table conversations private.  Memorabilia line the walls along with jars of preserved foods.  The counter seats look at the salad and cold appetizer preparation are and workers there are friendly when they have a minute.  Service is efficient and helpful with fairly quick pacing.  We have visited many times but for the purposes of this entry we visited twice. Continue reading

Macellaio, Dallas, 9/23/18

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building

Macellaio was opened in the end of June 2018 by David and Jennifer Uygur, the owners of the ultra popular Lucia.  It is also in the Bishop Arts district but a more casual place with lots of small plates to share.  There are a limited number of tables available for reservations and a large bar and patio seating available for walk-ins.  Bare wood tables are set with a nice cloth napkin and the ceiling is open to expose the ductwork.  Lots of hard surfaces are ready to create a significant noise level but it was not a problem when we were there as the place wasn’t full yet.  The menu is printed daily with a good number of choices, half of which are the salumi offerings.  They do offer a family style dinner for the table where the chef will make your selections for you but we opted to pick our plates and utilized some advice from our friendly server.   Continue reading

Cedar Lodge Steakhouse and Grille, Barnes, 9/14/18 and 10/14/18

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building

Cedar Lodge Steakhouse and Grille started in 2009 in the location that used to be called “Downtown Barnes”  Owners Collen and Scott Ruhman spent a good bit of time updating and remodeling and adding to the original location.   It is a good sized building that houses a large u-shaped bar in a room that also has room for a couple tables, games and lounge furniture in front of a fireplace.  It opens into the main dining room that is fairly bright with soft background music.  The only televisions are in the bar area.  Bare wood tables are polished to a high shine and fitted with comfortable chairs.  Flat-paint plum walls work well with the copper metallic shiny ceiling.  Walls are decorated with paintings and other objects.  The full bar is available for order in the dining room and they provided a better than average wine list.  The large menu was supplemented by a daily special offering.  All dinner plates come with a trip to the salad bar that also offers a housemade soup, as well as seasonal vegetable and a choice of side dish.  Our friendly server, Denise, turned out to be the owner’s sister and helped steer our order.   Continue reading

LYLE’S, London, 4/28/18

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building

LYLE’S is a medium sized one star Michelin restaurant that served only a la carte when we were there for lunch.  At night they do a tasting menu.  They opened in April 2014 and the restaurant was named after the chef’s mother’s maiden name.  It has a large open kitchen on one side of the space and windows to the street on the opposite side.  Pop/rock music plays in the background and the bare wood tables are set with un-cushioned chairs.  It’s a casual atmosphere with white brick and tile walls, concrete floor, exposed ductwork and some seating at the bar.  The menu changes daily.  The kitchen was happy to split dishes or have you do so at the table and portion sizes lended itself to sharing.  Service was friendly and helpful.   Continue reading

Forest & Marcy, Dublin, 12/15/17

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exterior

Forest & Marcy is a sliver of a place with mostly counter seating and a couple tables. An open kitchen is at the end  and soft music plays in the background.  They have been open a year and a half and specialize in small plates and wine at dinner.  At the counter you can watch the preparation of numerous dishes.  We were there at lunch where they offered a 3 course tasting where you pick between two choices or a Chef’s choice 5 course menu, where the chef choses for you.  We opted for the latter choice.  Sitting at the bar is really fun as you not only get to watch the cooking show but you can interact with the chef there and as we were toward the back, those in the kitchen too.  All the staff were friendly and glad to answer questions.   Continue reading

Forest Avenue, Dublin, 12/13/17

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exterior

Forest Avenue is medium sized 2-story place owned by a couple, Chef John Wyer and his wife Sandy Sabek Wyer.  It is named after the street were Sandy grew up on in Queens, New York, but she has now lived in Ireland for 16 years.  John is from Cork.  They have had this restaurant for a couple years and have recently opened a second place, but John cooks at this one.  Soft rock plays in the background  and a wall of windows to the street lets in nice natural light.  Bare wood tables are nicely spaced and a large part of the kitchen is open to the dining room.  Service is friendly, helpful and efficient.  The menu offers several tasting options of 2, 3 or 6 courses with wine pairings available.  Portions are fairly generous and flavor abounds in everything.  The wine list also offers a “fine wine” option for bottles.   Continue reading

Sachet, Dallas, 12/10/17

exteriorSachet is a large place opened a couple months ago by the owners of Gemma (Frankie visited in June and July of 2016), where the food is inspired by Mediterranean cuisine.  About a third of the space is for the bar and the seating around it.  An open kitchen fills one end of the restaurant and a large clear cube containing wines is a focal point in the dining room.. With lots of hard surfaces the noise level is significant but tables are placed a nice distance apart to give you some ability to talk once the place fills.  The menu starts with “meze” plates which are priced in groups of 3 or 5.  They are small plates meant to be shared by the table.  Pastas are in serving sizes like appetizers but can be turned into a main plate for an upcharge.  Service is efficient and friendly and tables are turned throughout the evening.   Continue reading

Le Roi Fou, Edinburgh, 9/23/17

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exterior

Le Roi Fou is a small 2 room restaurant serving French style food.  They opened in April of 2017 and were voted best new restaurant in Scotland in a local publication.  The front room has nice light from 2 big windows looking out on the street. The back room has nice windows but less light.  Eclectic music play in the background.  They offer a 2 course fixed price menu at lunch as well as an a la carte menu.  We chose to order from the a la carte menu.   Continue reading

The Steelhead Diner, Seattle, 8/26/17

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buiding

The Steelhead Diner is a large place right next to Pike Place Market.   Two walls of windows look out over the crowds of people.  Seating is in booths, bar counter and kitchen counter stools and tables.  Decorations between the booths is with acrylic encased fly fishing lures and photos of lures also decorate the walls.  On the weekend the midday menu is for brunch.  Service is efficient and friendly and the noise level is livable.  It is a great location with a lively crowd but the unexciting food lacks soul.   Continue reading

Brigtsen’s, New Orleans, 8/8/17

entrance
entrance

Opened in 1986, Brigtsen’s is located in an old house in the Garden District, about 20 minutes by cab from the French Quarter.  It is worth the trip!   Owner Marna Brigtsen greets you at the door and guides you to your seat.  Music plays in the background, lighting is low and the nicely spaced tables are appointed with lovely linens. Painted wood walls, fireplaces and many windows give the relatively small adjoined rooms a very cozy feel.  The several rooms are packed with people and tables turnover throughout the evening, but the noise level is not bad at all.  Marna’s husband and co-owner Frank Brigtsen is the chef in the kitchen.  They offer a fixed price 3 course menu, with several choices for each course, an a la carte menu and a few specials of the day.   Continue reading

Shaya, New Orleans, 8/8/17

building
building

Shaya is a good sized place with additional seating available at the bar and on the patio.  A long bench seat lines one wall where most of the 2-tops are located.  The other tables are more generously spaced and all enjoy the light of spoked fixtures with silver tipped bulbs hanging from the ceiling and a wall of windows to the street.  There is background music but the noise level was low which was good considering the percentage of tables that were occupied.  Beyond the open wood-fired oven for the pita bread is the patio which was not well filled, but it was a warm day.  There is different menu at lunch than in the evening, which we looked at outside.   Continue reading

Peche Seafood Grill, New Orleans, 8/7/17

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building

Peche is a large place that’s about  a 15 minute cab ride from the French Quarter. Seating is available in 3 booths, bar counter stools and a number of well spaced tables throughout.  Windows to the street form one wall of the place and add nice natural light during the day.  Tables are of bare wood and matching unfinished beams line the ceiling while soft  rock music plays in the background.  Lots of seafood art adorns the walls and the street wall is of the natural brick. Service is exceptionally friendly and helpful.  Our waiter provided many details about how the various dishes are prepared and was nicely opinionated about how we might configure our order.  Freshness of ingredients is stressed.   Continue reading

Dill Restaurant, Reykjavik, 7/27/17

entrance
entrance

Dill has been in business for 2 years and is the only Michelin starred restaurant in Iceland.  It was originally a barn and now has a small front room and 3 counter seats at the finishing kitchen as well as additional seating in another room, but that seemed to filled by a private party.  Windows to the street form one side of the main room and a large window looking out at a back garden is opposite that.  A bench seat lines one other wall with closely set tables as they also are on the main floor.  Walls are of concrete, the ceiling of wood,  a combination of candlelight and a skylight provide most of the low lighting and there was  subtle background music. The night we were there it was quite warm in the restaurant but I suspect this is not normally a problem. Continue reading

Matur og Drykkur, Reykjavik, 7/26/17

building
building

Matur og Drykkur is a medium sized place located in an old salt fish factory built in 1924 that now also houses the Saga Museum.  The name means “food and drink” and they specialize in Icelandic food with a modern twist.  American music plays in the background of this lively spot, where it was packed on a weekday evening.  The bare wood tables are slightly spaced and there are also 6 seats at a bar in front, near the open finishing kitchen. Soft warm lighting is pleasant but can effect the food colors and the nice cloth napkins are way too small. Reservations are for a 2 hour block and they did turn the tables but rushing would be difficult with the slow pacing.  Service was friendly but disorganized – they brought the wrong plates a couple times and you’d notice someone doing the same tasting menu who was behind you and then ahead as their food came out more rapidly.  They do offer 3 different tasting menus as well as an a la carte menu.   Continue reading

Grey Ghost, Detroit, 7/19/17

Exterior
Building

Grey Ghost is a good sized place with a large bar area,  small patio and dining room.  The long bar has stool seating at the counter and additional counter seating that seemed available for walk-in diners.  The partition this area backs up to forms the main dining room and a long seating bench is on the other side.  Next to the streetside windows are better spaced tables. The restaurant has not been open quite a year but the weekday evening we were there the place was packed with a multi-aged casual crowd that wound down by around 10:00 pm.  Fairly loud music plays in the background and coupled with the crowd size, noise level is an issue.   Continue reading

Restaurant Peumayen, Santiago, 6/25/17

building
building

Peumayen is a fairly large place with a tarp-covered open air patio in the the room adjacent to the main building.  The patio has a large pass through window into the semi-open kitchen. Rustic woods make up the floor whereas the tabletops are of polished wood appointed with a stone to set the wooden plates on and the smallest cloth napkin.  Soft Spanish background music plays and there is a lively crowd that included several large groups.  The menu has been translated into English but the waiter willingly goes through an explanation of the menu.  There are a la carte options as well as plates of multiple things.   Continue reading

Pasquale Jones, New York City, 5/22/17

exterior
exterior

Pasquale Jones is a medium sized place packed with small tables and a number of counter seats.  There is background music that adds to the noise level produced by hard surfaces and lots of people.  One wall of the restaurant is the open kitchen that houses 2 wood fired ovens and 2 other walls have windows out to the street.  There are some outdoor tables but the rain that day made them un-usable.  The lighting is low and the pace is rushed as they really want to turn the tables several times in an evening.  Service is included in your meal and they also offer complimentary house filtered and or carbonated water.  Servers are friendly but not particularly attentive.  There is a large wine list with one section devoted to reasonable but interesting wines.   Continue reading

BAK, Amsterdam, 5/13/17

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building

BAK is located in a commercial building on the waterfront.  There is a bell you need to ring to get buzzed in and then you have the option of walking up multiple flights of stairs or taking the elevator to the top floor.   As you turn right out of the elevators you will find the restrooms that you’ll use while dining right around the corner.  The view is wonderful with all the boats coming and going as well as a couple of docked boats, one of which I understand is a bed and breakfast.  Music plays in the background, tables are well spaced but small and there is an open kitchen at the end of the long room.  However it is not the only kitchen as evidenced by a dumbwaiter that moves things up and down between the other kitchen.   Continue reading

Le Farfalle, Charleston, 3/8/17

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sign out front

Le Farfalle is a large place with a huge bar area and outdoor patio also.  They serve Italian food in a very southern city which is a challenge and novelty. The main dining area has good table separation with a combination of tables and booths, high ceilings and friendly, helpful service.  As an option to ordering bottles of wine they sell house wines by the carafe and half carafe. Overall the food is nice and very acceptable but not overwhelming. The options for dessert were really limited as the pastry chef did not come on duty till 2:00 so your only option for lunch is a cookie plate or a sweet potato “something” – neither of which was appealing. Continue reading

Town Hearth, Dallas, 2/2/17 & 2/10/17

building
building

Town Hearth is the newest addition to the restaurants run by Nick Badovinus.  This one is more upscale but large and filled with decorations like his other places.  When you enter a small private party room is to one side and the large bar with some dining tables is right in front of you.  The chandeliers start here and carry on into the main large dining room.  They give nice light and a real glitter to the ceiling, as well as being quite striking. You also can’t help but notice a mini yellow submarine immersed in an aquarium filled with fish – it separates the bar and dining room. Don’t miss the car that sits right in front of the large open kitchen, it’s lower to the ground.   Continue reading