Oyster Club, Mystic, CT., 11/5/22

exterior – 13 Water Street, Mystic, CT., 06355

Oyster Club is a farm-and-sea-to-table place that opened in 2011 and the night we were there Renee Touponce was Executive Chef.  Chef has made connections with various farmers and fishermen to present these local items in creative combinations.  Originally the building was a small carriage house in downtown Mystic and was renovated to become a restaurant.  The restaurant was re-modeled during the pandemic while management moved their food service to Stone Acres Farm where they could dine at a safe distance in 200-year-old gardens.  Now the expanded place has a daily changing menu but still delivers creative and delicious food with excellent service.  They always have several types of local fresh oysters available in the main dining rooms but in the Treehouse, which is outdoors on the top of the building, a limited selection is available.  It’s a fun place with art on the walls, music in the background, lowered lighting, and bare wood tables but enough dampening in the surroundings that the noise level was very acceptable.  We sat in one of the booths that line the wall opposite the one with street windows.  I understand there is a second-floor dining area but didn’t get up there.  It was a dressier crowd but maybe they knew they had arrived at the fine dining spot in town.  Put this one on your list when you travel to Connecticut and ask for Dru to be your server. Continue reading

The Shipwright’s Daughter, Mystic, CT., 11/4/22

entrance in light – 20 East Main Street, Mystic, CT., 06355

The Shipwright’s Daughter opened in 2020 in the Whaler’s Inn in the heart of Mystic.  Chef David Standridge changes the menu regularly to present highlights of the Connecticut coast.  They also offer a tasting menu with optional wine pairings, but it must be reserved in advance.  Wine Spectator magazine gave them an Award of Excellence for their wine selection and they also have a full bar.  They also were the second Connecticut restaurant to be recognized by the James Beard Foundation’s ‘Smart Catch’ program. They are open for breakfast, brunch on the weekends, and dinner.  It is a fairly large place with lowered lighting, music in the background, windows to the street, bare blond wood tables, and a large bar area.  We were there on a Friday night and were glad we had a reservation as it was very busy, which also contributed to the noise factor.  The lights are so low that many of the photos turned out grainy, so apologies in advance for that.  Service was attentive but sometimes rushed and not engaging and the food was mixed. Continue reading

Honey-Road, Burlington, 10/20/22

building – 156 Church Road, Burlington, VT., 05401

Honey-Road is female owned and operated, serving Eastern Mediterranean food.  Chef Cara Tobin has been a James Beard award finalist 4 times and teamed up with Allison Gibson to open Honey-Road in 2017 that is only open in the evening.  (Recently the duo opened a brunch spot called Grey Jay.)  The corner building is in the popular pedestrian Church Street Marketplace and named for an ancient trade route in Turkey.  The small plates (mezze) are meant to be shared and focus on locally sourced ingredients.   For those that are unfamiliar with this cuisine the menu had a glossery on one side explaining the meaning of many terms, but the servers were also helpful in making selections.  It is a large place with a high ceiling, subdued lighting, music in the background, bench seating along most walls, small bare wood tables, windows to the street, brick walls, sheer curtains dividing portions of the room and decorations of small mirrors on the walls.  The crowd was made up of various age groups but skewed toward the younger side.  The food was mixed, with some being very good but others trying too hard.  If you want this style of cuisine, it’s the place to go.

Set up

exterior/entrance
interior
interior
interior
Frankie enjoys a candle
menu
wine list
dessert menu
menu after dinner drinks
wine front
wine back

 

Food

Baba Ganoush with pickled cauliflower and Za’atar Garlic Knot are ordered separately.  The menu has a number of dips and then you can pick your bread of choice to go with it.  The Baba Ganoush was well seasoned and tasty that was great with the garlicky bread.  The server suggested the combination and it was right on.  Good versions of the dishes, easy to split and excellent together.

Baba Ganoush and Za’atar Garlic Knot

 

Sweet Harissa Chicken Wings with dried lime labne came as 4 flaps and 2 drumette pieces.  The sticky excellent sauce was covered with sesame seeds and the moist pieces were good alone or also in the tasty sauce.  Fun to eat, it was a wonderful take on the “Buffalo wing” craze.  They were thoughtful enough to also send out a couple wet wipes to use after easy the messy food.

Sweet Harissa Chicken Wings
turned
Frankie liked that they gave us wipes to go with the chicken

 

Braised lamb, Simit bun, pickles and herb mayo was nice shreds of lamb on a good piece of bread and accented with pickles.  The pickles really accentuated the flavor but the lamb was on the tough, slightly dry side.  The first 2 plates were much better but this was fine.

Braised lamb, Simit Bun, pickles, herb mayo
from the side

 

Duck breast, ajvar, mushroom Tabbouleh, and hot peppers was 2 boneless pieces of meat cooked nicely rare.   This one had a terrific sauce and was absolutely full of flavor.  Lots of things with the meat that shall remained unidentified due to my lack of note-taking.

Duck breast, ajvar, mushroom tabbouleh, hot peppers
turned

 

Cauliflower with preserved lemon, buttermilk and lentils was suggested by our server.  It also had tons of things mixed with it.  Pomegranate seeds added crunch and the plump golden raisins added sweetness.  Some pickled onion added contrast to the milky dressing.  Lots of flavors and textures made this a fun one.

Cauliflower, preserved lemon, buttermilk, lentils

 

A special dessert was offered that evening with pistachio galette, raspberry and pistachio labna (cream cheese like), figs and a raspberry plum sauce.  The labna had a bit on honey on it in addition to the chunks of pistachio.  Most of the stuff was good but there were too many flavors competing to make it work for me.

Pistachio Galette
turned

 

House made walnut Baklava came in 2 pieces.  It was sticky with tons of walnuts and honey.  It was a very good version of the common dessert.  While I liked it better than the special neither of the desserts took it over the top.

House made walnut Baklava
turned
Frankie rested on the bench

Hen of the Wood – Burlington, VT.,10/17/22

entrance – 55 Cherry St., Burlington, VT., 05401

Hen of the Wood opened in Oct. 2013 in Burlington as the sister restaurant to the original one in Waterbury.  Menus change daily and feature wood-fired cooking.  They strive to present the products of regional ranchers, growers, and bakers.  It’s a fairly large place located next door to the Hotel Vermont.  The entrance end of the place is bar seating where they will serve walk-ins, but it was an hour and a half wait for those on the Monday night that we visited.  The other end of the room is the kitchen with fires blazing.   There are also some counter seats facing the kitchen but we opted for one of the relatively small bare wood tables.  Bench seating lines some walls and a low wall separates the dining area from the bar.  Music is in the background and in combination with the crowd it made it fairly noisy.  There are windows to the street outside along one wall but the lights were dim enough that I did want to turn on my flashlight but didn’t.  Service was friendly and helpful and got the first several things out very quickly and then died for about 30 minutes before it picked back up.   Parking is on the street or in the garage between the restaurant and the hotel. Continue reading

Landmark Restaurant at Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield, WI., 10/1/22

exterior – 303 Rittenhouse Ave., Bayfield, WI., 54814

The Landmark Restaurant is in the Queen Anne Victorian home called the Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield, Wisconsin.  Located on a hill, overlooking Lake Superior it provides a wonderful view of the water and quaint town.  The well-maintained brownstone also houses a bed and breakfast inn, there and in other buildings off-site.  Three rooms on the main floor make up the dining area, kitchen, and the beginning of the cherry staircase that leads to 12 guest rooms upstairs.  The 1890 house was purchased in 1973 by Mary and Jerry Phillips who began running the B & B.  It was expanded in 1985 to add more guestrooms upstairs.   Out back is a dedicated parking lot.  The menu is small and one special was featured the night we were there, but you do have the option of making it a 5 course tasting and choosing from the soup, salad, sorbet, entree, and dessert options, some of which have an upcharge.  Each small room has a different color scheme, with lots of windows to the outside, a fireplace, and various decorations.  The tables come in an assortment of shapes but most are large and are covered with white tablecloths.  They do not have a bar but your server can make cocktails.  The wine list is limited but there are some ‘special’ bottles in the cabinet out front you can additionally choose from.  Service was friendly and fairly efficient. Continue reading

Cry Wolf, Dallas, 9/16/22

counter seating – 4422 Gaston Ave., Dallas, TX, 75246

Cry Wolf is a local favorite, especially due to the ever-changing menu, casual atmosphere, interesting wine choices by Sommelier Tim Case, and excellent cooking by Chef Ross Demers and his staff.  We don’t always think ahead for reservations so the bar counter stools are for walk-ins but we’ve also learned for last-minute cancellations on the reservation system where you can snag a table.  I hesitate to overwhelm readers with the same restaurant but when you’re hot it’s too tempting to not post.  So I’ll keep it short but if the menu doesn’t tempt you to go even my poor picture-taking will make you want to stop by.   We shared all the plates. Continue reading

Lucian Books and Wine, Atlanta, 9/9/22

exterior –3005 Peachtree Rd. NE Suite 300, Atlanta, GA., 30305

Lucian Books and Wine is a book shop that also serves lunch and dinner Tues. through Saturday.  Named for artist Lucian Freud it is a small gem of a place.  It has a large, thoughtful wine list along with amazing food from Chef Brian Hendrickson, with a backdrop of books to browse and/or buy.  The single room has an aisle that passes by the tall bookshelves and on the other side of a low wall are small tables and a bar.  The bar is set with chairs also.  The menu changes with the seasons and is fairly small at lunch.  Since we were there with another couple we were able to try a great many of their offerings and they were all wonderful, some crossing over to the spectacular level.  The service was outstanding and I strongly urge you to try this place if you get a chance. Continue reading

The Ranch Supper Club, Hayward, WI., 8/27/22

building – 10590 N. Ranch Rd., Hayward, WI., 54843

The Ranch Supper Club started out as The Aladdin in 1931.  It had a varied following from lumberjacks to timber tycoons to Chicago gangsters.  It changed ownership several times during the ’40s and ’50s but finally became the Ranch Supper Club in 1960 when the “colorful personality”, Vivian Levinson owned it.  In 1987 Beth and Barney Morgan partnered with Cheryl Haupt to run it for the next 30 years. After Haupt died in 2016 the Morgans were happy to have their daughter Haley and her husband Nathan Bochler take the helm a year later.   Haley was raised in the business and her husband is also from northern Wisconsin.  They spent 13 years in California learning more about the food industry where she earned a sommelier certificate.  We visited on a Sat. night and the place was packed.  A large parking area is outside with 2 doors that lead into the large bar area with tables too.  Don’t miss the beautiful counter at the bar that is made with colorful inset stones.  The dining rooms are behind the bar and have a separate hostess station for check-in.  Windows to the woods out back make up one wall with tables in the middle and booths along the opposite wall. Another dining room was in the opposite direction.  Faint music is in the background and farm and cooking implements decorate the ceiling and walls along with wood beams.  The lighting was lowered, the wine list was above average, the bare wood tables were set with flatware wrapped in a cloth napkin and service was friendly and attentive. Overall it was a good meal but I expected more. However, if you’re in the area I’d stop by and try it out I think it has potential and any drink would taste better drunk over that beautiful bar. Continue reading

Fitzgerald’s (update), Mohawk, MI, 7/22/22

exterior – 5033 Front Street, Eagle River, MI, 49950

We visited The Fitzgerald in 2018 and much has changed at the Eagle River Inn where it is located.  The dining room is the same but the menu seems smaller.  They still have the whiskey bar but the 12 rooms have now become 6 and they are (you guessed it) twice as big and have air conditioning.  The waves of Lake Superior are still right off the dining room or any room at the inn, so the scenery is excellent.  The dining room is wood-filled with lots of light from the windows.  The crowd is casual and they did have specials for the night.  Service was excellent, friendly and helpful.  They still specialize in barbecue and you can see evidence of adding-on to the kitchen in front of the building, so not sure what will be added.  Portions are generous and combined with the beautiful scenery, this is a lovely place to spend a meal and then retreat to your room to sleep with the sound of the waves.  It’s out of the way but go if you get the chance, especially if you’re a whiskey lover. Continue reading

Bettina, Santa Barbara, 6/27/22

exterior – 1014 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA

Bettina is in a neighborhood shopping center which is too popular for the parking available.  It’s a good-sized place with a large outdoor patio for additional seating.  Windows inside look out onto it as well as the parking lot. They specialize in naturally leavened breads, fine dining and simple dishes based on the owner’s visits to Italy.  Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations are helpful if you want a table, but a bar is inside with first come-first served seating.  Inside the bare wood tables are small and nicely spaced and music is in the background.  The service was helpful and efficient and the pizza was good. Continue reading

Cold Spring Tavern, Santa Barbara, 6/25/22

main building – 5995 Stagecoach Road, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105

Cold Spring Tavern offers lunch and dinner at a stagecoach stop that dates from 1868, on the San Marcos Pass near Santa Barbara.  The place is filled with history and an amazing amount of detail is on their webpage <coldspringtavern.com> about the various buildings on the property and the furnishings within.   You can’t miss it as the cars are parked on both sides of the winding road for some time before you hit the place.  On weekends they have live music, a stand where you can buy their barbecue Tri-tip sandwich as well as an outside bar.  If you prefer table service there are a number of outdoor and indoor tables.  Lunch has a smaller menu than dinner, so I’ve included photos of both lunch and dinner menus.  Service was enthusiastic and efficient which really enhanced the dining experience.  The A/C is ‘open windows’ so we left smelling of barbecue smoke, which was no problem.  The onion rings are worth a trip alone but I would love to be able to try some of their dinner options too. Continue reading

Bouchard Restaurant & Inn, Newport, 5/27/22

exterior – 505 Thames Street, Newport, RI, 02840

Bouchard Restaurant has been in business over 20 years and also has a few rooms/suites to stay in.  They have a parking area but you need to go into the restaurant and get a pass to place in your car before parking there.  They have a dress requirement that is on their website as well as reminded about when they call to confirm your reservation.  No jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, etc but I saw no enforcement of that whatsoever.  There were many casually dressed people in the dining room that were obviously regulars due to their rapport with the staff.  There were also ‘dressed-up’ people there but this was only the first odd bit of this place.  They have a full bar which is located adjacent to the check in desk.  Further inside is a medium to small dining area with small white cloth covered tables with full drape underneath.  Lighting is lowered, there is music in the background, carpet is on the floor and the ceiling is low.   They offer a tasting  menu which is 5 courses at the second seating.  Most courses have choices, some with an upcharge.  The food was average at best but the service was awful.  Slow and inattentive, it aggravated me and probably affected the way I perceived the food.  The captain spent little time with many tables and concentrated on the ones he knew.  It’s a fine line to walk, but it bothers me to see tables sit for 20 minutes with their menus still in their hands and staff carrying on conversations neglecting their job. Continue reading

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

exterior – 6064 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104

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

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

entrance – 501 Union Ave SW, Knoxville, TN 37902

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

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

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

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

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

oysters – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

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

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

exterior – 4422 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246

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

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

building – 1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 

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

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

exterior – 723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118

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

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

exterior – 10390 Kasten St, Mendocino, CA 95460

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

Husk, Savannah, 3/3/22

building

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

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

exterior – front

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

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

exterior

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

Café Marquesa, Key West, 1/27/22

exterior

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

Louie’s Backyard, Key West, 1/27/22

exterior

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

Latitudes, Key West, 1/26/22

exterior

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

Nancy’s Hustle, Houston, 12/24/21

exterior

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

The Antler Room, Kansas City, 12/8/21

building

The Antler Room was opened five years ago by Chef Nicholas Goellner and Leslie Newsam Goellner after many years of training and work in other establishments including Noma in Copenhagen.  It is a small 2 room place with one room serving as mostly a bar and pass-through window from the kitchen and the other filled with small tables for 2.  A long bench seat runs along the wall that ends in a huge window to the street.  Music is in the background, lights are lowered, the floor is tile, art is on the walls and exposed ductwork lines the high ceiling.  Parking is wherever you can get it along the street.  The name was a spur of the minute decision by the owners but now many donated antlers provide decoration, especially above the bar.  Service was friendly but know your entire order needs to be placed at the beginning of service.  The food was pretty good, interesting combinations and well flavored.  Continue reading

EsterEv, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

building

EsterEv is a small dining room inside the DanDan Restaurant that serves a tasting menu only.  Named for the great-grandmothers, Evelyn and Ester, of the owners Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, whose passion for cooking inspired a place for celebrating around a table with friends.  In 2015 the 2 Dan’s opened the Chinese food with midwestern sensibility, DanDan and not long thereafter their fine dining option EsterEv.  The menu changes regularly and wine pairings are available as are cocktails in the small room off the kitchen that looks to seat about 20 persons at individual tables.  Music from the surrounding restaurant bleeds in and the lights are lowered.  Many of the serving dishes are made by Dan Jacob’s wife, a ceramic artist.   The pacing is great and the portions are on the small side. Continue reading

Story Hill BKC, Milwaukee, 12/3/21

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Story Hill BKC (Bottle, Kitchen, Cocktail/Cup) is a medium sized wine and spirit shop that also serves upper-midwest inspired cuisine in brunch, lunch and dinner formats.   Lunch is a smaller menu but gave us a good idea of what they are capable of producing – and it’s a good pronouncement for those who are around Milwaukee.  There is a small parking lot behind and lots of street parking around this corner spot.  Music is in the background and lots of windows let in much natural light.  On one side of the room is the retail shop with wine, spirits and beers for sale.  You can also purchase a wine to drink with your meal there for a small corkage fee.  The bare blond wood table was nice sized and set with a cloth napkin.  Two daily specials were listed on the menu.  Service was friendly and very helpful. Continue reading

Bavette La Boucherie, Milwaukee, 12/1/21

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Bavette started out as a butcher shop and evolved into a restaurant.  It still has the butcher shop concept and procures the whole animals raised on local farms and then uses the entire carcass to generate less waste.  Now the consumer can buy retail cuts and/or prepared foods from the counter or sit back and enjoy the food in a restaurant setting.  Most of their produce also comes from local farms mandating a seasonal type menu.  Also available are craft beers, wines and cocktails.   It’s a medium sized place with music in the background, a high wood ceiling with exposed duct work and plastic partitions between tables. Although currently in the trendy Third Ward section, the word is that they want to move to a larger location soon, so check their website before going <https://bavettelaboucherie.com&gt;.  Service was relaxed and very friendly and the food was excellent. Continue reading

Môt Hai Ba, Dallas, 11/27/21

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Môt Hai Ba is currently owned by Chef Peja Krstic who wants to merge Vietnamese and French cuisines, stressing quality and seasonal ingredients.  The name means 1-2-3 in Vietnamese and it is only open for dinner.  Located in the Lakewood area of Dallas the place opened about a decade ago under different owners and had communal type of seating.  Krstic changed that to individual tables in the very small facility.  It does have a nice sized patio out front.  In the corner inside is the bar with 4 seats, lights are lowered, there are lots of plants and candles and music is in the background.  The really small tables are set with chopsticks only but the servers bring traditional flatware with plates.  Service was overly cheerful and bit amateurish and the food was disappointing. Continue reading

Le Diplomate, Washington DC, 11/21/21

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Le Diplomate is built in the image of a Parisian brasserie serving classic dishes in a well restored corner building.  It is a large place (300 seats) with a huge ‘enclosed’ garden room seating area on the sidewalk and unsheltered tables on the other sidewalk.  Inside you’ll find a combination of tables and bench seating and free standing small tables.  There is not much distance between them.  The red upholstery is dotted with brass as are the railings on the few stairs between levels, the columns are lit from within and the ceiling is high.  Windows are on 2 sides of the room and there may have been music in the background but it was hard to tell over the hum of the crowd.  Paper covers the wood table tops but it is set with a cloth napkin.  It’s been here 9 years and really popular so reservations are in order.  Service was reasonable but not overly friendly. Continue reading

Little Fox, St. Louis, 11/17/21

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Little Fox is a medium sized place with brick walls, lower lights, wood decorations and music in the background where you are given 2 hours to complete your reservation.  This might be due to the increased popularity since the restaurant was listed in the The New York Times article on the Restaurants for 2021 to be excited about.  Lucky as they opened in Dec. 2019 just before the pandemic closed many places and they had to adapt business to new restrictions.  Now the kitchen is on one end of the room and plexiglas dividers are between each table even though the use a shared bench for one side’s seating.  Along the opposite wall are more small lightwood tables that also accommodate 2 people.  There is a full bar in the other room and tables are set with cloth napkins.  It is a small menu of mostly small plates that sound more interesting than they are. Continue reading

The Riverside Inn, Leland, 10/1/21

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The Riverside Inn is on the Leland River, about 40 minutes from Traverse City.  It is a 114 year-old historic inn and restaurant in the heart of Leelanau County.  It sits on the waterfront offering lovely views for the diners and has a dock for those that wish to arrive by boat. It was built in 1901 but mostly burned in 1924 and began business as both restaurant and inn again in 1925.  The Vilter family bought it in 1997 and did major renovations in 2017 but have recently sold the property.  Downstairs is the bar, as well as the restaurant and upstairs are the 4 guestrooms.  They have a large wine list and focus on locally sourced ingredients.  The large tables are set with white tablecloths and black napkins and music is in the background.  Some bench seating is along the wall matched with black upholstered chairs and the tables are set with wooden black chairs.  Lots of wood is on the ceiling and walls, some of which have mirrored inserts, with painted brick making up some of the walls.  Lighting was lowered except for the sun pouring in the windows. Continue reading

The Cooks’ House, Traverse City, 9/29/21

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The Cooks’ House was opened 13 years ago by Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee who  worked together in Las Vegas and wanted to open a small restaurant focused on locally grown and foraged foods.  There are about 8 marble topped tables inside on a wooden floor in a room decorated with art and cookbooks.  A small bar is in the corner but it is only for making drinks not sitting at.  They offer tasting menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses with the smaller ones having some choices and wine pairings available for each.   Menus are only online and change with ingredient availability.  Music is in the background, the place is well lit, benchs are along the walls for seating and street parking supplements the small attached lot.  It is casual with flatware in a box on the table as well as a bottle of chilled water and very friendly service.  We chose the 7 course tasting and got the wine pairings. Continue reading

Sister Restaurant, Dallas, 10/11 & 16/21

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Sister Restaurant was opened by Duro Hospitality (behind The Charles) in the spot where the Grape Restaurant had been for 40 years.  It serves an Italian/Mediterranean loosely inspired selection of dishes.  They make their pasta which is served 7 nights a week.  Barely open a month, it is already packed with hungry excited guests.  The large porch dining area is still there but inside it has been completely transformed.  Two large faux trees are in the center which is surrounded by cozy booth seating and tables.  A sleek bar is at one end and opposite are shelves containing an assortment of objects.  The previous 2 rooms are now one and it is much brighter with music in the background (louder on the porch than inside).  Some of the tables have clothes and others a polished finish.  It is a pleasant space, service is excellent and the food is good too.  Plates are meant to be shared which always makes for a more interesting meal. Continue reading

The Black Sheep, Buffalo, 9/3/21

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The Black Sheep is a long space with a bar in the space out front and patio outback.  The lighting is lowered, music is loud, art for sale is on the walls, wooden benches line the wall to match up with small wood tables, walls are brick and votives are on the table.  It is a farm-to-table concept with a small menu of interesting items that is supplemented by a daily list of specials.  The bar serves up modern and classic cocktails as well as beer and wine.  The owners are James Beard nominated chefs Steven and Ellen Gedra, with Ellen being the baker and pastry chef.  The chefs prefer a farm-to-table approach and have learned the value of selecting the proper ingredients and then handing them with care.  It’s a small but inventive menu of small and large plates supplemented by interesting specials.  It was a tasty meal filled with flavors with a little twist to the ordinary. Continue reading

Chef’s Restaurant of Buffalo NY, Buffalo, 9/3/21

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Chef’s Restaurant opened in Buffalo in 1923.  One of the neighborhood busboys worked his way up to restaurant manager and became the owner in 1954.  They started with a limited menu of Italian options which has expanded over the years, most notably to include ‘Chef’s Spaghetti Parm’.  A second dining room was added in 1966 with another addition 3 years later making their current capacity 325 persons and a banquet room for 125.  The owner’s daughter and her son now run the business.  The several bright rooms are filled with photos of notables who have eaten there and red-checkered cloth covered tables.  Music is in the background there are some windows to the street outside.  There is even a dedicated parking lot across from the building.  In addition to the regular menu there is a menu of specials for the lunch hour.  An announcer calls out numbers over the sound system, probably to alert the servers to pick up trays to serve.  Service was amazingly efficient and super friendly. Continue reading

Hutch’s Restaurant, Buffalo, 9/2/21

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Hutch’s Restaurant has been serving fine cuisine to folks in Buffalo for over 25 years. They call it “an American take on the French Bistro”.  Named for chef/owner Mark Hutchinson it closed a year ago for a renovation that was to be in stages but instead was done all at once while the restaurant was closed 144 days for Covid.  They were able to double the capacity of the old Floristry building to accommodate 100 socially distanced diners (probably 175 post-Covid) and expand outdoor seating to 20 people.  Today the large restaurant has several rooms with brick walls, carpeting, low lighting, loud music, art on the walls, votive candles on the tables and a large window looking into the kitchen where you could easily spot Hutchinson.  Sound panels on the ceiling helped with the noise level cause it was filled to capacity and buzzing with people celebrating an occasion or closing a business deal.  In addition to the menu they had a large list of daily specials.  Service was slow but in their defense many restaurant workers have not returned to work, but this would be a good job to land in that line of work. Continue reading

The Dapper Goose, Buffalo, 9/1/21

Exterior

The Dapper Goose opened in 2016 in Buffalo, NY.   It is on the first floor of a long building with wood floors, large bar, tin ceiling, lowered lighting, music in the background, smallish tables and windows to the street.  Out in back they also have a sizable patio that does not take reservations like the bar seating, but inside is by reservation.   The menu is small, composed of small and large plates of fun combinations of ingredients.  Our server helped us decide what choices gave us the best range of flavors without ordering too much.  There were no off the menu items but halibut was replacing the cod tonight.   It was a really fun and tasty meal, but they need to work on the salt content. Continue reading

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

front door

Acadia House Provisions is on one floor of a house overlooking the bay in Stonington, Maine.  Ryan McCaskey from Chicago opened it in 2019 as a spin off of a Michelin starred restaurant there.  It opened in the site formerly occupied by Aragosta, which moved to Goose Cove.  Outside there is a large deck overlooking the active fishing area.  Lots of windows inside also take advantage of the view.   Inside there is much painted light wood on the walls, floors and ceiling.  Art is on the walls and music is in the background to make up a very pleasant room.  They have an a la carte menu and a full bar.  Food and service are both quite good. Continue reading

Aragosta, Deer Isle, ME., 8/29/21

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Aragosta is Devin Finigan’s fine dining restaurant on Goose Cove in Deer Isle, Maine. They opened in 2012 in Stonington but bought a 22 acre waterfront resort in January 2019 to be able to offer lodging as well as dining. A team of craftsmen transformed the property and now the dining room is a large open space with painted wood walls and ceiling. They also have outdoor seating overlooking the water but it gets pretty cool in the evening for that. Lighting is lowered and music is in the background. The place is noisy with so many hard surfaces but it was made worse as we were given a large table right next to the swinging doors to the kitchen. Up one step were more tables and a lounge area near the bar, in front of the fire place. Plenty of parking is close by but the walk to the restaurant is poorly lit. They offer only a tasting menu and also offer wine pairings if you don’t want to order your own bottle. Pacing was eratic, service was an issue for us and the food was mixed so I can’t give a solid recommendation for the place.  Continue reading

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

exterior of Inn

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

Altura Bistro, Anchorage, 7/31/21

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

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

entrance

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

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

sign at door

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

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.

menu

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

entrance

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