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

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

Café Marquesa, Key West, 1/27/22

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

Louie’s Backyard, Key West, 1/27/22

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

Latitudes, Key West, 1/26/22

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

Nancy’s Hustle, Houston, 12/24/21

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

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

building

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

building

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

exterior

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

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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.

menu

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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facility

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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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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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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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