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

IMG_5533
exterior

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

Irene’s, New Orleans, 2/22/20

IMG_1519
exterior

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

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

IMG_7459
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

IMG_7211
exterior

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

Cafe Pasqual, Santa Fe, 11/3/19

IMG_2421
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

IMG_9408
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

IMG_1804
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

IMG_0835
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

building
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

exterior
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

other side
side

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

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

exterior
exterior

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

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

building
building

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

Carrollton Market, New Orleans, 12/28/18

from outside
building

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

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

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

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

L’Arcane (update), Paris, 11/28/18

exterior
exterior

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

Monteverde Restaurant, Chicago, 11/17/18

entrance
entrance

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

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

exterior
exterior

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

Macellaio, Dallas, 9/23/18

building
building

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

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

building
building

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

LYLE’S, London, 4/28/18

building
building

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

Forest & Marcy, Dublin, 12/15/17

exterior
exterior

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

Forest Avenue, Dublin, 12/13/17

exterior
exterior

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

Sachet, Dallas, 12/10/17

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

Le Roi Fou, Edinburgh, 9/23/17

IMG_3417
exterior

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

The Steelhead Diner, Seattle, 8/26/17

buiding
buiding

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

Brigtsen’s, New Orleans, 8/8/17

entrance
entrance

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