Friday, January 8, 2016

The Best of 2015 - Dining

Dave with steak salad
Part three of the Best of 2015 blog reviews a bunch of restaurants that we encountered on our travels this year. Since this is the 'best of', only the places with a rating of four carrots or better are included. We found, or returned to, lots of good places to eat this year!

What we ate:
Four and one-half Carrots
Chef Point (5901 Watauga Rd., Watauga, TX 76148, 817-656-0080) is actually in a gasoline filling station. The owner couldn’t get a loan for a restaurant, but could for a service station, so he began by selling car products and still has a small area for that purpose. However the main business is a wonderful restaurant. The chef, Franson Nwaeze, came by to chat with us about our meal telling me that if I would call him before I came, he would prepare eggplant dishes for me since they were no longer on the menu. I had Chicken Pesto Pasta which had just the right mix of garlic and basil; it was even better the next day when I had the second half for dinner. Dave indulged in the Crab Cake Pasta with a roasted bell pepper sauce. He said it was outstanding with a fresh flavor and nicely cooked bow-tie pasta. (See Home for the Holidays)

Cities of Light tour with Viking Cruise had fabulous food and the chef made sure that
German Night on the Viking Cruise
anyone with food allergies got things they could eat. I can’t say enough good things about this cruise or the company. (See Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris)

Crabby’s Seafood Bar and Grill (1800 S 52nd St, Rogers, AR, 479-273-0222) is one of the best places we’ve eaten. The chef and his wife own the restaurant and take great pains to present menus that are original using fresh ingredients. One of my greatest pleasures was that rather than relying on onions, leeks are used extensively. For starters, Dave had a very nice seafood chowder, while Vince and I had the garden salad. Dave had a crab cake that was about five inches in diameter and about three inches thick; it was loaded with lump crab rather than stuffing. The lemon dill butter sauce was spicy without being hot; the sautéed green beans, roasted tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, sweet corn was a nice counterpoint to the crab. Vince had creamy parmesan and white truffle scented seafood risotto, tossed with cherry tomatoes, spinach, leeks, dried cherries, and lemon butter sauce; it was full of shrimp, scallops and fish. I wanted something light, but opted for the grilled pork with bacon wrapped shrimp. This was presented on a bed of gorgonzola mashed potatoes in a honey lemon sauce; it was amazing. The merlot wine was very good, as was my sparkling moscato. The prices were well in line with the quality and amount of food, and the high level of service; however this isn’t a cheap place. (See Arkansas Art)

Dinner at The Raven Grill (220 W Park Street, Gardiner, MT 59030, 406-848-7600) was
Original Entrance to Yellowstone
fabulous. The only downer was the salad which was uninspired. Dave had a pasta dish that was remarkable. Vince had a huge pork chop that was well prepared with what he thought was an excellent sauce (I thought it was salty). Chef Phil Curry created a salmon dish that I actually liked. The yellow squash was served in a Sambuca sauce and the potatoes had gruyere cheese with a touch of nutmeg. The salmon was roasted with citrus beurre blanc. It was an amazing meal. Our server, Joyce, was excellent; she knew exactly what was in each dish and what special dishes the chef had prepared. (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

L'Epicerie Library Restaurant (Hilton Brussels Grand Place, Carrefour de l'Europe 3, Brussels, 1000, Belgium, +32 2 548 42 11) with a good chef on staff, there is no lack of good food available here. We almost didn’t go out in search of ‘real’ Belgium food. The breakfast buffet offered a wide selection of breads, cereals, fresh fruits, eggs, meats, cheeses, juices, and coffee. We paid about €20 for each of us plus our drinks; but the food and service were very good. The waitress insisted that we take extra bottled water back to our room. (See Review of Traveling through the Netherlands and Belgium)

Ricks on the Square (104 W Erwin St, Tyler, TX; 903-531-2415) has been in Tyler for about 20 years. It’s not readily apparent where the entrance is (just to the left of the mural);
Red Bud Tree
look for a large ‘Tyler’ sign hung vertically at the corner of Erwin and Broadway, then go a bit west on Erwin. The building has wooden floors and exposed beams in the ceilings. The art displayed is playful; we particularly liked the bartender and his drink shaker. The food is excellent. Dave had the lunch special: fried catfish, coleslaw, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and three hush puppies. He said that the catfish were excellent; they appeared to be local rather than pre-frozen. The coleslaw had a semi-sweet taste, with a tang of mustard; this taste was carried across in the tartar sauce that also contained mustard.  The huge pile of okra was too hot to eat immediately, but when he did get a bite, Dave pronounced them excellent, as well. The potatoes were okay, as were the hush puppies. Be advised: this is a dinner sized serving at a reduced price rather than a smaller portion of food! I had the Cobb salad with fresh avocado; it, too, was excellent. The vegetables were crisp and fresh; the meats tasty; and the cheese added a mellow flavor. Service was efficient; our server was personable and attentive. We would drive to Tyler just to eat at Ricks! (See Trekking to Tyler)

Sea Siam (940 Keller Pkwy Ste 230, Keller, TX 76248, 817-431-1581) is my all-time favorite Thai restaurant. We are always greeted by at least one of the family and they always know exactly what I want, Pad Thai. Dave orders something different from the menu each time and is never disappointed, although his favorite is one of the several curries. The food is always fresh and can be personalized to your taste. The coconut soup is wonderful; the salad and egg roll are tasty. And when you become addicted to the peanut sauce, it is available in Central Market ~ if they aren’t sold out, again! There is plenty of food to take home for another meal. (See Home for the Holidays)

Seasons (NH Hotel, Forum, 110 6229GV Maastricht, The Netherlands, +31 43 383 8281)
Dandelions in Maastricht
has a fixed-price menu as well as a regular menu. The first night we were there, my friend and I each ordered from the fixed price menu; I got an appetizer and a main while she got a main and a dessert.  We shared the appetizer and the dessert, and there was plenty to feed both of us. We, along with several of our friends dropped in for other meals and were never disappointed. Breakfast was from the same kitchen and was an excellent buffet with plenty of fresh breads, cereal, fresh fruits, eggs, meats, cheeses, juices, and coffee. The fixed-price meals we ate were about €20 for each of us plus our drinks; this meal was well worth the price. (See Review of Traveling through the Netherlands and Belgium)

Uncle's Fish Market & Grill (1135 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu; 808-275-0063) is down near the docks next door to NOAA but that doesn’t mean that it’s low class. This is a nicely decorated restaurant with happy, efficient staff who are willing to let you take your time enjoying your meal. Vince, still on the search for the best fish and chips in the world, had Today’s Fish and Chips that turned out to be ling cod, battered with panko, along with a plate of fries and a bowl of coleslaw. He said that the fish was outstanding; the fries were good, but still not the world’s best. Dave had Fresh Seafood Pasta; this is fish, shrimp, scallops and mushrooms in an Alfredo sauce. He’s still wondering how they managed to keep the shrimp and scallops from being over-cooked. The sauce was rich, but didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the seafood. I had the special: Ono (a.k.a. Wahoo) in a mushroom-sherry sauce with fresh steamed vegetables and rice; it was the best dish I ate this trip. The chocolate cake wasn’t overly sweet, allowing the flavor of the chocolate to dominate the dish; there was more than enough to share. This is one of the places we will visit again. There are several things on the menu we would like to try. The prices are good for the quality of food and service. (See Aloha – Coming and Going)

Our lunch at Wines of Colorado (8045 US-24, Cascade, CO 80809, 719-684-0900) was served outdoors by the river. The temperature outside was great and the food was a treat.
Ceramic Rabbit
There is a wine tasting bar that you can visit for free samples before you go down to eat so that you know what you want to drink. If you don’t eat there, then there is a charge for the tasting. Dave and I liked the Pikes Peak Riesling; Vince had the Pikes Peak Riesling/Merlot blend. Bek had a buffalo burger; Christine had spaghetti and meatball, Dave and Vince had a Reuben, and I had the pulled pork with roasted green peppers. We shared a HUGE piece of carrot cake among the five of us. It was all wonderful. (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

Four Carrots
Bistro St-Dominique (131 rue Saint-Dominique, 75007, Paris; +33-01-45-55-80-42) is located on a back street near the Eiffel Tower. It’s one of the few restaurants that is open 24 hours a day. We just happened to discover it as we walked back from one of our adventures. The building is about a hundred years old and has a tiny spiral staircase in one corner that takes you up to the restrooms. If you are tall, part of you is on one turn of the staircase while your feet are on another. The owner had purchased the building just after World War II and had been in the restaurant business for years. There was a nice outdoor seating area that was crowded with a mixed age group; inside was air conditioned and very comfortable. We started with a nice bottle of German wine; it was light and not too sweet. Dave had bifteck et pommes frites (steak and fried potatoes); I had macaroni au gratin (basically macaroni and cheese) that was laced with four types of cheese and topped with parmesan. This was comfort food for us both and it was very good! While the waiters were kind enough to endure my French, they were quite willing to converse with us in English. (See Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris)

Bistro 333 (333 W Kilbourn Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53203; 414-270-6130; inside the Hyatt
Duck Monument
Regency) was surprisingly well priced for hotel food and it was very good. I had a wonderful hamburger that was made of excellent beef, nicely prepared and delivered by a cheerful, prompt and efficient waitress. The fried potatoes were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside; the lettuce and tomato were fresh. The staff did as good a job of taking care of a crowd as they did when there were only a few people present. (See Meditating in Milwaukee)

Blue Marlin (364 Seaside Avenue, Honolulu; 808-922-5552) is a nicely upscale restaurant just off the strip. We went by in the afternoon to take a look at the menu and were warmly greeted by the bartender who told us a bit about the restaurant. When we came back for dinner, he made sure that we got at least two drinks at happy hour prices. He was also quite good at explaining the menu and giving us options. The menu is interesting in that the chef is pairing fish with a variety of sauces, as well as providing items that are from off-island. We started with Kona Longboard battered calamari which was well prepared, but with the traditional marinara sauce. Dave had a bowl of Clam Chowder New England Style that was creamy with an excellent flavor and quite a few clams. Vince and I had Pan Seared Ahi Tuna that was perfectly prepared and literally melted in your mouth. I’m not at all sure what the white vegetable served with it was, but it was not offensive. Dave had Pan Fried Mahi Mahi that was also well prepared, with a good flavor and excellent texture. Vince and Dave had sauces that they said enhanced the flavor of the fish without over whelming it. Two things disappointed me: Dave’s Sweet Potato Fries never arrived, so we didn’t get to taste those and the chef could not or did not want to take the time to prepare a simple sauce without onions to go with my fish. How hard is it to make lemon butter sauce? For dessert we shared a scoop of mango ice cream with fruit. The ice cream had a rich, pungent flavor of mango and the berries selected to accompany it was fresh and sweet. Actually, I didn’t share much of this dessert. This place is expensive since you must purchase each dish separately, but I would return again because what we did eat was excellent. I would suggest that a touch of green for a garnish would relieve the white of the dishes and the vegetable on which the fish is served. (See Aloha – Coming and Going)

Boo-Rays of New Orleans (7255 Boat Club Rd, Fort Worth, TX; 817-236-6149) is much larger than it looks from the outside and it’s a good thing. We happened to get there just at
Steve and Andi with Crayfish
opening time; about 20 minutes later there was a steady stream of customers. Our waiter was efficient and ready to engage with four slightly crazy customers, bringing us extras of whatever we wished. Andi and Steve did, indeed, get their crayfish. Although the crustaceans were small, they were well cooked and tasty. You can ask for hot sauce and spicy seasoning on the side that will enhance the flavor of these little goodies, as well as the taste of the corn and potatoes that come with the dish. Dave finally settled for a chicken fried steak with cream gravy, green beans and a good chunk of garlic bread. The chicken fried was nicely done, and the gravy was flavorful with chunks of sausage; the garlic bread was great. The mashed potatoes and the green beans were nothing special. I had fried catfish that was fresh and firm with no hint of dark meat; the batter was crispy and well-seasoned. The French fried potatoes, by themselves, were worth the drive out to this restaurant. The hush-puppies looked and smelled wonderful; Dave said they tasted good, too. Unfortunately, there are onions in those golden orbs so I’ll never know. Dave and I decided that we needed to try their key lime cheese cake. Creamy, tart and with slices of sponge cake, this is a lovely way to end a meal. Boo-Rays provides good value for the price of the meal. (See Spinning the Wheel)

Brasserie du Cercle (2a, rue des Capucins, L-1313 Luxembourg; +35-2-47-45-12) is a small restaurant on the main square. The people who run it are very friendly and are most willing to accommodate your needs. We only had a short time for lunch and ask the waitress what would be appropriate to order. She suggested the soup and bread; this was a great choice. The tomato soup was thick and almost sweet with the pulp of the tomatoes. The surprise in the bottom of the bowl was a thick round of goat cheese. I was in heaven, Dave wasn’t nearly as excited. The bread was fresh, crusty and served with butter. The wine went well with the meal. I wish we had had time to have an entire lunch in this restaurant. Although Luxembourg is said to be one of the most expensive places in Europe, we thought that the prices on the menu were in line with other restaurants in Germany. (See Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris)

The Brio Tuscan Grill (1431 Plaza Pl, Southlake, TX 76092, 817-310-3136) is actually part
Downtown Southlake
of a chain of restaurants, but the service, atmosphere and food are better than that would imply. The seasonal pumpkin ravioli with ricotta in a creamy sauce with squash and cranberries was wonderful. Dave’s Risotto and Insalata were nicely prepared and well worth the cost. Along with lunch came a basket of bread that went very well with our meal. Service was excellent. (See Home for the Holidays)

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (City Walk – Orlando, 6000 Universal Boulevard #735, Orlando, Florida 32819, 407-903-0044) is part of a chain, and we don’t usually evaluate that sort of restaurant. However, the service was extraordinarily good so should be mentioned in a review. After getting our drinks, we presented our coupon for a free appetizer and asked what that covered. The server ran down the list, but everything contained foods to which I am allergic. She called over the manager who went through the menu with me and together we selected my dinner. He also took the coupon and credited it to an appetizer that wasn’t on the list. Our server and the manager checked back several times to make sure that we were satisfied with our food. Dave had fish and chips made with Pollock; the fish was tender, the coating crispy, and the tarter tasted fresh. He did say that the chips (French fries) were average. My coconut shrimp were also very good. The shrimp were tender, with a thick coating of coconut and a tangy mango-orange dipping sauce. I agreed with Dave on the quality of the French fries. The calamari, our appetizer, also had spicy red pepper and pepperoncini breaded and deep fried. There were two sauces, the usual red sauce and one made with ancho. The calamari was correctly prepared so that the meat was not rubbery. Dave had a cold beer and I had a prosecco that came in a small bottle, making it about half the cost as one glass of wine. The price of the shrimp was rather high, but the rest of the food was reasonable. We were pleased with our meal and especially with the service.  (See Aliens and Spiders and Dinos …Oh My!)

Buster’s Beach House and Longboard Bar (807 W Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101,
Balboa Park, San Diego
619-233-4300) looks a bit like a diner with some outdoor seating, but has a full menu of local foods, along with typical offerings. I had some very good fish tacos and a split bottle of prosecco. Service was very good and the price was reasonable. (See Retreating in San Diego and Reviews)

Cafe & Bistro in Hilton Prague (Pobřežní 1 186 00 Praha; +42-0-224-841-111) is a casual eatery that caters to tourists. Food is varied and rather good; however, you won’t find much local fare on the menu. Simply because of jet lag one day and walking our feet off the next, we ate in this restaurant twice. We had a delicious cheese plate that did have some of the local cheeses. The little crusty bagels were a nice counterpart to the creamy goat cheese. The tomato soup with goat cheese toast was creamy, peppery and very tasty. Dave had a rack of lamb topped with pesto and a side of potatoes. The sauce served with it was spicy and a nice contrast to the meat and potatoes. The caprese salad dressing was a bit sharper than I expected because of the small amount of mustard they used, but the cheese was good and the tomatoes were fresh. They also had green and white asparagus in a hollandaise sauce that was very good. Along with that I had a salad with quail eggs, very salty bacon and mixed greens. Dave tried a traditional schnitzel with a mustard sauce that he thought was a bit dry. Prices were very reasonable, especially for a hotel restaurant. (See Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris)

The Classic (504 North Oak Street, Roanoke, TX 76262, 817-430-8185) is a very nice
Jalapeño Apple Cobbler with
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
restaurant in an old house. There are original paintings gracing the walls, and there is a very pretty bar area. The menu is interesting in that you can get a ‘fixed price’ menu as well as a la carte items. Along with our Roku Riesling, we had a very lovely lunch. As a holiday special, the chef had prepared a smoked salmon mousse in phyllo cups. Dave said that although the texture was wonderful, the onion overwhelmed the flavor of the fish. He also had the potato soup that he said was very good: thick, rich, and full of bacon. I had a roasted garlic and goat cheese puff pastry with radicchio. The garlic and cheese were wonderful; the radicchio was okay. My garlic Caesar salad was fresh with a creamy dressing that had a pop of horseradish; the croutons were homemade. The three types of fresh bread accompanied our meal – all were excellent. Dave’s pork schnitzel was good, but not made from a chop. His mashed potatoes were okay, but nothing special. The sugar snap peas were excellent, with a sweet flavor and crunchy texture.  However, the show-stopper was the jalapeño apple cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream. The cobbler was full of cinnamon, apples and had just enough pepper to let you know it was there without overwhelming the other flavors. The cobbler dough was delicate with a flavor all its own. This was a great ending to the meal. Although this can be a very expensive place to eat, we’d go back to sample more of their offerings.

Como Restaurant (Václavské náměstí 818/45 110 00 Praha 1; +48-0-222-247-240) is right on Wenceslas Square. You can opt to sit outside or in; we chose indoors since it was much quieter and less crowded. The food was spectacular. Dave had chicken breast pin-wheeled with bacon and spinach, presented on a bed of butter mashed potatoes with barbecue sauce on the side. He said it had a lovely fragrance and taste; it was quite a pretty presentation. I had Mahi Mahi grilled with pineapple; sweet, slightly salty, crusty, and firm flavors and textures mingled together to create a wonderful meal. We each had a nice glass of white wine that complemented both dishes. The waitress was attentive and helpful, making sure that we both got what we wanted prepared to our specifications. This is an up-scale restaurant that makes an extra effort to have a wide price range for their varied patrons. We saw business people having a working lunch as well as young people obviously on vacation and families with children. The price for the food and service is very good. (See Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris)

Croissant Moon Bakery (Universal’s Islands of Adventure, 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida, 32819) is a great place for breakfast and probably a good place for lunch
Faux Fish Pie
within the park. We had basically the same breakfast we did at the hotel for about half the price. We shared a bacon, egg and cheese croissant, and a cranberry muffin; we both had huge cups of coffee. The croissant was fresh and hot; the muffin was chilled, but very tasty. The ladies at the counter were pleasant and efficient. There are some small tables inside the bakery, and several larger ones outside. For us this was a great option for breakfast! (See Aliens and Spiders and Dinos …Oh My!)

De Vier Pilaren Crêperie (Stadhouderskade 11, 1054ES Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 6-18940340) is a funky little restaurant down on a canal. If you sit outside you can watch the tour boats go by and enjoy the pleasant temperatures. Barb had poffertjes, which are little puffs of pancake dough covered with powdered sugar. In fact there was so much sugar that there was a wafting trail following the waitress. With it came a ginger jam that was a spicy counterpart to the sweet. I had a pancake with strips of bacon embedded in it; savory and yummy. We had a very nice waitress who offered us a second glass of wine; what we didn’t know was that while we were enjoying our wine, they were closing the restaurant. She, and her boss, told us to take our time and they came by to chat with us while they worked. Our dinner cost us about €15 each including our glasses of wine. (See Review of Traveling through the Netherlands and Belgium)

There are several places to eat near the square in Waxahachie, but we chose the Dove’s
Waxahachie Court House
Nest Restaurant
 (105 W Jefferson Street, Waxahachie, Texas 75165, 972-938-3683). This restaurant is what we generally think of as a ‘tea room’ situated in a building that houses several tiny shops with oodles of cute things including home decoration, children’s clothing, and delectable items to eat. Vince had the Chicken Apricot Salad Sandwich; he said it was excellent with just enough contrast between the savory chicken and the sweet apricots. Dave had the Dove’s Nest House Burger. He particularly liked the fact that the meat was crusty and the bread tasted homemade. They both thought the corn-mango relish was very tasty. I had the Avocado BLT; it was excellent, especially with the pop of habanero jelly. And we all loved the cracked pepper potato chips. Service was average, but the waitress was pleasant and made sure that we had iced tea to take away with us. (See A Square Meal in Waxahachie)

El Fenix (885 N.E. Alsbury Blvd, Burleson, TX 76028, 817-984-7110) has been in Texas for years and is one of the premier ‘chain’ restaurants. As long as I can remember, we’ve been enjoying their cuisine and it has rarely disappointed. Usually we stop by for lunch and on this cold day a hot lunch was very appealing. I chose a taco and cheese enchilada plate with rice and beans; as usual I couldn’t finish it. Dave had a Chimichanga Sabrosa with chicken and queso. While the sauces and fillings are pre-made, I can get foods that must be assembled made to my specifications; in most cases, onion is not used as a filler in meat dishes. (See Home for the Holidays)

Edgewater Grill (861 W Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, 619-232-7581) is a nice restaurant with a good selection of seafood. While they have the typical menu items, they
Mexican Bird of Paradise
also have fresh fish specials. I had the grilled swordfish, which was indeed fresh, along with a very nice kale slaw and nicely prepared potatoes. The Jam Jar Moscato was good, as well. Service was good and the price was fair. (See Retreating in San Diego and Reviews)

Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que (1230 N 7th Avenue, Bozeman, MT 59715, 406-586-0597) was a good choice for a relaxed lunch. Dave had a brisket plate with a cornbread muffin and potato salad. He said it was as good as what he gets in Texas. Vince had a charred beef burger with cheese and a side of slaw; he liked it. I had the best of the lot: Burnt Ends that are actually the caramelized ends of a brisket, cut into tiny chunks and coated in their medium hot sauce. My side was grilled pineapple; I was really happy with my food. (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

Fishing Bridge Snack Bar (Yellowstone National Park, WY, 307-344-7311) is from the
Buffalo in Yellowstone
early 1900s, complete with the red-topped stools that are bolted to the floor. Our server, Jared, was excellent. He did a super job in a very busy situation, along with trying to make folks who didn’t speak much English feel at ease ordering. Vince had a grilled cheese sandwich with a salad that he said was good. Dave had a chicken sandwich with fries that he liked. I had a very good cheese burger with fries; the fries were crispy and the burger was prepared as I liked. We had a good meal with an efficient and personable server! (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

Aloha Tower Marketplace on the Honolulu Harbor is home to Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (1 Aloha Tower Dr Ste 1123, Honolulu; 808-599-4877). Aloha Tower has changed considerably since the last time we visited. It’s been purchased by the University of Hawai’i; they are going to turn this area into student housing with a few restaurants and shops that. Those restaurants and shops will serve the general public as well as the students. We had a wonderful dinner sitting out on the deck watching the sun set. Dave had Beer-battered Fish and Chips; he said it well prepared with firm, fresh fish and very tasty coleslaw. Vince was thoroughly pleased with his Wild Alaskan Salmon and fresh asparagus; the salmon had no fishy odor or taste. The Seafood Cobb Salad that I chose was amazing, particularly because of the large amounts of crab and shrimp. Service was good; this isn’t a cheap place to eat, but you get what you pay for. (See Aloha – Coming and Going)

Haleiwa Joe’s (66-011 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa; 808-637-8005) is on the North Shore and is one of our go-to places for good food and time spent watching the water. Since we
Dave and Cynthia in Hawai'i
were planning to have dinner that evening, we all decided that we’d have ‘something light’. I had the Luau Lumpia which is pork and taro leaf in a lumpia wrapper, fried and served with pineapple and sweet chili dipping sauce. This was exceptionally good and although it looked like a small serving was really quite filling. Vince had Island Ceviche Fresh. This dish is made from fish marinated in lime and cilantro, then topped with avocado and served with tortilla chips. Vince said it was okay, but lacked the pizzazz he expected from a ceviche dish. The Fish Sandwich uses lightly breaded and deep fried local fish that is with sundried tomato aioli and steak fries. Dave said that this was very good, particularly since the fish was fresh. The service was good, although this is a very busy place. The prices are a bit high, but the quality of food is good. (See Aloha – Coming and Going)

Irma Hotel and Restaurant (1192 Sheridan Avenue, Cody, WY 82414, 307-587-4221) was an interesting place, particularly with the popularity of the buffet. Dave had one of the best Reuben Sandwiches he’d ever eaten and the Irma fries were good, too. Vince had a BLT that he really liked and his onion rings were very good, as well. My ‘small’ burger was well done with good meat and cheese. The sweet potato fries were actually ripple wedges and were excellent. Service was fairly slow but we had an entire pitcher of water on the table ~ a really good idea. (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

Jameson’s by the Sea (62-540 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa; 808-637-4336) is literally
Waves on the Shore, Hawai'i
across the bridge from Haleiwa Joe’s. Although the outside sitting area allows views of the street and part of the bay, it’s still nice to sit in the open air. This was one of the few times none of us had fish. Dave had a Bacon Cheese Burger with twice-fried potato wedges; Vince had the Mushroom Burger. They both waxed poetic about the freshness, the tasty bun, the high-quality meat and those crispy fried potatoes. I had the small Chef’s Salad which was altogether lovely, particularly with the purple Taro Bread that is slightly sweet. Jameson’s has a very nice bar area and a funky gift shop with traditional Hawaiian crafts, jewelry and clothing. Our waitress had a great sense of humor, as well as being efficient. The cost of a meal here isn’t out of line for the quality of ingredients and the setting. (See Aloha – Coming and Going)

Jenny Lake Lodge Restaurant (Jenny Lake Rd, Moose, WY 83012, 307-733-4647) is not a cheap place, but the food, service and ambiance were absolutely worth the cost. Vince had a chicken tortilla soup that he said was very good. Dave had an Angus burger that he said was excellent; the fries weren’t particularly crisp. My grilled watermelon and goat cheese salad with nuts was very good. I wish I had made sure that there was no spinach as I did with the shallots. The waiter said that everything was prepared to order. I had a glass of Riesling that was pretty good, too. Views out the windows were marvelous. (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

Kassandra’s Mexican Kitchen (813 Keller Pkwy, Keller, TX 76248, 817-337-1577) is our favorite place for breakfast. This is a family-run eatery with many of the clan working as
Top: Divorced Eggs,
Bottom: Hot Sauce, Queso
cooks and waitpersons. Although they specialize in Mexican food, you can get plain bacon and eggs, pancakes, waffles, or other traditional meal. The carne guisada with fried eggs is very good, as are the Divorced Eggs (two eggs, one with green sauce and the other with red sauce). Dave ordered the King Burrito that he ate on for three days; I got my usual bacon and egg soft taco with avocado. The jalapeños are fresh and hot; if you have a tender mouth you can get your order without the peppers. Some mornings, if the rice is finished, you can get a plate of beef or cheese enchiladas rather than breakfast. As with other of my favorite places, meals can be adapted to taste and many times certain ingredients can be removed or added. I have also eaten lunch here several times and the food and service are just as good as at breakfast. (See Home for the Holidays)

The Keg Lounge (730 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, 719-685-9531) seems to have been in old Colorado Springs forever. It’s a great place to pop in for a drink and something to eat. This time Bek and I both got a buffalo burger. These come with a bag of chips and we opted for beer and cider. Both were cooked to our orders and were very tasty. The veggies on the burgers were good, as well. Service was quick and efficient. (See Springing to Manitou)

King and I (830 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203; 414-276-4181) is a Thai
restaurant that is very good. The night we ate there it was packed. However, since we were a small party, our waiter made sure that he got our order in before the several tables of six or more. We really appreciated his efforts to make sure that we were fed in a timely manner. Our bottle of Polka-Dot Riesling was a semi-sweet counterpart to the Beef Jerky Appetizer that was spicy and a bit salty. The Pad Thai was a lovely blending of flavors with plenty of meat, as were the Drunken Noodles. The Pork Fried Rice had not only pork, but bits of vegetables that made it a pretty as well as a tasty dish. I would go back here in a flash. (See Meditating in Milwaukee)

La Harpe (16 Rue de la Harpe Paris; +33-01-43-29-43-48) is just one of the many restaurants just up the street from Hotel du Levant. As we walked by the maître d' told us about the evening’s specials and offered us a free glass of wine to come inside. This was one of the many places that had a ‘set menu’. You can have two courses (appetizer and main or main and dessert) or three courses for a set price. These menus are usually a good deal and this one certainly was. We obliged him and got a good seat overlooking the street. Dave started with a bowl of French onion soup; he said it was delicious. I began with a salad that was mixed greens topped with a piece of toast and two rounds of goat cheese; that could have been my entire meal since it was filling and very good. Dave’s main was a traditional coq au vin (chicken in wine). Mine was a steak with fried potatoes and green beans. We both were very happy with our meals. The chicken, with its sauce, was a delight; the steak was tender and had a wonderful mushroom sauce with it. Desserts were chocolate mousse and crème brulee; both were well prepared and very tasty. (See Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris)

Les Parisiennes (17 Avenue de la Motte Piquet, 75007 Paris; +33-01-47-05-07-37) is a really delightful place to eat. Our waitress was full of energy and fun. She knew just how to
Gold Statue on the Seine
handle Dave’s silliness, so we laughed through the entire meal. Dave had a club sandwich with a large salad. He said that the cold cuts were tasty and that the chicken was roasted rather than boiled; the greens were very fresh. My salade Niçoise was full of tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, and anchovies, and dressed with vinaigrette. The tuna was just as I like it, seared on the outside and rare on the inside. The house wine was slightly sweet and went well with our lunch. The price for lunch was extremely reasonable. (See Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris)

Lombard’s Seafood Grill (Universal Studios Florida, 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida, 32819, 407-224-6401) is a very nice restaurant within the park. For lunch, this venue is actually less expensive than some of the food stands along the walkways. Dave and I shared the Mahi Mahi fish sandwich, but Dave had the clam chowder, also.  He really enjoyed the chowder, especially with the fresh sour dough bread served hot and with real butter; I liked the bread, too. The fish sandwich was on a warm, sweet bun with a creamy spread and some sundried tomatoes. The fries were crispy and hot. Our waiter was funny, efficient, and attentive. The setting is lovely and in the evening you’ll need reservations to get a seat in a timely manner. (See Aliens and Spiders and Dinos …Oh My!)

Main Street Barbecue (42 W Main St, Durant, OK, 580-745-9120) hit us with a burst of
Metal Horse
fragrant smoke when we walked in the door. I had a Pork Slawich with fried okra and sweet potato fries. Without sauce the meet tasted smoky and moist; the slaw was crisp, sweet and a good punctuation to the meat. Of course I added the regular sauce which was very tasty. The okra was crispy and not over-salted; the sweet potato fries were okay. Vince had a beef sandwich and okra much like mine, but with jalapeño poppers. He also got the extra hot sauce that he said was good but was only hot in Oklahoma. He was also enamored of the meat and okra. Dave had a two meat plate, beef and ribs, with green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy and a roll that took him right back to his school days – yeasty, fluffy, and aromatic. The prices for our food were very reasonable. We went in for lunch at about 2:00PM on a Saturday. The place was full when we arrived and full when we left; it’s that good. Service was okay, but not excellent. (See Arkansas Art) 

Maria Bonita Mexican Cocina (100 S Front St, Aledo, TX, 817-441-1652) is literally on ‘the other side of the tracks’ in downtown Aledo. Lots of locals eat here and I can understand why. The chips are homemade with lots of crunch and little grease. The salsa, also homemade, is spicy but won’t take your head off. Vince and I had crunchy tacos that boasted spicy beef with very fresh lettuce, tomato and cheese. I was quite pleased with the heat level, but Vince asked for tobacco to pep up his rice, beans and tacos. Dave had flautas that in his words, ‘wouldn’t offend folks with delicate mouths’. We all agreed that the big hit was the refried beans. These were excellent with a surprising smoky flavor and grated cheese on top. Everything was made onsite rather than coming in pre-packaged. We would make the drive back to Aledo just to eat here, again. Service was good, and when I commented on the freshness of the food and ask what was homemade, I got a huge smile from our waiter; he was very proud of the food that was being served. (See Aimed at Aledo)

Maria Cuca’s Mexican Cuisine (800 S Main St, Keller, TX; 817-741-0213) is in a strip shopping center that has had restaurants come and go on an unfortunately regular basis.
No Free Lunch
Parking is the biggest problem in this area, and getting across four lanes of traffic can be an issue. However, we’re hoping that this place stays here for a very long time. From the time we arrived, the service and attention were top-notch. Along with the tortilla chips came three bowls of sauce: the traditional salsa, green sauce, and roasted pepper sauce. The salsa is spicy and full of tomatoes; the green sauce will make your eyeballs sweat; and the roasted peppers have a nice smoky flavor. The roasted peppers were actually the mildest of the three. Dave ordered a frozen Margarita which came with swirl of red through the center of the drink. Neither of us knew what it was, although the taste was delightful. We asked the waiter and got into a discussion about how Margaritas were made, what flavors were used and so forth. He brought me a sample of the mango Margarita; this was so yummy I could have had it on pancakes! I generally order something that includes a crispy taco so that I have a basis for comparison against other restaurants in which I’ve eaten. This time I got a taco and two enchiladas. Although the enchiladas had a bit more chili powder than I prefer, the taco was very good. Dave had chicken enchiladas with a tangy sour cream sauce and crammed full of what appeared to be breast meat. We both liked the beans and rice. We are both looking forward to trying their offerings again, this time with mango Margaritas and maybe even dessert. (See Home on the Range)

We gave the Meeker Hotel and Café (560 Main St, Meeker, CO 81641, 855-878-5255) a try for breakfast. The one waitress was run off her feet, but still did a great job. Breakfast was really good and for a change I could get a small enough portion. My French toast and bacon were well prepared. Vince and Dave had regular portions that were plenty. Vince had fried eggs with bacon and hash brown potatoes; Dave had an omelet with hash browns. Cost for breakfast was reasonable. 4 (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

Of course we had to eat at My Father’s Pizza and Pasta (110 Cherry Street, Black
Linnea and Barb with Garlic Pizza
Mountain, NC 28711, 828-669-4944) not once but twice. And both times we shared a Garlic White Pizza with extra garlic. It’s great food and good service in a nice setting. This year is was a bit too chilly and damp to sit on the patio, but the dining room works just as well for small or large groups. (See Back to the Smokeys)

Pizzeria Rustica (2527 W Colorado Ave. Colorado Springs, Colorado 80904, 719-632-8121) is a quirky, funky place to eat. The salad we shared was fresh, and with the dressing on the side we could add as much or as little as we chose. We split their Rustica pizza; all pizzas are made to order when you order. The crust was stuffed with ricotta cheese, the house-made mozzarella was tasty and the vegetables were very fresh. We couldn’t eat it fast enough. The Limoncello Combo desert was a luscious blend of lemon sorbet, balsamic fig glaze, and lemon liqueur; it was large enough to share. Service was efficient, fun, and helpful. (See Springing to Manitou)

Raphael Restaurant (rue du Marcher aux Herbes, 76, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 511 82 91) is an architecturally strange place. The first floor isn’t particularly large, but as you
Smurf Statue
climb to stairs to go to the restroom you notice that each level, there are three, has more seating area. It’s decorated with artifacts from a church that had been torn down and named after the owner’s son. If you want air conditioning, ask to sit on the second floor (the level above the entry). We went to this restaurant for ‘traditional Belgium food’ and that’s what we ordered. We started by sharing some fried calamari (I don’t know that these were actually common in Belgium, but they sure were good). Barb had a washtub full of muscles boiled with local spices. This came with fried potatoes that were hot and crunchy. I had a ‘mixed grill’ of chicken, beef and pork. The portions of meat were huge and nicely prepared. We basically had more food than any three people could have eaten. It was all very good. We both paid about €20.00 including our glasses of wine. (See Review of Traveling through the Netherlands and Belgium)

Rockfish Seafood Grill (3785 S Cooper St, Arlington, TX 76015, 817-419-9988) is our go-to seafood restaurant in this area. The fish is good and well-prepared. Dave’s favorite is the Atlantic Fish and Chips, mine is the small order of Santa Fe Tacos. In both cases the fish is firm and the breading is crispy. The slaw is crunchy and tangy. While the tartar sauce is good, the Ancho sauce is wonderful with just the right amount of heat. One of the other positive things about ordering here is I can ask for my food to be made without onions, and they will accommodate me. While I usually take home half my food, Dave generally finishes his order. (See Home for the Holidays)

Sama Sebo (P.C. Hooftstraat 27, 1071 BL Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 020 - 662 81
Green Man Sculpture
46) is a local restaurant near the Park Hotel that specializes in Indonesian food. We both ordered the Nasi Goreng ‘plate lunch’ that basically had some of everything. The service was a bit slow, but the food was good and certainly filling. We thought this was a bit expensive at €18, each with no drinks. (See Review of Traveling through the Netherlands and Belgium)

The SmokeStack Restaurant (239 Private Road 741, Mingus, TX 76463, 254-672-5560) began more than 40 years ago in Thurber’s old drugstore. The original building burned in 1992, but was rebuilt in the north end of the 1890s Texas & Pacific Mercantile building that is made with original Thurber bricks. The restaurant is named for the 128-foot-tall power plant smokestack; the power plant once supplied the town of Thurber with electricity. There is a full menu, but on week days there is also a lunch plate. Dave and I opted for that and were glad that we did. It was heaped with a chopped steak, mashed potatoes, fresh corn, a huge yeast roll, and peach cobbler for dessert. Vince had a ham and cheese sandwich with French fries; the fries were crispy and rather than being a thin slice of ham, the meat was a ham steak. We all took half of our meals home! (See Feed and Seed and Beer to Go)

Richardson has some really good restaurants; one that has been around for 30+ years is the String Bean (1310 W. Campbell Rd., Richardson; 972-385-3287). If you like Southern
cooking, this is the place to come. They have ‘small plates’ that are more than adequate unless you’re absolutely starving; of course, if you have a small plate you can also have dessert. There are several things I like on the menu, particularly the chicken salad, but this time I got chicken fingers (with sweet and sour dipping sauce), string beans and okra. The chicken was tender and crispy, the string beans tasted of bacon, and the okra was had a nice crunch once it was cool enough to eat; I was not at all disappointed in my ‘small plate’ but I didn’t have any room for dessert. I can’t wait to go back for some blackberry cobbler! (See Running in Richardson)

Uber Tap Room and Cheese Bar (1048 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203; 414-755-2424) is a funky, fun pub attached to a cheese market with cow statues stationed here and there. The main offering is cheese, of course. One of our group got a grilled cheese sandwich that had several types of cheese on it and was warm and gooey. She had to take half of it to go since it was so large. I had the macaroni and goat cheese skillet; it was fabulous. Another of our group had a flight of beer that he really enjoyed. I liked the pear cider, particularly since I got the second glass for free. Afterwards we wandered through the cheese market; had I been going directly home I would have taken several types of cheese with me. (See Meditating in Milwaukee)

Breakfast at the Uncle Sam's Pancake House (341 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO
Pikes Peak
80829, 719-685-9525) was substantially better than I expected. Vince had a pancake as big as his head, along with eggs and sausage links that he said were very good. Dave and I had scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and hash browns. They were good, but nothing outstanding. The service was excellent. 4 (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

At The Virginian Lodge restaurant (750 W Broadway, Jackson, WY 83001, 307-733-2792) Vince had a half rack of ribs that he said tasted good but didn’t have much meat. The vegetables were well done and the slaw was good. Dave had the ‘Half Roasted Chicken’ that he said was excellent. He thought that the vegetables were good, also. I had the pot roast with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy plus broccoli and carrots. It was very good, tasting like the food we had when I was growing up. We topped it off with a slab of chocolate cake that was just enough for three. It was really moist and sweet. (See Reviews of the Road Trip to Yellowstone)

The Weatherford Downtown Café (101 W Church St, Weatherford, TX, 817-594-8717) is in one of the historic buildings and was populated the day we visited with lots of locals.
Weatherford Mural
Luckily we were there early and got a table out of the way of the servers and the patrons. The Friday special on the chalkboard was fried catfish and all three of us had that. We all agreed that the catfish was wonderful, as was the slaw and the fried okra. Dave and Vince really liked the hushpuppies; of course Vince wished for jalapeños in his. Dave opted for mashed potatoes and gravy rather than slaw and he said that was a good choice. Since we all had the same thing, I made the executive decision to get a dessert to share. When the waiter brought the blackberry cobbler, I was very glad that I’d asked for three spoons. This was a huge portion; but better than its size was the flavor. The breading was flaky with brown sugar and cinnamon; the berries were ripe, sweet and plentiful. Our waiter was very busy, but he paid attention; we were able to get what we needed without waiting an overlong time. The cost of this meal was surprisingly low. My only complaints were the noise level and having to go up to the register and stand in line to pay the bill. Your check doesn’t come to your table, but is calculated when you reach the register. (See Way Back in Weatherford)

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