Maggiano’s Little Italy
3200 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
This gambling and entertainment mecca probably has the best and worst of what America has to offer from a culinary perspective. From absurdly priced, high end celebrity chef fronted establishments to the ultra cheap diners and fast food stands, there is no shortage of food in Las Vegas. It all depends on what you are wiling to pay, the level of your palate, and perhaps even the level of success (or lack of) you’ve had in the casinos.
Strangely enough, I’ve dined at Maggiano’s in an entirely different city – Orlando, FL, just last year. By chance, I came across it again on a hurried trip to the Fashion Mall to pick up something before jumping in a taxi to head to the airport and leave town. I had some mates in tow who were also in a rushed state to do some last minute shopping for the folks back home, and so we dipped in for a late lunch. As I wasn’t feeling overly hungry and did not want to feel bloated while sitting in an airplane for the next few hours, I chose just from the appetizers list.
2031 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA
Sometimes just the name of a place gives you a sense of what you might expect. At times this is good and at others, well not so. I agree that setting yourself up for a meal like this isn’t the wisest thing to do, as its really just “judging a book by its cover”. With no facts or proof to make a case either way. But I suppose it builds the advice case for owners – pick a name, and research it well, before you plaster it on everything your restaurant will represent. It could have inherent or unexpected nuances or meanings that you weren’t aware of and then its too late…
So being told by my dining mates that we’d be going to a place called Tacolicious after a long day of work, and the main chooser not someone I’ve really gone out to dinner with before this evening, I had my doubts before I even hopped into the taxi that would take me there from my hotel. I wasn’t aware of the research or thought that went into this decision, and I had no time to do any checking of my own before rushing out to join them, so I couldn’t really complain. From the sidewalk, it looked like nothing special. A smallish-looking space in fact. With just this one side with a window to glimpse inside.
Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe
415 Westlake Ave N
I admit freely to having some cravings for sweet stuff and giving in. The times are few and far between though, so thankfully I’m not on a permanent sugar high like some people I know who guzzle litres of pop a day or never are without a sugary doughnut with their morning coffee, a candy bar at their work desk, or pass on a daily dessert at dinner time. When I do crave something with chocolate as its primary ingredient, its often a dark variety bar.
Earlier in August, I was exposed to a variety of sample product from a Vancouver-based XOXOLAT ahead of a private function. The use and dedication to serving single origin chocolates struck a chord with me, as it reminded me of what a segment of the coffee scene is like with its strive to procure ingredients from reputable and solo operations.
While on this recent trip to Seattle, we came upon the Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe, located right by the Tesla showroom and an outpost of Serious Pie. A very large and open concept space, outfitted with a mishmash of comfortable looking and more stiffer wooden furniture. Big bright windows and high ceilings, led me to think this used to be some kind of industrial or commercial storage facility before it was transformed to the people-friendly business it is today. While primarily concentrated on the chocolate realm, they do give ample attention to their coffee beans as well for their espresso (provided by Seattle roaster Herkimer Coffee) and the loose leaf tea on the menu is from Miro Tea.
616 E Pine Street
The Capital Hill area of the Emerald City is an intriguing one to go for a stroll around in. Bars, live music venues, theatre houses, fashion boutiques, bookstores and coffeehouses abound. I think you could spend a full day up and down the main streets of this area and get in a complete day of good eats and entertainment. One of the most popular places to unwind and get a solid cup of coffee is Stumptown‘s location on the steeply inclined East Pine Street.
My only previous experience with their coffee was when I picked up some of their roasted beans in Vancouver’s Chinatown district. So I was keen on actually going to one of their two cafes in this part of Seattle. With limited seating outside and big glass windows leading inside, it was quite inviting from the sidewalk when you approach it. Stepping inside, you are in direct line of sight with the main service counter.
316 Virginia Street
There are definitely folks out there who take their pizza seriously. It’s no joking matter to them. From the in-depth discussions about the best kinds of flour to use, the optimal oven environments and of course the ideal toppings to make the perfect pie, the discussion will never result in everyone agreeing on one definitive pizza as the “best”. At foodosophy, we’ve certainly not been shy about expressing our thoughts and sharing our experiences at various pizzerias around North America as can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Wow, that was a lot. And not all of them either.
Now from the Tom Douglas empire comes a boldly named enterprise that would apparently be an apt gathering spot for interesting gourmands willing and able to discuss all things pizza. Serious Pie. Just adore that name. On this visit to Seattle, we had this particular address programmed into our minds but by shear chance, we walked right past the other location in South Lake Union, after checking out the nearby Tesla car showroom. But keeping with our agenda, we hoofed it back to Virginia Street as we weren’t quite hungry yet after our late morning meal back at Toulouse Petit.
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge
601 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Booze with breakfast. Sad but true, that was the criteria upon which some research was done as I had a thirsty companion who was riding shotgun on this trip. Trying to get our drink on well before the night game at Safeco Field, this place popped up as the sole option. Surprisingly, it also turned out its a pretty well known joint. Dodging the lineup and delaying our entry into the place with a coffee from down the street, we were able to get a pair of stools at one of the rectangular communal tables – fittingly right in front of the beautifully stocked bar. As it said on the menu, “daytime drinking has never been so dignified, fun and guilt free…”.
There was a special pricing event going on during the hours we were here, so it did knock a few green bills off the total tally. With a section devoted to some more uncommon creations, my dining partner and I chose from that area, skipping past the usual eggs/toast combos, that we might have otherwise chosen. Our picks: the cured pork cheeks confit hash and the smoked salmon and asparagus hash.
Uptown Espresso & Bakery
525 Queen Anne Ave N
Mon-Thu 5am – 10pm, Fri 5am – 11pm, Sat 6am – 11pm, Sun 6am – 10pm
I’ve come to discover that one of the best things of having a base in Vancouver is its close proximity to the United States and a decent sized city that is very much like the one in B.C. In less than three hours, you can be in Seattle, and have a chance to explore new sights and places to eat and drink, and still be able to get home and sleep in your own bed. Can’t say I could do the same living in two major centers in Alberta like I did over the years.
First stop after arriving in town was at a breakfast place, where we got on the waiting list – to be written about later. We then walked down the street for some morning caffeine. It was close and convenient, no pre-planning in effect. A shame I know, given that Seattle is reputed to be a great coffee town.
Fourth Street Bar & Grill
55 Fourth Street
San Francisco, CA
Why not. Another quickie post from the road. Again with a 30 minute or so brief break for something to eat in the midst of a major business event that I was attending, I headed a few blocks away with a travel mate and we stumbled upon this sports bar looking place, known as the Fourth Street Bar & Grill. It probably knew there would be tens of thousands of code monkeys and propeller heads in the vicinity given the nature of this massive gathering just several streets to the south, and had come up with a bare bones kind of lunch special menu to keep the masses fed, quickly and to allow the kitchen to maintain some semblance of sanity and order. I think there were five or six deals on the small board at the bar where we placed our orders and paid cash up front.
After grabbing a drink, alas no beer for me though many others around me were partaking in some mid-day suds, I was handed this little cell phone-sized plastic device that would serve as the beckon to let me know when my food was ready. I like these contraptions, so much better than the chaotic system of calling out orders in a busy food court (like I experienced recently at Crystal Mall in Burnaby, BC) and having no clue if they were talking about yours or someone else, if you could even hear over the buzzing drone of the crowd. No puzzlement, you know when its your turn to go up, rather than having to hover near a busy counter and peering over the folks around you to see if your meal is next to come up to the pass.
400 Jefferson Street
San Francisco, CA
Big groups require big spaces to eat. Case in point, our party of eight needed ample space to stretch out as well as to be grouped together for a final farewell dinner in San Fran. With many of us wanting to do some walking around just to see more than the downtown core where we’d spent most of our week, we ended up trekking along the water front and ended up at Cioppino’s for our evening meal. This place fit the bill as we could see other large parties inside and even got a space up on the top level tired ares that seemed more suited to diners in tables of five or more. It had a kind of mess hall feel to it, but we were not that close to the other rambunctious gatherings taking place but not too isolated so that we felt neglected, it was a perfect balance.
Apparently, this establishment has a decent history serving up hearty Italian and seafood cuisine. I’m sure it falls into the realm of the tourist lot, given its location. But turns out, it didn’t feel that kitschy at all and could have been even better if on a smaller scale with more focused service and attention. There are times when ambiance and scale really do make a difference in the whole dining experience – and this was one of them. Perhaps they were smaller when they started, but now are a full fledged, large scale operation. A decent choice of draft beers (including the local Anchor Steam, and Big Daddy IPA) and red wines (Sonoma, Napa Valley) gave us a good way to get our appetites going further.
Fog Harbor Fish House
Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39
San Francisco, CA
Not exactly high on my personal “bucket list” but I nonchalantly accepted the invitation from two of my fellow travelers – both first timers to Fog City – to go check out the Golden Gate Bridge after a long day and make the trek over it by foot. I had no problem with the physical act of crossing, that perhaps took us 30-40 minutes, give or take some for various stops along the way to take photos. Though we’d only intended to do this one-way, but without any taxi options on the other side, we reluctantly made a U-turn and made the same walk over back to where we came from. By the end of it all, we pretty hungry and luckily flagged down a ride to take us to Pier 39.
As the fall chill at night on the waterfront is none too pleasant, we quickly scurried to the nearest spot we could find that looked remotely decent. Our choice was made simply by scanning the signage in our line of sight. Fog Harbor Fish House, situated on the second deck of the structure not far from where our taxi dropped us off it was. No wait to be had, good. Inside was bustling however, and seemingly with people mainly much older than us. Especially in the back of the house near the restrooms, there were packs of people with white colored hair and fitting the retired tourist demographic. What made this very interesting was the fact that our server was also in that plus-sixty age zone. One of my dining partners remarked, “guess we’re getting served by grandma”. It was cute watching her waddle down the row to bring us our drinks and warm, fresh serving of sourdough bread, it made us feel like we were in grandma’s house.
The Grove Yerba Buena
690 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
Unfortunately I did not bother to shoot a photo of the exterior of The Grove’s outlet in Yerba Buena, so this below capture from Google Street View that shows the location before they set up shop was the best I could do. Suffice it to say, its easy to find being just three blocks from the Montgomery Street BART station, and just a block from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Next door is a coffee house and the general area is populated by numerous large hotel chains for the business and leisure traveler. After overpaying for some ridiculously priced hotel breakfast the previous day, we opted to drag our overworked behinds out onto the streets and by sure luck we found this place where things were more relaxed, both in terms of atmosphere and prices.
Something about the west coast lifestyle that pervades in this beautiful city must have impregnated itself in my mind for breakfast, as I was on the hunt for something nutritious and light. Coupled with a smooth tasting Americano, my order ended up being a simple plate of fresh ingredients, highlighted by two small poached eggs, two thick slices of grilled zucchini, and tomato bruschetta. Given the backup in the kitchen, a number sign was given to me and it was brought out to my table by a server in a few minutes time.
Papalote Mexican Grill
3409 24th Street
San Francisco, CA
In seeing Shokutsu’s review of venerable Mission Burrito institution Papalote, it got me thinking. It’s so interesting how two people with a similar philosophy and preferences can look at a similar place with a completely different view point when dining in isolation. Especially when they come in with different expectations. From his perspective, it was a recommendation from a local guide. “Several good meals” had been had. A solid, yet unspectacular review.
On the other hand, in my never ending quest for great burrito’s, driven by my first experiences in Pasadena CA, I ran across super burrito fan website burritoeater several years ago, who consistently had the Mission location of Papalote rated in the top 3. Of particular note was the consistently high scores for the Carne Asada and the Tofu. The carniverous side of me was intrigued that someone who was so diligent and structured in his passion for burritos could place tofu on the same pantheon as meat!! Truly shocking.
Just off the corner of Valencia and 24th, around the corner from my favorite San Francisco coffee house Ritual Coffee Roasters, Papalote can be difficult location to spot.
Papalote Mexican Grill
3409 24th Street
San Francisco, CA
The Mission district has what I call a lot of “flavour”. Colorful characters, simple ethnic shops, groceries and eateries (many of the Latin persuasion), and a very “real” feeling about it compared to the more tamer parts of this beautiful city by the bay that I adore. I headed down to this part of town to meet some folks before visiting their home on the edge of this area, and after being pitched a few options for something to get for takeaway chose the taqueria. My local guide said this place was very well known and he’d had some good meals there so left it in his capable hands to drive us over after I arrived by BART. The scene below is where I was standing waiting for my ride just across from the 24th street station, ironically in front of a McDonald’s…
So we soon ended up on the street by Papalote. From the outside, it looked nothing special, sort of diner-like as I peered into the space where you can eat in. Walk-in-and-take-out traffic seems to be heavy here too, as we were soon joined by a few people grabbing a menu card and giving their order to the cashier. I was enticed by the many offerings, including the tasty sounding vegetarian ones, but in the end opted for the fish tacos.
3924 N Mississippi Ave
Portland’s dining scene is incredibly diverse. Thai food, in particular, is very good in this city. Pok Pok is renowned for its Issan/Northeastern Thai cuisine….and along Sandy Rd are a number of small family run Thai restaurants (along with a good smattering of Vietnamese and Cambodian). And over in the quickly gentrifying Mississippi District is Mee Sen – a restaurant run by a young crew of Thais that is serving uncompromising Thai food.
Those are indeed deep fried grasshoppers – a common drinking snack in Thailand. Mee Sen serves this delicacy perhaps as a gimmick to differentiate themselves from the rest of the field. The food served here is a good survey of Thai cuisine but definitely leans towards Bangkok style southern Thai. However, noticeably absent from the menu are the all-too common Tom Yum soups, and the red/green/yellow curries found at most typical North American Thai restaurants. Instead you are presented with a menu of curries, salads and soups that are more representative of the cuisine. The flavours and spice levels are authentic – all the food I have had here had the right pungency and heat.
2355 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA
Whenever I am in a city with great pizza, I make sure to eat as much of it as I can while I am there. San Francisco has a great pizza scene and I managed to eat at Pizzeria Delfina and A16 on this trip. (I note that Foodosophy member almatonne recently covered Pizzeria Delfina here.)
The pizza here is a thing of beauty – leopard-spotted from the intense heat of their wood fired oven. I had the baby octopus and clam pizza tonight. The crust was near perfect (though not quite as perfect as the crust at Pizzeria Delfina) and the toppings were well seasoned and well balanced.