Maggiano’s Little Italy – Las Vegas, NV


Maggiano’s Little Italy
3200 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 732-2550

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.

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Publican – Chicago, IL


The Publican Restaurant
845 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL
(312) 733-9555

American’s “Second City” (or more precisely O’Hare Airport) has always been just a transit hub for me over the years and a place I’ve never gotten a solid chance to freely explore.  Even on my most recent stop, my venture out to the downtown core was limited to but a single evening.  And amid a heavy wind storm and pouring rain my mood was pretty low, that was until I got to The Publican.  Reservations recommended, otherwise you might have to wait a while at one of the standing tall tables with a drink before one becomes available.

Stepping inside from the torrential downpour was like entering a warm, inviting oasis complete with a happy, buzzing crowd that felt almost like its own little private party.  The carefully designed layout of this beer-centric restaurant felt part Canadian farmhouse (with the rustic livestock holding pen-lookalikes near one wall that served as private booths, and part German beer hall with its really rigid lines, long communal tables, high ceilings, open concept and use of wood materials throughout.

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Tacolicious – San Francisco, CA


Tacolicious
2031 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 346-1966

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.

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Phillips Seafood (Flagship) – Washington, DC


Phillips Seafood (Flagship)
900 Water Street SW
Washington, DC
(202) 488-8515
Monday–Thursday & Sunday, 11am–9pm
Friday & Saturday, 11am – 10pm
Weekend Brunch, 11am – 2:30pm

Overlooking the Washington Channel on the Southwest Waterfront, Phillips Seafood (Flagship) is reputed to be the only all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in Washington DC.  A large buffet of fresh seafood selections, as well other cooked and dessert specialties, make up an glutton friendly display.  A traditional a la carte menu is also available.  For those coming by car, you can swing below to an underground parking garage (complete with a man standing by the payment machine to help speed up the process at dinner time when the line can get long).  Its a pure tourist destination however, so be warned…

The choice for this massive group dinner was left to someone who’s been here before and thought the simple venue and dining style would be conducive to our party – filled with a bunch of big strapping fellows associated with a certain active military outfit and accustomed to big eating of the seafood variety (as they are based on the west coast).  I wasn’t particularly thrilled but decided to chalk it up to one of those unfortunate outings when one’s interest in eating well (and perhaps in more moderate quantities) was thrown to the wayside in the greater interests of group harmony and wasting time arguing about where to eat.  I guess I can be accommodating to a fault.

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Bistrot Du Coin – Washington, DC


Bistrot Du Coin
1738 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC
(202) 234-6969

During short, non-leisure trips I’m often forced to put my interest in eating out and trying new things on the backburner due to various reasons, including unfortunate hinderances such as lack of free time and fussy travel companions. But there are those occasions when my interests do find a fortuitous match and I meet like-minded folks who know a good meal when they see one, and are willing to seek them out. A well travelled businessman, who was born-and-raised in the DC area introduced me to Bistrot Du Coin, which turned out to be the gastronomic highlight of my trip.

The sweltering heat of the DC summer did put a bit of a damper on my dinner experience as the inside was absolutely packed and the air circulation was minimal at best. We were seated on the upper floor overlooking the main dining area below, which perhaps made the stuffiness seem that much worse. With the boisterous crowd and plentiful tables full of wonderful smelling food, it felt part American overindulgance and part French bistro casualness.  I was so insanely hungry after another long day that I was willing to put up with the discomfort as long as the food was satisfying, and thankfully it was.

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Capital City Brewing Company – Washington, DC


Capital City Brewing Company
1100 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC
(202) 628-2222

Hot summer weather.  And cold beer.  Goes well together don’t you think?  I must be mentally trying to keep the summer alive with today’s post, reflecting on my July visit to the east coast of the US.

As an escape from the humid heat that was still blanketing the city even in the late afternoon, a group of us ducked into the nearest, air conditioned gastropub for a quick hit before our dinner plans.  As we were expecting some vehicles to pick us up, we had plenty of time to kill.  And with the drivers taken care of,  a license to drink as well.  The formula for a good start to the night!

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Churchkey – Washington, DC


Churchkey
1337 14th Street
Washington, DC
(202) 567-2576

So a Canadian, a Texan, a Colorodan, and a native Virginian walk into a bar…

Nope, not the opening line of some tacky joke but what happened on my summertime visit to the Churchkey gastropub in the funky neighborhood of Logan Circle, that I grew to love during my time in America’s capital city. In desperate need of some shelter from the sweltering heat, along with some food and liquid sustenance, the four of us ducked into this two floor establishment well before the big rush of customers came not too long after the sun went down.

The burly fellow who was checking ID’s at the door gruffly noted they didn’t have a happy hour (or at least when we entered).  Alas, that didn’t stop our crew from going inside, as one member had heard this place had a wicked beer selection.  Now if you’ve been following along lately, you’ll probably remember that I’ve cut back my consumption of this popular adult summer season liquid, but this day was an exception.  Why is it that the hotter the weather, the stronger my craving for ice cold  beer becomes?

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