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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
Zaytinya #701 9th Street NW Washington, DC (202) 638-0800
As I am sure many of you are aware, the northeastern States have endured quite a few battles with Mother Nature this summer – including some blistering hot heat waves, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, and Hurricane Irene. Fortunate for me, I was only around for one of those events and managed to get safely in and out of the nation’s capital, and enjoyed some good eating along the way. While this will be a pictureless-post due to my not wanting to whip out my cell phone during this particular meal, I still wanted to put some thoughts down and share my experience at Zaytinya, which offers Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine.
Mediterranean cooking is not something I indulge in a great deal but when I do, I am always pleasantly surprised by the boldness of flavors that can be captured by a talented kitchen. In the case of Zaytinya, their celebrated chef is José Andrés, recently named this past spring as an “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation at their annual awards gala in New York City. The restaurant is clearly on the popular destination list by locals and visitors alike. Without a proper reservation, we had to wait a little while at the bar (where you can still get food), before a table opened up for us later in the night.
Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe 415 Westlake Ave N Seattle, WA (206) 833-5467
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.
Stumptown Coffee 616 E Pine Street Seattle, WA (206) 324-6755
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.
Serious Pie 316 Virginia Street Seattle, WA (206) 838-7388
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. Seattle, WA (206) 432-9069
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 Seattle, WA (206) 285-3757 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 (415) 442-6734
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.
Cafe Osceola Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel 9939 Universal Boulevard Orlando, FL (407) 996-9939
Jetting from one corner of the US down to almost the exact opposite quadrant is something that I never enjoy. I realize its just one country, but man, can America seem massive some times. And I’m not just talking about the gigantic people I sometimes get sat next to on the airplane. So after a day long journey, a taxi ride once I landed and a groggy check-in past the dinner hour, I was in no mood to check in with my mates (one of whom had arrived two hours before me) and desperately needed to eat something as I got into my room. Thank goodness for that wonderful thing called room service.
Those massively, old fashioned binders that house the pages of the hotel’s restaurant options had some not bad looking choices, but room service was limited to just the one. Fine, I thought, let’s just roll with it. It seemed to be from the Cafe Osceola located on the main floor, and their menu choices were pretty standard fare variety American family fare. As I really hadn’t had anything substantial on the plane rides (after all, who wants airplane food?), I thought it might be overwhelming but decided to get a French Onion Soup to begin with. I should have taken the plastic wrap in taking this shot – so excuse the shiny glare. It was a good size, easily the palm of my hand. A thick layer of oozy cheese was cut through, revealing a very thick with bread cubes soup. Rich and flavorful, and not too salty. The only downside with room service is of course, the temperature of the soup had cooled somewhat, to the point where it was getting just above warm.