London Pub – Vancouver, BC


London Pub
700 Main St.
Vancouver, BC
(604) 684-7732

A year ago this week I was in London, UK.  So fitting that I should visit a gastropub that has taken that city’s name in its title.  Nestled in a restored corner space of a brick building on the southern edge of Chinatown along Main Street, this still relatively new establishment seems to have a carved out a niche for itself with a loyal and locally residing customer base, judging by how busy and loud it got during the course of my stay.  Large, spacious, things to do like some pool tables, video games and big screens to watch sports, it has none of that commercially produced feel of say a Boston Pizza, but rather feel just like the work of some folks who wanted to create a place to hang out, have some suds and meet up with friends for some pub grub.  My kind of joint…

The London Pub while first and foremost a watering hole, did have some food on the menu to peruse from and with nothing in my stomach after a long day of work, we figured something to munch on would be good.   Looking to split something more substantial the the listing of smaller appetizers shown, we opted to try one of their pizza’s, 11-inch I believe.   The barbecue chicken seemed to be the most appealing and substantial of the lot, so that’s what we ordered from the personable young lass who was assigned to our table with the high stools.  Fairly chewy and softer textured dough and on the sweeter side with the sauce, gourmet pizza it is not, but for someone who was in need of some sustenance, it fit the bill just fine.  Size-wise, more than enough for the pair of us.

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Cioppino’s – San Francisco, CA


Cioppino’s
400 Jefferson Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 773-9311

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.

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Zibetto Espresso Bar & Manhattan Gourmet 56 – New York, NY


Zibetto Espresso Bar
1385 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY

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Manhattan Gourmet 56
1377 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY
(212) 246-4410

A sunny 86F day in NYC with nothing to do in the morning.  A perfect setup for a casual walk in Manhattan and to grab a simple breakfast to enjoy on the benches of Central Park.  As a die-hard addict in need of a stiff cup of coffee in the morning, my first stop after bypassing those dreadful Starbucks outlets was Zibetto.  Essentially a long narrow space that couldn’t be more than eight feet wide and anchored by a sleek looking, white tiled and similarly colored marble counter-top bar accented with some metallic touches, it fit with my mental image of an Italian espresso bar.

Staffed with some slick looking, white shirted gents efficiently buzzing around behind the bar, there was already a strong lineup in place, as well as some other customers enjoying their cups of hot liquid at the tiny armrest like shelves jutting out from the walls.  Clearly, its a place to have your drink in a jiffy, no lounging around here sucking up free wi-fi or anything and generally disrupting the business need of turnover on the part of the proprietors.

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Foodosophy of British Food


Quickly now, what comes to your mind when you hear the words French Cuisine?

For me, fine dining, regional, and an assortment of French translations for common ingredients that are clearly the fading remnants of my eight plus years of childhood education in the language come rushing out at me.

Now do the same for say, Italian or Chinese.  I’m sure strong images pop into your mind, mainly of the favorable variety, including some great dishes or full meals you’ve had associated with the countries from which they came.

And how about British food?

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Bourbon and Branch – San Francisco, CA


Bourbon and Branch
501 Jones Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 931-7292

“No photo’s allowed”.  Oops. Sorry.

While I am a big fan of history, I’ve never really believed that all things used to be better in the good old days. While nostalgia will often make the past seem much more appealing than it actually was, I will admit that occasionally, they did things better. People took more time and care in their work – more craftsmanship. One place where that still holds true is Bourbon and Branch.

Bourbon and Branch is an old Speakeasy that actually operated as “The Ipswitch – A Beverage Parlor” from 1921 to 1923.  The current incarnation is a throw back to those good old days. From a password required to get in (easily found on the web), to secret entrances to escape the prohibition agents in case they ever raided, they’ve done their best to recreate the ambiance and atmosphere of the 20’s and 30’s. Rules from no cell phones to no standing at the bar, you definitely get a feel for the period.

What they haven’t left in the 20’s is the art of mixology. Starting with very carefully selected spirits and ingredients, carefully composed to provide the best cocktails possible, they are artists and masters at blending and mixing drinks. They certainly take their time with each element, from hand juicing, straining, muddling, chilling, pouring, every aspect of creating your cocktail is deliberate and intentional.

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Black Diamond – Memphis, TN


Black Diamond
153 Beale Street
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 521-0800

When you think Beale Street, most people think Blues. BB King. Smoky dive bars, neon lights. In actual fact, it is crowded with tourist bars, clubs, and a lot of tourists. Except for the Black Diamond.

We didn’t plan on coming here. Our plan was to go to Dyer’s for some fried burgers. But they were closed. And an impromptu torrential downpour meant we had to seek shelter, especially when caught without an umbrella – a bad decision in Memphis in general. We found a place that was close, and not overly crowded. “Black Diamond” written in neon. Sure, why not.

Plastic chairs and dirty tables. Locals who didn’t appreciate their space being invaded. Smoking indoors (ack!). There were no blues, but there was football. And beer. Cold beer.

People would expect places like the Black Diamond to have bad service – well surprisingly enough, it was quite good. The server was friendly, and efficient. And he brought beer, menus, and took our orders. No complaints.

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Elwood’s – Vancouver, BC


Elwood’s
3145 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736-4301

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Along this end of West Broadway, pubs are quite well represented. Perhaps its due to the relative abundance of residential areas just blocks off on each side of this corridor, and the proximity to the University of British Columbia campus. So if you like to have a quick pint after work in your neighborhood or on the way back home from a busy day of classes, this stretch has several options for you (Coppertank Grill, The Shack, Gargoyles, The Wolf and Hound, etc.).

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