At Coney Island (New York, August 2019)


On our last full day in New York we took the subway from the Upper Westside all the way to Brooklyn and out to the sea, to Coney Island. I’ve always wanted to go to Coney Island. I’ve never had much of a sense of it—a hotdog stand and a beach is all I could have told you if you’d asked me to try and describe it before getting there—but it is an iconic piece of Americana. And there’s no guarantee that it will still be around when our kids are our age. They may not be able to take their kids there when their turn comes but we could take them now and so we did. And, unlike me, they’re really into hectic amusement parks and boardwalks. We met a friend and his family there for lunch and beach lounging. Before lunch the four of us spent an ungodly amount of money on the rides and attractions along the boardwalk. Is there any reason you should not look at pictures of all of this? No, there is not. Continue reading

Foxface (New York, August 2019)


[Upfront disclosure: this write-up is of an establishment owned by friends and of a meal at which we received a significant comp.]

Foxface, a tiny—and I mean tiny—sandwich shop in St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan, opened late last year. Ori and Sivan, who own and operate it, are not strangers to the once vibrant, now moribund American food forum world. I’ve known them for some years now, mostly online. Some of those who’ve followed their restaurant reports over the years might well have been surprised that on their return from a five year sojourn in Tokyo they decided to sell sandwiches; but nobody would be surprised to learn that these are some bloody excellent sandwiches (in some cases literally so: blood shows up in the ingredients of a couple of sandwiches in their ever-changing lineup). Continue reading

Gray’s Papaya (New York, August 2019)


On Friday I had a quick report on casual lunch at the Upper Westside location of Luke’s Lobster, an establishment whose proximity to Central Park and the Museum of Natural History I appreciated. Today’s report is of an even more casual lunch at a far more iconic and certainly far cheaper restaurant: Gray’s Papaya. The flagship location at Broadway and 72nd is also easily walkable from the Museum of Natural History, though a bit further than Luke’s Lobster. But a large part of the charm of being in New York is walking the streets and despite the heat and humidity we did not object (we averaged about 6 miles a day over our 10 days). And without making over large claims about the quality of either the hotdogs or the juice I can say that we enjoyed our meal at Gray’s Papaya as well. Herewith a few details. Continue reading

Luke’s Lobster (New York, August 2019)


We stayed on the Upper Westside while in New York last month in no small part because we were going to be spending a lot of time with the boys in the museums and in Central Park. For food-obsessed people like us, however, this presents some challenges as both the UWS and the UES are relative interesting food deserts, especially in close proximity to the big museums. On our first full day, however, we had a nice casual lunch at the UWS outpost of Luke’s Lobster, a chain with locations all over Manhattan and other places on the East Coast as well Las Vegas, San Francisco, Japan and Taiwan. Herewith a brief report. Continue reading

Empire Diner (New York, August 2019)


We ate dinner at Empire Diner in Chelsea on our second evening in the city. Why did we eat there? Reasons are there two: 1) we needed to eat somewhere within relative proximity to both our apartment and to the theater where the missus was scheduled to watch Say Something Bunny that evening ; 2) we tried a walk-in at the Midtown Ippudo Ramen location and were hit in the face with a ludicrous projected wait at 5.15 pm. So I checked the list of recommendations I had been given by my compadres on Mouthfuls and gave Empire Diner—a short walk from the theater—a call. They had many tables available and so we hopped back on the subway and went over. We didn’t really know what to expect or whether this would be a meal up the boys’ alley. But it turned out rather well, albeit not very reasonably priced. Continue reading

Hill Country (Washington D.C.)


Our eating in DC was organized almost entirely around proximity to the Smithsonian museums (where we spent our days) and our hotel (where we spent our evenings). I’ve already reported on two of our hotel-adjacent dinners (at Baby Wale and Bantam King); here now is a report on the first place at which we had lunch: Hill Country.

As you may know, Hill Country, a specialist in Texas barbecue, started out in New York city. The flagship restaurant is still there, as is another location; DC is the only other city with a branch. It is an easy 10 minute walk from the Museum of Natural History—and you will probably walk even faster if it is drizzling, as it was on the day of our visit. Either way, I’d say it’d be well worth an even longer walk. Continue reading

Lake Ave. Cafe (Duluth, MN)


Here is my last meal report from our trip up to the North Shore in early July. As my trip reports go, I’ve managed to get these done pretty quickly. We timed our departure from our cabin near Lutsen so that we’d be in Duluth at lunch time. I think everyone in the van would have been very happy to go back to OMC Smokehouse but I wanted to try a new place. My first choice was the New Scenic Cafe, a little north of Duluth, which had been recommended on Twitter. But the evening before we left friends who go up to the North Shore every year said New Scenic was inconsistent and recommended that we get sandwiches instead at Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth. We went with that suggestion. Things went wrong very quickly. First, there was a huge traffic jam heading to Northern Waters Smokehaus. Then when we did get there we discovered that it is not a sit-down restaurant but a counter. And there was a long line. This was not going to be feasible with my parents in tow—one of whom has mobility issues—and so we had to switch the call at the line. We went with the sit-down restaurant right opposite: Lake Ave. Cafe. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Baby Wale (Washington D.C.)


We’ve been in DC since the beginning of the week. Our major agenda here is non-stop visits to the various Smithsonian museums with the boys and trying to eat reasonably well, with lunches in the vicinity of the museums and dinners not too far from our hotel by the Convention Center. For the meals I received a number of excellent recommendations from members of the excellent DonRockwell.com forums—easily the best resource for DC area dining tips (and more). Among the places mentioned within walking distance of our hotel was Baby Wale. My kids were very excited when I told them we were going there and then less excited when they learned that the name referred not to infant cetaceans but to a type of fabric. Now, like them, you may be wondering why anyone would choose to name their restaurant Baby Wale. The answer is that this is the second restaurant opened (some 5-6 years ago) by the proprietors of a long-standing restaurant named Corduroy. That restaurant is in fact next door and is a fairly formal affair. Baby Wale is an altogether more informal place, from decor/feel to the casual livery of the servers to the menu. It’s not exactly a family restaurant—really more of a pub—but the menu worked really well for our family. And early’ish on a Monday night (well, I don’t know if 7.30 is that early) it was perfectly fine with two small kids. Herewith the details on our meal. Continue reading

Lunch at the Naniboujou Lodge (Grand Marais)


The Naniboujou Lodge is located about 15 minutes north of Grand Marais proper. Granted I had not really looked into the North Shore until days before arriving there for the first time earlier this month, but I have to say that I am a bit surprised I had not previously heard of the Naniboujou Lodge. This because it’s a place that might be best described as…unusual. And in the recent/current cultural climate in the US it might also have been expected to have become a bit controversial. But as far as I know, this hasn’t really happened. Now, I’m not wishing controversy on the place or its owners, but when you read up on its history and look at the pictures below of the design of its dining room you might get a sense of why I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it caught up in cultural appropriation discussions. Continue reading

The Crooked Spoon Cafe (Grand Marais, MN)


Back to the North Shore. My previous review of a Grand Marais restaurant really bothered a few people on a North Shore Facebook group. I thought it was a positive review with a couple of caveats but it appears that for some people anything short of a rave qualifies as a pan. One of them went so far as to tell me that I should preface all my reviews with the phrase, “I have no credibility but this is my opinion…” Accordingly, I inform you that I have no credibility but this post contains my opinions of our lunch at the Crooked Spoon Cafe, eaten a couple of days after our lunch at the Angry Trout. Please don’t take it too personally but I liked it.  Continue reading

Angry Trout (Grand Marais, MN)


We’re back from our five day sojourn on the North Shore. We’d rented a cabin a little north of Lutsen and descended on it with our brats, our dogs, and my visiting parents. The cabin was lovely, literally right on the water; the mosquitoes decidedly less lovely and literally right on us. (We will definitely go back to the North Shore in less than 12 years but we’re never going in July again.) As our cabin had a fully equipped kitchen, and as we’d taken provisions with us, we cooked and ate breakfast and dinner in but went out for lunch every day. And as the cabin was just about a 20 minute drive from Grand Marais, we visited and ate there more than once. On our first full day there we stopped in at the Angry Trout, a restaurant that will be recommended to you by pretty much everyone to whom you mention that you are looking for places to eat at within hail of Grand Marais. Herewith the details. Continue reading

OMC Smokehouse (Duluth, MN)


It only took 12 years but we’ve finally gone further north in Minnesota than Minneapolis. Quite a bit further north, actually—all the way past Duluth, almost to Grand Marais, to a cabin right on Lake Superior. I usually take listing descriptions such as “a cabin right on Lake Superior” with a huge pinch of salt but when we got here we were pleased to discover that if this cabin were any more on Lake Superior it would be in Lake Superior. It was a four and half hour drive in total to the cabin from our little hamlet in southern Minnesota. Easily manageable as a straight shot but with our kids, our dogs and also my parents in the van, we decided to stop in Duluth for lunch at the three hour mark and do a short hop up to the cabin after that. A recommendation from Joe (who often comments on the blog) put us in OMC Smokehouse. And, on the whole, it was a successful family-friendly meal. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Gjusta (Los Angeles, July 2016)

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Gjusta, which opened in Venice in October 2014, is one of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles but it’s not exactly a restaurant (and its name isn’t on its exterior). What is it then? Some combination of a deli, a bakery, a salad bar and a cafe. In addition to faux-anonymity, it offers that unique contemporary American mix of high prices and lack of comfort: gourmet food from bespoke ingredients with prices to match, but in a space that takes pains to present a non-polished, even rustic appearance.There is limited counter seating inside and a bunch of mismatched tables and chairs are strewn around a roughly covered patio that is connected to the parking lot. Service is minimal. You order and pay at the counter and if you’re sitting outside, as we were, someone will bring you your food but you shouldn’t expect them to check in on you after; if you want water, or cutlery, you get up and go inside and get it yourself.   Continue reading