The blog has been quiet, because we took a road trip, mainly to see family and friends – Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Illinois (again), Indiana (again), Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, home to DC. Two weeks – 14 lunches, 14 dinners. Some get two thumbs up (you should eat there); some one thumb (maybe next time would be better); some no thumbs (eat elsewhere). Here goes:
Lunch: Gio’s BBQ, Woodland PA. I am not positive that Woodland PA actually exists. Gio’s seemed to appear at a crossroads of a number of highways (including one divided highway), offering food and gas. Four stars on Yelp and TripAdvisor, four and one half on Facebook and Zomato. Fairly large, no tablecloths, rustic just put-together feeling, you can buy T-shirts and jars of their BBQ sauce. I chose a brisket sandwich and french fries. The brisket was cooked perfectly with a very tasty sauce (don’t know if it was the award winning BBQ sauce or not), on a very fresh bun. French fries were more than acceptable. With my wife’s grilled cheese and coleslaw (also good), and two drinks, our entire bill was $15.57. Worth a trip to Woodland (if it exists). Two thumbs up.
Dinner: Niagara’s Finest Thai Restaurant (yes, that’s its name), Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. There were ten of us and, at someone’s suggestion based on something, we decided to try to eat at this restaurant. But on the phone, we were told that nothing would be available until about 8:30. Our innkeeper said “Let me try Open Table”. He did, and got us reservations immediately (it was about 7 p.m.) and when we got there, we found a table for 10 set for us, and the rest of the place about half empty. Weird, we thought. It’s a new and somewhat pretentiously designed restaurant, part of a group of restaurants in Niagara, at least one of which we had eaten at on a previous trip. The menu was typical of a Thai restaurant, and I ordered a chicken and baby eggplant dish, while my wife asked for vegetable pad thai, without any tofu or soy products.
Well, the pad thai arrived with tofu (small pieces, only detected mid-meal), and we sent it back, but didn’t ask for a replacement (they did not charge for it), and my meal had very little chicken, very many baby eggplants, and much, much, much too much sauce, which was quite salty. All in all, perhaps not Niagara’s Finest. 4.5 on TripAdvisor and Facebook, but only 3.5 on Yelp. No thumbs. Go elsewhere.
Lunch: In Niagara for a few days. After a morning shopping with three others, we stopped into a Greek restaurant called Orzo, mainly because we saw a nice outdoor table for four. I ordered the P.E.I mussels in garlic sauce off the appetizer menu, suspecting (I was right) that, with bread, this would be enough for a lunch. The muscles and the garlic sauce (with chunks of garlic) were perfect. I can’t speak for the others; don’t remember (or didn’t pay attention to) what they ordered. Absolutely two thumbs up on this one. 4 on TripAdvisor and Yelp; 4.5 on Facebook.
Dinner: This was the big splurge for our group of ten. We had eaten at Treadwell two years ago – everything was perfect. This time, everything was confused, although the food tasted good. For some reason, when one of our companions made the arrangements, they said that for a table of ten, the regular menu could not be used, but we had a special three course menu (appetizer, main, dessert) which could not be changed. So be it, and most of us had more courses, at a very, very expensive price, than we would have ordered separately. I had a delicious cauliflower and scallop appetizer, trout served on a mixture of quinoa and peas, and a blueberry tart. No problem with the food – it was great. But the lack of choice? Not so good. So, I give it two thumbs for the taste, and only 1 for the overall experience. And, I repeat, it was pricey. Very pricey. 4.5 on TripAdvisor and Yelp; 4 on Facebook.
Lunch: The Butterfly Cafe at the Botanical Garden on the Niagara Peninsula. We had a very nice time at the Garden, skipping the butterfly conservancy as not worth the price, and stopped at the very informal cafe (you order at the counter, pick up down the counter, and find a table inside or out) for a quick lunch. I ordered a chicken burger and an orange juice. After a wait of about three years, our food was ready. OK, a bit of an exaggeration. Two and a half years, perhaps. The chicken burger (I did not know what to expect) turned out to be a simple, naked chicken breast on a bun. Pretty tasteless and very boring. No thumbs here. East elsewhere (especially if you are in a hurry). 3 on TripAdvisor.
Dinner: Fornos in Niagara. Another Greek restaurant, this one chosen in the early evening as we walked by (there were here six of us) on our way to an 8 o’clock theater curtain. We saw an empty table, and we occupied it. We knew nothing about the restaurant. I had the moussaka – very attractively tiered, made with ground beef. Comfort food, and the first moussaka I have had in a long time. Paired with a nice glass of shiraz. Two thumbs here. 4 on TripAdvisor and Zomato. I’d eat here again. No question.
Lunch: This was a very unsuccessful meal at Cork in Niagara. We couldn’t get an outdoor table, and decided to go inside (I think there were six of us), which was a mistake, because it’s a very unappealing and dark restaurant. Beyond that, when I tasted the fish and chips (advertised as cod), I was very disappointed. The fish was (I am sure) frozen, and was not (I would guess) cod. The “chips” were not worth eating. No thumbs. Stay away. TripAdvisor 4, but Yelp and Zomato 3.
Dinner: Garrison House. Recommended by our innkeeper, and located a few miles from the center of town (a drive, not a walk), it’s a restaurant we would never have discovered on our own. It takes no reservations, and when twelve of us got there, we were told that the wait would be very long. Eight of the twelve opted to go back to town, and four of us stayed. Lucky us. A friendly, attractive, efficient and delicious place. I had roast half chicken, which was perfectly (really) seasoned, served with potatoes and mushrooms. We shared a toffee pudding for dessert – I know I liked it, if only I could remember what it was. 4.5 on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Two thumbs from me. Definitely would return.
Lunch: This morning, we left Niagara on the Lake, heading west to Windsor and then Detroit. While still in the general Niagara area, we passed through the small town of Grimsby, when it was time for lunch. There was a parking space in front of an old house, the Casa Toscana, with a large outdoor cafe in front. It was too warm to sit in the sun, so we went inside and found ourselves in a very unique establishment. There were only three tables inside, and we learned that the restaurant had only been opened about a month and that a larger seating capacity would follow the completion of the renovation of the adjoining building (work was ongoing). The owner is an Italian man who came to Canada to work at a vineyard, but soon left to form a business importing food from Italy. He has had a food shop for about eight years, and decided to expand it into a restaurant when this building became available. In addition to serving lunch and dinner, there were for sale various cheeses and deli meats from Italy, many types of olive oil (which you get in refillable bottles), pastas homemade with Italian wheat, and so forth.
For lunch, I ordered a seafood salad and my wife a delicious rigatoni with zucchini, all served with the freshest Italian hard crust bread as possible. One of the best meals ever? Certainly the most surprisingly good. Two thumbs (at least). 5 stars on Facebook, and 4 on TripAdvisor (only 10 reviews). Not cheap.
Dinner: Dinner was in Dearborn Michigan at Ollie’s, which appears to be a neighborhood Mediterranean (i.e., Lebanese) restaurant in a small shopping center. It was chosen by my Detroit cousin. Well, you wouldn’t choose this place for the ambience. It’s large, and it’s plain. I had cut-up swordfish and vegetables. I give the meal two different scores – the swordfish was not very good, but the vegetables (in some sort of a spicy sauce) were delicious. My wife had a mixed appetizer place – good, I think, but typical. The portions were very large. I’d give Ollie’s (did he used to be Ali?) one thumb. If someone wanted me to come back there again, I guess I would, but I wouldn’t search it out again. It does get a consistent 4 stars, but within that consistency are the most inconsistent reviews I have ever seen, from 5s to 1s.
Lunch: Lunch was at one of the small restaurants inside of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn — Lamy’s Diner. I had a tuna salad sandwich and a cream soda. For what it was, it was just fine. So….for what it was, I give it 2 thumbs. If I had been there for a fancy dinner, the thumbs would be different. TripAdvisor gives it 4 stars, and says it’s the 14th best restaurant in Dearborn (out of 298). On the other hand, Ollie’s (see July 20) is the third best Lebanese restaurant in Dearborn out of 44.
Dinner: We had dinner that night in mid-town Detroit at a rather new restaurant in a gentrifying part of the city. The restaurant was The Block. A rather odd restaurant with a rather odd menu, it was fine. I had chicken, potatoes and broccoli. I guess I’d give it one thumb, although a high one thumb. Rather go back there, than Ollie’s, I think. On various social media, it’s a 4.
Lunch: This was Sunday and we were back on the road. Our lunch stop was Meli’s Pancake Cafe in Portage Michigan, and although I thought I was going to get pancakes, instead I ordered a vegetable omelet with cheddar cheese, and grits (grits in Michigan?). The place was very crowded when we arrived – perhaps an after-church crowd. Hard to tell. I thought food was excellent, and give it two thumbs. Facebook and TripAdvisor rate it 4.5; most others 4.
Dinner was at a friend’s apartment in Chicago. Carryout Japanese sushi and seaweed salad. Fancy sushi (I don’t generally care for fancy sushi) from a place called, I think, Kamehacki. It gets a 4 from most services. I’d give it one thumb, based on the carryout experience.
Lunch: In Chicago, before meetings cousins at the Art Institute, we stumbled upon a restaurant that has been around since 1898, Berghoff, a old style German restaurant. Had it been dinner, I probably would have tried one of the many German dishes, but it was only lunch, so I had a cajan chicken salad – not too spicy and served on very good greens. My wife had salmon nicoise. Two thumbs on this one. Nice atmosphere – probably looked pretty similar back in 1898. Only 3.5 on Yelp; 4 on TripAdvisor.
Dinner: Across from the Art Institute, at 7 Lions, right on Michigan Avenue. Very big, not very crowded, looked like it should be better than I think it was. I ordered the cavatelli with pesto, and salmon. In the first place, ordering the salmon (which was good, but not great) was a mistake, because it added $8 to the dinner and I didn’t need it – only ate a few bites. The cavatelli was cooked well and the pesto was tasty, but there was so much pesto sauce, and it was so creamy, that the cavatelli was drowned. If they had put half as much sauce on the pasta, and it I hadn’t ordered the salmon, I would probably have given it two thumbs, but as it is, it has to be satisfied with 1. Social media give it 4.
Breakfast: OK, I am talking about breakfast for the first time, because this is the first breakfast of note (most were freebies at our motels). With friends we went to Maison Marcel on Broadway, a French coffee shop. All I had was an almond croissant and coffee, but it was very good, and I looked at some of the larger breakfast plates and they looked very elegant. Two thumbs here. Ratings go from 3.5 to 5.
Lunch: Carryout from Si Pizza (Si-Pie?) on Broadway. Just brought back a mushroom pizza to the apartment from a small, carry-out establishment. It was fine. I’d give it one thumb. Maybe even one and a half. It gets 4 stars from all.
Dinner: Another one we stumbled on – Petterino’s, next to the Goodman Theatre on Dearborn Street. I had the whitefish; my wife the trout. Excellent, and very efficient. It’s a fancy restaurant, like 7 Lions, but better. Two thumbs. Rankings: 4 to 4.5 stars.
Lunch: We drove north from Chicago, and didn’t know where to stop. We wound up in Huntley, Illinois (this is a real place?) and stopped at Culver’s, which we did not realize at the time was a large chain. Not bad – a larger menu than most, and they do bring the food to your table. I had a Reuben sandwich (real corned beef) and coleslaw. My wife – fried fish sandwich and a salad. Pretty good for what it was. I’d stop again. But only 1 thumb.
Dinner: In LaCrosse WI with relatives, we ate at The Mint, a small restaurant in a primarily residential area. My expectations should have been higher, because it was excellent. I had salmon baked with sesame seeds and peppercorns that was perfect. The sides (Israeli couscous and squash) were not things that I normally eat, and I pretty much let them sit there. But those who ate them said they were excellent. And I will assume they were. Definitely 2 thumbs and a place to return to. And what does social media say: 5 stars (with one 4.5). Hmmm. This is the highest ranking of all.
Lunch: Outside of LaCrosse, we were in Viroqua, WI, an interesting little town, with antique stores and the like, and a small cafe called the Driftless Cafe. A place where everyone in this hippie-like town seems to gather for lunch. I went outside my usual world, and ordered the home made bratwurst and sauerkraut, and it was quite tasty. The coffee (Kickapoo coffee – from another cafe in town) was excellent. 2 thumbs here. And guess what? Another 4.5 to 5 on social media. Wisconsin seems to have the best food of the trip. Or the most generous raters.
Dinner: Pizza on the roof of the Hotel Charmont in LaCrosse, sort of overlooking the Mississippi. A trendy outdoor spot with people 40 to 50 years younger than we are. We had a pizza with mushrooms and teleggio cheese (a semi-soft cheese) it turns out. The cheese made the pizza very cheesy, but the taste was good. I’ll give it two thumbs, in part for the location., (I should also say that we tried fried cheese curds from the hotel’s downstairs bar and…..I can do without them, thank you.) Social media on the roof? 4 to 4.5.
Lunch: On the road, heading south through Wisconsin, in the nondescript town of Fennimore (or so it seemed to me), had lunch at Timothy’s (the home of the bottomless glass of milk, believe it or not). I had scrambled mess (hold the ham), with scrambled eggs, potatoes, green peppers, cheddar, onions and mushrooms). If I had ordered anything else, my vote might be different, but I give it 2 thumbs. But three social media sites give it 5 stars, and the other two which I looked at give it 4, so maybe almost everything is as good as the scrambled mess.
Dinner: Now we are in Champaign, Illinois, and we decided to try Maize, a well rated Mexican restaurant. Maize has two locations. We went to the first, which turned out to be carryout and counter only, and then the second, in an old building next to the Amtrak station. It’s fairly large, and primarily seems to operate on a Mexican tapas basis. We each had a weak margarita, and I had two tacos (one chicken, one beef) and rice and beans. Nothing to write home about, I am afraid, but it gets a sold 4.5 on the various rating websites, so I must have ordered wrong. My wife got squash blossom enchiladas, a better choice, it appears. I will give it one thumb, albeit a little reluctantly.
Lunch: Lunch was brunch in Indianapolis with more relatives at First Walk, in a shopping center on 86th street, on the north side of town. Very busy place on a Saturday morning, and my salmon and vegetable omelet and potatoes was as good as they get. Definitely 2 thumbs. Social media? A solid 4.
Dinner: Now we were in Wheeling WV, on our way home, and had to settle for a Texas Roadhouse near our hotel. Well, we thought we were just settling but in fact, it was quite good. I had fried chicken, my wife had salmon Caesar salad, our margaritas had more alcohol than in Champaign and we left happy, having watched three people get a Yee-Haw from the crowd because it was their birthday. OK – 2 thumbs for the Roadhouse. And TripAdvisor gives it a 5. And, yes, it is big, and was very crowded.
Lunch: Our last meal and our worst. We got off Highway 68 in Clear Spring Maryland (who knew it existed? pretty neat little town), and went to the Windy Hill restaurant. I couldn’t eat the tuna salad (or couldn’t eat more than half of it), and my whole wheat toast wasn’t whole wheat, and what else? Nothing to be said. No thumbs here.