Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where are Laine and Alex?

Loyal readers, Alex and I apologize for the recent lag in reviews. We have been temporarily sidetracked, but promise to get back out and about sampling Norfolk's culinary offerings in the very near future. In the interim, take a moment to read this entertaining article about a competitor of ours, 12 year-old David Fishman of NYC. Perhaps we could meet him for lunch one day and get a few pointers?


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Ten Top - A Quiet Success

Exterior The Ten Top, Norfolk Restaurant

There are quite a few restaurant secrets in Norfolk and The Ten Top is one.  Located on Shirley Avenue right off of Colley Avenue (Colleywood to those of you natives), The Ten Top is a dining gem.  The Top serves lunch and dinner and soon will serve Sunday brunch, about which I am ecstatic.  I love brunch.  The Top appears to be mostly a take-out locale.  Laine and I have been twice now without having a problem getting a seat, and this is not a big place.  It is quaint with an artistic atmosphere - the walls have wonderful abstract lines while you still get a homey feel from the surroundings.  Relaxing and laid back. 
Sandwiches, soups, salads, gourmet pizzas and a few entrees make up the lunch menu.  Five or so entrees make up the dinner menu.  For my first visit, I ordered the warm goat cheese and caramelized walnut salad.
Greek Salad The Ten Top, Norfolk RestaurantVery good.  The portion is a good size and the flavors were tasty.  This go-round, I selected the Baja salad with chicken.  One word, super.  Avocado, sour cream, black beans and vegetables appeared in the salad.  The Top also gives you a decent amount of avocado.  Laine and I have found that you are often slighted on avocado for some reason, and usually that is one of the main reasons you order a salad with avocado...the actual avocado.  I added chicken, but you could easily order this without the chicken and be satisfied.  It is definitely a heartier salad. 
The Top also has some gourmet items, such as sauces, dressings and a few food selections, for retail.  Domestic and imported beers and a few wine selections are also offered.  An ABC license is a must!  These adult beverages are also available for take-out.  Could it get better?  Your meal and some beers or wine and you only have to stop once!  That is what I call a one stop shop.  The Top does deliver to those in the Ghent area.  I do not know why it is called The Ten Top, but I give it a 10.  This is a great place to grab something if you are jaunting down Colley Avenue or you do not feel like going out to dinner but do not want to cook.  I, being the anti-kitchen person that I am, adore this option.  You have to mix it up when you eat out every day as Laine and I do.  I dare say dining out is a way of life for us that has also become a series of adventures. 
Next time you are in Ghent, swing by The Ten Top for lunch or dinner.  It is a good option before or after a movie at The Naro. 

I agree with Alex wholeheartedly. I was surprised to hear that this place had been around since 1997. It is such a well kept secret that I had never heard of it. My salad of choice has been the Tomato Caprese Salad.
Tomato Caprese Salad The Ten Top, Norfolk RestaurantTraditional Caprese Salad is simply sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. The key to this salad is quality ingredients. Ten Top does not vary much from this classic recipe. They add lettuce, onions and croutons. In order to keep it "light" they also use low-fat mozzarella cheese and light olive oil. An Italian from Campania might take offense to these edits, but they are right up my alley. Ten Top will top any salad with grilled salmon for an additional $4, also right up my alley. The salmon pairs nicely with these flavors and makes the meal a bit more satisfying for me. The restaurant is small, but cozy and the staff is pleasant.
Interior The Ten Top, Norfolk RestaurantIt is an order at the register kind of place, but they do carry your food out to the table when it is done. Locals flowed in and out quietly picking up orders. Today we were the only ones sitting down to eat our meal there, but previously there were a couple of other diners. On days I feel the need to get out of downtown and kick back, this is just the kind of place I like to go. As Alex said, we have no idea why it is named Ten Top. Their menu has Vegetarian friendly options for those of you who are interested.

The Ten Top is open Monday-Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm and will open Sundays for brunch mid-November. 

Click Here to see their online menus.
The Ten Top on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Azars-Ghent Location-While Alex is away, Laine will play

I would usually not review a Norfolk restaurant without my sidekick, Alex. However, she has forever banned Azars from her list of places to go. I know what you are thinking. Forever? As in, no chance of ever happening again? Take my word on this one. It ain't happening....So, her plane has barely left the ground as she goes off on holiday and I am on my way to Azars for lunch with Brianna*. (Forgive me, Alex!)

Azars specializes in Mediterranean foods and Natural foods, offering a good variety of vegetarian and vegan options for those interested. I started going to the Virginia Beach location of Azars back in the 90's and I still prefer the beach location. I like the ambiance of the smaller place, oddly located on a random side street off Bonney Road. The Ghent locale is bigger and fancier, but not necessarily better. We locals know it can be a pain to park in Ghent, and Azars is no exception. They have about 6 slots out front. Once those are full (they always are) you are on your own to find a spot combat style, up and down 20th Street or hoping you won't get towed from a nearby competitors lot. Once inside, you will see that this is a market and restaurant combined. The market is fairly small, stocking some Mediterranean cuisine staples and Azars own food line. Unlike the beach location where you are seated and waited upon, this is a order and get-it-yourself place. There is usually a line a couple people deep at the register. The lunch menu is fairly extensive covering appetizers, soups, salads, wraps, sandwiches, pizza, platters, etc. There is a kids menu available upon request. I was in the mod for a cup of soup, as the weather has been turning toward crisp fall days. They only offer soup by the bowl, no cups, so I passed. Brianna and I shared a Spanakopita appetizer, I ordered a Baba Ghanouj wrap and Brianna a Chicken Salad wrap. After you place your order they hand you a buzzer, your empty drink cup and send you out to wait.

SIDEBAR-There is a tip jar at the register. This is a pet peeve of mine. (You are learning that I have more than one pet peeve by now.) Why are they asking me to tip them? How many of you loyal readers have tip jars on your desk at work, or in the classroom where you teach, or the emergency room where you work? If someone waits on my table and serves me, or mixes my drink at a bar, I will leave a nice tip. Even if they do a bad job serving me, I will still leave a tip. I will NOT leave a tip for someone taking my order at a register. The person they work for should be paying them. These cashiers should either ask the boss for a raise, or find another job somewhere else making more money. Lose the jar asking me if I am "Feeling Tipsy". From the looks of the empty jar, no one is feeling it.

I've had the Spanakopita here before, and I think it has improved. This traditional Greek appetizer, is comprised of a layered pastry filled with spinach, feta cheese, onions, and olive oil. Previously I found theirs to be slightly undercooked, and a bit chewy. Today, the filo pastry was cooked enough to still flake, but not overdone and hard. These are individually cooked pieces, not cut from a large pan as the menu photo would lead you to believe. A very tasty way to start. The sandwich wraps are a rolled and toasted pita which ends up being rather crispy in the toasting process. I like this texture, but can see where the those unacquainted with it may be expecting the typical soft wrap. A whole wrap portion is rather large, comprising of two pieces about 5-6 inches long each. There are half wrap options for those with a smaller appetite, or wanting to pair it with soup. Baba Ghanouj is primarily grilled eggplant and tahini. It was great. Brianna also liked her Chicken Salad wrap, taking half of it home in the doggie bag with the Baklava she could not resist.

Azars has a patio for outdoor dining on warmer days, although sitting practically on the street of Colley Avenue is not very aesthetic to me. Gas fumes and hummus are not a natural pairing. Today's lunch came out fairly quickly, and the place was about 3/4 full. One negative about Azars is that they will charge you for special orders. No exception. You want to switch it up, add something, delete something, or perhaps substitute items? You will pay. Hmmm, could this be why Alex doesn't like Azars? The world may never know! As for me, overall I like Azars and will be back.


Azars of Ghent is located at 2000 Colley Avenue. To view hours of operation and menus online click here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Zelicks Cafe-Just "Okay"

World Trade Center, Norfolk, Virginia

Laine drew Zelicks from the magic envelope last week.  We did not have a lot of user reviews to go on, as only two people we know have been to the cafe.  Not always a bad thing, as we like to venture to new spots as unbiased as possible.  The owner is super friendly and is on first name basis with many of the customers (we noticed this today and last week when we did some minor reconnaissance to pick up the menu).  Recon is always important.  Located in the World Trade Center, Zelicks is a convenient spot for the business folks that frequent the café, especially those with little time to spare.  Let me start with the drink.  Zelicks has diet Dr. Pepper, a huge weakness for me.  After spying that, I caved and ordered the large drink which is a small tub of soda and for a mere $1.58.  DEAL, particularly when Laine and I have paid $3 for sodas and teas…8oz for $3 at that.  Transgress…back to our meal.  I ordered the smoked turkey and walnut salad.  Lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, mozzarella cheese, smoked turkey, croutons, walnuts and raisins.  I am scared of fruit salad dressings so instead of the raspberry, I chose the Vidalia onion variety. The croutons were slightly overdone, but other than that, the salad was good.  This isn't a fancy meal, but it is a quick and effortless meal.  The café was not crowded at noon when we arrived.  I have a feeling, there are a lot of take-outs.  I did spot a few people eating the pizzas and they looked delicious.  Homemade delicious and a very generous portion.  Everything is quite reasonable and ranges from $4.25 for a grilled cheese to $6.99 for a club sandwich.  This seems like the kind of place that has excellent egg, chicken or tuna salad, all offered on the menu.  The homemade desserts and breakfast selections looked awfully good as well.  There are weekly specials on a large blackboard when you walk in.  Laine and I kept discussing adding variety to our lunch locales and Zelicks has made the cut.

Perhaps Alex liked Zelicks a tiny bit more that I did? I’d say it was just “okay”. Not really anything I can get too excited about, nor am I in any rush to hurry back. The pizzas did look pretty good, and appeared to be what the majority of the customers were ordering. The folks that work there seem like a nice bunch, and I imagine that if I worked in the WTC I’d probably go there on rainy days or days I didn’t feel like venturing out …which are few and far between. Getting out of the office at least once a day re-energizes me. I’d go there again if Alex picked it, but it won’t be one of my selections. I ordered the chicken and grape salad. My croutons were BURNT, not slightly overdone. The carrots were cut the in huge pieces. Did you ever try to cut a carrot gracefully using a plastic knife? By gracefully, I mean keeping the carrot in your plate, rather than sending it soaring across the table. I’d score that an 8 on a difficulty scale of 1-10, 10 being impossible.

Zelicks Cafe is located in the World Trade Center in Downtown Norfolk and is open Monday-Friday 8am-3pm. Zelicks also offers catering for businesses, in addition to evening and weekend events.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Manfood Reigns at Bravo - and Alex Likes It! Town Center, Virginia Beach

Bravo Cucina Italiana Logo

Marietta invited me to have dinner with her family and Anthony Saturday evening. We met at Bravo at Town Center. I had been once before for lunch and remembered enjoying my meal, but that was some time ago. I tend to stick around Downtown Norfolk and Ghent, so it was nice to step out of the box for a change (I have a hard time thinking outside the box). There was a 30-minute delay for our seating, which was irritating but the manager made up for it by bringing our party two appetizer towers on the house. This type of gesture tends to cure any ill feelings that may linger. Marietta and I split the lasagna carnevale (we were still recovering from lunch), Anthony also had the lasagna (and was playfully mad that we did not send him the memo about splitting a dish) and Beau ordered the chicken marsala. Others ordered eggplant parmesan, a pizza and two scallop entrees. Everyone seemed pleased. The lasagna was nothing less than fantastic. Anthony was nice enough to give me his left over lasagna (it is a HUGE portion) since I do not ever have food in my refrigerator. Sad and unbelievable to some, but alas, it is true. I do not enjoy cooking and don’t see myself starting to like it anytime soon. A ‘look what I screwed up cooking’ blog does not sound like a good time to me. We left happy and it was great to see Marietta’s family. If in the Town Center area, I would venture to Bravo again.


Bravo is open for lunch and dinner daily and is located at the Virginia Beach Town Center.

Gordon Biersch - Town Center, Virginia Beach

Gordon Biersch Exterior, Virginia Beach Restaurant and Brewery

Marietta, one of my great friends, was in town with her fiancé, Beau and wonderful friend, Anthony. After introducing them to Bobbywood and the Winehouse on Friday evening, I joined them for lunch and dinner on Saturday. We met at Gordon Biersch to watch the South Carolina v. Kentucky football game and grab lunch. I ordered the grilled chicken cashew salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cashews and feta cheese with the Märzen vinaigrette. Of course, I had to switch the artichoke hearts with avocado, but the waitress did not seem to mind. Marietta and Anthony had the chicken casear salad and Beau had the shrimp and chicken potstickers and the blackened mahi-mahi wrap. We were all happy with our choices and the guys were able to easily watch the game. I was busy people watching since I am easily distracted from TV.

Laine and I usually post separate reviews for the restaurants we visit, but I must include this group of four’s trip to the Cheesecake Factory at Town Center. Trouble. Beau and I are all about dessert, and this seemed like a great use of time before we had to all change for dinner. I ordered the dolce de leche caramel cheesecake, Anthony the white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake, Beau the chocolate tuxedo cream cheesecake and Marietta the chocolate Oreo mudslide cheesecake. Beau and I were in heaven and Marietta was happy with her choice. Anthony felt ill from sugar-intoxication, but I am convinced it wasn’t the amount of sugar as he claimed (come on, sugar is good for you!), but rather his caramel royale macchiato drink, which rivaled a Starbucks creation, on top of the cheesecake. You have to work up to that much sugar. Like a kid let loose in a candy store, I had enough energy to run home to Norfolk (don’t worry, I realized this might be a bad idea). My favorite Charlestonians are lucky I didn’t start doing laps around the restaurant. Laine and I will add a full review of the Cheesecake Factory at a later date, but I had to include these desserts because they were SO DARN GOOD.


Gordon Biersch and the Cheesecake Factory have many locations and are open daily for lunch and dinner. and

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bobbywood - Downtown Norfolk

Bobbywood, Norfolk Restaurant

Bobbywood is, by far, my favorite restaurant in the Hampton Roads area (Tidewater, for you natives). Everything about dining at Bobbywood is extraordinary. The menu has a number of appetizers, soups, salads and a slew of main courses. Appetizers include an Asian-inspired calamari, a crab salad topped with grilled shrimp, foie gras and pot stickers. The famous oyster stew is a regular in the soup selections and there is always a soup of the day. Duck, lamb, salmon, tuna, crab cakes, free-range chicken, filet mignon and meatloaf are some of the main course selections. The restaurant has a modern/post-modern design with the perfect lighting for fine dining. The kitchen is exposed so guests can watch the masterminds work their magic. The bar is also a nice spot, whether you are stopping by for a drink or having a complete meal. Another note on the bar, there is a happy hour Tuesdays-Fridays 5-6:30pm. The starters, soups and salads are half off, in addition to a variety of drink specials.
Last Friday, Leigh, Sasha and I opted for Bobbywood before the opera. We decided to dine at the bar, since we had a time constraint. It is also always fun to chat with Rob, the bartender. We started with the Chop Chop Greek salad. The display was as exciting as the taste. The greens are to one side of the dish and the tapenade, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta are layered in a circular fashion on the opposite side of the plate. The feta in this salad was certainly the best we have had. Butternut squash soup was one of the specials and I just had to try it. Wonderful.
Leigh and Sasha were torn between the parmesan-encrusted rockfish special and the meatloaf and in the end both ordered the latter, which came with a large helping of mashed potatoes and spinach. What a good decision. I must make one note, this is a very large portion, so you may have a doggy bag to take home, but it will be a nice treat the next day! Because it is delicious and I can never pull myself away from ordering it , I chose the onion-crusted salmon with spinach-potato cakes, sage cream and crispy spinach.
We would have ordered dessert had we not been in a hurry. To emphasize my love for Bobbywood, Norfolk has an annual restaurant week and I dined at Bobbywood three times during the week long event, I had no qualms about it. I have been there the past two years on my birthday, in addition to every other time I can round up my friends to go out for a nice meal. On my birthday, they printed menus with happy birthday and my name. That is the personal touch I seek. Reservations are not required but suggested and they always ask if it is for a special occasion.

Please visit Bobbywood for an exceptional dining experience. Bobbywood is open starting at 5pm Tuesdays-Sundays and is located 435 Monticello Avenue in Downtown Norfolk.


California Pizza Kitchen, MacArthur Mall

California Pizza Kitchen Logo

I have been putting off writing this review for a couple of weeks now. I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for CPK. When I told Alex how I felt she nailed it by describing them as “solid, but not exciting.” I couldn’t have said it better! Things I like about CPK: menu variety (including good desserts) and consistent food preparation. Things I don’t like about CPK: menu variety and speed of service (it can take well over an hour to get in and out of there sometimes.) To clarify the menu conundrum, there is a good variety of pizza’s, salads, and entrees, most with either an Italian or Asian theme, however there are few options for someone looking for “light” fare. Most meals, even the salads, are loaded with cheese, or sauces, or pasta, etc. They do have a fat free balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing upon request, which I like. If you are watching fat, calories or carbs, you have to stick to salads at CPK, and even then, you will need to do some special requests when ordering. These days, most chains have nutritional food values available for their menu items. CPK does not. I emailed them requesting it for the salads and was told it wasn’t available. My guess is that once you know what is in an Alfredo sauce, or a cheesy cheese pizza, you may be less likely to indulge. They offer vegetarian information online for those interested.

Like Alex, I usually get the grilled vegetable salad, fat free balsamic on the side, and I like mine topped with grilled salmon. It is predictable and always very good. In the past I have had several different pizzas, pasta dishes, and appetizers. I have never had a bad meal. The food is always tasty and well prepared. There are a couple of servers there that we have gotten to know by face. When we see them we know our lunch will run smoothly and we’ll make it out of there in time. The ‘unknowns’ are the crap shoot here. It can take 10 -15 minutes to get your check or drink refills. If you're hungry and have the time, CPK is a solid choice for lunch at the mall.


Laine and I frequent CPK often.  It is a staple on our lunch list.  CPK has a wide variety, but I tend to always get the same thing, the grilled vegetables salad.  I am not typically a fan of chains, but this salad is one of the best, mixed greens, grilled mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, corn, sundried tomatoes and avocado.  The Dijon balsamic vinaigrette goes perfectly with this salad.  Service is usually good.  We have had a time or two where the food took too long, but we have also had times where things are above perfect and the food has always been up to par.  In the past, I have also tried the white pizza which is great, the red velvet cake, which makes your mouth water and the caramel cheesecake, which is something out of this world.  All in all, this is a good choice, especially if you are in the MacArthur Mall or stranded in a city, where there is no sign of any decent, non-chain restaurant (been there before!). 


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gourmet Gang, Main Street, Norfolk

Gourmet Gang Norfolk Restaurant

For a good while, Laine and I frequented Gourmet Gang once or twice each week. I was hooked on their California Cobb salad and Laine on their Greek. Then, something happened...first, the Greek disappeared from the menu. We could not figure out why a restaurant would remove a Greek salad. Then, Laine had some caramelized walnuts in their seasonal strawberry and walnut salad that just were not crisp. For me, I was just Cobbed out! As we do every Friday, last week we drew from the magic envelope for Monday and what do you know, Gourmet Gang it was, GG for short. We journeyed over to GG on this fine, sunny day and ordered our salads. The Greek was back on the menu. They must have known Laine was coming. For once in my life, I stepped out of the box and ordered something completely different, the autumn apple and walnut salad. My salad of mixed greens, caramelized walnuts, white raisins and Granny Smith apples, was SUPER. It came with blue cheese dressing, which was the perfect flavor to add to this mixture. I'm pretty excited about this salad. I hope they keep it on the menu for a while (at least through our autumn season). I had checked the online menu before we headed over and their weekly specials are up to date. Good to know. Sometimes, I don't think restaurants update their websites in a timely fashion, but GG does. There must be a good web master there. GG is back on our list. I have a feeling we will be in there again very soon. GG has a good variety of wraps, sandwiches and salads. They also have homemade cookies on hand. GG caters to many of the Downtown businesses and you can always find a large business crowd in the Downtown location. If you are limited by time, make sure to get there before noon. Some days, the line is out the door by that time. You can call or fax your order in as well. Calling in has been a success, but the one time I tried the faxing option, GG did not receive it. They did not make me wait in line though, as I brought a copy of the fax with me (Murphy's Law – I'm always waiting for something to go wrong and like to be uber-prepared for those chaotic times). GG is good to its customers. The folks there let you dissect and recreate a salad as many ways as you want to, which is huge for me.

Logo Gourmet Gang Norfolk Restaurant
Chances are, if you work somewhere downtown, your office has had a lunch catered by Gourmet Gang. They have an interesting business history, growing from a door-to-door sandwich vendor to their current restaurant/caterer/delivery service model. I like seeing an independent small business not only survive, but thrive, especially when it is headed up by a woman. Having worked in various locations throughout Norfolk and Virginia Beach, I have had lunches from several different restaurant locations. The food is consistent in presentation, preparation and freshness from each location. The Main Street location our current haunt. To be honest, I didn't even know they had restaurants until I worked downtown. As Alex mentions, they can get quite packed at lunchtime with a line out the door for ordering and a line by the soda machine for those waiting on orders. This kills the ambiance for dining in. If you are seated at a table, someone will literally be standing on top of you while you eat. The menu offers a nice variety of sandwiches, wraps and salads. I am partial to the Greek salad, but I agree with Alex that their Cobb is extraordinary. Their portions are good sized for a salad and the ingredients are always fresh. Although there is a line to order, the food comes up fairly quickly once the order is placed. My salad on Monday was great. Their twist on the Greek is using sundried tomatoes vs. regular tomatoes. Their croutons are just okay, so I usually forgo them. The employees are very friendly, and I see the same ones over and over again.This is a good sign to me. The restaurant business can be quite chaotic, so it is nice to see happy, friendly people who apparently like their jobs. The food is prepared right in front of you, and these guys are really moving. Gourmet Gang is a safe lunch bet downtown.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pasha Mezze - The Palace Shops, Ghent, Norfolk

Pasha. Their site reads ‘Mediterranean & Anatolian Cuisine w / American & European Influences’ and is as enticing as it sounds. Laine was not able to make it to lunch today, but we will definitely visit again so she can review.

Sasha and Leigh, my oldest and very dear friends, have been raving about Pasha. They were going in there every other day! I decided I had to get on the horn and get over there immediately. My opportunity came when Sasha and I lunched there last Saturday. Pasha has a wonderful outdoor patio and with the nice temperature, we opted for the great outdoors. I had eaten something earlier and therefore, went straight for dessert. My choices of homemade bon bons (chocolate walnut ) and bread pudding could not have been better! I truly believe this is the best bread pudding I have had to date.

Today’s luncheon included my lovely mother, Nikkie, Sasha and Leigh. Sasha, Leigh and I began Montessori together at the young age of three. We love to eat out, laugh and catch up together. A warning, if there is a ruckus anywhere, it is usually the three of us. Nikkie is taking some vacation days and decided to join as well. She is always up for a new restaurant outing.
And now, I’ll get to the important part, the food. The lunch menu has appetizers, such as the spinach and cheese pastry and Karavana, soups including red lentil, wraps such as the spinach spicy chicken, chicken hummus and the Mediterranean, and main courses like char grilled wild salmon and Mediterranean beef kebabs. There is also a larger dinner menu, a Sunday brunch menu and a late night menu.I ordered the tuna salad wrap, Nikkie had the spinach spicy chicken wrap and Sasha and Leigh both had the hummus chicken wrap (it is not listed on the menu, but is available to order). Everyone had the red lentil soup as their side except Nikkie, she went with the hummus. This is by far the best hummus in town and the best I have had. I am not a hummus campaigner either, so trust me, if I ate it and liked it, it is good, lots of taste and very smooth. The red lentil soup is one of the signature items on the menu and that was fantastic as well. Everything is very fresh and full of flavor. Since our last few outings have had drink issues, I must comment on the water at Pasha. It is not tap and it is not some regular bottled water. It is very clean and fresh tasting. I believe the menu tells you the way they prepare it and what they do rocks. Service was superb, even after the large lunch crowd rolled in. Everyone working there is friendly and very helpful. We did see our waiter, Quentin, helping a few ladies who were uncertain of what to order. He explained the menu item by item. I know the ladies appreciated his help. I know Quentin from the neighborhood and he is doing a great job!

The décor of Pasha is very chic and modern with an airy feel. There is a lounge-type of room in the back with couches, larger chairs and tables. I think they use this for small parties and meetings at times, but it is available for walk in patrons as well if not in use. There is also a bar and I have heard that is busy in the evening. Sasha, Leigh and I are definitely interested in checking out the late night menu and Sunday brunch. When I asked how late they serve, the answer was ‘until the last customer has finished’. Music to my ears.

Beat feet to Pasha. You will be well received.

Located in the Palace Station Shopping Center in Ghent at 350 West 22nd Street, Norfolk VA 23517, Pasha serves lunch, dinner and a late night menu daily along with Sunday brunch.
Pasha Mezze on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hell's Kitchen, Granby Street Location

I was having a serious case of the Monday morning blahs which was further exasperated when Alex drew Hell’s Kitchen out of the envelope for our weekly review. Ho-hum. Not one of my favorite places. I would describe it as tolerable, but not likable. So, I put on my kick some you-know-what hat and headed down the street with Alex to HK. Don't you know, they took all the wind out of my sails by doing everything RIGHT!

I ordered tuna bites (rare) and a side salad. Our food was on the table in less than 10 minutes. It was all good. The tuna was perfectly cooked and well seasoned. Their side salad is large. Not your typical iceberg on a 6 inch plate. It was fresh romaine, slice tomatoes, cucumber and croutons served in a regular sized salad bowl. Our server did a nice job, and kept our beverages full. We were out of there in under 45 minutes, leaving time to run a quick errand.

My only real peeve about HK is the menu. All the entrees have catchy little names, and no descriptions. You have to ask the server to tell you what’s in them. To her merit, she knew her stuff, all the way down to sauces and seasonings, but I still like to be able to read it on my own and ponder my decision. (Most likely because one minute after she tells me, I have forgotten half of what she said.) Aside from that, much to my surprise, I’d have to say that HK is back on my list of places to eat on Granby Street.


Well, Laine and I went to hell and back...Hell's Kitchen that is. I have had two bad meals there previously and was ready to pounce on this place for my third time. Much to my initial chagrin (come on, you know the bad reviews are funnier), my food was great. I ordered the Mandarin Blu salad (mixed greens, chicken, almonds, craisins, blue cheese and mandarin oranges) and was pleasantly surprised. Our service was fantastic as well. Our food came very quickly and our waitress was attentive. A must for Laine and I. If you have never been to Hell, it is definitely a bar atmosphere, but the smoke is non-existent during lunch and you see a lot of the business folk in there munching on chicken wings and pizzas (they are known for those two items). They play rock and roll, louder than most lunch establishments, which is a nice change. There is also live music at Hell nightly and I have had pretty good experiences with that aspect of the restaurant.


Take a journey to Hell...

Hell's Kitchen is located at 124 Granby Street in Downtown Norfolk and is open 11am-2am Monday-Friday and 5pm-2am Saturday and Sunday. There is also a Chick's Beach location, HK on the Bay.

City Line Cafe, 205 E. City Hall Ave.

thumbs maybe

If Laine and I are looking for something quick, or looking for a short walk if the weather is bad, we often head over to City Line Cafe. City Line offers soups, salads and sandwiches. My favorite trait of City Line is the BYO - Build Your Own. They allow you to build your own salad or sandwich. There are various types of lettuce (including spinach - in case you dine with Popeye!) and pretty much any topping you can imagine. While I am NOT a DIY (do it yourself) person at all, being able to customize my food is pretty important. I am one of the world's pickiest eaters. My mother likes to tell my friends that I am a 'weird eater'. Whatever, it is my food and I want it like I want it. Back to City Line, our food is always ready quickly and has been 'solid' in the past.
I must add our last experience to the review in fairness. In sum, City Line was 'off its game' last Friday. Laine and I both 'built our own' salads, as usual, and ordered water (I'm trying to stay off the sauce...iced tea because of the huge amounts of Sweet n' Low I use - apparently it is bad for the kidneys. Who'da thunk?). Well, the cashier gave us a cup (a small one - I've seen larger shot glasses) and we headed to the drink fountain...NO water...and NO ice to boot. Laine and I went back to the counter and stood there for a good 5 minutes and made faces at each other before we just became fed up and asked her where the water was. She looked a little lost and then gave us water...from the TAP! Come on people; get some water in your drink fountain. Don't they all have that these days? Oh, and ice, of course. Our food was still fast and was still good, but the water thing sent me on a short trip to the moon. Luckily, I came back...this time.


I always try to support the ‘little man” with my dollar. I feel like I am supporting the American Dream when I do that. Not that I am “anti” chain restaurants or businesses, but you simply don’t get the same warm, fuzzy feeling as you do upon walking into a place where you know the folks that work there and they know you. Keeping that in mind, I must admit that I tend to give City Line some leeway in situations where I would stomp on a larger competitor.

On the upside, the food is consistently fresh, and well prepared with generous portions. When you order grilled chicken for your salad, they freshly cook an entire boneless chicken breast for you. It is still warm when it hits the salad. It is not a precooked and previously frozen slab of chicken. They have homemade potato chips with a variety of spices that I have been told are delicious. I have sampled a couple and completely concur. On the downside, City Line seems to be struggling with some new business growing pains. Staffing is a problem. You just can’t operate a lunch joint in downtown with only two people during the peak hours. And I really like these two people too. They are busting it out with one on the register and the other cooking, but it is like swimming upstream against the current. Sometimes it can take 20 minutes to get your order. That is pushing the limits of the average consumer’s patience. The water incident was funny at first, but when the end result was a Dixie sized cup of warm tap water, the humor faded. A lot of people want water with their meals, why punish them?

So, in the spirit of entrepreneurialship and a killer build your own salad (I am getting addicted to the artichoke hearts and avocado), I’ll keep going to City Line. For the future success of the business I hope they work on hiring some midday support for my kitchen buddies and invest in upgrading their soda machine with a water dispenser.


Visit City Line online, or in person Monday-Friday 11AM-3PM

Friday, September 19, 2008

Crackers - Norfolk, VA

Looking for a great tapas menu? Head to Crackers. Formerly on 21st Street in Ghent, Crackers is now located at 4226 Granby Street near the Granby Street bridge. The 21st Street location had 5 or so tables and the bar. This new location is much larger but still has the same fun, funky feel of the original scene. My mom, Nickie, and I saw David Byrne last night at the Ferguson Arts Center in Hampton and on the way back needed a little something before going to bed. It was nearing 10pm and most restaurants stop serving their main dining menu around 9pm on weekdays. Nickie had not yet been to the new Crackers and it was conveniently on our way back into town. Funny thing...other Talking Heads/David Byrne junkies from the show were there too! The bartenders were upset they had not been at the concert and pulled out the Stop Making Sense CD and we were all moving to the music as we ate. Fun! Nickie and I ordered the tuna sashimi, the sesame seaweed salad, the fried grouper with creamed spinach and bacon (that was a special) and the tomato, basil and mozzarella stack with a balsamic vinaigrette. Sound like a lot? It is tapas, so we usually order a bunch of things and share. There are so many good items to choose from, it is always hard – not a bad thing! There is always a fondue special, a butter special for the bread and butter place, a few entrée specials and a dessert special. We did not have dessert but the hazelnut panna cotta sure sounded appealing. The menu is filled with interesting choices, walnut encrusted brie served with a specialty jam, calamari and spinach with pine nuts and raisins, just to name a few. Don’t forget their signature dessert, s’mores which you get to make yourself! They bring you a little grill with a Hershey bar, marshmallows, graham crackers and skewers with which to grill. What more can you ask for…and you are not out in the woods fretting over a potential bear attack.

Tapas entrees are priced from $4-10 and you do have the option to turn a tapas item into a full meal should you desire. The bartenders are fun, play great music and most importantly, make superb drinks. Crackers is open 5pm-2am daily. Head over there for a fun and memorial dining experience.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Granby Bistro & Deli

What a great find! Laine and I have strolled past Granby Bistro a zillion times. We had heard that the sandwiches were good but the salads just "okay" so we had steered clear. In our weekly pull of restaurants to review, Granby Bistro was the chosen one. How lucky were we that we chose it because the person who gave us the "okay" review on the place had to be mistaken. We were joined by our friend Mandy, with whom we always have a lot of laughs and a great time. The bistro reminds me of little restaurants I have visited in New York City, quaint, the owner always there and everything is homemade. The cuisine is labeled Mediterranean, but the menu has a good variety. There are salads, sandwiches, burgers and full entrees of salmon, chicken and a few cuts of meat. I ordered the Chef Salad with Turkey. They have ham as an option as well. I thought it was nice not to have to ask for turkey instead of ham - customization was an option for once ('When Harry Met Sally' again here). The house dressing is a traditional Greek and was fantastic, some of the best I have had in a while. My water without ice request was even met on the refills. Service was good, the food was good and the atmosphere was just right. Prices are very reasonable. With tip, my meal was right around $10. You can't beat that with a hat! Laine and I are super excited that we have a new, close place to visit. I am certain we will venture there again very soon. There is also a mean looking dessert case, where everything looks homemade and delicious. We might have to check that out one day too.


If you want a restaurant that specializes in modern interior design, where the tablecloths and napkins coordinate with the walls, ceiling and bathroom sink, this may not be the place for you. However, if you want a place that specializes in standard deli fare made with quality, fresh ingredients this place is a goldmine. Walking in the front door is like stepping through a time warp that leads you back to the 1960’s. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all either. There is a certain charm to the interior that comes from the well maintained fixtures, furniture and appliances. There is one plant in the front window that has grown to the proportions of something straight out of “The Little Shop of Horrors”, but other than that it is cozy.

I am always on the lookout for a great Greek salad. I lean towards the traditional style, not the haute cuisine that includes everything under the sun. I liked theirs. The vegetables were very fresh. As Alex mentions, they have a dynamite house dressing, and put just the right amount of anchovies on top. Mandy ordered the generously sized chicken salad sandwich. Nice big chunks of fresh chicken, not swimming in mayonnaise, and again, traditional in preparation. She said it was good. No processed meats in this joint, which is refreshing.

There was a steady flow of people in and out. The server was busy but very attentive. The food came out quickly after ordering; keeping in mind that practically everyone in there is on a lunch ‘hour’. Granby Bistro and Deli is a no brainer for a quick and satisfying lunch downtown.


Granby Bistro is located at 225 Granby Street in downtown Norfolk. Open 7:30AM-3:30PM Mon-Thurs, and 7:30AM-10PM Friday, serving breakfast until 11AM and lunch daily.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The 219, Granby Street

Exterior The 219, Norfolk Restaurant

The 219, on the corner of Granby Street and Tazwell, has been off my list of places to go lately. The past 3-4 times we had lunch there the servers snobby, it took too long to get your meal, and the food was boring. If I am going to spend close to $20 for lunch, I want some bang for my buck. However, one of the landmarks of a good friendship is compromise. Alex wanted to give them another try. She had recently been surprised by a great dinner there, so I folded. In my opinion, 219 did a 180! Service was prompt and appropriately friendly, our salads came in 10-15 minutes and the food was great. Is someone new in the kitchen? They are definitely paying more attention to preparation. There is attention to visual presentation that was lacking previously, and improved content. No more lettuce salads! I had the Pecan Encrusted Goat Cheese with Pears. It was chock full of the ingredients listed on the menu, nicely seasoned and flavorful. (Okay, the pears were too hard to eat, but it didn't ruin the salad.) Lunch entrees run $8-11, salads will cost $3.50-$.50 extra if you add a meat or seafood topping. The place was nearly empty on a Friday at lunchtime, which led us to believe that maybe we weren't the only downtowners to have written it off. Another interesting tidbit...the property and the restaurant are for sale. This may be another reason for the renewed emphasis on service and meal prep.


The 219 is known for its eclectic atmosphere and great food. I have had some good meals over the years there, but as Laine said, we wrote them off after our last few salads were basically lettuce and the service was subpar. On a whim, I ate dinner there last Wednesday with a good friend of mine. Johnny* was in from out of town and had been to The 219 for lunch but not for dinner. We both ordered the crab cake, for which The 219 is famous. The Virginian-Pilot publishes a 'top 10' for one particular food item a few times a year and The 219 was near the top of the top 10 best crab cakes in the Tidewater area. Our meals were superb. The crab was jump lump, no filler and grilled to perfection. Johnny went with the standard julienned vegetables and roasted potatoes. I substituted bok choy for the potatoes (I am Sally from 'When Harry Met Sally' for those who have read our previous blogs) and also had the julienned vegetables (squash, zucchini, carrots). We finished with the Blueberry and Peach Cobbler served with Vanilla Bean ice cream. That was wonderful. Service was also good. Prices during dinner are slightly higher, a few 'market price' entrees, like the crab cake. I did not pay so I'm not sure of the total (thanks Johnny), but I would estimate the crab cakes were around the $25 mark from my past dining experiences there. A smaller version of the crab cake is always available during lunch as well.
On 'the review' visit with Laine, I had the Seasonal Grilled Vegetable Salad and it was remarkably good. Loaded with vegetables which were cooked perfectly. Their vinaigrette dressing is made with a unique olive oil which mixes well with this salad. As Laine mentioned, when you are paying $20 for lunch, the meal should be noteworthy, and in a positive way. The 219 has made it back onto 'the good list'. If it is sold, I hope the new owners maintain this renewed quality.

*Names are changed to respect the privacy of our guests.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tropical Fattie, I mean, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Granby Street

no TSC

We decided to put chains that exist in Downtown Norfolk on our review list as well. I am a complete chain-a-phobe, but Laine and I agreed that to be fair we need to review everyone. Tropical Smoothie is running a promo: two wraps with chips or fruit for $9.99. This was before tax, of course. With two drinks our total bill was a little over $15, still not bad for two lunches, but boy, were we slightly disappointed by the time this was all over.
The tables were still messy from prior patrons for once - this does not please Laine and I in the least. Our food was ready fairly quickly, but it was not 100% correct. We both ordered Popeye's Favorite (grilled chicken, tomatoes, low-fat mozzarella cheese, artichokes) on the low-carb wrap. For the side, Laine had the Baked Lays and I had the orange. When our food was ready, mine had the wrong wrap - it clearly was not the low-carb. I had to ask them to remake it, which they did and about which they were very nice. They even gave me another orange (little spiff - I can often be paid off, like the mob). We thought the taste wasn't bad, but something did have a slightly processed after-taste. Not sure if it was the chicken or maybe the low-carb wrap, but something... The oranges were fresh, which is good. Bad fruit is such a let-down. Overall, for under $8 each, Tropical Smoothie, seemed 'okay'. Now, a pack of wild horses could not easily drag us back, but we gave it an average review...until Laine checked out the nutritional information for our lunch. I will let her take it from here...


Their trademarked slogan is "eat better...feel better". I can only recommend that if this is your true desire, run screaming from Tropical Smoothie Cafe and eat somewhere else! Now, I accept full responsibility for every calorie and fat gram I consume, even those consumed with alcohol, so I have no idea why failed to check out their online menu and nutritional values BEFORE eating there. I plead a serious case of Monday-itis! But Gadzooks Batman, eating too much of their food will leave you shaped like a smoothie cup. Our Popeye's Favorite weighed in at 626 calories and 29.3 grams of fat. UGH! I could have chewed on a MacDonald's cheeseburger for 300 calories and 12 grams of fat, or a Wendy's 1/4 pounder for 430 calories and 20 grams of fat. Even their salads are loaded with fat. Nutritional disasters aside, I pulled three to four chicken chunks out of my wrap that could have easily substituted for bricks.The tables were all dirty, and we were part of the early lunch crowd, arriving slightly prior to noon. Although they messed up one of the wraps, I give kudos to the staff on their recovery. Two individuals came out separately to check on us and make sure that Alex's second wrap was okay, and to apologize for the earlier error. However nice they may be, Tropical Smoothie Cafe is now on my growing list of "restaurants to avoid like the plague" in downtown Norfolk.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Machismo Burrito Bar, Norfolk

Exterior Machismo Burrito Bar, Norfolk Restaurant

One of the things Alex and I enjoy about working downtown is that you can walk just about everywhere you need to go. On days we are up for bit a longer lunchtime stroll, we find ourselves heading out to Machismo Burrito Bar, located at 409 W. York Street. This is a stripped down joint with one purpose, getting a burrito in your hand as quickly as possible. No one greets you when you walk in (thank goodness). There are only six tables and 4 window seats inside. The patio, which is essentially in a parking lot, has three more tables and a door that opens the wrong way. So why bother walking out there? I love this place! Definitely makes my list of top 5 lunchtime favorites. The food is consistent. I always get a burrito. I love that they have pork as a meat option. The chips are just OK, so I usually pass, but who needs them? These burritos are big! Lunch is under $10 for a big burrito, adding guacamole and a soda. I am a spice wimp, but for fans of the burn, they boast stocking 100's of Hot Sauces from around the globe. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available too, like vegan cheese and vegan sour cream. My only complaint is that they are a mess to eat. Most of the toppings are sitting in pans with sauces which tend to make the end product watery. DO NOT UNWRAP THE BURRITO! It will fall apart and end up all over your lap, making you the butt of co-worker jokes for the remainder of the day. Other than that...chow down!


I second Laine's review. I enjoy the walk. It gets us slightly out of downtown and gives us a new 'crew' to people-watch, which is half of the enjoyment of eating out. I always order a 'bowl' at Machismo. You can choose chicken, beef or pork or just go vegetarian. I am not a vegetarian, but I enjoy just the vegetables. I ordered the chicken one time (at band camp). It had a slightly odd taste, so I abandoned that going forward. You can then choose your type of rice (brown or white) and your type of beans (black and some other varieties). I forgo both because guess what, I don't like rice or beans. That is the best part of Machismo. You can customize it down to the type of salsa. For someone who is like Sally from 'When Harry Met Sally', this is super important. I then ask them to LOAD this bowl up with 'my' stuff, corn, sprouts, guacamole, sour cream, mushrooms, peppers, chunky salsa, olives, lettuce and spinach. Sodas are only $1.50 - a deal around this town, where restaurants like to sock it to you with the drink cost (not even an alcohol drink, I'm talking a soda or tea). This is our field trip for the week usually. We tend to go on Fridays and look forward to it. Machismo is the spot-yo. Try it out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Singing Praises of the Fat Canary, Williamsburg

The Fat Canary, Williamsburg Restaurant

Located at 410 W Duke of Gloucester St, next door to the Craft House, is the Fat Canary. It is a smallish place with an open air terrace for alfresco dining, and a fun, contemporary interior. We had some time to kill before being seated and decided to spend it at the bar. There were five specialty drinks that evening. The lady sitting next to me was sipping a martini called the "Tuscan Sun", made from orange vodka,and cointreau. It looked delish, and she confirmed that it was tasty. Having never been a big rum drinker, I suppose I was the among the very few to have never tried a Mojito. I decided to give theirs a shot, and my husband tried the Tuscan Sun. The Mojito was made with lots of fresh mint and really hit the spot. The martini was also refreshing. (I had to try a sip!)

Service was really on point that night. We were seated promptly at 6:30. Our waiter was very attentive, but not overbearing. He was knowledgeable of all menu offerings and skilled at making wine recommendations to complement dinner selections. We sampled four courses: soup, salad, entree, dessert. (Trust me, save room for dessert.) It was all excellent. We had a lentil soup that was the perfect marriage of flavors, a light and interesting peach salad, soft shell crabs (perhaps the best I have ever had, top 2 for sure) and macadamia nut pie a la mode. This pie was a serious indulgence. Rich, sweet and worth every calorie and fat gram. It was all I could do to restrain myself from licking the plate.

Price is a little bit on the high end, but I believe it is appropriate considering the end product. Parking can be a bit of a chore in the Merchant Square section. Give yourself some extra time to find a spot and walk a block or so. Duke of Gloucester street is always bustling, so the stroll is entertaining. For weekend dinner, reservations are a must. Holidays and other popular weekends will require calling a couple of weeks in advance. The bar was full of people dining that night, so you can probably get seated there if you want to pop in without calling ahead. The restaurant is connected to the Cheese Shop, a Williamsburg staple since the 70's. If you have the time and are a wine lover, take a few minutes to browse the shop's wine cellar downstairs. It is impressive.


Fat Canary on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zona Rosa, San Francisco, California

Zona Rosa, San Francisco Restaurant

For quick and casual Mexican food, take a seat in Zona Rosa in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. This is a no frills kind of place, but very inexpensive and quick. A quick trip through the cafeteria-style line and you can have a burrito, quesadilla or homemade chips and homemade guacamole. The portions are large and everything is fresh. The guacamole was very good, some of the best I have had. You get to see a fun mix of people while dining, which always makes the experience more intriguing. Anything less would be unheard of in Haight-Ashbury. Following lunch, you can roam Haight Street and visit the plethora of clothing and souvenir stores (where you can wheel and deal on some of the merchandise - always fun!) as well as a few tattoo and piecing studios, Soul Patch being my choice and recommendation.

Zona Rosa is located at:
1797 Haight Street
(between Cole St & Shrader St)

Put on your most casual, fun and eclectic apparel and head on down to the neighborhood where the push and pull of gentrification is constant, but also where you can still see the psychedelic and grunge influences. Visit the Grateful Dead House while you are there for a groovy time.


Bocci's Italian Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina

Bocci's Italian Restaurant, Charleston Restaurant

On a recent trip to Charleston, my friend, Tracy, some of her friends and I dined at Bocci's. If you are looking for fabulous, gourmet Italian cuisine, Bocci's is a must. The group started with the Calamari and a Tuna appetizer. Both were very tasty and of quite large proportions. Calzone, stromboli, pasta and entrees such as Grilled Salmon, Tuscan Duck, Veal Saltimboca and Chicken Conchiglia give the menu a wide variety. Our group had a mix of entrees, Chicken Parmesan, Baked Ziti, the Chicken Conchiglia, Ravioli Arrabiata and the Veal Saltimboca. We chose the Chocolate Almond Cassata Cake and the featured Cheesecake which was encrusted in pecans. The appetizers, entrees and desserts were fabulous and quite large in size.

Next time you are in Charleston, take your appetite to Bocci's for dinner.


Rose's Cafe, San Francisco, California

Rose's Cafe, San Francisco Restaurant

En route to the Outside Lands Music Festival, I came upon Rose's Cafe on Union Street with my friend, Jackie. We wanted something scrumptious for lunch before we journeyed to the concert in Golden Gate Park. We definitely found the place. Serving brunch until 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays and lunch and dinner daily, Rose's is a bright representation of an Italian cafe with seating inside and on the outdoor patio. The brunch selection includes Breakfast Pizza with Fontina, Smoked Ham & Eggs, Potato Hash, Spinach, Scallions, Corn & Smoked Mozzarella with Organic Poached Eggs, Linguine, Clams, Garlic, White Wine & Chile Flakes as well as an enticing variety of soups, salads and sandwiches. Jackie and I started with a wonderful piece of the Crescenza-Stuffed Focaccia and then opted for the Heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil pizza and the Rigatoni, Marinara & Reggiano. We finished with the Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ice Cream and the Vanilla Panna Cotta with fresh strawberries. The food and service were both wonderful.

Prices are very reasonable.


Lulu Restaurant and Bar, San Francisco, California

Lulu Restaurant and Bar, San Francisco Restaurant

I recently visited the wonderful city of San Francisco. One word, fantastic. My first evening in town, I went with some friends to Restaurant LuLu, a renovated 1910 warehouse in the SoMa district of San Francisco. The restaurant is open and airy and the kitchen has rotisseries and grills on display for the guests. Restaurant Lulu offers a contemporary cuisine and a wide variety of choices. Between the members in our party, we had the Tomato, Eggplant and Chard Gratin, the Pork Loin, a gourmet pizza and some other delicious selections. We chose sides, such as a gourmet macaroni and cheese, polenta, roasted cauliflower with black olives and rosemary and roasted seasonal vegetables. Dessert followed, warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream and an assorted cookie plate with chocolate ice cream. There were many choices, it was difficult to decide. There is a large wine selection at the bar that carries over to dinner. Service was spectacular.

Entree Prices average $25-$30. If you are in San Francisco, Restaurant Lulu is a must.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kelly’s Tavern, Granby Street Location

The original Kelly's Tavern opened 25 years ago on Colley Avenue. I have been to several different franchise locations in the past, and never had any complaints. You see where this is going, don’t you…. Their website proudly boasts of "56 Best of Food and Dining awards in Hampton Roads for 2007!" Wow, is that some sort of "Best Of" record?

Let’s see…..where to begin? Kelly's Tavern on Granby is a bar. It looks like a bar, it smells like a bar. You enter to the distinct aroma of cigarette smoke, but once you are in the non smoking section, it is really too faint to notice. It has that worn in bar atmosphere. There are stains on the carpet and heel marks on the wall (yes, I mean wall). The restroom has one "out of order" stall, no lock on the other functioning stall, and a pink sink that is stained brown on the bottom. It was clean, just well used. This is another freezing cold place; really, really chilly. It didn't appear to be very busy when we arrived on Monday afternoon. We were one out of 6-8 other tables, and I only saw one server. She was okay. Not setting the world on fire, but proficient. The big problem here was in the kitchen. It took a good 45 minutes to get our food. The third time we asked if our food was almost ready we were told the kitchen was short staffed with only one cook. When we got our food, stuff was missing. I had ordered a dinner salad that arrived sans salad dressing. Five minutes later the server returned to tell me she could not find the vinegar and oil. Fortunately my crab cake sandwich was pretty good. The floor manager came over and asked us how everything was…I told her she didn't want to know. I mean,why ask? Obviously she knew we were having issues, or she wouldn't be at our table with the missing ingredients to Alex's salad. She backed up the kitchen excuse and offered to discount our meal for the inconvenience, which we gladly accepted. She was very nice and I appreciate that. Hey, things happen, schedules get messed up, salad dressings get lost. And there are about 50 other places to eat lunch in downtown Norfolk.


'You all are amazing today' is what Laine said to the waitress when
she said she could not find the oil and vinegar. Very well put. I
second Laine's review. My salad was just okay, but missing an
ingredient and you do feel like you are at a bar, not a restaurant.
I, too, have visited other Kelly's locations and have had much better
food and service. Laine and I have vowed to try another Kelly's, but
we need some serious recovery time from this experience. Things do
happen, such as MIA staff, but this was pretty much a full-fledged
fiasco. I am also thankful that the manager discounted us, but
really, could she have kept a straight face if she had not done so?
Laine noticed on the menu that before shows at The Norva, diners of
the downtown Kelly's get in 15 minutes ahead of everyone else. Our
thought is 'thanks, but no thanks, we'll wait in line with everyone
else to avoid having to dine in here again'.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fellini's Italian Restaurant

Fellini's Italian Restaurant, Norfolk Restaurant

Located near the intersection of 38th Street and Colley Avenue in Norfolk, Fellini's has a reputation for great Italian cuisine and friendly atmosphere. Appetizers include calamari, Bacon-wrapped scallops, focaccia bread and many others. There are also salads, pasta, burgers (including a fantastic turkey burger), entrees, such as Chicken Marsala, gourmet pizzas and of course, homemade desserts, including a wide variety of cheesecakes. The portions are large and the flavors are spectacular. Fellini's is well known for its Greek salad. This salad, topped with tons of fresh vegetables, feta and Fellini's house dressing, gets my vote for best Greek salad in town. The pizzas are also a favorite. From the Bourbon Street to the BBQ Chicken, Fellini's has pretty much any type of pizza you can dream of. The white pizza is particularly good.

It is easy to get a seat and the staff are always friendly and familiar. 5-7pm on weekdays, the spot has a special: cheap pizzas and beers at the bar.

Open for lunch and dinner and moderately price, Fellini's is always a great choice.


Fellini's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nordstrom Cafe at MacArthur Mall

Tucked away in the corner of Nordstrom's third floor, hidden behind linens and lingerie, lies one of downtown Norfolk's not so best kept secrets, the Nordstrom Cafe. Nationally famous for world class service, only at Nordstrom could you feel so good about strolling down a cafeteria line with your meal tray. Forget all your nightmares about high school cafeteria food. You will not see one piece of mystery meat or mushy vegetables on this line of food. No one is standing guard with an industrial sized spoon in hand, ready to slop runny mashed potatoes and gravy on your plate. What you will find is an interesting variety of freshly prepared soups, sandwiches, pizzas, entrees, salads, and deserts.

The line begins with 5-6 sandwich options, followed by two hot soups, a killer looking cheesy cornbread muffin, another half dozen entree options, 2-3 Panini sandwiches, 2-3 pizzas, grilled veggies and chicken and 6-7 freshly made salads. Everything is made fresh when you order it (except the soup, of course). For hot foods, you place your order and are given a numbered card to take to your table. At lunch, salads appear to be the most popular, as the line tends to come to a halt while patrons wait and watch the salad maestro mix and blend house favorites. I love the salad lady. She is always smiling. She has made so many salads that she barely looks down as she grabs the ingredients, pitches them in her stainless steel bowl and whips them together with one of their delicious dressings.

If you are not getting a salad, feel free to “cut” in line and head up to the registers. Just make sure you at least glance at the deserts on your way there. Staples in the desert case are cannoli, macaroons, cheesecakes, and assorted cookies. To die for. Worth whatever the fat and calorie content may be. Alex and I are always threatening to sneak out of work one day in the afternoon and just eat deserts. The cookies are so big that my 4 year old can’t even finish one….and she never says no to anything containing sugar. For those not returning to a job that prohibits working under the influence, there are several beer and wine options available. Since I need my job, I opt for caffeine related beverages. I am a big fan of the ginger peach tea. It can be a little strong flavored sometimes, but nothing that adding extra ice won’t temper. Ask for a “to-go” cup when you are paying and you can fill up before you leave and take some back to the office for later.

On Monday, Alex, my step-daughter and I headed up to the cafe for lunch. My step-daughter, who is also working downtown and looking for some lunch time dining options, had never been to the cafe. Anyone who knows me knows I love introducing people to Nordstrom Cafe. I drag everyone there. (No complaints yet, either!). I opted for one of my favorites, the Salmon Salad Nicoise. Their take on the traditional French salad is to replace the tuna with a Salmon fillet (covered in salty pesto type sauce) omit the anchovies and add capers. This is a hot salad, and overall is fairly salty due to the fish, olives and capers. I made the error of forgetting to ask for the dressing on the side, and was a tad disappointed when it arrived swimming in dressing. I’ll remember next time! However, it did not keep me from enjoying every bite. My step-daughter ordered the Chicken and sun dried tomato Panini, and a cannoli. I was glad to see that she could not wait until after eating her sandwich to try the cannoli. The sandwich arrived in a reasonable time, crispy, flavorful. It was gone in under five minutes. The remainder of the cannoli soon followed.

Service at the cafe consists of servers who will clear your trays from the table, bring out your meals, refill drinks, and get you just about anything you like. Although it is cafeteria style, tipping is expected and well deserved. Having gone there a number of years now, I can say that the staff seems to experience very little turn over. You will see the same people over and over again. Everyone has a great attitude and is very solicitous.

A few things to keep in mind about the cafe for lunch….lines can get long at the noon hour. You can however, get in and out in under an hour on most days. If there is a big sale going on at the store though, forget it. The place will be mobbed. Once the tables are full, the team working the line will purposely slow it down, so you won’t be left standing with a tray and no where to sit. They have it down to a science. The adjoining restroom/lounge is always clean. As for the temperature, it is freezing in the cafe. Let me go on record to say that I am NOT one of those women who is always cold too. Quite the opposite actually. So when I say it is cold in there, it’s really cold. Alex actually had blue lips on Monday. Bring a sweater or a wrap and your experience won’t be marred by the temperature. Prices for lunch are moderate. Typically lunch with a beverage will cost about $12-15, not including tip. For me, the Nordstrom Cafe is always a favorite.