Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Laine's Best and Worst of 2009

Alex and I reviewed the good, bad and ugly this year. Here are my top picks and punts.

Top Five

Steinhilbers- Best Fine Dining
With one more reservation scheduled in December, this has become my go to restaurant when celebrating with family and friends. The food and service are top notch, and the atmosphere is relaxed enough to support coat and tie or jeans if you choose. Steiny’s has replaced the Town Point Club for me this year. Hmm….

Café Claude- Best Out of Town
Café Claude does it right with an interesting menu, nice wines, excellent food preparation and attentive service. It is almost reason enough to go to San Francisco!

Shiki Sushi and Hibachi- Best Weekly Haunt
I wasn’t kidding when I said we order from here (or occasionally dine in) almost every Friday. With 40+ orders in just this year, I can attest to their consistency in all areas. This is how sushi should be.

No Frill - Best Lunch
I will never say no to No Frill. The food is always great, it is always busy, and you always seem to run into someone you know there…at least Alex does. It is a Norfolk dining staple, and rightly so.

Press 626 - Best New Find
I’m going to have to try this place for dinner and sample more of their fares. I liked what I saw on my first visit and hope to cozy up to a nice glass of wine there in the very near future.

Bottom Five

Kincaid’s Fish, Chop & Steak House – Worst Hope
I want to like them. I really, really do. I keep going back and giving them just “one more” try, only to have some nuance of the meal let me down. I’m sure this will happen again in 2010.

La Briciola - Worst Out of Town
Recommended to go there and then ignored by waiter. Sad.

Nawab Indian Cuisine – Worst Service
He beat out La Briciola because I had to chase him down. At least the waiter at La Briciola didn’t run away from me.

The Green Onion- Most Overrated
Nothing impressed me nor interested me enough to ever want to return.

Baker’s Crust Ghent – Best at Ticking off Alex
Nuff said.

I am looking forward to many more outings with Alex in 2010. Thanks for reading about our adventures and reviews this year and commenting when you could. We love our readers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Courthouse Cafe-(Great Bridge) Chesapeake, VA

The Courthouse Cafe Exterior
One of my favorite Chesapeake restaurants got their surprise visit from the Health inspector last Wednesday, the day after I had eaten there with my sister-in-law and daughter.
0 Critical Violations
Good food quality and food storage practices. A clean and well-organized kitchen. PERMIT RENEWAL ISSUED

Thank goodness, because I really love this place. (Had my usual stuffed flounder on this visit.It never fails to please.)

Original Post 12/24/08
Phoenix Rising, The Courthouse Cafe

"Back in the day" there was not a lot of places to eat in Chesapeake. It was with great fear and trepidation that I agreed to move from the land of plenty (Virginia Beach) to the boonies (Chesapeake). The growth I have seen in these four years is really amazing. Dining options have really expanded. Funny thing? None of them have struck a cord with me like the older favorites. One of these is, of course, Courthouse Café.

Like a lot of my friends, I was really upset to hear about the café fire, but relieved to hear that the owners would rebuild. My husband and I were there opening weekend to check it out. Overall, the place looks fantastic. I mean, part of me misses the law books, and the coziness of the former décor, but I honestly prefer the newer, cleaner look. Biggest improvement? The ladies restroom. The old one made you feel like you were in a hobbit house, with its mini sink and extremely narrow stalls. Now it is a nicely tiled, room for one.

We arrived early after a whirlwind shopping afternoon and made a beeline for the bar, telling the hostess that we weren’t really in a rush for a table. About 30 minutes and a couple of martini’s later, we were ready. Local favorites at Courthouse have always been the Prime rib, Stuffed flounder, and She Crab soup. Breaking away from my usual flounder, I ordered the Seafood Combo, getting crab cakes and fried oysters. I also got a cup of soup and a salad. The crab cake was very good, and the fried oysters were good, but not the best I’d ever had. I like them fairly ‘rare’, so sometimes I am hard to please when it comes to oysters. The She Crab soup was a huge let down. I was seriously disappointed. It was tasteless, and lumpy, but not lumpy from crab meat. The broth was way, way, way to thick, there was barely any crab in it, and it was just plain bland. Boo-Hoo! Perhaps their secret soup recipe burned in the fire? I suggest they get a new one and quick! My husband ordered a steak and shrimp which were both excellent. The service was very good.

We will definitely be back at Courthouse. One bad cup of soup can’t keep me away! I love the atmosphere, which is a mixed bag of families, and couples, both young and old. The entrées are always good, and prices are reasonable. If you go, be prepared to wait a bit on weekend nights, because it is popular. Just make yourself at home up by the bar and watch some TV on one of the three sets they have. Oh yeah, and leave your cigarettes at home. The new Courthouse Café is smoke free.


350 Battlefield Blvd S
Chesapeake, VA 23322
(757) 482-7077

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Green Onion-Norfolk, VA-Where is the food?!

The Green Onion Logo
A popular Colley Avenue spot, Green Onion has an eclectic atmosphere and, for the most, part decent food. Recently, I have eaten at the Green Onion twice for lunch and once for brunch. A few years ago, I also had dinner during Norfolk's restaurant week. For some reason, I breezed over it for a good while since it was Wild Monkey years ago. For the restaurant week dinner, I chose the meatloaf, which at the time, was not a regular menu item and it was scrumptious. The portion was a good size and the accompanying mashed potatoes were nice and creamy.

My next occasion was the brunch, which I can compare to Tortilla West for one, scary reason...the salt. I ordered the poached eggs with spinach over what was supposed to be Challah bread with cheesy grits. My brunch companion ordered the corned beef hash with a side of sausage and we decided to add an order of the French toast and pommes frites to have a variety to review. My eggs were fine, but the spinach beneath had so much salt, I had to pick it off...read, unhappy. The bread was not Challah and the grits had as much salt as the spinach and were not cheesy at all! I was very disappointed because the dish looked so good on paper and when it arrived. The corned beef has also been a bitter pill and was very salty and Onion was out of sausage at 11:30am. When you open at 10am, how are you out of sausage in an hour and a half? Rhetorical question. Luckily, the French toast was excellent and the pommes frites were as well, but without those additions, the meal would have been a total bust. Green Onion is on the pricey side, so my displeasure was that much more considerable. Service was not stellar either. Our waiter seemed distracted and he actually substituted bacon for that side of sausage without asking. If he knew or found out they were out of sausage, he should have immediately let his customers know that and ask what he could substitute. That whole sausage detail of the meal was quite irritating. I move on.

I had lunch there a few weeks ago after someone else suggested Onion. I probably would still have not gone back had this person not broached the idea. This day, service was good and the food was good. My companion had the flat iron steak with mac 'n cheese and I ordered the spring mix salad, mixed greens with a button of fried goat cheese. The salad was excellent but it is very dainty - greens and the goat cheese with a balsamic dressing. I had this on a day I did not want anything heavy, so it was not the end of the world, but the comparison is...No Frill's salads are twice the size with twice the amount of ingredients and the same price...or less if you factor in added meat at No Frill. The flat iron steak was a hit, but note, the mac 'n cheese has changed. It used to be more of a Parmesan flavor and now it is cheddar...in case that is a deal breaker for anyone. The Onion was somewhat back in my good graces, so Laine and I decided it was time for a review. I wanted to eat there again in all fairness before I dwelled too much on my brunch trauma.
The Green Onion Salad
Last week, Laine and I met. We both opted for the Mango Salad, mixed greens with dried cherries, fresh mango, goat cheese and walnuts with a honey-raspberry dressing. Everything was very fresh, the mango, particularly, but the size of the salad killed me. We were both done in a few bites...for a $12 price ring. Not a good idea, Green Onion. You are a restaurant; do not starve your patrons. We decided to ask about dessert because we were both still hungry (this was not a day after a large holiday meal). I spied a cheese plate come out during this last visit and it was undersized as well. The egg nog cheesecake appealed to both Laine and I and it was a great choice, but it had more of a ginger snap taste with a very slight hint of egg nog. The graham cracker crust was moist, but a big hunk of it was missing upon arrival...that is the best part, they should have cut another piece. Presentation faux pas!
The Green Onion Cheesecake
My synopsis is mixed and the Miller Light slogan comes to mind, great taste, less filling...Green Onion's food quality is great, and I will try brunch and dinner there again and report back, but the salads and soups ($10 and up for soup!) are pricey. The entrees look to be a little fairer on portion size and dinner might be a better bet...but you are going to pay more, so be prepared.


Alex's review is right on. $12 for a salad that does not contain chicken, steak, or seafood is a little steep. I would have been okay with that if the portion were large, but it was not. I am being generous when I say that there may have been a tablespoon of cheese on the salad. Alex and I are eaters! Serve this portion size to lollipop heads in Los Angeles. The pie was good, but not 'noggy' at all. If I had not known it was an egg nog cheesecake I never would have guessed it. The missing chunk of crust was sad too. It is not like they were busy either. We were one of 4 tables. I was offered patio seating when I entered, but declined not knowing if Alex would be interested. Later, I was glad I did. Since the Virginia smoking ban most restaurants, like Green Onion, have turned their outdoor patios into their smokers' section, completely killing the luster of it for me. I have to wonder why this place is so popular? It has potential but misses the mark in too many categories. By the way, No Frill Grill, located next door, was slam packed. Gee, I wonder why...


Located at 1603 Colley Avenue in Norfolk's Ghent district, Green Onion is open
Tue-Thu 5pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm
Sun 10am-2pm, 5pm-9pm
(757) 963-1200

Green Onion on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 Beaujolais Nouveau

Beaujolais Nouveau Label
Always fun to give these a try!

Read this article in Wine Spectator to learn more about this year's vintage.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Press 626 Cafe & Wine Bar - Norfolk, VA

Press 626 cropped up in a location that was rumored to not harbor a restaurant after the Winehouse moved to Colley Avenue and has since closed shop. I had spoken with some locals that had visited Press, but this was my first social call to the place. Laine and I decided it was time.

The layout of the restaurant has not changed much since it was the Winehouse. New paint colors and some new furniture, but the same front space with little tables, same bar, a slightly larger table in one corner and then a side room that seemed suited for parties or a very large table setting. I arrived and had to park around the corner because Press' building has a very small parking lot (think extra, extra small, so you may have to walk, which is good for you anyway). We sat at the bar since Laine's friend joined us and a two-top was not going to cut it. I arrived at 12:20pm (this will be sigificant later in the review) and hopped in a bar seat to review the menu.
Exterior Press 626
I had looked online and was pretty certain I would order 'The Best Grilled Cheese - EVER' on sourdough. A piece of advice, the online menu says pickles come on the sandwich, but the actual menu does not indicate this important tidbit of information. I like pickles, but not on grilled cheese, so I requested the sandwich sans pickles. You can also add bacon for a buck or a slice of tomato for fifty cents. All of the pressed sandwiches come with a side or mesclun greens and because I already decided I would order dessert, I stuck with the salad. For a small fee, you can have a cup of soup or home fries instead of the greens. Not to compare everyone o No Frill, but the sourdough could have used a little more butter in the grilling process. Its a grilled cheese, so why go light on anything. The mixture of Swiss, Vermont cheddar and goat cheese was extremely tasty but the goat cheese gave it that added pizazz. I love goat cheese, so I may be partial.
Press 626 Bread Pudding
For the finale, I ordered the apple cinnamon bread pudding. The taste was excellent but it was not hot when it arrived. Warm would even be pushing it for a temperature rating. I was in such a hurry I did not make a fuss, but I would have asked them to reheat it had it been during an extended meal. This leads me to my malcontent temperament over the experience. Service took FOREVER. Remember, I arrived at 12:20pm? The waiter did not bring our food until a few minutes before 1pm. It took him a good while to take our order, but on top of that, the lag between ordering and receiving seemed interminable. I looked at my watch five times and I do not typically do it more than once during lunch, and only because I am typically on a time constraint, as many people are for that meal. I was very agitated that the food took as long as it did. These are sandwiches, not bouillabaisse. Put some heat on in the kitchen. I had to eat pretty quickly and would have enjoyed being able to appreciate my food a little more.

With the time predicament, I rate the overall experience in the middle. Unfortunately, the wait killed my mood at the end. The food was tasty (just heat that bread pudding up until it is steaming hot) and the atmosphere is pleasant, so if Press can remember they are serving a lot of folks that have to get there and get in and out in under an hour and back to wherever they need to go, they will rise on my rating scale. The grilled cheese was around $8. Of course, you can make this a lot cheaper, but in the scheme of sandwich prices, that is not too bad. The bread pudding was $7 and for dessert that is the going rate. I will definitely have dinner at Press and they do have Sunday brunch, and I need a new brunch scene in a pretty serious way. I am wearing out the few that I like.

Try it out and let Laine and I know what you think.


I have been wanting to try this place. A wino at heart, every time I drive past Press 626 I say to myself, "I've have GOT TO try this place", then I promptly forget. I was excited to head out there on Friday with one of my work buddies in tow. We snagged the last spot in their lot (sorry Alex!) and headed inside. We have perused the menu online and already decided on what to order. Every restaurant should have a website if for this reason only...to put the menu online! It tickled me that both Alex and I wanted the Grilled Cheese, fitting for a chilly late fall day.

Seated at the bar, directly next to the coffee station, felt surprisingly cozy. Being on the short side, I am not usually a sit at the bar gal more for comfort than anything else. I no longer drink coffee, but was severely tempted because the aroma's coming from the various flavors they were preparing in the French Press smelled delicious! They offer organic French pressed coffee and teas by request for a meager $2.95. Watch out Starschmucks! I checked out the wine menu longingly. I was not familiar with most of it, but noted that it had a nice variety of countries and grapes represented. I have been enjoying Argentinian wines lately and saw a few I would have liked to try, were I note returning to work.
Press 626 Grilled Cheese
Whenever a restaurant uses terminology like "THE BEST EVER" on the menu, it feels like a challenge to me. Especially for something like grilled cheese, of which there can be infinite varieties. Being a smart-alec on occasion (occasion = a lot) I had to ask the waiter if it was really the best every. He said yes, but after a slight pause. AH HA! The tone was set. My work buddy waffled between the Cubano and Monster and finally settled on the Monster, a rib steak sandwich with caramelized onions, tomatoes, cilantro, Swiss cheese and chipotle aioli. We both added Tomato soup as our side.
Press 626 Cubano
The Tomato soup was disappointing. I can't say it wasn't good, it just wasn't what I expected. It tasted like marinara sauce, was similar in texture and had the tomato seeds in it. Just not my style. The sandwiches were both good. My view of the grilled cheese is rather pedestrian, so any grilled cheese that doesn't at least contain American cheese will never rate as "The Best", but this one was pretty darn good. Alex was right about the goat cheese. The texture added an extra kick to the other cheeses, like ricotta does in lasagna.

The atmosphere in Press 626 is very relaxed, and I suppose that is why the kitchen service is on the sluggish side. The servers seemed to be bustling and my drink glass stayed full. Housed in an old Ghent building it was a little chilly inside the restaurant, so lukewarm food quickly turned cold. Single paned, glass windows with no storm coverings will not keep out the winter chill and drafts will abound. 'Tis the season.

Overall, I enjoyed Press 626 and look forward to returning again in the near future when I will be able to take my time and enjoy more of their menu offerings.


Press 626 is located in Ghent at
626 West Olney Road, Norfolk, VA 23507.
Hours are Monday-Friday 11:00AM-11:00PM
Saturday 5:00PM-11:00PM
Sunday [Brunch]10:30AM-2:30AM

Press626 Café and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kyushu Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar - VA Beach

I have not eaten at every sushi restaurant in town. Doing so is becoming an increasingly impossible feat as it appears that every new shopping strip now comes with a sushi restaurant. Fortunately, I don't really need to try anymore. I was introduced to be best one about 8 years ago. It is Kyushu. I love it for several reasons, but the number one reason is that they have the freshest, best tasting fish in town. Their fish is consistent every time you visit, lunch or dinner. Honestly, you can take away all the interior decorations, service, fancy food arrangements, prices, whatever. With the abundance of mediocrity available today for sushi the key determining factor must be the taste and quality of the fish. Kyushu simply nails it.

I dined there last Friday evening with my husband, who happens to be the person who introduced me to Kyushu. He's probably been eating there for well over a dozen years. Kyushu is in a shopping strip on Newtown Road, not the most fashionable address in Virginia Beach. In fact, the New York bus depot has moved in next door, taking the location down a notch or two in my opinion. However, I seriously doubt they would ever consider moving, nor would I really want them too. In today's world of constant change, where most possessions are disposal in value, it is somehow reassuring for me to know I can step away from Kyushu and come back a year later to find it exactly as I left it. The interior is about as fashionable as the location. There are basic tables and chairs which are very close together. No secrets from your neighbors while dining at Kyushu! The sushi bar is not just for decoration. On busy nights and at lunchtime the seats will be packed. This was a typical Friday night and it was jammed packed. We seemed to arrive at a good time, as most of the tables were turning over and we were seated right away.

The same people are always working there, from the servers to the sushi chef. Once you go there enough they get to know you, but regardless they greet everyone who enters and say "Thank you!" (kind of loudly) to everyone when they leave. Once seated your server will great you with a warm towel for a pre-dining refresher and take your drink orders. They have the basics, but no extensive beer or wine list. You can choose from a couple of Japanese beers, plum wine and Sake, in addition to the usual suspects of sodas, US beers, etc. Whenever we dine out for sushi I will order Sake. I love it and feel like it is the perfect complement to the food.

We ordered a la carte, mixing up sushi and sashimi with a California Roll, Volcano Roll and Mussels appetizer. If you are a mussel eater I strongly recommend that you try this broiled delight. I simply can't NOT get them. They are my favorite. These are mussels in an open faced shell, topped with a "secret" sauce and lightly broiled. You can watch these being cooked because the broiler is behind the sushi bar and up high, over the stove, right about at eye level. The plate comes to the table with the sauce still sizzling. I have also had their fried oysters and recommend these to fellow oyster eaters. They are cooked to perfection with a light tempura batter. All of the sushi and sashimi selections were delicious. The Volcano Roll was very tasty but also very rich. Most sushi is not what I would consider filling, so I warn you that this roll is heavy.

Service is always brisk. It is the kind of place where you have a primary waitress but everyone working there will wait on you. Although the restaurant is somewhat kid friendly, I believe Kyushu is better suited to older kids who may have a bit more self control and manners. My six year old is not quite ready in my opinion. There is a pretty decent chance that her volume and inability to sit still could hamper the dining experience of someone else, especially since the tables are so close together.

So leave your fancy pants and high heels at home, throw on your favorite jeans and head out to Kyushu for the best sushi in town. You will not be disappointed.

Kyushu Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
400 Newtown Rd
Virginia Beach, VA 23462-5619
(757) 490-1177

Lunch Hours
Monday - Friday 11:30 am - 2:30 pm
Dinner Hours
Monday - Thursday 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm
Sunday Closed

Kyushu's Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Max & Erma's - MacArthur Mall, Norfolk VA

Logo Max and Erma's
In the news this week, Max & Erma's Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors, listing between $1 million and $10 million in debts.
Original Post September 3, 2009
I have always found the food court in MacArthur Center to be underwhelming, which is disappointing considering its proximity to my office. When venturing to the mall for lunch there are three places I frequent. I have already reviewed two, those being Nordstrom Café (my favorite) and California Pizza Kitchen. The third is Max & Erma’s. When heading out for lunch this past Tuesday with *Brianna, I told her I was going to finally review Max & Erma’s. She said something to the effect of, “We’ll see how it goes. They can be hit or miss.” This is so true, especially when it comes to service.

Upon arriving we were promptly seated (often there is a wait during lunch hours), but noticed that the place was packed. We were seated next to a rather large party of 10-12, which appeared to be a work group celebrating something. They have a fairly extensive menu. The primary fare is soup, salads, sandwiches, burgers and appetizers, but they also have a nice variety of steak, chicken, seafood and pasta dishes. The menu seems to change a lot. They used to have a salad I loved, the Shrimp Stack that was eliminated with a menu update. I haven’t fully recovered from that loss. If I am ordering an appetizer, I usually get the Black Bean Roll Ups. There is enough in the portion that these could serve as a meal for one too. They are tasty and a healthy, lower fat/calorie option. Our server was prompt, and having been there a gazillion times, we didn’t really need to peruse the menu, but instead ordered right away.

It took roughly 45 minutes to get our order. I knew this was going to happen because they were busy and the large table was seated before us. Oh well. It was really the only glitch in the meal. Max and Erma's SaladI have developed an affection for their Apple Pecan salad, which is mixed greens tossed in a maple vinaigrette, topped with apples, sweet & spicy pecans, dried cranberries, crumbled bleu cheese & a balsamic drizzle. I always get the dressing on the side on my salads, but I especially recommend it on this one. Since it is tossed in a dressing and then drizzled with another…that’s a lot of dressing. I know this is the big trend now, salads mixing fruit, goat or blue cheese and candied nuts. This is a perfectly proportioned salad mix. The pecans are really well done, not overdoing the sweetness, which can fill you up and add calories, and just the right amount of spicy kick. Additionally, the chicken is perfect. A lot of places serve you prepackaged meat, or a dry and overcooked mess. Not so here. My chicken was flavorful and tender.

Max and Erma's dish Barbecue Sandwich*Brianna also ordered one of her favorites, the barbecue sandwich. She swears by it. Her only complaint is that it does not come with Cole slaw. I have to agree with that. How can you even eat a barbecue sandwich without slaw on top? As noted in about.com “…the combination of Cole Slaw and barbecue goes back a long time. Traditional Carolina style barbecue sandwiches are typically topped with shredded cabbage or Cole Slaw. This is probably the biggest reason why Cole Slaw is the number one salad of the American cookout.” If you want Cole slaw with your barbecue sandwich at Max & Erma’s you can order it as a separate side and pay for it. They will not let you substitute it as your side. After trying to get past this with several different servers *Brianna is over it by now, but I still find it annoying. They need to hook up their Southern clientele with some slaw!
Max and Erma
The food at Max Erma’s is consistent. It isn’t going to bowl you over, but the variety offers something for everyone. Service is a toss up, depending upon the day and time you are there. The décor is primarily the hokey, contrived collectibles look that you find in so many chains, with the exception of a few local sport champions’ memorabilia. For some reason they have clung to this creepy looking cartoon couple who I assume are the original Max & Erma couple. They are scary looking and severely outdated. I suggest the company either hire Carson Kressley to lead a make over for those two or completely eliminate them as soon as possible.
Carson Kressley
The Max & Erma's reviewed is located at:
MacArthur Center
300 Monticello Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23510
Max & Erma's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anchor Inn - Virginia Beach, VA

Anchor Inn Logo
The Anchor Inn has been around a while. Its current location is on North Landing Road, down by the Virginia Beach Courthouse. This weekend my husband and I went there with two other couples; comprised of my brother and sister-in-laws. With recent news highlighting restaurants going out of business due to the current economic conditions (Magnolia Steak, The Winehouse Bar and Bistro) I think Anchor Inn is really being smart about offering daily lunch and dinner specials. And by specials, I don’t mean something fancy the chef is preparing. I mean special pricing.

Monday through Friday they offer $5 lunch specials. These come with 2 sides and a dessert. Now that is a deal anywhere. I cannot think of a single place downtown where I can get a lunch for five bucks. My brother-in-law works out that way and says he has become a lunch regular. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday nights, each night having a different special. The special on our night, Saturday, is called “Cheap Date Night”. This is a 3 course meal with beverage for $35. That is $35 for two, not each. The diners get two salads or shared appetizer, two entrees, shared dessert, selected beverages including glass of wine or large draft. The portions are hearty and there are multiple choices.

When ordering, me being me, I promptly told my husband I was not going to be a cheap date. He didn’t bat an eye. I had a hankering for the steamed platter featuring crab legs and shrimp, which was not one of the cheap date night selections. He skipped the shrimp and went for just the crab legs. It’s pretty hard to screw up either of these unless you overcook them, which they didn’t. We started out with the raw oyster appetizer. I thought these were just okay. Not bad, but not very plump or “meaty”. One couple got the crab dip appetizer. The portion quite large and we all were invited to share. It was delicious.

I find the interior very reminiscent of old Virginia Beach. There are all types of fish mounted here and there, round wooden tables, an open bar area and primarily nautical accessories. The server was great; very warm and friendly. After eating, our server brought the crab eaters each a finger bowl. I have to admit that I was expecting something more like an individually wrapped hand wipe. Anchor Inn really isn’t fancy and this surprised me. The one negative I have is climate related. We were seated close to the front door. It was cold, wet and windy last Saturday night. Every time someone entered or exited the restaurant we got an arctic blast of air. It was uncomfortable.

Finally, I have to talk about the restrooms. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a fancy place. I know that in some very high end establishments there will be a porter in the restroom who may hand you a towel, or offer a spritz of perfume, etc. Other locales may offer some of the amenities, but in a self serve manner. Perhaps they may display a nice basket on the counter with a variety of items to choose from. Well, Anchor Inn has its own take on this. Located next to the single sink is some sort of cart or shelf upon which several full sized toiletry items are located. Several perfumes and lotions, a full sized bottle of Scope mouth wash, and a full sized can of Arid XX deodorant.Arrid XX canister Even now as I sit here and write this it is making me giggle. The Scope was pushing the limit as there were no little cups or anything offered for dispensing it. The deodorant I found hilarious. I was really kicking myself for not having my camera with me. My brother-in-law confirmed for me, upon request, that the men's room did NOT have deordorant. Interesting....

Overall, I enjoyed myself at Anchor Inn. The food was all good, the service very nice and prices are great. They have a children’s menu for kids 12 and under. All of these items are $5 except Fried Shrimp, which is $8. Again, very reasonable pricing. It is definitely the type of place you could bring children for dinner, although I didn’t see many there. The restaurant was mostly full during prime dinner hours, so I would recommend calling ahead and making a reservation on weekends, especially if you have a large party.


Winter Specials

Anchor Inn
2484 North Landing Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23456

Anchor Inn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Burtons Grill - Virginia Beach

Burton's Grill Exterior
I haven't tried this restaurant yet, but they are running a great wine promotion. I'm not sure how long it will last, but it is an excellent deal!

The Glass is Half Full
Burtons Grill Offers 1/2 Price Wine Selections Every Sunday!

(Virginia Beach, VA) – Burtons Grill, located at 741 First Colonial Road in the Marketplace at Hilltop, Virginia Beach, VA, is launching their new “Glass Half Full” offer, a 1/2 price wine list available every Sunday, all day long. Come in to Burtons Grill and sample wines from their large wine selection for only half the price. While the price is half off, the glass is still full!

WHAT: “Glass Half Full,” 1/2 Price Wines at Burtons Grill.

WHERE: Burtons Grill at 741 First Colonial Road in the Marketplace at Hilltop,Virginia Beach, VA.

WHEN: Every Sunday from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm at Burtons Grill.

Burtons Grill 1/2 price wines include all wines sold by the glass, inventory reductions and special purchases. Wine selections change weekly and all items are subject to availability. For more information please visit: www.burtonsgrill.com.

If you have been here previously or decide to give it a try, let us know!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Uno Chicago Grill - Norfolk VA

Uno Chicago Grill Logo
Several times throughout my life and careers, I have found myself working in the Janaf / Military Circle section of Norfolk. Sadly, there is not an abundance of lunchtime dining options in that area. When Alex and I decided to meet out that way for lunch recently, I remembered one of my former favorites, Uno Chicago Grill. Several years ago when I was working out this way, my friend *Brianna and I started a Tuesday lunch ritual, and Uno was where we usually ended up. It had been well over 2 years since I last dined there. There always used to be a wait, but not so last Friday. (A sign of the times?) I knew Alex had already procured an outside table. The hostess immediately knew who she was and walked me out. A man I assumed was the owner also greeted me and said something along the lines of, “Have a nice lunch”. Hmm…so far so good!

Those of us out and about on a lunchtime work hour know it is vital that the restaurant you choose be efficient so you can get in and out in your allotted time. Uno has a great Ten-N-Ten lunch menu. Ten lunch items in ten minutes, all served with all-you-can-eat soup or house salad. Included in the mix of ‘tens’ is both a Deep Dish and Flatbread pizza pre-selected for each day of the week. I think Uno offers a lot of variety in their menu. Even the kids menu has more than the usual suspects, providing 5 side options from fries, to steamed veggies and fruit. They are exceptionally good about posting nutritional information on their website, including sections with breakdowns of meals by calories, sodium, protein, cholesterol, carbohydrates, saturated fat and dietary fiber. Wow. There are further sections for vegetarian, gluten free options, even food allergy information. Bravo! I don’t really expect or want this from private restaurants, but I wish more chains would provide it. This location has a rather large bar area and some interesting cocktails, not that I ventured in at lunch, but it was noted! Brianna and I frequently ordered what is now called “Shrimp and Crab Fun-Doo”. I am not a fan of cutesy names, but this is an excellent hot crab dip. A very hearty portion is served with garlic baguette slices. This can easily be shared by 2, 3 even up to 4 people.
Uno Chicago Grill Salad
On this sunny Friday I opted for the chopped Mediterranean Grilled Shrimp salad. It’s not on the Ten-N-Ten menu, but came out rather quickly. I was happy with the presentation. I have to admit, I like my food to look “pretty”. There were hearty sized grilled shrimp which were lightly seasoned and cooked to perfection. All the ingredients were present and fresh. They even remembered to put the dressing on the side (something California Pizza Kitchen misses about 75% of the time).

While we were seated, the man I formerly tagged as being the manager came out and sat at the table next to us with some friends/acquaintances. While he was there the table’s food came out; a great looking burger and a sandwich. Shortly afterwards a fresh plate of fries followed. The diners looked perplexed. The manager had placed another order of fries because the ones served didn’t look up to par to him. Interesting…. He did it in such a nonchalant manner, yet I was impressed (and eavesdropping as you can tell). I like that attention to detail. I believe it is what can take a good restaurant to great, or an average restaurant to failure.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to give kudos to our server, Robin, who was very professional and efficient. She also had such a great attitude. Everything happened with a smile. It’s nice to see people happy at work and doing a great job. I used to wait tables and know firsthand that it can be fun, exhausting, rewarding, irritating, hilarious and heartbreaking…all in one shift! Considering everything you have to handle in a restaurant’s work day, you better like it, because it can get tough out there!


The Uno Chicago Grill reviewed is located at:
5700 E Virginia Beach Blvd
Norfolk, VA 23502
(757) 466-0923
Uno Chicago Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 1, 2009

White Fences - Irvington, VA

Giant Corkscrew
During our weekend getaway to the Tides Inn, we decided to hop in the car and see what the great metropolis of Irvington and its surrounding areas had to offer. It doesn't take me long to get stir crazy, no matter how beautiful the surroundings. While cruising down rural route whatever, with the windows down and the radio blasting, a gigantic corkscrew really grabbed my attention. Hey, this looks like my kind of place. My husband agreed. We had just stumbled upon White Fences vineyard. We decided to check it out. At that moment having a glass of wine seemed an excellent idea.
White Fences exterior
White Fences Vineyard is, of course, surrounded by a ... white fence! We drove down the short road and pulled into a drive where we found a small building with a large screened-in front porch. No cars were parked out front. We meandered up the curved walk way, stopping to casually scan the plaques they had peppered along the side. Each plaque provided some educational information about wine, grapes, the vineyard, etc. Upon reaching the front door we saw a set of bicycles and a young couple relaxing on comfortable looking chairs sipping some wine. So far, so good.
White Fences Vineyard
Inside is a fairly small retail space with a smattering of wine related accessories and gadgets, in addition to counter space. We were promptly greeted and asked if we were interested in a tasting. White Fences offers two labels currently, Meteor being their main label. There are 6 Meteor wines, one of which (Firefly) is sold out already. We were offered 7 tastings for $4 and you get to keep the glass. What a deal! I have to be honest and let you know that I have never, and I mean N-E-V-E-R, tasted a Virginia wine that I liked. Granted, I haven't tasted them all, but I've had enough to be sufficiently wary. Several of the wines were particularly sweet, which is not really my preference. I was, however, pleasantly pleased with Meteor Glow, a Chardonel wine. It was slightly oaky, and crisp. Quite excellent! My husband, a fan of the red, preferred Meteor Bright Red. No surprise here. He loves his Merlot, and this is a blend of Chambourcin and Merlot grapes. We each got an extra glass of our favorites and strolled the grounds enjoying the gorgeous weather of that late summer day. While we were there they had a steady flow of customers. A family of 5 or 6, a couple and two ladies looking for a bottle of Glow. They had tasted it at a local restaurant the night before and wanted more!
Lucy Stomping Grapes
White fences is the host of the "Irvington Stomp", an event we had missed by just one weekend. It celebrates their annual grape harvest and also sounds like a good excuse to just hang out with family, friends and fellow wine lovers. This past year local musician Robbin Thompson performed (now that is a blast from the past!)and they have various activities for children and adults. You even get the opportunity to stand in barrels and stomp on grapes. There have to be some comedic moments from that.

I was excited to have my first happy experience with a VA wine. I would recommend stopping by this vineyard anytime you are in the area, or close by. I suggest you call first, as I'm not sure of their fall/winter hours. The wines are good, the people are friendly and the location is a little slice of heaven. As they say at White Fences "Stay amazed. Make wishes. Enjoy your wine."
White Fences
White Fences Vineyard & Winery is located in Irvington, Virginia, about 3 hours from Washington, DC, 1 hours 15 minutes from Richmond and 1 hour 30 minutes from Norfolk.

For information about The Irvington Stomp click HERE

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pocahontas Pancake and Waffle Shop - Virginia Beach, VA

Breakfast selection

Back in the mid eighties I used wake up at the crack of dawn and peddle my beach cruiser from 20th Street down to 35th Street to serve up breakfast in this place. I would even change into my little Indian dress when I got there. The food has always been good, and the owner is very kind. This former attachment makes me ineligible for reviewing Pocahontas Pancakes personally. However, take a few moments and read Alina's review. I think she is spot on. This is the most refreshing restaurant review I have read in a long time. (I have got to start looking underneath tables now!) You can't beat a kid when it comes to honesty.
food network logo
Additionally, Pocahontas Pancakes was voted the "Best Pancake House in Virginia Beach in 2002" by "The Food Network".


3420 Atlantic Ave
Virginia Beach, VA 23451-2834
(757) 428-6352

Pocahontas Pancakes and Waffle Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Tides Inn - Irvington, VA

Wine Spectator LogoYou know that you are about to fall off the edge of the planet when your GPS, which has been faithfully steering you towards your destination, suddenly announces that “your guidance has ended” because the approaching roads are not in the system. Since I had wanted to get away from it all, it appeared that I was heading in the right direction. The Tides Inn has been around for a long time, but this was my first adventure to Irvington and the resort. I could not have hand picked a better weekend weather-wise. Low 70’s during the day, low 60’s at night were perfect for hanging out, playing golf and sleeping with windows open.

Our first meal on Friday night after check in was in the Chesapeake Club. This is the less formal dining room on location. Everywhere in the resort has a water view. Being seated in front of Rappahannock river views and docked boats was very relaxing after a typical Friday night of combat driving through Hampton Roads. I started out with a cocktail. It was after all, Friday night. This is where I first noticed a slip in the service. Stolichnaya VodkaThe waitress was very nice and accommodating, but she was slow. For the remainder of our meal drink refills were not timely. I love it when martinis’ are brought out to the table in the shaker and served. I had a Stoli’s (Stolichnaya ) Cosmopolitan and it hit the spot. A friend who truly cares about my happiness and well being once had me do a vodka “blind taste test”. I have not wavered from Stoli’s since that fateful day!

I ordered the Romaine Hearts salad and Teriyaki glazed Grilled Salmon for dinner. My husband ordered Oysters on the Half Shell and the Snapper special for the evening. The Romaine Salad was nothing terribly exciting, but I didn’t want it to be either. Consisting of Romaine leaves, roasted garlic vinaigrette, shaved Parmesan and Ciabatta Crustini it was the light, crispy intro that I wanted. My entrée arrived in a timely manner and as I dove in it came to my attention that it wasn’t cooked thoroughly. The only non-sushi fish I like rare is Tuna, so I had to send this back for a couple more minutes on the grill. When it returned I was completely satisfied. The salmon was served on top of a mixture of local tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet onions, delicately seasoned with light vinaigrette. The additional side was a new potato medley which surprising consisted of new potatoes of varying colors, making for an eye pleasing presentation. For desert I ordered the Vanilla and Chocolate Mouse. This came served topped with Blackberries, not my personal favorite, but coincidentally my husband’s favorite. Portions are not really sharing size, but being rather full a few bites each had us satisfied.

wine bottleThe Tides Inn offers quite an enterprising wine list, and is a 2009 recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. There are pages and pages of choices. Only wanting a glass (okay, maybe two) I selected Kings Estate Pinot Gris. I had tasted this for the first time last year on my anniversary and remembered enjoying it. Still good and very reasonably priced by the way. My husband prefers the red, and settled on Acacia Pinot Noir. This really hit us right and we ended up ordering a bottle for dinner the following night. I predict there will be a few bottles in our wine cooler in the very near future. pinot noir label

Following a fun round of morning golf at the resort’s Golden Eagle course, we had lunch Saturday afternoon on the outside brick patio. Honestly, this may have been the best meal we had there all because of two little words, “BLUE CRAB”. They have an appetizer called the Blue Crab Quesadilla. Sounds pretty pedestrian, doesn’t it? This darn thing was unbelievably delicious. The purest, chunks of blue crab I have ever seen in my life were layered upon a thin and crispy tortilla, and a very thin splash of Boursin Cheese, then drizzled with a light crème fraiche sauce. Guacamole was placed in the center with the triangular slices arranged around it in a circle. Rich and totally worth every calorie it contained. My husband ordered the Crab Salad sandwich, essentially more chunks of that same pure white crab meat lightly dressed on bread. Unbelievable! My grilled Portobello sandwich was another crowd pleaser, presented on whole wheat focaccia bread with Pesto mayonnaise and served with a fruit salad side.

Hard to believe, but 6 hours later we were ready to eat yet again! Dinner was in the more formal East dining room, one wall away from the Chesapeake room. I must say that our server Saturday evening, Jason, was the best. I overheard him tell another table he had been working there for 5-6 years, and it showed. After all that seafood we were ready to revitalize our inner carnivores. I opted for the Grilled Filet Mignon with Cabernet Reduction, Wild Mushroom Ragout, garlic mashed potatoes and Asparagus. What can I say, it was perfection. My husband ordered the special, which was Prime Rib, with similar sides. I tasted it and personally thought mine was better. For dessert I ordered the “Tides Inn Chocolate”, and was told that it was a “good choice”. As I said to the waiter, I wasn’t going to be able to get it anywhere else! From the menu description I was not clear on what I would be receiving; a cake, pie, truffle…? When I was served I still wasn’t sure and had to ask! It was a half circle of chocolate about two inches in width placed next to a dollop of vanilla ice cream about one inch in width. The waiter informed me it was a French, flourless cake, the name of which escapes me. It was tasty, but nothing to get crazy about. I would not order it again.

The Tides Inn is a beautiful, relaxing place to visit. Everyone working at the resort is extremely friendly and service in all areas is very solicitous. Its proximity to our area makes it the perfect weekend get away. It is also a popular wedding location.


To view the Summer Menu click here

The Tides Inn is located at 480 King Carter Drive in Irvington, Virginia 22480
The Tides Inn on Urbanspoon

Doumar's - Norfolk, VA

Exterior of Doumar's

Growing up in West Ghent proper, I frequented Doumar's as a child, sometimes with my father and often with friends. Doumar's became especially important in middle school when most of my childhood friends took up a string instrument, which became quite frightening and deafening for our parents. For us, orchestra concerts meant a trip to Doumar's afterward. We would pile in the 'back room' which was a corner room with four tables, booth seating and some chairs. We ordered lots of French fries, shakes and ice cream and probably tortured the poor souls that had to wait on us. I am sure our parents were close by, reprimanding us as needed. I remember eating a lot of fries and ice cream, not much else.

Doumar's itself is historically significant for Norfolk, but its newsworthy claim to fame is the invention of the ice cream cone. First setting up shop in the Ocean View Amusement park, Doumar's became known for its cones and barbeque. After a hurricane destroyed the amusement park in 1933, the Doumar family built a location on Monticello Avenue, where the diner still stands today. My parents frequented Doumar's in their younger years and when I was in high school, still playing the violin and going to Doumar's, one of the waitresses remembered my father from when he ate lunch there everyday in his 20s. She even remembered what he ordered, 'The Usual' which, for him, was the infamous Taylor Pork Roll, sliced & grilled pork on a roll w/cheese, lettuce, tomato & mayo. Back then waitresses roller skated to the cars! While there are not roller skates today, you can still enjoy service to your car with Doumar's drive-in style parking and overhangs.

Laine and I decided it was time for a visit to Doumar's. To eat in our car or inside was the big decision of the day. Laine had never eaten inside and I have done both, so inside it was. It is definitely a step back in time. I arrived first and sure enough, Doumar's was as busy as ever. We thought about sitting at the counter, but it was filled up so I grabbed one of the last open booths. We did not get a spot in the former orchestra part-ay room, but we got a seat and at this busy time, that's all that mattered. When Laine arrived, it was literally standing room only. A waitress with some great eye shadow colors came to take our order. I decided to try the fried egg on toast with cheese. In all these years, I have never had that, amazingly. I also had to have some fries and a chocolate shake for old times' sake. Doumar's BarbecueFood comes out fast and get ready, all sandwiches are wrapped in plastic with a toothpick holding it intact. The only silverware I received was a long plastic spoon for my shake. No problem though, this is Doumar's and I was not looking for white tablecloths or cloth napkins. My fried egg and cheese on white bread was exactly as named, no frills. It was good, but if you are a hungry, hungry hippo, you better order three or four, as this is not a filling 'entree'. The fries were as good as I
remembered. A little ketchup and pepper and my meal was complete. Truthfully, the chocolate shake was the nuts and bolts of my meal, the exciting part. Like when I was a kid, I only ate 'real' food to get to the dessert. If my mom had let me, I would have foregone the real and gone straight for the treats! You can order your shakes 'old fashioned drug store style' which is thin, but for me, thick is the way to go for a shake. Theirs are still homemade just like they were years and years ago, and on this day, the shake was as good as ever. They have vanilla, strawberry, pineapple and banana as well (shakes and soda
floats). Egg Nog is offered as a shake, soda float and ice cream flavor when in season. I had one last year and it was absolutely delicious and by far my favorite Doumar's flavor. I told Laine we have to go back when Egg Nog appears on the scene.

Doumar's is not fancy and offers burgers, dogs, barbeque, the Taylor Pork Roll, breakfast all day, fantastic shakes, soda floats, ice cream cones (of course) and a variety of ice cream sundaes, such as the Ringo and Strawberry Willy, which you can customize to your liking. A fun gift is to buy the souvenir jar of two dozen cones. I bought these for someone last year and they were a huge hit. Ask and Doumar's will give you print out of an article about the diner and the cones. I wanted to include this since the receiver of the gift lived in another state and had no knowledge of Doumar's. Without that, someone might wonder why you are giving them two dozen cones. Gotta show them why they are

Do the Dou and get on over to Doumar's and get yourself a Taylor Pork Roll, barbeque and some cones. Even if it is busy, the wait is not going to be long.


I don’t have a colorful history with Doumar’s, so I see it a little differently that someone who can tie in happy childhood memories. To me there is only one reason to go to Doumar’s, to get the Doumar’s experience. That means seeing all the kitsch, taking a step into the past, and of course looking at the cone making machine every time. It is not where I go if I want a great lunch. To me, the food is secondary to the experience.
Doumar's Interior
As Alex mentions, I had never been inside before, and was looking forward to the adventure. I was not disappointed. I have seen a lot written by the GP (general public) about how dirty it is. I didn’t see dirty. It’s just OLD. Tables, floors, counters, etc. are all wiped down and clean. We sat next to a window ledge and picture. They had been dusted and cleaned. Stuff is just worn out and old in some places. The service is snappy and clipped. Know what you want, and be prepared to order. Servers are not rude per se, but they are slamming busy at lunch time. When the average meal is going to total somewhere around $5, you are going to make your tip money on quantity, not quality. Get ‘em in, server ‘em quick, get ‘em out.

Doumar's Shake
I usually get a burger there, which is about the size of a happy meal burger, but thought I would go out of the box and order the Barbecue. I chose the “minced w/slaw, our best seller”. Millions of people can’t be wrong, right? It was just okay, served on bread similar to grocery store Mary Jane buns, light on the slaw. Like Alex, my beverage was the show stopper. I ordered an Ice Cream Soda, Orangeade w/Sherbet (2 dips). Ice Cream Sodas are a rarity now and hard to find on any menu. Wowza! It was over the top! Topped with whipped cream and a cherry in an old fashion soda glass; it made the entire trip worthwhile.

You see a real mix of demographics at Doumar’s. From senior citizens to seniors in high school, it seems to have an appeal that crosses age boundaries and prices that fit most budgets.

Doumar's is open Monday through Saturday all day and is located at:
1919 Monticello Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23517.
No reservations needed or taken.
Doumar's Cones and Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 18, 2009

Have You Ever Been a Waiter?

Not having been anything at all in the restaurant industry, I always wonder 'what is it like to be a waiter or chef' and 'is it something I wish I had done'. Knowing myself fairly well at this point, I would be the first to want to strangle the customers who gave me any lip and therefore, would have had to work with what Anthony Bourdain calls the 'pirate crew', the kitchen staff. I still live vicariously through all of the restaurant crew and enjoyed reading this op-ed article on waiters.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mocca - San Francisco, CA

Exterior Mocca San Francisco Restaurant
San Francisco's alleys house splendid treasures; restaurants, boutiques and pedestrians taking detours from the busy main drags. Another beautiful day and another mission to find a charming cafe, outdoor seating preferred, led us to Union Square where the action is. We strolled past the Square where many people were taking their lunch breaks. It was very busy and why not, this large block is situated such that people can sit on the stairs, benches and chairs that are
often set out for an even from the evening before or an upcoming soiree. They may have brought their lunch, grabbed something nearby or be starting, completing or taking a break from a potentially endless shopping spree. Excitedly, we poked our heads around corners and into potential eateries and then we saw a bass player and a trump player in front of an alley cafe. We knew that was us!

There were two open tables outside and while one of us stood guard, the other two ventured in to preview the selections. Inside, the cafe was small with a few tables and a large display case. A chalkboard displayed the menu. There was a beef tip sandwich, a grilled vegetable sandwich, various salads, vegetable sides and a plethora of desserts. I had to focus on the food and not the desserts. I get distracted by beauty easily! The day before I had the grilled eggplant sandwich, so I decided I needed to have something different this day. The fresh tortellini salad caught my eye. A bed of greens topped with ricotta-filled spinach tortellini and chilled shrimp. This dish was beautiful. The pasta was marinated in vinaigrette and the chef topped the entire dish with a little extra. Laine had already ordered, but hailed me and suggested we split the Caprese salad, which looked tasty from our side of the line. I agreed and moved down the line. Amazingly, I passed up dessert because I knew I would have something divine later and did not want to have the sugar crash when we had the entire day in front of us. It was hard, I will admit. I paid (almost $30 for my salad and the salad Caprese) and trotted out to meet Laine and Maryland at our table.

Sitting outside was a treat and the live music made it even more so. My tortellini salad was delicious, decently-sized shrimp and very fresh pasta. Laine and I concurred that the salad Caprese was not to be celebrated. The mozzarella was fresh, but the tomatoes were terrible. They were the large, pinkish variety and had absolutely no flavor and this snack was $12, so it certainly should have been better. We did not let this ruin our lunch and finished up to get on with our day. I do like Cafe Mocca but would be leery of the salad Caprese.

Maryland ordered the beef tip sandwich with a side of greens. It was plentiful and she said scrumptious. Cafe Mocca offers a lot of choice and was very busy at lunch, which is a good sign. I believe sitting outside is more enjoyable as you have people standing in line right next to the inside tables. Prices are a little higher for lunch,
but the choices are unique and overall, the quality was very good, aside from the 'mators'. My salad was $14 but it was worth it. Gourmet lunches always are. The folks at Mocca move you right along in line, so I recommend you take in the selections before getting in line. They don't play during the bustling lunch hour.

After wandering aimlessly the previous day, Alex and I decided we wanted a plan for our Saturday lunch. After lightening our wallets in some of our favorite stores in Union Square that fine morning, we spied Mocca down an alley. Jackpot! They had a beautiful Caprese salad in the window that I knew I had to try and an “authentic” Nicoise salad. When we arrived back at lunch time they were swamped. One table was open outside so we grabbed it and took turns placing our orders. I have read a lot of reviews that talk about this place like it is run by the “Soup Nazi”. That may be so, but was not my experience. I did ask a few questions and they were politely answered. I had forgotten to order the Caprese and reminded Alex to add it to her order for us to split.
Nicoise Salad, Mocca San Francisco Restaurant
The good news: Mocca has one of the best Nicoise salads in the history of the world. I loved it! It comes with a couple of pieces of crusty bread which were excellent. Very hard and buttery flavored. Everything about that salad was fresh and flavorful. Bravo!

The bad news: the Caprese salad stunk. The one on display looked so lovely. Two large tomatoes, sliced and restacked in a ball, with fresh mozzarella and basil slices slipped in-between. A very unique presentation. The one Alex brought to the table looked equally appetizing. The first bite was a gigantic disappointment. I swear they bought those tomatoes at a grocery store. They had a mealy texture like those tomatoes that come in a three pack covered in plastic. You know the ones I mean! I was hoping for some fresh summer tomatoes. What a let down.

Oh well, it was going to take a lot more than a couple of bad tomatoes to ruin my mood and my day. Mocca is on the pricey side for lunch, but I don’t mind paying a little extra for location, ambiance and good food. Steer clear of the Caprese and enjoy their other offerings. There is enough variety to offer something for everyone. They also serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks for those enjoying a day off and seeking such libations with their meal.


Mocca is open 8am-6pm Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4pm Saturday and closed on Sunday. I assume they have some very interesting breakfast/brunch treats.

175 Maiden Lane
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 956-1188
Mocca on Maiden Lane on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

La Briciola - SOMA, San Francisco, CA

A South of Market recommendation from a wonderful friend, Briciola has a wonderfully bright, yet cozy atmosphere. Candles, white tablecloths and white cloth napkins calmed me instantly. This weeknight was not extremely busy, but there were a few other tables filled with diners. That is a better sign that the empties Laine and I have experienced at times in the past. Upon my friend's suggestion, we let the waiter know who had sent us and this was followed by delivery of Tagliere di Salumi, coppa spek prosciutto, salami, olives and marinated vegetables. Full of flavor and a nice way to begin the meal, we were very appreciative of the gesture. As I am steering away from meat, I concentrated on the marinated vegetables and olivees and they were phenomenal. The fresh bread and olive oil also met my expectations for fine Italian dining. Bread is a good meter by which to judge a restaurant. The menu has a lot of options, many pastas such as, ravioli, gnocci, linguine and many more with wonderful sounding variations such as pesto, string beans and potatoes or sausage and broccoli rabe. I was having a very hard time deciding, but after pondering and asking Alessandro's opinion (our friendly, very pleasant waiter), I ordered the Ravioli di Cernia, seabass filled ravioli with a lobster reduction. Upon its arrival, it also had baby prawns in the lobster reduction. Can you say oh my! Honestly, this was one of the most interesting pasta dishes I have ever consumed and what taste. Very different and all of the flavors complimented each other like nothing I could have imagined. The portion was generous and I was happy as a clam. Maryland ordered the Agnello al Brunello, the rack of lamb, green peppercorn and Brunello red wine eduction. Her plate was completely filled with succulent-looking meat and vegetables. She was excited and very pleased with her selection as well. Because we love dessert, we had to end with something dolce and the Profitterolles alla vanilla, pastry puffs with vanilla ice cream and chocolate had our name written all over them. This is such a wonderfully
presented and fun dessert and Briciola did not disappoint. We were fully satisfied and so glad my friend had given us this wonderful suggestions. Prices are reasonable for fine dining and Briciola specializes in Tuscan and Piedmontese cuisine. I will definitely visit Briciola again.


La Briciola is Italian for "The Crumb". This seems an odd name choice to me. There are too many derogatory ways you can play on that word, but I am sure they had their reasons to use it. I was significantly wiped out by the time we made it to Briciola. The walk from our hotel was further than I expected. Additionally, it was about 9pm PST, making it 12am EST according to my stomach’s clock. Way too late for me to be that interested in eating. I decided to keep it light and opted for combining a salad and an appetizer, rather than selecting an entrée. Of course, you end up spending more when you do that, but I didn’t really care at the time. Briciola has a nice wine list. I love Italian wines and they are a staple in my family wine collection. I selected a glass of 2007 Pinot Grigio Le Notti, Friuli and liked it so much I had another before my meal was over. My salad choice was Spinacina, a spinach salad including honey caramelized walnuts and goat cheese. It had a delightful vinegar based dressing and garlic seasoning. Quite nice! My appetizer was the Sfogliatine con gamberi e asparagi; a puff pastry roll with asparagus, shrimp and crab reduction. The preparation and presentation was flawless, and I liked it, but it didn’t knock me out. I don’t think I would order it again. As an appetizer accompanying an entrée it would be on the heavy side.

I was not as enchanted with Briciola as Alex. Our server started out very charming and attentive, but disappeared by the end of the meal. (See my pet peeves). Perhaps we were not so charming? By this time we were one of only two tables still dining. It made me wonder if he liked the person who referred us. Why would you neglect the table of diners who were referred to you by a friend? I had to get up from my seat, walk over to the bar where he was laughing it up with his co worker, interrupt the joke and request the check. Basta! Of all the places we dined in SF, I would have to put this one at the bottom of my list.


Briciola serves lunch between 11-3 Monday through Friday and serves dinner seven days a week between 5-11.

489 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
South of Market District

La Briciola on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tortilla West-Norfolk, VA - Salt....less is more

Salt Packet
Recently, I visited Tortilla West in Norfolk for brunch. Last year, they did away with lunch and now open daily at 4pm except Sunday when they serve what I once considered one of the better casual brunches in town. I noticed a few things. First, they have always had pretty large portions, but that has changed. A frittata that once consumed a large square plate (your side was in a side dish since no room could be made on the main serving piece) is now served on a smaller triangular plate with your side...on the side of that main plate. Second and this was during a different dinner visit, the chips were not seasoned as they usually are. Let me be honest, I go to T-Dub, as the Dub G Crew (West Ghentiles) coined Tortilla, for the chips. I like their food, but I love their chips! The tri-color chips usually come seasoned so you have an added punch with your chips and guac or salsa. Thankfully, I did not encounter the chips sans season at the soon to be understood 'blood pressure brunch'. The last and most significant item of interest is the overabundance of salt. For brunch, I ordered my usual, the Garden Frittata, which is usually spectacular. While the smaller portion perplexed me slightly, the amount of salt in the eggs almost made me fall out of my seat. I thought 'maybe its the cheese, maybe its something else, am I losing it', but no, there had to be a salt shaker worth of salt in my eggs. I ate my cheesy grits, which were not that cheesy and picked at my eggs and almost developed high cholesterol before leaving completely annoyed and parched. Chas' breakfast burrito was fine but he said that the last few bits extremely salty.

T-Dub, what is with the salt? I did mention to the waitress to tell Chef Salty Pants to lay off the salt if he wanted to avoid patrons keeling over at their tables. T-Dub needs a new symbol for their menu...there is a 'hot' icon and now, they need a 'SALT ALERT' symbol. I was really hoping that I would venture to T-Dub more when the smoking ban is passed, but only if Chef Salt is gone. I'll surely have to wait now unless I want second-hand cancer and high blood pressure.


Tortilla West is not a place you are going to stumble upon while driving down the road. Located next to the entrance of Lambert's Point Docks and close to the Midtown Tunnel, it is definitely a destination restaurant. With no available lot, parking is on the street and is very limited in front of the building. I have eaten there several times for dinner and a few at lunch (when they were open for lunch.) I have always liked the food, so hearing about the salt makes me a bit sad. As Alex says, the chips are spectacular and a must with some guacamole. They have a pork burrito that I was in love with for a while. The atmosphere turns "Bar" as you head into the evening hours, and with that comes a bar crowd with noise, smoke, etc. The service has never wowed me. Once at dinner with my husband the server came to our table 5 times.
1. To greet us
2. To take our order
3. To deliver our Drinks
4. To deliver our meal
5. To give us the check.
No refills, no "How is your food?", that was it. How can you eat spicy Mexican food with nothing to drink? I was dying for una mas cerveza! There are plenty of great places to dine in Norfolk. Tortilla West is a crap shot, at best.

Tortilla West on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 11, 2009

Aberdeen Barn - Virginia Beach, VA

Logo Aberdeen Barn
Considering The Aberdeen Barn on Northhampton Blvd for dinner tonight? Better to go with a plan B. This may be the most violations I have ever seen in a single restaurant inspection. Holy Cow!

View Restaurant Inspection Here

Aberdeen Barn of Virginia Beach on Urbanspoon