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