Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Norfolk Greek Festival 2010

thumbs down
I have attended the Greek Festival at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Granby Street for many years, since my grandparents have lived on the neighboring Fife Street for about 55 years. I enjoy the festival, but has the church thought about moving this event to Town Point Park? I know that Fife Street, which runs beside the church is almost all elderly people and the street is so congested most of the festival that it is hard for them to come and go from their own homes. My grandmother is 84 now and lives alone and if she needed to get out, it would be hard for her to do so, as the food service trucks are parked right across the street from her house. I had a hard time backing out of the driveway on Wednesday before the festival even started and I'm not 84. The church blocked Fife Street off starting Monday and the festival does not commence until Thursday. That is too long to block that street from Granby.

The other disturbing incident that occurred was Saturday night after I had been to the festival. I came across the street to my grandmother's and there was a silver BMW X5 parked right in front of my grandmother's driveway and the driveway of the co-op building that sits on the corner of Fife Street and Granby Street. We asked a couple of the guys cooking and they said they would try to find out to whom the car belonged. I called the non-emergency police number and they said they would send someone out. I waited about 30 minutes and called again. Finally, when the cop showed up, the owner of the car was coming out. I approached him and said 'this is not a parking space, you cannot park here' and the guy was so busy talking on his cell phone that he pretty much ignored him. I then said 'this is a fire hazard' and he ignored me as well. The owner of the car and someone from the church schmoozed with the cop, who basically did nothing and this guy should have received a ticket. His car was parked illegally for over an hour. These types of incidents make it hard for the people that live around the church to enjoy the festival. They need to have better control of the parking situation or move the festival. It is becoming a nuisance. I do not think the festival committee thinks enough of the citizens who live around the church. $20 in gift certificates does not compensate for all of the parking fiascoes and people trampling through yards and letting their children play soccer in yards of people the parents do not even know. If a soccer ball goes through someone's window, who is going to pay to fix that?

I emailed the city, the church and the Wards Corner civic league and got absolutely no response.

I'm bugged, can you tell.

Norfolk Greek Festival dish Loukoumades
The Loukoumades rock. Being disrespectful of their neighbors does not. As their website states "This year's 2010 Greek Festival, Tidewater's oldest and largest ethnic festival, set the record for the biggest-ever attendance." I think they have outgrown the current locale. Do we really need "one of Hampton Roads’ biggest tents" plunked down on Granby Street. It may be all fun if you are visiting the festival, but it is extremely inconvenient if it happens to be in your front yard. Could this festival be another example of nepotism in Norfolk?


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Do You "App" Before You Eat?
What is Your Restaurant Resouce?

It may come as no surprise that one of our favorite things to read about and talk about is food. Alex and I really look forward to our daily meals. We are always chatting about a recipe, or a dish we had recently, or where we want to eat next. I recently read the Pavarotti quote "One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating," and thought it hit the nail on the head! Like most people, we learn a lot about restaurants, good and bad, from friends and co-workers.

Another great resource is, of course, the Internet. I have a few favorite sites and Apps that I use. (I only use FREE Apps). I have found that local city newspapers/websites are a fairly reliable resource if you are heading to a major metropolitan area. A new App I like for New York, that also has a webpage is The Scoop, from the New York Times. There are four sections breaking down:NYT The Scoop App
1. Top 50 restaurants by Sam Sifton, NYT restaurant critic
2. Bars by Pete Wells, Dining editor of NYT
3. Weekly Events
4. Only in NYC
Each section is broken down into lists. Each entry is accompanied by a map with pin points, a short review, phone number and website. You can check off the list as you go and share with friends via Facebook, Twitter, email and text. Pretty cool.

YelpTwo sites I visit regularly are Yelp and Urbanspoon. Both have apps. I like and use both for different reasons. Yelp is wide open. Everyone and their brother are on there posting comments and rating everything from restaurants to the cleanliness of the restroom at the gas station. I know there has been a lot of controversy about Yelp lately (as in class action suit), but I believe that the majority of the comments are just plain folks, out and about in their lives voicing their very important opinions. You can pinpoint vindictiveness fairly easily and write those off for what they are. Negativity and anger are part of the package with any type of open comment forum online, unfortunately. More people will take the time to vent about bad experiences over good ones. I like to read comments from users who write a lot of reviews, because I believe these will be more balanced. Someone with only one or two reviews is typically on a mission to slam someone about a bad experience. All Yelp entries are rated on a five star system. You can make "friends" and follow people who review shared interests. Yelp's App is nice, user friendly and free. Like most, it uses GPS to target your location. Each business will display the address, user ratings, distance, and price range. There are feeds of your activities, your friends' ratings, and social-networking posting. It has a check-in feature that lets the user post where they are by selecting a location, leaving a "tip" as they call notes, and then posting to Yelp, Facebook and/or Twitter. An App is available for Blackberry, iPhone and Android.
Yelp Website
Yelp App
Urbanspoon Screenshot
Urbanspoon is restaurant centric, calling itself "the world's leading provider of time-critical dining data". You won't see three-quarters of the world in their directory yet, so there is plenty of work still to do, but I agree that they have established a vast database. Urbanspoon covers all bases with general public comments, newspaper/magazine reviews, and bloggers. It is mostly American, but also contains some Canadian, UK and Australian reviews. You can cast a simple "like" or "don't like" vote for each establishment, and can change this vote anytime in the future if your opinion changes. Written reviews are not required. All restaurants display a "like it" percentage at the top with reviews below. Many restaurants have a menu posted, a feature I like. Like Yelp, their App is good and free. A popular feature of their App is the "Shake". Shake your phone and a slot machine styled screen will randomly select a restaurant for you. This doesn't appeal to me as I usually know what I want, but I can appreciate the novelty. It uses GPS to search or browse a restaurant near you. There are filters for neighborhoods, types of food, features (delivery, etc., popularity. Urbanspoon also has a "friends" feature, but this is less popular than Yelp's, perhaps due to the mixed resources of the reviews.

An App is available for Blackberry, iPhone and Android.

Urbanspoon Website
Urbanspoon App

I would be remiss if I did not mention my lifeline, Google. Oh yes, I do so love the Google. Just type in what you want, for example, Thai in Norfolk, and read the results. Simplicity at its best.

Are there other sites or resources that you use? Let us know. We love to try new things!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mama Kwan's, Kill Devil Hills, NC

Mama Kwan's Sign
I will admit, until now, I was terrified of the reasonably priced restaurants on the Outer Banks. Here's why: I have had really bad food at some of them and just swore the others off. Thankfully, Christy and Claire had been to Mama Kwan's quite a few times and excitedly suggested it as an option for Saturday night. These are the people that you trust and think 'okay, if they say its good, let's go'. We pull up and immediately see what we think is a gray feral cat hanging out in the parking lot. We have to pet him and worry about his existence but fortunately, discover that he is Kwan, Jr., the well-fed and beloved cat of the restaurant. We all felt much better and could eat in peace knowing this about Kwan, Jr.

Mama Kwan's dish California Style Fish Tacos
Mama Kwan's menu has an Asian flare, but with some familiar casual dining selections. Appetizers range from wings and blackened tuna nachos to honey jerked chicken fingers and pork wontons. Sandwiches, salads, burgers and entrees, such as crab cakes, scallops and the infamous garbage plate make up the rest of the menu. I was torn between ordering one of two appetizers or an entree. I finally settled on the Pad Thai for $11.99 (plus $1 for an egg). You can add tuna, shrimp or chicken for a few bucks. Nikki ordered the California style fish tacos, which were highly recommended by our waitress for $12.99 (plus .75 for blackened), Claire chose the oriental chicken salad for $9.99 and Christy went with the wings ($8.99) and Thai Money Bags ($6.99 and a really cool name). I note the prices because everything is reasonable and portions are generous. The Pad Thai comes mild, medium or spicy and I opted for medium this time. I usually always go for spicy or hot, but with a new place, I wanted to be cautious and I think I would stick with medium going forward. The dish had a good amount of moisture, which is a plus since some Pad Thai meals are a little on the dry side. I was very excited about my meal. I tried one of the money bags and they were very cute to begin with and filled with shrimp and some vegetables. Its a take on an egg roll, but with less money and more bag. Christy said the wings were great did Claire in regards to the salad. I tried one of the tasty cucumbers, which are doused in Japanese rice vinegar. These are offered as a side, as is Butter Rum rice, which is on the list for my next visit. Nikki's fish tacos were huge, big enough to also necessitate a doggie bag (or kitty bag, as you will see) and she said they were some of the best she had ever had.

Mama Kwan's Drink Selections
Nikki had a glass of the house Pinot Grigio and was pleased, as were Christy and Claire with the margheritas (mango is a flavor option). With the margheritas, you get Mama Kwan cups to take home, so you can try to remember your evening the next day. Other frozen drinks come in Tiki mugs or parrot-shaped glasses. These are the kinds of drinks that put me on the floor and I was driving, so I had to steer clear. Mama Kwan's bar is a happening place. It was almost full from the time we arrived (sometime after 8pm, a little earlier this night) until we left (after 10pm). The restaurant has a 'tiki' feel and is bright and clean inside. Our waitress was nice, but quiet, so we had to ask her to repeat a few things. Unlike, the jerk at Tortuga, this gal was very nice and happy to oblige. Mama Kwan's dish Chicken Wings

Leaving the restaurant, we saw Kwan, Jr. sleeping on one of the benches outside. Again, we had to pet him, but this time felt better since he is the resident kitty at Kwan's. On our way home, we stopped for gas and saw a few feral kittens hiding in the brush by the gas station. Immediately, Nikki's leftover fish tacos were donated to the kittens. Its sad that people do not take care of their pets (spay or neuter) and these poor things have no homes. We hope that the fish tacos took care of them for a bit and hope for their best. They were shy, but I know they devoured Nikki's leftovers as soon as we pulled out. We were all happy to give to these cuties and only wish we had had more to offer to them. Some cities have a feral cat program where volunteers catch them, spay or neuter and then release the cats where they found them. The Outer Banks has a large feral cat population and this would be a good idea for the area.

Mama Kwan's is open daily for lunch and dinner and I will definitely be a repeat customer. Look for Kwan, Jr. to greet you.

Mama Kwan's resident cat, Kwan Jr

Mama Kwan's
Mile Post 10 on the 158 Bypass
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Mama Kwan's Grill & Tiki Bar on Urbanspoon

Tortuga's Lie, Nags Head, NC

Tortuga's Lie exterior
I had only had one prior experience at Tortuga's Lie before this past weekend and let's just say it was not a great memory. First, this place gets PACKED during regular summer dining hours (6-8pm) and unless I am somewhere I am dying to eat, usually I cannot stand to wait. Second, I ordered the Steamed Vegetable Plate which was probably a mistake on my part. That's what I get for trying to eat healthy. This second visit proved very different. If you go at 10pm, there is no wait! Novel idea, eh. We bellied up to the bar to survey the menu and quell our hunger. I thought about the white pizza or the nachos supreme, but then the appetizer special caught my eye, a Cajun shrimp quesadilla stuffed with shoepeg corn, sweet red pepper, red onion, cheddar and jack cheese. One of my companions, Claire also ordered the quesadilla. We both thought the dish was great. Just the right size of a 10pm meal and the Cajun shrimp gave it a twist. I must mention, not much sour cream is on the plate, so ask for extra. Nikki and Christy ordered the crab cake sandwich, Island fries for Nikki's side and beans and rice for Christy's. I swiped some of the fries and they are spicy and delicious. Nikki and Christy were both happy and said the crab cake had hardly any filler, if any at all. I noticed on the menu that Tortuga's only carries this seasonally because they use local crab meat. Extra points for Tortuga's for going local. Seasonal can also mean a price variation, but its worth it for local fare.

The daily specials are always of interest. One that caught my eye, in addition to the quesadilla was the salad du jour. Pepper grilled salmon, gold pineapple, sweet red pepper, grilled portabellas and a sesame ginger dressing topped with p-nuts and scallions. Prices are reasonable; this salad was around $11 and the quesadilla was $10.

Now, let's chat about atmosphere. T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are all acceptable, as Tortuga's is very, very casual. It is not a big place, but eating at the bar is fine unless the jerk that worked when we dined is manning the bar. When we asked him to repeat the specials, he actually had the nerve to say 'do I really need to say that again'. We were all quite taken aback and he lost credibility and tip money the second that came out of his mouth. We never stiff a waiter because that makes us look bad and its just not good manners, but he definitely worked himself out of what could have been a good darn tip. Tortuga needs to give him a little talking to.

Besides the jerk, we had a great meal because we had a great group of people. The initial bad reaction I had to Tortuga's has been erased and I will definitely go again, just not during the rush since I have little patience.


Tortuga's Lie is open Monday-Sunday 11:30am-10pm.

Tortugas' Lie
MP 11 on the Beach Road
3014 S Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959
Tortugas' Lie Shellfish Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Vineyards Trattoria and Pizzeria - Norfolk, VA

The Vineyard Trattoria and Pizzeria Awning
Recently, I dined twice at The Vineyard Trattoria and Pizzeria in downtown Norfolk. A few nights ago, a friend and I went to dinner after the Art Everywhere event downtown. It was a hard choice from the many appealing menu items, but I decided to order the Four Cheese Manicotti and my friend, Zola, ordered the Focaccia Salad. My entree came with a side salad and the waitress brought garlic knots for us to enjoy while we waited for our food. The restaurant was not busy and our food came within a reasonable amount of time. The manicotti was a generous portion, good and $10.50. Zola's salad was set on top of pizza crust, which I sampled and it was fresh and delicious and lead me to think the Vineyard pizzas are great choices. The salad portion of her meal was not huge and only $7, but if you are looking for more greens than pizza dough, order another salad. They have quite a few from which to choose. I figured I would give the dessert menu a look and wanted the white chocolate cheesecake, but they were out of that (my luck), so I chose the Tiramisu and was very pleased, thankfully. I have had one or two versions of Tiramisu that had too much liqueur and was not able to eat them. I was nervous, but The Vineyard's take on this dessert was just right. We received 15% off as the restaurant participated in the Art Everywhere event; a nice little discount. My bill before tip was less than $15. Not bad, especially at the dinner hour.

My next visit to Vineyard was for lunch. Laine and I, and two other friends, ventured over a little after noon and snagged one of the last open tables. The waitress took our orders and brought the garlic knots and then wait began. All four of us were pretty hungry and had a few garlic knots while waiting. The knots were flavorful and the waitress was not shy about bringing more when we had eaten the first round. I ordered the Mona Lisa Panini, roasted red peppers, eggplant, spinach and mozzarella on focaccia bread. When it finally came, forty-five minutes later, it was wonderful, very fresh and came with a side salad, always a nice addition to any sandwhich. Two of our party ordered the Chicken Parmesan Sandwhich and both were pleased. Theirs also came with a side salad. One ordered a cannoli to go, so Laine and I will have to find out how it is. My food was wonderful and the prices are more than reasonable, but the wait was entirely too long. When we arrived, the two-top next to us had just started their salads and then they had pasta and had paid their bill and left before our food even appeared. We had heard that wait was a little long from some co-workers, but forty-five minutes for a salad and a few sandwhiches is a bit extreme. I definitely do not want to blacklist The Vineyard, but I know the next time I visit, I will push them a little and ask for the check as soon as my food arrives. Most of the patrons are on their lunch hour and it is called a lunch HOUR for a reason. I cannot imagine how long it would have been if we had had a larger party. Eek. Highly recommended but watch the time.


The food was great. I ordered a steak salad that is not listed on the Newport News menu, but probably should be. The steak melted in my mouth. Ordered medium rare and cooked to perfection, it nicely complemented mixed greens and a light balsamic dressing. As for the garlic knots, they saved our lives. This meal took forever. If they want to cater to a business lunch crowd they seriously need to work on timing. Sandwiches and a rare steak don't take 45 minutes. This may be a better place for dinner when time is not an issue.

The downtown location does not have a website, but refer to the Newport News location's site for the menu.

147 Granby St
Norfolk, VA 23510
(757) 222-0431
The Vineyards on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Federico's Italian Restaurant - Virginia Beach, VA

I used to eat lunch and occasionally dinner at Federico’s when I worked off Baxter Road and lived in that area. However, that was about 6 years ago, and I haven’t been there since. A social function placed Alex and me near Virginia Beach Town Center a couple of weekends ago, looking for a place to eat dinner. I’m sure the Town Center group wouldn’t like hearing this, but there just aren’t any restaurants in the Town Center that get me very excited. They are all upscale chains which lack the passion and originality that you can find in a privately owned and operated restaurant. When you have a person pouring their heart, soul and life’s earnings into a business interesting things happen.
Federico's Italian Restaurant colors red and yellow
Pulling up to the front of Federico’s was a bit shocking. Who had the great idea of painting it yellow and red? Bozo the clown? For a brief moment I wondered if it was now a Mexican Restaurant, but a peek inside proved me wrong. Egad, the interior was yellow and red too. For the record, I am not a hater of yellow and red. In fact, I have a chair that is yellow with red piping…very tastefully done, but this was a little bit too much “in your face”. That said, no emails from the People for Ethical Treatment of Colors, okay. Check out their website and you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Shocking contrast. Plus, there is a typo in the website header. The spelling is r-e-s-t-a-u-r-a-n-t, not r-e-s-t-a-r-a-u-n-t. Note to owner: Hire a professional designer. If you don’t know any, I know several good ones I can refer.

We were kind of early, arriving at about 6:30 PM and they were empty with the exception of two large parties. A senior prom table of about 12 and a senior citizen table of about 12, another contrast. Both seemed jovial and were wrapping up their meals. Of course, we get seated right next to one of these tables. Why spread us all out? One of the senior gents moved his chair around to chat with one of the ladies at the table. He might as well have just sat in Alex’s lap. He was literally at our table, completely blocking the walkway or access to our table.

Our waitress was sort of out there, as in outer space. I ordered a vodka martini and received it sans garnish. Gasp! The olives are the best part. When I mentioned the oversight, I got a loopy ‘oh yeah’ response, and the drink returned with three fat olives. Then she asked if we were ready to order, but we had not been told the specials. “Oh yeah”… again. She stumbled though the specials, which were completely unexciting, and we ordered.
Federico's Italian Restaurant dish Pecse Rosalina
Their menu is quite broad. I ordered the Pesce Rosalina, red snapper filet panko encrusted and pan seared over butternut squash stuffed ravioli and artichoke pesto topped with tropical jumbo lump crab salsa. It is the second most expensive menu item, next to a steak dish. When I asked the waitress if she would recommend it, she said she didn’t know. She’d never had it. Jeez, time to just give up on her. Our meals arrived in a reasonable amount of time. When not at work, we are a bit more relaxed about time, and Alex and I are never at a loss for topics of conversation. The dish was quite a lovely presentation. Breaking it down into pieces, the ravioli and artichoke pesto was to die for. That could and should be a standalone dish on the menu. The snapper was just okay. The fish was cooked perfectly but the encrusted layer was completely blasé. It had no discernible flavor. The salsa was incredibly delicious, but cold. I felt that topping the warm ravioli, with warm fish, and then cold salsa to be a bad layering combination. The salsa needed to be warm too. It just didn’t seem to go together well.

Obviously, Federico’s did not impress me. If someone else wanted to go there, I wouldn’t get upset, but it is not a destination I would choose. They are closed on Monday, offer wine specials Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and have early bird specials daily from 4-6pm.


Like Laine, I had been to Federico's in the past when we worked nearby, but honestly, I cannot remember my meal. Bad sign? Not sure, but I was up for Italian and we were in the area, which is a rarity these days. I agree with Laine in that our waitress needed to check back in to her job. She was pleasant, but just not connected and while I do not want a server sitting at my table with me, I expect them to know the specials and serve what was requested quickly. Federico's has good bread, usually a positive sign of the meal to come.

I am glad the gent from the nearby (too near) party did not end up in my lap. The center tables are a little close to the outer booths. This might be due to the two large parties Laine mentioned, but with almost the rest of the place empty, I think we could have been seated in a better location. I do not care if the waitress has to walk a few extra steps; the place is not that big. The colors reminded me of the Mount Gay Rum shops in Barbados. While the red and yellow works on those buildings, it does not work for an Italian restaurant located in Virginia Beach. It seems Federico's is trapped between the old school red and white checked Italian decor and trying to be somewhat modern. Stick with retro.
Federico's Italian Restaurant dish Tortellini Alfredo
I ordered the Tortellini Alfredo which came with ham and mushrooms. When I asked if I might have the dish without ham, she said no problem. Good answer, as I was not in the mood to haggle on this particular evening. I was hungry and glad the food arrived quickly. My dish was good. I am a sucker for a cream sauce and this one was just the right consistency, not too thick or watery as some can be. The price was $12, which is standard for similar pasta dishes elsewhere and portion size was very fair. Laine and I always have a good time and it was nice to not be on the one hour clock watch and outside of downtown for once.

I would recite the entire dessert menu, but it is not online and the waitress read it to us. No memory now except what I ordered, the Italian Lemon Cake. Very light with a hint of lemon and quite good, as it should be for $8.

I concur with Laine that I might not go out of my way to suggest Federico's but would go if someone suggested and I was in the area.


357 Independence Boulevard
Virginia Beach, VA 23462-2822
(757) 497-1445

Federico's Italian on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

YNot Pizza, Ghent - Norfolk, VA

YNot Pizza interior
A vacancy on Colley Avenue worried a few residents. What would go in the space, please something with good food and no chains of any kind. Fortunately, the owner of YNOT Pizza in Virginia Beach, secured the spot and a steady stream of customers. I had dined at the Great Neck Road location a few times and once at the Kempsville YNOT and was elated to have a location so close. I walked up to YNOT for dinner with Chas and business was booming at a good level. The place was packed but we only waited five minutes for seating. Immediately, I saw the Five Cheese pizza and knew that was me. Chas opted for the Deluxe. Both of our 14 inch pies came out quickly and we were both extremely happy with the food and service. Chas is not a fan of the interior and describes it as 'chainish'. The previous occupants had built a large bar with dark wooden wall shelves and YNOT kept these components. It does not bother me, but I can see Chas' point. They could probably just add a few things to the shelves so they are not totally bare and it would help. You do have to look at it this way too though...why spend a ton of money renovating when you do not really have to. YNOT kept most of the seating layout the same, but did update upholstery and paint and add their infamous dessert counter. Their pizza making area is exposed, so you can watch them twirl the dough. Always wanted to try that but coordination is not usually one of my strengths. The said dessert counter is a wonderful display of cakes, cannoli, cookies and 12-14 types of gelato. You are free to ask for a taste of any or all of the gelato flavors. This dessert counter is sinful and has lots of evil (read good) options. The blond brownie called my name. I ordered a small of caramel and of cookies and cream gelato to taste and both were good. They serve the blondie warm, which is great, but I should have asked because it contains nuts and chocolate chips. I prefer my blondies all blond. Not any fault of YNOT, as I did not ask before I ordered and of course, it was not bad, I just prefer them sans nuts and chocolate chips.

My next visit was during lunch on a Saturday. Nikki, a good friend and I arrived around 1pm and were seated quickly. There were still quite a few diners, but it was not quite as it seems to be at night. YNOT has a daily pizza special, soup special and sandwich or pasta special. Nikki ordered the special stuffed meat lovers slice and a Caesar salad. OUr friend ordered two slices of the white pizza with spinach and tomato and I, of course, ordered my Five Cheese. I thought about getting a pasta because all of those look wonderful as they come out of the kitchen, but I was in a pizza mood. Again, my meal was great. Our friend enjoyed her white pizza, but Nikki's meal did not turn out as well. The croûtons on the salad were store bought (as in from a box) and this is a faux pas in her book because she typically makes her own croûtons and believes any decent restaurant should do the same. I have to agree. She thought the pizza was too bready and I reminded her that she did order the 'stuffed' version which means crust on both sides and she yielded her criticism because she should have realized that when she ordered the special. Stuffed usually means more dough. I saw a few friends. Its good to know locals are making their way to the new YNOT. The dessert counter appears in the distance again. The Knock Out cake and Stracciatella gelato struck my fancy this day. This cake is so good and full of chocolaty goodness that it does knock you out. Stracciatella tastes like white chocolate icing to me and I love it. I was a genious to pair this with the three layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing. Did I mention chocolate? It is not as overwhelming as it sounds. I used to only order the most chocolate dessert available but in recent years my tastes have turned more towards the caramel, peanut butter, butterscotch and cinnamon options. If something is too chocolate, I do not usually like it nowadays, but the Knock Out cake is not that way. Probably great for a chocolate fanatic, but not so much to put someone else off.

In between the Saturday lunch and the Laine and Alex adventure I am about to move onto, I have had a few dinners at YNOT...always the Five Cheese pizza and always good service. I had the carrot cake during one visit and the black and white cookie on another and both were excellent. Laine and I had toyed with driving over to YNOT during lunch, but the weekday time crunch we encounter when leaving the downtown area deters us at times. Chas was in town and agreed to pick us up and head over to YNOT. This makes a 'trip' much more doable in our lunch hour, or so we thought. We were seated quickly and placed our orders...Chas and I both had Stromboli,I the Four Cheese and Chas the Veggie.
YNot PIzza dish Veggie Stromboli

We shared ours and honestly, I have a hard time deciding which is better...the cheese was very similar to the my beloved pizza, but the vegetable was equally tasty and probably a tad more nutritious.

YNot PIzza dish Four Cheese StromboliThe Stromboli are an excellent size for lunch or a smaller meal and reasonable, with both priced at under $7. A small Five Cheese runs you $14.99 and it is worth every cent, but if you are trying to avoid leftovers, the Stromboli is a better option. I have yet to try one, but the Calzone look to be close in size to the Stromboli and are in the same price range. My only negative comment about YNOT to date is how long we had to wait for our is a lunch HOUR, as Laine and I have had to remind restaurateurs many times, and it over thirty minutes for our food to arrive. That meant we had to cram out meals down, get the check and get back to the office in the other twenty minutes since we took ten to get there initially. That puts a damper on the meal and I hate having to rush like that at lunch. I rush enough weekday mornings. I do not want to rush during my lunch hour too. It makes us think before going to lunch there again during the workday.

Overall, I am a big fan of YNOT. While dine-in lunch might be hard during the workweek for anyone outside of Ghent, I definitely have them on my rotating dinner list. They offer pick-up and delivery and you are also able to place your order online. Outdoor seating is available if you want some fresh air while you eat.

Two thumbs up!
YNot Pizza dish White Pizza
I have been a YNot fan since living off Shore Drive back in the 90's. I like the Ghent location just as well. The interior still needs a little work in my opinion too. There is evidence of the former bar that still hasn't been completely converted, but overall the interior is designed using warm, relaxing colors. I ordered 2 slices of white pizza and a soda. As Alex mentions, it took FOREVER to get our lunch. I'm blaming it on the Stromboli, because I'm pretty sure my pizza was already cooked and waiting. However, YNot does not skimp on portions or content. Everything was delicious!


YNOT is open daily for lunch and dinner and is located at 1517 Colley Avenue in Ghent.
YNot Pizza on Urbanspoon

Did you know that YNot will deliver Pizza or other Italian food to your office when you order online? Choose you city from the links below to find out more....
Delivery of Pizza in Virginia Beach
Delivery of Pizza in Chesapeake
Delivery of Pizza in Norfolk

The Spotted Pig - New York, NY

The Spotted Pig dish Chargrilled Burger with Fries

For three years now, Nikki has been wanting to visit The Spotted Pig in the Village. The first year, we passed it up for a restaurant of my chosing and I have never heard the end of it. Finally, we took the subway to the Village and found it tucked down a residential street. We almost passed it, but I spotted the pig hanging above the doorway. We arrived around 11am, early to ensure we nabbed a seat for brunch. The Pig has a pub atmosphere and a friendly staff, of which there is a lot. We had three waiters in the first few minutes. An eccletic list of songs plays as you dine. We were seated at a small table by the window, good for watching the Village life outside. Nikki had read that the deviled eggs were out of this world, so I insisted on ordering those, even though I also ordered the Frittata with Asparagus & Ricotta (sometimes the asparagus is a subsitute for broccoli rabe). Eggs and more eggs. Nikki ordered the Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese, about which she had heard good things. When I told the waiter I would like a side of homefries, he did warn me that the burger came with fries, but I had no idea he meant a mountain of fries, so I insisted on my $7 side because as Laine and I always say, we are made of money. (Note sarcasm here.) The deviled eggs arrived and you get two for $3, and trust me, these are well worth it. Sundried tomato and parsely top the eggs and the deviled meant that the egg was almost a whipped consistency, very creamy and sinfully good. Nikki has the recipe from a write up in The New York Times and I have already commissioned her to make them soon. Demanded, really. (For Deviled Eggs Recipe, Click HERE.)

When our entrees arrived, my jaw hit the floor. My frittata was a good size and the homefries were fine, but the burger came with a Mount Everest side of shoestrings. Literally, the fries were piled five inches or so up on the plate. I told the waiter he was not kidding when he warned me. My frittata was extrememly tasty and the home fries were very different in a positive light. They were cooked in a reduction type of sauce or glaze. Worth $7? Probably, but I do wish I had listened to the waiter because we had way too much food. Nikki said the burger was good, but Roquefort cheese is very salty and she had slight meal regret and wishes she had tried another brunch item. Next time, of course, because we both enjoyed our time at The Pig and look forward to another meal there. I did not opt for dessert, as we were sure we would see something while walking through the Village. See Magnolia Bakery and prepare for mouth watering. The Spotted Pig dish Asparagus and Ricotta Frittata

There are quite a few brunch items. Eggs cooked a variety of ways, cornbeef hash, oysters, duck egg, French toast and a grilled cheese are a few. In addition to the deviled eggs, you can order chicken liver toast, a pot of pickes and a few other appetizers. The prices are mid-range. The burger was $17 and the frittata was $15, not including the $7 homefries. The Spotted Pig dish Home FriesThe Spotted Pig is well known and you may have a wait if you arrive during prime time, especially during dinner. It is worth the wait though and you can give you name and cell number and the hosts will call you when a table is ready. Tour the West Village while you wait. They have maps! Another plus about the Village is you might run into a familiar face while you are walking around. Many celebrities live in the Village and I would imagine feel more comfortable walking around there than somewhere like Midtown. We saw Alan Rickman on our way to The Pig.


The Spotted Pig is located at 614 W. 11th Street @Greenwich Street, New York, New York 10014. They are open Monday thru Friday for lunch, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and every day for dinner.

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Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria, Nolita - New York, NY

Nikki read this review in The New York Times on Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria in Nolita, the latest from Keith McNally of Odeon in TriBeCA, Cafe Luxembourg, uptown on the West Side, Lucky Strike on Grand Street and Nell's on 14th Street. Sunday, we again arrived early since this restaurant was covered recently in the paper and when that happens, everyone rushes to try out the new kid in town. At 10:30, the restaurant was almost full and very lively. We waited about five to ten minutes, but were enjoying the atmosphere. The Times noted the pizzas, which included breakfast version in addition to the lunch and dinner varieties. I cannot think of a restaurant in Norfolk that has a breakfast pizza, so I knew that is what I would choose, but it was hard as quite a few other breakfast dishes and pizzas sounded superb. Nikki noticed the raddicio, citrus and pancetta salad, so we began there. This is not a dinner salad, but more of an appetizer to share or combine with a small pizza. I do not eat pancetta, but it was easy to pick around and the salad was extremely refreshing. Radicchio, honey infused orange slices, sunchokes, pecorino and a light dressing, something of a vinegar base. This was an ultimate combination for a refreshing salad. I had not had sunchokes before and I have certainly been missing out on this delicious vegetable. Sunchokes look almost like a mushroom, but are chewy and chocked full of flavor. I am now on the hunt for this item and this is another dish Nikki plans to replicate, lucky for me.

For the entree course, I settled on the Spinaci breakfast pizza, topped with spinach, grana, mascarpone and egg. Nikki ordered the Salsiccia, which came topped with bacon, sausage, egg and white cheddar. The pizzas are on a thin crust and a small is very managable. If you are hungry, opt for a large. For a reference, the small and large are both larger than Fellini's small and large sizes and the breakfast pizzas are less in terms of cost. I also spotted the Frutta, another breakfast pizza topped with sugar, cinnamon, pears and pecorino. The waiter brough that after our entree pizzas and we each sample some and I packed the rest for the road. I like it a lot, but it is more of a dessert to share than a meal. To really make the most of the meal, I had to spy the dessert menu. A newer addition, the **hazelnut torte, caught my eye and I am glad it did. The 'torte' was the consistency of a very soft bread, generously topped with hazelnut pieces and paired with granita, cream and a light, carrot based sauce. The combination sounded so novel and the taste was astonishing. The torte part was not very sweet so that it did not overpowered the rest of the flavors. This was a light, moderately sweet dessert that would I believe most would enjoy.

Burgers are served only after midnight (supper) and if you do not crave a pizza, there are daily specials, such as duck, goat meatballs and lets not forget the roasted grapefruit with muscovado sugar & mint in the morning. Pasta, lamb, roasted mussels and a NY Strip all appear on the menu as do various types of proscuitto.

Pulino's is bustling with energy and table service is very good, but this is not the venue for a quiet meal. The noise level is excitingly loud and bounces off of the subway tile walls and rustic brick interior. You can enjoy the constant hum of conversation from others. The only complaint we had was that the bartender did not warn Nikki that you cannot purchase alcohol in NYC before noon. We do not remember this from our prior trips, but its possible, we did not eat before noon on those trips. Nikki ordered one of the three or four bloody Mary's offered and the description included vodka, but he never told her that before noon, they are all virgin. She paid the $11 sticker price, plus tip, at the bar and was about to order another round at the table, when the waiter asked her if she knew they were virgin until noon. We were both shocked, not at the alcohol law, which is also in effect in North Carolina (not surprising there, but in NYC, really?), but at the fact that the bartender did not inform her when she ordered the first drink. $11 for tomato juice and spices is a bit extreme. During the 'virgin hours', these drinks should be half of the price of the full on beverage, or even less. That is just taking advantage and we were thankful the waiter was nice enough to let us know before we had a $25 bill for more tomato juice. Shame on you, Pulino's Sunday brunch bartender but thank you **, our nice and helpful server.

Pulini's is very busy during Sunday brunch and word on the street is it is also busy during dinner, so call and see if they will take a reservation or be prepared to wait at the bar (watch out for the drinks on Sunday mornings!). The restaurant is open from 8:30am-2am and the menu breaks down by time, breakfast, brunch, mini lunch, lunch, late lunch, dinner and supper, so you can go any time and try some of the fare. Pulino's is located in Nolita at 282 Bowery @Houston , New York, New York 10012.


Pulino's is featured as one of New York City's top 10 Summer Hot spots. To view the slide show Click Here.
*Website is under contruction, but menu is available here
Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

3Way Cafe - Norfolk, VA

3 Way Cafe Dining Room
Laine and I saw the 'opening soon' sign in the window as we walked by one day a few weeks ago and said 'hey what is this going to be'. 3 Way Cafe is what. Our friend and colleague mentioned it had opened and he had been,so we decided to check it out for ourselves (the only way we will truly rate a restaurant). I think we were both looking for something new and this cafe has clever names for the salads and sandwiches. A quick walk from the office, 3 Way Cafe proved to be a worthy undertaking. Orders are taken at the counter by very friendly staff, a few of whom I recognize from Baxter's Sports Lounge, which is owned by the same family as 3 Way Cafe and the former Sterling. After paying, you receive your bottled soda, or cup for the self-serve soda fountain and pick a seat. The booths are spacious and comfortable and our food arrived within ten minutes. There were four items that caught my attention and I went with the first (instinct is always right, eh?), the Veg Out sandwich. The nice girl at the counter asked me if the Parmesan chips were okay as the side, as that is what accompanies the sandwiches. I said 'heck yea, I was going to ask for those anyway'. Now, I did not ask if there was an additional charge to subsitute another side, a small salad, blue cheese slaw or fries amongst others. Laine and I will find out the next go round. Note, I hate extra charges for things like that at casual dining places. Afterall, this is not the French Laundry.
3 Way Cafe interior
Onto the meal. I thoroughly enjoyed my sandwhich, marinated portabello caps, arugula, roasted tomatoes, feta and herb aioli on a ciabatta role. My only immediate recommendation would be to add a little more arugula. The flavors were great, but a little more of the lettuce family would give some complementary filler and crunch to this sandwich. The ciabatta role was definitely store-bought, but for $6.99, I was not in tears over that detail. On the flip side, homemade bread always earns a plethora of points, if 3 Way Cafe is reading this entry. I enjoyed the Parmesan chips, ruffled with a dousing of cheese, olive oil and spices and they were something different. Portions are standard, slightly less than, say Nordstrom. Fountain sodas are $1.59 and self-serve allows you to refill at your pleasure. This adds cred to a restaurant's profile, as do to-go cup tops, which were also on hand.
3 Way Cafe dish Portobello Sandwich
From the looks of the logo, three men in fedora's and pinstripe suits, there is a gangster undertone. Laine remarked on the background music selections and I have to also comment, the tunes have more of a speakeasy feel, but the decor does not relfect this same theme and there is no liquor license, currently. Nevertheless, I will definitely return. The price point is fair, the food is decent and service for us was fine. Baxter, Sr. came over to see how we liked our meal and spoke kindly from where he sat near the door, as we departed. We arrived around 12:15pm and about 10 minutes later, the ordering counter was packed, so we beat the rush. 3 Way Cafe opened this week and hopefully the crown will grow and I would much rather have that than have them become one of the many restaurants that fail in the first few years. Downtown needs more places like this and less places with bar food. How many bad salads with bottled dressing and fried cheese can a person eat? Good job 3 Way Cafe.

Late addition: I had lunch again today and ordered the Vegan Burger. Instead of the Parmesan chips, I opted for the Blue Cheese Slaw as my side. Seems like you can substitute without an extra charge or hassle. The burger is called vegan for a reason. They ask if you want cheese but it does not come with it and I did not add any. In retrospect, I think I should have (I am not vegan). Caramelized onions and sautéed peppers top the burger on a ciabatta roll. All around good, just need a little cheese and some ketchup (I love ketchup). The slaw was good, but you need to like blue cheese since that is the main flavor, and lets be honest, blue cheese is potent. I think adding a few nuts, probably Walnuts, might be a good addition to this slaw. It would also balance out some of the blue cheese. My lunch pal noticed that there was not any sweetener for the tea. 3 Way has the Gold Tea brand set up where one 'tank' dispenses four different teas, unsweetened, sweetened, diet and usually a flavored. Diet was not an option, so he mixed sweetened and unsweetened since the sweetener caddy was no where in site. Personally, I like to artificially sweeten my own tea, so I opted for Diet Coke. 3 Way Cafe dish Side SaladMy pal ordered the Cali-Shix salad, though a friend told him the salads were on the smaller side as we were walking out of the building. He was excited about the avocado, which I concur, makes a salad great. On our way out, one of the 3 Way folks asked me how I liked the Vegan Burger and said I was the first to order it. I said it was good, but I would add cheese. Laine and I are always honest. It was nice that he asked and that they care about customers reactions. Plus, now I feel important to have been the first to order something. My five seconds of fame. Maybe I can make the chalkboard where 3 Way announces whatever national day it is (national popsicle day, national sandwich day, etc). My pal grabbed one of the Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and said it was marginal. They look soft in the case, but are actually hard. Other desserts, cheesecake, lemon marscapone and crumb cake, sound appealing and I will report back when another is tasted.
3 Way Cafe drink
Alex and I are always on a hunt for new places to eat that have a nice variety on the menu, reasonable prices and,of course, good food. Throw in some good service, and cheap sodas (ALWAYS looking for those) and you've got a home run. 3Way Cafe made me happy. Additionally, I was glad to see that something was finally filling the former Blue Plate restaurant on Plume Street. The spot had been vacant far to long. With the arrival of light rail sometime this century, it should be a good business location.
3 Way Cafe dish Cali Chix Salad

For a restaurant that just opened, they were surprisingly efficient. Of course, these are not restaurant neophytes in charge here, but seasoned, experienced restaurateurs. The counter service was brisk. They got a lot of questions from inquiring minds, and were efficient in handling them. I typically get salads at lunch, primarily because I like to eat salads but I don't like to make salads. They have some interesting choices and don't get all bent out of shape when you 'tweak' their recipe. I especially like that you can add chicken, steak, shrimp or salmon to your salad for a minimal fee. I ordered their Greek Salad and added the Herbed Salmon. It was exactly what I wanted. Our friend "B" headed out with us that day, and ordered the Cali Chix sans Chix. She said it was good. Lastly, I have to admit that I was excited to see Coke Zero on tap. They have nice, upgraded to-go cups too, so I could fill 'er up before heading back to the cell block, I mean work.

So far, so good 3Way Cafe!


Open Monday-Friday 11am-3pm
216 Plume Street in downtown Norfolk
You can call or fax in your order
Phone: (757) 939-2855
Fax: (757) 939-2856.
Catering and delivery is available ($2 charge on orders under $30)
3Way Cafe on Urbanspoon