Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Top Five - "Junk Food"

Alex and I really do try to eat healthy. Honestly, we do! But it seems like there are tempting treats and treasures lurking everywhere we go. Today we pay homage to some of our favorite local indulgences.

Best French Fries

219 An American Bistro Logo
1. 219 (sweet potato)
2. AW Shucks
3. Green Onion (pommes frites!)
4. Hell’s Kitchen
5. Press 626

Best Mac n Cheese

A.W. Shucks Logo
1. AW Shucks
2. Todd Jurich's Bistro
3. 219
4. Green Onion
5. Tortilla West

Best Nachos

1. Tortilla West
2. Havana
3. No Frill
4. Croc’s
5. Hell’s Kitchen

Best Pizza

Fellini's Logo
1. Fellini’s
2. YNOT - Colley Ave.
3. Bella
4. Chesapeake Pizza
5. Pizza Vera

Best Dessert

The Jewiish Mother Logo
1. Jewish Mother - Granby
2. 219 (tie)
2. No Frill (tie)
3. Nordstrom Cafe
4. Town Point Club
5. Chocolage

Bean There Cafe - City Hall Ave, Norfolk, VA

Bean There Cafe Exterior
Laine and I went to Bean There a while back and I cannot remember what I had, but probably an iced tea. I remember thinking it was fine, but the $4 price tag did not have me rushing back. Laine and I are constantly scrutinizing drink costs, particularly sodas and iced tea, in restaurants, so you might imagine we are not gals who regularly pay $4 for a non-alcoholic beverage. But, you gotta splurge every now and then, and today, we decided to give Bean There another shot. Bring on overpriced drinks - not a hit at Bean There, just at the industry in general.

Let me back up for just a few sentences before I give today’s details. Some friends and I were at the Brewfest at Town Point park a few weeks ago and I decided I was in dire need of an iced Chai latte. This was an unusual feeling for me, but I had ordered a Chai latte a few days prior on a whim and of course, became temporarily hooked. At $4 a pop, for very short window of satisfaction, it would not behoove me to become addicted to these. Being anything but an expert at ordering things outside of a Diet Coke, unsweetened iced tea and vodka shots, I was not rolling with my A-game. I asked for an iced Chai latte with the sugar free vanilla syrup. After they finished mixing, I realized they did not ask me what kind of milk I wanted. Using my small number of Starbucks experiences as a reference, I thought coffee places always asked you what kind, skim, soy, whole? Well, Bean There did not ask and of course, gave me whole. Besides kids, who drinks whole milk anymore? I thought everyone had hopped on the skim trend wagon a long time ago. Even my 85 year old grandmother drinks skim and trust me, she is old school, no diet trends for her. I should have asked them to change it, but I had a temporary lapse of reason and instead chose a cookie to go. Bean There carries Lenora Bell sweets and the Oatmeal Raisin and White Chocolate Macademia cookies are divine. I grabbed a white chocolate and my whole milk latte and hit the door. Still today, I think they should have asked me what type of milk I wanted, grumble.
Bean There Cafe: Large Iced Chai Latte

Fast forward to this morning, I was fully paying attention when I ordered my ‘large iced Chai latte, skim milk, LIGHT ice and the sugar free vanilla syrup’. The guy stared at me for a moment. No one ever stares at you at Starbucks when you rattle off some complicated order - double shot of this, light that. Note my light ice request. At $4, these drinks do not need a ton of ice. I want every penny of my Chai and skim milk. When the drink came out, it was missing at least a half inch of liquid at the top. This is not hot coffee, to which I would add milk. Fill er up! I nicely asked for some extra skim milk, which they did add, but it still was not filled to the top as it should have been. Bean There just did not want to work with me, apparently.

Bean There Cafe Pastry Case

Bean There Cafe: Creme Brulee Danish

On a more positive note, the dessert case is phenomenal and the Creme Brulee Danish was mine for the choosing. Back at the office, I sampled it and this treasure was worth every $2.35 cent of the cost. You have to love spending over $7 before 10am for a drink you kill within minutes and a mini danish. Living high on the hog today, my friends.


Bean There Cafe Specials

I am a member of the > .001% of American society who could not care less about coffee. I like it when it is good. I dump it when it tastes bad. I drink it most days with hazelnut flavored cream and Splenda. I will purchase a cup of coffee only a handful of times a year, usually at someone else’s today.

Bean There Cafe has all the usual coffee shop milieu. It is funky and there is plenty of cushy seating strategically arranged for singles or groups. Assorted people linger on their computers. I wonder if they are unemployed or if their homes are so unpleasant that they prefer to be out. I decide they just need some free wi-fi. I note that Bean There Cafe has added some new, non-bean items, like Beer, Wine and Quiche. These additions single-handedly increase the chance that I will return more frequently by approximately 50%.

Bean There Cafe Beer and Wine Selection

Today I ordered a Latte. (Yawn, I know.) No drama involved in my order. Skim milk, 3 Splenda. It tasted just like coffee. I did not dump it out. Who knows, maybe in 6 months I will go totally berserk and return to order a café au lait.

The End

223 East City Hall Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23510

(757) 623-5282

Open Mon-Thu 7am-9pm;
 Fri 7am-10:30pm;
Sat 7am-10pm;
Sun 7am-5pm

Train Stop: MacArthur Square

Lenora Belle Cookies and Cakes

Bean There, Coffee House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 25, 2011

Todd Jurich's Bistro, Norfolk, VA

Two words, Lunch HOUR, note the capitalization. Laine, myself and one of our favorite friends decided to try Todd Jurich’s Bistro for restaurant week. I had not been there in a few years and the last experience included Nikki’s* dish having to be sent back for salt overkill and then bagged potato chips...remember, Jurich’s falls under the fine dining category. I hoped this time would be better for Jurich’s sake and for ours, but only half of my wish was granted. I made a reservation to avoid waiting since we would be on our lunch hour. Proactive thinking does not always result in a positive outcome. We were seated quickly, but as you will read, our lunch too longer than many dinners. It was at least five minutes before our waitress appeared at our table to take our drink orders. Bad sign and we should have ordered our food right then. Our two iced teas and one water came back in another five and the missing straw took an additional five minutes and two requests, one to the manager. I could have made a straw in that time and I am not crafty!
Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Gazpacho

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Bread

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: French Fries

Some restaurant week menus include three items, an appetizer, an entree and a dessert or side. I’m sure I did not read the fine print, so I was ready to order my three items for $12, when the waitress corrected me that it was only two. Bummer. I figured I would go ahead with the gazpacho and the Tillamook Cheddar Truffle Mac & Cheese and then just order the dessert ($7) separately, but then the wheels turned faster as I eyed the soup price ($4). How about ordering the entree and the dessert and then add the soup as an extra? Laine and I are made of money, but its always good to save a buck (note the sarcasm). Our waitress said adding soup was only $3 - bingo! Laine and our friend did the same. We just saved $12 between the three of us - that’s another restaurant week lunch. After interrogating the server to ensure we would each get some of the popover, Laine and I split the Bistro Bread Basket ($3) which also included cornbread that was cut in the shape of a potato wedge and a baguette. Well worth it and the popover was huge, so there were no issues of anyone being slighted. The cornbread was great but the popover was phenomenal. Nikki makes those from time to time and they are a real treat. The gazpacho arrived and we were all pleased with it, even if it took 10 minutes for a cold soup that is already prepared. Speedy.
Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Cheddar Truffle Mac and Cheese

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Salmon Cakes
Salmon Cakes-A late Restaurant Week Menu Addition

Finally, our entrees arrived after more gray hair appeared on my head. My truffle mac & cheese had cute presentation, a bowl of the mac with the Chevre Toast almost looking like a straw (that’s where the straw went!) and a small side salad. It was all darn good as were the Truffle Fries that I ordered as a side. The mac was a smaller portion but it was rich and after I had turned my focus to the fries, I realized I needed a to-go box for my mac.
Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Brioche Bread Pudding with Whiskey Custard and Creme Anglaise

There was such a delay between us finishing our entrees and dessert, I wanted to take a nap. Finally, my Brioche Bread Pudding with Whiskey Custard and Crème Anglaise arrived and while it took too long to show up, it was some of the best I have had and I never miss the opportunity to order bread pudding. As Laine said, I am trying to order bread pudding at every restaurant in Norfolk. It is very possible I will. Just call me the resident expert on the subject matter. About an hour and forty-five minutes later (yes, that’s what I wrote), we got our checks. We dropped our cards in the bill folder and when she returned them, she never ran mine, so I had to wait even longer and ask another waiter to run it. Give me a break! I needed the ‘took forever discount’. We finally left, I forgot my to-go and had to run back to get it. In sum, great food, LOUSY service. Let me finish with the two keys words for today’s lunch...Lunch HOUR.


Todd Jurich's Bistro empty glass
I have to concur with Alex. From the moment we were seated, there was a service vacancy. You might let that slide in another establishment, but when you go to Todd Jurich's your expectations for everything are a notch or two higher. Our server seemed to have brought a bad day to work with her. She never smiled and appeared completely distracted. Maybe she was in the weeds because they were quite busy, but hey, not my problem. It was hot, hot, hot outside on Friday, and we slammed our Iced Teas in minutes. The empty glasses sat on the table forever until someone else came along to fill them. Service never improved.

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Mediterranean Cold Plate
The food, however, was wonderful. I love Gazpacho, and their Iced Garden Gazpacho was some of the best I have had. It was not overly chunky, and mildly seasoned. The bread basket caught my eye on the regular menu, specifically the Popover it contained. I had to try it. After going back and forth about it, Alex and I decided to split one. It was large and easily shared. For an extra $3 (or $3.95) the bread basket is well worth it. I also enjoyed the cornbread. It was sweet with a hint of hot pepper. The bagette was ho-hum. As my main entree I ordered the Mediterranean Cold Plate, which featured Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad, Hummus, Pita, Seasonal Fruit and Pickle/Olive assortment. The salads were very good. The Hummus was mediocre. The cantaloupe was some of the most flavorful I have had this summer, and I have had some GREAT cantaloupe. I would have liked to see a more interesting variety of olive, versus the standard kalamata and green variety. Cornichons were a nice pickle choice and had a tangy zap to them.

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme
Dessert led me to chocolate. For me, that is as predictable as Alex and her bread pudding. The Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème was $2 extra and worth every penny.  I was not disappointed. It was rich, and thick. I scraped that ramekin clean.

My restaurant week $12 lunch ended up being somewhere in the neighborhood of $23. This always happens to me. I want what I want and all those extras add up! Should you decide to venture to Todd Jurich's Bistro for lunch be sure to bring your appetite, your wallet and some patience.

Todd Jurich’s Bistro
150 W. Main Street, #100
Norfolk, VA 23510
(757) 622-3210

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Top Five - al fresco Dining

Best Restaurants for al fresco Dining - VA Beach - Laine
Logo Steinhilber's

1. Steinhilbers – They have a nice sized deck with industrial fans and misters. There is a view of the Lynnhaven inlet as well. The property makes you feel as if you are dining in someone’s backyard, versus sitting on a sidewalk next to a busy street.
2. Alexander’s on the Bay – Having survived mother nature and fires, Alexander’s keeps on keeping on. Known for killer sunset views, there is a nice deck where you can relax over cocktails and/or dinner.
3. Todd Jurich’s Burger Bar – Situated on Rudee Inlet, it is away from the noise and bustle of the busier oceanfront.
4. Dockside- Closer to the Lesner Bridge, with a wide view of the water, this is a great place to sit and watch boats and water activity.
Logo Catch 31

5. Catch 31 - If for some reason you have to go to the oceanfront, this is your best bet for atmosphere, food and libations.

Best Restaurants for al fresco Dining - Norfolk - Alex
1. Town Point Club - While it is members only, if you are one, it is a beautiful view and Laine and I love the food.
2. Omar's Fountain Cafe in Town Point Park - Whether you eat from the cafe or take your lunch and sit at one of the tables or in the lounge chairs, this is a great spot to eat by the water.
3. Luna Maya - My current favorite attraction on Colley Avenue in Ghent.  You can people watch while you have great drinks and food.
4. Green Onion - Another Colley Avenue spot with a little more foot traffic at which to gawk.
5. The Pagoda Restaurant - A beautiful, tranquil place on the water where you can enjoy more of Omar's cuisine.

Big Easy Grill & Oyster Bar, Norfolk, VA

I had not yet been to Big Easy, the newer restaurant by the group that owns 219, Bodega and a few others.  One reason I had not made the effort was their menu - they do not have a ton of options for a vegetarian (read: no seafood), but it was restaurant week, my date was interested and I figured why not try it, since I knew the dining company would be great.  
Do not bother parking in the Harbor Heights lot - this is now restricted for residential only, since The Market is no longer open.  Fortunately, Big Easy has a valet, for which my date and I are both suckers.  We did not have a reservation, which made me nervous but there were a few tables open and the hostess seated us immediately.  Phew!  
I asked our waitress if they had any accommodations for vegetarians other than the couple of items I saw on the regular menu and sadly, they did not.  That is always a slight disappointment, but the Red Beans and Rice ($4.29) and the Field Green and Goat Cheese salad ($5.99) would do this evening because, as I confessed, I had had a piece of Coconut Macaroon Bread Pudding at Havana around 5:30 that evening.  A lighter meal was probably in order.  My date stuck with the restaurant week menu and chose the Romaine Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Tasso Ham, the Louisiana Jambalaya with Chicken, Smoked Sausage and a Creole sauce, followed by the warm brownie dessert, all for $20.  To start us off, the waitress brought cornbread with a honey, Tabasco and Creole spiced butter.  The cornbread was fresh and that is one of my favorite breads and the butter was unique.  I took a bite that must have had a heavy concentration of the spices and Tabasco - definitely a little heat, but I liked it!  The Hearts of Romaine Salad was mediocre.  The ham was almost non-existent and with a salad having so much potential, it was a disappointment.  The jambalaya was better than the salad but the chicken was slightly dry, tisk tisk. My salad and beans and rice were both good, but the salad needed more candied pecans.  Do not skimp on my nuts, which were a major part of the salad!  I really did enjoy the maple syrup and Creole mustard vinaigrette.  Big Easy should bottle and sell it.  The beans and rice comes with or without a hot sauce, so I decided to try it on the side.  Good move, one taste and I was making faces, not pleasant faces.  It was closer to a wing sauce, not one of my favorite things, but if you like wing sauce, go for it.  The brownie was pretty good, but it was unusually small.  Sometimes with restaurant week, portion size shrinks.  
Service was average at best.  Our waitress was nice, but she yanked the butter out from under us when bread was still on our plates, she served my meal with minutes in between my date receiving his (too long) and she just did not seem checked into the situation, our dinner, which is bad...for us, but for Big Easy as well.  I doubt either of us will be in a rush, or even a slow crawl, to get back there.  
The atmosphere is similar to that of Club Soda, the former occupant of the space, and actually is quite pleasant.  They do have a sort of discothèque, which is fun.  I have heard others give the same pedestrian review I am giving, but then Laine did mention that Big Easy is supposed to be known for their oysters, so if you are an oyster fan, maybe the experience will be better.  Good luck.  


Big Easy Grill & Oyster Bar
111 W. Tazwell Street
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
(757) 227-6222

Big Easy Grill & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dockside Restaurant and Marina - Virginia Beach, VA

Dockside Restaurant and Marina Restaurant Sign

A recent family event had me looking for a nice place for the entire family to dine that was on the water in VA Beach and had good food. Should be easy, I know, but there’s a lot of mediocre out there and the kicker was that my 7 year old was going to be on board too. Also, I don’t “do” lines. I simply will not stand in line waiting to eat. Take reservations or count me out. My original thought was Bubba’s. I haven’t been in years, but I used to like it. They don’t take reservations, which didn’t surprise me. The Bubba’s idea lead me around the corner to Dockside. Another place I have not been in about 10 years, but used to like. Ownership has changed, and I had no idea what to expect. They don’t take reservations, but do preferred seating for parties of 6 or more. What is preferred seating? If there is a wait, you go to the top of the list. That was good enough for me.
Dockside Restaurant and Marina Exterior
Front/Market Entrance

There is a lot going on at Dockside. Boat trips, retail fish market, restaurant. Unlike some other Shore Drive places (Croakers, Bubba’s, Chicks) they actually have a nice sized parking lot, where you can park you own car...for free. Other lots are too small (Croakers) or you have to pay valet (Chicks). Entering the restaurant takes you though the rustic fish market. Seriously, this section could be cleaned up just a tad to be more appealing. The restaurant restrooms are located in this section and are pretty disgusting. They still sell wine here too, but I didn't spend any time checking it out. Upon entering the main restaurant you see a big square bar to the left, a small dining area to the right, a larger room through the doors on the right, and a substantial deck. The deck is much larger that it used to be. The bar was packed. The decor is lackluster. The walls are golden colored wood ornamented with typical beach/fish/nautical junk. The view of the inlet is the scene stealer here.
Dockside Restaurant and Marina Dining Room
Large Dining Room to right. Home of the famous melted fan.

We were seated and served promptly in the larger dining room on the right. Everyone commented on the fact that the tables were spaced out nicely. You are not jammed up next to your neighbor. The waitress was right there as soon as we sat down taking drink orders all around. She was very pleasant, and proficient. Foods orders were taken when the drinks were delivered, again this was done quickly. A couple of people ordered soup, salads and appetisers. These all came out in proper order and everyone dug in. I have to say that the quick arrival of our food surprised and amazed me. I was mentally prepared to wait as all tables were full and in the early stages of their meals. Everything was good. The She Crab soup was a big hit. The house salad was attractive with big red, ripe tomato chunks. Finally, a restaurant that serves a fresh sliced tomato (not grape tomatoes).
Dockside Restaurant and Marina She Crab Soup
She Crab Soub
Dockside Restaurant and Marina Side Salad

So far, so good. But I am still wary because it is the beach and it is the summer. Here come the entrees. They set down my mom’s flounder and I am deflated. It looks so good that I am afraid she out ordered me! It was about one inch thick, fluffy white meat, cooked to perfection. Then I see my stuffed flounder and I am happy. My husband ordered the Soft-shell Crab special. He is always a sucker for Soft-shells. These looked good too. The crabs were large for peelers and the portion was generous. Our Norwegian friend ordered a steak. I forgive him because I know he eats fish all the time. My daughter got the fried shrimp kids meal. Again, with my low expectations, I was thinking little, frozen shrimp. Not so! These were good sized, tail on, butterflied shrimp. This is my second time to be amazed and surprised! The best part of my stuffed flounder was the “stuff”. Big chunks of backfin, very minimal filler, lightly seasoned and buttered. When you have good crab meat there is no need to get fancy, just let the crab do the talking!
Dockside Restaurant and Marina Kid's Fried Shrimp
Kids Fried Shrimp
Dockside Restaurant and Marina Stuffed Flounder
Stuffed Flounder (I requested no potato or veg)
Dockside Restaurant and Marina Soft Shell Crab Special
Soft-Shell Crab Special

My daughter was dying to see what was going on outside with all the boats, and activity. My husband strolled her around the deck after eating, and reported back that there was a guitar player outside to entertain the deck dwellers. Nice little addition. On the downside he was singing Cheeseburger in Paradise, the obligatory summer-deck-guitar-playing-dude-song. We had to hear the 7 year old rendition the entire way home.... We received the check promptly, paid and were out of there in about 90 minutes, feeling pleasantly full, relaxed and happy. Success!
Dockside Restaurant and Marina sunset

Dockside Restaurant and Marina
3311 Shore Drive, Virgina Beach, VA 23451
(757) 481-0372

Dockside Seafood Market & Marina on Urbanspoon

The Green Onion - Colley Avenue, Norfolk, VA

Are you a part of the Groupon phenomenon? What a great idea! Getting people to buy services they weren’t even considering and don’t need, but now can’t resist because it is a good “deal”. A Groupon that was reaching its expiration date had us headed to the Green Onion on Colley Avenue a couple of Friday’s ago. It was hot outside, but Alex and I are office dwellers and decided we would rather suffer the heat and get some fresh air versus shivering inside in the A/C.

They were not busy. We were the only table outside, and there were only a few inside. My last visit, over a year ago, had left me with a rather ho-hum attitude about Green Onion, and I think I even grumbled a bit before going. Our server, Curtis, was the shot in the arm I needed. He was fun and funny, energetic and outgoing. Our orders were taken quickly and our ice teas served promptly as we sat back and relaxed, watching people stroll along Colley.
The Green Onion Turkey Reuben Sandwich
Turkey Reuben Sandwich with Mixed Greens Side Salad

The meals arrived super fast. The presentation was appealing on the nice, heavy, white square plates and bowls. My side salad of mixed greens was very fresh, and the accompanying dressing was light and crisp. I had ordered The Turkey Reuben. It was perfect. Their twist to the traditional sandwich adds jalapeno peppers and Gruyere cheese, leaving off the 1000 Island dressing. I skipped the peppers and didn’t miss them. Reubens often fall apart due to the wet ingredients, but this one held together well.
Our check arrived soon enough that we didn’t have to ask for it, but not so soon that we felt like we were being kicked out the door. All in all it was a great lunch, pleasant atmosphere and some good Alex and Laine banter. The next time someone suggests going to the Green Onion, I won’t be such a cranky pants about it.

A bit ago, I had a salty experience at Green Onion on Colley Avenue and had temporarily shunned them, but a few weeks ago Charlotte* and I decided to give it another try because I had a birthday coupon from Green Onion and it was Wednesday, all-you-can eat mussels ($17), which Charlotte had been wanting to try. We arrive a little after 7pm and were seated inside quickly. Charlotte knew she was having the mussels and I quickly decided I would try a dish that had previously escaped me due to other specials and entrees taking precedence. The Pan Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Platter ($16) was beyond what I could have imagined. The bowl was at least two inches deep and about five inches across and was filled to the top with green beans, spinach, tomatoes, white beans, corn, mini Yukon gold potatoes, red onion, green peas, yellow squash, zucchini and red peppers. A balsamic reduction, of which I did request extra (no problem!), was drizzled on the edge of the bowl and this made the dish. Everything in this medley was cooked perfectly and I cannot wait to have it again soon. Chalotte was really pleased with the mussels, which arrived in another huge dish and were topped with Green Onion’s fabulous pommes frites and a French baguette side. We both stared at this amazing portion and then quickly started on our meals. Charlotte shared some of her frites with me - they are some of the best around. We said over and over how we would have to come back on another Wednesday for mussel night (more pan roasted vegetables for me!).

I presented my birthday coupon to the waitress, who ID-ed me to make sure I was legit, and while the coupon gave us a 20% discount, our sweet waitress also gave us the dessert we ordered for free in honor of my birthday! I love birthdays, particularly mine. I have had good experience with dessert in the past at Green Onion and this evening’s choice of cinnamon bread pudding was no disappointment. A crisp granola was sprinkled atop the dessert, which was a nice touch and while iIt could have used a hair more of the caramel drizzle, all in all, it was really good. Since Charlotte and I had larger meals, splitting it was a grand idea. Service was great and our food came out very quickly. Charlotte’s mussel refill was waiting for her when she was ready - more pommes frites and French bread are available too should you need them. Satisfied and elated with our meal, we trekked home since it was only a late night this time.

The Green Onion Veggie Tabouleh Wrap
Veggie Tabouli Wrap with Artisan Mac n' Cheese
I love Groupon and while I have heard 15-20% of these types of deals are never redeemed, I am not in that percentage. I keep a running sheet of the deal, expiration date, applicable times and value - yes, that is overly organized, but I am not losing a buck just by forgetting to use something for which I paid. Laine and I had talked about the deals we needed to use and Green Onion’s lunch deal was one that expired soon, so one recent Friday, we made the drive to Ghent. Laine was lukewarm because of our last lunch there, but that would all change. I had a more positive outlook because of the meal Charlotte and I had had a few weeks prior, but felt the same about the last lunch we had there. I knew I would not order a salad - we both felt that the salads we had previously were small for $12. Onto better times, we had a fantastically fun waiter, Curtis, and a nice seat outside. It was just cool enough to bear and we were able to gawk at those walking up and down Colley Avenue. I knew I wanted the Veggie-Tabouli Wrap ($9) and it was between the Artisan Mac n’ Cheese or the Creamed Spinach as my side. While I love the pommes frites, I was determined to try something new with my new entree and the slight up-charge to switch was of no concern. Without hesitation, Curtis said to go for the mac n’ cheese. That was that and Laine and I enjoyed some laughs, as usual, while Curtis kept our drink refills coming...ALWAYS a plus and Laine and I can put away some diet soda and iced tea. Our meals came out in no time and we were both overly joyed. My wrap with the lemon chive crème fraiche was phenomenal and I typically steer away from wraps (more of a sandwich fan). It was fresh and stocked with flavor. The mac n’ cheese was a great choice with a sharp cheese, which gave it a little unique kick. I will most certainly order this again if I do not get the Cheddar & Apple Grilled Cheese, which always catches my eye.
The Green Onion Raspberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding
 Raspberry-White Chocolate Bread Pudding
It was Friday and Laine knows what that means...dessert time. The White Chocolate-Raspberry Bread Pudding was approved as the best choice by Curtis and packed to go, since we had met our time limit (boo). He even wrote the heating instructions on the container. We really, really enjoyed Curtis and he is a regular waiter and bartender most days, including Sunday brunch. Thinking about both of my recent dishes right now, I cannot wait to go back to the Green Onion and I hope to see Curtis when I go.

The Green Onion
1603 Colley Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23517-1609
(757) 963-1200

Monday- Friday Lunch 11-230
Saturday Brunch 11-230
Sunday Brunch 10-230
Sunday and Monday Dinner- 5-845
Tuesday-Thursday Dinner- 5-945
Friday and Saturday Dinner- 5-1045

Green Onion on Urbanspoon

Costa Azul - Hanbury Commons, Chesapeake, VA

Costa Azul exterior

Last Saturday the family had a hankering for Mexican, so we piled in the car and headed to our usual, El Parian. It was gone, as in, no longer there, completely empty. Wow, had it been that long since we had Mexican. We loved that place. Were did our buddies go? Not one to mope for long, we redirected our efforts to nearby Hanbury to try out a restaurant I spotted near Skinny Dip, The Costa Azul.

The place was virtually empty at 12:30 on a Saturday. It was incredibly beautiful outside, so perhaps everyone was at the beach or similarly enjoying the day? The interior was pretty typical Mexican Restaurant, but not overdone and the music was on a low level. Thank you.
Costa Azul Guacamole

No surprises on the menu. I ordered Chicken Fajitas, my husband got the Burrito lunch, and my daughter got the Burrito and Cheese Quesadilla kids meal ( a radical change from her former #4 Kids meal... Cheese Quesadilla). We noshed on the warm chips with salsa and ordered a side of guacamole. The guac was good. I like a chunky mix and this had some nice sized pieces of avocado in the dip. Lightly seasoned and easy on the heat, I liked it. The table salsa had a kick to it, which placed it off limits to my daughter and me. As happens in every restaurant as soon as the food is delivered, we had to visit the ladies room. It was plain white paint and clean. Another positive. 

Costa Azul Guacamole Kid's Burrito and Cheese Quesadilla
Kids Meal - Burrito and Cheese Quesadilla

Costa Azul Burrito and Taco Lunch
Burrito and Taco Lunch
The food was good. Not crazy outstanding, best I ever had, but good. Portions were reasonable, and Items were not drowned in cheese or sauces. Flavoring was mostly mild. I would have liked a little more seasoning on the fajitas. The service was brisk ( there was only one other table), but not overly friendly. I can live with that. Keep my drink full, bring my food fast, clear away the dirty dishes appropriately, don’t keep me waiting on the check and I am pretty happy. I don’t need to make new friends everywhere I go. 
(Located directly off the 158 bypass at the Hanbury Road exit, this would be a safe place to stop in for a quick bite if you are a weary traveler headed to or from the Outer Banks.)

Costa Azul Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Fajitas

Costa Azul
237 Hanbury Rd E # 8
Chesapeake, VA 23322-6621
(757) 482-2104
Costa Azul on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nordstrom Cafe, Norfolk, VA

Laine and I were so excited to see Nordstrom on the Norfolk Restaurant Week list, but when we finally got over there this week, neither of us ordered off that menu and instead went with some of our usual choices. I would have ordered for the soup and a salad but there was only one salad choice for the entree portion, the Strawberry Chicken Salad and while I thought about asking for more nuts and sans chicken, I gave up and went with the Blue Cheese and Pear Salad, which is always solid. My Blue Cheese and Pear was a little light on the ‘stuff’, the candied nuts and the blue cheese, but I gave our salad gal a pass, since I think she was having a bad day. She was not as chipper as she usually is, but restaurant week was most likely wearing on her. Those people would wear on my nerves too! Laine and I decided to split the Red Velvet Bundt Cake and I had to have the chocolate drizzle on the side. The cake was good, if a little dry, but the icing was out of this world. I hope Nordstrom keeps that little treat on their dessert menu for a while.
Back to restaurant week options, any soup and salad of your choice would have been a better route for Nordstrom to take, rather than limiting it. The salads are all close in price, as are the soups. Everyone would have won, especially Laine and myself!
I liked the looks of dinner options with the Rustic Vegetable Dinner as an entree, but much to my chagrin, that was not available until 4pm. Another comment from L&A’s always full suggestion box: why not offer the $12 lunch options AND the $20 dinner options for restaurant week? Nordstrom has the same menu all day, so it is not extra effort or preparation. We are always, always full of good ideas. We will even give them out without anyone asking!

I was glad Nordstrom participated in Downtown Norfolk Restaurant Week and maybe they will read our review before the next one.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Little About Alex and What Makes Her Tick....

Have you ever read one of our reviews and thought to yourself, "I wonder what makes Alex tick?" You know you have! I sat down with Alex recently and asked her a few questions. Here's what she had to say...

L: If you could have dinner with one famous person, who would it be and where would you take them in Hampton Roads?
A: Johnny Depp and I would take him to Ten Top. He would love it. We might go to the Naro after that for a flick. He would love that too!

L: What’s the weirdest thing to ever happen to you while dining out?
A: Well, no one has ruffied my drink yet, so it has to be a guy (date) expecting me to pay for his dinner. I’m modern, but not that modern. Laine, you also told me you would smack me if I ever pay for another guy’s meal. Hear, hear.

L: What’s your favorite part about reviewing restaurants?
A: The opportunity for great food is a big pro, but the stories and memories you and I have from our experiences tops the list. Do we ever have some.

L: What is your biggest Grammar pet peeve?
A: Ending a sentence with a preposition, just don’t do it.

L: What's a fact people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: 75% of my two front teeth are fake - roller hockey incident in the 8th grade.

L: Name 3 things you never leave home without.
A: Lipstick, my sun specs and an attitude, some days a good one, some days more of a ‘get the eff out of my way demeanor, but always something. I never leave the house listless.

L: What’s your favorite thing to do in your time off (other than go to restaurants)?
A: Travel and hit concerts

L: What is your favorite band?
A: Talking Heads

L: What is the first concert you attended?
A: Lyle Lovett and Bonnie Raitt in Richmond, Virginia - I was a young lass then.

L: What is the best concert you attended?
A: Chromeo at Outside Lands Music Festival (2010). It was a huge dance party.

L: What is the last concert you attended?
A: Def Leppard (2011) in Virginia Beach

L: Who is more awesome? Laine or Madonna? (answer this one very carefully…)
A: You, of course, Laine! We would probably have a great time chatting with Madge, but I bet she is not down for dessert. No problem, more for us.

L: What was the first movie you ever saw?
A: ‘Stop Making Sense’ at the Naro in 1984. I will not give my age, but I was well under 10. I had a pretty unconventional childhood.

L: If you were a food, what would you be?
A: Leeks

In retrospect, I should have had a follow up question to the "Leeks" answer because I think it is funny, but perhaps it was not meant to be. Another recent interview of Alex by someone slightly more "A" list than little ole me....

Alex's Interview with James Lipton
1. What is your favorite word?
Not just yes, but ‘yes, of course you can’

2. What is your least favorite word?
Team. Laine and I are not a team, we are a force with which to be reckoned.

3. What turns you on?

4. What turns you off?

5. What sound do you love?
Genuine, unbounded laughter

6. What sound do you hate?
The alarm

7. What is your favorite curse word?
Starts with ‘F’ and rhymes with duck

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Band publicist/agent/manager, that or a mob boss. Don’t make me explain.

9. What profession would you not like to do?
Mall kiosk person, doesn’t everyone hate those people? No, I do not want salt from the Dead Sea for my hands.

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I do not believe in heaven or the afterlife, but in my fantasy life, someone would say ‘You really are free to do whatever you want., really.’

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Brown Bag Cafe - Norfolk, VA-NOW CLOSED

The Brown Bag Cafe Exterior
The Brown Bag Cafe from City Hall Ave
When you are a hot shot restaurant reviewer with some financial backing like the NY Times, LA Times, and others, you will review a restaurant based upon a series of visits over the course of several different days, at different times and sampling different entrees. While Alex and I like to think of ourselves as hot shots, we definitely are lacking in the financial backing department. Our reviews are real life. We visit a restaurant and it gets one chance to make a first impression, then we write about it. It’s just like any other business encounter, isn’t it? If you don’t get a good feeling on that first phone call, first handshake, first meeting, you probably are not going to pursue the relationship. If things aren’t totally disastrous and you like the people, you might try them again because you liked the people, provided it isn’t going to cost you an arm or a leg.
The Brown Bag Cafe Greek Salad
Greek Salad - No Olives

Today I had a limited lunch break, and decided to give The Brown Bag Café a visit. Alex and I have had them on the list for a while, but a recent relocation to City Hall Avenue renewed our interest. Open Monday – Friday 7:30AM – 3:30PM, they definitely cater to the business crowd. Their menu has all the lunch basics, with a few breakfast items to cater to those who like to pick up something on their way in to work.

Wanting a Greek Salad (a recurring favorite of mine) I noted that they have one for $5, including a drink and a cookie. Folks, that is a deal anywhere! You can add any meat for a meager $2 extra. Still, at $7 this is a great deal. I called in my order a little before noon and requested chicken added. I really like when local lunch spots let you call or fax in your order so you don’t waste precious lunch minutes waiting for order preparation! I was told they were out of chicken. What is it lately with places running out of menu staples? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on the chicken as this is a new location and they may still be adjusting their inventory due to be busier here than their previous location. The phone was answered promptly and the call was handled quickly for which I award brownie points. When I arrived 10-15 minutes later to pick up my salad, I was told they were out of olives, so they were only charging me for the Garden salad. Really? Out of 2 items now?

The Brown Bag Cafe Interior
Seating Area
The interior hasn’t really changed much since the former City Line café days. The atmosphere is definitely low overhead. Varieties of small bags of chips are in a bin on the counter, versus the usual clipped hanging displays or shelves most places have. Diners have to dig through the bin to see what’s in there and pick their choices. This doesn’t seem very conducive to protecting the quality of whole chips. Drinks are selected from a cooler full of ice. They were nice and cold. It reminded me a bit more of picnic style versus restaurant style.
My salad was very good and the portion was generous for $4. The lettuce was fresh, feta flavorful and not overdone, good tomatoes, some grilled red pepper (bottled kind, my guess) and 5 Peperoncini. The dressing was reminiscent of Craft zesty Italian. This is the one item I think they could improve upon. The salad wasn’t exactly what I wanted or ordered, and they let me down twice, but all things considered, I know I will give them another try.  _Laine

205 E. City Hall Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23510

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Laine and Alex Top 5 - Reasons to Dine at Fellini's

Felllini's Logo

1. Consistently delivery entrées with outstanding flavor and quality ingredients over course of two decades +
2. Consistently deliver good service
3. Generous portions for reasonable prices
4. Warm, relaxing atmosphere
5. Mass appeal to all ….even Laine and Alex’s moms!

Open Mon-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 4pm-9:30pm
3910 Colley Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23508-2627
(757) 625-3000
Fellini's on Urbanspoon

Gourmet Gang, Norfolk, VA - we love GG

We had another great lunch @GG today and this time Laine and I sat outside to enjoy this unbeatable weather! As Laine's husband said 'get outside' and thankfully we always try to do so. I repeated my Tempeh & Avocado Salad and Laine had one of her favorite specials, the Lime & Cilantro Salad. Diet Cokes all around. In actuality, we wanted an adult beverage and the afternoon outside. In place of those, we took a stroll and stopped by our favorite place, Nordstrom, which doubles as a copying mechanism for the missing beverage and afternoon outside.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gourmet Gang, Norfolk, VA

Emma* and I strolled over to Gourmet Gang today - I enjoyed the Tempeh & Avocado as a salad and Emma had it as the sandwich with the Chipotle Pasta. PC joined us and he ordered the Santa Fe Chicken sandwich (a very popular item with the guys), also with the pasta. GG always accommodates turning a sandwich into a salad or vice versa. Everything was great and GG was hoppin' today! We missed Laine, but she was at a birthday lunch for a friend.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

HK on the Bay, Virginia Beach, VA

After another glorious beach day, our group left the North End and headed to HK on the Bay for a bite to eat. Two friends were in from Richmond, so we tried to find something that was not completely out of the way for them (Ghent was out). When we first arrived, we found ourselves sitting outside. This did not seem like an issue at first, but after being on the beach for five hours or so, we craved air conditioning. Mel* took the reigns and got us a table, which had just emptied, inside. Phew, AC and I did not have to be the bully for once!

I have been to Hell's Kitchen in Norfolk a few times, but it has never wowed me. Their vegetable platter is decent and last time, I tried their vegan stuffed peppers. All fine, but I am never rushing to return. The HK on the Bay menu is similar, but they do not have the vegan items, so I was left with the vegetable platter, the vegetarian fajitas (ho-hum), or trying to vegetarianize another item. I did not see the pizzas that the HK in Norfolk has on the menu. I would have ordered their white pizza if given the option. I asked our waitress if the nachos or the quesadilla without meat was an option and she said yes, but she pushed the quesadilla as the better choice. I added a side of their fries after others in the group said how good they were. Three others ordered the fish tacos, Mel's beau ordered the seafood nachos and a fellow vegetarian asked them to make a grilled cheese for her. My quesadilla was good and I think they threw in some extra vegetables, which can make or break something like this. The fries were decent, if a little salty and were actually potato wedges. The nachos were huge and had she-crab soup poured over them - that's a new one. The grilled cheese was also gussied up, which surprised us all.

Service was good - we were dying of thirst and ran the server ragged with the need for water, but she did not seem to mind. HK on the Bay's bar was busy and all of the tables stayed filled while we were present, so it is a happening place. My meal was fine, but I still look at HK and HK on the Bay as bars. Bar food serves its purpose, as it did this day, but I would probably not put them on my regular schedule. How many quesadillas can one eat?


HK on the Bay
4600 Lookout Road
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455
HK on the Bay on Urbanspoon