SAVANNAH, GEORGIA… “Southern Charm In One of America’s Most Beautiful Cities!”

Savannah holds numerous wonderful memories for us. As a town of extreme Southern hospitality, its genuine beauty and uncanny haunted reputation attracts scores of tourists year round. This riverside town creates the backdrop for romantic visits, Southern themed weddings, tours of all kinds and provides those who grace its existence with a sense of the old world some two hundred plus years ago. If one listens carefully the voices of those that have passed through this city from the past can almost be heard. Those hushed tones of history rendering the pride of those who once stood in this very city fighting their battles of war, of salvation, of self-preservation. It is a city filled with life and memories, and one which welcomes all in without hesitation…effortlessly, laden with immense hospitality, and brimming with the beauty and grandeur that only such a unique Southern locale can provide.

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Fountains & Squares

The numerous individually-named parks in the city of Savannah, Georgia began as training grounds for the militants under the command of General Oglethorpe in the 1700s. Known as “squares”, visitors and locals find themselves spending hours in one of more than twenty of these oak tree guarded havens, which offer stunning stone fountains, historic markers and locales where various movies have been filmed. Savannah is also the Largest National Landmark District in the United States, which encourages the tourism industry and makes for an intriguing city to visit or call home amongst the mighty oak trees drapes with elongated beards of Spanish moss.

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Historic Churches & Architecture

The architectural beauty of historic buildings, churches and Antebellum-style homes awe even the most schooled historians. From Greek Revival and Corinthian-style houses of worship to the beauty and impressive grandeur of the stained glass synagogue windows and detailed craftsmanship and enhancements to the famous sky-high steeples that dot the Savannah skyline, there are unending options for those who adore architecture and appreciate its fascinating artistry.

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City Views

The excitement of experiencing a horse-drawn carriage ride, a riverboat cruise on the Georgia Queen, a guided ghost tour after dark, or just a casual stroll around this history-rich locale of memorable attractions in Savannah will leave anyone spellbound by what is to be seen. Take in expansive views of the treetops from the top of the Bohemian Hotel, observe the gold leaf wonder of the city’s Capitol building, pay humble respect at the Chatham County waterfront Vietnam War Memorial, shop or dine along bustling River Street with views of the Savannah River, or take a trolley ride to one of the fifteen stops made all through the town. There is so much to see, do and enjoy in this Southern location that one absolutely cannot leave without taking part in at least a handful of these and other activities before leaving.

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Romantic Inns & Hotels

We’ve been graciously welcomed back to several hotels and inns in the city of Savannah. One of our favorites is the Ballastone Inn along Oglethorpe Avenue. An enchanting inn filled with history and rich in intimate coziness that cannot be ignored. Each guest room is individually decorated with a specific theme. Morning breakfasts, afternoon teas and evening cocktails will never be the same once this charming abode captured your soul. Along Abercorn Street, the Hamilton-Turner Inn provides bed-and-breakfast accommodations right in the middle of the city’s historic district with seventeen plush guest quarters to envelope you during your stay in the “Hostess City of the South”. The Mansion on Forsythe delights within a renovated historic mansion with modern and eclectic touches and amenities and exemplary customer service with a connected fine dining restaurant and multiple lounge facilities on site. Directly across from Forsythe Park, the views are stunning and the location is near perfect. The more recent Bohemian Hotel Savannah is situated along West Bay Street on the Savannah River with waterfront views not to be missed. Boasting conversation-piece decor and a wrap-around rooftop bar with expansive rooftop views of the city and river is certainly worth at least a visit when in town.

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Restaurants & Lounges

There’s always an excuse to celebrate in Savannah. Whether it’s cocktails over live jazz or a sultry piano serenade at Casmir’s Lounge, a sidewalk breakfast with friends at J. Christopher’s on a lazy weekend morning, fine dining or lunch at The Olde Pink House, something to cure a rumbling stomach during a walk at Leoci’s Trattoria or Vic’s on the River, or sharing a bottle of Champagne or wine at Rocks Rooftop Lounge overlooking the Savannah River, you just can’t go wrong with any of the local culinary provisions available.

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River Views

The Savannah River provides a breathtaking visual attraction all on its own. Board the complimentary river taxi across the water to and from Hutchinson Island or enjoy the views of the expansive waters from a river cruise for a more thorough tour. Sunsets over the Savannah River are unmistakably unforgettable, while catching a glimpse of a passing barge loaded high with cargo can be of equal intrigue. The romance, activity available and culinary and historical offerings in Savannah, Georgia keep visitors coming back and locals here to stay. Come see why this city is so well known for its hospitality, charm and graciousness soon, as once you arrive to this Southern city on the river, you’ll question ever leaving.

  • LOCATION: The positioning of this lively Southern city along the mighty Savannah River suits this romantic location just fine. Stay for activities for yourself and a loved one or a family-customized visit sure to enlighten, excite and satisfy everyone in your traveling party.
  • FOOD / DRINK: The plethora of culinary perfection, Lowcountry fare and comforting soul food reigns superior in this part of the world. One taste of the tasteful and flavor-laden delicacies and traditional favorites available will send connoisseurs of fine Southern cuisine on a voyage their taste buds won’t even be capable of keeping up with.
  • CONTACT INFO: Try www.visitsavannah.com for a wealth of informative information on the city of Savannah, Georgia and insight into where you want to be in the South.

* Prices and rates subject to change without notice.

IL TIRAMISU RISTORANTE & BAR… “Leisurely Lunching & Savory Dishes!”

When you walk into Il Tiramisu Ristorante at the corner of Woodley Avenue and Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California, you enter into a a restaurant made solely of three items: a long history of family tradition with friendly and sincere owners and staff, incredibly prepared and authentic memorable Italian cuisine and an ambience that warmly welcomes you inside and ushers you to a familiar table where this busy west coast city slows acceptably for you to intake, appreciate and savor all that fine cuisine has to offer.

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A recent lunch date proved just as phenomenal as our usual dinners at Il Tiramisu Ristorante. Toting a bottle of wine from our wine locker and prepared to indulge in what the family at this culinary landmark had to offer us this particular visit, we were just as pleased to dine for a relaxed dignified lunch as we were a romantic evening meal.

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Goat Cheese House Salad

The Goat Cheese House Salad at Il Tiramisu offers brilliantly hued mixed greens topped with a house vinaigrette, red bell pepper strips and creamy irresistible goat cheese. Served alongside any of the eatery’s signature entrees, this makes for a complimentary beginning to a leisurely lunch.

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Linguine con Vongole

The magic of the flavorsome ribbons of linguine and succulent clams joined together in a rich homemade marinara sauce and provided ample sustenance for the entire day. A selection of red or white sauce was available for our choosing, and the combination of aromas, textures and tastes scored a multitude of points with us.

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Casarecce

The Casarecce entree encapsulated the hearty fullness of gluten-free tubular pasta with a heaping pile of rich meaty Bolognese crowning this dish. The delicious version of this warm plentiful sauce was our choice, however a  pesto and a pink vodka sauce were also available if you aren’t a meat sauce lover. But any one of these are a perfect partner to this gluten-free goodness.

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Pollo Marsala

The Pollo Marsala is a dish we’ve come to know quite well at Il Tiramisu. Fresh chicken breasts are gently sautéed in a fine Marsala wine, then scores of sliced mushrooms are added making the dish a wholesome and visually appealing compilation. The addition of homemade whipped potatoes and seasonal grilled vegetables provide even more delightful flavor.

Whether for lunch or dinner, Il Tiramisu delivers quality cuisine at a reasonable price point by a friendly staff inside of a romantic and suitable setting. Stop in for that power lunch with business associates, lunching with the girls or a romantic dinner with the one you love and experience what we’ve been indulging in for many years.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The intimate establishment greets those who enter its doors in a warm and friendly fashion. A feeling of true family exists here and does not go unnoticed. Soft tones of subtle colors heightened by bursts of vivid colors in paintings hung around the restaurant add conversation pieces to this beautiful locale.
  • FOOD / DRINK: The quality and consistency of good taste is prominent here. Delicious and intriguing dishes of fresh pastas, seafood and salads partner with finely prepared meats and other desirable offerings to make the mouth water with excitement and the pulse quicken with anticipation for that next flavorsome bite.
  • LOCATION: The convenient location of the eatery sits at 13705 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, CA 91432.
  • HOURS: The lunchtime crowd is a festive one Tuesday through Saturday between 11:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday between 5:00 PM and 10:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The staff and management enjoy conversing and enlightening their patrons. Especially their regulars. A great teamwork display amongst the employees and generous hospitality and sincerity to all who step foot into the restaurant.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The reasonable corkage fee sets the tone, while the outstanding Italian cuisine follows suit at acceptable prices. Value and quality exist here and there is not a meal we’ve ever enjoyed here that was not up to high standards.
  • CORKAGE FEE: Still a mere $5.00 per 750mL bottle, even with the generous wine list available.
  • CONTACT INFO: The Phone: ((818) 986-2640, Website: http://il-tiramisu.com
  • PARKING: There are several metered parking spaces along Woodley Avenue and Ventura Boulevard, as well as reasonably-priced valet parking for guests of the restaurant.
  • PRICING: The generous offerings of fresh breads and oils are always complimentary. The corkage charge for our bottle of wine we brought with us was a simple $5. The Pollo Marsala and Casarecce entrees arrives at $13 each, while the Linguine con Vongole was priced at $15.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

GYU-KAKU JAPANESE BBQ… “Grilling’ & Chillin’ In Canoga Park!”

Try something different for a change when dining out with a visit to Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ. A festive and uniquely designed eatery offering tables and booths with built-in personal Japanese grills aflame and ready to be the center of an evening full of succulent beef, savory seafood, fresh prepared vegetable dishes, and all around charcoal-cooked goodness.

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 Spicy Tuna Volcano Appetizer & Cocktails

The Spicy Tuna Volcano appetizer is a sure winner with its rice crusted shell, spicy mayo and wasabi essence. The spicy tuna and deep-fried crunch created a lasting impression. Garnished with sesame seeds and green onion, this starter is just as colorful as it is flavorful and served the two of us amply over cocktail hour before being seated in the main dining room. Add a few Happy Hour chilled libations to the mix and that spells savory and vivid enjoyment of this Japanese BBQ establishment’s offerings.

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Cabbage Kimchi Starters

The cabbage Kimchi we were presented with served as our choice of vegetables for the evening. A popular Korean side dish, kimchi is most commonly composed of pickled cabbage, onions, anchovy paste, chili powder, ginger, and a touch of sugar. The sweet and sour essence of the finished product resonated with our taste buds quite well as we both finished our bowls of kimchi with satisfaction.

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Garlic Shrimp & Toro Beef

The main attraction came once our orders of prime beef and seafood started arriving to our table. We started with a couple of servings each of the Garlic Shrimp and Toro Beef. Succulent and cooked over the charcoal BBQ with ease, the beef was mouthwatering and the orders of shrimp delivered a perfect  seafood display of true flavor and quality.

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Miso Butterfish & Hanger Steak

Two more orders of the Miso Butterfish and Hangar Steak were presented to our location in the restaurant for placement over the flaming BBQ before us. The butterfish made us realize why it got its name. The tender fish almost melted in our mouths as we delivered each bite to our palates, and the Hanger Steak orders were juicy, fulfilling, and aged at length to lock in that wonderful aged beef flavor.

A delightful and unique method of dining out, entertaining those in your party, and enjoying fine meat, seafood and other items prepared especially to your liking. Stop by and grill your own savory cuisine with your personal BBQ at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ for a great time that you won’t soon forget.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The elegant, yet exciting vibe at Gyu-Kaku allows for spacious dining in a cozy lounge or at one of several dining tables or booths complete with built-in personal grills.
  • FOOD / DRINK: The selections of succulent beef, buttery fish and creative starters, sides and flavorful appetizers and cocktails provide an array of flavors that will satisfy anyone.
  • LOCATION: This particular Gyu-Kaku restaurant is positioned at 6600 Topanga Canyon Boulevard – Suite 1010B in Canoga Park, CA 91303 on the first floor of the Westfield Topanga Center.
  • HOURS: The restaurant is available for service for lunch daily from 11:30 AM until 5:00 PM. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday from 5:00 PM to 9:30 PM, Friday and Saturday from 5:00 PM until 10:30 PM and on Sundays from 5:00 PM until 9:00 PM. Don’t pass up Happy Hour available all day Mondays, at lunch daily from 11:30 AM to 6:30 PM, and during dinner from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM Tuesdays through Thursdays and on Fridays and Saturdays from 9:30 PM through 10:30 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The servers, mixologists, and other staff and management at Gyu-Kaku are kind and anxious to offer suggestions and assistance.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The fun of ordering from the menu’s vast array of items to indulge in and cook yourself over a flaming personal grill is definitely something refreshing and inventive. A pleasant change of pace makes for a great dining experience. Great prices for what you receive.
  • CORKAGE FEE: The restaurant does not allow any outside alcohol in.
  • CONTACT INFO: Phone: (818) 888-4030,  Website: www.gyu-kaku.com
  • PARKING: The eatery offers valet parking for $3.50, but an expansive lot at Topanga Center offers spacious free parking as well if you don’t mind a short walk.
  • PRICING: The five cocktails we enjoyed came in at just $4 each during Happy Hour, while the Spicy Tuna Volcano was presented at $5.95 and served the two of us nicely as a starter to our meal. Once seated, we chose two more cocktails to enjoy with dinner and each indulged in the Cabbage Kimchi starters at a simple $3.95 apiece. The Toro Beef was savory at just $3.95 per order, and the 21-day aged Hanger Steak was priced at a simple $6.95 each. We also devoured orders of the Miso Butterfish and Garlic Shrimp for a mere $5.95 per serving.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

WINDSOR COURT HOTEL… “The Crescent City’s Majestic Abode!”

On a recent trip to the Crescent City, we returned to the Windsor Court Hotel – one of our favorite places to call home when visiting the Big Easy. Unmistakable luxury and extravagant elegance greets and consoles guests in an art-laden, classically embellished and richly detailed establishment known for catering to those who seek the finer things in life. Located mere minutes from the French Quarter and walking distance to popular Canal Street, this destination lodging haven convinces guests that their choice to stay was the perfect one.

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Inside the lavishly appointed indoor space of the Windsor Court Hotel exists proof of the recent $22 million dollar renovation, while keeping the same comfort and style that frequently visiting guests have come to know and love. Original art pieces collectively awe visitors throughout various placement in the hotel displaying items of British heritage and Windsor Castle and the Royal Family style. Ranging from the 17th to 20th centuries, these sculptures, paintings, furnishings and tapestries form an intriguing collection, and are not to be missed when staying at this property.

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Our suite offered us complete splendor and indulgence from the calming pale blue tone of the walls, to the sizable layout of the space, to the comfortable and inviting furnishings and city views from our balcony. Just as we remember it from our last visit, but enhanced with new furnishings, gentle color refinements, and amplified artistic details that make the Windsor Court Hotel what it is today.

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The en-suite bath provided us Italian marble glamour complete with a separate dressing and vanity area, Frette linens, plush bathrobes and slippers, and Moulton Brown amenities combined to administer all the conveniences of home and more.

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The living space of our suite was amply supplied with a butler’s pantry and mini bar alcove, fine furnishings and lavish accessories, and ample areas for writing and working with views overlooking the New Orleans city horizon.

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Views from our balcony displayed contrasting images between daylight hours and evening when the city’s lights cast a magical spell over us during our visit with rooftop views overlooking Harrah’s Casino, neighboring hotels, and a majestic view of the city’s horizon right in the middle of everything. After dark, the lights go on and the magical illumination of the city’s nightlife glows and shimmers in an alluring and magical way.

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The mornings always bring a satisfying meal at the Windsor Court Hotel. Delivered straight from The Grill Room kitchen, we chose selections of the Flapjack Breakfast with warmed maple syrup, fresh ripe blueberries and sweet cream butter. The Classic Eggs Benedict presentation arrived steaming hot with a deliciously sinful Hollandaise sauce and breakfast potatoes. Polished off with fresh coffee and hot green tea, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to our morning before exploring the city.

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The rooftop Windsor Court Hotel pool provides a 65-foot saltwater sanctuary that stays heated in cooler months. The 10,000 SF pool and deck provisions create a haven for those yearning to unwind, relax and escape to a world of tranquility. With skyline views of the city and poolside service availability, guests have all things required to be pampered and made to feel as it they are part of the Royal Family themselves.

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The many options for afternoon tea, fine dining and even just cocktails at the bar are offered at Le Salon, the Polo Club Lounge, the Grill Room and the Windsor Court Cocktail Bar providing hours of unforgettable culinary and liquid libation treats to satisfy any whim one might possess. One of our favorites at the Windsor Court Hotel is the Grill Room restaurant, at which we have dined on numerous occasions.

The experience always delights, impresses and consoles us upon our returns to the Windsor Court Hotel in the Central Business District of the city of New Orleans. We appreciate the staff’s welcome back and the management’s special recognition of our visits to the property, and look forward to returning again on our next sojourn to the city.

  • PROPERTY: This fine property allows for enjoyment on multiple levels without any room for ceasing the great times that can be had here. Celebrating the hotel’s 30th anniversary this year, the Windsor Court Hotel graciously welcomes its guests and visiting patrons inside with open arms and a plethora of Southern hospitality so true to New Orleans.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The moment you arrive inside the front drive within a private courtyard embellished with statues and fountains and smiling staff, you will know you have arrived at the Windsor Court Hotel. We tried hard to find an employee during our stay that didn’t offer their services or at least smile and provide a greeting in some way, but could find not a one. Professional staff, friendly and accommodating Concierge and reception upon arrival and departure, and consistent customer service that rates stellar in our opinion.
  • PET FRIENDLINESS: The property welcomes both cats and dogs for a nominal $150 fee, which includes a pet bed, pet placemat with food and water bowls, welcome treats, and walking maps for those guests with canine companions.
  • DINING OPTIONS: The Polo Club Lounge provides small plates and specialty cocktails while an English vibe envelopes guests amongst rich woods and soft inviting leather. Live jazz entertains the soul while patrons take it all in. Available Monday through Thursday from 11:30 AM until 12:00 AM, Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 AM until 1:00 AM and on Sundays from 11:00 AM to 12:00 midnight. Cocktail Bar sedates those craving hand shaken libations, brews from around the globe, snacks and desserts sure to win over most anyone. Located on the first floor of the hotel and offering live entertainment Thursday through Saturday from 6:00 PM until 9:00 PM, Cocktail Bar is the essential locale to relax, unwind and soak in everything wonderful. Available for service Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 PM until closing with a Happy Hour from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM featuring select $5 cocktails and wines, Cocktail Bar is closed Sundays and Mondays. Le Salon is the perfect locale to enjoy afternoon tea in the lobby of the hotel. Sip loose leaf varieties while enjoying tea sandwiches and other snacks true to English tradition along with a harpist or trio strumming out enjoyable background tunes Thursday and Friday at 2:00 PM, and Saturday through Sundays at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Tea Reservations can be made by calling (504) 596-4773. The Grill Room is the hotel’s fine dining Forbes 4-star, AAA 4-Diamond awarded restaurant featuring live entertainment on scheduled evenings and a seasonal menu to delight the masses. Open for breakfast daily from 7:00 AM until 10:30 AM, lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM until 1:30 PM and on Saturdays from 11:30 AM until 2:30 PM, for dinner nightly from 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM, and for brunch Sundays from 11:00 AM until 2:30 PM. And of course, hotel room service may be ordered straight from the Grill Room kitchen for those lazy mornings enjoying the views over the city or river from your suite.
  • LOCATION: The Windsor Court Hotel is situated at 300 Gravier Street in New Orleans, LA 70130.
  • PARKING: Valet parking is the only way to go when staying at the Windsor Court Hotel. Let the property’s valet staff care for your vehicle allowing in and out access at your convenience. A $35 per evening fee will be conveniently added to your hotel bill for this service.
  • HOTEL AMENITIES: The hotel’s rooftop Pool Deck gives guests 10,000 square feet of pure bliss and aquatic enjoyment with stunning vistas of the city and horizon. A 65-foot saltwater pool envelope guests leaving them refreshed and revived after a swim or soak. The Fitness Center gives guests a reason to get physical with the Precor cardio equipment and weight machines. Also enjoy complimentary water and fruit while working out as well as personal video monitoring available on the cardio equipment. The Fitness Center is open from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM. A 24-Hour Business Center provides guests access to office equipment if needed while traveling. The Windsor Court Hotel Spa offers full-service treatments and services, a sauna and steam room, as well as a relaxation area. Voted the #1 Spa in New Orleans by USA Today’s “10 Best”, there’s no excuse not to stop by for an escape into unparalleled delight. Open daily from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM for services for those 16 years old and over, the Spa can be reached for reservation at (504) 596-4736. The Club Level of the property gains recognition from guests with its private lounge, full continental breakfast, tea time activities and evening hors d’ oeuvres includes wine, ales, hand shaken cocktails and other beverages to select from. The Signature Boutique allows guests to choose from local artistic renditions of select items, jewelry, music, Louisiana themed novelties, accessories and other gifts including logo Windsor Court Hotel items.

* Rates and prices subject to change without notice.

VICKERY’S BAR & GRILL… “Waterfront Dining On Shem Creek!”

Beautiful views of the waters of Shem Creek glisten and call to those who are lucky enough to take in the stunning sunsets over the Cooper River. Just beyond the marshy water’s edge and ebbs and flows of the tide sits Vickery’s Bar & Grill on the banks of what some locals consider one of the best views in town. There’s something about waterfront dining that is unparalleled to anything else. Something peaceful and serene. Something that sets one at ease and takes one to another frame of thought. Something deserved. At Vickery’s, the restaurant is surrounded on three sides by water like a peninsula of southern culinary goodness awaiting discovery.

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The approach to the eatery is filled with eclectic and unexpected decor such as silver utensils, corkscrews, bottle caps and other items of preparation cutlery embedded in a concrete sidewalk as one approaches the entry stairway to the restaurant. Inside, a hostess area displays numerous ceramic hand-polished ashtrays in every shape and color imaginable for the eyes to be intrigued with while awaiting a seat not without a view of the water.

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Speaking of those water views, both indoor and outdoor seating locations are graced with various tables overlooking the creek, river and marsh that surround this unmistakably ideal watering hole and destination eatery. Palms and other natural greenery surround the building and can be enjoyed from multiple levels. Dolphins often can be witnessed frolicking in the creek, and paddle boarders, boaters and kayakers call this area home for their water sport activities.

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Cocktails & Celebration

The cheers and clinking of cocktail glasses can often be heard at a full bar and throughout the restaurant dining areas. Known as a place of waterfront celebration, a fantastic lunch meeting locale and a favorite Happy Hour spot for local business people, Vickery’s Bar & Grill is easily revisited by many and adored by most for their creative culinary presentations, friendly and efficient waitstaff, majestic waterfront dining and unmistakably ideal location on the waterfront.

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Turkey Pita

The Turkey Pita encompasses a multitude of mouthwatering flavors into a single sandwich. Compiling house smoked turkey breast, Brie cheese, baby greens, and a raspberry mayo, the warm pita bread bun forms a shell of heavenly deliverance, while the interior components provide a complete performance in satisfaction, complacency and healthy deliciousness. Choose from a side of Blue Cheese Slaw, Homemade Potato Salad, or Hand-Cut Fries To add even more tasty goodness.

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Lowcountry Saute’

The Lowcountry Sauté doesn’t get any better anywhere else. Traditional Shrimp and Grits has reached new heights at Vickery’s. This version is piled high with large shrimp, savory crab meat and plump crawfish tails all tossed in a succulent Bourbon butter (yes, we said Bourbon butter!), all atop creamy house made grits then topped off with even more Lowcountry delicacies…fried oysters!!!  An all around incredibly flavorsome compilation of all things southern and comforting that will win your taste buds over in a second.

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Fried Flounder Sandwiches, Homemade Potato Salad & Blue Cheese Slaw

When craving a savory fried fish sandwich, try Vickery’s Fried Flounder Sandwich to sedate that hankering for something straight from the sea. Served straight from the fryer and piping hot upon a steamed French roll, the fresh fish taste and crunchy exterior encasing this provision offers something hearty, delicious, flavorful and is accompanied by a side of your choice and tartar sauce.

A popular place of celebration whether gathering for joining in over a closed real estate deal, a successful business opening among lifelong friends, or just a visit to rejoice in life itself and everything it has to offer, Vickery’s will find a seat with an amazing waterfront table especially for you to enjoy fresh cuisine, refreshing libations and friendly servers that will have you returning again.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: A unique visual experience lures patrons inside between the airy stairwell, utensil-graced cement sidewalk entry, hostess station colorful and witty ashtray gallery mounted on a wall and stunning waterfront views from three sides of the restaurant.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Crafty, tasty and mouthwatering preparations are served daily at Vickery’s as well as a full bar that caters to most any libation you desire.
  • LOCATION: This particular Vickery’s is located at 1313 Shrimp Boat Lane at Shem Creek in South Carolina’s Lowcountry of Mount Pleasant 29464.
  • HOURS: Vickery’s is open for service Monday through Saturday from 11:30 AM until 2:00 AM, and on Sundays from 11:30 AM until 2:00 AM. Happy Hour is available Monday through Friday from 4:00 PM to 7:00 P.M.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The staff at Vickery’s will accommodate any party whether large or small. Friendly, kind, and accommodating, the servers, mixologists and management offer stellar service and unparalleled  customer centric provisions.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Exceptional value for the cost of a meal at this establishment. You truly receive more than what you pay for at this waterside restaurant and bar.
  • CORKAGE FEE: TBA
  • CONTACT INFO: Phone: (843) 884-4440, Website: www.vickerys.com
  • PARKING: Ample complimentary parking is available in an expansive lot with available valet service at scheduled times. Be prepared to wait for a parking space or even park across the street at a neighboring location as we’ve seen some people do, because this place is happening. Well worth the wait and extra time waiting for a parking spot, you’ll realize what a great time awaits you once inside.
  • PRICING: The Turkey Pita arrived for a simple $9.95, while the Lowcountry Sauté came in at an acceptable $18.95 worth every penny. The Fried Flounder Sandwich was a traditional favorite that we enjoyed at just $12.95, and the variety of alcoholic beverages we consumed ranged from $9 to $12.50 each.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

SEPULVEDA BASIN WILDLIFE REFUGE… “Nature Trails, Serene Lakes, Botanical Gardens & More!”

An unexpectedly pleasant sector of natural beauty exists amongst the hustle and bustle of Van Nuys, California. Aside from endless traffic, miles of concrete and commercial buildings, and the rush of inhabitants from here to there and back again, there is solace right in the center of it all. The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge creates a 225-acre sanctuary for nature to flourish year after year. Offering maintained nature trails, serene inhabited lakes and babbling streams, and stunning mountain views from most anywhere in the park, those who know about this locale harbor its relaxed and natural beauty while the rest of the city goes on about their lives.

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Miles of Natural Wooded & Lakeside Trails

Miles of natural maintained trails provide outdoor fitness lovers a place of focus and peace. Varieties of foliage, pops of blooming flowers in masses, and an array of indigenous tree species grow plentiful here year round. The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society leads walks throughout the park on scheduled mornings all year long, while volunteer groups may attend the annual “goose count” when the migratory Canadian geese make their annual visit in the fall. The trails are quite an appreciated haven of their own unique beauty with bridges that cross over babbling brooks, some which provide tunnels of foliage that change color as the seasons pass, and many that are wooded that force visitors to wonder just how this beautiful refuge exists so prominently within the middle of a busy city.

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Lush Foliage, Blooms & Inhabitants

The refuge is a safe haven for those who call it their home. From wild rabbits and brown squirrels, to a variety of over 200 species of birds that make the area their home. Sycamores, willows, cottonwoods, numerous and too many to count, but all so pleasing to the eye and soothing to the soul.

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Canadian Geese

Each year, the immaculate Canadian geese migrate to Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge. It is a worthwhile spectacle, and one which we highly recommend. We visit this area every year to witness the arrival of these Canadian visitors and their offspring.

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Various Duck Species

An array of birds frolic and play in the migratory lake with its own private island sitting in the middle. Cormorands, white pelicans, and geese among other species fill the trees providing quite a spectacular spectacle each year. Ducks make this their home here and provide eye-catching hues of the Wood Duck, to the stunningly vibrant colors of the Mallard, to the American Wigeons to the many other breeds of those birds we know and love so well.

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Japanese Garden

Another phenomenal sight to take in at the Wildlife Refuge is the Japanese Garden, which delights visitors with botanical visions of color, manicured gardens, and visiting wildlife in addition. Tranquility can be found at this haven of solace and meditation amongst the colorful blooms, numerous observation areas and calm conversation of flowing brooks and stunning waterfall.

The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge area is simply a getaway for the soul, a sanctuary of natural beauty and relaxation, and an escape to a little piece of nature amidst the craziness of the city, bustling traffic, and busy lives all bottled into this SoCal locale. Stop by and take part in the lavish experience of the Japanese Gardens, intrigue of nature and solace of just being outdoors during a run or a casual stroll at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge. Reasonable admission at the Japanese Gardens, no busy city life to annoy you while you’re here, just comfortable calm amidst a California town proud of its unique natural for all those who visit.

  • LOCATION: The acreage of the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge can be enjoyed at 6350 Woodley Avenue in Van Nuys, CA 91406. The Japanese Gardens are located close by at 6100 Woodley Avenue in the same city and zip code.
  • HOURS: The park and wildlife refuge areas are open from sun up to sundown, The Japanese Gardens are available for access Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM for self-guided tours, then on Sundays from 10:00 AM through 4:00 PM with the final gate entry at 3:15 PM each day the gardens are open to the public. The gardens are closed Fridays, Saturdays and all Los Angeles holidays. Please call ahead to ensure the gardens are not closes due to any special events, movie filmings or unexpected weather conditions.
  • PRICE: The cost of entry into the gardens is $3 per adult, and $2 for those 62 and up as well as those under the age of 10. There is no admission to enter and indulge in what the park area and wildlife refuge have to offer.
  • PARKING: There is a spacious parking area in front of the garden entry which is free of charge, as well as a plethora of parking provided throughout the refuge and park area.
  • CONTACT: The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Refuge may be contacted via phone at (818) 856-9710, and online at www.sepulvedawildlife.org. The Japanese Gardens locale may be phoned at (818)756-8166, and may be further researched online at www.thejapanesegarden.com.

* Accessibility, hours, days and prices may change without notice.

EL CAYOTE MEXICAN CAFE… “Landmark Mexican Cuisine!”

If being in business for more than eighty years isn’t proof of a successful business, then we don’t know what is! El Cayote Mexican Cafe is a legend in Los Angeles, California. Traditional Mexican cuisine made to satisfy any appetite and pacify those yearnings for savory authentic favorites is what you will receive when visiting this long-running popular Mexican eatery.

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The bright red detailed exterior of this classic Californian go-to welcomes patrons into a dimly lit cozy and friendly atmosphere. Friendly servers happily make their way from the kitchen to tables delivering aromatically pleasing plates of flavor-rich entrees, plentiful combo dishes, fresh original salads, and much more. It all begins with El Cayote’s house made tortilla chips and homemade salsa, which is a great starter to any meal night or day at this restaurant.

El Cayote

Margaritas

More chips and salsa and a couple of orders of margaritas, and we were good to go. The strawberry Fruit Blended version at El Cayote delivered chilling refreshment and a massive wild strawberry essence, while the restaurants World Famous Classic version provided icy goodness with all the expected flavors of a traditional flavorful beverage.
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 #1 Cayote Combo & Chicken Tostada Fresca Salad

The much sought-after El Cayote #1 Cayote Combo, which is inclusive of a sizable cheese enchilada, shredded beef taco, traditional Mexican rice and beans, and even more chips and salsa if you can handle it! (And we definitely did!) The Tostada Fresca Salad arrived with a crisp and crunchy house made tortilla shell, fresh shredded lettuce, hand chopped tomatoes, creamy sliced Hass avocado, shaved Parmesan cheese and other grated cheeses, fire roasted sweet corn and red peppers, and hearty black beans. Both satisfying, fulfilling, and taste-packed offerings from the plentiful menu of El Cayote provisions.

A terrific and addictive locale for some of L.A.’s best loved and most authentic Mexican culinary treats, you’re sure to fall in love with El Cayote Mexican Cafe just as we did!

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: A decades-old establishment producing some of L.A.’s finest and most authentic Mexican cuisine, El Cayote will keep your taste buds alive with exciting flavor and wholesome ingredients. 
  • FOOD / DRINK: Savory traditional house made Mexican favorites sure to please most any patron in search of authentic cuisine worthy of commendation. Delicious flavors, fresh ingredients, and stellar margaritas to compliment any menu selection available.
  • LOCATION: El Cayote is conveniently situated at 7312 Beverly Boulevard on Los Angeles, CA 90036.
  • HOURS: El Cayote serves their flavorsome cuisine Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 AM until 11:00 PM, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 AM until 11:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Courteous, efficient, and friendly servers create an effortless system of service amongst the eatery, while friendly hostesses welcome patrons in with graciousness and a welcoming greeting.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The El Cayote #1 Cayote Combo arrived piping hot from the kitchen for an easy $10.75, while the Tostada Fresca Salad with added marinated chicken breast for an additional $1.50 arrived for $10.49.  Unlimited chips and salsa were complimentary, and the four margaritas came in at $9 for the fruit blended icy concoctions and $7.75 for each World Famous House Margarita we indulged in.
  • CORKAGE FEE: No outside alcohol is allowed inside of the eatery, however there’s no losing when at El Cayote with the multitude of beverages available.
  • CONTACT INFO: Phone: (323) 939-2255 / (323) 939-7766, Website: www.elcayotecafe.com.
  • PARKING: Metered parking is available along the boulevard, while valet parking is accessible at the main entrance of the establishment for your convenience.
  • PRICING: Chilling and revitalizing fruit blended margaritas proved exceptional at $9.00 each, while the World Famous House Margaritas were served for an acceptable $7.75. The El Cayote #1 Cayote Combo came in at just $10.75 for all that is offered, and the Tostada Fresca Salad was provides at $8.95 plus an additional $1.50 for the added chicken breast.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

CAFE BIZOU UPDATE… “Keeping Up With Californian French Cuisine!”

Most people who know us know that we spent a lot of time at Café Bizou in Sherman Oaks. Driving over the hill to indulge in what we like to call “our dining room away from home” never fails our expectant appetites or disappoints our expectations. It was high time to review some newer dishes on the menu that we’ve been devouring during weeknights at our favorite table on the patio.

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Liquid Libations, $2 Caesars & Intimate Ambience

We never grow tired of the fresh soft French bread served before every meal. A couple of bites with a glass or two of wine delights the palate and satisfies the vino-driven clientele who enjoy bringing their own vintages and are placated by the same $2.00 corkage charge per bottle that has driven some of the area’s most discriminative customers to this intimate candlelit restaurant for decade. The traditional $2.00 Caesar Salads are appreciated with any entrée order as well, which we normally enjoy before ordering our meals. Try the Pomegranate Martini when you’re there also. We’ve tried every other martini except this one for some reason, and it turned out to be our favorite of them all!

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Homemade Vegetable & Tortilla Soup

Two savory creations in liquid form (aside from the martinis) are the Vegetable Chicken Soup and the Tortilla Soup. Both homemade and convincingly so at first taste, piping hot when delivered to the table, and delicious on a cool evening in the city. We especially loved the crunchiness of the tortilla strips atop the Tortilla Soup!

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Duck Breast Salad

A sure winner with us, the Duck and Wild Rice Salad was an outstanding creation. Warm tender sliced breast of roasted duck was presented rare atop a bed of seasoned wild rice, sweet cranberries, bing cherries, a port wine sauce, and a garnish of greens and chopped tomatoes and parsley for an added splash of color. This dish should be in the dictionary under the word “savory”, because there are no words to describe how decadent, flavorful, and enjoyable this presentation truly is.

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For those beef lovers out there, the Beef Stroganoff hits the flavor rich mark right on the head. Served over a bed of fettuccini, this phenomenal creation of steaming culinary genius offers tender sliced filet mignon, a complimentary amount of onions, and mushrooms in a burgundy wine sauce. A filling compilation of some of the most savory flavors one can think of. And another perfect dish to order when the chilly weather arrives.

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Parmesan Crusted Wild Alaskan Sand Dabs

Café Bizou serves up some of the best Sand Dabs in all of Los Angeles, but coating them with Parmesan creates both sensational texture and flavor additions to this already popular dish. The caper butter sauce these crusted fish are drizzled in compliments these treats from the sea nicely, while the side of double steamed vegetables not only added vibrant color, but added goodness.

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Entrecote Grille

Jumbo shrimp and lobster tail happiness are joined by fresh steamed vegetables and a side of Café Bizou’s own version of Potatoes Au Gratin, which we always select in lieu of mashed potatoes on most visits. The Entrecote Grille produces happy patrons and scores of compliments throughout the eatery. Forget Surf and Turf…this entrée brings Surf and Surf to an entirely new level!

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Seafood Bouillabaisse

A Bouillabaisse by any other name is definitely NOT the same unless it comes from the kitchen of Café Bizou. Beautiful to admire its splashy hues of reds and oranges and sprinkling of green atop a simmering bowl of seafood deliciousness, this perfected liquid temptation is not only filling, but quite flavor-rich as well. Chunks of potatoes, carrots, and celery (not to mention tomatoes!) join together with the rich taste of expertly-grilled lobster tail satisfaction and jumbo shrimp sure to please. With just a hint of spiciness to this selection, we truly enjoyed this menu choice. Simmering and steamy upon arrival, we could order this dish once a week and never grow tired of it!! The tasty broth encapsulates the flavors of all the components that are incorporated into this offering quite nicely.

Always proving true devotion to the cuisine, its patrons, and keeping in step with some of the higher end establishments at much more reasonable prices for what you get is what has made Café Bizou a much-loved part of the Los Angeles area community. This culinary train isn’t going anywhere soon, so stop in, uncork that bottle of wine you’ve been dying to try, and enjoy an evening of candle-lit ambiance while the staff caters to your culinary desires!

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Evenings are romantic and intimate with candles lit around the entire restaurant. A wooden full bar and cozy lounge area provide liquid temptations before being seated in one of the dining rooms or enclosed patio. A sense of business eventually subsides for later diners, and the calmness eventually sets in as that first glass of wine starts to take effect and relax you from the days anxieties while the cuisine at Café Bizou takes care of everything else.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Exquisite flavors prepared specifically to dazzle the palate, fulfill the soul, and not weight too heavily on the pocketbook. Refreshing hand shaken beverages and a full bar and wine list are also available.
  • LOCATION: Café Bizou is positioned at 14016 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.
  • HOURS: Lunch is available Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM until 2:00 PM. Dinner is presented each evening from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Professional staff serve patrons as though they are part of the family, while the service provided is seamless with a memorable feel.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Terrific value for what is presented, served, and a varied array of selections to choose from. Cuisine here is always served hot, filled with flavor, savory goodness, and unforgettable aromas.
  • CORKAGE FEE: A simple and easy $2 per bottle corkage fee is charged. That’s as good as you’re going to get to not having one at all!
  • PARKING: Metered street parking is available along Ventura Boulevard, as well as valet service at the front of the restaurant.
  • PRICING: The Caesar Salads, when purchased with an entrée are just $2 per salad, while the Pomegranate martinis we indulged in before opening our bottle of wine was a simple $8. In lieu of a salad, one can also order a bowl of the Soup du Jour for a single dollar to precursor their meal. My favorite Duck Breast Salad arrived at an acceptable $16.95, while the Parmesan Crusted Wild Alaskan Sand Dabs offered much at their simple $16.95 cost. The Entrecote Grille provided a spectacular presentation at $22.95, and the flavor rich Bouillabaisse came in at a worth-every-penny $24.95.

*Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

 

GABY’S MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT… “Venice Boulevard’s Mediterranean Indulgence!”

Our Tuesday evenings changed forever after our first visit to Gaby’s Mediterranean Restaurant along Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Gaby’s is the type of establishment where you can sit for hours on end indulging in a vast array of succulent Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delicacies throughout the evening, bring your personal bottles of wine from your cellar or wine locker at no additional charge, and just melt into the casual, yet inviting ambience provided.

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We originally started visiting Gaby’s to see our friend Dean Christopher and his jazz trio Tuesday nights, and a new weeknight tradition was born. Paired along with what we found to be the best Mediterranean cuisine this side of the world, we found the atmosphere to be welcoming, the mood perfectly set with candlelit tables and dim lighting, and proof of the perfect relaxed and unique locale for a Tuesday evening. The comforting aroma of fresh pita bread being baked, the pungent, yet addictive flavor of fresh feta cheese, seasoned meats, and roasting lamb, sauce-laced offerings from the sea so tender and flavorsome you’d swear you were dreaming. These are reasons we adore this restaurant, and why you’ll find us here most Tuesday evenings.

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Complimentary Corkage, Candlelight & Fresh Baked Pita Bread

Spacious, yet cozy seating accommodations invited us into the main dining room upon our approach. A dimly lit space graced with the flickering of candle-lit tabletops and comfortable dim lighting paired nicely with the aroma of savory mouthwatering delights strategically wafting from the kitchen. The greatest start to any meal at Gaby’s is a opened bottle of wine atop a candlelit table and a serving of the restaurant’s fresh baked aromatic pita bread. Heavenly in texture and flavor, dipping these perfectly prepared edible discs into the extra virgin olive oil concoction provided is a worthwhile treat destined to satisfy. Once our taste buds were overcome with the warm oven-fresh bread and sated by the start of a couple of glasses of wine, we began ordering items from the menu.

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Grape Leaves, Labneh, Moussaka & Tabouli Salad

The Grape Leaves selection arrives in an instant. These handmade logs of healthy vegetarian goodness were served five to an order, allowing for a good indulgence of the flavors encompassed inside each of these succulent and taste laden packages of savory flavor. Hand-rolled by a dedicated kitchen staff and stuffed with the likes of rice, tomatoes, onions, and parsley, these are a perfect beginning to any meal at Gaby’s. A generous portion of Labneh, filtered yogurt spread combined with olive oil, dry mint and black olives offers a creamy addition to any item on the menu. It also serves as a cooling agent to some of the more spicy dishes offered. The Mousaka presentation offered a mix of stewed eggplants, chick peas, tomatoes, onions and garlic, while the light and aromatic sensation of the Tabouli Salad gave off a filling and minty delivery.

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House Made Baba Gannouj & Kibbeh

The house made Bab Gannouj at Gaby’s has to be one of our favorite varieties of Mediterranean offerings anywhere in the U.S. Made with fire roasted eggplants pureed with garlic, tangy lemon juice, and tahini paste, this made for an ideal accompaniment to Gaby’s fresh pita bread and olive oil mixture. This creamy flavor-rich dish was garnished with fresh chopped parsley and a sprinkling of paprika before it was served with pride by the dedicated staff. Craving something hot, fried, and delicious? Then we recommend going for an order of the Kibbeh. The minced beef and cracked wheat exterior encapsulated a stuffing of seasoned beef and earthy pine nuts that left us yearning for more of the incredible meat flavors compiled into these individual shells of hearty deliciousness.

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Lemon Mahi Mahi & A Side Salad

We’ve had our share of seafood dishes at Gaby’s, but one we’re emphatic about is the Lemon Mahi Mahi entrée. A sizeable Mahi Mahi fillet is pan sautéed, then served with the restaurant’s creamy and piping hot lemon sauce made with Gaby’s own special secret ingredients. The tender and flaky flesh of the Mahi Mahi falls apart when touched with a fork, and delivers sensational fulfillment from start to finish. A generous portion of rice and a simple side salad were also served with this entrée, and completed the meal nicely.

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Homemade Tiramisu & Pistacho Baklava

The homemade desserts are a “must-indulge” item at Gaby’s. Fresh daily, we often enjoy the Tiramisu with layers of coffee and chocolate flavors, light and airy creamy ladyfinger and whipped cream filling, and towering impressiveness as well as the sweetness and “deliver-you-straight-to-heaven” intrigue of the Pistachio Baklava with its layer upon layer of filo pastry, honey, and ample pistachio nut goodness.

Gaby’s Mediterranean Restaurant convinced us to make it our Tuesday evening hang-out of choice. Between the friendly and generous staff who we’ve come to know and love, the accommodating spacious dining and enjoyable ambience, and the exceptional cuisine always made perfect and sensational by a romantic candlelit space, seductive tunes of sultry jazz from Dean Christopher & Friends, and no charge for corkage, we couldn’t imagine anything better!

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Gaby’s Mediterranean Restaurant offers unparalleled comfort, spacious dining in a candlelit, romantic dining space, and a unique enclosed refuge from the never-ending hustle and bustle of the city.
  • FOOD / DRINK: The cuisine offered is all made and prepared in house, offers succulent flavors sure to impress and delight, and provides ample quantities that will keep everyone fulfilled and satisfied from traditional appetizers to full entrée dishes to homemade desserts sure to satisfy the sweet tooth in us all.
  • LOCATION: The restaurant is located at 10445 Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA 90034.
  • HOURS: The hours are accommodating for service Monday through Sundays from 11:00 AM until 1:00 AM in the morning. (Please call ahead before visiting in the event of private parties or special bookings of the restaurant, especially during holidays!)
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The owners are loving and friendly to everyone, gracious servers and staff welcome patron inside with a smile, and are genuinely happy to see their regulars return week after week.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The prices are amazing for the quality and consistency of everything served at Gaby’s.
  • CORKAGE FEE: No corkage charged at Gaby’s! Bring your favorite bottles of wine and settle in for a relaxed evening! If you forget to bring your own, there is a convenient package store just a short stroll from the eatery to select a few bottles of your favorite vintage!
  • PARKING: Metered street parking is available, as well as a private lot for patrons.
  • PRICING: The hand-rolled Grape Leaves arrived at just $5.50 per order, while the orders of Labneh came in at just $5.50 each. The Tabouli Salad impressed at $6.00, as did the order of Mousaka, which was loaded with flavor and aromatic satisfaction. An order of Baba Gannouj will run you about $5.00 an order, while the Kibbeh arrived at an easy $7.00. The Lemon Mahi Mahi entrée was provided for $14.00 and was worth every penny. Homemade desserts will usually run about $3.25 per serving, and corkage is free, so bring in your favorite bottles of wine and look forward to enjoying the evening!

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

BIG MIKE’S BAR-B-QUE SMOKEHOUSE… “Small Town Barbeque Goodness!”

Driving along through the small town of Houma, Louisiana we came across what some locals told us was the only place around for sensational bar-b-que. We arrived at a modest-looking smokehouse for lunch recently, and entered into what we would soon discover was a local gem along Barrow Street…Big Mike’s Bar-B-Que Smokehouse.

Big Mike's BBQ

The eatery’s clever graphics that make up their logo with a pink pig donning a blue jean shirt, sunglasses, and a smirk saying it all was a creative play on a smokehouse mascot. The simple brick facade with red bordered glass front doors proved easy to approach and gave off a relaxed vibe. Inside, a spacious dining room provided several wooden tables and chairs, and plenty of natural light from the numerous windows at the front of the building. A friendly voice called a warm greeting to us as we entered from across the room, and there was a sense of welcome as we were ushered to one of several tables for two a short distance from the ordering counter. But it was the savory aroma that found its way into our lives and onto our plates that day that caused us to really take notice.

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A kind and informed server delivered and explained the menus, then left us to make our decisions. We sat in satisfaction over the many items staring back at us from the menu. The decor was eclectic and unique with the signature wall and license plate coverings (Can you spot our John Hancock?) The table set-up was the traditional bar-b-que style with a roll of paper towels on the table, and vessels of various sauces to accompany our lunch. We observed other patrons devouring their lunch menu selections. It was clear that something was working here. Plates were being cleared down to the last crumb of brisket, smiles were shared as mouths indulged in varieties of grilled chicken and smokehouse sandwiches of pulled pork as they spoke to their dining partners or their server, take-out orders were quickly moving out to hungry locals at other locations in town, and four times, we noticed customers stop into the restaurant to place to-go orders. With all of this going on, we couldn’t help but know that we were in for some amazing sustenance.

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 Smokehouse Double Chicken Breast Quarter Plate

We’ve enjoyed some pretty delicious bar-b-que and slow-roasted chicken through our travels over the last few years, but this had to be one of the closest to perfect versions that we remember every encountering. Succulent, juicy, and downright intoxicating in flavor, the Double Chicken Breast Quarter Plate arrived in one of the eatery’s signature white sectioned styrofoam serving container and was joined by my choice of jambalaya and baked beans for sides. Smokehouse Plates are served simple with sliced white bread. Nothing fancy needed here other than the main attraction…the food!

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 Smokehouse Brisket Plate

The Smokehouse Brisket Plate was a sight to behold. The brisket at Big Mike’s is slow smoked for twelve to fourteen hours for optimum tenderness, flavor, and unforgettable fork tender texture. We could taste the smokey flavor resonating throughout each mouthwatering bite. We chose aides of potato salad and cole slaw for this order, and could really taste the quality and dedication that went into creating such incredible dishes.

The  stop you most definitely HAVE to make when sojourning through the southern Louisiana town of Houma is Big Mike’s Bar-B-Que Smokehouse. The friendly staff, conversational passers-by dining inside, and the casual ambience with phenomenal flavor will never permit you to forget for one second the lif-changing experience you will undoubtedly have here.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The brick exterior facade welcomes customers inside with a spacious dining room that accommodates many. Inside, natural light during the daytime ushers itself in while a plethora of signatures and license plates grace the interior dining room walls.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Bar-B-Que goodness like we haven’t experienced in…well…never actually! This is the real thing. One bite and you’ll not forget it.
  • LOCATION: Big Mike’s Bar-B-Que Smokehouse is positioned at 3034 Barrow Street in Houma, LA 70360.
  • HOURS: Big Mike’s Bar-B-Que Smokehouse is available for service Monday through Sunday from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The staff and owners are friendly, accommodating, and incredibly knowledgeable about everything at the restaurant. It was nice to get so much information from our server. She was conversational and happy to have us visiting.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The value and quality of the food at Big Mike’s is certainly worth every penny. A terrific price-to-value ratio in our opinion for all that you receive.
  • CORKAGE FEE: Our server informed us that Big Mike’s does not allow outside alcohol into the restaurant, however, there is wine and domestic and imported beer available for purchase at the eatery.
  • PARKING: There is complimentary parking space at the front of the establishment for the convenience of customers, including bike parking!
  • PRICING: The Double Chicken Breast Quarter Plate came in at an acceptable $9.95 for lunch, while the Smokehouse Brisket Plate arrived at $8.50. We also had a couple of 20-ounce refillable fountain drinks for $1.99 each.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

FIREFLY DISTILLERY & IRVIN HOUSE VINEYARDS… “Wadmalaw Island’s Liquorous Duo!”

Just southwest of Johns Island, South Carolina, where ages old oaks tower overhead draped by beards of silvery Spanish moss, you will find South Carolina’s only domestic winery, some of the state’s oldest plantations, and the home of the world’s best handcrafted sweet tea flavored vodka. The South is synonymous with sitting on screened front porches and verandas with river views sipping sweet tea with family and friends as the afternoons transform themselves, amlost magically, into nightfall. Just a thirty minute drive south of downtown Charleston on Wadmalaw Island sits the single estate that houses both the Firefly Vodka Distillery as well as Irvin House Vineyards. The magnificent entrance into the property exhibits stunning southern oaks and other indigenous families of foliage that cast beautiful landscape as visitors drive along a dirt road toward the distillery and on-site wine tasting room and winery.

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Entrance Views Into the Property

Once parked amongst other visiting patrons’ vehicles beneath a canopy of skyscraper-sized pines and ages-old oak trees, the place beckons your presence with old fashioned wooden rocking chairs, wooden barn tasting rooms, a few friendly owners’ canines surveying the grounds and investigating  visitors, and intriguing and unique decorative details, floral offerings, green gardens, a petting zoo, and artistic signage directing newcomers this way and that. Unlike California tasting rooms, where per-person charges for tastings range from $15 to $40 per person depending on which winery you’re visiting and what’s included. Firefly Vodka Distillery proudly advertises a mere $6 per person tasting fee, while Irvin House Vineyards price their tasting experience at a mere $5 per person. Minimal costs for a casual, low-key, relaxed time visiting both of these eatablishments. Picnic benches are available and the atmosphere lends itself to the encouragement from the owners to bring their own picnics and blankets for enjoying the day and live entertainment on scheduled evenings. Local eateries are also commissioned to provide reasonably-priced offerings on occasion, so check out the on-line entertainment and activity itinerary to stay in the know of the year-round goings on. Live music, exciting festivities and tours are also available throughout the year.

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Originally inspired by the Southern ambiance of admiring fireflies light up the night sky in this part of the South, Firefly Vodka came to fruition. Distilled four times for optimum purity and flavor, the sweet tea flavor was the original rage it still is today. Since then, however, several other flavors quickly followed suit such as raspberry, peach, banana pudding, coconut cake, and pecan pie…just to name a few. And yes, these are all liquorous flavors! Sounds like dessert, we know. Sea Island rums and moonshine in all their splendor and glory are also available here, so don’t be shy, and don’t forget to taste a few of those as well. The estate also crafts ready-to-drink Firefly Vodka Cocktails ready to chill, sip, and enjoy most anywhere you crave that Firefly touch of the South. Sweet Tea, Southern Lemonade, and Pink Lemonade are some of the flavors ready for purchase to indulge in. Once parked amongst other visiting patrons’ vehicles beneath a canopy of skyscraper-sized pines and ancient oak trees, this place beckons your presence with old fashioned wooden rocking chairs, wooden barn tasting rooms, a few friendly owners’ canines surveying the grounds and investigating visitors, and intriguing and unique decorative details, floral offerings, and artistic signage directing newcomers this way and that. Unlike California tasting rooms, where per-person charges for tastings range from $15 to $40 per person depending ob what is included, Firefly Vodka Distillery proudly advertises a mere $6 per person tasting fee, while Irvin House Vineyards prices their tasting experience at a mere $5 per person. Minimal costs for a casual, low-key, relaxed time visiting both of these establishments. Local eateries are also commissioned to provide reasonably-priced offerings on occasion, so check out the on-line entertainment and activity itinerary to stay in the know of the year-round goings on. Live music, exciting festivities and tours are also available throughout the year. We first experienced Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka many years ago when ordering a Miss Grace Fig Martini at the Inn & Spa at Palmetto Bluff made with the potent liquid. Since that time, it has been one of our favorite ingredients for cocktails when entertaining friends and associates at our cottage on the May River or on the West Coast in Newport Beach, California.

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Firefly Vodka Distillery Tasting Room

Irvin House Vineyards also shares their home on the estate where Firefly Vodka Distillery exists. Forty-eight acres of muscadine vineyards and its winery property allow for multitudes of tasting and learning experiences. A Lowcountry “must-see”, the property showcases not only the Firefly Vodka Fistillery, the vineyards and tasting rooms, but also a petting zoo, a natural pond, a cared-after garden, and a gift shop. The estate’s owners encourage visitors to bring their picnic baskets and blankets to further enjoy their experience. On scheduled evenings, live entertainment is provided to further enhance your enjoyment of this fun and most-loved property. Ann Irvin own this vivacious and fruitful farmland. The current five labels of their wines are original renditions by local artists. The wine tastings are an easy $5 per person per tasting where an informative explanation can be enjoyed right  beside the actual processing facility.

02.221The quality and integrity that is painstakingly put into the production of both Firefly Vodka Distillery and Irvin House Vineyards displays the evident care and diligence that is put into each bottle of sensational liquid. See the website links below for more information about both facilities and see what the lineup of activities and events is throughout the year for these two locations.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The dramatic and inviting entrance along a naturally manicured dirt road through lush foliage and towering pines and oaks welcomes visitors throughout the year. A casual family feel and inviting ambience continues from there with both the distillery and wine tasting rooms amongst numerous other must-visits on the property.
  • LOCATION: Both Irvin House Vineyards and the Firefly Vodka Distillery are located at 6775 Bears Bluff Road on Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487.
  • HOURS: The property is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM unless otherwise stated.
  • CORKAGE FEE: There really is no reason to bring your own wine at this property. Bring a picnic from home with all the accoutrements, as that is most certainly encouraged to help you enjoy your experience.
  • PARKING: The property allows for spacious vehicle parking beneath towering trees just a short stroll to both tasting rooms.
  • PRICING: The Firefly Distillery tastings are a mere $6 a person per tasting, which allows for several tastings of your choice from a list of the distillery’s vodkas, rums, and moonshine. Irvin House wine tastings are just $5 per person per tasting, which includes an informative explanation about the process and history of the vineyard in a relaxed environment. Both tasting rooms provide a complimentary wine glass or shot glass displaying the Irvin House or Firefly logos included with the prices for tastings.
  • CONTACT INFO: The Firefly Vodka Distillery can be reached at (843) 558-1405, and their website is www.fireflyvodka.com.  Irvin House Vineyards may be contacted via phone at (843) 559-6867, and their website can be seen at www.charlestonwine.com.

* Prices are subject to change without notice.

RUSSIAN DACHA CAFE… “When You Just Can’t Get Enough of the Best!”

You know we really like an establishment when we write a follow-up article about it. But when we find ourselves writing a third review about a specific location, restaurant, or hotel, you know we really have to love it. Case in point with Russian Dacha Café in Valley Village, California where the diligent team of chefs and servers are serving up some of the best Russian and Ukrainian cuisine outside of their native grounds.

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The Bougainvillea trees on the front dining area upon immediate entry into this tucked away gem always welcome us back to a warm and friendly feel amongst the staff and other patronizing locals at the restaurant. Our bottle of wine opened, carefully poured into two Riedel wine glasses, and tea light candles lit immediately as the day’s sunlight began to slowly fade over the Pacific, we were greeted by our regular server and presented two menus to peruse as we sipped our vino.

Russian Dashs (3)

Variety of Dumplings

The Variety of Dumplings was a mystery until each one was cut in half as we worked our way through them as a starter to our meal. A combination of potato, meat, and cabbage fillings allured us and provided filling goodness to our awaiting appetites. Satisfyingly delicious, each dumpling was a game of “what’s in this one”, and “which ones have which filling” between us. Soon they were devoured happily and noted as yet another perfect item from the menu.

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Beef Kebab

The simple, well-prepared Beef Kebab entree proved amazing savoriness throughout each juicy bite of beef. A side of mashed potatoes joined this presentation and the kebab was haloed with rings of white onion and a savory and appropriate dipping sauce on the side.

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Chicken “Kiev”

The Chicken “Kiev” arrived in all its splendor and glory. The ostrich egg-sized, perfectly deep-fried orb of deliciousness delivered a crunchy exterior, while inside its tender, juiciness offered succulent and savory flavors. The first cut into this perfect package of flavor oozed with melted cheese and meaty juices. An excellent rendition of Kiev that we thoroughly enjoyed. The accompaniment of fresh steamed vegetables was also a nice touch that balanced the dish nicely.

The “Dacha” never fails to intrigue, satisfy, or impress. it truly is a casual, simple and accommodating eatery that welcomes its patrons in with friendly faces and succulent cuisine that will remain in your memory without cease.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The  decor of the restaurant is open and airy with natural enhancements such as flowering mature Bougainvillea trees at the eatery’s front entrance. Banquet-style tables covered with white linens, a stone and painted environment, and other such items create the cozy and attractive ambiance that the establishment is known for.
  • FOOD / DRINK: We gave a few new items from the menu a try on this particular visit to Russian Dacha. The quality of the meats and preparation were proudly served and happily enjoyed.
  • LOCATION: Russian Dacha is situated at 5338 Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Valley Village, CA 91607.
  • HOURS: Russian Dacha serves from Tuesday through Friday from 12:00 Noon until 10:00 PM, on Saturday and Sundays from 12:00 Noon to 11:30 PM, and is closed on Mondays. Be sure you call ahead if planning to stop by later in the evening to ensure the eatery hasn’t closed early as it has been known to do on occasion when the evenings are inactive.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Tania is our regular server at Russian Dacha. We never experienced anything but hospitable and gracious service, welcoming greetings and warm hospitality.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Exceptional quality, consistent flavor and preparations, and flavorful items from the Russian Dacha menu always delights and enlightens.
  • CORKAGE FEE: Still complimentary including wine, Champagne & vodka!
  • PARKING: Metered street parking is available along Laurel Canyon Boulevard when patronizing the restaurant.
  • PRICING: The Variety of Dumplings arrives at a simple $11.99, while the Beef Kebab Entree was fairly prices at 14.99. The Chicken “Kiev” for $14.99 was acceptable for the quality and preparation, while the corkage was complimentary as always.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS… “Little Rock’s Two River Bridge & City Allure!”

The name ‘Arkansas’ is French in origin and derivative of a Sioux name meaning “downstream place”. As the 25th state of the U.S., this part of the country decided to claim the majestic pine as its state tree, the shimmering diamond as its state gem, and the nickname “The Natural State” as its secondary tItle. Home to an unlimited array of educational cultural activities, unforgettable dining and brewery venues, unexpected shopping locations, and spectacular diverse geographic destinations from forested wetlands to scenic byways to the mountainous region of the Ozarks, there is no reason not to visit this naturally beautiful state. Little Rock, Arkansas harbors a multifaceted variety of most everything one could ask for when considering a place to call home or an elongated vacation to take it all in.

Little Rock, AR

H. U. Lee International Gate & Garden and Area Hotels

An impressive and photo worthy stop when in Little Rock is the H.U. Lee International Gate & Garden next to the Statehouse Convention Center at Statehouse Plaza. Originally Created by the family of the former founder of the American Taekwondo Association, the $1.4 million dollar project was gifted to the state of Arkansas and now educates visitors about South Korea and honors martial arts along with its ATA originator. Korean symbolism, a nine-foot tall dragon-headed fountain and reflective pool, and an 80-ton Douglas Fir entryway proudly welcomes those awaiting entry into this unique and awe-inspiring attraction. Depending on which views you enjoy more, city hotels downtown provide picturesque views of the Arkansas River or active visual expanses over the downtown area of Little Rock.

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Downtown River Market District & Pavilion

The downtown River Market District is the place to experience the best of everything in Little Rock. The River Market Pavilion provides spacious accommodations for open-air outdoor activities and gatherings right long the banks of the Arkansas River. A plethora of dining and entertainment venues, shopping destinations for one-of-a-kind items, and beautiful city strolling space ushers visitors and locals alike along pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, walk-in friendly breweries and lounges, and scenic trails and parks sure to inspire and satisfy even the most selective of travelers.

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Area Restaurants & Lounges

Numerous eateries, from fine dining and elegant to casual and pub-style restaurants are accessible by foot from local hotels along president Clinton Avenue in the River Market District. In the mood for something specific? Then Little Rock’s River Market District is sure to have it amongst the numerous dining and entertainment provisions available. From the casually elegant Bosco’s with outdoor seating on the Arkansas River to nearby Sonny Williams Steak Room’s intimate and upscale lounge and dinner scene to Flying Saucer Draught Emporium’s feel-good ambience and unending brewery selections to unlimited other favorites we’ve experienced, there’s always something to satisfy every flavor craving one could have here in this riverfront city.

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Two Rivers Bridge

Turning toward some of the natural beauty of Little Rock, we were impressed with our trek to Two Rivers Bridge. This structure hovers above Little Maumelle River and caters to hikers, pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge enhances the western locale of the Arkansas River Trail Loop and connects to Two Rivers Park. Views of Pinnacle Mountain can be taken in from the bridge over a scenic view of the waters below, while after dark, the bridge changes color with LED lighting casting a magical glow over the river.

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Two Rivers Park

Just over Two Rivers Bridge is 450 acres of wooded wetlands, 550 acres of open fields, and the 140-acre Garden of Trees for all those crossing the bridge to enjoy. The natural beauty of two Rivers Park offers well-defined trails, park benches facing the Arkansas River, various species of indigenous trees, and local wildlife and plant species destined to awe even the seasoned hiker or outdoorsman. The trails lead on for miles, while the sunsets and sunrises are mesmerizing and inspiring to all who experience the natural beauty of this area.

Little Rock, Arkansas is a locale that we have come to cherish in the last three trips we have taken to this most hospitable southern city. With its collection of innovative dining and unique shopping venues, stunning natural offerings and picturesque landscapes, and upscale lodging facilities with unimaginable views of the Arkansas River and over the lively downtown portion of the city, we will certainly be returning again to explore more of this unique and memorable locale to provide our readers more reviews in the near future of this serene, exciting, and activity and culture-filled region of the country.

  • LOCATION: The downtown locale of upscale area hotels and popular area of downtown and the River Market District is located along President Clinton Avenue along one of the most lively, provisional, and sought after parts of town. Two Rivers Bridge & Park is a short drive from downtown.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Between the eateries we enjoyed during out visits to the area, we were treated like royalty by the management and staff of several restaurants along President Clinton Avenue in downtown Little Rock. We savored fine dining and succulent steaks and cocktails at Sonny Williams Steak Room, took in panoramic views over the river and lunchtime sustenance on the outdoor patio at Bosco’s, and absorbed the local flavor and ambiance at Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, among other stops throughout our trip. All worth every visit, every penny spent, and every bite of succulent cuisine provided by some of the areas top venues.
  • HOURS: Bosco’s along the riverfront is available for business Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM, Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 AM through 12:00 Midnight, and on Sundays from 10:30 AM until 10:00 PM. Sonny Williams Steak Room impresses for dinnertime only Monday through Saturdays from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM, with the piano bar opening at 7:00 PM nightly. Vivacious Flying Saucer Draught Emporium is available for service Monday through Wednesday 11:00 AM through 1:00 AM, Thursdays and Fridays from 11:00 AM until 2:00 AM, Saturdays from 11:00 AM until 1:00 AM, and on Sundays beginning at 11:00 AM and finishing for the evening at 12:00 Midnight.
  • PRICING: The cost of dining in downtown Little Rock is worth very cent spent on some of the best tasting, flavor-filled, and well worthy creations from some of the top chefs in the city.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

Il TRAMEZZINO ITALIAN CAFE… “Studio City’s Quaint Italian Locale!”

Bustling Ventura Boulevard in Studio City is made much more soothing when stopping in at Il Tramezzino to ease a hunger pang or craving for a bite of truly authentic Italian cuisine. Our last visit to this quaint eatery offered an airy patio after dark beckoning us to stop by for a taste of what this unique popular dining locale had to offer. The candle-lit tables provided a touch of romance, while the café-esque design of the establishment designed the mood for the night.

Il Tramezzino

An incredible ciabatta bread basket quickly arrived with menus and a wine list by a warm and friendly server hoping to satisfy our hunger after visiting with friends at a nearby piano lounge. Having indulged in a decent amount of liquid temptations for a few hours before strolling to Il Tramezzino a few blocks away, we were ready to carb it up with delicious Italian breads, pastas, and a hearty panini sandwich that Il Tramezzino cafes are known locally for being “the” Italian sandwich perfectionists. The expertly-toasted slices of crunchy sustenance displayed their griddle marks proudly, while a flickering candle beside the basket enhanced the hues of lightly browned deliciousness. The restaurant’s special garlic-basil spread sat beside the golden slices of bread, then vanished quickly once tasted. We ordered a couple of glasses of wine from the available options, and sipped and tasted in awe and amazement.

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I had piles of pasta in my mind that evening, and I wasn’t leaving until I got what I wanted. Something flavorsome, a tomato-based sauce, a mixture of cheeses incorporated into thin logs of delectable penne pasta…sounded just what the doctor ordered to pacify my appetite. Hence, the Penne Formaggio hit the spot like nothing else. The blend of three cheeses and house made pasta sauce covered this dish nicely, while the perfectly aldente noodles were piled high and ready to be enjoyed. A sip or two of the wine we chose made this presentation an enhanced and complete one.

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Penne Formaggio

To miss out on what Il Tramezzino does with paninis should be a crime of human nature. We continued on with the Grilled Chicken Breast Panini compiled with sun-dried tomatoes, creamy chilled avocado slices, an excellent addition of Provolone cheese, and the eatery’s secret garlic-basil sauce on each slice of ciabatta bread to top off the flavor experience. Each bite was crunchy from the grilled ciabatta, filled with a circus of incredible flavors from the basil to the creamy cooling avocado to the punch of the sun-dried tomatoes, and the grilled chicken inside arrived tender, juicy, and lightly seasoned as to feature the mouthwatering taste of the meat. Definitely a winner, and most certainly deserving the name known by Californians as the “King of Sandwiches”! And if you’re shunning those carbs, the café will happily put your sandwich ingredients into a wrap just as well for you for no additional charge!

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Grilled Chicken Breast Panini

An easily lovable café available morning, noon, or during the evening with a simple and intimate ambiance, Il Tramezzino offers four location in the Los Angeles area to fulfill those cravings for amazing Italian creations in Studio City, the UCLA campus, Tarzana, and Beverly Hills. So take a trip to Italian excellence and enjoy what this loved institution has to offer!

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DÉCOR: Easy access from Ventura Boulevard or a walk down the block, Il Tramezzino offers an elegant, yet casual environment in which to enjoy most any Italian treat imaginable. Airy open patios grace these cafes providing ease and intimate provisions for diners.
  • FOOD / DRINK: A selection of unforgettable grilled paninis, hearty dishes of pastas, refreshing beverages, coffees, beer and wine. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner served daily keeps patrons coming back multiple times during the week.
  • LOCATION: This particular Il Tramezzino Italian Café is located at 13031 Ventura boulevard in Studio City, CA 91604.
  • HOURS: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is available at Il Tramezzino Italian Café Monday through Thursday from 10:00 AM until 9:00 PM, on Fridays starting at 10:00 AM through 10:00 PM, Saturdays beginning at 9:00 AM until closing at 10:00 PM, and on Sundays from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Full of conversation, excellent suggestions, and friendly demeanors, the staff will have you returning for more warm and inviting welcomes.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Definitely a deal for the money. Huge portions are provided without having to empty your entire wallet when the bill arrives. A perfect meal for most any occasion.
  • CORKAGE FEE: Our server mentioned an easy $5.00 corkage fee when bringing wine to the restaurant to enjoy with your meal.
  • PARKING: Metered street parking is available along Ventura Boulevard and various side streets.
  • PRICING: Our glasses of wine arrived at $11 per glass, while the ciabatta bread basket was complimentary with our meal. My heavenly piled-high dish of Penne Formaggio  and the Grilled Chicken Breast Panini were offered at an acceptable $10.95 each.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

SARAH’S MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE… “Bringing a Touch of the Mediterranean to a Small Southern Town!”

Another visit to the small town of Houma, Louisiana led us to a Mediterranean eatery that possessed as much charm as it did flavor. Combining a welcoming ambiance both indoors and out, satisfactory cuisine based from recipes derived from centuries of the region’s most popular items, and a friendly staff awaiting our arrival and welcoming us once we stepped foot onto the property made us realize that this out-of-place-to-some restaurant is just what this tiny town has been in need of for some time. In an area known for Cajun cuisine, Po-Boys and boiled crawfish, Sarah’s Mediterranean Cuisine has been shaking up the town with its introduction of fine coastal cuisine from the regions of Spain, Italy, France, Morocco, Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, and Israel…better known as the Mediterranean region of the world.

Sarah's Mediterranean

The subtropical climate of the Mediterranean area lends itself to the coastal lifestyle its people have come to know quite well. Seaside airy courtyard dining such as the patio this venue offers its patrons upon first arrival are somewhat reflective of the essence of what those who live along the Mediterranean coast might experience…of course, without the sea nearby. Vibrant red umbrellas top wrought iron patio tables offering comforting contrasts of color against an earth-toned stone backdrop of the courtyard flooring and exterior of the restaurant. The babbling waters of a fountain that greet all those who enter the property provide a sense of the sea if one closes the eyes, opens the ears, and imagines just for a moment in time.

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Inside, splendid hushed neutral-toned stone walls created a canvas for the vibrant pops of color everywhere in the restaurant. From shiny brasses to deep garnets and sky blues captured in tiles used for coasters on tables, to the mustard yellows and golds showcased behind a circular-shaped full bar, to the plethora of sophisticated tones embossed in various wall murals throughout the space, there wasn’t much that didn’t try to convince us at any moment that we weren’t actually somewhere along the Mediterranean coast dining at some intimate venue there. Then, as we sat in an intimate booth shielded from onlookers by a semi-private curtain and graced with a collection of small brass serving vessels and colorful glass lanterns along a makeshift window ledge with a bottle of wine before us as we awaited our first courses, the aroma of everything delectable found its way to us from the kitchen amongst this spectacular environment.

Sarah's Mediterranean2Grape Leaves & Baba Ganouj

The bottle of wine we selected would surprisingly prove to last us throughout our meal this particular evening. Orders of meat-stuffed grape leaves and an enormous dish of Baba Ganouj were delivered promptly as we began to devour each bite with the addition of warm freshly-baked pita bread In silent enjoyment. The grape leaves were compiled of rice, seasoned ground meat, and distinct Lebanese spices then wrapped securely with tender lemony grape leaves. The Baba Ganouj offered creamy eggplant mixed with lemon juice and tahini sauce and was perfect for devouring with the ample supply of house baked pita bread pockets.

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Gyro Sandwich Wrap

There’s nothing like a delicious flavor-packed gyro sandwich. One of our favorite Greek compilations, this version included lamb and beef mixed with an excellent complimentary spice blend then wrapped in one of the eatery’s warm pita bread wraps and stuffed with crisp lettuce, chilled tomato, tangy red onion, and refreshing tzatziki sauce. We had to give congrats to the restaurant for their attempt at this popular menu selection amongst its patrons, as we  thoroughly enjoyed this presentation.

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Chicken Shawarma

Finding ourselves filling up quickly, yet still forging ahead, we were also presented with the Chicken Shawarma plate, which was compiled with the likes of tender chicken that was marinated overnight with lemon juice and spices grilled to perfection then served with a side salad, homemade hummus, and rice for a grand finish. An addition of chilled tzatziki sauce enhanced our enjoyment of this dish as well.

Impressed with our overall experience and its attempt to bring a touch of Mediterranean cuisine to this small-town city in southern Louisiana, we have to give our compliments to the owners and staff for making our experience a worthwhile one and for placating our appetites for something unique amidst a southern town.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Decorated with attention to detail and adhering to the main specifics of eateries from the Mediterranean region, Sarah’s Mediterranean Cuisine provides bold bursts of vibrant color indoors and out with a full bar for entertaining and ample dining space.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Well worth a visit, the cuisine is spot on and the ambiance and friendly atmosphere will welcome you with its open arms.
  • LOCATION: Sarah’s Mediterranean Cuisine is located at 1420 West Tunnel Boulevard in Houma, LA 70360.
  • HOURS: Sarah’s Mediterranean Cuisine is available to patronize Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM, on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 AM until 10:00 PM, and on Sundays from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Punctual, friendly, knowledgeable about the menu, and allowed us time to decide what we wanted without rushing us.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Reasonable value for the price with the quality and freshness of the cuisine we enjoyed.
  • CORKAGE FEE: Our server informed us of a decent $10 per bottle corkage fee.
  • PARKING: The restaurant features a spacious parking lot free of charge while dining inside.
  • PRICING: Our bottle of wine was reasonable at $27 while the large dish of Baba Ganouj came in at an easy $4.99 and was more than enough for the two of us to share. The Grape Leaves with Meat were amply portioned and priced on the menu for $15.99, and the fantastic Gyro Wrap sandwich arrived at an easy $6.99. The Chicken Shawarma for $10.90 offered more flavors from the Mediterranean region that we enjoyed just as much.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

LOTERIA GRILL… “Putting Authentic Mexican Cuisine On the Map!”

With a popular daily Happy Hour, multiple locations accessible across the Los Angeles area, and flavors so incredible and satisfying you’ll think you’ve entered into a sort of culinary heaven, Loteria Grill in Studio City proudly offers something for everyone from the taco connoisseur to the tequila-loving taster to those patrons just ready to indulge in all things Executive Chef Jimmy Shaw has up his culinary sleeve to amaze and tantalize their taste buds with. Since opening his first Loteria Grill in 2002 at the historic Farmers Market, Chef Shaw has spread his culinary adoration for what he loves most across southern California by introducing five more locations ready to please and prepared to entice the senses of those seeking intriguing Mexican tastes combined with impressive renditions of all things delicious and savory.

Loteria Grill2Our most recent visit meting up with friends in the area provided a reason to indulge in some of the eatery’s temptations just to good to pass up. Chef Shaw’s expertise in “regional Mexican specialties” is enhanced by his upbringing in Mexico City. His perfected craft of dishing out inventive flavor-rich delights appeals to most everyone who steps foot in any of his Loteria Grill locations.The relaxing and welcoming ambiance inside his restaurants, and Chef Shaw’s obvious love for what he has done for so long continues to “wow” all who’ve stopped in at his restaurants over the last twelve years. This particular evening led us to the elongated bar with views of a conversation-piece wall of tequilas encased in uniquely-shaped bottles of varying colors, sizes and shapes.

Loteria Grill

House Made Tortilla Chips, Salsa & Margaritas

Rounds of expertly crafted margaritas began appearing before our lively group before we knew it, as well as orders of house made crispy tortilla chips, hand made salsa and creamy guacamole. The triangular slices of crunchiness were light and airy and called out for their perfectly blended salsa and creamy guacamole companions with each bite. The margaritas were chilled, on the rocks, and delivered a chilling sensation which contrasted nicely against the spicy salsa.

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Cheesy Quesadillas

The orders of the grill’s traditional Cheese Quesadillas went over well with our group at the infinite bar where we perched ourselves for conversation with one another. The warm handmade corn tortillas encased piping hot melted Oaxaca and Jack cheeses that hit the spot quite nicely. The griddle toasted exteriors of these presentations created a beautiful browned appearance, while the aroma of the blended cheeses lured us in despite all of the tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole we we had previously involved ourselves in.

Loteria Grill in Studio City will deliver some of the best tasting, freshest and skillfully-prepared Mexican cuisine. With multiple locations across southern California to accommodate those in different geographic locations, there simply is no reason not to stop in and enjoy what this creative restaurant group has to satisfy your yearning a for memorable Mexican cuisine.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The moment you enter Loteria Grill, you’ll feel instantly welcomed. Vibrant colors fill the space with items such as a massive piñata, striking painted larger-than-life “playing” cards perched atop shelves, spacious family seating, an outdoor patio area, and a large bar with a wall of tequila selections sure to satisfy even the most discriminative margarita connoisseur.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Freshness and flavor levels are heightened at Loteria Grill in the cuisine as well as the chilled libations served at the full bar.
  • LOCATION: Loteria Grill expressed their enjoyment of having us at their Studio City locale positioned at 12050 Ventura Boulevard on Studio City, CA 91604.
  • HOURS: The Studio City Loteria Grill is available for service Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 AM until 10:00 PM, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 AM until 10:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Our experience speaking with our bartender at the tequila bar during our visit proved interesting and fun. The hostess that seated us when we arrived was gracious and happy to see us.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Decent price-to-value ratio for the authentic Mexican flavors and quality in what was offered.
  • CORKAGE FEE: TBA
  • CONTACT INFO: Phone: (818) 508-5300, Website: www.loteriagrill.com
  • PARKING: Parking is available in front of the eatery at no charge while dining inside the restaurant.
  • PRICING: Our Guacamole Y Totopas (Tortilla Chips, Salsa & Guacamole) arrived at $10 per order, while the Cheese Quesadillas came in at $11 each. The refreshing margaritas we received while seated at the bar we’re fairly prices at $8.95 per beverage.

* Menu and pricing subject to change without notice.

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL HOUSTON… “A Relaxing Destination In Downtown Houston!”

At Four Seasons Hotel Houston, unrivaled opulence welcomes guests into its twenty story sophisticated abode offering all things lavish, comforting, and well-deserved. Five-Diamond Four-Star accommodations provide 404 spacious guest rooms that promise to boost heavenly dreams throughout the evenings, while a rejuvenating spa and unparalleled restaurants cater to your every whim. The lively excitement of staying right in the middle of downtown Houston at the epicenter of high dollar business deals being assembled, a deluge of tempting restaurants to cater to any culinary desire, and noteworthy entertainment venues and cultural destinations exist sheerly for your enjoyment. The popular House of Blues, and numerous broadening and ennobling attractions such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Houston Theater District, not to mention sought-after Green Street with its profusion of entertainment and eateries is just steps from the hotel within walking distance and offer even more enlightenment within the perimeter of the city.

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Despite all of what downtown Houston has to offer outside of the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, it’s what is inside this sophisticated locale that offers proof of its desire to provide world-class alluring space, first-rate service, and above all, a memorable experience graced with a Texan appeal that will convince you to return.

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Eye-catching deep blues, gold detailing, and natural-toned hues throughout the hotel both in modern and time-honored styles enhance the refined ambience of this address, while pops of vibrant colors are delivered by fresh floral arrangements throughout the hotel. This non-smoking property offers such services such as a discerning multilingual Concierge, an accessible house car for downtown destinations, and extravagant amenities during any stay as well as enticing packages crafted to enhance your experience while at Four Seasons hotel Houston.

Four Seasons Houston

Deluxe room accommodations boast a wealth of comforts of home such as enormous bay windows overlooking the city, plenty of natural light during the day, comfortable office space for handling business, and beautiful décor and furniture in only the finest of luxurious textures and fabrics that Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts are synonymous for. Muted taupes, warm butter yellows, and shimmery touches of silvers refined the overall appearance of our suite with expansive stunning views of the city.

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A full marble bathroom provides spacious grandeur, polished tones of gold and silver, and glassed-in showers along with L’Occitane bath amenities sure to remove the days stresses. Don’t forget to stop by the hotel spa for even more options for stress relief with a solo or couples massage, manicures and pedicures, a selection of spa treatments for the mind and body, and the utilization of Clarins products throughout the experience.

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 The Four Seasons Hotel Houston’s pool level, which underwent an incredibly elaborate renovation bearing a four million dollar price tag, is the city’s only resort-style outdoor pool. Graced with Brazillian wood decking, Turkish travertine tile, a contemporary water wall, a relaxing hot tub, a fire pit for evening get-togethers, and a poolside bar featuring light fare and healthy choices, the 65-foot aquatic haven that is the center of attention in this part of the hotel is lined with colorful flowers, beautiful foliage, and even Live Oaks and palm trees to intensify that resort feel in Houston’s hustle and bustle four stories below. You’ll almost forget you’re in the city here, as you relax your cares away with a cocktail served poolside and a little sunshine to enlighten your mood.

One of the best locales in our opinion in the downtown Houston area, Four Seasons Hotel Houston will prove its brand’s consistency in professional and reliable service, dependable cuisine opportunities, and focus on catering to its guests with unprecedented provisions sure to delight the Four Seasons regular, or the unsuspecting first-timer.

  • PROPERTY: An elegance you won’t soon forget, the Four Seasons Hotel Houston prides itself on making its guests feel at home in comfort and accessibility with its centrally-located position downtown.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: A well-informed staff presents a seamless approach to catering to their guests. Accommodations are precisely accurate and delivered as such, friendliness and graciousness is exuded upon registering upon arrival, and steps are taken and followed through successfully to provide full service to all who step foot onto this property.
  • PET FRIENDLINESS: Four Seasons Hotel Houston welcomes both felines and K9s 25 pounds and under at no additional fee. A Pet Waiver is required at check-in for each pet.
  • DINING OPTIONS: Quattro Italian is the property’s flagship fine dining restaurant located on the hotel’s third floor led by Executive Chef Marizio Ferrarese. Proudly featuring locally sourced ingredients fit for a king, the main restaurant is available for enjoying for breakfast Monday through Friday from 6:30 AM until 11:30 AM and on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Brunch brings customers in on Sundays starting at 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM, while Lunch offers even more variety daily between 11:30 AM and 2:30 PM. A Pasta Lunch Buffet is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM until 2:00 PM. Dinners are presented every evening from 5;30 PM through 10:00 PM for your convenience. This exquisite culinary plunge into all things savory is neighbored by the Vinoteca Wine Bar just steps away. Follow your carvings for great flavors and delicious options to the Lobby Lounge on the main level of the hotel, where you can delight in a variety of sophisticated whiskey presentations as well as specialty sliders with a Southwestern enhancement. Prefer a little something lighter and outdoors? Why not take a stroll and stay a while at The Deck poolside beneath the sunshine and blue skies above on the fourth floor of the property for a lighter and healthier menu selection. The Deck is available daily from Monday through Sunday from 9:00 AM until 9:00 PM.
  • LOCATION: The Four Seasons Hotel Houston is conveniently located downtown at 1300 Lamar Street in Houston, TX 77010.
  • PARKING: Valet parking is available at the main entrance to the hotel.
  • RESORT AMENITIES: The hotel pool deck invites those ready for relaxation or a morning swim on the fourth level of the property. An open outdoor space beneath the shimmering sunlight and sky blue fantasy overhead will allow for peace and tranquility in the middle of a bustling and energetic city. The 65-foot long pool is available for guests daily from 9:30 AM until 10:30 PM. Lines with beautiful trees, which Crete a natural privacy wall, this resort-style multi-million dollar area of tranquility is the only one of it’s kind in the area. The Spa offers dry saunas, whirlpools, massages, manicures and pedicures, body treatments, facials and complimentary spa amenities. Available daily from 8:00 AM until 8:00 PM, suddenly 12-hour days feel like complete bliss at The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Houston. Why not embrace all the comforts and luxurious pampering in The Spa’s 2,500 square feet of heavenly bliss. Four treatment rooms are accessible by reservation, and couples massages are also available at your request.

* Rates and prices subject to change without notice.

PACFIC DINING CAR… ” Hop Aboard For Flavor That Will Take Your Taste Buds For a Ride!”

Catering to the 24-hour area of southern California, Pacific Dining Car Restaurants have become well known throughout the years by California locals, as well as visiting tourists. But locating a 24-hour eatery that serves sought-after prime steaks, even in the wee hours of the night, within a comforting, dimly-lit dining-car-styled establishment with full service, an on-staff sommelier, and an intimate ambience with private booths could be considered a miraculous feat.  Originally presented in 1921, the original location in downtown Los Angeles turned the city on its head with a unique idea for fine dining around the clock. Soon after, professionals in the medical field, production crews for movie filmings, and those who just couldn’t sleep and craved an amazing meal in the middle of the night started arriving, becoming regulars at this newfound culinary sanctum. In 1990, a second location was opened in chic Santa Monica and both eateries have been successfully caring for their patrons to this day.

PDC

We
stopped in one very late…well, actually very early morning after an elongated
cocktail party at a friend’s home in the area in Santa Monica. Since we weren’t
far from being home ourselves, we decided to cure our hankering for something
hearty, filling, and satisfying at the Pacific Dining Car Restaurant at the
Wilshire Boulevard location. Upon entering, we were greeted warmly by a host
yielding a wine list and menus. Once seated, we declined the wine menu, as we
had enjoyed our fair share that evening already, but graciously accepted the
Late Night menus we were offered. We chose to dine in the Huntington Room
graced with deep garnet and greens gracing the walls, white linen tablecloths
and fresh roses upon the tables, and intimate private booths waiting to comfort
those prepared for a wonderful dining experience. We chose a window booth, and
perused the tempting menu for what would soon satisfy our hankering for
something that would cure our appetites.

PDC1

A couple of chilled Arnold Palmers were ordered, and arrived promptly with a selection of fresh various breads and a shell-shaped vessel of salted butter. We indulged a bit more in the bread than we usually would on any other occasion, and happily agreed that it was divine in texture, flavor, and portion size. The cold Arnold Palmers were pleasantly sipped on until another round was placed before us along with our selections that were already being plated in the kitchen.

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Filet Mignon Sandwich

Think of your favorite sandwich. Now forget that image, and think of Pacific Dining Car’s Filet Mignon Sandwich. This juicy, expertly-prepared, melt-in-your-mouth creation was equally as delicious as the photos above show it to be. Accompanied by a heaping pile of steaming fries, this sandwich consists of chilled hand-sliced beefsteak tomato, crisp vibrant green lettuce, crunchy white onion, and most any additional accoutrement you might desire. Prepared to your liking, you get what you want at Pacific Dining Car because the staff if there to serve you, make you happy, and ensure that when you do walk out of their door, it’s with a smile upon your face. But we weren’t ready to depart just yet…

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Training Day Baseball Steak

The carnivore that he is, my husband had no qualms about devouring his menu selection…the Training Day Baseball Steak. This “Training Day” movie-inspired compilation consists of a 10-ounce dry-aged prime filet mignon joined by a noteworthy portion of shoestring fries. Every bite of this heavenly serving of beef was bursting with savory aromas, natural juices, and so much flavor even we had a hard time believing it. But we forged ahead, and accepted that Pacific Dining Car restaurants are everything they say they are…around the clock cuisine perfection, masters of the late night steak, and caterers of their patrons with superior care,  concern and excellence in service.

Our conclusion of this dining experience is quite complimentary. No matter what tie of the day or night, Pacific Dining Car restaurants will prove their reputation is indeed trustworthy with their established and renowned prime beef presentations, their well-known and well-appreciated service, and the round the clock access and inviting atmosphere ready to accommodate anyone craving some pretty sensational fare.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DÉCOR: Vivid colors and rich fabrics cover eye-leasing dining rooms beneath dimly-lit spaces. Cozy and roomy tables and booths allow for a choice of eating in large groups, or more privately in comfortable booths with and without window view options. Fresh flowers are placed on each table, while white linen tablecloths and linens are utilized for that fine dining feel. An on-staff sommelier is also available to assists with wine selections during specific dining hours.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Unfortunately, we had already had our fair share of cocktails and wine at a previous engagement, so we opted for chilled refreshing Arnold Palmers during our meal to hydrate and satisfy our thirst. Well-made and flavorful, these were favorable selections. Our dinner choices proved superb by the dry-aged prime beef that we enjoyed in both selections.
  • LOCATION: Two locations are available for 24-hour a day service. The original restaurant in downtown L.A. is located at 1310 West 6th Street in Los Angeles, CA 90017, while the Santa Monica location exists at 2700 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, CA 90403.
  • HOURS: Both establishments are available for service around the clock, and are open every day of the year. Breakfast and dinner are available anytime, while lunch selections are served daily from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM. Afternoon Tea options are presented daily from 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM, and the Late-Night menu is offered from 11:00 PM through 6:00 AM in the morning.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Our server was gracious, friendly, and kind. His knowledge of the restaurant and the menu was unparalleled, as was his professionalism and service.
  • PRICE / VALUE: For the quality of the cuisine, we were pleased with the cost of what was ordered. Not overly pricy, and delicious from the first bite to the last, we will return again to experience more of what there is to enjoy (along with a taste of some of the wines on board!)
  • CORKAGE FEE: TBA
  • CONTACT INFO: The Los Angeles location may be reached via phone at (213) 483-6000, while the Santa Monica locale can be contacted at (310) 453-4000.Both establishments may be accessed via their website at: www.pacificdiningcar.com.
  • PARKING: Both locations offer valet parking during scheduled hours, while metered street parking is also available.
  • PRICING: We enjoyed four Arnold Palmers at $5.95 apiece, while the Training Day Baseball Steak came in at $17.95 and the Filet Mignon Sandwich arrived at and acceptable $18.95.

 * Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

SANTA MONICA PIER & PALISADES PARK… “A Day At the Beach, A Walk In the Park!”

 Southern California is a locale that the masses flock to when in search of near-perfect weather, a plethora of cultural activities, unlimited restaurant offerings that cater to most any cuisine hankering, and an overall feeling of peacefulness and unity from the mighty Pacific Ocean with its seemingly never-ending horizon and breathtaking sunsets and views of the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance. Miles of expansive sandy coastline complete with its own soundtrack of the shore’s intonations from the sounds of the surf beckoning its visitors to stay a little longer, indulge in the peacefulness it has to offer, and enjoy existing within such a habit-forming environment with ease and perpetuity. This western crust of America shines ever so proudly as its waters shimmer, its evenings twinkle with a billion stars overhead, and its inhabitants gladly absorb everything this beach town has to offer.

The popular circa early 1900s Santa Monica Pier stands over the ebb and flow of Pacific tides at nearly 1,600 feet long. Dotted with eateries, surf shops, fishing and beach paraphernalia stores, an arcade, and an actual amusement park at the foot of the pier including a working Carousel, ferris wheel, and even a functional roller coaster! This magnificent structure along the California coast attracts visitors year-round without fail. The Santa Monica Aquarium is also available at ground level beneath the vintage soda fountain- toting carousel, which provides those with an interest for marine life an eye-opening educational experience. Waiting until nighttime proves worthwhile when the varietal colors of neon lights illuminate the pier and the ocean below with ambers and magentas and cayennes and other vibrant hues, which accent this attraction as well as accentuate the transitional ambience of the evening.

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Santa Monica Pier

Just steps from Santa Monica Pier is the grassy manicured Palisades Park stretched out parallel to Ocean Avenue with majestic views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Beach below. Built atop the coastal sandstone bluffs of the area, this 26-acre public domicile reaches from Colorado Boulevard to San Vicente Boulevard and plays host to those enjoying physical fitness, walks with Man’s Best Friend, people watching, catching up on that favorite book, and other such leisurely activities. Closer to the start of the pier, entertainers and performers attempt their hand at fascinating the young and enlightening the young at heart. A two-mile paved bike and walking path provides easy access from one end of the park to the other, while restrooms, park benches, and intricate landmarks offer an intriguing and unique visit. Make a stop at the cannons on the southern part of the ground,a brief pause at the Native American totem pole, or a pleasant break during a long run at the beautifully-maintained rose garden. Whatever your fancy, whatever you’re drawn by, this landscaped recreation area will undoubtedly lure you into its meditative and relaxed surroundings and set you at harmony with the beauty of nature tht envelops you at Palisades Park.

Santa Monica Park & Pier

Over thirty species of indigenous trees, plants and other vegetation call Palisades Park their home. From the mighty Eucalyptus trees to various breeds of palms in every shape and size to the Pine and Fig displays, as well as the impressive Monterey Cypress and Red Gum trees present in the park in all their splendor. Above, this friendly squirrel stopped by to greet us and enjoy a feast of unsalted sunflower seeds that we had with us. We happily offered him what was left to ensure that he was fed.

Santa Monica Park & Pier1

Various food trucks supplying tasty options and chilled and hot beverages often park alongside the park to offer a cure for the day’s hunger and thirst to occupants of the natural beauty some 1.5 miles from the entry to Santa Monica Pier. Across the street, several restaurants lie in wait as well for patrons to stop in for a bite, while the day’s longevity slowly crawls to a halt and its sun effortlessly begins to set beyond a sea blue horizon.

A daily power walk to start the day, a run with Fido to break from the day’s tedious schedule, or a romantic walk with the one you adore most in your life just before sunset along the Pacific Ocean…all reasons to stop and appreciate the views and offerings of both Santa Monica Pier and neighboring Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue. Spend a couple of hours or an entire day at these locations. There is always plenty to fill your day at both locales, which will leave you with fond memories of the west coast as well as numerous reasons to return again.

  • LOCATION: Santa Monica Pier’s Information office is located at 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Palisades Park may be found at 1450 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, CA 90401.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Various rotating food trucks stop by Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue frequently, while a supply of restaurants directly across from the park and pier offer tasty renditions of their original classics and signature dishes. On the pier, various vendors and eateries provide nourishment for hungry patrons and refreshing beverages for all ages.
  • HOURS: The Santa Monica Pier is always open, however the vendors along the pier do have various hours of business. (See the website for the pier for those). Palisades Park is open from 5:00 AM until 12 AM Midnight.
  • PRICING: There is no charge to visit the pier or the Palisades Park. Dining or shopping at individual vendors varies, of course.
  • CONTACT INFO: The Pier Shop at the start of the bottom of the pier ramp offers information via phone at (310) 458-8901, and provides more information at their website at www.santamonicapier.org. Palisades Park information may be obtained via phone at either (310) 458-8644 or (310) 828-4497, while more information on the park’s website can be viewed at smgov.net.
  • PET FRIENDLINESS: Palisades Park is dog friendly, so bring Fido along to appreciate the views! Please note that alcohol and smoking is not allowed anywhere within the park.
  • PARKING: Metered parking spaces line the edge of Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue, while public parking facilities in the area offer additional convenience. 

 * Menus and prices of local vendors and area eateries subject to change without notice.

THE CAROUSEL BAR @ HOTEL MONTELEONE… “Taking a Spin at Cocktail Hour In the Big Easy!”

 There are some establishments that cater to the discriminating patron with a seamless approach. There are some that go above and beyond to extend proof of their exceedingly competitive and unparalleled customer service. Where upscale ambiance and first-rate service go hand-in-hand. Where a seat at the bar repositions you once you perch yourself upon one of the many intricately hand-painted bar stools. Where one is offered varying angles of elegant décor in an opulent and intimate setting with views of historic Royal Street where patrons may catch glimpses of passers-by with a background of numerous antique shops, art galleries, and the like. The Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana possesses all of these, and so much more. It is a regular locale we frequent and have come to know well over the last many years of our traveling through this alluring and hospitable mecca of all things abundant in Southern hospitality, unmistakable comfort, and unmatchable service.

Carousel Bar @ The Monteleone

Located in the French Quarter along historic Royal Street, The Hotel Monteleone housing the popular circa 1949 Carousel Bar is noted as one of the city’s last family-owned and operated hotels. It has been labeled one of the most romantic and historic locales in the area. Sophisticated grandeur is exuded from every nook and cranny inside the notable and unforgettable swanky lounge amidst the Big Easy’s bustling streets and rushing traffic. The literary expressions of famous authors have also canonized the Carousel Bar in their interpretations on paper, while many movies and television series have taken advantage of the lounge and hotel setting for their filming locations.

Carousel Bar @ The Monteleone1

The much photographed and whimsical carousel top of the rotating bar was installed in 1992, while the entire lounge underwent a renovation in 2011, which expanded the Carousel Bar into a second dwelling area with an additional bar to accommodate the overflow of this popular meeting spot. Currently the only revolving bar in New Orleans since Club 360 atop the Trade Center closed due to damage from Hurricane Katrina, the lounge exudes an elegant vintage ambiance offering opulent grandeur and sophistication as those perched at the revolving bar enjoy hand shaken classic and signature libations enveloped in a feel of vintage memories and intriguing stories from the bartenders who have tended this area for years. Original vibrantly-colored hand-painted bar seating shows off bold hues, rich workmanship, and preferred location at the moving bar. We’ve always managed to get a seat at the carousel bar when visiting, however, there is alternate seating available surrounding the lavish moving bar as well as more seating in the connecting space inclusive of another arch-shaped bar. Comfortable and inviting seating strategically placed to involve capturing excellent views of Royal Street’s passers-by and beautiful historic buildings across the street also grants patrons thought-evoking views of the area.

Carousel Bar @ The Monteleone2

Pre-Dinner Cocktails In the Lounge

We happily surrendered to a few chilled beverages from the bar before retreating to dinner elsewhere in the city. Observing these being made at the revolving bar was like admiring fine art being created by the hands of a much adored painter in some ways. I chose a couple of Ketel Kosmos as my liquid obsession during our visit made with Ketel One vodka, lime, Cointreau, and cranberry juice. My husband devoured a couple of the bar’s finely crafted Cuba Libras as well.  Specific evenings lend themselves to live music in the lounge to accompany those flavorsome liquid sensations being prepared before you as you indulge yourself in the sophisticated space that is the Carousel Bar & Lounge.  A Bar Bites & Sandwiches menu offers an array of tempting flavorful options from mini PoBoys to BBQ Ribs to Cuban Sandwiches and even burgers presented in an elegant preparation and crafted by the chef of Hotel Monteleone’s main restaurant Criollo’s kitchen.

 Step inside Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar & Lounge, and leave behind you the bustling noise of the city, the worries of the day, and the concerns of tomorrow because this place is going to take all of that away and transform your mind to an environment of deserving bliss in a lounge crafted to suit those longing for fine hand crafted cocktails and southern liquid libation classics, great conversation with seasoned mixologists at the bar, and a relaxed ambiance with live entertainment to set your mind’s troubles and concerns aside for a few hours while you indulge in your time here.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The entry through the Hotel Monteleone provides access to the lobby and entry through glass doors that lead to all things indulgent at the Carousel Bar and Lounge. Beautiful hues of pale tones, reflective antique mirrors, expansive views of Royal Street, and of course, the Carousel Bar itself will provide hours of leisurely enjoyment and much deserved relaxation on any given day.
  • FOOD / DRINK: The bar is known for its cocktail splendor, however, a bar menu does exist which offers upscale appetizers flavorful enough to fit the bill of anyone’s appetite level. The Carousel Bar & Lounge Bar Bites & Sandwiches Menu is available from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM.
  • LOCATION: The Carousel Bar & Lounge is conveniently positioned at 214 Royal Street in New Orleans, LA 70130.
  • HOURS: The Carousel Bar and Lounge opens its doors Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM, then on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 AM through 1:00 AM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The bar staff and servers enjoy serving their patrons, appreciate conversation and offer stories of when they first started working here and tales of the city that you’ll have to decide for yourself if are true or not. Friendly, efficient, and professional with a generous concern for their customers’ enjoyment and happiness while visiting.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Expect upscale prices for upscale service and elegant preparations of libations, but be prepared for some of the best cocktails you’ve ever had anywhere else. Well worth the price for the ambiance, service, exceptionally crafted drinks, and overall romance of the experience.
  • CORKAGE FEE: TBA
  • PARKING: The Hotel Monteleone offers valet parking if you are staying on site, while metered street parking and city lots are available as well. We usually walk in from shopping along Royal Street or have a house car deliver us to the main entry of the Hotel Monteleone when we are staying in the city or if the weather is unfavorable.
  • PRICING: The Bar Bites & Sandwiches Menu items range from $10 item and up, while signature and classic renditions of favorite liquid temptations can run you anywhere from $9 to $15 per cocktail. Our four cocktails arrived at $15 for each signature Ketel Kosmo I consumed, and $12.50 for the two Cuba Libre cocktails my other half indulged in. We had a few bites of the lounge’s snack mix that was offered to us with our drinks, but didn’t choose any appetizers, as we were en route to dinner to meet friends at an alternate location in town.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

REILLEY’S GRILL & BAR AND REILLEY’S NORTH END PUB… “The Lowcountry’s Answer to Beloved Boston Pubs!”

For over thirty years, Reilley’s has been catering to the locals and visitors alike on the island of Hilton Head, South Carolina and the surrounding areas. Now with two locations at either end of the island, patrons gather together for that end of the day ice cold brew, that anticipated meeting with loved ones, and for incredible meals and Happy Hour specials most every evening.

Reilley's

Both establishments offer the same savory cuisine, always consistent, always fresh and flavorsome. Each houses a traditional Boston-style pub complete with two of the best places on the island to enjoy your favorite sports games, indulge in savory Irish fare and chilled cocktails, and get involved in all of the local excitement that is included in a true feel-good pub environment.

Reilley's1

The dim lighting inside these establishments is strikingly evocative of traditional Boston pubs with their larger than life display of friendly bartenders, sports on every big screen television imaginable, accepting blend of true locals mixed with the camaraderie of conversation with visiting tourists, and libations served up by skilled mixologsts complimented by mouthwatering and unforgettable dishes just waiting to dare you to try them and be won over by their succulent flavors and creative preparations that will create a comforting feeling you’ll never long to depart from.

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Pub Menu, Cocktails & Fresh Made Popcorn

The bar houses a variety of brews on tap and by the bottle as well as traditional cocktails to suit most anyone’s desires for something chilled and intoxicatingly refreshing. We’ve often indulged in the well-prepared martinis, signature cocktails, and selection of wines from the array of choices available to accompany some of the sensational appetizers and meals we’ve enjoyed here over the years.

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Collection of Various Favorites Off the Pub Menu

When it comes to which items to order to enjoy when visiting either of these long standing island pubs, we have a few suggestions. Starting with a popular house favorite, the Irish Potato Skins made in house with melty cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, crisp flavorful bacon crumbles, a sprinkling of decorative fresh parsley, and a side of creamy chilled sour cream are a sure winner. Or try the Buffalo Buttermilk Battered Shrimp with their crunchy goodness drowned in a zippy and zesty buffalo sauce for an added kick served with a side of cool blue cheese dressing and fresh cut chilled celery. Other loved accoutrements in the pub off of the menu are the Fresh House Spring Rolls handcrafted daily with plum sauce and pickled ginger and the Cheese Quesadilla with sour cream and house made salsa. Or the fan favorite classic Fish & Chips entrée created with Boston Cod deep fried in a beer batter presented with fries, coleslaw, and savory tartar sauce. Sometimes, there’s just nothing better.

Take a peek at the pub’s dinner menu as well for more full dinner selections from fresh seafood dishes, to hearty sandwiches and unforgettable burgers, to chicken and pasta offerings, to fine steaks and garden fresh salads worth raving about. A sure bet when seeking a gathering place to meet, mingle, and blend in with the locals anytime for great times and delicious fare far from Bostom, yet encompassing all there is to love about the traditional Boston pub in the Lowcountry.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The dim lighting and secluded environment of the pub atmosphere is well loved by locals and visitors alike. A welcoming feeling embraces all who walk through the doors of each establishment, while the casual ambiance caters to those dressed down as well as those in three-piece suits who arrive straight from the office.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Flavorsome classic pub favorites, succulent steak and pasta offerings, fresh salads and specials on specific evenings delight everyone from the beef lover to the calorie-conscious patron. A full bar at each location caters to any concoction that can possibly be desired.
  • LOCATION: Two Reilley’s locations exist on Hilton Head Island for your dining and libation enjoyment…the first, Reilley’s Grill & Bar is positioned at 7D Greenwood Drive on Hilton Head Island, SC 29928, while the second establishment, Reilley’s North End Pub, is situated on the north side of the island at 95 Matthews Boulevard on Hilton Head Island, SC 29926.
  • HOURS: Happy Hour offers some fairly decent discounted bites and sips with 1/2 off domestic bottles of beer, 1/2 off select draft brews, 1/2 off house wines, and 1/2 off well liquor drinks. Happy Hour lasts from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM, which makes us extremely happy when we can get to the pub before 5:00 PM! Normal business hours for the establishments exist Monday through Saturday from 11:30 AM until 2:00 AM, and on Sundays from 11:00 AM to 2:00 AM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Friendly and efficient mixologists and servers allow patrons to enjoy their visit while feeling catered to at any given moment. The staff excels in everything they do at both locations, as we have continually witnessed when we visit when sojourning through the Lowcountry.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Terrific Happy Hour deals, and reasonable full menu dining options as well. Something for everyone with specials throughout the week. Mondays feature Lobster Night, Tuesdays kids eat free, Wednesday & Saturdays offer Prime Rib Night, while a Sunday Brunch features complimentary Champagne & Mimosas.
  • CORKAGE FEE: TBA
  • CONTACT INFO: Phone: (843) 842-4414 (Reilley’s Grill & Bar on the south end of the island) and (843) 681-4153 (Reilley’s North End Pub), Website: reilleyshiltonhead.com.
  • PARKING: There is ample complimentary private lot parking at both Reilley’s locations on the island.
  • PRICING: When we’ve stopped by during Happy Hour, the Irish Potato Skins arrived at a simple $6.99, while the Buffalo Buttermilk Battered Shrimp selection came in at a worthwhile $8.99. The Chef’s Special House Made Spring Rolls were offered at $7.99, with the Cheese Quesadilla being priced at $4.95. Our Fish & Chips entrée finished off our culinary snacking at an acceptable $15.99.

*Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

 

JARAGUA RESTAURANT… “True Salvadoran Cuisine In the Heart of Los Angeles!”

The adobe veneer of this popular Salvadoran establishment welcomed us inside to a friendly staff waiting to serve our requests for savory and unforgettable Salvadoran cuisine. Located in the busy goings on of Los Angeles and situated along Beverly Boulevard, this was a true gem that we had not come across before hearing about it from friends over coffee recently. We headed over for a bite before enjoying a play in the area with our appetites ready to experience something amazing.

Jaragua

The Sherbert-hued entrance was defined by the restaurant’s logo prominently displayed on both a posted sign as well as on the building itself. The interior of the eatery offered a spacious dining room filled with casually-set tables for catering to the lone diner or the family of ten. Views through large windows allowed for observation of passers-by on the boulevard, while the modest and casual ambiance had us intrigued about what we would experience while here.

Jaragua1

Salvadoran Signature Cocktails 

The cocktail menu offers selections house made from a tucked away intimate velvet-curtained lounge called the Copper Still to the back of the dining space. Though noticeable with a quick glance around the room, the tiny bar plays host to some pretty creative cocktails by a well-adored mixologist behind the counter. Both flavorsome as well as refreshing, and served in large drinking vessels, we were pleased with our orders and prepared to move on to ordering a Salvadoran feast for our palates.

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Pollo Encebollada

The Pollo Encebollada was an impressive display of tender grilled chicken that literally fell apart when touched with a utensil due to its incredible tenderness. Marinated then sautéed in the restaurant’s own tantalizing conglomeration of juices and broths, thick-cut white onions grilled to a sweet perfection, robust tomatoes bursting with fresh flavor, and vibrantly-colored green peppers are added to this dish creating a sight to behold and a conclusion of heartiness to the presentation.

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Side Salad, Pupusas & Frijoles

A side salad accompanied our selection of the Pollo Encebollada, while tender warm pupusas (Salvadoran tortillas made from fresh rice or corn massa and El Salvador’s national dish) melded nicely with the serving of frijoles ordered to complete a full exploration of flavor.

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Pan Con Pavo

The Pan Con Pavo is my new favorite sandwich in the existence of life as we know it. El Salvador’s famous turkey sandwich, this conglomeration of flavor upon flavor sensation, varietal textures from the tender turkey to the flowing taste bud tantalizing broth to the tender sandwich bread that despite it’s getting a tad soggy on the bottom from the delectable broth it sits in, would turn heads if only others knew how delicious it is, to the sensational mouthwatering aroma of all things delicious packed inside this generous offering of Salvadoran goodness. Just an amazing, indulgent, near perfect sandwich sure to put you under its spell of flavor-filled intoxication.

Our visit to Jaragua proved worthwhile. So much so that we continually revisit this unassuming family-friendly spacious and gracious dining establishment probably more often than we should. Nevertheless, a sure winner on the SavorHour.com list of delightful casual locales worth the drive, worth the splurge, and worth every single taste of extraordinary goodness.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The exterior of the eatery exudes friendly and welcoming vibes with its sherbert-hued pueblo-style facade. Inside, spacious dining and friendly and accommodating staff ensure pleasant culinary experiences from start to finish.
  • FOOD / DRINK: The fresh and savory flavors and combinations of all things delicious and mouthwatering will keep you returning to Jaragua, while signature and classic cocktails will keep you guessing.
  • LOCATION: Jaragua is situated at 4493 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA 90004.
  • HOURS: The establishment’s business hours exist Monday through Friday from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 AM until 10:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The staff is friendly, hospitable, and happy to suggest dishes to wow your taste buds.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The price point here is worth the experience. After enjoying our meal here, we were convinced that the quality of the cuisine, spacious dining room, and helpful staff offered an exceptional value for the money.
  • CORKAGE FEE: TBA
  • CONTACT INFO: Phone: (323) 661-1985, Website: www.jaraguarestaurant.com
  • PARKING: The parking areas lie behind the restaurant in a private lot as well as along the streets at metered parking spaces surrounding the restaurant.
  • PRICING: The array of delicious cuisine awed us and left us both satisfied with the cuisine as well as the pricing. We ate very well for two people for under $50, and we were happy to get a spectacular Salvadoran meal with all the trimmings including alcohol.

* Menu and pricing subject to change without notice.

MALIBU CREEK STATE PARK… “Finding the Naturalist In Ourselves!”

There’s something intriguing about what one discovers when taking a walk through nature along creek side trails. Something freeing. Something that brings us to a place of peace, of calm, of inner happiness. Maybe it’s the oneness with the environment and the earth, or the refreshing feeling of a cool breeze against our face that renews our soul, or even the quiet solace we come upon that allows us, even if just for a few moments, to realign our focus of our path in life. Whichever of those it is, there’s a distinct location that heightens those experiences for us. Malibu Creek State Park has long been a place of untangling days that didn’t quite go our way at times, of bringing us closer to an understanding of ourselves as human beings in a world filled with stresses and disappointments, and a sanctuary of sorts that never fails to help us get back on track to realizing that sometimes the simplest things in life can be some of the best. It was time we wrote about this stunningly beautiful locale of natural beauty, so it heads up as our first article in our recently added “Beautiful Places” category at SavorHour.com.

Malibu Creek State Park

Open from dawn until dusk, Malibu Creek State Park offers a relaxing and memorable experience for the nature hiker as well as the more seasoned camper or outdoorsman. Formerly owned by 20th Century Fox Studios, the beautiful terrain was used in outdoor filming locations for movies and television shows over the years. We frequent this natural stunner often and appreciate its natural beauty it offers year round to it’s visitors. Seven thousand acres within the Santa Monica Mountains provide ample space for outdoor activities such as hiking, nature walks, fishing, horseback riding opportunities, rock climbing, mountain biking, bird watching, picnicing, and even special campfire programs. We’ve always enjoyed trekking from the parking area to the  rock pool at the conclusion of the three and a half mile round trip journey that parallels the soothing intonations of an at times lively creek. Above, you can see how the creek cuts directly across a popular path at will, blocking access across it’s shallow, yet swiftly moving waters.

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As a favorite filming location for some of the industry’s best loved entertainment series and films, Malibu Creek State Park has hosted the filming of several popular productions such as M*A*S*H, Swiss Family Robinson, Pleasantville, Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, Daniel Boone, Planet of the Apes, and a few Tarzan productions just to name a few. The park provides beautiful scenery from its meandering trails, lush rolling hills, rushing creek waters for miles, and a variety of bird species sure to delight the nature observer to no end. Towering oaks line areas of the trail leading to the rock pool, which provide shade along the path as one makes their way closer to the rocky conclusion of the volcanic swimming destination after a well enjoyed walk, pleasant run, or relaxing stroll as the sights of expansive vistas and mountainous peaks along the creek are happily taken in.

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There’s something about the sound of water that I’ve always loved. The sound of the wind against treetops rustling leaves in accordance with the directional flow of the breezes that come and go often remind me of the sound of the ocean with it’s ebb and flow of waves being washed upon the shore. Another soothing and appreciated sound of water we adore is that of the gentle rushing waters of a river or creek along its intended and sometimes unintentional path, such as what we experience at Malibu Creek State Park. From the calm flowing currents to the more lively rushing gentle rapids, there’s not much more one could ask for here. In the photos above, a duck seeks refuge atop a protruding rock from the moving waters of the creek, and the rushing waters calm eventually and almost immediately change over to a sheet of liquid glass as they slow again and calm as they continue their flow onward. We can understand why the Chumash Indians settled here so many centuries ago.

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We find beauty in most everything here. Even the eye-catching artwork of what nature has done with the indigenous Sycamore trees that line the banks of the creek in one area. Just the height and immense stature of these natural works of art create noticeable landmarks throughout the park. The bark appears to have been painted on by Mother Nature herself in strokes of grey, and muted whites, and tans, while these products of the earth stand proudly watching over the creek and those who pass by their impressive presence. Don’t miss the redwood trees that were planted around Century Lake years ago while you’re on the property. And you may just catch a glimpse of the park’s natural inhabitants such as deer, foxes, rabbits, ducks, a variety of bird species, and even a bobcat or two.

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At the end of the nearly 2-mile voyage comes the reward for all of that hard work walking, jogging, or strolling along and observing everything beautiful en route to this final destination. A magnificent rock pool at the conclusion of the trail was crafted by volcanic rock and forms a sizable gorge where we’ve witnessed many visitors swimming in the refreshing waters of the natural pool. A picturesque filming location as well, part of the Planet of the Apes included the rock wall that surrounds the pool. A beautiful view, and a worthy find, this rocky terrain will offer solace and satisfaction to the unsuspecting hiker, and intrigue and challenge to the novice, but will always provide a memorable visit to Malibu Creek State Park.

Take some time from your busy schedule to take in the natural picturesque views of Malibu Creek State Park. Established in 1974, and opened to the public in 1976, the property has been a favorite of visitors for over 30 years, and will continue to fascinate all who visit with its expansive collection of all things beautiful, natural, and interesting.

  • LOCATION: Malibu Creek State Park is located within the terrain of the Santa Monica Mountains covering nearly 7,000 acres of natural beauty at 1925 Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas, CA 91302. Just 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, this is surely a drive worth taking to experience nature at its finest.
  • HOURS: The park is available to the public from dawn until dusk.
  • PARKING:A fee of $12 per vehicle is used to support the park. A helpful resource for finding your way around the property if you’re not familiar with it is the purchase of a trail map for an easy $1 you can obtain at the park’s entrance.
  • PET FRIENDLINESS: Your canine friends will appreciate being taken to Malibu Creek State Park. Keep in mind, however, dogs are only allowed in the parking lot and campground. They are not permitted on the trails.

* Prices subject to change without notice.

GUADALAJARA… “Downtown Houston’s Answer to Authentic Tex-Mex Cuisine!”

When visiting downtown Houston, make a point to stop in at Guadalajara Del Centro in the city’s Central Business District. Amidst the intricate web of pedestrian tunnels and skywalks interconnecting the city from one building to the next, there is a locale for those seeking authentic Tex-Mex cuisine in a relaxed, casual setting. Guadalajara Del Centro serves up some of the best Tex-Mex cuisine we’ve enjoyed in some time, and we were quite pleased that we elected to experience this locals’ favorite lunchtime locale.

Guadalajara

An easy walk from nearby hotels and convenient shopping locations, Guadalajara Del Centro sits among a plethora of activities that make up part of what downtown Houston has to offer. At first approach, you’ll know you’ve arrived at this culinary hacienda by the friendly hostess at the front entry and the splendid hues of bright colors that welcome you inside with their inviting arms of a multitude of pigments sure to delight any patron.

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With a vast array of choices for seating inside from stand-alone tables to comfortable booths with satisfying views of the city streets through huge windows overlooking the comings and goings of passers-by, the interior of the restaurant greets its visitors with pleasant and comforting surroundings that make any meal an enjoyable one.

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House Made Tortilla Chips, Handmade Salsa & Margaritas

Complimentary house made tortilla chips and fresh handmade salsa will satisfy your cravings for something savory and tasty while you peruse the extensive menus that are placed before you as you are seated by a gracious server. We took advantage of the Happy Hour drink specials and ordered a couple of the eatery’s House Margaritas and those pacified us along with the chips and salsa until our order of Guacamole “MTO” arrived.

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GUACAMOLE “MTO”

The “MTO” stands for “Made To Order”, and the guacamole at this Tex-Mex culinary smorgasbord of divine offerings served up their version of this creamy and fresh appetizer favorite in a snap. Consisting of ripe avocadoes, vine-ripe tomatoes, zesty onion, cilantro, house seasonings and fresh-squeezed lime, this guacamole starter is the perfect palate pleaser to begin your culinary enjoyment of a meal at this location.

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Del Centro Chopped Chicken Salad

How does a mixture of chopped crunchy bacon, creamy chilled avocado, crisp tortilla strips, chopped tomato, sweet roasted corn, and chopped lettuces topped with queso fresco sound for a lunchtime treat? How about adding a pile of chopped grilled chicken and a side of your favorite dressing? The Del Centro Chopped Chicken Salad will deliver all of this, plus offer an option of selecting grilled fajita steak or shrimp in lieu of the grilled chicken. Our choice of the chicken suited our taste perfectly. Lean tender and flavorsome chunks of white meat chicken combined with the crunch of fresh greens, onion, sweet roasted corn and crunchy tortilla strips drizzled with creamy cilantro and mango-lime dressings topped it off nicely.

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Enchiladas Guadalajara

The Enchiladas Guadalajara provided healthy spinach and grilled shredded chicken wrapped in blankets of tender tortillas with a roasted corn sauce and white cheeses. Served with Mexican rice and refried beans, which sated my remaining cravings for all things Tex-Mex during our lunchtime feast, I couldn’t have been more in awe from the culmination of flavors that I experienced by indulging in this house special. I could literally consume this entrée multiple times a week and never tire of its incredible and mouthwatering texture and sapidity.

Based in one of the country’s largest meccas of business and corporation-based city’s with so much to take part in from shopping to outdoor activities, to fine dining and upscale lodging choices while in town, make Guadalajara Del Centro one of your stops while in downtown Houston for authentic, memorable, and unforgettable Tex-Mex cuisine happiness.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Celebrating the fiesta that is Tex-Mex cuisine, the interior hues and décor of this eatery provide vibrant bursts of vivid greens, sharp blues, cheerful yellows, and complimentary neon lighting throughout the restaurant in addition. Warm light woodwork serves as a calming backdrop to the lively tones, while modern styled lighting fixtures and lush greenery bordering an upstairs loft-like dining area offer more intriguing visual detail.
  • FOOD / DRINK: From Skinny Girl cocktail selection for the calorie-conscious libation lover to the fan of the original “house” margarita, there is something for everyone with a full bar and plethora of cocktail items on the menu to choose from. Tie a few flavorsome drinks in with a phenomenal meal at Guadalajara Del Centro from the selection of Tex-Mex fare favorites, and you’ll find yourself returning to experience more of what this upscale casual establishment has to offer its patrons.
  • LOCATION: Guadalajara Del Centro is located in Houston’s downtown arena of activity at 1201 San Jacinto Street, Suite 141 in Houston, TX 77002.
  • HOURS: Serving lunch and dinner, this restaurant is available Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM, on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM, and on Sundays from 12:00 noon through 9:00 PM. We enjoyed the fact that lunch was served until 4:00 PM!
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Our server was punctual, professional, friendly, and thoroughly knew the menu and specials of the day. Her timing of items being delivered to us from the kitchen was perfectly presented, and our questions about the location and the cuisine were answered confidently and without hesitation.
  • PRICE / VALUE: Considering the ambiance, upscale location, popularity of this eatery and fine Tex-Mex cuisine offered, the higher prices than most ordinary establishments serving similar cuisine was still appreciated, For a few dollars more per item ordered, we gladly forked over a bit more money to be enveloped in such a beautiful and festive locale close to all of the activities of downtown Houston.
  • CORKAGE FEE: TBA
  • PARKING: Ample parking is available through the use of city parking garages, as well as some street parking. This location is easily accessible from some hotels located nearby as well.
  • PRICING: We received complimentary house made tortilla chips with a refreshing and not-too-spicy handmade salsa to start things off. With the chips and salsa, we ordered two of the House Margaritas at just $5 per order (during Happy Hour) and began sipping our chilled libations to a blissful second round. We chose the Guacamole “MTO” (Made To Order) appetizer to start our elongated leisurely lunch on this particular visit for an easy $11, while our second round of House Margaritas began disappearing. Ready for more deliciousness from the kitchen at that point, orders of the Chopped Chicken Salad entrée and Spinach Chicken Enchilada entrée arrives at $13 each with an addition of sour cream on the side for an added $2. A third round of margaritas accompanied our main entrees, which finished us off with no room for dessert after such a filling, yet flavor-packed and satisfying meal.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

CAFE DU MONDE… “The Crescent City’s 24-Hour Meeting Place!”

One of our most revered coffeehouses in the Big Easy is the ever famous Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street. This casual, come-as-you-are establishment has been serving their popular powdered sugar topped beignets and world famous cafe au lait for decades now, and has no reason to visualize that slowing down anytime soon. The circa 1862 venue started by the Fernandez family now seats up to 400 patrons, offering an expansive covered patio complete with overhead ceiling fans as well as a more intimate action-packed indoor seating area where visitors can get a glimpse of the excitement closer to the kitchen and stainless steel service counter. We’ve patronized both spaces, which offer up-close-and-personal views of people coming and going in and out through the city, the occasional gathering of city pigeons hoping to snag a morsel of leftover beignet that has fallen off of a table, as well as phenomenal world-class hot beignets and savory New Orleans cafe au lait.

Cafe du Monde

Located within the New Orleans French Market, Cafe Du Monde has perfected the sugary treat of the ever classic beignet, a French pastry which was first brought to Louisiana through the Acadian culture. A simple menu of the basics…beignets, coffee, cafe au lait, orange juice and white and chocolate milk have stood the test of time and make the ordering process that much more simple. Ask any local or seasoned Crescent City traveler how to order at Cafe Du Monde, and most will explain that when at this tradition-laden cafe, all you need to remember is “beignets and cafe au lait” as you approach the order window.

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Café Au Lait & Hot Beignets Covered In Powdered Sugar

Though the shape and method of preparation has changed slightly over the years, the flavor, texture, and light-as-air end result of Cafe Du Monde’s beignets couldn’t be better than what this coffee merchant is proud to be known so well for. Prepare to get powdered! Because that’s what novice beignet consumers won’t be prepared for. Unless you’re a veteran sugar-covered beignet connoisseur and know those little tricks for NOT leaving half of the powdered sugar on yourself rather than on your beignets! But then again, that’s just a part of the experience. Served three to an order, these heavenly square pillows of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness will find their way into your life somehow, someway. Wash those beignets down with a mug of the cafe’s popular cafe au lait, (French for coffee mixed with hot milk), and you’ve really got yourself something special. The coffee at Cafe Du Monde is chicory based, which provides a subtle almost chocolate essence and boldness to this much enjoyed beverage of choice. It also takes the edge off of the pure coffee taste.

INSIDER’S TIP: This coffeehouse is a “cash-only” venue, so don’t forget to take some along with you before you head out to the cafe so you can enjoy all that it has to offer.

Most people are intrigued when they realize that chicory is actually the root of the endive plant, which is roasted and then ground to be added to the coffee. Pretty interesting trivia there. As many times as we’ve visited the city and Cafe Du Monde over the years during our travels, that’s one fact we weren’t aware of until our most recent visit when we chatted up a storm with our server. Oh…that’s another point of interest…the service. Every server has a story…or two…or three to share if you ask them. We’ve never left the place without learning some new tidbit about the city, or about about the coffeehouse, or about how they wound up working there. It’s always proven interesting to us.

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There is so much to see and do and partake in within the city of New Orleans. From Jackson Square, named after Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson, to the Louisiana architecture, to the city’s annual Mardi Gras festivities, to the mighty Mississippi River and the plethora of antique shops, art galleries, and fine Southern cuisine. Whatever your interest, there will be something awaiting you in this city of never-ending entertainment and intrigue.

Consider stopping in at Café Du Monde on your next trip to New Orleans. Anytime of the day or night is the perfect time to enjoy some of the city’s best-loved coffee and sugary-topped treats while you’re in town. The establishment and the location it exists in is rich in history, packed to the brim in layer upon layer of culture, and offers Louisiana hospitality and tradition not to be missed.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Simple and spacious, the traditional green-and-white striped awning surrounding the eatery’s outdoor covered patio signals passers-by to its French Market location.
  • FOOD / DRINK: With all of the surrounding restaurants in the French Market, Cafe Du Monde sits proudly amongst them all serving their famous coffee and beignets to the masses of patrons that ebb and flow through the cafe around the clock.
  • LOCATION: Cafe Du Monde is located in the historic French Market at 800 Decatur Street in New Orleans, LA 70116.
  • HOURS: The coffeehouse is available for service 24 hours a day except for Christmas Day when it closes its doors from 6:00 PM until 6:00 AM on December 26th. Torrential weather factors may also be reason to close on occasion.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: A terrific place for those who enjoy people watching activities and a friendly and courteous staff offering loads of southern hospitality. Filled with pleasant conversation, the servers are ready to intrigue their customers with their wit and knowledge of the eatery and the city it is housed within.
  • PRICE / VALUE: A fair value for some of the best beignets you’ll ever enjoy sinking your teeth into. The coffee will change your perception of the typical cup of morning joe!
  • CORKAGE FEE: This establishment is all about coffee and beignets! See our other articles for great eateries and their related corkage charges.
  • PARKING: Street parking is available nearby, as well as private lots throughout the city. We usually stroll from our hotel to nearby shops, then end up at the cafe. Another idea is to have your hotel’s house car drop you at Cafe Du Monde first, then you can enjoy making your way back to your hotel from there walking through the city, and perusing the sites, shopping venues, and galleries.
  • PRICING: At just $2.42 each for the two orders of beignets we chose, and a simple $3.97 per cup of cafe au lait for each of us, we had a lovely time for under $13.00! (Of course, we’re not including the souvenir mugs and other items we purchased to take home with us!)

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

THE WINE CELLAR TASTING ROOM @ THE RIO CASINO.. “Hidden Seclusion With Unparalleled Intrigue!”

Amongst the boisterous ringing of bells and flashing of lights from this slot machine laden playground, customers chatting and wondering why they didn’t get that last “7″ or that “21″ or that “Royal Flush”, and the ingress and egress of staff coming and going as shifts change, there does exists a secluded and intimate space for those seeking refuge from all of the noise and chaos and even headache-causing anxieties of losing that last hundred in your pocket. Those consumers of all things wrapped beautifully in solace and prestige and worthiness. Behold, the Wine Cellar & Tasting Room within the Rio Casino in Sin City.

The Wine Cellar

When visiting the energy-filled city of Las Vegas, we always make time to journey off the south end of the strip to the unique and tucked-away location that has become one of our favorite places to get away from the loudness and at times craziness of this twenty-four-hour city. Located through an entrance inside the casino’s Masquerade Lounge, you’re not far away from your destination. Submerging oneself lower and lower into this virtual wine cave via a stunning wrought iron spiral staircase as it descends into a massive cellar made specifically for the pleasure of visiting wine connoisseurs and experimental tasters alike. We enjoy visiting the Wine Cellar Tasting Room before going out to dinner when we’re in town. Sort of a relaxing and intimate preempt to a fabulous meal in this city that prides itself on cuisines from all over the world from some of the best chefs across the globe.

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Relax in comfort and luxury on soft enveloping leather sofas and chairs strategically positioned in intimate locations, while a seat at the tasting bar allows for informative and friendly conversation with one of the sommeliers on staff at any given time. Private gatherings, reserved wine tastings for large parties, and wine dinners can be enjoyed in one of the cellar’s beautiful cellar rooms made available for those occasions as well.

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Wine Cellar Menu & Charcuterie

The cellar stewards informed us that the space features over 50,000 bottles valued at over ten million dollars…some even once owned by Thomas Jefferson himself. With over 100 wines by the glass, there truly is something here for everyone. We indulged in one of the food and wine pairings on our most recent trip to this rustic stone surround with mesmerizing archways. A perfect addition to starting any evening at the Wine Cellar.

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Champagne Flights

The array of Champagnes available for tasting (and consuming) is varied and offers an expansive selection to choose from. Enjoy a charcuterie plate made to order at the tasting bar for added enjoyment and nourishment while you sip your way to the start of an amazing evening. See the Wine Cellar’s menu for the collection of cheese plates, as well as fresh baked breads to aide in your enjoyment of your selected vintages.

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Wine Flights For Everyone

The offering of an expansive selection of wines always catches our eye. We’ve gone through flavorful Pinot stages, crisp buttery Chardonnay stages, bubbly Champagne phases, and custom-selected mixed tastings as well. We’ve also just sat at the tasting bar, ordered a bottle from the cellar, and occupied one of the velvety soft leather couches for hours as we enjoyed our selection with a few of the cellar’s tasty bites that not only enhanced the wine’s flavor, but posed as a prelude to our evening out in the city.

The Wine Cellar Tasting Room invites curious casino-goers, wine connoisseurs, as well as the novice who enjoys a great glass of wine or Champagne. Tucked away inside the Rio Casino & Resort, the trek from the strip is well worth the sojourn to experience the fascinating and romantic existence that is the Wine Cellar.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Neutral colored stone walls and archways welcome customers inside once descending from the two-story spiral staircase off the casino floor. Step out of the casino space and into somewhere else completely different. Comforting leather furniture and eclectic décor enhance the ambience even further.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Sensational flavors from charcuterie plates, fresh baked breads, and not to mention the plethora of fruity, buttery, and bubbly libations will leave you contemplating why you never heard of this place before.
  • LOCATION: The Wine Cellar Tasting Room is located within the Masquerade Lounge inside the Rio Casino & Resort at 3700 West Flamingo Road in Las Vegas, NV 89103.
  • HOURS: The Wine Cellar Tasting Room is available for service Mondays through Thursdays from 4:00 PM until 10:00 PM, on Fridays and Saturdays from 3:00 PM until 11:00 PM, and on Sundays from 3:00 PM until 10:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The well-informed staff of sommeliers and wine stewards will awe you with their knowledge and we’ll-informed know-how behind the tasting bar. Kind and conversational with terrific personal stories to entice their guests, you won’t leave without some interesting tidbit of information about a celebrity visit, a new vintage being harvested, or a happening in the ity itself.
  • PRICE / VALUE: You’re in Vegas, so expect things to be a bit higher priced than other locales. But for what was offered to us in relation to what the items of indulgence we’re priced on the menu, we had no qualms about anything.
  • CORKAGE FEE: Forget about bringing your own bottle in here. Just go and enjoy being catered to and see why we love this place so much.
  • PARKING: There is spacious complimentary parking available as well as valet service at the main entrances of the casino.
  • PRICING: The pricing of different flights includes an expansive range from one vintage and label to the next. Throw in a few bites with those at their own array of prices and inclusions, and your total bill could be average or exit any depending on what you select. Any way you go, you will enjoy the experience of patronizing the Wine Cellar Tasting Room.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

MISTRAL RESTAURANT… “Classic French Dining Not To Be Missed!”

True traditional French cuisine outside of France itself can sometimes be difficult to find. Some establishments give it a good try, and almost arrive at a “close-to” rendition. However, Mistral restaurant in Sherman Oaks, CA parallels the perfection of fine French flavors in an elegant bistro-like setting amidst Ventura Boulevard’s bustling setting. Since 1988, Mistral has been enchanting its patrons with its phenomenal French cuisine, intimate and romantic ambience, and stellar service. As one of our favorite establishments in the San Fernando Valley, we felt we had to include a review of this unique and consistent dining institution for our SavorHour.com readers to enjoy.

Mistral

Elegant surroundings captivate patrons at every turn from the stunning chandeliers overhead to the crisp white table linens to the five-star wait staff service. Dark woodwork casts a richness throughout he eatery while colorful fresh floral arrangements provide vibrant hues and added subtle fragrance at tables as patrons dine. Fine artwork impresses, while a stylish 1920s full bar with all the class one could imagine exists to delight guests craving a hand crafted adult libation and conversation with a seasoned mixologist.

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 Country Breads & Crisp Chardonnay

The house made thick-cut country bread served before meals is reason alone to visit this popular establishment. Pair that with a few glasses of chilled Chardonnay selected personally by Henri and you’re sure to have an enjoyable start to any meal at Mistral Restaurant. Mistral offers an extensive wine list which provides something for everyone’s taste. Though outside bottles are allowed, we’ve never found a need to bring our own with Henri’s fine cellar selections.

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Fried Calamari & Marinara Sauce

The Fried Calamari at Mistral is one to savor over and over again. If you love calamari, you simply must experience it at this fine eatery. A heaping lightly seasoned plate of these fried rings of heavenly flavor sedate even the hungriest of patrons, while the house made sensational mouthwatering marinara sauce makes for the perfect addition to these expertly prepared orbs of deliciousness. A squeeze of fresh lemon creates a flavorsome finish to each forkful. In the many years we’ve been dining at Mistral, we haven’t been able to order just one of these starters when we’ve visited the restaurant yet. Usually, we wind up taking one of our entrees home with us because we’ve eaten so much of the calamari! It’s just that extraordinary!

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Sand Dabs

The city’s number one preparation of Sand Dabs is served at Mistral in our opinion. There are a number of competing establishments in the area that get pretty close to the quality, consistency, and presentation of Mistral’s Sand Dabs entrée, but none have ever met or surpassed the savory flavors of crisped tender sand dabs covered in a succulent lemon butter sauce filled with pungent capers, fresh herbs, and flavor beyond belief. Henri knows a thing or two about a terrific sand dab preparation, which is always consistent and proudly presented. These are a seasonal treat, so if Henri’s sand dab entrée is on the menu, don’t miss out on the opportunity to indulge in these highly recommended gifts of the sea.

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Cappellini With Basil and Tomatoes

The Cappellini With Basil and Tomatoes also offers a generous portion fresh of garlic and basil as well. All the ingredients merge to create a comforting and memorable flavor-packed meal. Served amply, this entrée could almost be enjoyed by two diners, as it is a very large portion. The fresh chopped tomatoes burst with flavor, and the garlic and basil compliment the entire dish nicely. Paired with a beautiful glass of wine, this is the ultimate in pasta presentations no matter what the temperature is outside.

Fine French fare is waiting for you at Mistral. Allow Henri and his expertly-poised staff to sufficiently cater to your culinary requirements, the ambience take you somewhere else, and the fine meals available deliver you to a place of contentment and satisfaction.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The classic wooden bar makes for an excellent conversation piece over cocktails before a meal, while the fine art on the walls, graceful chandeliers hanging overhead, and bistro-like upscale setting will embrace you with their inviting reach.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Our long-standing traditional favorites at Mistral include many items on the menu. However, some of our long-time most loved dishes include the Fried Calamari starter, selection of Chardonnay wines, the Sand Dabs entrée, and the Cappellini presentations with all things fresh and flavorsome.
  • LOCATION: Mistral is located at 13422 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.
  • HOURS: Serving lunch and dinner, the restaurant is available Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:30 AM until 2:30 PM, and again for dinner from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM. Saturdays provide patronizing from 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM, while on Sundays, customers may enjoy dining from 5:00 PM until 9:30 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Executive Chef and owner, Henri Abergel has been taking great care of us for years. His pride in the ownership and oversight of his popular eatery shows just how strong his love of the restaurant business truly is.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The prices reflect the quality at Mistral. Excellence, savory cuisine, attention to details by the staff, a romantic and elegant setting…expect to be impressed.
  • CORKAGE FEE: The eatery charges a $20 corkage fee per 750mL bottle.
  • PARKING: The restaurant provides valet parking as well as metered street parking in front of the establishment.
  • PRICING: The four glasses of wine we enjoyed were $17 each, while the expertly prepared Calamari arrived at $14.50. The Sand Dabs entrée was priced at $18.00, and the perfectly simple, yet certainly savory and delicious Cappellini was an easy $18.50.

Mistral  Restaurant Reviews

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

PRIME RESTAURANT… “Atlanta’s Dual-Concept Success!”

In the prestigious neighborhood of Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia’s bustling city lifestyle, there’s a restaurant we frequent quite a bit when visiting the area. The locale is situated on the second floor of the upscale Lenox Square Mall. Yes, inside a mall. We’re not big into “mall dining”, but this sophisticated culinary anomaly quickly changed our minds when a long day of shopping led us to cure our cravings for all things savory and palatable. Having opened its doors in 1996, Prime Restaurant has been satisfying patrons’ hunger pangs and culinary requests without fail. Overseen by internationally renowned Chef Dan Garner, the eatery has prevailed exceptionally well in its now almost 19th year of business. One of the city’s forerunners in the restaurant circle to have a successful steakhouse-sushi theme, Prime Restaurant has also recently earned Gayot’s “Top 10 Atlanta Steakhouse Restaurants” award in addition to their “2014 Best Atlanta Steak Restaurant” acclamation. Both well-deserved by Chef Garner’s sublime American, Japanese, and seafood creations all served in a swanky and contemporary ambience.

Prime

The light woodwork in the sushi lounge contrasted by dark granite atop the bar offers a warm and inviting effect overall, while friendly and efficient servers cater to your needs and culinary desires. Cobalt blue travels from pendant lighting over the bar to the main dining room’s water goblets donning flashes of eye-popping color. White tablecloths and an inpouring of natural light through floor-to-ceiling windows in the main dining room offer a chic motif and a comforting dining space to be enjoyed by all.

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Prime Special Rolls & Dancing Eel Rolls

When that craving for creative handcrafted edible excellence arrives, try a few of Prime’s fresh creations in the sushi lounge. We have two all-time favorites here. First, the Prime Special Roll, which is crafted with succulent snow crab, creamy chilled avocado, crisp cucumber, barbecued eel, and tender smoked salmon all rolled up into a beautiful and flavorful presentation before you. Add a couple of Dancing Eel Rolls to the order with perfect pairings of snow crab, avocado, eel and teriyaki sauce, and you’ve got two sensational creations to enjoy with each phenomenal bite.

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Slow Roasted Prestige Farms Chicken, Tuna Tataki & Cappuchino

Consider two more of our favorites from Prime Restaurant’s flavor-packed menu selections. A simple, yet classic favorite of many who patronize this establishment is the Slow Roasted Prestige Farms Chicken entree. Mouthwatering and fork tender chicken is lovingly roasted then placed upon a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes with sautéed haricot verts then is finished off with a succulent veal jus. Things keep getting better with the Tuna Tataki presentation, which offers delicately seasoned tuna displayed beautifully with sliced cucumber rounds topped off with a generous drizzling of ponzu sauce and a quail egg.

For a culinary experience not to be forgotten, Prime Restaurant offers an extensive menu sure to please most anyone’s desires for all things appetizing, satisfying, and memorable. From prime steaks to fresh handmade sushi and sashimi offerings to traditional classics sure to delight the palate. The comforting and inviting setting and well-informed staff will please with their customer service skills and friendly conversation, while the entire environment will set you at ease and convince you to return again very soon.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The inviting entry to this dining establishment welcomes patrons inside with an impressive spacious sushi lounge and complete full elegant, yet comfortable dining room alongside floor to ceiling windows that allow lots of light in during the day. Bursts of vibrant cobalt blues, soothing light woodwork, and a selection of seating choices offer something for everyone.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Fresh sushi and sashimi preparations, intriguing cocktails, prime steaks and delectable seafood presentations as well as classic favorites. The establishment boasts over 250 labels available by the glass and by the bottle for your enjoyment.
  • LOCATION: The eatery is located inside Lennox Square mall at 3393 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 4030 on the second floor in the Buckhead community of Atlanta, GA 30326.
  • HOURS: The restaurant is available for service Monday through Thursday from 11:30 PM until 10:00 PM, Friday and Saturday from 11:30 AM to 11:00 PM, and on Sundays from 4:00 until 9:00 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The staff’s well-directed demeanor is quite pleasing. We’ve always had impeccable service, servers and management who have gone above and beyond for us, and memorable friendly conversations with employees who remember us and welcome us back when we return.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The price point at Prime Restaurant has always seemed satisfactory to us considering what one receives for the value it provides.
  • CORKAGE FEE: Unfortunately, no outside alcohol is permitted inside the restaurant at this time.
  • PARKING: The Lenox Square Mall offers ample complimentary parking surrounding the building, while valet service at the main entrance has proved convenient for us.
  • PRICING: The Prime Special Rolls and Dancing Eel Rolls arrived at $12 each, while the Slow Roasted Prestige Farms Chicken came in at $17. The Tuna Tataki was priced at an easy $9.

Prime  Restaurant Reviews

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

McCRADY’S RESTAURANT… “History, Romance & James Beard Excellence!”

A romantic stroll arm-in-arm one evening led us down an ages-old cobblestone alleyway lit only by the soft glow of antique gas lanterns to what we would soon consider to be one of the best meals of our lives. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places & Landmarks, within the walls of what was once known as Charleston’s first tavern built in 1771 located in the middle of the historic French Quarter district of downtown Charleston, SC this unique-all-to-itself culinary anomaly has been pleasing the distinctive palates of discriminative patrons since opening its doors as McCrady’s Restaurant to the public. I was excited to not only be spending a romantic evening dining in one of the city’s top restaurants, but also to be a consumer of a menu crafted by none other than Chef Sean Brock…multiple James Beard Award winner, passionate foodie, culinary genius.

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This downtown locale of opulent grandeur and elegance welcomed us in with its larger than life gastronomic arms undoubtedly knowing and priding itself on the fact that it would possess our undivided attention in every way culinary. Exposed rustic brick walls and archways reminded us of dining in a private wine cellar, while deep violet-hued seating added to the visual complacency of the overall appearance of the main dining room. Vibrant pops of color burst forth from fine art hung on the walls surrounding us and two massive wood burning fireplaces took charge of overseeing the evening crowd, while cathedral-style, almost gothic chandeliers hung overhead. Around a corner in a seductively inviting lounge where George Washington was rumored to have visited on many occasions, rich woods graced with touches of rubbed bronze accents welcome the lone diner or the seasoned traveler hoping for a unique hand-shaken libation or nightly special creation from the kitchen. A striking floor-to-ceiling space reserves time for leisurely evenings complete with festive liquid libation creations. Contemporary crimson under-lighting beneath a spacious bar, and an intimate coved dining space are overseen by a second story wine cellar on display as you look to the heavens from this seductive space, while elegant modernly-enhanced bar-mounted lighting fixtures provide a cast of soft illumination offering an intriguing ambiance in this historic space.

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Custom Martinis & Artisan Breads

Homemade artisan bread is supplied to each meticulously-set dining table, while soft radiations of light create the perfect ambiance. Cathedral-style chandeliers hang overhead highlighting deep violet tones of dining chairs, exposed aged brick, and colorful pops of color from eye-catching vibrant paintings displayed on dining room walls. A feel of dining inside an private wine cellar prevails amongst the exposed brick and rich woods. My husband chose a simple yet indulgent rum cocktail, made with a distinct Mount Gay dark rum, while I was in the mood for a martini featuring freshly made artistry from the bar. I ordered an elderflower martini, and when our server said she would check if the lounge had elderflower to craft my request, I told her if not, a cucumber version would be acceptable as well. Upon her return, I was surprised with a new creation: an Elderflower-Cucumber martini. This was a new one for me, but quite pleasing enough that I ordered two more over the course of our dinner this particular evening.

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Cucumber, Green Strawberry & Radish Salad

With libations being consumed, and our orders places, our first of four courses arrived. Our four-course dinner selections began arriving soon after our second round of beverages were served. My husband’s appetizer choice was Chef Brock’s stunningly vibrant salad compiled with the likes of fresh sliced cucumber, unexpectedly refreshing green strawberries, bursts of radish for a flavor contrast, and a buttermilk lemon ricotta that joined all these luscious flavors in harmony. A sorrel vinaigrette enhanced this excellent mix of plated greenery, while fresh-picked herbs and shoots from the restaurant’s own rooftop garden were displayed beautifully amongst this collection of elegant edibles.

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Cox Farms Beef Tartare

After tasting Chef Brock’s Beef Tartare, we were without hesitation to add it to our top five favorite versions that we’ve ever remembered enjoying so much. Both visually appealing, and full of appropriate flavor, this version was compellingly intensified by the addition of Hay roasted beets, faro and lichen topped with a light-as-air multi grain cracker, and the intense inclusion of fresh pansies atop the finished product, which created a fairytale-esque vision to behold before devouring every single flavor-filled morsel remaining on the plate.

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Local Caught Pan Seared Trout

Our second course started with my selection of the Local Pan Seared Trout. A magnificent filet of local caught trout was strategically placed upon a plate of fava bean and parsnip cream, while a benne inclusion added a flavorsome sesame taste to the dish. The additional surprise of Wild Bay foam delighted our visual perception, and forced us to succumb to the intriguing and intense layer upon layer of unexpected, yet highly appreciated flavor.

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Artistic Presentation of Pan Sautéed Snapper

The Pan Sautéed Snapper offering was my husband’s choice for his second-of-four courses. Aromatic, visually pleasing, and succulent from first bite to last, this pan sautéed white fleshed provision from local waters appeared artistically prepared and impressive. A conglomeration of seasonal rhubarb, crunchy celery, green almonds, and an ample accompaniment of Polenta di Riso completes the dish nicely.

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Cox Farms Ribeye

A third course for my other half arrived offering more culinary artistry and excellence. The Cox Farms Ribeye, ramp, fennel, pistachio, and lime. This presentation was not only a vision to behold, but a sensual flavor experience as well. The tender succulent portion of savory beef graced with exceptional unique enhancements was a surprising, yet delightful experience we were thrilled to partake in.

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Duo of Berkshire Pork

Berkshire Farms pork offered us a lighter, yet still hearty third course option. Tender from the first bite to the final savory morsel that was devoured, we appreciated the colorful display of fresh asparagus, honeycomb-shaped sensational morel mushrooms, and a mustard with burnt honey finale that combined to create the expertly-composed flavors of this main course perfection. Trying to not wait too long as we were mesmerized by the visual charm of this thick-cut presentation, once that first taste was savored, we realized just how nonstop this flavor endeavor was becoming.

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Ambrose Strawberry Tart & Elderflower and Frozen Parfait of Grits

The fourth and final course for the evening was that of pure sugary delight and satisfaction. So much so that every taste of our selections nearly danced on our taste buds in sheer delight. The offering of all things vibrantly colored and expertly flavored appeared in stunning shades of vibrant reds with coordinating garnishes. The Ambrose Strawberry Tart crafted from berries recovered from Chef Brock’s personal garden on Wadmalaw Island kept company by a presentation of strawberry sorbet and an essence of my favorite enhancement…elderflower. The other, a parfait of grits beneath a crisp disc of crunchy sweetness situated upon a pool of Geranium broth and a preserved dewberry finish atop the presentation offering an added punch of fresh fruit flavor. House made macaroons and almond cookies were given to us by our server on top of it all.

Concluding our divine dining experience at McCrady’s Restaurant, we looked around and realized we had closed the establishment down. We often have a habit of doing this, which we have become known at many establishments for doing. There’s just something about a magical meal, a perfectly charming ambiance, and that feeling of perfection that we so enjoy partaking in. That’s what patrons will experience at this lavish dining institution. We will be returning again very soon, as we were so very impressed by the culinary expertise, alluring environment, and charm woven into the eatery from a city well known for such an attribute.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The elegant setting the restaurant provides its patrons proves welcoming and inviting. Warm hues and a contrast of exposed aged brick wrap diners in a world of all things colorful, soothing, and tantalizing.
  • FOOD / DRINK: The cuisine displayed stunning renditions of Lowcountry favorites, but with Chef Brock’s highly skilled touch and culinary sophistication. Truly Southern fine dining at it’s utmost best.
  • LOCATION: McCrady’s Restaurant is located amongst Charleston’s cobblestone walkways at 2 Unity Alley in Charleston, SC 29401.
  • HOURS: The eatery is available for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:00 PM until 9:30 PM, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00 PM until 10:30 PM.
  • SERVICE / STAFF: The professional and spot-on service the staff presents is almost uncanny. Noticeable strength in servers’ capability to provide quality service will impress as well as not go forgotten or unspoken about outside of this establishment.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The awe-inspiring unique presentations of Chef Brock delight, while hand shaken adult libations crafted by expertly-trained bartenders wow with visual and savory appeal. Items could have been priced double what they were and we would have gladly opened our pocketbooks to pay for such culinary grandeur and opulence.
  • CORKAGE FEE: The restaurant charges a $25 corkage fee per 750mL bottle.
  • PARKING: There is parking available in city parking garages as well as metered street parking in front of the establishment.
  • PRICING: The two four-course menus we chose this particular evening came in at $65 per person, while my husband’s three Mt. Gay Eclipse rum cocktails arrived for $9 apiece. My custom made Elderflower Cucumber martinis appeased me at $14 each.

*Menu and prices subject to change without notice.

RUSSIAN DACHA CAFE… “A Villa of Culinary Comfort!”

Satisfying our hankering for more savory Ukranian cuisine, we visited our favorite tucked-away Ukrainian-Russian eatery again for more savory presentations. Not unexpectedly proving yet again just what an ideal location this truly is for a romantic dining experience, power luncheon, or relaxing day out together. As most of our culinary experiences have proved during our many visits to Russian Dacha Cafe, this most recent adventure was no exception.

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Chilled Chardonnay & Kompot?

We had to show what the lunch special offers at this unassuming tucked-away locale. We arrived with a couple of bottles of our own wine to enjoy with our lunch selections on the “outdoor” patio beneath the flowering bougainvillea tree we have come to love so much. We chose one lunch special and one entree to start. The lunch special came with Kompot, which is a fruit punch of sorts made in nearly every Russian and Ukrainian household. Not too sweet, yet flavorful enough to satisfy on a warm day when dining al fresco, and a visually appealing hue of garnet that mesmerizes the eye.

Russian Dasha (2)1Red Borsch

The Red Borsch offering is a selection of items available from the lunch special menu. For just $11.99, patrons may select from a green salad, red borsch or solyanka, a side and an entree from the day’s selection of choices. We started with the Red Borsch above and were quite pleased with the steaming hot, vibrant-colored burst of flavor provided by such a delicious and hearty conglomeration of beets, crushed tomatoes and other compliant vegetables, pieces of lean pork, onions, garlic and a light herb addition. Each spoonful delivered palatable complacency, while the large chunks of beet and potato provided massive flavor and heartiness. Garnished with fresh picked parsley and a side of chilled sour cream, this dish is excellent as a starter for any meal at Russian Dacha Cafe.

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Beef Stroganoff 

Not your typical American version of Beef Stroganoff, this entree arrives straight from the oven in a clay serving vessel haloed by crispy fries atop a large serving plate. Not part of the lunch special options, we couldn’t resist trying this Russian feature which included a light addition of sour cream to its already meaty and hearty components of lean beef, sweet onions, thick-cut earthy mushrooms, a savory cream sauce, and coordinating herbs and spices. A perfectly prepared and ample serving, you might just have leftovers to take with you before the night’s over!

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Otbivnaya

The Otbivnaya is a tenderized pork steak which is seasoned then dipped in egg and flour then fried to a golden perfection. The lightly breaded exterior locks in the juiciness and savory flavors of this Russian favorite. Served with mashed potatoes and a freshly steamed vegetable medley. A perfectly rounded meal on a single plate, this lunch special choice fulfills as well as enlights with memorable tastes of culinary delight. 

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Chocolate Cheese Blintzes

The Chocolate Cheese Crepes are a subtly sweet and tempting finale to any meal at Russian Dacha Cafe. These delicately wrapped sweetened cheese confections offer an unsurpassable amount of satisfaction. Close your eyes for a moment and just imagine paper-thin pancake-like orbs gently wrapped around a creamy chilled cheese filling, then drizzled with a succulent chocolate sauce and showered with crunchy nuts! Large enough to share with another diner, and especially after the meal we enjoyed on this visit, we consider it the perfect sweet surrender to polish off a lovely meal at Russsian Dacha Cafe.

One of our all-time favorite dining institutions in Valley Village, CA offering an intimate and cozy ambience, succulent and flavorsome cuisine options, and no charge for personal bottles of wine, Champagne, or even vodka, Russian Dacha Cafe modestly and successfully leads the competition without hesitation.

  • ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The decor of Russian Dacha Cafe is alluring in a mysterious, yet intriguing way. Though it appears at first glance to be an indoor establishment with a quaint outdoor dining space is really an entirely outdoor restaurant. The draped canvas coverings force one to feel as though there is a differential dining area, yet the entire area is completely al fresco. Large flat screen televisions advertising Russian music videos creates an intriguing appeal when seated “indoors”, while on the immediate front area beneath a flowering Bougainvillea tree, romantic evenings may be enjoyed during those much loved California afternoons or evenings.
  • FOOD / DRINK: Succulent and stunning eye-appealing presentations accompanied by an open corkage allowance for bottles of wine and vodka.
  • LOCATION: The restaurant is located at 5338 Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Valley Village, CA 91607.
  • HOURS: Available for service Tuesday through Friday from 12:00 noon until 10:00 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 Noon until 11:30 PM. The eatery is closed on Mondays. (Call ahead if you plan to arrive late, as the eatery does close when business is slower on certain evenings).
  • SERVICE / STAFF: Tania usually serves us the flavor-filled items we often order at Russian Dacha Café. Her ability to befriend customers, level of kindness and professionalism, and sincere devotion to her patrons and her work offer unparalleled customer service to all.
  • PRICE / VALUE: The cuisine is enriched with flavor bursting from a varied selection of Russian and Ukrainian favorites at a reasonable price.
  • CORKAGE FEE: No corkage fee at this tucked-away restaurant…including bottles of wine as well as vodka!
  • PARKING: The easiest parking access exists along the sidewalk in front of the establishment.
  • PRICING: The Lunch Special arrived at a simple $11.99, while the Beef Stroganoff came in at a fair $14.99. We paid no corkage on the two bottles of wine we enjoyed with lunch, and we also indulged in a Cheese and Chocolate Blintz for dessert for an acceptable $6.50.

* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.