Southern California’s love affair with coffee goes way back to earlier land settlers and cattle-drivers. The pioneers would awake to the rising sun while a blazing campfire is percolating that first pot of mud juice. According to True West Magazine (October 2001), “Cowboys were undoubtedly the most devoted group of coffee drinkers in the West. As a rule, they liked it strong, scalding hot, and barefooted (black).”
Almost two centuries later, coffee houses are a fixture on every well-driven, So Cal street – although mostly emblazoned with a green mermaid logo. True to the western American ingenuity way, the Golden State still has some independent shops crafting luscious java jolts in small batches. Coffee connoisseurs in So Cal have a myriad of baristas fashioning joe in unique ways. Here are some of our favorites, from Palm Springs to Orange County and into Los Angeles. With a full tank of gas and a thermos of rocket juice as fuel, high-octane lovers can make a road trip visiting them in a single day. Go get your jitter on!
Portola Coffee Lab (Costa Mesa, Orange County)
Found in an Orange County hipster strip mall called OC Mix in Costa Mesa (in the same place as famed Taco Maria), Portola rose to prominence when the coffee industry’s major publication, Roaster Magazine, honored the caffeine maker with its 2015 “Roaster of the Year.” While already beloved by locals, the award catapulted the four-year-old shop into a nationally known bean-lover mecca. Noted for their lack of syrups and additives while using only mocha and milk for additional flavors, the single store has branched to six locations, all within Orange County. Furthermore, they use three distinct brewing methods to get to the only-in-OC taste: a manual pour-over, a siphon, and the trifecta (a combination of the siphon, pour-over, and French press). For an espresso made from a single origin bean, it’s a one-shot deal with a one-of-a-kind machine. Be prepared to stand in line for your cuppa, but It’s good to the last drop.
LAMill Coffee (Silver Lake, Los Angeles County)
When LA Mill first opened a decade ago, there was nothing quite like the coffee roaster and maker. For one, it cemented Silver Lake as a destination for good eats. Menu was crafted by Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence fame, in conjunction with the LA Mill owner Craig Min. The interiors designed were commissioned by their next-door neighbor by Silverlake decorator, Rubbish Interiors. It personified early hipster-hood. And there still is nothing quite like it, as far as coffee shops go. Coffee may be the thing to try, but you’re spending your time here because, well, the grub isn’t just an afterthought. It’s a reason to eat. Coffee is made four different ways, and then there is the $11,000-dollar espresso machine. That’s almost as much as your electric Smart Car.
Koffi (Palm Springs, Riverside County)
For those who have traveled to the Palm Springs area for two decades, Koffi is as much a destination for coffee as is tramway travel to the top of the San Jacinto mountains. The flagship spot located as drivers enter the resort town is a welcome relief. Although the line winds around the counter, it moves quickly, giving the legs movement after an hour and half driving from LA or San Francisco – which can clock in at five to seven hours depending on traffic. What started off with only one roastery has clovered into three locations, with the original, a Rancho Mirage location, and another mid-century outpost on the edge of Cathedral City. Stopping at Koffi and partaking of their java is as important as a warm desert pool on a chilly night or a hike into Joshua Tree.
Alfred (West Hollywood, Los Angeles County)
Most coffee lovers would bypass Alfred, as they serve the yummy but ubiquitous Stumptown beans. Alfred, though, with its two chic shops – located just two blocks from each other – is unique without the coffee roastery…and is why it’s on this list. Made in West Hollywood, the liquid energy is chock-full of L.A.’s pretty people, tourists checking out the nearby luxury shopping, and a mélange of neighborhood folks. Matter of fact, if you felt the subway rumble or heard car horns slamming, one might feel they were in New York or Paris. Yes, it’s that cosmopolitan. Yes, it’s that fashionable. And yes, it’s as much a part of the sartorial coffee scene as City of Light’s Les Deux Magot or Manhattan’s Balthazar. If you happen to be in Japan, Alfred lovers can find two Tokyo outposts – making it even more tres, tres chic. Plus, Stumptown, a Portland roastery, is nothing to sniff at – no matter where you are.
Aroma Caffe (Studio City, Los Angeles County)
Another mainstay of the entertainment set is Aroma Café on Studio City’s treelined Tujunga. Aroma, which started as a small house and grew into a house with a garden, patio, backyard, and sidewalk café, has served up frothy cappuccinos, bracing espressos, and sipping lattes for 20 years. That’s a long time for a television series (only The Simpsons can beat that) and a restaurant. While delicious java juices and herbal teas can be imbibed on site, the coffee house is a hybrid of a one-time java house which morphed into a full-blown restaurant. Mud-drinkers can fulfill their need for high-octane lattes while filling up on fortifying salads, crusty paninis, and savory egg dishes throughout the day. If in the Los Feliz area, the independent coffee and eatery has another tree-lined outpost on Hillhurst, serving up a twinned menu for the artistic side of the hill.
Irvine, a bedroom community in Orange County, is often spoken about as a homestead of possible Utopian living with green trees, cookie cutter homes, and maybe an ethnic market selling something as exotic as dark chocolate or unroasted nuts. In truth, it’s a thriving urban area with an incredibly diverse population – and food to match.
Close to Disneyland, 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and roughly an hour and a half drive from the City of Los Angeles, resides Irvine, opened in 1965 as a “new town.” The area’s conception was a bedroom metropolis budding out of the 405-freeway connecting LA, OC, and San Diego counties. Its sole purpose was to be a pedestrian, and yes, a conformist archetype of 20th century modernism.
Now, in the 21st century, ironically, it is the largest city in the continental U.S states with an Asian diaspora, ranging from Indian to Korean, Filipino to Chinese, Malaysian to Japan. Irvine has become a blossoming food center, offering cuisine not only throughout Asia but Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern – and sometimes, a fusion of several.
For residents, the town’s proximity is close enough to enjoy Pacific Ocean breezes from Newport and Laguna Beach without having to pay for the pricey coastal real estate, although that, too, is changing as it continues to grow. Indeed, the area measuring 65 square miles is home to several higher learning schools including University of California, Irvine, Concordia, Brandman and Chapman Universities, and has a median income of a little more than $93,000 per household compared to the entire state at $63,000.
During the mid-sixties, people were the leaving urban centers for places like Irvine, which quickly become synonymous as a landmark of social and political conservatism. Often a hidden tag line, going to any city within Orange County such as Anaheim, Huntington Beach, or San Juan Capistrano was said to be “visiting behind the Orange Curtain,” a post-WW II reference to communist countries and much of the then area’s non-liberal viewpoint. Much of that has changed, as OCs head into the first quarter of the 21st century.
Matter of fact, Irvine proudly stated that for the first time since WWII, the entire area went “blue,” attributable to the shifting and dying demographics that once reigned in the area. Now Irvine, also called “SoCal’s Silicon Valley,” is one of the leading centers of the state’s diverse eats and eaten by internet company denizens from Google, Houzz, Microsoft, and Oracle populating each side of the 405.
No, Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas, it’s Irvine.
Breakfast: Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace
If you’re staying here, this yummy place offers well-made grab and go sandwiches, pizzas, and salads throughout the day. However, it’s the ideal spot to grab a great sausage and egg on an English muffin ($3) or a breakfast burrito ($4). Want to order a la carte? Go for scrambled eggs ($2), any breakfast meat ($2), and a side of potatoes ($2). It’s far better than anything heated up at a chain coffee of fast food spot. Indeed, many of the young office workers start their days at Marketplace because the prices are low. Coffee is standard Starbucks, but you can have a breakfast meeting with the ample seating. Free wi-fi included so it’s easy to start up a Powerpoint presentation. Come back during the never-ending happy hour and enjoy inexpensive glasses of wines, unique cocktails, and beer along with a stellar small plate eating menu that is equally as delicious.
You did well on that 26-slide Powerpoint presentation during breakfast, but that was at 8:00 am. It took hours to get through, and you’re famished, but the chain restaurants which proliferate in Irvine – and they do – aren’t what you want. Head to Irvine’s possibly greatest food spot: a grocery store called Wholesome Choice. At lunch (or even dinner), they have one of the best ethnic food hot bars probably in the country. Running the gamut from Chinese-American, Persian, Indian, Mexican, traditional American, to Middle -Eastern, it’s a food person’s dream. Enter in on the right side by the vegetable and fruit area, and you’re walking into a Turkish bazaar stateside.
The bins are overflowing with pomegranates, Persian cucumbers, key limes (in season), parsley, ginger, and other items not seen in traditional grocery stores.
Before getting there, though, you have to sidle by the sangak bread bakery and its bakers (who are Mexican). In line waiting for the unleavened curtains of whole wheat, which drape the shopping carts, are people of all backgrounds – Latin, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Filipino, Persian, Arabic – reflecting the neighborhood and the locals.
Buy a bottle of orange water, rose water, lily water, or drinking water. Nearly a dozen varieties of tahini rest in the sauce aisle – it’s hard to choose. If you’re a little queasy about meat products, don’t head to the butcher cases. Whole sheep and cow reside there in pieces. An eye there, a testicle here, and a little bit of tongue. (Don’t forget trying a little bit of the house-made Turkish delight. There seem to be nearly as many choices of the confection as there are stars in the sky.)
18040 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
After shopping through one of the many malls, including Irvine Spectrum complete with a ferris wheel, head to Angelina’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, located in another strip area across the 405. Even though it’s a cement block with all the appeal of a wood chip, inside, the Italian bistro is light with grey, burgundy, and white.
Additionally, it’s well-appointed with racks of wine bottles (mostly Italian), a full bar, and a pizza-oven creating robust aromas. Although you could order a glass of Pinot Grigio with maybe a pizza to share for as an appetizer before a meal, my recommendation is a flight of Italian food and wine. It consists of three tastes, with a trio of wines of about 3 to 3.5 ounces each. For example, the Sophia Flight ($12) focusing on rosatos, imbibers sip a sparkling from Setteanime, Raboso Marca Trevigiana, paired with a bruschetta of shrimp, garlic, and bell pepper. Another pairing is a Sangiovese rosato from Il Poggione Brancato in Tuscany coupled with a bruschetta of brie, olives, and micro-basil and lastly, from Puglia, a beautifully dry rosato, Tormaresca Calafuria Negroamaro, is combined with goat cheese, artichokes, and parsley slathered onto toast. There are others, but it’s a tasty way to travel the Italian wines without going bottle by bottle. Granted, you can do that, but there are checkpoints in Irvine.
Los Olivos Marketplace
8573 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 536 – 5200
Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market
Union Market is one of my favorite destinations in all of Orange County, both for eating and retail shopping. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind retail and food hall destination showcasing the best of the independent shops.
Located in Tustin, a small town to the north of Irvine, it’s based in another mall, called The District.
There are about seven full restaurants, including Hatch which serves only sliders, Kettlebar, a New Orleans steam cooking experience, and several others. In the center of the mini-mall within a large mall – sort of like the Russian stacking dolls — lies a horseshoe shaped bar, appropriately named Central.
Here you will find locally-sourced beers, hand-picked wines, and craft cocktails served to a robust gathering of area workers. Order a deliciously messy Country Fried Chicken Poutine ($9) from The Kroft (the tagline is “comfort food re-invented.” ‘Nuff said.), or Market 2 Table’s freshly made rigatoni served with Bolognese ($8.95), and eat at any of the tables. How much fun is doing a buffet to your liking?
2493 Park Avenue
Tustin, California 92782
Across the parking lot from Angelina Neopolitan Pizzeria lies a Mexican restaurant created by three brothers in San Diego. Offering a variety of tacos and other South of the Border goodies, Puesto is a unique offering in the world of California Mexican food.
Begin the evening in the kitchen, where four dining tables are close to the culinary action. If the meal conversation lags or your companion is completely dull, start watching the sous chefs make batch after batch of perfectly pressed blue corn tortillas. Monthly, their Executive Chef Katy Smith creates a taco, of which a dollar from each sale goes to a local charity. It’s not always a taco, either. Sometimes, it’s a margarita, and in April of this year, a frozen horchata was chilled up. The inspiration comes from a variety of Mexican states, including the street food of Distrito Federale. It’s also one of the few restaurants where I’ve had freshly made chicarrones (pork skin deep-fried). Lightly salted, they can be a gluten-free or an alternative to corn chips. Fresh, intensely flavorful, and charitable all at the same time. What more can you want from a dining experience?
Within the confines of staying in the city area of Irvine, hotel choices are limited. However, a nice casual business stay is the Hotel Irvine.
Looking more like a seventies securities exchange building, the 536-room property is nicely appointed – free Wi Fi – with a thriving food scene. Some of the rooms have balconies but overlook a business park and freeway. Regardless, it’s a quick escape from either North or South on the 405 and comes complete with a pool. (My motto: No pool. No stay.) The restaurant is called Eats Kitchen & Bar, which in January changed executive chefs. It’s now overseen by Jeff Moore, who comes from a fourth generation Palos Verdes-based grocer. The atmosphere of the restaurant is conflicted between being a gastropub, as is seen in the décor, and an industrial edifice.
Regardless, it’s a great place to stay – hell, it’s really the only place to stay in Irvine.
Brooklyn is no longer a side trip to take when you’ve run out of things to do across the river in Manhattan. It’s now the reason many people visit New York and a place most tourists plan to spend some time. There are several neighborhoods to explore for a mind-boggling range of ethnic foods, and to sample “hipster” Brooklyn. But I focused my picks in and around “Brownstone Brooklyn” because they’re near the sites tourists come to see – the Waterfront Park, BAM for dance and theater, Barclay’s Center for basketball, hockey and concerts, and the Brooklyn Museum and Botanic Garden. The museum, the city’s third largest, has a renowned Egypt collection (many items are from expeditions it funded in the early 1900s) and serves up modern art that’s interesting and sometimes controversial. Its Target-sponsored First Saturday evenings combine art, theater, music, and food and draw an eclectic mix of people, including families on the early side.
Teresa’s, a Brooklyn Heights staple for decades, is a few blocks from the Heights Promenade with its often-filmed skyline views. They capably cook up all the usual breakfast foods including buttermilk pancakes (a favorite for neighborhood kids) and egg dishes. But you really go for the Polish food: blintzes, potato pancakes, apple fritters, four kinds of pierogi, and grilled kielbasa.
My suggestion: The blintzes with sweet cheese and plum butter have the right balance of sweet, creamy, and tart and go well with a cup of coffee. If I’m craving something savory I go for the potato pancakes, maybe with a side of kielbasa. It’s a good place to order a few different plates to share. If you prefer eggs but want them with a Polish accent, go for the kielbasa omelet.
Price: breakfast dishes are in the $6-$10 range. Hours: Daily: 7am-11pm Address: 80 Montague St, near Hicks St.; Brooklyn Heights Phone Number: 718-797-3996 Website: Ha! The place is way to old school for such nonsense. Photo: Zomato
Second Breakfast (Bakery): Almondine
If you head to DUMBO to explore our ever-changing Brooklyn Bridge waterfront park you’ll be blissfully near Almondine. It’s thoroughly French and everything is good. Expect lines late on weekend mornings.
My suggestion: I love the plump Jelly donuts (beignets) even if they do leave me covered in powdered sugar. I like their almond croissants as well. My daughter goes for the brightly colored macarons or the eclairs, depending on how hungry she is.
Price: upscale NYC bakery prices so $3 to $8 for pastries. Hours: Mon-Sat: 7am-7pm; Sun: 10am-6pm Address: 85 Water St, near Main St.; DUMBO Phone Number: 718-797-5026 Website:http://www.almondinebakery.com Photo flickr cc
Lunch: Brooklyn Crab
Brooklyn Crab is a little out of the way, but worth a cab ride (you can also take the NYC Water Taxi to the Red Hook Dock). The two upper floors have a bar, outdoor picnic tables and a covered dining area with huge windows that open in summer. The top floor has views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. People flock in summer for platters of steamed crab or lobster, fried clams and and a decent kids’ menu. On the ground floor you’ll find a large backyard with a bar, picnic tables, a small mini-golf course, beanbag toss, and shuffleboard tables. The menu is smaller than upstairs, but it’s a great place to while away an afternoon. It’s popular with groups and families and, inexplicably, with local French expats.
My Suggestion: We like the crab roll and the steamer clams when they’re in season. If we aren’t with a group we eat upstairs then head to the backyard for ice cream, a second beer, and some games.
Tom’s Restaurant is a step into classic Brooklyn just a few blocks from the Museum and Botanical Garden. The old soda fountain and counter tell you what to order. Lime rickey’s, egg creams, ice cream sodas, and floats come in tall, thick fountain glasses. Order a shake and they’ll bring you the extra that didn’t fit in the glass on the side.
My suggestion: They’re known for the lemon-ricotta pancakes, but my daughter likes the chocolate chip ones. I like their huevos rancheros, unless I go for a classic grilled cheese with tomato on rye. We often share a cherry lemonade.
Price: fountain drinks $3-6; breakfast $3-14; lunch items $5-15 Hours: Monday – Saturday: 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM; Sunday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Address: 782 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 11238 Phone Number: 718-636-9738 Website:http://www.tomsbrooklyn.com/about.html
Happy Hour 1: Strong Place
Brooklyn is hive of innovative brewing, fermenting, distilling, shaking, and stirring these days. So picking one bar is not only unfair but also nearly impossible. If you’re a beer drinker I’d head to Strong Place for its good tap selection and innovative bar food. A weeknight happy hour offers 2-for-1 local beers and very good $1 oysters.
My suggestion: Ask what’s in season and on the happy hour list.
Price: Tap beer $6-12; Hours: happy hour is 4:00 pm-7:00 pm weekdays. Address: 270 Court Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn 11231 Phone Number: 718-855-2105 Website:http://www.strong-place.com
Happy Hour 2: The Clover Club
The Clover Club is considered the pioneer and standard-bearer for mixologist-centered cocktail bars in the borough. A weekday happy hour here serves up a selection of drinks and snacks for about half-price.
My suggestion: The cocktails rotate so go with the season, your mood and your favorite booze. Order a round of deviled eggs to go with whatever you’re drinking.
Bypass the gritty ground-floor bar at Alma and head upstairs to the restaurant with its huge picture windows and top-floor roof deck. The views of the Brooklyn waterfront and harbor are reason enough to visit. And the Mexican food is first rate.
My suggestion: The Chilaquiles, ceviches, chile relleno, and enchiladas are all authentic, interesting, and tasty.
The Nu Hotel is a modern boutique hotel that’s central to Brooklyn’s major cultural institutions and a few blocks from Barclay’s Center. It’s an easy subway hop to Manhattan or the Brooklyn waterfront. The neighborhoods around it offer ample eating, drinking, and shopping. It offers complimentary breakfast, bicycles to borrow, and a family suite with bunk beds. It’s pet friendly.
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Photo Wikimedia Commons: Theeditor93
Eileen Gunn is the founder of FamiliesGo! and at least the 4th generation of her family to settle in Brooklyn. When she’s not eating her way through New York City, you can find her on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Guest Writer and Mexico City travel expert Katja Gaskell is the co-founder of globetotting.com, a website for adventurous family travel. She is a firm believer that you can – and should! – take your children everywhere and anywhere no matter what age they are. Prior to life on the road with kids, Katja wrote across a range of titles for Lonely Planet and tried and tested luxury hotels for the British boutique hotel guide Mr & Mrs Smith. She is currently based in Mexico City with her husband and three children. Find her online: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
Mexico has long had a reputation for good food, but these days its culinary clout goes far beyond tortillas and tacos. Nowhere is this more evident than in Mexico City, where new dining experiences have helped catapult the capital onto the worldwide gourmet scene.
This is an exciting place to eat, with dining options to suit all palates and all budgets. From a simple torta stand to some of the world’s best restaurants, Mexico’s capital is foodie heaven.
This is, however, also one of the world’s largest cities and finding your way around can take some time. To make things easier, we have focused on two neighbouring colonias, Condesa and Roma Norte, both home to some of the city’s most exciting eateries.
Owned by chef Eduardo García of Maximo Bistro fame (one of the capital’s best restaurants), Lalo! is a lively, colourful café and pizzeria. But this is not your average breakfast joint (nor your average pizza parlour). Lalo! boasts an innovative menu that will have you dithering over what to order. Diners sit side by side on one long communal table overseen by a mural of bright caricatures. It’s fun, tasty, and a great way to start the day.
My suggestion: The Croque Madame is, without doubt, one of the best breakfast dishes in the capital. A large slab of brioche bread, a generous helping of ham, mountains of cheese and an egg on top. Have one of these and you won’t have to eat again all day.
Hours: 7am – 11pm (closed Mondays) Address: Zacatecas 173, Roma Norte Phone Number: +52 55 5564 3388 Website:www.eat-lalo.com
Second Breakfast: Panaderia Rosetta
Owned by Chef Elena Reygada, named Latin America’s best female chef in 2015, this hole-in-the-wall may not look like much but it serves the best breads and pastries in Mexico City. Reygada is particularly well known for her baking skills, and Panaderia Rosetta provides bread for restaurants across the city. Among the many pastries on offer are croissants filled with fig, rosemary flavoured buns, and cinnamon. Grab a coffee at the counter or order to take away and sit in the nearby Rio de Janeiro park instead.
My suggestion: You can’t go wrong with any of the pan dulces (pastries) here but there’s no denying that Reygada’s light and fluffy doughnuts are unparalleled.
This small, retro-styled taquería is great for a quick lunch and is almost always packed. The chalkboard menu offers seafood dishes such as pescado estilo baja (white fish, battered, fried, and served in a light tortilla with toppings) and taco de pulpo al pastor (octopus dressed in a tasty red sauce). Also on offer are tostadas, sopes, and burritos. Grab a table outside if you can.
My suggestion: The pescado estilo baja are excellent as is the caldo de camarón, a shrimp amuse bouche offered to all diners. It’s worth going to Tres Galeones for this alone.
Hours: 11am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday Address: Calle Jalapa 117, Roma Norte Phone Number: +52 55 5419 3964 Website:www.tresgaleones.com
Coffee is serious business at Espressarte, a small artisanal café in Roma Norte where a plethora of coffee-making gadgets and gizmos line the walls. The café even has their its own micro-roastery. Everything from a simple Americano to a Japanese-style slow drip coffee is served. No bells, no whistles, just very, very good coffee.
My suggestion: You can’t go wrong, choose your favourite coffee and enjoy.
The rooftop terrace at boutique hotel Condesa DF is a great place to watch the sun go down with a drink in hand. This hotel is part of the Habita Group, an edgy brand that has been responsible for some of the city’s most innovative hotels in recent years. Condesa DF is no exception and this hip hideaway is a magnet for the city’s beautiful people. Don’t let that put you off, however, the view – and drinks – are well worth it.
My suggestion: When in Mexico drink Mescal, either straight or in a cocktail. The Cucumber Mescal Mojito, with mescal, mint, lemon, and cucumber is particularly good.
A modern take on the traditional Mexican cantina, La Capital is a fun dining space with a tasty menu. Watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen and order plates to share; crispy tuna tostadas, shrimp tacos, and flautas (a type of friend taco) are just some of the house specialities. Not forgetting the guacamole, which is sublime.
My suggestion: The tacos cochinita pibil (pulled pork) are simply delicious. This slow-roasted pork dish originates Yucatán and is served with corn tortillas and onions marinated in sour orange.
Hours: 1.30pm – 12pm Monday to Wednesday, 1.30pm – 1am Thursday – Saturday, 1.30pm – 6pm Sunday Address: Nuevo Leon 137, Condesa Phone: +52 55 5256 5159 Website:www.lacapitalrestaurante.com
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Pinnable photo: Flickr user Alexxx C; Feature photo: ProtoplasmaKid / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0; Condesa DF photo flickr cc: scaredykat; Espressarte and Tres Galeones photos: Katja Gaskell; All other photos: respective restaurants
In a guidebook on Mexico, the writer said San Miguel de Allende is a “bit like a Mexican Disneyland” for foreign retirees and Mexico City residents (chilangos). It’s nothing of the sort. There aren’t any grand amusements or incredibly expensive stuffed toys. Granted, there are many English-speaking expatriates from around the world living or owning property. Yet, San Miguel de Allende’s charm is the cobblestone streets, delicious food, and the preservation of its 17th – 18th century architecture. Within the city of almost 150,000, there are families who have lived in the colonial town for as long as they could remember. While Mexico City and much of the world build sleek hotels with faster gigabyte downloads times, the internet connection at one of the luxury hotels is like driving on a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour: inch by inch, than stopping. That’s its allure. Much of the town, including El Jardin, the picturesque hub, is relatively unchanged. The facades of the building have been beaten on for more than three hundred years by the elements and drinkers of all persuasions, yet the bright yellow, orange, red and sometimes, Mexican blue are still vibrantly fresh. The majority of the city’s homes open into an outdoor courtyard, fanning out to salas (rooms). It’s all very formal and European, which is how San Miguel de Allende feels – old-fashioned without the stuffiness. Kids still play with sticks. Adults play chess or smoke cigarettes while taking their coffee in the parks.
Food shopping is a delicious adventure and the markets are the area’s heart. Mexico’s bounty in food, craftsmanship, and kindness is found at Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, located by the statue of founder General Ignacio Allende. One can find fresh handmade tortillas, carnitas to purchase by the pound, and cut fruit with a sprinkle of cayenne, as well as staples like toilet paper and cleaners. There are wagons full of dried and fresh peppers, freshly slaughtered pork and chickens, and stalls where women are making tamales and hand-loomed clothing. Wander. Get lost. Eating lunch will set a couple back a whopping three bucks.
Chef and owner Azucena Tovar, of Scottsdale’s Los Sombreros, grew up in San Miguel de Allende with eleven brothers and sisters, says, “It was such a privilege to be part of the town. Riding a horse on Mexican Independence Day, twirling herbs on Good Friday. There were so many things to participate in San Miguel, it was a full-time job.”
Breakfast: El Pegaso
Sitting on the corner of a busy cobblestoned intersection, one wants to bypass the place. It seems a little too American, too whitewashed underneath the south of the border orange and yellow. However, as norteamericano as it is, the food is good, with excellent moles and salsas, cacti salads that are palatable for food tourists, yet easy for the non-adventurous as well. It was the first place I had eaten Mexican “escamole,” or ant larvae, an Aztec delicacy.
Suggestions: Chilaquiles con Huevos are spicy and warm. The totopos are served with a guajillo sauce and topped with eggs anyway you want them. I preferred poached. Also, this was the first place I had eaten Aztec caviar – ant larvae. A Mexican delicacy as reflected in the high price, my friend Penny and I shared a plate. It was slightly nutty and crunchy, with the taste of cottage cheese. Eaten with some guacamole and tortillas, it was delicious.
Address: Corregidora 6, Centro 37700 San Miguel de Allende, GTO. Mexico
Phone: + 52 415 156 7611
Hours: Thursday – Tuesday, 8:30am – – 10:00pm. Closed Wednesdays Lunch: Mercado Ignacio Ramirez
The central market of San Miguel de Allende, for both gringos and natives . Pick-up some freshly made tortillas and some roasted carnitas, sit at one of the parks and go at it.
Suggestions: See above. You can also grab some tamales which have been freshly made.
Address: Colegio, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto, Mexico
Phone: +52 415 154 4011
Hours: Seven days a week, 8:00am – 6:30pm
Cocktails:Casa de Sierra Nevada
A few blocks up from the El Jardin is Casa de Sierra Nevada, the legendary hotel, located in four separate buildings that were all former mansions. It’s an unusual hotel because there isn’t a main lobby. There are two restaurants located a quarter of a mile away from each other, while the spa is a small house. Many of the Mexican presidents have vacationed here, including Vincente Fox and Miguel de la Madrid. Built in the late 17th century, there is nothing like the property. There are newer places in town to lay your weary head, but none quite as romantic and as scenic. Have a glass of tequila on the rocks at The Blue Bar with its soaring ceilings, azul-colored walls, and wooden tables. Although Hemingway never stayed here, it has that presence, like Venice’s Harry Bar.
Suggestions: Tequila on the rocks. It’s the drink of choice for many Mexicans or a margarita but don’t ask for it frozen.
Address: Hospicio 35, San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico
Hours: Open daily.
Dinner: The Restaurant
There have been many accolades heaped on the American expat and chef Danny Masterson, who moved to San Miguel in 2005 for a simpler form of life. He’s brought an international flavor to the dining scene in the colonial town by taking it out of the resorts. It’s not Mexican food, although it is made in Mexico. Masterson’s food has elements of French technique using local farm ingredients, such as cheeses and produce. It’s a must if you are going to eat in San Miguel de Allende, but expect a leisurely dinner. Your meal could last from opening to closing – which is a very good thing.
Suggestions: Personally, I like the food where he has touches of Mexican, with American and maybe a little French, Japanese, or Argentinian. The menu changes often – not like El Pegaso – so it would be foolish to recommend something.
Address: Solano 16, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
Hours: Sunday, Tuesday – Wednesday, 12:00pm – 10:00pm. Thursday – Saturday, 12:00pm – 11:00am.
Where to stay: Casa de Sierra Nevada
It’s not a typical hotel, since the property is spread out over four buildings. It’s kind of like getting four separate experiences. It’s what gives it a uniqueness. As far as luxury hotels go, it has the spa, the pool, the restaurants, and the turndown service, but you half expect Zorro to come riding up to save the day. Located in the city center, the property is steeped in romance and magic.
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…honestly, it was only 30 years ago when New York City’s Little Italy seemed like a slice of Naples. The area wasn’t so sanitized and mafia guys, like John Gotti, would hang out in the one of the local trattorias. Now, they are all in Brooklyn like the last of the Godfather series. Then, laundry would hang from pulleys rigged between buildings and neighbors screamed at each other from across the street, “Hey Doris! I need some sugah!” That was Little Italy.
As real estate has become the number one money maker in the world, old Big Apple neighborhoods have transformed into shopping and eating meccas with name brand stores holding court. The web of streets below Houston and east of Broadway always had a lot of European charm with independent shops from butchers to bakers and candlestick makers, but it’s been joined by bigger outlets. Think of seeing the actor Steve Buscemi, long noted for independent films, next to George Clooney, Hollywood glitz, but it’s only because Steve is there that George came to the party. It’s a bit of a shock almost like one of these things does not belong. Yet, like all things in New York, they co-exist, peacefully and wind up working in movies together. (See Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.)
Probably one of the country’s most important ethnic festivals, The Feast of San Gennaro, started in the area. Originally, the event was to welcome new Italian immigrants to the area. Now, almost a hundred years later, the one day event has expanded into eleven and six urban blocks of food, raucousness and general good naturedness saying, “This is what New York City was like.” In September, it seems like the world, not only those interested in pasta and pizza, converge on Mulberry between Houston and Canal. Instead of paisanos walking the streets, it really is a melting pot of cultures eating sausages with peppers and onions, throwing darts at balloons, tossing ping pongs into fishbowls and carrying on…welcoming everyone to the neighborhood.
Breakfast: Breakfast at Balthazar should be on the bookshelf with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but there isn’t a book with that title. Ever since opening in 1997 Keith McNally’s ode to Paris has been a staple of the downtown demi-monde set. At dinner, it’s still one of the few places to see and be seen. Breakfast is normally not such a rush. it’s a quieter atmosphere with businessmen and female entrepreneurs holding court. Funny, to be recommending a French place while walking around Little Italy, but it’s a must.
Our Suggestion: Eggs En Cocotte. A classic dish not normally seen on menus but it’s really delicious and very easy to make at home. Here, though, they serve them with “soldiers” mean strips of toast without the crust. Just like our English “mummy” used to make.
Lunch: Walking in New York is tantamount to running a gauntlet if you’re not used to it. Swerving and dipping. Spinning and sprinting. The onslaught of pedestrians is mesmerizing, overwhelming and hungry-making which is why you need a hearty lunch. Head to Parm. One of those newly designed farm-to-table sandwich shops but this one started on Mulberry Street and now has sisters in Battery Park City, Yankee Stadium, and the Upper Westside. (Everything has to be a conglomerate.) It’s fun and affordable. You can belly up to the bar and have a lunch cocktail ( I would) to wash down a delish sandwich. It’s simple fare and without a lengthy menu.
Our suggestion: Order the Chicken or Eggplant Parm. Lightly breaded and crisped outside served on a freshly baked semolina roll with beautiful marinara and mozzarella dripping from the sides. Delicious and satisfying for the mid-day repast. And get that lunch martini.
Cocktails: Spring Lounge. Sitting on the corner of Spring and Mulberry is a citadel to urban drinking. Spring Lounge, for generations, is the place where you’re coming for a shot of anything, with a beer or whiskey chaser. Holding up since the 1920’s, as the interior wood paneling can attest, it was first a haven for drinkers during Prohibition, meaning you could get your beer on. Now, it’s a bar with sister bars but you can still get pretty wasted cheaply. If you are so inclined you could join the Early Morning Drinkers Society which starts at 8:00am and yes, Virginia, people are sipping the toddy in the morning.
Our Suggestion: A shot of something with a cocktail. Go for it. We don’t judge.
Dinner: Jacques. I know, I know. You are in Little Italy, why the hell am I recommending two French places? Well, it’s because there are excellent Italians restaurants in every place but Little Italy. Head uptown to Lidia Bastianich’s Felidia or Mario Batali’s Babbo. Italians, like the LGBTQ community, aren’t in ghettoes anymore, they are everywhere. So…we’re going French in Little Italy at Jacques. Part of the charm is the escargot, the excellent steak frites, the French accented waitstaff. It’s like being in a real brasserie in Paris without the plane ride. The smoky yellow walls seem to be evidence of a bygone era when patrons and their tobacco habits have left behind the color as a souvenir. Tin signs are extolling French products also decorate the room with wood chairs and benches. It’s very New York-centric and symbolic of a changing neighborhood. They also have some excellent specials such as order a full meal for a couple and get a bottle of wine, meaning two entrees and two appetizers.
Our suggestion: The escargot is excellent. Lots of buerre and garlic for dipping slices of French loaf. Follow it up with the Pat LaFrieda Steak au Poivre. Medium-rare.
Cost: Escargot, $11. The steak, $29…you can’t find a steak for that price at your local butcher.
Where to Stay:The Crosby Street Hotel. An 86-room hotel outfitted with fabric covered walls and Easter egg colored chairs sits at the entry to Little Italy. It’s a modern looking structure tucked in amongst the last remaining tenements apartment building harkening back to New York’s roughed up days.
Firmdale, the hotelier, does this weird thing saying it’s in Soho but really, it’s Little Italy. Soho is the mostly made-up of cast-iron buildings and is located on the west of Broadway. These are tenements. Regardless, it’s a beautiful, small hotel located off the beaten path much better than the Soho Grand which is just stuffier and older.
Many words have been written to describe Paris. We aren’t going to attempt a vain-glorious description ourselves, but trust us that the city is breathtaking in April. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and many others have sung “April in Paris,” an ode to the city and its springtime affliction. No other urban setting seems to blossom from relief of winter’s gray as does Paris when the March rains have abated and, in their wake, colorful flowers emerge. Yet Paris is also stunning in summer – although crowded, and during the holidays when delicate ornaments and poinsettias decorate many of the facades, buildings, and shops. Paris is beautiful, period, at pretty much anytime of the year.
The 8th Arrondissement, also known as The Golden Triangle, is defined by the boulevards of Champs-Elysees, Avenue Montaigne, and George V, producing one of the world’s most desirable neighborhoods. Indeed, many of Paris’s legendary hotels are situated in the area, including the grand Plaza Athénée, the incomparable Four Seasons, and the exquisite family-owned boutique Hotel San Regis.
Mostly residential and business-oriented, the area has become more of a shopping district, giving Rue Saint-Honóre a run for its euro as the most haute couture street in Europe. Along tree-lined Avenue Montaigne, visitors can shop a host of LVMH boutiques from Celine, Chanel, Gucci, and Dior to name only a few.
The area is also home to several Michelin-starred dining experiences. If you are a dining aficionado, experiencing one of a Michelin restaurants is an absolute must. The French are masters of fine dining, having pretty much invented it – and personally, I love the pomp and flourishes.
I never knew the charm of spring I never met it face to face I never knew my heart could sing I never missed a warm embrace
Till April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom Holiday tables under the trees April in Paris, this is a feeling That no one can ever reprise
Breakfast: Paris’s Eighth arrondissement is one of the world’s most luxurious neighborhoods, known for the couture houses and the historic Four Seasons,George V sits regally amongst them. With its stratospheric ceilings, tapestry covered walls, and elegant cornicing decorating the rooms, this is French dining at its finest. Why have breakfast in the three-Michelin starred room when dinner is an epicurean delight? Mon Cherie, if it’s warm, the terraced doors are open wide and the glorious springtime sun dances through the clear glass vases of Jeff Leatham, the hotel’s artistic director and his legendary floral arrangements. (The Four Seasons, George V’s hotel budget for flowers, at one time, was close to a half million dollars.) Rainbow prisms dance through the vessels of water and into the 19th century hotel’s courtyard. You know you are in Paris. Sublime.
Our Suggestion: You think you’ve had scrambled eggs? From personal experience, I will tell you haven’t had deux oeufs until you them at Le Cinq at the Four Seasons, George V. At 18€ for a pair of eggs, whipped into clarified butter, there is really nothing more decadent or surreally edible than the pale, Easter yellow–colored curds. They are served with crust-less toast points, housemade crème fraiche butter, and a selection of jams and preserves. The large tapestried chairs and tables, as well as each place setting, were designed specifically for George V.
Price: 18€. At the time of this writing, it equates to about $9 an egg but it does come with the toast. Coffee is separate. (Ahem.)
Lunch: Publicis Drugstore. A drugstore for your allergy medicine, a bookstore for reading, three restaurants including Chef Joel Robuchon, a perfumery, a bar, and a movie theatre. Take your medicine, followed by coffee at the bookstore – you read a little of Hemingway because you’re in Paris and that’s what l’americains do – then head to the cinema. (In Paris, people see films or cinema – never a movie or a screener.) Repeat. No need to go anywhere else. It’s an upscale, chic version of a strip mall. Nothing quite like it.
Our Suggestion: La Brasserie. Have a burger. Just eat it. It’s delicious and as you’re eating it you say to yourself, “Why aren’t American burgers this good? All. The. Time.” Have some wine to wash it down. If you get a window table, you can finagle your camera so the Arc de Triomphe, your food, and strolling Parisians are in one shot.
Hours: 8:00 am – 1:00am
Address: 133 Ave de Champs-Elysees 75008, Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 44 43 79 00
Cocktail: L’Avenue. You’ve worn out your credit cards shopping up and down Avenue Montaigne only to come to the legendary L’Avenue. European celebrities, Hollywood stars, and the fashion elite hang out just to mingle like it’s a Vanity Fair party. And the paparazzi hang out, waiting for their shot. It’s a must for any well-dressed, cosmopolitan tourist- but it is very difficult to get into even after being open for over a decade. If you arrive early enough and settle in with one of your shopping bags from Chanel, Dior, or Celine, they will seat you for an afternoon aperitif. (This is a sister establishment to the famed Hotel Costes, and the Costes Brothers team, who created the omnipresent electronic-based bar music almost twenty years ago. You’ve heard it from Singapore to Buenos Aires to Greenland.)
Our suggestion: Order a glass of French wine or a martini. Europeans never put enough ice in the cocktails.
Address: 41 Avenue Montaigne, 75008, Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 40 70 14 91
Dinner: Pershing Hall. The hotel and restaurant is glorified by the fashion industry’s elite and is contained in a 19th century building leased by the United States. The hall was dedicated to the John J. Pershing, the only general to receive the highest rank of General of the Armies, during his lifetime. Designed by the late, fabled Parisian decorator Andree Putnam, who planned the interiors for Ian Schrager’s New York-based boutique property, Morgan’s Hotel. Heavy glass bead curtains partition separate dining areas. A vertical garden rises up six stories on one side of the inner courtyard, making the inhabitants feel as if they were part of Tarzan’s jungle without leaving the safety of Paris. This is a revered piece of design work which has now been copied the world over – and the best part, you get to eat there.
Our suggestion: Beef or tuna tartare. Tartare is very much a French gastronomic invention. Made with impeccable grades of meat, a “steak” is finely chopped with capers and herbs and topped with a raw egg. Delicious.
Price: Order the land (beef), 18€, and sea version (tuna), 18€, along with a side dish of Russian caviar served on a hard-boiled egg, 130€. To drink, a super cold martini or a flute of champagne. That’s the way to roll.
Address: 49 Rue Pierre Charron 75008, Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 58 36 58 00
Stay: Four Seasons, George V
I know, I know. You’re thinking who is this guy who is going to recommend the Four Seasons, Paris? First, the French are the best at service. It’s not born from fawning obsequiousness, but a genuine pleasure in making sure guests receive the best. If you are happy, they are happy. Staying at any of the French hotels is definitely an experience, but if you’re in the 8th, and have a few Benjamins to burn, this would be my suggestion. There is an indoor pool, one of the few hotels in the City of Lights to have one (except the re-modeled Ritz will be having one soon, too). www.fourseasons.com/paris
The city of Santa Barbara has been called The American Riviera. Matter of fact, as a travel destination, it’s been trademarked as The American Riviera under that name, bringing connotations of luxury and prestige. Beyond that branding, the area is home to truly great farming, including wine growing regions. There is also damn mighty fine eating if you get beyond the idea of high-end dining and leave that to the bigger urban centers. It’s not that the chefs aren’t capable and many of the small city’s dining rooms are decorated beautifully, but it’s why bother bringing a jacket or heels to a low-key area? After all, this is a coastal community and a college town, where flip-flops and shorts are de riguer.
Interestingly, Santa Barbara provides a sublime campus for higher learning, as this is where – as noted – several colleges are based, including the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Antioch University, and Brooks College of Photography. Located along the Pacific Coast, about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara’s geography provides temperate weather, golden sand beaches, and incredible bike paths, supposedly evocative of the Mediterranean.
However, if cultural pursuits are really your interest, there is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Furthermore, Mission Santa Barbara (named the Queen of the Missions), is one of the twenty-one Franciscan missions in the state of California. Well documented in the eighteenth century history books, the traveling and gospel spreading monks dedicated to transiting the indigenous peoples into Christians did so via sub-standard means and torture.
Even with all the college aged individuals, there is relatively very little nightlife and the streets roll-up early. But the beauty of Santa Barbara lies not in its evening but in the early part of the day, when people – visitors and natives alike – take up more physical pursuits, such as kayaking, beach volleyball, and fishing.
Breakfast: Tupelo Junction Cafe
When Tupelo Junction first opened, it was cozy with no more than a dozen tables packed onto a small side street. The walls were covered in burlap cloth and white washed with touches of red gingham, giving the impression that Tom Sawyer and his girlfriend Becky were manning the cook’s station. Maybe about a decade ago, the restaurant moved to State Street, closer to the action. The charming atmosphere was lost, but thankfully not the creative spin on Southern dishes. You can eat buttermilk pancakes slathered in creamy pan gravy or apple beignets.
Our Suggestion: Dungeness Crab with Potato Hash, Avocado Salsa, Poached Eggs, and Beurre Blanc. This restaurant is a touch of France, big scoops of the America’s South, and the California coast.
Price: $18.00. (It has big pieces of crab throughout and worth every penny.)
Hours: Breakfast is served daily from 8:00am to 3:00pm.
Address: 1218 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 899 – 3100
Lunch: Brophy Bros.
This is a wharf restaurant that is worth just driving ninety minutes along the Pacific Coast Highway to dine for lunch. It’s truly a quintessential Santa Barbara dining experience, overlooking the fishermen’s boats as they bring in their day’s catch. If you decide to have dinner here, the second floor outlook is one of the most beautiful places in California to watch the setting sun. It’s a busy restaurant and can have a very long wait.
Our Suggestion: New England Clam Chowder. Living on the West Coast, where food is mostly about becoming a rabbit – chewing a lot of veggies, no carbs and dairy – this is one of the most deliciously, decadent soups imaginable. It’s very East Coast made, with lots of clams, potatoes, and cream. The only thing missing is the Maine mist and chill. If you do take an afternoon drive to Santa Barbara, come here and have this as a cup with a salad for lunch, with a glass of white wine, and your life will be as perfect as fairy tale.
Price: $5.00 for a cup; $7.50 for a bowl.
Hours: Open daily from 11:00am – 10:00pm. They do not take reservations. First come, first serve basis.
Address: 119 Harbor Way (Harborside), Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Phone: (805) 966 – 4418
Cocktails: Canary Hotel’s Finch & Fork
Smack dab in the middle of the town of Santa Barbara is the Canary Hotel. White-washed on the outside with a distinct Mediterranean/ Mexican/Spanish feel, complete with clay tiles, red-roof, decorative irons and wood, it can be a little precious. But it’s a great place to stop for a mid-day cocktail or an afternoon repast as you meander through the State Street shops. New American cuisine with freshly bought bounty is served at the bar daily and in the main dining room.
Our Suggestion: This is one of California’s great wine countries. You need to sample the wine while here.
Address: 31 West Carillo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 879 – 9100.
Dinner: The Wine Cask
Created in 1981, The Wine Cask is Santa Barbara’s landmark restaurant bringing the area’s food and wine to the forefront of dining scene throughout California. Farm to table long before the term was coined, the owner, Doug Margeruem, has long been resolute in showcasing the Santa Barbara County’s rich agriculture, most notably it’s wine growers. If ever there was a quintessential dining place — a must place to dine in Santa Barbara — The Wine Cask is the place. It’s like going to Beverly Hills and never eating at Spago, or dining in New York and never eating at Gotham Bar and Grill. There are some restaurants that you have to eat at if you are in the area. The dining room, with its painted beam ceilings and massive fireplace to keep out the sea chill even in the heat of the summer, is one of the California Coasts most stately and stunning.
Our Suggestion: The food is delicious and the produce is brought in daily from nearby farmers markets and vendors. Probably the closest you will get to the farm without actually picking it yourself.
Prices: Varies but American Wine Country cooking at it’s finest.
Hours: Nightly from 5:30 pm. Closed Sundays – Mondays.
Out of all the hotels in Santa Barbara, this is the one beyond reproach. It’s a small bed and breakfast, with 13 rooms, and no two rooms are the same. Therefore, each time you stay, the experience is different. And unlike the other hotels, which are managed or owned by big corporations, wealthy developers, or billionaires, this is luxury hospitality at its finest. Built by the Davies family, Simpson House Inn became an award-winning bed and breakfast, the only one to be named a “five diamond” by AAA and by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway. Like all b and b’s, breakfast is served daily – but it’s completely vegetarian. If it was never mentioned, a guest would never notice. Also, there is a two-hour afternoon wine tasting with a bevy of tasty snacks before dinner. For this intrepid traveler, I find this to one of my favorite hotels in the world.
Shakespeare, swans, shopping, and spectacular eats – where are you? You’re in Stratford, Ontario!
This small town is one of the most vibrant arts and food towns I’ve ever visited – and like many who visit, I long to move there. Stratford is known for being a theatre town – it’s the home of the Stratford Festival, one of the best theatre festivals in the world (which runs from April through October each year). There are Shakespearean Gardens to meander through; make time to see the swans along the Avon River – the 24 swans are well-cared for and have an annual parade each spring! Be sure to tour the Costume Warehouse and see the tens of thousands of costumes used in the productions, and stop and shop at Bradshaw’s, a fantastic kitchen store.
This town is a foodie town. There’s the Stratford Chef School and a plethora of extraordinary restaurants. The prevailing theme is locally grown/sourced, organic, fresh foods – you can see this when you talk with chefs, or shop the weekly farmer’s market. It’s amazing, and progressive, and just lovely.
Explore the Savour Stratford food trails – Bacon and Ale, Chocolate, Pumpkin, Maple, and other seasonal trails that offer food and food items at stores all throughout town. Purchase trail passes at the Visit Stratford office downtown – it’s a great way to explore local food – and local stores.
I was completely surprised by the quantity of excellent food and great restaurants here – you will be, too. For a small town, Stratford just explodes with art, theatre, museums, and fine dining. The choices overflow – it was hard for me to narrow this down!
Please note all prices are in Canadian dollars.
Breakfast: The Bruce
My suggestion: We ate breakfast at our B&B, so I asked my foodie friend Cathy Rehberg, of Visit Stratford, for a suggestion. She made me hungry! Here’s what she recommended: “Chef Arron Carley, who will be featured on Food Network TV’s Chopped Canada, describes the vision for his new menus: “Looking into our past and understanding our roots as well as looking forward into the undiscovered wilderness of our nation we will forge New
Canadian Cuisine.” Now he is offering the Bruce-alicious menu which offers excellent value. Take a look at the fall and winter breakfast menu. Everything I have had there has been so good! And, it comes with a lovely view of the gardens just south of Upper Queen’s Park and a 5 minute walk to the Festival Theatre.”
Price: Bruce Breakfast Sandwich: Perth pork sausage, Avonlea cheddar, duck egg, tomato, awesome sauce, flaxseed bun, crispy spuds – $15 Hours: Restaurant: Thursday-Saturday plus Sunday Brunch; Lounge open every day. Address: 89 Parkview Drive Phone Number: 855-708-7100 Website: www.thebruce.ca
Second Breakfast: Rheo Thompson Candies
I have a soft spot in my heart for Rheo Thompson – not only for their extraordinary chocolates, but for the fact that we both came into this world in 1969. I adore this chocolate shop – and so does everyone who’s been to Stratford. It’s a must-visit. If you go on Savour Stratford’s Chocolate Trail, Rheo Thompson is one of the options.
My suggestion: While all of the chocolates I have ever gotten from Rheo Thompson have been delicious, try to snag some Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows. They are homemade marshmallow pillows, square, drenched in a thin coating of luscious dark chocolate. Yes, they deserve all of those adjectives.
Price: inexpensive Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9am-5:30pm, closed Sunday Address: 55 Albert Street Phone Number: 519-271-6910 Website:https://www.rheothompson.com/
Lunch: Mercer Hall
I absolutely LOVE this restaurant. Chef Ryan O’Donnell is the epitome of a chef that cares about locally grown, sustainable food sources, while being a great mentor and boss, AND bringing his creativity to the table.
Mercer Hall also serves hot tea from Canada’s first tea sommelier, Karen Hartwick (visit her shop, Tea Leaves, while you are in town), so be sure to order a pot.
My suggestion: House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus – I can’t resist a great sandwich. This one was incredible.
Because there are many great coffeeshops in town, it’s hard to recommend just one. But I’ll try. Revel’s tagline notes: “independent coffee for a revolution home of direct trade coffee, delicious pastries & revelers” – indeed, this is the case. We walked into a bustling cafe – the sounds of the crowd were so happy and joyful – like old friends meeting up. Revel offers delicious baked goods and a variety of coffees and teas.
My suggestion: We went for lattes and a chocolate croissant. Heaven.
Price: large latte – $4.70 Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8am-6pm, Sunday 9am-5pm
Address: 37 Market Place Phone Number: 519-305-1600 Website:http://www.revelcaffe.com/
Happy Hour: Revival House
A restaurant and bar in an old church? It works! You walk in to this gorgeous space, and immediately want to sit down and cozy in. There is sometimes a band at the front of the hall! Revival House uses fresh, local, seasonal ingredients in their menus. While we were there, we saw large families, couples, mother-daughter teams (us!), and more… This is a fun, upscale place that is hopping.
My suggestion: I don’t drink, so take your pick from their extensive drinks menu. What I will suggest is the charcuterie board ($27, to share) to tide you over until dinner.
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-1am. Closed Monday and Tuesday Address: 70 Brunswick Street Phone Number: 519-273-3424 Website:www.revival.house
Located on the main corner of Stratford’s downtown, this is the perfect place to stop in for dinner. BE SURE to make reservations if it is theatre season. If you’re not going to see a play that evening, make it after 7:30pm, so the theatre rush is done and you can relax in the large, comfy dining room. Chef Yva Santini, in her 9th year at Paazzo, received the Ontario Hostelry Institutes Top 30 under 30 award in 2014. She’s creative, friendly, and a genius in the kitchen. I love how she comes out into the dining room herself, to deliver the mains and chat with customers.
My suggestion: I could eat just off the appetizer menu, honestly. My favorite is the Burrata with balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes and pesto, $13. But there is much to recommend on the mains menu, including the unlimited hand made pasta special – enjoy as much of Chef Yva’s daily pasta as you like, $20, or try the Taverna fondue (!!!).
Price: $$ Hours: Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30am-10pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am-12am, closed Monday Address: 70 Ontario St Phone: 519-273-6666 Website:www.pazzo.ca
The largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee is perhaps best known for beer and a great Midwestern immigrant tradition (think delicious Polish and German food!). Today, you can celebrate those cultures with food, events (Irish Fest and German Fest, an 11 day music festival, the largest Bastille Day celebration in the US – it’s a city of festivals), and entire neighborhoods that represent immigrant communities (hello, South Side!). All of this – plus an extremely beautiful location, right along Lake Michigan, mean that this is a place that is serious about food, culture, and enjoying the best of life with friends and family.
There’s so much to do, from visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Discovery World science center to shopping the Milwaukee Public Market to sports galore. But let’s be honest – we’re all about the food and beverages here.
Did you know that Milwaukee has historically been famous for beer? Yes, that strong German tradition carried over across the pond, and Milwaukee was the #1 beer producing city in the US for many years, with local breweries Schlitz, Pabst, Miller, and Blatz being the largest in the nation. The only large brewery still in town is Miller (you can see their impact all over town, notably with Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team). But in keeping with that brewing culture and tradition, as well as a diverse population and close proximity to Chicago, there is SO MUCH to eat, drink, and explore here. It’s not just about the beer any more.
What surprises visitors most is the quality and diversity of great eats here. You can find global meals, innovative American cuisine, a fantastic public market, and traditional Friday Fish Fries.
What are you waiting for?
Breakfast: Blue’s Egg
A perfect way to start the day is a meal at Blue’s Egg, a brunch spot serving traditional items as well favorites with a modern twist, with an emphasis on from-scratch cooking and locally sourced ingredients. If you’re looking for something more traditional, choose a dish from the “basics” section of the menu: a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes; thick French toast with sausage or thick-cut cherry wood bacon; or two eggs any style with choice of meat, slices of toast with butter or jam, and fresh-cut hash browns (with just the right amount of crisp).
In addition to the classic eggs benedict, Blue’s Egg offers the Dubliner (corned beef, leeks, rye toast, paprika aioli) and the Florentine (fresh spinach, beef-steak tomatoes, English muffin, hollandaise sauce). Menu standouts include the hoppel poppel (scrambled eggs, cream, sausage, bacon, caramelized onions, shredded potatoes, spinach, toast, hollandaise sauce); the blue crab cake (mixed greens, poached eggs, pickled peppers, challah toast, remoulade sauce); and corned beef hash made in-house (the best ever). A lunch menu is available Monday to Friday in addition to the brunch items and offers burgers and sandwiches with hand-cut fries, soups, and salads, but once you see the overflowing plates of eggs, bacon, and toast being delivered to other tables, you will want to stick with the brunch menu. Blue’s Egg also serves creative cocktails, wine, local beers, fresh squeezed juices, and coffee and café drinks to enjoy with your meal.
My suggestion: The restaurant is spacious but fills up quickly on weekends, so arrive early or consider having a seat at the counter. Take home some monkey bread, coffee cake, or cookies from the front case (if there is anything left).
Price $6-13 Hours every day 7am-2pm Address 317 N 76th St, Milwaukee, WI 53213 Phone (414) 299-3180 Websitehttp://bluesegg.com/
Second Breakfast: Clock Shadow Creamery
Wisconsin is home to cheese – so of COURSE I’d suggest you stock up on some cheese snacks over at Clock Shadow Creamery. This is an urban cheese factory that uses local milk (some of their cows are at the ZOO!) and creates fantastic cheeses. I won’t be lying when I say that when I walked into their clean, bright storefront, I felt like a mouse in Switzerland. I just wanted to EAT ALL THE CHEESE. But there’s a back story – with local founders, an extremely green and clean building, and a strong environmental and community commitment.
Yelp Haiku by Rachel F Urban cheese-making/ Flavored cheddars everywhere/ Lemme at that quark!
My suggestion: While there are tons of cheeses, made by Clock Shadow and others, I’d get a tub of fresh quark to slather on crackers or bread, and a bag (or five) of fresh cheese curds to snack on all day. If you are in Milwaukee in winter and won’t be long, you won’t need a cooler (we just use our cars as freezers). In the summer, bring a small cooler so you can enjoy your chilled cheese curds all day long. Squeak squeak!
Price inexpensive. A bag of cheese curds is under $7 Hours Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm. Closed Sundays Address 138 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204 Phone (414) 273-9711 Websitehttp://www.clockshadowcreamery.com/
Finding great sausages in Milwaukee is easy. However, Vanguard
takes it a step further – these are, hands down, some of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten. The flavors are both traditional (brats, dogs, cheddarwursts, super fun toppings) and creative – look at the KHING KHAN (Lamb, Pork, Galangal, Chilis & Lemongrass Sausage, topped with Red Curry, Carrots, Cilantro, and Jalapeños)! Whether you go hot or mild, traditional or creative, you’re bound to be happy. They also serve local and global beer, spirits, and have delicious sides (fries, a variety of poutines, baked potato balls, corn, deviled eggs if you get there before they run out). Be prepared to spend a bit of time talking while you wait – the chefs take their time grilling and assembling the sausages with love.
My suggestion: I absolutely loved the Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits. Get a side of cheese curds, no matter what else you order.
Price $5-9 Hours every day 11am-2am Address 2659 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207 Phone (414) 539-3593 Websitehttp://www.vanguardbar.com/
If you’ve followed my instagram, you know I can’t get enough good coffee. And frankly, Anodyne is the best. Let’s start with the Walker’s Point location (one of three) – an historic industrial building, turned warm and inviting inside with enormous round mirrors over the coffee bar, a stage, and plenty of honey-colored wood. Splashes of red for accents highlight the red A in the labels and Anodyne logo.
This place? It freshly roasts their coffee in the back – you can view the roasters from the counter, and if you don’t see the kind you want to purchase in bags, they’ll head back to see if there is some freshly roasted and not bagged up yet.
The friendly baristas, relaxed environment, and delicious coffee
make this my favorite in town. The menu features brewed to go, lattes and cappuccinos, a honey bee (honey latte with milk), a my buddy (almond and vanilla cappuccino), mochas (including additions of frosty and turtle – mint and caramel, respectively), espresso, Americano, red eyes, and seasonal apple cider.
My suggestion: A pour over. I love Ethiopian, but the Sumatran was also excellent. Get a slice of layer cake from the Cake Lady to accompany your delicious brew.
Price 12 oz pour over $2.75, 20 oz mocha $4 Hours Monday-Friday, 6:30am-9pm; Saturday 7am-9pm; Sunday 7:30am-9pm Address 224 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204 Phone (414) 763-1143 Websitehttps://anodynecoffee.com/
Happy hour: Lakefront Brewery
Come for the microbrews and riverfront seating, stay for the polka. Yes, this true Milwaukee brewery features a polka band on Friday nights for the fish fry. With a rich family history in beer, Lakefront started in 1987, and has won over 200 awards over the years. You can take an informative, hilarious tour ($9-10) of the Brewery with samples (!)– check the website for details.
My suggestion: try the beer flights to ascertain which you love best.
At Fortune, you’ll have the option to peruse two different menus.
Get the red menu – it offers more authentic dishes. Try to go with as many people as you can round up, so you can order more dishes (they are served family style). You’ll see large families sitting around large, circular tables. This is to take advantage of the lazy susan in the middle of the table, to scoot the food around so everyone can reach it. The food is delivered as it is made, so it’s hot and fresh. Milwaukee’s Chinese community likes to get together there for family gatherings and special events.
My recommendation: dumplings, of course – with a thick wrapping and flavorful meat, they are scrumptious. The crabmeat rangoons are hot, crispy, and delicious. My favorite entrée is the Salt Chicken – crispy, salty skin, tender, juicy inside. Love at first bite. We also get the salt and pepper squid (served with jalapenos) and the fried pork intestines (a dish my husband loves) and the tender, gently sautéed pea shoot leaves with garlic.
Price $11-30 Hours Sunday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-10:30pm Address 2945 S 108th St, Milwaukee, WI 53227 Phone (414) 328-9890 Websitehttp://www.fortunerestaurant.net/
Late night dessert: Kopp’s Custard
A visit to Milwaukee is not complete without indulging in frozen
custard, and Kopp’s Frozen Custard serves some of the best. A Milwaukee institution since 1950, Kopp’s scoops up vanilla and chocolate custard daily, but the real standouts are the specialty flavors. Each month, Kopp’s posts a Flavor Forecast so customers will know when to stop in for their favorite custard (there are two specialty flavors each day). The flavors are irresistible and include tiramisu (espresso flavored custard with fudge swirl and pieces of ladyfinger cake), peach melba (chunks of peaches and raspberry swirl), macadamia nut (loaded with whole nuts), Sprecher root beer float (highlighting soda from a local brewery), and cherry amaretto cheesecake (cherries and chunks of New York cheesecake). Specialty sundaes, floats, malts, and shakes are also available.
Haven’t tried frozen custard yet? It’s rich, smooth, and has a creamy texture – I like it more than ice cream! Kopp’s doesn’t freeze their custard, so it’s not hard packed when served, like ice cream – it’s served up straight out of the frozen custard machine. If you’re looking for lunch or dinner or a heartier late night snack, Kopp’s serves delicious burgers and chicken, fish, and grilled cheese sandwiches – just remember, there’s always room for dessert.
My suggestion: Try the flavor of the day!
Price 2 scoop cone/dish: $3.45 (they price it up to 6 scoops!!!) Hours every day 10:30am-11pm Address 7631 W Layton Ave, Greenfield, WI 53220 (two other locations in the metro area – check the website for addresses and phone numbers) Phone (414) 282-4312 Websitehttps://www.kopps.com/