Category Archives: Food Destinations & Neighborhood Eats

Looking for a quick tip on where to eat in a destination? How about what’s good on the menu too? We have you covered.

I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Napa’s St. Helena

St. Helena is a petite and idyllic winemaking town in the heart of Napa Valley. Out of all the towns in the county of Napa, this is my undoubtedly my favorite. During the spring, the grape vines are incredibly bright green with mustard flowers popping up between rows. In the summer, that bright sun showcases the verdant green of the valley. And then in the fall, watching leaves and trees turn shades of orange is magnificent. The town is essentially one street from Yountville to Calistoga and passes through St. Helena. It has exemplary shopping, a great place to stroll, extraordinary wine drinking and some of the best eating in the world…in a town of only 5,000. What more could you ask for in a shire?

Meadowood. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Napa's St. Helena

Breakfast: The Grill at Meadowood Napa Valley.  Napa can be an expensive place to eat but you can enjoy some of the tonier aspects of it without breaking the bank. Instead of going to the three Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood, head to their smaller and extraordinarily good The Grill. At breakfast sit outside overlooking the verdant 8-hole golf course. Excellent place for business breakfasts or quiet repasts.

My suggestion: Corned Beef Hash. Simply a divine morning dish of protein and carbs before you head out for your morning wine tasting. Roughly chopped corn beef with delicious cubed bites of Yukon Gold potatoes and onions cooked together. This is a dish for dinner as well…if only it was served at that time. Eat it with poached eggs letting the runny yolks coat the succulent pieces of beef. One of the most perfect dishes to eat before sweating out the delicious Cabernets from the night before and replenishing with new ones.

Price: $20

Hours: 7:00am – 11:30am

Address: 900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, CA 94574


Gott's Roadside. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Napa's St. Helena

Lunch:  Gott’s Roadside. Long before the Shake Shacks, Umami Burgers and The Counter there was this charming roadside stand that served up delicious burgers, fries and other edibles in the heat of the Napa sun plus they served wines by the glass. It was a great place just to grab a bite after walking up and down Highway 29 tasting wines. Of course, Gott’s also has craft beers too. That’s what made it so fun and inventive at was dining al fresco with a glass of wine and a burger! There are two other joints in the Bay Area – including the San Francisco’s Ferry Building — but this is the one that started it all….and my favorite location.

My suggestion: Patty Melt. Yeah, I know. I’m a guy. I like my burger slapped between gooey Swiss cheese, oozing out sautéed onions, a zesty mustard and buttery rye toast. And for my wine choice…Jelly Jar rosé. Or any rosé. Light, fruity and pairs well with burgers and sautéed onions. Hell, anything pairs well with burgers and sautéed onions. Anything pairs well with rosé. It’s a winner.

Price: $9.99 without wine. Wine prices vary.

Hours: 10:00am – close

Address: 933 Main Street, St. Helena, CA, 94574

Phone Number: (707) 963 – 3486


Woodhouse Chocolates. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Napa's St. Helena

Snack Time: Woodhouse Chocolates. The quintessential small town candy shop as only Napa Valley can do it. Stunningly handcrafted chocolates in unusual molds. Tracy Anderson, along with her husband, John, collects chocolate molds from around the world. At various times, visitors to the candy shop can view, in their specially refrigerated window, whole chess sets, shoes and Santa’s workshop…created in chocolate. It’s pretty awesome.

My suggestion: Buy chocolates per piece. You can pick and choose. Lovely varieties of ganache without being cloyingly sweet.  Remember it’s a snack…you could buy a whole box but you don’t want to ruin your dinner. Or you could ruin your dinner….

Price: $2.50 per piece

Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11:00am – 6:00pm. Friday and Saturday, 11:00am – 6:30pm

Address: 1367 Main Street, St. Helena, CA. 94574

Phone Number: (800) 966 – 3460



Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. From I8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Napa's St. Helena

Dinner: Cindy Pawlcyn’s Backstreet Kitchen & Bar. One of the reasons I love this place so much — along with Cooks St. Helena (not mentioned), Meadowood, Gotts, Woodhouse — is that it’s steeped in the history of Napa Valley winemaking. After all, not one of these establishments would be here if it weren’t for the area making great wines. Chef Cindy Pawlcyn was at the forefront of food and wine pairing in American Wine country. Beginning with Mustards Grill (Yountville), Pawlcyn’s second restaurant was Backstreet. Like its predecessor, it’s about good cooking with large portions and unpretentiousness. St. Helena has a lot of preciousness in its air, most likely because the earth was good to these grape-growers making them wealthy farmers, but the food, at Cindy’s Backstreet never became too rarefied – no foie gras or pates — it’s hearty deliciousness in a homey atmosphere where you savor your food and sip exquisite wines….while in your jeans.

My suggestion: This is a tough one but I will go with the Wild Mushroom Pie. It’s a unique dish using the best of area agriculture. It’s not light…but it’s pretty stellar.

Price: $22.95

Hours: 11:30am – 9:30pm

Address: 1327 Railroad Avenue, St. Helena, CA 94574

Phone: (707) 963 – 1200



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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Dining in Napa's St. Helena

The End. Go Eat. 

In Memory of Carrol Gettko: You truly were one of my great friends. I know you always wanted to live in Napa and watch the grapes grow even though you didn’t drink. I miss you a lot. Here’s to having a great spaghetti dinner again one day.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Phoenix’s Biltmore Area

The city of Phoenix is one of our country’s most beautiful urban areas. Facing south from the area known as the Biltmore, the furthest southern horizon is the South Mountain and Sierra Estrellas (Correction by David Bickman. For the past three months, since, I’ve lived in Phoenix, I’ve been calling them by the wrong name.) Its wavy silhouette stretching both east and west; in between are flat lands – just widening with low-rise buildings. You can view planes jet off from Sky Harbor International. The sixth largest city in the country has skyscrapers and glass buildings but their presence isn’t too obtrusive against the natural arid beauty and environment. Instead of green lawns, oaks and maples – although, there is that – the majestic saguaros, native to the area, are planted in front of many homes beside other homegrown cacti.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the lush gardens that surround the Biltmore.
Biltmore. Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria.

To the north is Piestawa Peak, the topmost — second only to Camelback — in the Phoenix mountain range. Named in honor of Lori Ann Piestawa, Phoenician-born soldier, who has the tragic distinction of being the first female and first Native American to lose their life in the 2003 Iraqi War. It’s a natural border before heading into the bedroom environs. At sunrise and sunset, the Phoenician peaks are colored in a pinkish hues and are often hiked by the area residents and visitors. Matter of fact, right at the bottom of the range lies the world famous Arizona Biltmore, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces. It’s a beguiling resort with 740 rooms, eight swimming pools, tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course.

Courtesy of Macherisom Tourism

Unsurprisingly, the area is called The Biltmore. You might find that a car should be at your disposal as the area isn’t very walkable; however, the drives are thankfully short. In the coming year, a new luxury hotel called The Camby, will replace the recently closed Ritz-Carlton, directly across from the area’s luxury shopping mall, Biltmore Fashion Square. There’s even more luxury lodging at the independently owned The Hermosa Inn, which has one of the Phoenix’s best restaurants, Lon’s at the Hermosa.

The Biltmore area is Phoenix’s financial district – it’s Wall Street — but it does have character. For one, the mall houses a small shopping area inside called Union dedicated to independent retailers. The Saks Fifth Avenue, a former I. Magnin, has an astonishing visual merchandiser and artist, Quim Bove. At one time, Bove who resided in a principality called Andorra, wedged between France and Spain, was a window display artist at Hermes in southern France and Christian Dior in Spain before moving to the Valley of the Sun. His installations have fountains and fake hedges or brown felt, twirling like upside down cyclone turning magically into a Chanel tweed suit.  He also did all the artwork throughout the store.

Lastly, the food in Phoenix should be receiving more attention than it does. Pizzeria Bianco has been named many times over to have the best pizza in America. Phoenix’s chefs are doing very well in creating a vibrant culinary scene and Arizona has a growing wine culture and craft beer breweries are peppered throughout. Epicures should find this an excellent city to avail themselves of their favorite hobby.

Breakfast Burrito. Courtesy of Breakfast Club.
Matt's Big Breakfast
Courtesy of Matt’s Big Breakfast.

Breakfast: When I first moved to Phoenix, I noticed an amazing amount of restaurants catering to a breakfast and lunch crowd only. I would estimate three dozen restaurants or more with cute names reflecting the day’s first meal. For example, you could eat eggs, waffles and bacon at The First Watch, U.S. Egg, The Good Egg, Snooze, Scramble, The Breakfast Club and Perk one week and then the following, head to Daily Dose, Over Easy, Oink, Butterfield’s Pancake House, Morning Glory Café, Biscuits and The Original Pancake House and many more never repeat  to one in a month .  They open at the crack of dawn and close right after lunch. Get this…they have a waitlist. Not just during the weekend, but during the weekdays too. Sometimes for an hour! Phoenix has a love affair with breakfast. One of my faves is Matt’s Big Breakfast. The first location is located near downtown Phoenix with corrugated, aluminum siding and bright orange walls which has that urban hipster feel, friendly service, down to earth smiles – nose rings and tattoo sleeves. The newest location is in a strip mall, next to a QuickCuts and a Safeway. Featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Dives and Drive-In’s, it a family-run place with solid meals, liberal use of butter on everything, cage free eggs and humanely raised meats. Owner Matt Pool wanted his restaurant to represent the mid-west diners his father took him to as a boy. I think he elevated the experience by several notches. (Regardless, if Fieri was there or not.)

My suggestion:  The Chop & Chick. Iowa-raised pork chop, marinated in pesto. Served up with your choice of egg style and potatoes, plus Wildflower Bread. (This is a Phoenix-based bakery that makes delicious artisan breads.)


  • Price: $10.95
  • Hours: 6:30 am – 2:30 pm.
  • Address:  3132 East Camelback Road, Phoenix, Arizona 85016
  • Phone Number:  This location hasn’t opened yet at the time of this writing. I cheated – but it’s my site. I will remove this statement when it opens at the end of October 2015.
  • Website:
The Original Chopped Salad. Courtesy of The Gladly

Lunch:  Andrew Fritz and his partner, Chef Bernie Kantake have helped elevate Phoenix’s dining scene first with Citizen Public House, a take on the gastro pub, and with this restaurant called The Gladly. It’s located within walking distance to the new The Camby, the newest luxury hotel to open in Phoenix. The young owners have an extensive bar menu and New American dishes. It was a tough call on what to feature for lunch in this area but The Gladly won out because it features a salad called The Original Chopped Salad. It has its own Facebook page. Yeah, you can’t beat that.

My suggestion:  The Original Chopped Salad

  • Price: $12.00
  • Hours: Lunch, 11am – 3pm, Monday – Friday. Dinner 3pm – 10am, Monday – Thursday. Dinner 3pm – 11pm, Friday – Saturday. Sunday Brunch, 9am – 3pm.  
  • Address: 2201 East Camelback Road, #106, Phoenix, Arizona 85016
  • Phone Number: (602) 759 – 8132
  • Website:
Pizza. Courtesy of Christopher’s Crush.

Snack Time: Christopher’s Crush is located in the Biltmore Fashion Square. It’s an appropriate spot since it evokes a cosmopolitan and very fashion-oriented atmosphere with glass, crisp tablecloths, and colored with muted oranges, reds and browns. You could place the spot in Manhattan and it would fit perfectly. The same thing can be said of Christopher Gross’ food and sommelier Paola Embrey’s wine list. Sophisticated. Chic. Urbane. James Beard-nominated for Best in Southwest.

My suggestion: They have 70 wines by the glass and a bar menu for their happy hour, named – ahem – Happy Hour.

  • Price: All wines, beers and well drinks are half-price from 3:00pm –
  • Photo Courtesy of Christopher's Crush
    Photo Courtesy of Christopher’s Crush
  • 6:00pm.
  • Hours: Seven days a week, Happy Hour is served from 3:00pm – 6:00pm.
  • Address: 2502 East Camelback Road, Suite 102. Biltmore Shopping Center.
  • Phone Number: (602) 522 — 2344
  • Website:


Dinner: Lon’s at The Hermosa is truly an experience showcasing the old West with its adobe style structure. Owned and built by well-known Western artist Lon Mergargee, The Hermosa Inn’s restaurant is old world with white tablecloths, candles, plush seating with big over-sized chairs and booths. During the winter, it’s de riguer to be seen eating at Lon’s once a week amongst the Paradise Valley social set. The kitchen has a one-acre garden – nice to pull daily herbs and some fresh vegetables for the dining guests but it’s the citrus fruit that provides the most bounty and uses. Visitors can have a variety of freshly squeezed juices throughout the day provided by the hotel’s trees. Housemade cocktails get a healthy dose of garden love as well.

LON's Signature Burger
Photo Courtesy of Hermosa Inn

My suggestion: Lon’s is known for the steaks and chops. Just indulge and enjoy the Sonoran desert beauty.

  • Price: 8 ounce filet is $44, the lamb rack is $56 and the pork chop $36. The chop is the size of a caveman’s club.
  • Hours: 6pm – 9pm
  • Address:  5532 North Palo Christi Road, Paradise Valley, Arizona  85016
  • Phone: (602) 955 – 7878
  • Website:

Stay: It’s a hard choice  on where to stay in this area which is comprised of  three of  The Valley of the Sun’s top hotels including The Hermosa Inn which is celebrating their 80th year as a hotel, The Camby, the newest in the city or The Arizona Biltmore. Each property has a different personality although the Biltmore and Hermosa Inn have long been established.

The Camby, housed in a former Ritz Carlton shell, appeals to the new generation of traveler looking for hi-tech services. On a recent visit, they had an interesting computer concierge service which sort of worked. We still needed to be talked through the process with the temporary desk person and it was fun to play with on this massive touch screen. Ultimately, it didn’t have all the information loaded onto at the time.

The Hermosa Inn, with only thirty five rooms, is the most private of three, tucked away in Paradise Valley, a ritzy residential section. The pool is quiet, the hotel understated and Lon’s at The Hermosa is one of the best dining experiences in Arizona. Try and book one of the newer renovated rooms for a great, adult like experience.

The Arizona Biltmore is one of the city’s largest hotels and one of the most historic. Under Frank Lloyd Wright’s tutelage, Albert Chase McArthur designed the almost century old hotel. It’s full of stunning vistas (Piestewa Peak is it’s backyard), resort amenities and a massive swimming pool. (Actually, several but who’s counting).

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Phoenix's Biltmore Area

The End. Go Eat. 







i8tonite in New Brunswick, Canada: Executive Chef Jesse MacDonald, 1809

This is a guest post from Dr. Jessie Voigts of

20150814_092224Tucked away on the mighty Miramichi River in Miramichi, New Brunswick is a long, yellow hotel with a big heart. The Rodd Miramichi River Hotel shows, like all Rodd hotels, the essence of friendliness and luxury. And the restaurant, 1809, at Rodd Miramichi is exquisite. We dined there this summer, at first on the riverside deck and then inside by the fireplace, as mosquitoes chased us in after dark.

Of course, the menu featured plenty of fish, including freshly caught Atlantic salmon (which New Brunswick, one of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, is known for) prepared 5 ways. There’s also lobster, classically prepared chicken, fresh pastas, and sandwiches and burgers. The seafood chowder was the best I’ve ever had – even with daily seafood chowder eating in Ireland – and my stuffed haddock filet was divine.

Chef Jesse MacDonald, 1809 Restaurant. Photo by Jessie Voight
Chef Jesse MacDonald, 1809 Restaurant. Courtesy by Jesse MacDonald

Executive Chef Jesse MacDonald hails from nearby Prince Edward Island, a 4th generation fishing family that led to him captaining a lobster boat. Jesse is young for an executive chef – he graduated from The Culinary Institute of Canada in 2010 – and it shows in his rapport with the staff and the delicious output of the high-volume kitchen. Known as the youngest Executive Chef in New Brunswick, his vision for sharing and eating locally sourced seafood and other fine ingredients sets him apart from the crowd. I had a chance to talk with him and share his vision (Watch an interview with Chef Jesse MacDonald) , which made me all the more impressed.

20150813_210707How long have you been cooking? 10 years.

What is your favorite food to cook? Anything seafood.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Not much sometimes– life of a chef, water/Gatorade/milk.

What do you cook at home? Depends on the day.

20150813_215613What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Willingness to experiment.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Preconceived opinions.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Beer to drink, wine to cook.

Your favorite cookbook author? Tough one, I love to read, I’ve been enjoying a lot of Michael Ruhlman’s books lately, currently in the middle of “Salumi“. I intend to read “Ratio: The Simple Codes behind the Craft of everyday Cooking” by the same author once I am finished. Michel Bras and Anthony Bourdain are toward the top of my list as well.

New Brunswick, Canada. Courtesy of Tourism New Brunswick

Your favorite kitchen tool? 10 ” Shun Classic Chefs Knife. I have a set of Richmond Plating Spoons my Grandmother got me for Christmas a few year back I am quite partial to.

Your favorite ingredient? Anything pork.

Your least favorite ingredient? Kale.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? I started out in the dish-pit (washing dishes), so I really believe no job is too big or too small for anyone in a kitchen.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian or French.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Hard to beat a good steak but, pork, not even a question.

Favorite vegetable? Cucumber.

Chef you most admire? Chef Dave Mottershall of Loka in Toronto, Ontario & Chef Warren Barr of Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, British Columbia. I had the privilege to work for both of these Chefs in the past and they had a huge influence on me in my young career. Both of them have the desire and passion to allow you to see food differently. It was a huge eye opening experience for me. If you don’t know who these two are yet, give it time, you will.

Food you like the most to eat? That’s too tough. Although, I’ll always be satisfied with some fresh bread, cured meat, and something  “pickley“.

Food you dislike the most? Lobster.

How many tattoos?  Two. None of food yet, but there will be in the future.

Blackened Atlantic Salmon with Mango Pineapple Chutney

Blackened Salmon with Mango Pineapple Chutney. Photo by Jessie Voight
Blackened Salmon with Mango Pineapple Chutney. Courtesy of Chef Jesse MacDonald.

 Blackening Spice:

  • 4 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tbsp White Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Seasoning Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Dry Thyme

1) Mix all above ingredients well, set aside in bowl.

2) Roll filets of Salmon in Blackening Spice Mixture. Ensure to get all sides/edges of the fish. Discard remaining spice.

3) Once salmon is seasoned, sear in a  pan with olive oil on medium-high heat. Your fish is ready to place in the pan once the oil is almost smoking.

4) Sear the salmon show side down. (The show side is the top piece of the fillet, the bottom piece of the filet will be a slightly different colour pink as that’s where the skin was present at one time). Once a nice caramelization has formed, flip it and sear the bottom for about 2 minutes.

Miramachi River. New Brunswick. Courtesy of Tourism New Brunswick

5) Finish in oven for 4-9 minutes depending on the thickness of your salmon filet, or until the fish just begins to flake.

6) Remove from oven and let rest for 1 minute. Top salmon with a hearty tablespoon of Pineapple-Mango Chutney.

7) Serve with choice of Starch and your favourite mix of Local New Brunswick Vegetables!

Pineapple-Mango Chutney:

  • Mango, fresh     10 oz
  • Pineapple, fresh   1 whole
  • Curry Powder    1.5 oz
  • White Wine Vinegar       4 oz
  • Red Pepper, diced           8 oz
  • Red Onion, brunoise      3 oz

1) Combine all ingredients.

2) Simmer on medium-low heat for 35-60 minutes. Stirring well every 2-5 minutes.

3) There should be no residual moisture when the chutney is completed, it should be “au sec” a French cooking term which means “almost dry.” 

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Eating in South Beach, Miami

When i8tonite came up with the idea of a dining out series highlighting neighborhood eateries, we South Beachwere a little surprised by some of the suggestions which included South Beach.  My partner, Nick, lived there for 20 years and the perception of South Beach – at least mine – is through a Hollywood camera. Beautiful but violent, with really pretty people in muted pinks and blues (“Miami Vice”) or hot crimson, emerald greens and bright yellows (“CSA: Miami”). It’s colorful, lively and murderous. (Let’s not forget “Scarface”).

Our cultural viewing of these shows cloud the real goodness of South Beach which is its Star islandvery much an American city, a melting pot of cultures and cuisines.  Smack dab in the South Beach’s presumed debauchery is a charming enclave of young families, vintage buildings and elementary schools. This is the area of South Beach that Nick hearts and that I know. Truth be told, South Beach is a neighborhood with superb, laid-back eating where the old and the young sit languishing with Cuban coffee in the tropical heat.

Photo by Taki Lau.
Photo by Taki Lau.

Animated with Cuban, Puerto Rican and Haitian music throughout the day, provided by street performers, the sun-drenched neighborhood is a showcase for the Caribbean culture, with a smattering of New York City’s Jewish retirees who defected from the harsh winters. Once visitors push past the paparazzi, the Latin and Hollywood stars and the world-weariness of the second-home owning Europeans, South Beach is a charming mix of American values and delicious foods which is really what gives it bragging rights — finding a new and exciting culture without having to drag out your passport or get on that plane – which is just a big expensive bus with wings.

Big PinkBreakfast: Big Pink which was been opened for almost 20 years is a mainstay in the South Beach neighborhood. Serving breakfast to late night dinner – soaking up the alcohol, this diner is the place where people stroll or roll in (on skates). Big Pink is spotted by the pink VW “bugs” parked outside. Delivery is a popular way for tourists to order late night snacks if wobbling out your hotel is out of the question. The restaurant menu is not inventive as much as comforting and tasty. That’s okay because it’s guaranteed that serving up big burgers, hand-cut fries, waffles, breakfast burritos and of course, matzo brei, will satiate that American appetite. Swimming in the clear waters of South Beach will help burn those excess calories.

  • Big Pink PancakesMy suggestion: Big Pink’s Pancakes served with fresh strawberries.
  • Price: $12.50
  • Hours: Monday – Wednesday, 8am – 12am. Thursday – Saturday, 8am – 5:30am (Why even bother closing?). Sunday 8am – 2am.
  • Address: 157 Collins, Miami Beach, FLA. 33139
  • Phone Number: (305) 531 -0888
  • Website:

Las OlasLunch:  Las Olas Café has been featured in “Travel + Leisure”, Miami “New Times” and by Anthony Bourdain, who seems to have become a barometer for all things culinary. Take away all the fluffiness, and what you have is a Cuban-American family owned and operated neighborhood loncheria (luncheonette) serving up the best of Cuba. The best part about it, it’s good. Sometimes, the hype strips a business of its authenticity but that’s not the case for Las Olas.  Nothing is over $10 and it’s a cash only affair which makes me feel I’m getting old world treatment and not something that’s been branded waiting for an IPO.

My suggestion: The Cuban. The bread, the roasted pork-loin, the ham, the cheese, the Cuban Presspickle and the pressing make mighty fine eating. Supposedly, the real test of a great Cubano is the bread which is made with lard – making it richer – and the “la Plancha”, the grill or the sandwich press. The combination essentially steams the inside without the use of extra moisture such as mustard or mayonnaise. One of the top ten dishes in the world…right up there with cassoulet and Filipino adobe. Only in Miami or Cuba. Luckily the borders are opening.

  • Price: $8. You will come back the next day.
  • Hours: Open seven day a week, 6am – 8pm.
  • Address: 644 6th Street, Miami Beach, Fla., 33139.
  • Phone Number: (305) 534 – 9333
  • Website: None. Refreshing, huh?

Snack Time: Okay, I know – Sushi Samba is a chain. Albeit, an interesting chain that started in New York City and now has five outposts including 011 - Sushi SambaLondon. Sushi Samba celebrates South American culture that we don’t see very often, which is a triumvirate of Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian cuisine. The United States doesn’t have a hold on the patent of melting pots. At one time, I was in Seattle on a food-related marketing event and my colleague from Miami kept talking about Sushi Samba and their happy hour. Nick does the same. It sort of cements it in this South Beach listing.

Caipirinha-1My suggestion: Caipirinha. Sushi Samba has a happy called “Samba Hour”. Cute. It offers up some excellent sushi and food along with Brazil’s greatest export besides Gisele.

  • Price: $5.00 for the Caipirinha. Everything else is extra.
  • Hours: Monday, Noon – Midnight; Tuesday – Thursday, Noon – 1am; Saturday, 11:30am – 2:00pm and Sunday 11:30 am – Midnight.
  • Address: 600 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Fla, 33139
  • Phone Number: (305) 673 – 5337
  • Website:

Dinner: You would think a steakhouse is a just a steakhouse but it really doesn’t work that way. Steakhouses are a reflection of the city where they were created such as Brooklyn’s Peter Luger’s (working man’s dinner with big cuts of beef), Wolfgang Puck’s Cut in Beverly Hills (star sighting and pristine, untouchable vibe) and George & Georgetti in Chicago with big, oversized martinis. In South Beach, it’s Meat Market, a sexy, sleek eatery with a blush-centric atmosphere. Most diners are dressed like its a fashion runway strutting between tables in Hérve Leger and Tom Ford. (I’m not really sure where that rich food is going.) An excursion to Meat Market – which sounds like retro gay men’s leather bar in Manhattan – will set someone back easily $150 to $200 per person but it’s excellent and you won’t find this everywhere – only in Miami. (They are also in San Juan and Coral Cables — so it doesn’t count.)

Meat-Market_54_990x660My suggestion: Mixed Grill. This is a trio of two cuts of meat and seafood. It rotates daily and is never the same each day. It’s a good way to try different items. Call ahead.

  • Price: $55 – $65, depending upon the chef selections.
  • Hours: Sunday – Thursday, Noon to Midnight; Friday – Saturday, Noon to 1:00am. Kitchen is closed 4pm – 6pm daily. (That’s okay. You’re at Sushi Samba. See above.)
  • Address:  915 Lincoln Road, Miami, FLA 33139
  • Phone: (305) 532 -0088
  • Website:


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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Eating in South Beach, Miami

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles’ PicFair Village

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair VillagePic Fair (Pico-Fairfax) Village is a demographically rich neighborhood, one of Los Angeles’ true and last assemblies of people with different cultural backgrounds — African-American, Latino, Asian, and Caucasian, middle-class and poor – some very wealthy.  It’s not one of the communities that LA decided to christen by its ethnic majority, such as Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, Thai Town, Historic Filipino-town, or Little Armenia. It’s a quiet microcosm of the United States and is a showcase of classic Southern California architecture along its wide, tree-lined streets with stunning Spanish duplexes and red-shingled single family homes built in the 1920s. At one time, the area was home to many upper-class African American families.

Extending from Hauser Boulevard on the east, Crescent Heights to the west, Olympic Boulevard on the north,  and to the south, Venice; I lived the longest in this area – meaning that for seven years of my life, I lived in one building, one spot – so I hold this place very dear to my heart.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village

In the early to mid-aughts, the region started to become youth-oriented and a small coffee shop opened — Paper or Plastik — along with a restaurant called Bloom. Both of these places focused on local residents for support. Neither had a public relations campaign or had the local papers tout how good they were, although it did happen eventually. They became a part of the community’s multi-cultural quilt by just being there.

Pic Fair is a great neighborhood for an afternoon stroll or a quiet place to get away from the rest of City of Angels.  You won’t find the paparazzi hiding behind bushes. This is the real L.A…young families with their strollers, same-sex couples walking their dogs (and strollers), a diverse mix of people in a quiet urban enclave getting along with the rest of the world….peacefully.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
CJs Cafe
  • Breakfast: CJ’s Café.  This is an institution. I can’t be for certain but at one time it was an African-American owned diner, much like its highly-touted neighbor Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles down the street. There are two locations, Pico and Baldwin Park…but this is the rock-star. They make up fresh juice smoothies. Saturday and Sunday the place is packed until after 3pm; during the week it’s easier to get a table.
  • My suggestion: Huevos Rancheros or Chicken Wings (with honey) and Eggs.
  • Price: Varies. Nothing over $12.95
  • Hours:  7:00am – 4:00pm
  • Address:  5501 West Pico Boulevard
  • Phone Number: (323) 936 – 3216
  • Website:
  • Lunch:  Olson’s Swedish Restaurant. Opened since 1948, it was recently purchased by Christian Kneedler, the former maître‘ d of Dan Tana’s, a famous Hollywood, checkered table-cloth eatery. A Swede by birth, he took over the place and has transformed it into a Southern California outpost of Swedish tastes. Along one wall is a bulk bin of Swedish
    i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
    Olson’s Deli

    candies and the menu offers better than Ikea Swedish meatballs and, of course, house-cured gravlax. They also have a large menu of cheeses and deli meats such as the dense and meaty goteborgskorv, a form of Swedish pate.

  • My suggestion: Their Swedish pancakes – which are more like a thicker crepe or a thinner pancake – are stunningly delicious. Served warm with preserves such as lingonberry on the side just like in Sweden.
  • Price: $8.00
  • Hours: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Monday – Sunday
  • Address: 5660 West Pico Boulevard
  • Phone Number: (323) 938 – 0742
  • Website:
  • Snack Time:  A family-owned neighborhood place, Paper or Plastik is the coffee joint that started it all. Like the song goes, “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard”…so it is with coffee and hipsters. Each time I go in here, the eatery has small changes – such as the pastries have gotten better, a little flakier and more butter; although they don’t make them here. The iced-coffee is heavy and will put hair on your chest…just the way I like it. With great Wi-Fi, it’s easy to do research and write your next screenplay, to meet a
    i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
    Paper or Plastik

    friend for a mid-afternoon snack, get a caffeine fix or an afternoon glass of wine. At one time, the menu had been created by Chef Jeremy Fox, a one-time chef of Napa Valley’s Ubuntu and winner of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef”.

  • My suggestion: The iced coffee. Although, they now have a beer and wine license.
  • Price: Expensive, clocking in at around $3.50 for a 12 ounce cup. But really black and really caffeinated. It will make you the Energizer bunny.
  • Hours: 7:00am – 10:00pm
  • Address:  5772 Pico Boulevard, LA, CA 90019
  • Phone Number: (323) 935 – 0268
  • Website:
My Two Cents. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' PicFair Village
My Two Cents
  • Dinner: My Two Cents. Healthy soul food.
  • My suggestion:  Soul food normally conjures up images of heavy-battered fried chicken, grits and collards with bacon. Here, Chef Alisa Reynolds removes some of the butter and lard by using a lot of vegetable stock. It’s quite good and doesn’t have the heavy richness that you expect of a soul food restaurant – but make no mistake, this is soul food. My Two Cents serves up gluten-free fried chicken, small tender shrimp and grits…and my favorite, the grit fries. There is nothing like these grit fries….I know they can’t be that healthy…but they are sooo delicious.
  • Price: $5.00 Grit Fries
  • Hours: 12pm – 10pm. Closed on Mondays.
  • Address: 5583 West Pico Boulevard, LA, CA 90019
  • Phone: (323) 938 – 1012
  • Website:

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Los Angeles' Picfair Village

The End. Go Eat.