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Top 10 Most Overblown Food/Beverage Trends

- Counter dining at high end restaurants

- Restaurants with capitalized acronyms in their name

- Speck, beets, fingerling potatoes

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in General Topics

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Salsa's, YES! I'm amazed that more people don't know about this place. Great food! It's in a sketchy neighborhood, so I can understand being apprehensive, but the food is really good.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

The fort is a joke. White Hut is good if you want a hot dog, no argument there.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Cafe Leone = Strip mall Italian, No.
Touch of Garlic = Food quality is lacking
Bamboo House = Pretty good, ok.
Abudanza = Legendary horrible food and service

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Looking for a dinner option in or near Springfield.

Big Mamou = Yes!
Max's = Cougar white trash bar scene, NO.
Figaro's = Strip Mall CT italian, NO.
Theodore's = Dive bar, "ok".
Student Prince = Rude, bad food, NO.
Adolfo's = Red sauce homage to local mafioso, NO.
Cafe Lebanon = Strip mall middle east, NO.
Ginger Blossom = Best local chinese, Yes.
Bueno y Sano = Best local mexican, Yes.
The Federal = Godawful pretentious and tacky, NO.
Lattitudes = See "The Federal", plus Cougars, NO.

I'll add that there are no "nice" restaurants in Springfield. It's a poor city with low standards. And I say that as someone who loves Springfield and loves eating out.

I eat regularly at Big Mamou, Pho Saigon, Panjabi Tadka, Red Rose Pizza, and Felix's. If you stick to honest local food, you'll be fine. If you go for the places that are supposed to be "fancy" or "trendy", you'll be horrified by the experience.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Sutter Meats Northampton

I went last week, and it's great!

This is all fresh meat, like back in the day of real butchers.

For those that mention River Valley, I've found that RV has fresh local ground beef only, but any other cut of local meat is frozen. I don't want frozen meat!

I'm going out of my way to patronize Sutter's, as it's a luxury to have a real butcher. This is usually something you can only find in places like NYC.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Southern New England

18% Gratuity Included...Wha???

Interesting. I assumed it was something like that.

I wouldn't mind if all restaurants just included service, like they do in most of Europe. It just struck me as odd in the US.

Thanks!

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Dog freindly restaurants.Have you ever brought along your pooch ?

I am not a dog owner, but I have absolutely no problem with well-behaved dogs in restaurants.

In France, it's commonplace. I've eaten at Michelin starred places where dogs are at tables indoors. Doesn't bother me at all.

In Nice at a fancy restaurant, the waitstaff put a linen napkin down on the banquette for a small dog.

In Paris, the waitstaff brought a bowl of water and some treats for a dog.

Believe me, I'd much prefer to sit next to a dog than a table with a small child. Most likely, the dog will be quiet and the owners respectful. Children are 100 times more objectionable.

As long as the dog isn't barking, or running around loose, I give you my blessing, even in fancy restaurants.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Not About Food
2

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Thanks, but I'm definitely not looking for a "clean diner feel". I was pretty clear that I was less interested in "authenticity", and more interested in "upscale atmosphere".

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Thanks, Frodnesor...You are correct. I plan to return for Versailles for lunch, but I'm looking for fancier for dinner.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

I forgot to provide a conclusion for where I went...

I ended up going to OLA in Miami Beach, and liked it so much, we went back the next night. I preferred Miami to the Miami Beach "scene", but I thought OLA was great food and great service.

I went to Versailles for a coffee, and I liked it a lot, but yeah, it's not what I would call an "upscale" place.

I should point out, I'm not trying to be snobby, I like holes in the wall at times. This was a time where I didn't want formica tables, and laminated menus.

My wife went to YUCA for lunch one day, and liked it, but not the same as OLA.

I should add that Bread+Butter looks great, and I'll definitely try that next time I'm in Miami. I'm still trying to stay on the mainland side, after all.

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

18% Gratuity Included...Wha???

I traveled to Miami for the first time last week, and every nice restaurant I went to had included a mandatory 18% gratuity to the bill. (This was dinner for 2, not a large party.)

First off, I don't really care, the service was fine, and I normally tip 20%, so it's not like I wouldn't have paid it.

But...It struck me as REALLY weird. No other city does this. I had to actually ask the waiter that I interpreted the bill correctly.

So, my question is, what is it about Miami that you include an gratuity on a normal tab?

Mar 02, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Paying with credit card: Should I tip in cash?

I'm never sure about this, so I'm asking the advice of wait staff and/or restaurant owners...

Say my tab is $100, and I'm going to tip $20 on it. I'm paying with a credit card, but I have cash for the tip.

Is it better if I...

(A) Pay the entire $120 with the credit card.

(B) Put $110 on the credit card, and leave a $10 bill separately.

(C) Pay the $100 on the credit card, and leave a $20 bill separately.

Or does it make no difference to you at all?

Thanks!

Feb 11, 2014
johnblacksox in Not About Food

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Cool, thank you, I'll check it out!

Jan 17, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Ha, I don't do the club scene either!

Jan 17, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Visiting Miami for a few days, and I'm interested in Cuban food for dinner, but I'm sure most of the best food comes from hole-in-the-wall type places.

I'm looking for a nice dinner, nice ambiance, good service, decent wine list, white tablecloth type place. Cost isn't a factor, I don't mind if it's expensive or even "over-priced".

So, are there any good upscale Cuban places like that in either Miami or Miami Beach? I don't mind if it's not the most authentic Cuban food in the city, as long as it's good and meets the above criteria.

Thanks!

Jan 16, 2014
johnblacksox in Miami - Fort Lauderdale

Non-pretentious restaurant for 5 year anniversary dinner

I second the person who recommended the Modern dining room.

The bar at the Modern is not romantic or appealing to me. It's ridiculously crowded, with a low ceiling, and claustrophobic feel to it. It's like a dark crowded bus station serving drinks.

The dining room, on the other hand, is awesome. Some tables overlook the sculpture garden, and you can see into the museum from others, so it's very unique and cool.

Service is great, friendly and attentive.

Given your criteria, I have to warn you that you are likely to get something like "foam on a spoon". (lol) Last time I went, there was some foamy thing, literally in a test tube, to start.

So if you're totally turned off by stuff like that, be forewarned.

But again, it's a beautiful place, great food, expensive, but the service is not pretentious. And jeez, you're staying at the Peninsula!! :-)

I think it's a great choice, and someplace unique to NYC.

Hope you have an awesome time.

Aug 21, 2013
johnblacksox in Manhattan

Gazpacho in New York

I've had gazpacho recently (July, I believe) at Union Square Cafe. Not sure if it's still on the menu.

Aug 21, 2013
johnblacksox in Manhattan

Breakfast en route to Brattleboro, VT: Somewhere in Mass. off 91?

I would second either Jakes or Esselon.

For comparison, Jakes is in the middle of downtown Northampton, in an old brick building. It has big windows that face the street in the front, with table service, and in the back is an old fashioned counter.

Esselon is a new(er) standalone building, right on Rt 9, about 5 minutes off 91. You stand in line to place your order, then they run the food out to your table. They have tables inside, and some open air on the side.

I prefer Jake's, but either is fine.

Aug 21, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Best Sunday dinner off the Merritt Parkway?

Nice! That sounds great. What's the decor like inside? I can't tell from the website.

(Pet peeve of mine that restaurant websites rarely post pictures of their dining room, instead favoring 100 high def close ups of pieces of lettuce. Because evidently, I don't know what lettuce looks like. But I digress...)

Also, asked down below about Strada 18 in South Norwalk...Any thoughts on that?

Aug 13, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Best Sunday dinner off the Merritt Parkway?

How about Strada18 in South Norwalk? It looks doable from 15, open Sunday, website looks nice.

Aug 13, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Best Sunday dinner off the Merritt Parkway?

Thanks everyone for the comments so far! It's a huge help.

Overall, I guess you're confirming what I read in my initial research, in that the higher end places tend to get mixed reviews, some good, some bad.

Given there doesn't seem to be a consensus on a higher end "can't miss" place, maybe I should aim for less fancy places.

So what are your opinions for the best pizza places "near" Rt 15? Same criteria:

- Must serve wine
- Must be open for Sunday dinner
- Bonus for nicer decor/service
- No big chains like Bertucci's

I even notice that Pepe's pizza in Fairfield is only like 3 miles off of 15. Is that reasonable? Or are there better/nicer options?

Aug 13, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Best Sunday dinner off the Merritt Parkway?

I was looking at Elm, it looks pretty good...

I have to say that Valencia Luncheria looks really good, food looks awesome, and nice wine too.

A couple concerns...They only have 8 tables? Would I be able to get in on a Sunday night? Also, do they have table service? I can't tell from the website.

Aug 13, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Best Sunday dinner off the Merritt Parkway?

Oh! I meant this for 2 weeks from now, not tonight. :-)

I checked out Biagio's, but I saw it got mixed reviews, so I was hesitant.

Also checked out Barcelona, but is it just tapas? And the decor looked...um...weird. An old motel?

I also checked out: Match in Norwalk, Bin 100 in Milford, Eli's Brick Oven (not sure if they have wine), and Elm in New Canaan.

Aug 11, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Nantucket Update 2013

Company of the Cauldron is my favorite place on Nantucket. After that, Boarding House.

I have to disagree about Brant Point Grille. Reminds me of Toppers, in all the bad ways. Pretentious, ridiculously overpriced, designed to cull the wallets of rich tourists. Screams "hotel restaurant", if you know what I mean.

Oran Mor is really good, I go along with that.

The Pearl is good, though a "scene". Same with LoLa.

Aug 11, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Best Sunday dinner off the Merritt Parkway?

Hello,

Driving back from NYC on Sunday night, I'd like to stop for dinner somewhere "not too far" off the Merritt Parkway.

Criteria:

1) Must be no more than 10-15 minutes off of the Merritt/Wilbur Cross Parkway. Please don't try to stretch this to somewhere 20 miles off the parkway that you love. I honestly need it to be "right off" parkway.

2) Must be North of Stamford and South of Wallingford. In other words, somewhere vaguely between "a good distance out of NYC" and "nowhere near Hartford".

3) Must have a wine list. Doesn't have to be awesome. But absolutely must serve wine. No exceptions.

4) Any price, from a great cheap pizza place to a high end fine dining place. If it's a mom and pop brick oven pizza place, great. If it's a 3 star Michelin restaurant, great. I don't care either way, as long as it's good.

5) Must be open Sunday night. (This rules out a lot of places.)

Thanks!

Aug 11, 2013
johnblacksox in Southern New England

Help!!! Saratoga Lunch Saturday...(Tomorrow!)

Actually, I just saw Maestro's is open for lunch. I've never been there, but it looks like the most promising place...Can someone please confirm or deny?

Jul 20, 2012
johnblacksox in New York State (exc. NYC)

Help!!! Saratoga Lunch Saturday...(Tomorrow!)

I'm going to be in Saratoga for lunch tomorrow. I used to eat at the Grey Gelding, but it's closed.

I want a place in town, walking distance, where I can have a relaxing lunch, great ambiance, decent food, good wine list, and good service.

Cost is no object. Really, I want nice ambiance and a bottle of wine.

Please help! Any ideas for places similar to Grey Gelding?

Jul 20, 2012
johnblacksox in New York State (exc. NYC)

Dining Changes in Amherst, MA

Lumber Yard has a sign up saying it is opening in October. It's from the people that run the Sconset Cafe in Nantucket. Looks like a great space, and will feature wines. I have high hopes for it!

Chez Albert's new space looks great too, supposed to move in in August, I believe. They are adding a bar and outdoor seating. Should be great for them.

-----
Chez Albert
27 S Pleasant St, Amherst, MA 01002

Jul 10, 2011
johnblacksox in Southern New England