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Gin n Tonic's Profile

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Matunuk Oyster Bar...Top notch

I haven't been since well before Sandy. Any word on how their oyster beds fared? Obviously the restaurant wasn't damaged if you ate there.

Weekend away -- Providence, RI for "Halloween"

It would help to know where you are staying, what kind of food you're interested in, what your budget is and why/where you were "seriously burned" last year.

To answer your questions, Julian's is better for brunch, and best if you're under 30 and have visible tattoos. Dorrance is very good, if new-ish, and not sure "universally recommended" would be the right word. I love Nick's - go for dinner and have a tasting menu, you won't be disappointed. I ignore Guy Fieri in all his manifestations and haven't been to Liberty Elm, which gets mixed reviews.

That said, I recommend doing more homework. Start here, then come back and ask.

Also search for posts by Garris, Jenkins or Frobisher, who all have a good handle on the PVD scene.

I'm not aware of anything special the last weekend in October, but that doesn't mean there's nothing.

Downtown Providence for dinner

It would help if you were a bit more specific. What does "ethnic" mean for you? Italian? Portuguese? Vietnamese? Ethiopean? What is "walking distance" for you? 5 minutes? 20 minutes? What's your budget?

Unfortunately that hotel is a bit far from anything that's worth going to, for walking. Not unreasonable if the weather is good and you want to walk for a while, but can be far if it's raining or cold or you're tired.

That said, there (oddly, perhaps) aren't that many really good seafood restaurants in PVD. Of those specializing, I can think of Hemenway's and Providence Oyster Bar, which are good but not outstanding. Most of the top-tier restaurants have good relationships with the local fishermen and will almost invariably have top-notch fish dishes on the menu, but among other dishes. I've had excellent fluke, skate, mahi, monkfish, etc at Nick's (which you'll need a car for); New Rivers always has a variety of oysters and a variety of "charcuterie" items based on local fish; Farmstead has wowed me with baby octopus and a few other things. All of those, plus Gracie's, The Dorrance, Chez Pascal, Cook & Brown would be considered in the top tier (maybe "special" by you definition) but none are "ethnic". They are all in what can loosely be considered "New American" or locavore, for want of a better term. Most will require you to use your car. All are easy places to spend $100-150 for dinner for two, depending on your alcohol consumption.

I recommend running a search on this board and a little more clarity on what you're looking for.

Last-Minute Providence/Warwick-Area Dinner for Six This Saturday Night

Last-Minute Providence/Warwick-Area Dinner for Six This Saturday Night

Providence will be tough as it's a Waterfire night. If you're considering Twin Oaks, why not consider Trattoria San Vivaldo? Not everyone's cup of tea, but could suit your group.

Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Day, during 5-hour JFK Layover

Take a cab. You'll never get there by public transit if you don't know the city. Even if you do it'll take an hour, versus 15 min for the cab. "Quite near" is 10 miles here.

Sep 09, 2012
Gin n Tonic in Outer Boroughs

Week in SF, dining plan

Thanks to you and the others. Bar Tartine and Mission Chinese seem like quite a hike. Is there public transit from the financial district? Are reservations recommended at places like AQ, State Bird or Bar Tartine? I'm usually solo and comfortable sitting at a bar/counter, but I won't wait for 45 minutes to get a spot.

Oh, and I've eaten at Turtle Tower. The bun cha just didn't do it for me. Maybe I'll try it again.

Week in SF, dining plan

Folks, I hope this isn't too general. I get to SF for a week or so every once in a while, but haven't been there in about 2.5 years. Looks like this October or November I'll be there again.

I'm staying and working in the city, probably lodging in the Union Sq area with my work around Market/Montgomery. I will not have a car and my work schedule may be long and unpredictable, so East Bay or Richmond or whatever is out. I've taken the bus up Geary to the Japantown mall and will probably do so again, but generally prefer to walk, with my comfort radius being the Ferry Building, North Beach, Chinatown, the Mission area maybe as far as 8th or 10th or the Vietnamese area on Larkin (no, I have no issues walking O'Farrell up to Larkin or Polk.)

I'll go full $ one night out of my stay (sometimes I've rented a car to go to Manresa, for instance); this time it'll be Coi, but otherwise want to keep it under $35 for a dinner entree (but can also be happy with a $5 banh mi.) As I said, probably one night in Japantown, probably at least one meal at Henry's Hunan (I can't help it, I really like that smoky bacon). Otherwise I've eaten at Slanted Door, Hog Island, Salt House, LuLu, any number of places in Chinatown and Little Saigon. I'm looking for something new and eclectic (I hate to call it modern American, but you know what I mean), for western Chinese (e.g Xinjiang), maybe hand-pulled noodles, I'd really like to find northern Vietnamese (most every place I found was southern, which is understandable). I'd also like to find a good German/Austrian bakery for breakfast - there used to be a place on Market but I couldn't find it last time, and don't recall the name.

If I have a day off, I'l rent a car and drive up to Napa or Sonoma for the day, so if there's anything I really shouldn't miss, let me know (no, I don't mean the $500 chef's counter at Meadowood.) But I'll have to drive myself back.

Thanks in advance.

SD downtown trip report - long

Jumping back in to thank the voices of support. I was a bit conflicted, because my mother always taught me that when you're visiting someone, you keep your criticisms to yourself. But I figure she was talking about going to someone's home - when a restaurant has certain pretensions and prices itself in a way that I can spend $75 for dinner for one without breaking a sweat, I will have certain expectations.

That said, to answer a couple of questions, I had beef rib-eye at CS. I'm not sure if they had bison on the menu, as I'm not a fan and wouldn't have ordered it anyway. I don't mind walking, so the distances were no big deal; I'm in Europe at least once a year, where walking is far more common than in California. But I can't endorse my shoes without jeopardizing my amateur status.

As to some of the big misses, I do keep seeing recommendations here for Prep Kitchen, which really surprise me,as I saw no indication that anyone goes there for the food. I certainly wouldn't.

I don't anticipate being back in SD for several years at best, but I appreciate the offer of companionship.

Jul 20, 2012
Gin n Tonic in San Diego

SD downtown trip report - long

After having started a thread or two and having read many more, I visited your fair city a few weeks ago. Here are my impressions; sorry for the length, but obviously you can skip this post if it’s too long.

I was in the Convention Center area and didn’t have (and didn’t want to rent) a car, so mainly just the restaurants in a walkable radius were in play. Since I travel and eat alone, I mostly sit at the bar if that’s available; since I don’t want to overeat late in the day, I try to stick mostly with small plates. Generally I only had free time after 6:00, so just dinners. With that as background:

Sunday night was Red Light District. Yes, I know Sunday night in the business is time for the B team, but this time I’m not sure even the B team showed up. The place was almost completely empty – I was the only person sitting at the bar, and there was one large mixed-age family group who seemed to be friends with the owner or manager on duty. Toward the end maybe two other couples showed up and took street-side booths. But anyway, the fail parade started with my drink order: I called for a Sapphire Gibson, the bartender clearly poured and shook it, then started searching around for a while only to come and tell me he had no onions, could he give me a piece of lime instead? I said then it wouldn’t be a Gibson, would it? So I called for a vodka gimlet, and he brought me a mixture of vodka and plain (unsweetened) lime juice. Being too polite to toss a second cocktail, I sucked it up. You’d think a place that tries to be sort of “cocktail culture” and, more importantly, charges an average of $12 for a drink would employ a bartender who knows something. But on to the food.

First was a creamy soup, as I recall spring onion and potato or something like that. Very nice flavor, just served at gas-plasma temperature. A fairly delicate, creamy soup does not need to be at a thousand degrees. Second was a “razor clam and asparagus salad.” Except the server came back to say they were out of razor clams, could they substitute littlenecks? I said sure. The salad, a few lonely spears of asparagus under a mountain of baby greens came with vaguely clam-shaped pieces of rubber. Folks, I was born and raised on Long Island; I’ve clammed in the Great South Bay, I know what littlenecks are. If you have to cut it up to serve it, it’s not a littleneck. If your teeth hurt from chewing it, it’s not a littleneck. Those pieces of bivalve flesh were borderline inedible. The only thing that kept the evening from being a total disaster was my last dish, the Wagyu bone marrow. Hard to do that badly, and it was served with some kind of crostini and a very good red onion marmalade. I felt I needed a bit more in my stomach so I had an order of fries as well, which were very good also, if way too much. Just about $75 with tax and tip, and I felt majorly ripped off.

Monday night, based on a recommendation I heard from someone in the hotel bar, was J Six. Again I sat at the bar, again it was nearly empty, although most of the rest of the place was taken up with a private party. Nice beer selection, as I felt like keeping away from cocktails just in case. Started with a charcuterie plate, which was good but not anything to go out of the way for, then had cavatelli negro with octopus and bacon, which was excellent. Rich, smoky, the octopus was tender, the bacon was artisanal, the cavatelli were just right. A clear winner; I considered going back later in the week, although that ended up not happening.

Tuesday night, based on my earlier inquiries and reading here, I went to Hane. It seemed a little closer on Google Maps than it actually was, and I walked there, which turned out to be mostly uphill and through some pretty barren neighborhoods. But anyway, I had to cool my heels for 15 minutes at the bar, then seated myself at the sushi bar in front of what looked like the most senior of the itamae. I said “it’s up to you, I eat everything”, and I was not disappointed. This was pretty much everything I was expecting from an upper-end sushi experience. Maybe he stuck a little on the conventional side in terms of ingredients, but this was my first time there and he didn’t know me. Quality and presentation were top-notch, and the uni and ikura hand roll he finished off with will stick in my memory for quite a while. The $75 omakase charge (plus tax and tip and wine, of course) was a bargain, as far as I was concerned. The idea of walking back after that didn’t appeal to me, so I had them call me a cab.

Wednesday night I went to Cowboy Star. Sweetbreads, a rib-eye and a glass of Pinot Noir. Hard to go wrong. Sitting at the bar was nice, too, to watch the kitchen working, although it was actually relatively slow that night. Only bit of a complaint was that to me, rare really means rare, with a cold center, dripping blood, and my steak spent at least a minute too long on the flame. But again, I’m polite, and it would have to be more egregious for me to send back a $30+ piece of beef. A very nice place, all in all, but there are good-quality steakhouses everywhere.

Thursday was my last night. I didn’t want to go far, but I didn’t want to head back to Disneyland (sorry, Gaslamp) so based on some reading here or elsewhere I walked up to Prep Kitchen in Little Italy. Having lived in New York, Boston and Providence this wasn’t much of a Little Italy, but no matter. However, I was genuinely expecting a restaurant, not a meat market. Had I been much younger and much singler than I actually am, it might have appealed to me. As it was, it was a very loud place with great eye candy (at least 70% unattached women, in my estimation, in groups of 2 to 5-6, aged from 20’s to 50’s) and so-so food. While a grilled squid appetizer was very good, the “WNL Burger” was a barely edible obscenity from the “more is more” school. I’ve had many kinds of “high-end” burgers in various craft restaurants, and no matter the price, they have to work as a burger, which is hand food. This thing fell apart completely as soon as I picked it up, and from that point knife and fork was the only way to get through the 50% or so of it that I was able to consume. Yes, gluttony is still one of the deadly sins.

That was my week. Some highlights, some lowlights. Off to put on my flame-retardant underwear. And thanks to the regulars on this board who answered my initial questions and gave me other leads (whether you knew it or not.)

Jul 13, 2012
Gin n Tonic in San Diego

Old-school chowhound fare in Providence

Just past Classical High School's football field as you're heading out of town there'll be Mekong Market on one side (groceries, fish, etc.) with Asian Bakery next door - reportedly good banh mi, but irregular hours, and I've not had much luck; Pho Paradise is across the street and is good. The Latino area is another mile or two south, but I don't get there very much.

But this reminded me of another option, Los Andes on Chalkstone Ave just past the VA hospital -- a very nice family-run Bolivian restaurant. There are also numerous taquerias on Valley St in Olneyville, but I don't have a good rec. There have been some Mexican-knowledgeable people posting here, so a search of the board may turn those up.

Last minute Anniversary request for Newport, Bristol, or nearby

Funny, but I think the opposite - that Tallulah's food is clearly better than Castle Hill, which I think doesn't quite live up to its location and reputation. But differences of opinion make for horse races.

And while Tallulah's is small and not super-quiet, I've had no difficulty having a romantic and comfortable meal there.

Old-school chowhound fare in Providence

"solid old local place that's been doing its greasy thing for decades" - so you want Haven Bros., then? A late-night diner in a trailer next to City Hall. When you're drunk and hungry after midnight, it's great.

Flan y Ajo has more than four stools, and has certain technical limitations. I wrote a lengthy post about it last year. It may be more what you're looking for. Tini may also fit your bill, but both will be more toward the foodie side of the spectrum. If you want to stay in the downtown core, you won't get the immigrant-run fluorescent-light kinds of places, though, as the rents are too high. You need to get down Broad St. a bit, where you'll find a mix of Asian and Hispanic places. Not really walkable from the Biltmore.

You could walk across the highway to the Federal Hill area, mostly places with tablecloths, though. But something like Bob & Timmy's Grilled Pizza might hit the spot.

Last minute Anniversary request for Newport, Bristol, or nearby

If you're already in Newport, no sense driving back to Bristol to eat. Tallulah on Thames would be a great choice for a "very nice dinner", although if you're wearing flip-flops and a bathing suit you may not be comfortable.

3 Moms turned loose in Providence, RI- dinner, etc?

Is it a specific Saturday, or in general? I ask because next Saturday, the 21st, is a Waterfire night, which has its advantages and disadvantages. It's a great way to spend an evening, but it brings lots of people into town and makes accommodations more difficult.

That said, Gracie's is a great choice but you'll have difficulty with your price range. In fact, with most of the top choices in the city you'll be bumping up against your limit.

For Sunday brunch, hop in your car early and head out to Nick's, the best brunch in town. "Early" because it gets crowded, and as good as it is, I won't stand and wait for 45 minutes for brunch.

Portion Size at Tallulah on Thames???

In my experience you will leave very satisfied. The food is outstanding and the portions are balanced. This is not a chain restaurant that has to substitute gluttony for quality, and you end up taking home a pound of leftovers.

Rhode Island - Providence & Newport

It may have been the best restaurant in Providence a quarter-century ago, but not now. I'd be curious to know what other top-tier restaurants you've eaten at that you consider inferior.

I think people denigrate it because you can easily get better food for the same prices or equally good food for less money. A lot has changed in the Providence dining scene in the last 30 years, there are many fresh and creative places to eat, and it's a shame for them that so many people (mostly tourists) vaguely recall some magazine article from 20 years ago and say "Oh, Providence -- let's go to Al Forno."

Just for grins, here's a thread started 8 years ago! on precisely the same topic.

Some places can stay the same for decades and fill a niche superbly. Peter Luger is fantastic because it is what it is. Al Forno isn't in the same category.

Rhode Island - Providence & Newport

Yes, the SAQ dictatorship is terrible, I know.

If you're driving down the standard way, you might also wish to stop in at the NH State (liquor) Store, which is conveniently right on I-93. Mostly high-volume and standard brands, but the prices are outstanding. Just try not to mention it at the border on the way back.

For low-volume stuff, though, Frobisher is right, go to Joyal's. A little out of the way, but worth the trip. If you're there, you might want to time it to get dinner at Trattoria San Vivaldo, very close by. A very good Italian resto, if a bit, um, quirky for some.

Rhode Island - Providence & Newport

Chiming in kind of late, as I've been away, but I think the regulars have nailed Providence and the board activity accurately. The days of the week of your trip are important, as many of the more popular places mentioned here are closed Sunday and Monday.

To add a bit, I know Nick's gets a lot of love (justifiably) for breakfast, as it's probably the best breakfast/brunch in town, but if you don't get there early you will wait, possibly for quite a while. But the excellence of the brunch means it doesn't get mentioned quite as much as a dinner destination, and that's a shame, because it's a great place for that. The menu will be limited, maybe 5 entrees, but they do a very good job, very largely with local ingredients.

You mention Newport, which nobody really responded to; there are many options there, even though summer traffic can be a real bear. I'd recommend searching this board with "Newport" as a key first, and come back with questions. I'm partial to Tallulah, but it's a small space and reservations are a must. If the weather is nice the Castle Hill Inn is in a breathtaking location, with very good food (which, in my opinion, isn't quite up to what the price would lead you to expect.) A lot of options more in town, though: 22 Bowen, Clarke Cook, Scales & Shells, others which have been written up here many times.

Good Lobster w/in short taxi ride in Providence

You're in for the night - is it tonight, May 27? If so, forget about eating anywhere. It's Brown graduation weekend and you can't get a table anywhere. If it's some other night, then I'd suggest Hemenway's, which you can probably walk to. No other obvious choices if you have to have lobster.

Note that CH is not a concierge service - if you pop in in mid-afternoon to ask about plans for that evening, you will most likely be disappointed.

Cape Verdean/Portuguese Food

Thanks for the pointer.

However, I will have to disagree with your grouping of Rancho and Andes. I've been going to Los Andes on and off since about a week after they opened, when there were like 3 people in the place, and I've always been pleased. Yes, the demographics have changed somewhat, but the food has remained good.

El Rancho Grande, on the other hand, has been overrated all along. I'm no Mexican food expert, but I've never had a good meal there, and I doubt that Sysco "mixed vegetables" from a can represent authentic anything. Yes, it's overrun with college kids and West Side hipsters, but the food sucks uniformly. I put it in the category of Wes', a place that I'd have to be way drunker than I've been in decades to think of visiting again.

Downtown Providence and Federal Hill area

There's much more to PVD than the Hill, but the number one question - will you have a car? The immediate downtown area has some restaurants, but groceries, bakeries and cheesemongers are a bit further afield.

That said, more of the interesting action in PVD in the last couple of years is in what you can loosely call Modern American, or locavore, or farm-to-table, of which there are a number of great examples. Hole in the wall ethnic with great food, not so much. This isn't NYC.

For example, there is only one currently operating African restaurant that I'm aware of, which is Abyssinia (Ethiopian/Eritrean) on Wickenden St., which has gotten somewhat mixed reviews here, although I found the food very tasty. There may be only two Vietnamese places, Pho Horn in a little plaza off North Main St. and Pho Paradise on Broad St., both very good in my view. There are maybe three (?) Korean places, but the best, in my view, is fairly far, Sura on Geo Waterman Rd near the Johnston/North Providence line. Chinese is weak, mostly Americanized, no Sichuan or Hunan, let alone Xinjiang. For Japanese, Haruki is the best sushi you'll find, and it's nothing to write home about; for non-sushi, Ebisu is quite good. Mostly you'll find a lot of mediocre "pan-Asian." I think there may be two worthwhile Indian places, Rasoi and India, but I don't know much about Indian. There's one tapas place in the city, Flan y Ajo right downtown, but it's kind of a mixed bag. I know nothing about Mexican, but some people have mentioned a few places in CF or in the Valley St. area. Oh, and the best Italian, oddly, isn't on the Hill.

Broad St. has a few good Asian markets and one bakery (which is invariably closed whenever I go there.) Seven Stars bakery on Broadway and Lasalle Bakery near the PVD/N Prov line are different, but both good. Farmstead/La Laiterie in Wayland Square is the place for cheese (and charcuterie.)

If you want to spend a bit more, though, you really owe it to yourself to try some of the newer-wave restaurants: New Rivers, Farmstead, Nick's, Gracie's, Chez Pascal, The Dorrance are all very good, each in their own way, and are all mentioned here if you run a search.

Mooring or Castle Hill for lunch this weekend?

Castle Hill. Bring your wallet.

Best value for sea food in Newport , RI

As Frobisher said, if price isn't a problem, go to Castle Hill, particularly if the weather is nice, as it's supposed to be tomorrow and Saturday. I'm also very fond of Tallulah on Thames. Neither it nor Castle Hill are stereotypical seafood places, but very nice high-end dining experiences.

Scales and Shells was also suggested, rightfully, IMO. Lower price point than the other two I mentioned, but cash-only, if I recall correctly, so keep that in mind.

High-end sushi in the city?

Oh, I'm no stranger to arguments, having been in my share (and having been slapped a few times by the mods) on my home regional board - if you're ever planning a trip to Providence or Newport, come visit the Southern New England board.

I do appreciate all the advice. In my current environment, really good sushi requires a 3-hour drive to NYC, so any time I can walk to it or take a 10-minute cab ride, that's a plus in my book.

Apr 10, 2012
Gin n Tonic in San Diego

High-end sushi in the city?

I feel a little sheepish here, as it appears I've started a very "inside baseball" argument by posing a couple of simple questions. But you all have certainly given me enough to read, even though it's a bit odd to be reading detailed dissections of restaurants I've never set foot in and chefs I've never seen.

That said, I still have to figure out what's walkable, or how your mass transit works and where it goes. I will be at the W hotel, as it turns out. And if I have an evening free, is it worth my while to rent a car for $40 plus say $20 for gas to drive up to Kaito? How long will that take in real-world (not Google Maps) conditions?

Apr 10, 2012
Gin n Tonic in San Diego

High-end sushi in the city?

I've read some of the other sushi threads but still have some questions. I don't get out to SoCal much, and have never been to San Diego, but will be going there for a conference in a couple of months, at the Convention Center, staying nearby. I will not have a car. I am looking for a high-end traditionalist sushi experience, but every rec I've seen is kind of far. Questions:

Is there anything worthwhile that's walkable or in reach of public transit? Is it reasonable to take a cab to Ota or Shirahama? If I do, will I get a cab back? Would the cost of that be such that I should just rent a car for the evening; if I do that, should I then just drive up to Kaito in Encinitas?

What I'm looking for is more along the lines of a small old-school OC-type place, as opposed to a glossy LA type of place, but quality above all. Price is no object.

Mar 29, 2012
Gin n Tonic in San Diego

Rhode Island Shore Dinner

Like the others, I love Matunuck Oyster Bar, but it's not a clam shack, where the only piece of equipment is a fryolator.

How is Wright's Chicken Farm?

It's a great place to take your Little League team after they win a big game.

Suggestions for best Chinese food in Southern New England?

Like you, I've been disappointed with Red Ginger in recent years. But you generalize to "between New Haven and Boston", although I have a couple of Sichuanese co-workers who tell me that Sichuan Gourmet in Sharon, MA is the real deal. I haven't had a chance to get up there yet, but it certainly beats the prospect of a trip to Boston. Have you been?

For other regional Chinese cuisine, I have to console myself with the thought that on a good day I can make it to Flushing in a bit under 3 hours.