Monday, January 9, 2012

A Long List: Favorite Eats from around the US

Updated 5/7/2016

One of my many goals in 2012 is to transfer all of the "Alice's Restaurant Picks" from the GoalBusters website to this blog with detail and photos. But in the meantime, here's the list of almost everything that was on the site, minus Tinderbox Kitchen, which already has its entry. Bon appetit!

Arizona
Cave Creek AZ: Binkley's This is one of the most creative restaurants in Arizona! The parade of amuse bouche was incredible, and the presentation of all the dishes spectacular. Imagine a dish that lights up from below to highlight the colors of the food, and you'll get the idea. The tasting menu is definitely the way to go, and plan on spending several hours and tons of money.
 

CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Chambers AZ: Apple Dumplin Restaurant  When we're traveling to St. Michaels and Sanders, Arizona, we usually end up with at least one stop at the Apple Dumplin, although we've only had the apple dumpling itself two times. At exit 333 on Highway 191 North, the Apple Dumplin is the place where the locals hang out. We've seen police officers, medical staff, tribal officials, teachers, and more taking up spots at the western themed tables and staying long after their food is consumed. Jim's favorite is the Navajo Sugarfoot, which is a huge piece of frybread filled with taco meat and smothered in green chile gravy. It does seem that whenever Jim goes to the Navajo Nation, he only eats food with gravy on it.

Flagstaff AZ: Karma Sushi Great atmosphere and creative sushi in this locally owned establishment. Stephen Scully has done an excellent job of bringing fresh fish and high quality ingredients to Flagstaff's Japanese restaurant choices. A highlight here is that you can get grated raw wasabi, rather than the usual powdered wasabi--the real stuff has a richer flavor and milder heat. The Karma Karpaccio and the Tuna Tataki are delish.



Flagstaff AZ: Diablo Burger Small, locally owned and operated burger place that uses beef sourced from Diablo Trust ranches, the Flying M and the Bar T Bar. It's a cash only place tucked into the back of Heritage Square. The fries are awesome, perfectly crisp and seasoned with an herb blend that includes rosemary. My fave burger is the Cheech, which is topped with guacamole, pepper jack cheese and fresh jalapenos. (I'm a bit obsessed with fresh--not pickled--jalapenos on burgers. See Kykotsmovi and Second Mesa for other examples.) All their burgers are served on toasted and DB branded English muffins and with a side salad. I've also had the Blake burger and the Vitamin B burger, also tasty. Eli, who's been at the counter twice when I've visited, is very helpful in guiding your choices if you're a newbie. We also met a bunch of Dutch tourists there once--one of the girls said, "The whole 'Dutch treat' thing is wholely American. When I go out on a date, the guy pays!"

Flagstaff AZ: Satchmo's A very small place that serves great pulled pork sandwiches. Gumbo and jambalaya are also pretty tasty. They have a pretty cool mural in the courtyard outside which makes you almost forget that you're right next to a busy street. My son loves that they have tater tots as a side--so do I! Now serving beer too, which is the perfect beverage for their slow cooked meats. If they have the ribs (which isn't always--when they run out, they're out), get them.

Flagstaff AZ: Pato Thai There are many Thai choices in Flagstaff for some unknown reason, but this one is my favorite. Love the Tom Kai Gai.

Gila Bend AZ: Outer Limits Cafe at the Space Age Lodge Eat in a space ship! But go after the lunch rush--they seem to spend a little more time preparing the food after about 2 pm. When they take their time, the broaster fried chicken and the chicken fried steak are...out of this world. 

CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Kykotsmovi AZ: The Hungry Bear When they have the Hopi Hot Beef on special, get it--it's fry bread with roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes and a green chile on top. Yes, you can get this anytime at the Hopi Cultural Center, but it's a little different at the Hungry Bear. You can also make your own in Window Rock, as long as you don't tell them it's the "Hopi" hot beef. 

Peoria AZ: Hope Kee Hong Kong Style Restaurant at Lee Lee Supermarket
  We never would have thought there would be a good, sit down restaurant inside a grocery store. But Hope Kee is definitely unusual, serving a broad selection of Chinese barbecued meats, very fresh (out of the case next door!) seafood, and seasonal specials like sauteed snow pea leaves, which I hadn't seen since Taiwan. The servers also like to tease people who spend too much time on their cell phones at meals.

Phoenix AZ: The Barrio Cafe 
Chiles en Nogada are a seasonal specialty here that is available September through April or so: "Roasted poblano pepper stuffed with chicken, onions,garlic, pecans, apples, pears and apricots finished with a delicate almond sauce and pomegranates." YUM. Tableside guacamole here has pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top and the flan is incredibly rich and dense. Fred Solop's doppleganger was our waiter.

Phoenix AZ: The Fry Bread House
 When you need a plate size piece of fried dough with spicy red or green chile stew, this is the place to be. Located near downtown Phoenix, you get a very hearty meal and get to experience a Southwestern specialty.

Phoenix AZ:
 Durant's This is old school, baby. With dark paneled rooms, large booths, and appetizer selections like sauteed chicken livers, you come here for steak or fish and a martini. We saw Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio here, dressed in a elegant suit and surrounded by other tough looking guys in suits. Their motto says it all "Good friends, great steaks and the best booze are the necessities of life."

CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Prescott AZ: American Jazz Grill 129 1/2
 Maurice is our favorite server in Prescott. Tall, imposing, and with a European accent of unconfirmed origin, Maurice takes good care of you, timing your courses and making good recommendations. After the chef took escargot off the menu, we lobbied Maurice to bring it back. We always get the escargot now.

Prescott AZ: Peacock Room at the Hassayampa Inn
 Two words: Monte Cristo. This is our favorite, served with a jalapeno jelly. Awesome. I also adore the coffee, which is made from a special concentrate that makes the coffee incredibly smooth and never bitter.

Rock Springs, AZ: Rock Springs Cafe 
Yes, it's about the pie, but it's also about live music on Sunday afternoons/evenings. Cecil and the Boys were playing the day we visited--Cecil is 83, the "twins" are 76 and the youngest members of the band were in their early 60's. Seems appropriate for old school country western.

Scottsdale AZ: Eddie's House
 Eddie Matney is totally cool. He's also a diehard public television supporter, which is how I met him. His son is about the same age as mine, so when Matthew and I stopped by for dinner one night, it was a pleasant surprise to see that Eddie's son was having a birthday party on the patio. We felt right at home, which is pretty much the theme of the restaurant. In season, Eddie also has a New England Lobster Bake special that is an incredible deal--Matthew ate his first lobster here and now he's hooked.

Scottsdale AZ: Fresh Mint
 A totally vegetarian, mostly vegan Vietnamese restaurant, this was a surprise find on Yelp. Reasonably priced, flavorful and filling entrees and I didn't miss the meat at all.

Scottsdale AZ: The Mission
 Great late night find in Old Town Scottsdale--creative cocktails and well executed modern tapas. They have a drink with ghost pepper in it--Jim just kept asking for more ghost pepper sauce. I don't think they make it anymore--maybe Jim ate all the sauce they had.

Second Mesa AZ: Hopi Cultural Center Not much to look at, but pretty reliable, and one of just a handful of restaurants on the Hopi Reservation. Don't stray from the fried food, though, as the other things are not so good. The Hopi Hot Beef and the Hopi Center Burger are our favorites, served on frybread (of course) with very crisp fries. Whenever I'm on the rez, I seem to order food with fresh jalapenos. Jim orders stuff with gravy. (See Chambers AZ: Apple Dumplin.)

CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Sedona AZ: Hiro's Sushi 
Beautiful views from the Hyatt Pinon Point and well prepared sushi too.

Sedona AZ: L'Auberge de Sedona 
Amazingly beautiful setting by the creek and an impressive buffet on Mother's Day which is pretty much the only time I go here. Wish I could go more often!

Te
mpe AZ: Rula Bula The one place on Mill Avenue that you can guarantee will be open late and serving food. Irish pub fare absorbs the copious amounts of Irish beer and whiskey being consumed by the local college students. The bartender will even set drinks on fire if you ask.

Tuba City AZ: Sonic 
Okay, this isn't a restaurant pick. But we had a choice of Sonic or McDonald's and we chose Sonic. Just seeing if you're paying attention. But I do love the tots.

CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Tucson AZ: Janos and J-Bar
 Both of these restaurants are amazing. GoalBusters friend Chef Janos Wilder gets to show off his "cantina" side at J-Bar, the less formal sister establishment to Janos at the Westin La Paloma. There are many creative dishes here, but a favorite is the Dark Chocolate Jalapeno Ice Cream Sundae!

Williams AZ:
 Pine Country Restaurant Usually we stop here en route to Kingman or Las Vegas. Sometimes I just order french fries and pie. The pies are HUGE--slices as big as your head. And yummy.

Winslow AZ: The Turquoise Room at La Posada
 The bartender is clever and the signature soup is wonderful. The soup has a corn chowder and a black bean soup poured into a yin-yang pattern with a red chile "T-R" squiggled in the center. The bartender knows how to make Jim's signature cocktail, which is another post entirely.

Winslow AZ: E & O Kitchen (at the airport) 
Oscar Barron, the "O" in E & O, is the host and server pretty much every day, and once gave us a detailed treatise on the proper way to make chile rellenos. He's absolutely right, because the E & O rellenos are our favorites--smoky, with a meaty texture and just the right amount of cheese. The gorditas are also a favorite, with a crispy corn exterior and meat filling of your choice. There are six different meats; Asada, Machaca, Picadillo, Carnitas, Adobada and Pollo. All are good, but we enjoy the ground beef (Picadillo) and the stewed pork (Adobada).

Yuma AZ: River City Grill 
Executive Chef/Owner/Operator Nan Bain is Loretta Swit's double, and apparently Nan did stand in for "Hot Lips" once, since Nan is a former costumer in Los Angeles. This is our favorite fine dining in Yuma, and Nan is excellent company as well.

Yuma AZ: Los Manjares de Pepe 
In a little house on 8th Street in Yuma, this is our go-to Mexican place. Favorites are the chile relleno and the Pepe's Special, a slow braised pork in a green chile sauce.

Yuma AZ:
 
Tacos Mi Ranchito Located right next to the Best Western Coronado, they have very tasty tacos and a good selection of Mexican beers. Our favorites are the chicharron, chorizo, carnitas, and lengua tacos. This establishment is connected with Mi Rancho down the street, which we don't like at all. We like the "little Mexico" feeling of this place, and the fact that we can gorge ourselves on tacos for almost no money. The first time we went here, we ordered one of every taco on the menu. Our server thought us a little strange, which we are. Full blog post here.


California
Bakersfield CA: Cope's Knotty Pine Cafe Introduced Matthew to the wonders of chicken fried steak here. The steak was the size of two dinner plates and he pretty much ate the whole thing. We pretty much stop here every time we drive through Bakersfield now.

Carmel CA: Pacific's Edge Stunning views of the Pacific. We had a rough start with this restaurant, but the management recovered and won us over. In fact, we went back the next night, which is totally unlike us. Food and cocktails were delicious, too.


Sacramento CA: Grange Restaurant and Bar
 I have only drank here but the Manhattan was exceptional. Looking at the menu and with the vibe of the place I can already tell that I will like eating here. Plus my sister recommends it. Must go back.

Sacramento CA: Tower Cafe Desserts are the highlight, and what an assortment! Eclectic decor, huge California sized salads, oh, and did I mention dessert? I will eventually try them all.
 

Sacramento CA: Vino Volo at the Sacramento International Airport Okay, my problem with posting about restaurants in Sacramento is that when I visit, I'm visiting family so I eat at my parents' house or at the two restaurants that they like (New Canton for dim sum and Sushi King in case you're curious). So I don't eat out much in Sac. But during a lengthy wait at the airport, we hung out at Vino Volo which has free WiFi, outlets at the tables, and excellent wine. And we got upgraded to first class. Not a bad way to kill a couple hours.


San Diego CA: Peohe's on Coronado Island Lovely view of the San Diego bay and the Lobster Bisque is delicious.


San Francisco CA: Sam's Grill at Belden Place
 A San Francisco institution, their waiters still wear starched white shirts and black bow ties. The wait staff and kitchen team have worked together so long, they are like a family! The power brokers of the Financial District lunch here, so if you go a little after the typical lunch time, you have a better shot at a table. They make the best Manhattan in San Francisco! We had halibut cheeks for the first time here, which were tender and flavorful, and sand dabs, reminding me of the movie, Spirit of St. Louis. On another trip, the Hangtown Fry was a hit--big, juicy oysters barely held together with some egg. Lovely.

San Francisco CA:
 Grand Cafe Brasserie and Bar at the Hotel Monaco Got an incredible deal on a half bottle of 1994 Bordeaux here. The cassoulet was very rich and hearty--probably could have served three! Alice's Dad was perplexed by the Soupe à L'Oignon Gratinée, which Alice had to explain was French Onion Soup. Dad asked, "Well, why didn't they just write that in English then?"

San Francisco CA: Red's Place
 Okay, I shouldn't give this one away. This is our favorite dive bar in Chinatown. Jenny works pretty much every weekend and remembers me every time. She usually greets me with "You cut your hair?" Which since it's usually been a year since I've seen her last, that's true. Cheap drinks, many locals, Chinese pop songs on the jukebox. Jim got all the guys to sing happy birthday to me on my 40th, which totally reminded me of the final scene in A Christmas Story when the waiters at the Chinese restaurant are singing "Fa rah rah rah rah, rah rah rah rah."

San Francisco CA: The Slanted Door
 Made a reservation for lunch wondering if all the hype was worth it. It was. The surprise for me was the cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab--I'm not usually a fan of cellophane noodles, but these were delicately flavored, not mushy at all, and just the right hit of crab. The lemongrass chicken was also stellar. While the shaking beef, one of their specialties, was incredible, I'm not sure it was worth being twice as expensive as everything else on the menu, though. Cocktails were beautiful and not too sweet.

San Francisco CA: Urban Tavern
 Meatloaf sliders and the maple bourbon sour. YUM. And a drink special on Foursquare!

San Francisco CA: Yank Sing
 King of all dim sum (or deem sum, as they spell it) in the western United States. The Shanghai dumpling, their signature soup dumpling, is worth the trip in itself, but then there's the Peking duck, the lettuce wraps with pine nuts, the ha gow, the sui mai.... The special Yank Sing XO sauce is also a great spicy condiment for just about anything. We prefer the Rincon Center location, which expands into the building atrium on the weekends. Be prepared to wait for a table, or better yet, make a reservation!

DC area
Arlington VA: Me Jana Great Lebanese food and interesting personalities. The manager/owner called Jim "James Bond" all night, but that's not the only reason we liked it. Our favorites were the grape leaves, seared haloumi, ablama (zucchini stuffed with beef), and the halawet el Jeben (sweet cheese in an orange blossom syrup). It's relatively inexpensive, and a locally owned place, so we hope they continue to get support!

CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Washington DC: Burma Restaurant We had never tried Burmese food until this restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the foods didn't remind us of anything in other cuisines! The sour mustard plant and the green tea leaf salad were the highlights.


Washington DC: Cafe AtlanticoOyamelJaleo and Zaytinya Chef Jose Andres and his ThinkFoodGroup restaurants provided an unforgettable "progressive dinner" at four different concept restaurants.(UPDATE: Cafe Atlantico is now closed but replaced with another ThinkFoodGroup concept restaurant.) At Cafe Atlantico (CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN), we enjoyed tableside prepared guacamole, and two very creative cocktails: the Magic Mojito, featuring cotton candy in a martini glass, which dissolved "magically" into the drink when the rest of the liquid was poured on top with a flourish; and the Faux Syrah Syrah, which took the flavor elements of syrah--blackberry, black pepper, and lavender to name a few--broke them down into their parts and recombined them into a cocktail.
At Oyamel, Jose's Mexican cantina, Dave Andersen, the manager, treated us like VIP's and brought out Jose's favorite margarita, topped with "salt-lime air," a delicate looking but surprisingly sturdy seafoam that added a hint of salt and lime to every sip. In addition, we savored red snapper ceviche, pozole, and three kinds of tacos--carnitas, lengua and grasshopper! Funny enough, the grasshoppers, about an inch long, kept "jumping" out of the taco. They were deliciously spicy and crunchy.
After that, off to Jaleo, Jose's tapas bar. There we enjoyed a buttery Iberico jamon with a dry sherry.
Finally, we braved the cold to walk to Zaytinya, where we were greeting by Andy, our server, with the question, "How hungry are you at this point?" When we replied, "a light appetite," Andy responded with, "Okay, then the chef will provide three courses...."
At one point there were 20 small dishes on the table! Exceptional dips--hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki among the six, with acompanion of a light pink bubbly. Grilled octopus--tender, lightly charred and mildly sweet. A pinot noir-esque red wine from Lebanon. Braised short ribs, a stewed lamb and chicken kabobs with an airy garlic aioli. Finally, we were presented with a glass of dessert wine and two desserts--a yogurt, brandied cherry and cherry sorbet parfait, which was light and refreshing, and a deconstructed chocolate covered cherry--crushed chocolate cookies, brandied cherries, caramel sauce, chocolate mousse-like pyramid and cherry sorbet. Taste a little bit of everything at once and it does indeed taste like a chocolate covered cherry!

Florida
Orlando FL: Cuba Libre Great place for a crowd-creative mojitos, yummy empanadas, loud Cuban music.

Orlando FL: Machon 
at the Le Cordon Bleu Orlando Culinary Academy is a bargain find in the land of expensive tourist traps. A student run restaurant, you can make a reservation on Open Table and get to support the culinary students as well as get a good meal. For four people, two courses each, a bottle of wine, and desserts cost about $120. I had a delicious lobster bisque, rack of lamb, and bananas foster prepared tableside! All the tips go to the school's scholarship fund, so be sure to tack on a little extra since it's such a deal.

Georgia
Atlanta GA at the Hartsfield Jackson International Airport: One Flew South Yes, it's an airport restaurant! Behind security! And it's GOOD. Thanks to Entrepreneur Magazine for highlighting this one--wine bar, great and creative cocktails, "travel inspired cuisine," decent sushi, and great atmosphere. You almost forget you're in the airport.


Illinois
Chicago IL: Topolobampo Rick Bayless' fine dining restaurant, this place serves Mexican food as we Americans never imagined it. Incredibly refined, subtle flavors and gorgeous presentation. I loved every course.

Chicago IL: Gino's East Iconic Chicago style pizza. This was one of three stops for the GoalBusters Pizza Crawl, where we rented a stretch Hummer for 20 of our closest AFP friends and toured Gino's, the Signature Lounge at the top of the Hancock, and Lou Malnati's. Tons of fun. 


Kansas
Kansas City KS: Rosedale Barbecue Amazing array of smoked meat and tangy sauce. Had a late lunch here after presenting at the Mid-America Conference and lingered over beers, brisket, pulled pork, smoked sausage, chicken, and conversation with the server, Shelly. Totally great time, and came home with several gallons of barbecue sauce, with the admonition to refrigerate the sauce as soon as possible! (Ask Jim's mom about that.)


Louisiana
New Orleans LA: Restaurant August and Luke Part of Chef John Besh's restaurant group, August is the more formal older sibling of Luke, the louder, brighter bistro. Both provided excellent service and well executed dishes. Plus, I got to try absinthe for the first time at Luke--quite dramatic, but I'm not sure it's my potion of choice. At August, the foie gras three ways was delicious, and at Luke, incredibly good fried oysters.

New Orleans LA: Cochon Restaurant
 Hip but cozy place located near Emeril's. Great place to get small dishes to share, like cured meats, rabbit, crawfish pie, okra, and other down home Cajun cuisine in a modern, relaxed environment. They have a lot of local brews and truly strange cocktails. Do not try the beet juice cocktail. I don't know what I was thinking. They also have Cochon Butcher next door, primarily a sandwich place, which I haven't tried but have read great reviews.

New Orleans LA: Emeril's
 Truth be told, I was terrified that I would be disappointed with this place. So many times, you go to the celebrity chef places and the hype does not match the experience. With Emeril's, I was not disappointed. The location is beautiful, service stellar, and food fantastic. I've also been to Tchoup Chop in Orlando, which didn't quite live up to the reputation, so I'll stick with the original Emeril's in NOLA.

New Orleans LA: Mother's
 Classic New Orleans for jambalaya, etouffee, red beans and po'boys. Expect a line at lunch time--just get in line, belly up to the counter and order some down home comfort food. I got the oyster po'boy but really wanted the combo platter, which is what Jim had. YUM.

New Orleans LA: Erin Rose
 Okay, not really a restaurant but a great local bar where you meet REAL LOCALS! Incredibly good value on drinks, especially since you're only one block off of Bourbon Street, and not a single neon blended drink to be found. Last time we were there, we met retired twins from Tennessee heading to Texas for NASCAR and a local parish Justice of the Peace who sang Irish songs. So cool.

New Orleans LA: Cafe du Monde
 I can't believe I had this page up for a while before I posted this classic. This is the place where EVERYONE goes to get beignets and chicory coffee. It is a bit of a tourist trap, but that doesn't make the beignets any less tasty. Word of warning, do NOT wear black to this place. You will be dusted with powdered sugar, no matter how careful you are. Also, coffee refills are NOT FREE so be careful when the server asks you if you want a refill. And bring cash.

Minnesota
Rochester MN: Sonte's As part of our "restaurant crawl" in Rochester, this was the highlight of the night. Tapas inspired menu with lots of small plates, the dishes were creative and well presented. Friendly and talkative (in a good way) bartender also made the night. Chorizo stuffed dates, seared scallops and a trio of manchego, chocolate chile, and foie gras ice cream were the highlights.

Nevada
Las Vegas NV: Bouchon at the Venetian Yes, it's Thomas Keller, so how can it be bad? We go for the terrine de foie gras, an intensely buttery, rich jar of foie gras. That's all we need. Well, and a cocktail to go with it.

Las Vegas NV: David Burke at the Venetian
 Discovered David Burke when Bouchon was closed. The server was Jay, a mohawk-wearing, well-dressed dude who made the evening by being highly professional without being pretentious. The Angry Lobster, half a lobster poached in chili oil and somehow crisped but still tender, was the highlight, along with the finale bowl of pink cotton candy!

Las Vegas NV: Alize at the Top of the Palms
 Incredible view of the strip from the Top of the Palms. The food is pretty darn tasty as well.

CLOSED: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Las Vegas NV: Rosemary's
 A stellar off-the-strip restaurant, they almost always have a coupon online for a three course, prix fixe lunch for $23 or $25. Andrew is our other favorite server in Las Vegas, and the service here is, much like David Burke, professional and unpretentious. The barbecued shrimp with gorgonzola cole slaw is a delicious study in flavor balance.

Las Vegas NV: Lotus of Siam
 A totally unassuming Thai restaurant in an off-strip strip mall, this is the best Thai we've had in the US. We always order too much, though, and usually right before we hit the road back to Flagstaff. So the leftovers torture us with their intoxicating spices until we decide to just open up the boxes and eat the leftovers cold. Our favorite appetizer is the Nam Kao Tod, a combination of crispy rice and sour sausage that tastes way better than it sounds. The roasted duck curry is also exceptional. I had my "demotion" party for my two year term as Vice Chair, Member Services for the Association of Fundraising Professionals International at this restaurant and our group of almost 20 had a great time. The lobster was pretty amazing visually, and everything was well executed.

Las Vegas NV: Todd English P.U.B. 
Located in the City Center, PUB is good grub, but refined. Our favorite? "Dirty Chips," which are fresh fried kettle chips with blue cheese, bacon and fried chicken livers. Really.

New Mexico
Albuquerque NM: Mary and Tito's Cafe This is New Mexican family style dining, not Mexican food. We knew we were in the right place when our server said, "well, when my grandpa opened this place..." Hearty servings of green and red chile over frybread--this was the start of the week of travel without a vegetable.

Santa Fe NM: Coyote Cafe
 This place is famous for a reason. Very creative cocktails--Jim insisted on something on fire--and beautifully presented cuisine. Service was impeccable as well.

Santa Fe NM: The French Pastry Shop 
Good place to stop for dessert and interestingly shaped bread. I wanted the turtle shaped loaf but they were out.

Santa Fe NM: Pasqual's
 Funky little eatery that serves organic Southwestern cuisine. Reservations are a must though.

Taos NM: Graham's Grill
 Greeted by the owner Peter when we arrived--he's clearly very proud of the establishment and his wife, Lesley, the chef. Red fish with chile rellenos were delicious.

New York
New York NY: Sardi's and Patsy's Italian Both old school, classic New York. At Patsy's, the maitre'd actually knew Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and told us a really nice story about Dean. The food was pretty darn awesome as well.

Oklahoma
Guymon OK: The Breakfast Club This is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. It even got Jim to eat breakfast, which is a rarity. Chicken fried steak, HUGE pancakes with creative fillings--we had the bacon pancake (bacon! IN the pancake!), butterscotch pancake and pecan pancake, and really crispy hash browns. Didn't need to eat for many more miles, which was good since we had a long way to go.

Oklahoma City OK: Cocktails on the Skyline
 A summer oasis on the roof of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, they have live jazz performances and access to a full (cash) bar included in admission to the museum after 5 pm. Got to walk through the Chihuly glass exhibit and then get a glass of something.

Pennsylvania
Duryea PA: AuRants This one's for you, John Dawe. John took us to this locally owned and operated restaurant when we presented at THE Conference in Wilkes-Barre. Everything here is enormous, but the scene stealer was the Pig Wings. At least that's what I think they were called. It was pork. It was good.

Tennessee
Nashville TN: Loveless Cafe About 30 minutes from downtown Nashville, this place is where everyone still calls you "hon" and they serve down home, stick to the ribs, comfort food. The biscuits with sausage gravy are like a sausage cloud, and will now be the gold standard by which every other biscuit with gravy will be judged. The fried chicken and barbecued meats are pretty dang tasty as well.

Texas
Houston TX: Mark's American Cuisine Lovely setting for really good food--it's a renovated church and they take great advantage of local foods and regional cuisine for inspiration.

San Antonio TX: Boudros on the Riverwalk You MUST get the tableside prepared guacamole. 
I ate the whole thing by myself, it was so good. Also, the prickly pear margarita was tasty as well as lovely.


Wisconsin
Madison WI: The Essen Haus Yes, it needs a little refreshing, but it's a Madison institution, dang it! You can go to the newer, fancier places in town, but here you get lots of good beer, decent German food, and polka music seemingly every night. Plus, if you time it right, you can listen to a local barfly lecture the bartender about healthcare reform. Cool.