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Old 02-07-04, 02:07 PM   #1
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calling all foodies: your alltime favorite places to eat out?

I'm working on revamping my restaurant, so I was wondering what you guys remembered as your alltime favorites. what blew you away at those places you'll always remember fondly? now, I'm talking everything from greasy spoon dives to moms and pops to the five star places. the meals, the drinks, the desserts, the quirks, the decor, the service, the music, the lighting, the people -- anything and everything about the experience. I'm looking at the entire industry for ideas, but FWIW, our place is an upscale, but very unique and accessible bistro.

thanks!

-alex.
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Old 02-07-04, 02:19 PM   #2
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I think it depends on the dining experience I'm after as well as the food choice. Two of my favourite restaurants incloude La Fondue in Saratoga, CA for an eclectic experience and Bob Chinn's Crabhouse in Palwaukee, IL for just good seafood (extremely good) with a no-frills atmosphere. La Fondue offers an interesting (almost carnival - as in magical, not circus carnival) feel with a personal touch whereas Bob Chinn's ambiance consists of a almost a cafeteria feel... however their mai tais and king crab legs are to die for.
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Old 02-07-04, 03:21 PM   #3
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Mike's Burgers makes the best hamburgers in Portland. Two locations to serve you. Simple mom 'n' pop style.

Da Vinci's Italian Ristorante is not tops for ambiance and the space is small, but has the most exquisite Italian cuisine I've ever eaten. All their fettuccine alfredo lacks is an at-table angioplasty.

The Grand Buffet has a large space but isn't exactly posh. It's designed to shovel food at lots of people at one time, but the food is very good and from all over the world. Last time I was there they didn't feature fried crickets, but it's just a matter of time.

India Grill was the first place wherein I sampled Indian cuisine. I almost killed myself. Upstairs via a narrow, steep staircase, the dining room is small and crammed with little tables and it's dark, but ooooh the food! This dining experience was the one that finally convinced me that I had to lose weight, because I was snatching breath in hitches by the time I left.
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Old 02-07-04, 04:34 PM   #4
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Two things that make an eating experience worthwhile in my view: Large servings (the more food for the buck the better as far as I'm concerned), and the setting. That bistro I found at Strathgordon set amid amazing natural scenery is one thing I will never forget.
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Old 02-07-04, 05:13 PM   #5
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Chili Cheese everything. There is this greasy spoon in Northwest Indiana called Zels. They have chili cheese fries, hot dogs, hamburgers, and even polish sausage (my personal favorite). I went to Hardees about 2 times a week when they had the chili cheese burger. Now that Hardees doesn't serve it anymore, I go there about once a month.
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Old 02-07-04, 05:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khuon
Bob Chinn's Crabhouse in Palwaukee, IL.
Next time you are out this way, let me know. I'll tag along for leftovers!

As far as one of my all-time favs, the Blue Star Lounge in Colorado Springs, CO. And, in the same town, Phantom Canyon Brewery. DE-LISH!
There was also a Thai joint in the Springs, near the theatre I think...Thai Orchid? Cannot remember. Nice atmosphere and GREAT food. Prep and presentation were above par for the average price. That is rare these days
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Old 02-07-04, 06:20 PM   #7
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It has been years since I lived back east..What I miss from back there is Eastern European food.
Something in rare supply in the Western U.S. is Hungarian restaurants. Used to be in Detroit a restaurant called 'Hungarian Village.' I miss hungarian food.Love their pasta. Had a real Hungarian feel about the place. Why did not more Hungarian people migrate to the west.?
Locally..Our town has a restaurant called "Le Bistro." California and continental cuisine. I always have to have dessert there.."Cherries Flambe.'My wifes birthday coming up soon , so will return there soon.
Do like Mexican food..So many Mexican restaurants in California.In our town, we have excellant Mexican food at a 'La Caseda' restaurant... Favorite dish...' Enchilidas Yucatan.' Enchilidas in Ochate sauce..Which is an orange flavoring. They prepare their food in olive oil too.Not greasy..Really authentic Mexican food, very well done.

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Old 02-07-04, 09:25 PM   #8
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what has impressed me, at almost every eatery,
bistro, cafe, haute-cuisine establishment from N.Y.
to Johannesburg is the service. One of my absolute
favourite places was a small cafe, where after your
first time in the place you were treated like an old friend.
owner would come over, sit down and chat (at oppertune times) and generally fuss over you.
Where in the SouthEast are you? whats name of your
place?
Marty
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Old 02-07-04, 09:36 PM   #9
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China Delight lounge in Corvallis- What kept drawing me in was a combination of $3.00 dinners in the lounge (the same meal that cost $8.00 in the restaurant) and an excellent veggie menu. I always ordered Sesame Tempeh, which was truly a delight. The stiff drinks didn't hurt either!

Here in Portland, Than Thao (Thai-Vietnamese) is the one I keep going back to. Good, hearty portions with a generous veggie menu. It's always packed, but you get served quickly and the price is super resonable.
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Old 02-07-04, 11:13 PM   #10
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These are our favorites (mostly my creation, sometimes based on an exsisting recipe)
Light clam chowder, with clams, mushrooms, potatoes, onions, tarrogon, pepper, red pepper flake, salt.
I have similar soup without the clams and potatoes and using chicken stock
Boneless steak grilled with blue cheese inside.
Vinegar base barbque chicken Grandfathers recipe
Artichoke stuffed chicken Stuffed with artichoke, sundried tomatoe, basil, feta, red pepper flake.
Lemon pepper chops, grilled
marinated burbon mollassas ribs
scratch chili with chocolate.
grilled sausage spaghetti
Jumballia sic? wifes recipe
scratch pancakes with chocalate chips, a good dessert.
Popcorn with, butter, parmesean and fresh ground pepper (movie time)
Home seasoned burritoes/tacos.
grilled asparagus, excellent side. Oil and grill
Habanero hamburgers, remove the seeds, HOT but sweet, mustard and soy in the meat as well.
BBQ chicken pizza, with vidalia onion
Brats and onions/mushrooms on potatoe rolls
Scotch eggs, boiled egg with a thin layer of sausage and bread crumb, then fried.
mollasass marinades or oil/vinegar marinades for tough meat twentyfour hour+ marinate time
Garlic/breadcrumb shrimp kebabs
Almost all of these items are cooked on an open grill(The only way to cook)
PM for any recipes,(I don't use them myself but my wife insists on getting them) Anyone feel free, they are really good
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Old 02-08-04, 12:43 AM   #11
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STOP CHUCK! My God, I just made muffins for tha kids breakfast (ate 2)
Read your list and I'm salivating like mad, A couple more muff are gonna meet their maker in the next couple seconds..bye.

sad to say, 2 more will not see the morning light.

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Old 02-09-04, 01:57 PM   #12
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For me the key is atmosphere. I can eat too much at the house, so the amount served isn't really as important as the people I'm eating with, staff included.

My current favorite is the Camel City Cafe and Wine Bar . A great place in downtown Winston Salem that makes us feel like we're joining old friends for dinner every time show up. It's small enough that it doesn't have a lot of noise and big enough to not be crowded.

Oh, and they have quite a selection of wines. (This too is key)

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Old 02-09-04, 04:11 PM   #13
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Good food is made memorable by exceptional service.

At a restaurant in Chicago, I left the table for a few minutes. When I returned the waiter had refolded my napkin. Before the dessert course, he brushed the crumbs from the table with a small brush and dustpan.

One of my favorite touches in a restaurant is the wine tasting area at La Paella, in Madison, Wisconsin. ( http://www.lapaella.com/ ) Patrons can sample any of their wines before purchase.

I always appreciate it when the chef visits my table.
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Old 02-10-04, 12:54 AM   #14
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Pollack Johnny's and The Dog House in Bawlamer, Murlan. A Pollack "all the way" at 2 in the morning was a great pre-emptive strike against the hangover that was sure to raise it's ugly head in the morning. And nothing chased away hunger like a couple of Dog House meatloaf sandwiches. Other than that, anything with clams in it. Steamed. fried, in chowder, clams are the greatest.
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Old 02-11-04, 01:03 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goodcatjack
I'm working on revamping my restaurant, so I was wondering what you guys remembered as your alltime favorites. what blew you away at those places you'll always remember fondly?

-alex.
Two years ago, just after Christmea, we went to Tahoe with my brother and his wife. My family reached the cabin first. We deposited our stuff and proceeded back to a nearby casino to obtain sustenance. Went into the coffee shop there and all of us had hamburgers. They were 1/3 pounders and we were actually asked how we wanted them cooked--you know, like rare, medium rare, etc.! It was the best burger I had eaten in years! Just this past year, in Tahoe again I had a craving for one of those burgers, but never got back to the same casino. If we go this year, I am getting one of them, first thing when we are up there. Ya know, if those germs are killed at right around 150 degrees F, then why does every restaurant elsewhere incinerate their burgers? Seems like too many restaurants use the "let's avoid a lawsuit by incinerating our food" as an excuse for half-a$$ed cooking.
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Old 02-11-04, 01:48 PM   #16
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There is a wonderful little restaurant in Big Bear Lake, CA, called Madlon's... they have an incredible Filet Mignon Hamburger... the meat just simply melts away in yourmouth.. it is beyond words...

As far as what I like in a restaurant... it should feel light and airy... warm lighting, earthy tones on the walls.. a wait staff that is friendly, but not overly so... I should feel welcome, and not just another customer...

a good wine list doesn't hurt either :-)

jeff
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Old 02-11-04, 09:29 PM   #17
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thanks so much for everyone's replies!!! some really great material in there. now I only have to find the time to make all the things in my head *try* to come a little closer to reality.

again, thanks to everyone!!!

-alex.
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Old 02-22-04, 11:03 AM   #18
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Well, let's see: food quality is always critical, but atmosphere is also a big deal in your high-end establishments!

High-End:
Boulevard in S.F. is fantastic - great atmosphere, the best food and very attentive service with no attitude. It's spendy, but you feel like you got your money's worth. The portions are not overly generous, but enough that you don't feel the need to head over to Bow Hon for greasy chow fun afterwards!

Low-end:
Jerry's Inn - A former Brannan Street hangout for Rolling Stone writers and other pre-SOMA habitues (including my father and myself). A bar that served grilled burgers on fresh S.F. sourdough bread ("Jerry's Jawbreakers"!), with a side of rigatoni! It closed about 10 years ago - death of an institution. It was the kind of place where the owner knew everybody's name (he greeted me by name after a 10-year hiatus!).

Dive:
Roosevelt Tamale Parlor in S.F. - a dive, great food, super-cheap. Always want to go back there!

Overall, the thing that keeps me from returning is a place that feels it's too special for its own good - attitude, indifferent service and poorly prepared tiny portions of "nouvelle cuisine". I paid $40 for a tiny salad, and a miniscule portion of lukewarm swordfish with about 3 green beans at one place that is billed as "the best restaurant in Davis (CA)". Have I been back there? I think you know the answer to that question...

So give the people decent portions of fresh, well-prepared and generally simple dishes, make sure the staff is courteous and attentive, and I think it's generally a winner!
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Old 02-22-04, 04:43 PM   #19
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Radfahrer, dude, you are my target demo. I'd love to have you over, sometime. there're things I keep telling myself on a day-to-day basis, and some of them are: NEVER PRETENTIOUS, must *always always always* be satisfying, -must always feel like an "occasion," must be a place that can be thought of as a neighborhood anchor, must have the freshest, best possible ingredients that can be sourced, must be imaginitive and must always have that one-on-one relationship.

I sometimes think of it this way: quite simply, I believe that (for better or worse) most people's exposure to any other culture comes through the food. and we eat 2 or 3 times a day. and if food, and the act of eating, constitutes some of the most comforting, important, relaxing, satisfying, rejuvenating acts of the day, then I have a chance to make a difference in people's lives, in a very substantive and meaningful way. a way that most people don't get to make in their workaday jobs. so while they get to work a pissant 8 hours a day, from 9-5, and they get a nightlife while everyone else can, even though I'm working from 9 in the morning until 10 or eleven at night, at least I'm doing something that makes a difference in people's lives. and for anyone who's never lived the life, it isn't just a job. no. not where I can look down at my hands and arms and see the scars from cuts and burns, and where I dream, daydream and have nightmares about what I do for a living.

sorry that this became a rant; let's see if I don't erase it out of sheer embarrassment in a few minutes,

-alex.

p.s. and oh yeah, all the preceding is (sometimes) the kind of stuff that helps me stomp on those cranks, on some of *those* days. (just to help tie this all in to something bike-related.)
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Old 02-22-04, 05:59 PM   #20
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One of my many daydreams is to open a seafood restaurant in our little downtown. I'd recommend that if you are in a mid to small size town consider the downtown district. You may do better at lunch than dinner.

If you aren't too modest, I'd like to know where this restaurant may be. I'd like to visit a place run by a guy with your attitude.
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Old 02-22-04, 09:47 PM   #21
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The places that stand out in my mind have (had?) good food, atmosphere by virtue of what they are, (not what the try to be), and aren't pretentious.

Ivar's, in Seattle, used to have a little place down on the water front (near Pike Place). You could just order at a window, and eat outside. Or you could go in, get clam chowder, oysters, a pitcher, whatever. Nice break on a clammy (pun intended) Seattle day. It'd been there since forever, last time I was there was maybe 30 years ago, I understand there're several Ivar's restaurants in the area, now, and they're pretty upscale these days.

In Dallas, there used to be this place called Jamie's... named after the owners daughter or something. Anyhow, it was sort of an upscale burger place. Just lots of different really cool burgers, they served 'em with fries and a bowl of chili.

The best breakfast I've had in my life was at a place named Doegis (sp?) somewhere in downtown San Francisco, maybe 10 years ago. It wasn't about atmosphere, location, size of portions, or any of that stuff... just excellent food prepared with the best, freshest ingredients. (I'm a breakfast person.)

Then, around the same time (and maybe still), there was a Mexican restaurant down in Burlingame named La Pinata(?). There, the draw was atmosphere, volume (size of portions), and good, although not necessarily outstanding, food. I dunno, maybe I was just really hungry that evening.

In downtown Fredericksburg, Va, there's a little italian restaurant in a basement, run by an italian couple (named Roma 52, I think). Unlike a certain Italian chain restaurant, when you're there, you *are* family.

That's something that I really don't care for... the cookie cutter chain restaurant you wait 20 minutes to get seated, whether there's room or not... you get the feeling they really want you to go to the bar or at least buy a drink. And whose servers are more like hard nose sales people... "would you like to try our house wine?" When I want wine, I'll ask. And reappear with a tray of artistically named wax delicacies after you've eaten, "could I interest you in desert?" No, thanks, you're giving me heartburn, "bill please."

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Old 02-22-04, 09:57 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadbuzz
Ivar's, in Seattle, used to have a little place down on the water front (near Pike Place) where you could go in, get clam chowder, oysters, a pitcher, whatever. Nice break on a clammy (pun intended) Seattle day. It'd been there since forever, last time I was there was maybe 30 years ago, I understand there're several Ivar's restaurants, now, and they're pretty upscale these days.
Ivars does a dual-class approach. The place down on the waterfront still exists. It has a walk-up window on one side and if you go inside, it's an upscale restaurant. They have a similar restaurant in Edmonds near the ferry dock. Ivars also has a fast-food style line of restaurants that competes with Long John Silvers and Skippers.
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Old 02-23-04, 06:24 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goodcatjack
...must be a place that can be thought of as a neighborhood anchor...
BINGO. There are enough chains and fast-food places as it is. Some of those even serve good food, but the atmosphere is not enjoyable. Make your place a "livingroom extension" for the neighbourhood (think about a village pub in the UK). I have been known to extend the limits of what I consider "neighbourhood" by several kilometers to find a nice place. Yours will probably still be out of my reach, but good luck with it!

--J
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Old 02-23-04, 09:44 AM   #24
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thanks so much, everyone!!! it really does make a difference to know there are still people out there (in the back of my mind, I'm hearing a business-speak translation: untapped-market) who resonate to something real and substantial, instead of the brass rail, potted fern, franchise, corporate, focusgrouped concept money sieve businesses that just happen to serve food.

-alex.

p.s. Moonshot, I PMed ya!
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Old 02-23-04, 08:04 PM   #25
Rev.Chuck
The Red Lantern
 
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Raleigh NC
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What, just a PM, tell us all. I live in the south east and I have friends that live further south and east., Come, on.


I also never gave props to my two favorite fooderies: Las Margaritas, great, cheap mexican food, get lots of diablo sauce(all habenero) run by Columbians(?!)

Oak City Diner, diner food. Cheese sandwich $1.20 Open faced roast beef with fries $4 The food is bad for you but oh so tasty
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I am in the woods and I have gone crazy.
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