Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2018

Monteagle TN: Smokehouse

Years ago, Chicago gangsters on their way to Florida vacations stopped at Monteagle. That was before the Smokehouse's time but it is a mainstay of Monteagle hospitality. Their lunch buffet is large and tasty. I really enjoyed their pork shoulder. Their beef stew/soup is hidden in the corner but it is a must-try: filled with umami, tender, rich with root vegetable tastes. I have never had the chance to hear their evening music programs. I need to make that trip a priority. This seems to be a great place to hear top-notch country music in an intimate setting.

Avondale Estates: Good Karma Coffee House and Gluten Free Dairy

Good Karma is tucked away in always charming Avondale Estates. I stopped in for coffee but I was very impressed by their bakery operation. They have a very strong vegan menu. They also serve full breakfast and lunch items, such as scrambles. This case of baked goods is all vegan and they all look great. Doing vegan baking well requires skill. True vegan food is hard to find at restaurants and a resource like Good Karma is a treat for people who eat vegan.

Decatur GA: La Calavera

La Calavera is a small, very good bakery near the Avondale MARTA station. I saw a great selection of baked goods, both sweet and utility breads. I really enjoyed my blueberry empanada. The cornmeal gave the fruit a wonderful, unexpected pop.

SJC: Tres Gringos

San Jose's airport has a small, crowded terminal. The restaurant options are a little limited and the space within each restaurant is crowded. I needed something to eat before my flight. Given the constraints, Tres Gringos did a good job. The atmosphere was hectic, as is typical for airport restaurants, but the bartender did a good job juggling everyone. My salad was fresh and a good mix of flavors. I was grateful for my meal.

San Carlos CA: Iron Gate

Graham and Alexis introduced me to a wonderful, old-style steak restaurant in San Carlos, the Iron Gate. Its roots go back both to fine Continental dining and an earlier, less hectic California. The meal started, of course, with excellent bread. Our appetizers were classic: oysters rockefeller, escargot, and stuffed zucchini florets. My florets were rich with seafood and a great blend of textures. A quick palate cleansing prepared us for the main course. Alexis and I both ordered flamed steaks, which brought out the flambe table. The show was spectacular and our server very charming. My steak au poivre was superb. The flamed sauce was smooth, meaty, and creamy, with a touch of pepper. We ended with souffles. My chocolate version was perfectly executed and downright decadent. The chocolate sauce was smooth and rich, perfectly complementing the souffle interior.

Belmont CA: Pilgrim Kitchen Bakery and Donut Shoppe

I stopped by Pilgrim Kitchen for a refreshing treat. It is hidden away on the east side of El Camino, just over a hilltop making it easy to miss. The vibe is old fashioned, which I find very welcoming and grinding. The owner was very nice. They have a great selection of donuts. The buttermilk bar was tempting but I went away with an apple turnover. It was quite good: flaky pastry, fruity filling.

Palo Alto CA: Fambrini's Cafe

Ken and I caught up with each other over a nice lunch at Fambrini's Cafe. This place is easy to miss---it is located on the west side of El Camino just south of College Avenue. Their menu tends toward light items, a refreshing change. My salad with salmon was very enjoyable. The dressing was flavorful but light. Ken went with his standard. And we split this delightful fruit pastry.

Sunnyvale CA: Breakfast at Kal's

Kal's has been in Sunnyvale for a long, long time. I would say that its origins are lost in the mists of time, but the sign on the door clearly says it was founded in 1958, just 11 years after the invention of the transistor and in the same year as the integrated circuit. The decor is classic mid-century casual, a very cozy and comfortable feel. The owner is very friendly and welcoming. My omelet arrived promptly, fresh off the griddle. It was very nicely cooked with a perfect soft texture. The potatoes were similarly well executed. The toast hit the spot. No long this place has been around so long.

Mountain View CA: Amarin Thai Cuisine

Dave and I caught up over a very nice dinner at Amarin Thai Cuisine. It is located on Castro Street, which for decades has been the go-to neighborhood for Asian food on the Peninsula. This is my pumpkin curry with tofu. The pieces of pumpkin gave a very nice texture complement to the tofu and the taste perfectly complemented the tofu. Dave reported his salmon was great.

Mountain View CA: Passage to India

I stopped by Passage to India, located on El Camino on the north side of Mountain View, for a satisfying lunch. Their buffet includes meat and veggie dieshes. As a nice surprise, it also includes several Chinese-Indian dishes, including my favorite hot chili corn. My naan was very fresh and pillowy soft.

Sunnyvale CA: Metro City

Metro City is located on Sunnyvale's historic and lively Murphy Avenue. The atmosphere combines an industrial vibe and historic photos. Service was very warm and attentive. The restaurant seems to have a lively crew of breakfast regulars. My veggie omelet was huge and packed with vegetables. I really enjoyed the pepper sauce on the table, too. The hash browns were the perfect combination of crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside. The rye toast was quite good.

Chamblee: Ponko

Ponko is a new addition to Chamblee's food scene, located near I-85 just off Chamblee-Tucker Road. It is a fast casual restaurant specializing in chicken tenders with an Asian twist. Service was very attentive and helpful. My tofu tenders were quite good. The coating was crispy and a great contrast to the tofu. I asked for the spicy sauce, which was just enough to moisten the coating without making it soggy, and just spicy enough to tickle my tongue. (Given that I have raised this concern at other restaurants, I would mention that a less fish-sticky shape might be nice.) The sweet potato fries were tasty. I really enjoyed the slaw, which was very crunchy and nicely tangy.

FAI: The Local

I faced a long wait for my flight out of Fairbanks. I'm glad that The Local was there for a snack to keep me going. Airport restaurants vary widely but I found The Local's food to be quite good. This is my cup of chili. It was spiced to give it just enough of a kick. The beans were nicely soft but not mushy. The reindeer sausage gave the cup a nice meatiness and a fun twist. The sauce offered plenty of umami, something one hopes for in any chili.

Denali National Park: Morino Grill

Once I arrived at the park entrance, I wanted a small meal to keep me going for the long ride into Denali's interior. Morino Grill did the trick. Named after the gentleman who operated a roadhouse here for many years, it offers the basic, solid food at reasonable prices one would expect at a National Park. There was my lunch, waiting for me. The cod was good; I nibbled on a few crinkle fries. Satisfied, I was ready to head into the wilderness.

Dining on the Wilderness Express

Wilderness Express cars operate on the Alaska Railway. The cars are modern but provide an old-fashioned first class rail experience. The top floor is fully domed for a continuous view of the spectacular Alaska scenery. The bottom floor provides white tablecloth dining service. The trip down to Denali started in the morning. I couldn't pass up the blueberry pancakes. The syrup comes from Alaskan birch, which gives a different flavor from maple syrup that is very nice. The reindeer sausage was excellent, with a porky flavor. My return to Fairbanks was my chance to try dinner. Alaskan fish is uniformly superb so I ordered the halibut. The fish was tender and flaky, nicely moist, and very flavorful. I couldn't resist this berry tart for dessert. Berries are another Alaskan mainstay and these were superb. The preparation hit just the right amount of sweetness to show off the flavor of the berries.

Fairbanks: Alaska Salmon Bake

Although I didn't hear about it until I arrived in Fairbanks, the Alaska Salmon Bake is a tradition in town. This outdoor, German beer garden style spot is located in Pioneer Park, itself a warmly regarded Fairbanks tradition. The service is all-you-can-eat. The food is quite good and the atmosphere is relaxing. In an attempt at balance, I started with the salad bar, which offered a good range of very fresh fixings. My next stop was the grill. I tried all three: prime rib, salmon, and cod. The prime rib was very tender and cooked just right. The salmon was cooked over an open fire to a perfect temperature. The grilling emphasized its tenderness and freshness. Cod has been the big revelation of this trip---it is plentiful here and superb. This fried cod was plump and meaty without a hint of fishiness. I went back for seconds on both the salmon and cod. I can get good beef in the lower 48 but this fish is special. I finished up with a trip to the dessert hut. …

Co-Op Market Grocery and Deli

My hotel was located near the Co-Op Market. They came in handy for snacks to tide me over on my activities. The store is smallish but nicely appointed. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. The store of course stocks very nice produce, meats, etc. This shelf displays some of their Alaskan items. My main destination was their preserved meat display for portable protein. They have a large selection of what looked like high-quality jerky but I went with sausage. One sausage was from the Alaska-Siberian brand and was wonderful: just soft enough, fatty and moist, a meaty flavor from the caribou (hey, it's Alaska) without being overly gamey.

Fairbanks: Sam's Sourdough

A visit to the very interesting Museum of the North and the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus took me up to lunchtime. I enjoyed a nice lunch at Sam's Sourdough near campus. Sourdough is Alaska slang for an old timer. I ordered the fried cod and fries. The cod in Fairbanks is excellent and this sample was quite nice. I concentrated on the fish with just a little taste of bread.