Many of my blog posts include mentions of food. Alas, a good hearty meal before and after a shoot is a good idea, especially since you are on your feet for 8-14 hours a day. If you are one of the 5 people who have read my blog from the beginning, you may see some repetition, but in the great tradition of "the man who made lists", I shall make a list.
I have had a few conferences and numerous shoots in Bean Town. There are enough hospitals in Boston to care for millions of people. One of my favorite restaurants is in the North End and is called Limoncello. Rumor has it the owner won Powerball and opened this restaurant with his winnings. Good move. The butternut squash ravioli are worth the trip. Next time I'm in town my gluten-aversion will be placed in my hotel room safe and I'm there. The owner treats every guest like family. A trip to the North End would not be complete without a trip to Mike's bakery for the best Italian pastries this side of the Atlantic.
Although I have lived in CT since 1990, I rarely eat out. My wife and I prefer to cook at home. When we do go out, it is usually a special occasion. For fancy schmancy eating, we have a few great steakhouses. However steakhouses tend to be pricey, so these are not frequent destinations. Carmen Anthony's Steakhouse in my hometown of Waterbury, CT is supposed to be pretty good. Don't tell Carmen, but we like the Outback!
Speaking of steak, what better place to sink your teeth into some dead cow than Texas (sorry Bessie). I have been to Dallas the most number of times. There are some great restaurants there. Most recently I was there for a conference, so that meant 4 nights of fine dining. Ok, so I didn't have a big steak dinner on this trip, but bear with me. Il Sole, arestaurant and wine bar had a prix fixe chef's menu featuring 3 mini entree items, including braised short ribs and a dessert, each accompanied by a glass of wine. The food was astoundingly good. As for my ability to walk straight, luckily I had taken a cab from the hotel! Another great place is Uncle Julio, a Mexican restaurant serving a combination of classic dishes and dishes you would never expect to see at a Mexican joint. As for the classic steak place, there are a few good choices in the West End, just a stone's throw from the grassy knoll. Oddly, I usually find myself having Cajun at Pappadeaux at least every other visit. Overall, there is no shortage of good eats in Dallas.
Now if you want a great steak, travel downriver to San Antonio. The famous Riverwalk, as depicted in film classics like Cloak and Dagger with Dabney Coleman, is a mecca for tourists, and mediocre restaurants. Here's a tip - ask a local for a good restaurant. And by "local" I mean someone who does not work at your hotel. Kids working at the hotel desk making $8 an hour don't go out to eat. I asked my local colorectal surgeon for a recommendation, and he led me to Little Rhein Steakhouse. Housed in the first two-story structure in San Antonio, it was here that I had the reigning Mike Cohen Best Steak of All Time World Champion. I can't explain it, but this tenderloin remains the tastiest hunk of cattle I've ever eaten. I recently experienced #2 (see San Francisco below).
We can skip Houston since that was another wannabe steakhouse, and move on to greener pastures.
In LA, and any other city with a PF Chang's, I choose a meal there if I have the time and the choice. Other good meals have included Gladstone's right on the beach in Malibu, where you can see the odd movie star knocking back raw seafood if you keep your eyes peeled, but a nice sourdough bread filled with clam chowder makes a nice early dinner, if you happen to be catching a red-eye and have the afternoon to kill. On my most recent trip, pre-red-eye, I had a bowl of hearty Guiness Stew and a pint of the main ingredient at you guessed it, an Irish Pub. Could have been Finn McCool's. I have enjoyed this same hearty meal at pubs in San Diego (The Field in the Gaslamp area) and Toronto (Irish Embassy on Yongue St).
You can throw a dart at a map and likely find a good restaurant. There are too many to name them all. My dad always asks if I am going to Scoma's down around Fisherman's Wharf. I have been there once, but the wait was not worth it in my opinion, although I was by myself. More recently I have discovered the E and O Trading Company, a trendy fusion restaurant and Ideale, a simple wholesome intimate Italian eatery in North Beach. The list goes on...
Seattle deserves a quick mention for the odd 13 Coins - again, if you have time for dinner before hitting the airport, this place is in fact, across from the airport. The decor is unique and the menu is roughly the size of the Yellow Pages.
Other unique eating experiences have included:
Phoenix - Haus Murphy's in Glendale. Glendale is a little village with lots of "antique shops" if you take "antique" to mean "tag sale." Hey the place was packed.
St. Louis - The trendy Central West End has a few good restaurants, an historic old art deco hotel and a surprisingly gourmet supermarket called Straub's. From the outside it looks like Big Bob's Beer and Groceries. On the inside it is Zabar's. Look it up.
Omaha - Aside from the great zoo (Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom ring any bells?) the town has a "warehouse district" filled with shops and restaurants. If you are ever stuck there with no earlier flights home available, you won't go hungry.
Philadelphia - Another town with an abundance of great dining options. You have to try Geno's or Pat's for cheese steaks. If you are looking for a nice dinner, head over to Rittenhouse Square and you will find a number of cool places.
Ok this is getting old, let me finish up. Hey, can I please get another soda. Thanks
Cities one might not equate with fine dining
This is a misleading statement, because most cities large or small have a few local eateries that are both well-known and good, even to a non-local.
Bern's Steakhouse. Here I go with the steakhouses again. Oh well. I saw this one on the Food Network. You walk in and the 1960's velvet wallpaper hits you and you wonder when the scantily clad ladies will begin to parade into the room. But I was with a female co-worker, so I knew there would be no shenanigans. The main dining room is low-key, dimly lit but the real magic happens after the meal. The food was typical steak house - a bit pricey, but good. I had the filet mignon and the onion soup. When you order your dinner, you need to make reservations for dessert and the tour. Let me explain. Betwixt dinner and dessert, you get a guided tour of the kitchen, the salad station, the indoor live fish tanks and the wine cellar featuring a $10,000 bottle of something dusty and old. Apparently there are more fish tanks on the roof. Perhaps the proximity to Busch Gardens and Sea World got the better of the owners, but no worries. After dinner you are taken upstairs to the dessert dining room. The seating consists of cozy booths made out of disused wine barrels. In each booth is a Jetson's control panel that lets you pick your mood music, select the live piano music or even use an intercom to send requests to the pianist. I don't know if this is still the case as it has been a while since I was there. Definitely a memorable meal. On a more recent trip to Tampa I discovered the Fly Bar in the up and coming yet not quite there yet downtown area. They have a nice selection of small plates, including Boneless Kobe Beef Shortribs. Youch!
Ok, so Orlando is known for a lot of restaurants, however many of them involve costumed characters. That being said, if I happen to be in town for a few nights, I cannot help but visit my favorite Disney Resort, the Polynesian, and have dinner at O'Hana. The grilled meats on skewers may be similar to Brazilian restaurants, but the view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show makes it extra special. No admission required. Plus you can take a free monorail ride after dinner.
I could continue with a list of cities and restaurants, but these are the memorable ones. Then there are the cities I never see in the daylight - arrive, get a car rental, find the hotel, find a meal (Olive Garden (blech), Macaroni Grill (glauch), Bertucci's (hmm, sometimes ok) don't get me wrong, chain restaurants can be ok but we have those at home. What we don't have at home is a Duo of Elk Filets or Buffalo Prime Rib. Nice.), go to bed, wake up at 5am, go to work, get out get to airport fly home, get home at 1am, eat beans on toast.
In the end, we need to eat. A hearty, healthy alcohol free meal the night before a shoot is a great idea. A hearty meal with a celebratory drink after a successful shoot is a nice reward.
May I interest you in one of our locally made desserts or a cup of coffee? Perhaps you'd like to try the cheese plate? No, ok then let me get your check. Please tip generously, waiters often make minimum wage.
Thanks for reading.