Portland Bites

Portland is renowned for great eating so this list isn’t even a sliver of some of the fantastic restaurants waiting for you in PDX. However, try these and then try more.

Breakfast:

Tin Shed Cafe

Tin Shed Garden Cafe is probably nowhere near wherever you might be but that matters not. Get a car or a cab and go over there because the biscuits are so good they’ll make you wanna slap yo mama. They make a stellar bloody mary, they have covered patio seating, they’re dog friendly and you serve yourself coffee while you wait. This place rocks. Go check it out.

Lunch:

Byways Cafe

Byways is the cutest little truck stop cafe that’s nowhere near a truck stop. The interior is all travel related with suitcases and license plates, collectible plates and red vinyl booths. The coffee comes in mismatched mugs from all over the US, the sandwich bread is thick cut and perfectly grilled and it’s the kind of place that makes you think you might pack a bag and head out on an epic American road trip. But you won’t do that today because there’s more eating to do. So instead, have another cup of coffee and plan your next vacation over a great sandwich.

Mid afternoon munchies:

Clyde Commons

Clyde Commons is a European style tavern with shi shi food and big common tables. They serve food most hours of the day but I love their happy hour specials with a seat at the window so I can people watch. $3 small plates and $5 cocktails. Win and Win.

Dinner:

Veritable Quandry

That’s pate, ya’ll. And it’s delicious. Veritable Quandary is a lovely space with fantastic food and attentive bartenders. We spent a week in Portland and I think I spent 4 evenings here after work. Don’t miss the spicy fried cashews. They’re spectacular.

Departure Lounge

Maybe you need one more drink or maybe you just need a view? Then go to Departure Lounge for the best view of downtown Portland. There are several bar and restaurant spaces in this one building and the outside patio has reclined seating and heat lamps for chilly nights.

I imagine it’s always busy but the view is worth it.

Seattle for One Day

Breakfast:

5 Points Cafe

5 Point Cafe is a divey 24 hour diner in downtown Seattle right near the EMP and the Space Needle. They promise to cheat tourists and drunks and their motto is “Don’t be a dick.” Do I need to tell you that their bartender serves the best bloody mary you’ve ever had when you’ve been up for 36 hours straight and perhaps you don’t remember all of those hours…? Not that I would know about that. But I do know that The Mess is the best crispy pile of potatoes, veggies, bacon and eggs that you could ever hope to have after a long night of mayhem. If you’re the kind of person that loves a good breakfast happy hour, you’ll love 5 Point Cafe .

But maybe you don’t like to drink your breakfast and you’d prefer some light and a view of the Capitol Hill neighborhood?

Glo's Cafe

Then try Glo’s. The walk is uphill, the space is tiny and you’ll wait for quite a while but the food is fresh, excellent and worth it. So, go to Glo’s, put your name in, sit outside to wait and bring a newspaper so you’re all current on the world’s affairs by the time you get to breakfast. There are many worse ways to spend a morning.

Lunch should probably be quick because you spent the morning seeing the Space Needle and the Chilhuly Glass Gardens

Space Needle, Seattle

(you did, right??) and you really need to see the Experience Music Project (EMP) before you leave town.

So, go for sushi.

Blue Sushi

Blue C Sushi has colored coded plates on a conveyor belt making it easy to order just as much sushi as you’ll actually enjoy and eat immediately. The crispy won tons with edamame dip are great and if you leave Seattle without trying wild salmon sashimi, I’d consider it a travesty. Order from the chefs if you want something special and this is the one place that I recommend visiting when it’s busy because the chefs are jamming, the fresh sushi is coming out steadily and there’s no waiting for anything. Just crack open a pair of chop sticks and dig in.

The afternoon is the EMP.

Experience Music Project

The intimate concert space full of couches where you can lounge and watch recorded live performances and interviews with musicians famous and infamous is worth the price of admission. And then there’s the rest of the Project. The installations change regularly but we saw great exhibits on Jimi Hendrix, the Grunge movement, the history of the leather jacket charting it’s course from airmen through bikers to musicians and the basement was completely taken over by sci fi monsters and the history of horror films. Ecelectic and interesting, the EMP is a don’t miss experience if you’re visiting Seattle.

And now dinner. If you’re doing classic Seattle, then go down to the wharf and eat at the Crab Pot.

The Crab Pot

Giant piles of seafood and tiny hammers with which to attack it. Roll up your sleeves, put on that cheesy plastic bib and eat your weight in fresh crab legs and boiled red potatoes. By the end of the night the napkins will surround you in massive heaps, covering all those chunks of corn you pushed to the side, and there won’t be an unsqueezed lemon anywhere to be found. Expect to hear “I can’t eat another thing” followed by “Is that the last shrimp?” at least once before the end of the evening.

If you want dinner without a plastic bib, go here:

How to Cook a Wolf

Inspired by M.F.K. Fisher’s book of the same name (fantastic, you should read it), chef Ethan Stowell designed How to Cook a Wolf‘s menu around fresh ingredients and simple preparation. He offers small plates, excellent pastas and an impressive Italian wine list. It’s a tiny place that’s good for an intimate dinner for a small group.

After dinner drinks at a speak easy? No problem.

Knee High Stocking Co.

You can find the Knee High Stocking Co. by way of a tiny sign near an otherwise unmarked door in a windowless building after you’ve made a reservation by texting the number on the website. The inside is all dark wood tables and shiny bottles of booze framed by beautiful murals, the drinks are inventive and they serve food late but it’s tiny small so don’t bring a big group.

Maybe the sun’s coming up when you leave Knee High? In that case, hit the 5 Point Cafe and order a bloody mary to sustain you as you stagger home. Tell the bartender to make it extra spicy.

Eating in Southern California

Start with breakfast in Huntington Beach at The Sugar Shack

The Sugar Shack

Sun, scrambled eggs and perfect crispy hash browns. Is there a more perfect breakfast? Take your time. Hang out. Have another cup of coffee and then wander down to the pier and watch the surfers catching waves. This is Southern California breakfast at its finest.

There are a couple choices for lunch starting with Sankai in Costa Mesa

San Kai

Yes it’s in a strip mall. I know. Go anyway because the fish is fresh and you can sit outside. Plus sushi is the prettiest food you’ll ever put in your mouth.

But maybe tacos are more your thing? Then head south to Carlsbad and go to Cessy’s Taco Shop

Cessy's Taco Shop

The thing I love most about the Southwest and Southern Cali is that you can get better Mexican food off a red plastic tray in a glorified taco truck than you get in most sit down restaurants up north. Cessy’s has great tacos. Get lots of salsa and go to town on the fresh hot chips. Lunch. Bam!

How about dinner by the water on Harbor Island?

Island Prime - C Level

That’s macadamia nut encrusted baked brie from Island Prime – C Level. Yum. We had a table overlooking the water where we could see the boats sailing in the bay and at night you can see the San Diego city skyline. Island Prime serves classy food in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s classic California.

Stop at the Hotel del Coronado for drinks before you head home.

Hotel del Coronado

A historic landmark with 125 years of rich California beach history, Hotel del Coronado has beautifully landscaped grounds and a gorgeous bar so it’s worth a visit.

End your evening by watching the sun set over to the ocean. Because that’s why you came to California, right?

Pacific ocean

Denver Eats

Breakfast:

Snooze

Snooze

There might be a lot of places to get eggs and pancakes in Denver but for most Denverians (Denverites?), Snooze has the best breakfast in town. With french toast specials, bright yellow tables and an atmosphere of comfortable chaos, I have to agree. It’s a wait to get in but it’s worth it and once you’re seated the service is cheerful and prompt and the food comes fast. Pictured above is the Spuds Deluxe (hash browns covered with cheese, scallions, veggies and meat topped with an egg), the french toast special covered with crushed ginger snap cookies and some whipped cream and several kids meals. The Uno cards come separate.

Or perhaps something vegetarian?

Savory Oatmeal at City O' City

Savory Oatmeal at City O’ City

City O’ City‘s got you covered. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen savory oatmeal, which was exactly what it sounds: oatmeal and grilled veggies topped with an egg, shredded cheese and toasted almonds. And pretty delicious. City O’ City is a bar/cafe/restaurant and while the service is a bit dismissive, the space is beautiful and the food is good.

Or perhaps you want breakfast at 2AM or 3PM?

Tom's Urban 24

Tom’s Urban 24

As the name suggests, Tom’s Urban 24 is open 24 hours a day and serves breakfast all 24 hours. The decor resembles the upbeat 50’s retro look of Snooze but slightly less cheerful. However, if you’re coming in at 2AM, chances are good you aren’t coming for the service… I wouldn’t cross town to get here but between Sam’s #3 Diner and this place, no one should ever want for breakfast at any hour of the day in downtown Denver.

Lunch:

Smash Burger

It’s quick and it’s fresh, it’s SmashBurger. Burgers several different ways with a choice of sides (veggie fries were delish) and beer pairings. That’s it. But that’s enough.

There are a lot of good dinner options but I’m going to recommend Euclid Hall.

Euclid Hall

A classy beer hall where they have house brews and really good food, Euclid Hall is great for lunch or dinner. Or maybe you come for lunch and then just have a few more beers and stay for dinner? It’s cozy with all that dark wood and windows. I wouldn’t judge you if you decided to spend an afternoon that way. I might even join you.

Still up and about and want to see a few more places? Ok then. How about Green Russell?

Green Russell

Yeah, that says Pie. But it’s not a pie shop, it’s a speakeasy. You’ll have to make reservations in advance to get in and then find the very un-obvious doorway and endure the hostess scrutiny but once in, you’ll love it. Green Russell has a beautiful bar with bartenders who will custom blend a drink just for you based on your tastes (um… whiskey… a little bit smoky… slightly sour… perhaps some citrus?) and loads of late night food. I’d highly recommend getting the absinthe service that comes in a big glass jar with silver decanting spigots because it enhances the 1920’s prohibition feel of the place. This bar is perfect for a small group of friends and it’s a great ending to any evening out.

But if you aren’t done quite yet, wander over to the Tarantula.

The Tarantula

The Tarantula

Sticky floors, dim lights, pool tables, cheesy fries and an industry discount for stagehands. If you love any of these things, you’ll love this place.

And as a final note:

Before I die

Get out and walk around Denver a little. The public art is as great the restaurants.

A few things in Philadelphia

Some days you get started late and then breakfast happens at noon.

It’s totally ok because Green Eggs Cafe has you covered. They serve breakfast until 4pm, and not just any breakfast but elegant perfectly proportioned breakfast like the pancetta, spinach and sun dried tomato benedict above. The food is delectable, the atmosphere is calm and easy, it’s like Sunday morning but better because it’s Monday afternoon and you have nowhere to be all day. Take your time. Order a tempura fried “twinkie” cake, cream filled homemade sponge cake served with strawberries as an homage to the soon-to-be-vanished-forever (maybe) Hostess twinkie. Breakfast dessert. It’s what I’m saying.

Then because it’s Philadelphia, birth place of our American government, walk off some of the twinkie calories and go visit the Liberty Bell

Yes, it looks exactly like the pictures. Yes, it’s cracked and it will never ring again. Yes, you should see it anyway. As my friend Corey said, “it’s so fitting that we revere an ill-made cracked bell as the symbol of liberty and justice for all.” An imperfect symbol of an imperfect idea but they both endure.

The Liberty Bell Center is built on the foundations of George Washington’s house, with sketched out windows and doorways and views down into the basement where his slaves lived

America has a lot of dirty laundry and it’s good to revisit it every now and then, to take a good look at the past so we don’t repeat it. I think this space is beautifully curated. There’s a lot of information here about the beginnings of the United States and the fight against slavery and it’s winnowed down to some key highlights and displayed well in this architectural format.

Independence Hall is across the road and since you’re right here and it’s free, you should visit. There’s not a lot to recommend the tour since all the rooms in the Hall have been renovated and filled with reproduction furniture but take a second to think about the men that created our constitution in that space. Somehow 13 different colonies all sent representatives and they stayed in these rooms until they’d hammered out an agreement everyone could sign. Imagine that happening now. I can’t. It’s borderline miraculous that we have a working government now, even with all its faults.

Now that you’re overloaded on history, do an abrupt 180 and cleanse your viewing palate with a visit to the Mutter Museum.

Skulls, conjoined twins, preserved human organs in formaldehyde. Yes, not kidding. This is the Museum of Medical Oddities and if ever you’ve wondered what typhoid does to your intestines or how many things people “accidentally” swallow, all your questions and more will be answered in this curious place. I wouldn’t recommend it to kids under 10 but for the rest of you, go visit. To honor the 200th anniversary of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, there’s an exhibit about fairy tale creatures and how they could actually be real. Fascinating. Also, there are books bound in human skin. I’ve run out of words. Just go check it out.

Now you need a drink? Of course you do

Village Whiskey’s Erin go Bragh flight of Irish whiskeys should be just the thing. It’s not cheap but it is delicious. They serve bar snacks but they’re only ok. It’s really all about the whiskey. And it’s a small little place so don’t bring a big group.

Dinner? Alright then.

How about hot pink walls and all you can eat tacos at Distrito? The neon lighting and funky decor remind me of Boca del Lobo in Quito Ecuador but the food at Distrito is so much better than Boca. Tiny tacos of pollo (ok), carnitas (good), lengua (really good), hongos (amazing) and mahi mahi (mind blowing) just keep coming to the table one after the other. When they say “all you can eat” they really mean it. Check out the wall of lucha libre masks, the swing chairs upstairs and get your picture taken in the taxi car table. This place is really fun and the food is really good. I’m a huge fan.

Now maybe a movie? See Skyfall and watch James Bond go off the reservation and loose his 007 status before roaring back to save the day in the nick of time. He’s getting old, that Bond, but he’s still got it going on. Same goes for Daniel Craig.

More Philly next week. Stay tuned.

In and Around Pittsburgh

If you ask about breakfast in Pittsburgh, you’re going to hear about DeLuca’s

They’re famous for big sloppy piles of diner food and long lines out the door to get at them. There’s nothing fancy here and no attention paid to presentation but the service is fast and warm, the food is good and if you sit at the bar, the cooking show at the grill is quite a sight to behold.

I wouldn’t recommend Bikram directly after this breakfast, but if you want to sweat out some of the calories an hour or so later, try Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh in their big studio space on Penn Ave.

I happened to be in town on the weekend Mary Javis was teaching (one of Bikram’s very first students and now one of his most senior teachers) so I dropped in on her class and 2 hours later we had just completed the standing series. It was intense. She talks a lot. But she lives and breathes Bikram yoga and she’s incredibly approachable and informative. If you get a chance to take her class, do it, and if you get to Pittsburgh, check out this studio. My only complaints are that they don’t encourage water bottles in class (which is rough during a Mary Jarvis class) and their bathrooms and showers aren’t very well laid out so there’s a lot of congestion. Otherwise, it’s a great space.

After a 3 hour Bikram class you’re probably ready for lunch so head over to Meat and Potatoes for a sandwich.

Sit at the bar, talk to the bartender, order the beer of the day and chow down on one of their massive delicious sandwiches. I got the Cuban style torta with smoked pork, pickled cabbage, avocado and cilantro and I couldn’t finish it. I love the whole vibe of this gastropub. It’s got just the right balance of lots of windows, dark wood, open space and mirrors and everything on the menu looks amazing. They open for lunch and their kitchen stays open until midnight, which is perfect for the theatre crowd right across the street.

If you want to stay in town, I’d recommend a trip to the Mattress Factory, a contemporary art museum near the Warhol (which is also worth a visit). They have a couple of outstanding permanent collections, including this one by Greer Lankton that is by itself worth the price of admission.

Make sure you also walk down Jacksonia street to check out Randyland

and talk to Randy if you get a chance. He’s an interesting guy and he loves visitors.

But really you should get out of town because the most worthy attraction in all of Pennsylvania is only a short drive away.

Fallingwater. One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses. There aren’t many online pictures of the interior of this house because they forbid photography during the tours and it’s probably just as well since pictures do it no justice at all. The magic comes in standing inside the living room and looking through floor to ceiling windows at the rushing waters of Bear Run right under you. The narrow hallways and ingenious window tower up the center of the house, the story of how Mr. Kaufmann wanted to build on this location because it’s where he proposed to his wife (Frank Lloyd Wright built their house around the boulder where they stood), the airy guest quarters, the eclectic art work and the thousands of acres of conserved forest all around the house. It’s brilliant and you need to go visit to really get it. Smithsonian magazine named it one of the top 28 locations to visit before you die, so believe them if you don’t believe me.

Even better, on the way to Fallingwater you can stop in at the Big Mac Museum and get your picture taken in front of the 14 foot Big Mac sculpture

Just like I did. There’s also a small display of vintage McDonald’s merch and a timeline of the Big Mac evolution, a sandwich that was “invented” right down the road.

But there’s no need to actually eat a Big Mac, just get all educated about them and then drive back to Pittsburgh for dinner at Sharp Edge Bistro, the Belgian beer bar that isn’t just for beer nerds

Get the mussels with bleu cheese and bacon (amazing) but take a pass on the frites (not quite crispy enough) and have a Palm with it. The bartenders are knowledgable, the glassware array behind the bar is mind boggling and their kitchen stays open late. I’ve also had belgian waffles here that were killer.

For after dinner cocktails I suggest Salt of the Earth, a Kevin Sousa restaurant

Communal tables, an intriguing chalkboard menu taking up one whole wall that lists dishes by their main ingredient, hand mixed cocktails and attentive table service. The bourbon cocktail I had was incredible with hints of apple and cardamom but I didn’t know quite what to make of the food we ordered. I didn’t love anything I tried but I feel that I might have been in the wrong state of mind. I’m intrigued enough to go back for dinner and I unhesitatingly recommend them for drinks and conversation.

And that’s a little taste of Pittsburgh, a town in which I always seem to find something new and interesting whenever I visit. For other suggestions, check out these posts from earlier in the year.

A Day in Washington DC

A few suggestions:

Start with Bikram at Bikram Tysons in McLean Virginia.  They have a large lovely studio that’s just hot enough and big bathroom facilities with 3 showers. Carol led class with just enough fuerza and vigor but without some of the stridency that can accompany the Bikram dialogue. We got icy lavender scented towels during the final savasana and they had a $20/first week special for new students. It was my first class back in about 5 months and I loved it.

Locolat Cafe for Breakfast
Locolat is a Belgian cafe in Adams Morgan specializing in waffles and beer and things you might put on waffles (like smoked salmon and asparagus) or eat while you drink beer (like chocolate). It’s a cute little place with a big glass case of luscious pastries and a very decent Belgian beer list. I’d recommend avoiding the “red hot mimosas,” which were overpriced and badly mixed with cheap champagne but the waffles were stellar and the portion sizes perfect. The service was a bit absent minded but we weren’t in a hurry so it wasn’t an issue. They’re closed on Mondays.

National Postal Museum
When I said “Let’s go to the National Postal Museum!”, 2 friends said “Why?” That’s probably the reaction most of you had . However, you should go anyway and here are the reasons why:

1. It’s free.
2. It’s interesting. Mail has been shockingly important to the building of American communities.
3. The mail trebuchet. Yes, it’s a mail flinging device. No, I won’t describe it. You have to go see it.
4. Washington DC has A LOT of museums. Most of them are focused on art. This one isn’t. It’s worth a visit for that reason alone.
5. It’s small so it won’t take long and you’ll feel interestingly educated afterwards. Plus, stamps are beautiful.

Busboys and Poets for Lunch
Classic Washington DC establishment with a couple different locations. Hipstery, organic, good with the vegetarian/vegan/gluten free selections and also an art gallery/homage to political revolutions. If this is your kind of place, you’ll love it. Come for the paninis, stay for the poetry slam.

Renwick Gallery – Best 40 Under 40 exhibit
2 museums, Kaitlyn? Yeah, I know. But it is DC and there are SO many museums, most of which are worth visiting. I always enjoy the Renwick because it’s the perfect size and can well experienced in under an hour. Their permanent collection is on the top floor and I particularly like the giant salon with pictures hung in groups. If you’re in DC sometime soon, go see this temporary exhibit of the top 40 Craftsman in America under 40 years old for a glimpse into the past and future of American Craftsmanship. Pieces range from a meditation room (definitely go in) to a room covered in knitted pieces called “Knitting is for Pus****” and a set of fierce sculpted metal talon gloves. If this is America’s craft future, I think technology will only become more involved in the artistic process but it won’t replace the need for real artistic technique. That makes me hopeful.

Georgetown Cupcakes for a late afternoon sugar jolt
Is the cupcake craze ever going away? I keep thinking it might but then nothing arises to take it’s place. I’m waiting for the cake pop revolution. Until then, these are the best cupcakes in DC. No question.

The Hamilton for pre dinner drinks
Upscale, classy joint with well mixed drinks and late night food. Makes you feel like maybe you might want to get involved in politics or have an affair with a politician. Very DC.

Firefly for dinner
Part of the GussiedUpComfortFood movement. In a good way. The restaurant interior is charmingly wooded, literally, with a nice tree swing for photo ops. The menu has a great selection of small plates they call Urban Picnic. The deviled eggs were spicy creamy bites of heaven, as were the pimento cheese fritters. I cleansed my palate with a chopped kale salad with smoked pumpkin seeds that was flavorful and with a bright vinaigrette to offset the kale’s natural bitterness. The vegetable risotto with goat cheese might have been the best risotto I’ve ever tasted and I also liked the shrimp and grits, which made up in flavor what it lacked in photogenic appeal. The firefly/outdoor theme was consistent but not overwhelming and they gave us our  check in a little mason jar with a light in it. Cute, right? We got there early and had no trouble getting a table but it filled up quickly so I’d recommend reservations.

For dinner you could also try Burger, Tap and Shake where they serve a Southern Comfort burger with pimento cheese on it and adult ice cream shakes with booze in them. Order the sides to share though, everything’s big here. Or District Commons, which is right next door and has an amazing (though expensive) seafood cobb salad.

Or perhaps EatBar in Arlington for dinner (if you want to get out of the city)
EatBar is the best kind of Gastropub because they have a nice selection of vegetable dishes and over 40 bottles of wine on tap. On tap! The Bang Bang Broccoli was fantastic as were the fried green tomatoes. I’d take a pass on the roasted cauliflower, were I you but definitely try the Cheasapeake Clam Roll (that’s how they spell it. Don’t ask me.) This is a cozy little bar with great food and killer atmosphere. They have movie nights too.

51st State Tavern for post dinner drinks
We watched the election returns here. Can you tell? Foggy Bottom has a fair number of great neighborhood bars and 51st State is one of them. Late night food. Good drink prices. Upstairs/downstairs. Fun times.

I’d also recommend Lindy’s Red Lion home of the beer helmets and sandwiches and chips served on paper plates, Froggy Bottom Pub with it’s sticky floors, basement bar and $6 doubles (more like quadruples…), and Old Ebbitt Grill with the half off raw bar after 11pm.

Now go back to your hotel and get some sleep. You’ve had a busy day!