Empire Diner in Chelsea

Empire Diner in Chelsea

As we were looking for a place to eat after a solo exhibit from one of Jodi’s friends, Patty, trying to go back home before the announced storm that fortunately did not happen, we stumbled upon Empire Diner, an upscale retro diner serving an elevated fare. For sure, the mural on top of it from Eduardo Kobra called "Mount Rushmore of Art" and representing famed artists Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat attractedour eyes as we walked on 10th avenue.

Italian dinner at Tuscany Steakhouse

Italian dinner at Tuscany Steakhouse

If you step in Tuscany Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan, you would never guess that it is a Steakhouse and would more be inclined to think that it is an Italian restaurant, the masculine decor of classic steakhouses being totally absent. But it will stop there: as soon as you get the menu, you understand where you are but cannot not help but notice some Italian dishes here and there that set the tone. But then you are not sure what to do: Italian? Steak? Both?

Sociale in Brooklyn

Sociale in Brooklyn

As Jodi was part of an exhibit in Henry street in Brooklyn, I proposed to have dinner nearby and found Sociale, an Italian restaurant that has been opened since 2013 and serves a contemporary cuisine. The place is not big and has the kind of atmosphere that makes you think it is your typical neighborhood restaurant, an atmosphere that I love. Food wise, we were there for a treat; here is what we had:

Brunch at Grand Vin Kitchen and Bar in Hoboken

Brunch at Grand Vin Kitchen and Bar in Hoboken

Hoboken has great places for brunch. The last one we discovered in December was Grand Vin Kitchen and Bar. It was the same day as Santa Con and we were glad to see that they barred people participating in this annual pub crawl event, making this place quiet and enjoyable. Serving Italian and American fare, Grand Vin has a very interesting menu for brunch that makes it interesting and the kind of place I would go back to for sure!

Bierocracy in Long Island City

Bierocracy in Long Island City

We were walking on Jackson avenue in Long Island City, on our way to a restaurant when we noticed Bierocracy, a Central European beer hall. As it started to rain hard, we changed our plan and thought it could be nice to go there for lunch, dinner being probably packed and noisy. And we were half right: the place started empty but they had two parties: one on one side of the bar room and another one in the back, where they have a private room.

San Diego: Salud! By San Diego Taco Company

San Diego: Salud! By San Diego Taco Company

Our last meal in San Diego was at Salud! By San Diego Taco Company, a popular Mexican restaurant located in Barrio Logan. Crowded inside with a long line outside, I was really excited to try it. And I was even more when inside, the decor being really beautiful with its murals that are tattoo inspired and the car hoods on the wall.

San Diego: Ironside Fish & Oysters

San Diego: Ironside Fish & Oysters

For our last lunch in San Diego, we decided to go light as we planned an early dinner with our friends Ciara and David, before our flight home. So I found this seafood place that had a couple of vegetarian options for Jodi called Ironside Fish and Oysters. Located in Little Italy, this restaurant is quite big and has a beautiful sea themed decor, especially the wall full of piranhas…

San Diego: Juniper & Ivy by Richard Blais

San Diego: Juniper & Ivy by Richard Blais

We were really excited to be able to get a reservation at Juniper and Ivy, the restaurant of Top Chef alum Richard Blais where Executive Chef Anthony Wells creates a very creative menu that would for sure excite the culinary curious...unless vegetarian. I wish restaurants were keeping their menu online up to date because Jodi was excited to try their pasta with truffle, but unfortunately it was not there, their menu changing on a regular basis and the waiter did not really come back with options besides what was there written. So I left glad I got to try that place; Jodi was less enthusiastic than I was...Here is what we had:

San Diego: Donut Bar

San Diego: Donut Bar

The Donut Bar was our first target for sweets in San Diego, but, at 4:15pm on the Thursday we arrived there, they were already closed. A quick check on the hours mentioned 8am to sold out. What? First time I saw that besides at food trucks. Is it a way to create some sort of demand? I do not know, but what was sure was that we would go back as their menu looked really good, made of classic and innovative donuts. So we went back on our last day, at 8:45am thinking that, being a Sunday, lots of people would still be asleep. Wrong: there was a line from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.

San Diego: In-N-Out Burger

San Diego: In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out burger is not new to me as tried it few years ago in San Francisco. At the end of the post, I even wrote at the time: “If I went back to California, I would definitely go get a good burger there!”. So here we were with our friends David and Ciara. When we arrived, the place was packed, but, lucky for us, people right next to us left and so we got a table, granted that we could have sat outside.

San Diego: The Baked Bear

San Diego: The Baked Bear

Ice cream sandwiches are not a novelty and places proposing them have been popping up all over the place, whether in trucks or brick and mortar places. The Baked Bear is one of them. Created in San Diego in 2013 by Shane Stanger and Rob Robbins, this place is a bit overwhelming. Yes, there are so many combinations between cookies, brownies or doughnuts to the variety of ice cream and topping that it is endless. And they make their own cookies.

San Diego: The Taco Stand

San Diego: The Taco Stand

Serving Tijuana style tacos and burritos, The Taco Stand in La Jolla is the sort of casual eatery you would want in your neighborhood. When we went on a Thursday evening, at around 7:15pm, it was as if people gathered at the same time, filling the entire place, until the time we were ready to leave: no, when we arrived it was so crowded. After eating their food, I understood why: it was simply delicious. And cheap.

Los Angeles: Vegan dinner at Gracias Madre

Los Angeles: Vegan dinner at Gracias Madre

What would vegan Mexican cuisine taste? No meat is easy to imagine as you can end up with cheese enchiladas or mushroom tacos, but how do you make an entire menu without cheese? Vegan versus vegetarian can be so different. With its vegan menu, crafted by Chef Chandra Gilbert, Gracias Madre succeeded to offer a delicious meal and when a carnivore like me is excited by the experience, it probably tells you something.

Los Angeles: Hard Rock Café

Los Angeles: Hard Rock Café

Hard Rock Café is the quintessence of Americana: Rock, burgers and shakes are what comes to my mind when I think about this place. It is a fun place for sure that mesmerize amateurs of music, going around the dining room to look at some of the artifacts being a must do before or after a meal there. We went there with our friend Amy and her two kids, Bodie and Jaxon as we met in LA. It was that or Umami Burger that unfortunately closed in NY, but was further away and it was already late.