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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Money Travel Etiquette

Tipping in Greece: The Greece Tipping Guide

A vacation in Greece promises beautiful scenery, fresh and delicious food, and interactions with friendly locals. As a visitor, you’ll find yourself in plenty of situations in which you might naturally think to tip. But should you?

Tipping in Greece is customary, but is by no means obligatory. This Greece tipping guide will help you navigate when/where you can leave a little extra for great service.

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Tipping in Greece

[st_content_ad]Tipping in Greece may be expected in most places, but it is by no means an obligation. There is no set standard for how much to leave when service exceeds expectations, but there are certain times when it’s expected you’ll tip. For instance, some restaurants may round up the bill to include gratuity, so it is wise to look for this inclusion before tipping. Note that it’s also common for servers not to receive tips included on a credit card, so try to leave cash whenever possible so ensure the person you’re trying to tip actually receives the gratuity.

Want to know when to tip for other services? Read on to make sense of where, when, and how much to tip when you’re traveling in Greece.

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View of a narrow street in the old town of Thessaloniki, Greece

How To Tip In Greece

Cafe Server:

Greece doesn’t have a strong culture of tipping at cafes. But if there is a tip jar by the cash register, it’s a nice gesture to leave a couple of coins. For exceptional table service, round up to the nearest €1.

Restaurant Server:

A tip is typically expected, especially for stellar service, but some restaurants round up the bill to include gratuity. Check the bill first for these inclusions before deciding whether or not to tip. If there is no added tip, leave 5 to 10 percent, and a few coins on the table for the busser. Some restaurants may refuse gratuity for service, so if you’re unsure, you can certainly ask before tipping. There may be a “cover charge” on the bill, which covers the cost of bread and non-bottled water, but doesn’t include gratuity.

Bartender:

At bars, it’s not necessary to tip a bartender, as most do not expect it; but it is considerate to round to the nearest €1 for great service.

Tour Guides:

In Greece, it’s customary to tip tour guides. Tip €2 to €5 per person, per day for a group tour; and €20 per person, per day for a private tour.

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View of Greek Orthodox Church in Monastiraki Square and line of yellow cabs

Taxis:

A good rule of thumb is to round up to the nearest euro. This approach simplifies paying with cash, and it’s not an unusual way to tip without actually tipping. For exceptional service, or if you use a taxi driver for multiple stops, for a longer distance, or as a guide, you might add 5 to 10 percent of the final fare to your total payment.

Airport Shuttle Driver:

It is not necessary to tip your driver, but feel free to give €1 per bag if they help with your luggage.

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Doorman:

If a doorman assists with luggage or hailing transportation, a simple thank you is appreciated. But for exceptional service, it certainly wouldn’t be remiss to offer €1.

Bellhop:

At hotels, feel free to tip the bellhop €1 to €2 per bag delivered to your room, but no more than €5 total. 

Housecleaning:

At hotels, or in vacation rentals that have daily cleaning services, it’s customary to leave €1 per night, especially if the cleaner is doing a great job.

Front Desk at the Astra Suites

Concierge:

If the concierge goes above and beyond with helping you book reservations, giving you directions, and/or providing insider recommendations, it’s considerate to tip €5 to €10. For answers to quick questions, though, you shouldn’t feel obligated.

Stylist:

For haircuts, shampoos, trims, and shaves, it’s considerate, but not expected, to tip 10 percent of the final bill if you’re satisfied with your new look.

Spa Service Provider:

A tip isn’t expected, but you can leave up to 10 percent for anything that goes above and beyond your expectations. Simply ask for an envelope for the tip at the front desk, and then either deliver the envelope to your provider or leave the tip at the front desk.

Beachy Jumpsuit for Greece Adventure

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Cities Food & Drink Historical Travel

SmarterTravel Spotlight: Polcari’s Coffee Shop in Boston

If you spend a morning walking the narrow streets of the North End, Boston’s historically Italian neighborhood, the first thing you notice is how delicious it can smell. The scents of freshly baked bread and Italian pastries seem to waft through the air here, but before you pick up breakfast, I recommend stopping for coffee at Polcari’s.

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Your First Stop in the North End

At this old-school coffee shop on Salem Street, you can buy more than just a cup of coffee. With shelves full of coffee beans and other rare ingredients, Polcari’s Coffee is a kind of curiosity shop that local chefs love to peruse. Here, you’ll unearth spices and scents from all over the world in a shop covered in black and white photographs and Boston memorabilia. Behind the counter, you’ll find friendly staffers who are more than happy to chat about coffee varieties and North End history.

Local History

Opened in 1932 by Anthony Polcari, an immigrant from Italy, and staffed by his whole family, the store was eventually passed on to Anthony’s son Ralph. Today it is under the management of Bobby Eustace, who worked with Ralph Polcari for 26 years and is dedicated to keeping the history of the coffee shop and the Polcari family alive. The store is full of Old World flavor and opens its doors to locals looking for neighborhood comforts and tourists looking for a taste of Boston’s Italian history.

Stay Nearby

If you’re planning a trip to Boston, consider a stay in the North End, which is close to local attractions and full of history. And did I mention it smells like bread in the morning? You won’t find many hotels among the neighborhood’s well-preserved historic homes and restaurants, but the nearby Kimpton Onyx is comfortable and chic, and offers a free daily wine hour. This is a huge advantage on any trip to Boston, especially since happy hour specials are illegal in Massachusetts.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Cities Food & Drink Oddities

Italy’s First Starbucks Is a Roastery Reserve in Milan

When you think of enjoying an espresso in Italy, you probably don’t envision getting one at Starbucks. Italy is the same country that gave us the cappuccino, the macchiato, and—my personal favorite—the affogato, which comes with a big scoop of gelato. Drinking coffee in Italy is an event in itself, so it’s no wonder the country has resisted the super-sized coffee chain for so long. But with the opening of the first Starbucks in Italy, that attitude might be changing.

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The Starbucks Reserve and Roastery in Milan doesn’t just serve coffee. It’s a 25,000-square-foot stage telling the story of how coffee is made from the enormous Italian-made roaster to the bronze de-gassing cask, both of which sit in the center of the roastery. Located a minute’s walk away from Milan’s iconic Duomo (cathedral), the Roastery is housed in a historic post-office building on Piazza Cordusio.

In addition to the machinery on display, Italy’s first Starbucks will also feature an affogato station, bakery, outdoor terrace, and second-floor coffee and cocktail bar. With so much going on, the new roastery is sure to be a destination for any Starbucks fanatic visiting Milan.

This isn’t the first time Starbucks has opened a mega-location in hopes of enticing coffee-loving tourists. Both the Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle and the gargantuan Reserve Roastery in Shanghai rank high among the top coffee shops and attractions in their respective cities. While I’m sure the Milan location will be a hit with visitors, it has yet to be seen how local Italians will react now that the super-chain has gotten a foothold on their boot-shaped country. Starbucks also has plans to open smaller locations throughout Italy later this year.

It would be unwarranted for me to knock a stop at Starbucks in another country as an inauthentic way to travel: I’ve dropped into many Starbucks outposts while searching for free Wi-Fi, a bathroom, or just a hot to-go drink to warm my hands on a rainy sightseeing day. And every once in a while, the views have surprised me. In Tokyo, I got a bird’s-eye view of the world-famous Shibuya Crossing from the Shibuya Starbucks. On a rainy day in Prague, I charged my phone while watching clouds roll over the red-orange rooftops of the city at the Prague Castle Starbucks.

It will be interesting to see how Italians react to the new presence of the new coffee chain, but tired tourists looking for a second wind might be pleasantly surprised.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

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Cities Food & Drink

Bagel Heaven: Where to Find 5 of the World’s Best Bagel Varieties

Yes, traveling is all about trying the local food. But sometimes when you’ve been on the road for weeks, you just want a bagel for breakfast. If you’ve ever tried to satisfy this craving abroad, you know it usually leads to heartbreak and confusion. Fortunately, there are plenty of countries that have their own type of bagel—and you might even find it better than the classic New York variety. Here are the best bagels around the world to satisfy your carb cravings.

Girde Naan, China

[st_content_ad]Walk into any street market in the Xinjiang region of China and you’re sure to see piles of round, doughy goodness everywhere. Although the girde naan look identical to bagels, they’re made in a very different fashion. Girde naan are cooked in a tandoor oven, which gives them a crunchy crust and fluffy interior. Eat them fresh out of the oven, dunked in tea or soup as the locals do. Although the girde naan seem to have the exact same shape as a bagel, upon closer inspection,  you’ll find that the hole in the center is just an indent that doesn’t go all the way through—which means more carby goodness for you.

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Simit, Turkey

On a drive from the airport into Istanbul, I noticed hawkers selling round treats that resembled a wider, skinnier bagel on nearly every street corner. Had I landed in bagel heaven? Better—I’d arrived in the land of simit. Simit is a better bagel for people who prefer the crispy crust to the chewy inside. You’re not saving any calories by eating these though, as simit is usually twice the size of a regular bagel. Most of the versions of simit you’ll find will be topped with sesame seeds, but you can find versions with other seeds as well. To enjoy like a local, eat simit for breakfast with tea, or snag it as a snack and eat it plain in the afternoon.

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Bagel, Montreal

New York City and Montreal’s bagel rivalry is almost as big and long-standing as the Yankees-Red Sox feud. Montreal-style is a totally different type of bagel that reigns supreme north of the border. How will you know the difference? Montreal bagels are sweeter (the dough contains sugar and is boiled in honey-infused water). They are also traditionally cooked in a wood-burning oven to help give the crust some extra crunch. Since everything is bigger in America, the easiest way to differentiate between the two types of bagel is size—the Montreal-style ones are usually much smaller.

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Jerusalem Bagels, Israel

Oval-shaped, smothered in sesame seeds, baked—you’ll find Jerusalem bagels wrapped up in newspaper and sold by street vendors all over Israel. The best way to consume them: fresh from the oven and dipped in za’atar spiced oil.

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Obwarzanek Krakowski, Poland

Polish legend claims that Krakow bakers invented the bagel, but that story is in dispute. Who cares where it came from when it tastes this good? The obwarzanek is made using two woven strands of dough that intertwine to make a circle. The dough is boiled and topped with salt, poppy seeds, cheese, herbs, or spices. Don’t cut these in half to toast and spread with cream cheese—they are usually eaten whole, and always within a few hours of being baked.

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Caroline Morse Teel thinks the best bagels are found at Tal Bagels in New York City. Order the sunflower seed, toasted, with scallion cream cheese. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for food photos from around the world. 

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Adventure Travel Beach Family Travel Island Luxury Travel Romantic Travel Sustainable Travel

The British Virgin Islands After Hurricane Irma

“Irma was a bad woman.”

I’m in the passenger seat of a cab while visiting the island of Virgin Gorda when my taxi driver utters the name—Irma, the category five hurricane that pummeled the British Virgin Islands in 2017. On a Wednesday last September, Hurricane Irma hit the island chain with winds of up to 185 miles per hour, ripping up roofs, stripping the bark off trees, and destroying everything in its path.

“We’ve had category five storms before, but nothing like her. Never in my life have I seen something like that,” the cab driver says, shaking his head. And the islands’ struggle didn’t end with Irma; there was Hurricane Maria and the massive floods followed. For the first time in the territory’s history, the governor declared a state of emergency.

“She ain’t never allowed back here in the B.V.I.,” my driver went on. “We’re taking her passport away.”

As we rolled through the streets, my eyes lingered on traces of Irma’s destruction—dented boats hoisted onto grassy clearings and telephone poles perpendicular to the ground. It took six months before all of the islands in the B.V.I. had power restored. But by the time I landed in June, everything was back up and running.

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The B.V.I. Are Waiting for You

after hurricane irma
Cooper Island’s beach as seen from above

The B.V.I. are more dependent on tourism than any other island chain in the Caribbean, and about half of the tourism dollars in the British Virgin Islands are earned on the water. When exploring these islands, many people do so by boat, waking up anchored near one island and spending the night anchored off another. More than 2,000 of the beds currently available in the B.V.I. are at sea on boats; after the storm, many charter companies returned and the sailing industry made a quick recovery.

Hotels, however, are recovering more slowly after last year’s hurricane season. At the time of writing, there are 627 hotel beds available on land, compared to 2,700 before the storm. The experience hasn’t been the same on every island. For instance, on Tortola, the most populated island, many hotels are still rebuilding, while on Anegada, many of the hotels and villas reopened as early as February.

On Cooper Island, an islet southeast of Tortola that’s accessible by private or charter boat, rebuilding has been a slow but determined process. At the eco-luxury Cooper Island Beach Club, the resort worked hard to restore everything—including a cafe that rivals any in Brooklyn, a micro-brewery, and a rum bar with the largest selection of rum in the Virgin Islands—in time for its early April reopening.

Restoring paradise is no small task. Irma took out two docks and swept five feet of sand off the beach. “Nearly everything needed to be fixed,” said Patrick Brady, the resort’s Sustainability Engineer. “We have replaced most of the components of the solar and electrical grid due to saltwater intrusion.” That’s key because the resort’s rooftop panels supply 85 percent of the on-site energy. And the damage went way beyond what’s visible to guests. “Water pumps and electrical appliances have also been replaced. We also cleaned and resealed every cistern on the property due to contamination from saltwater and vegetation.”

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Once famous for its shady palm trees and large sea grape plants that lined the sand, the beach looks a little bare to returning guests. But Cooper Island Beach Club—which is a favorite stop among both visitors and locals—is back up and running, and is just as sustainable as it was before the storm. The beach is growing back, too, thanks to the Seeds of Love program that collects and plants donated seedlings from neighboring islands. Cooper Island still has its beautiful sunsets and the largest seagrass field in all of the B.V.I., and the Beach Club’s demand for its microbrews is as high as ever.

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A New Disaster  

after hurricane irma
Sargassum seaweed building up on the island of Anegada

Last year’s hurricanes are not the only sign of the looming menace of global warming. Sargassum seaweed—a brown and squishy sea plant with a faint odor—washing up on the shore is a new natural disaster in the Caribbean. With more of it than ever before, some resorts are clocking in extra morning hours to clear the seaweed, while on remote islands it’s accumulating into piles, some as high as 10 feet, that stretch all the way down the shoreline.

“It’s much worse than last year,” many locals told me, adding onto the list of storm griefs brought about by Irma. But as I’d learn later on my tour with Terrence, the Cooper Island Beach Club’s gardener and botanist, the seaweed is not actually a direct result of the storms.

Deforestation in the Amazon has led to more nutrients than ever before running off into rivers that deposit them into the sea, nourishing the seaweed colonies. Large blooms flourish in the warm water, forming enormous mats that are carried northward by wind and ocean currents—not just throughout the Caribbean, but also as far north as North Carolina.

On beaches throughout these areas, workers are clearing the seaweed not only for the sake of beachgoers who are put off by the smell and appearance, but also because it’s a danger to the marine life that gets tangled in it. On Cooper Island, I watched the team clear the seaweed early in the morning, but by the time I returned to watch the sun set over the peaks of Tortola, more sargassum had found its way back to shore. Each morning, they’ll have to clear it again.

Restoring Paradise

after hurricane irma
The sun setting over Tortola, as seen from Cooper Island

During my walk through the gardens at Cooper Island, I noticed an air succulent tied to a tree. Terrence pointed to the ground just three feet from the tree and said, “After the storm, I found it right there.” In the ferocious winds of Irma and Maria, this plant without roots held its ground. When he discovered it after the storms had passed, Terrence picked up the tenacious succulent and tied it back to its tree.

Rebuilding is a slow effort made of many small efforts, but in the B.V.I., people are putting the pieces back together—sometimes one plant at a time—with a deep commitment to keeping these islands beautiful and welcoming, hopefully for the generations to come.

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Jamie Ditaranto visited the British Virgin Islands as a guest of the BVI Tourist Board. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Oddities Travel Trends

7 of the World’s Craziest Fusion Foods

Sushi: delicious. Burrito: delightful. Combine the two together in a crazy fusion food mashup, and you’re practically guaranteed to double the amazingness.

Fusion Foods to Try

From sushi burritos to ice cream churros, here are seven of the world’s best hybrid delicacies you need to try. 

Poutine Pizza

[st_content_ad]Oh, Canada, you’ve done it again! Canadian Pizza Huts have proved their superiority to American ones by offering poutine pizza, which tops a regular cheese pizza with French fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Shockingly, according to Pizza Hut’s nutritional information, a personal pan poutine pizza will only set you back 690 calories, so go ahead and try this one without too much guilt. 

Mac and Cheese Waffles

Whether you want macaroni and cheese for breakfast or waffles for lunch, Brooklyn’s Arrogant Swine restaurant has you covered. The restaurant takes gooey macaroni and cheese and puts it in a waffle press, resulting in a gloriously crunchy waffle mac ‘n’ cheese hybrid that’s served with a cup of queso (not syrup) on the side.

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Ice Cream Trdelnik

To understand the majesty that is ice cream trdelniks, I must first introduce you to the trdelnik. This is a traditional Czech cinnamon-flavored pastry made by rolling dough around a cylinder and grilling it, and then topping the hollow treat with sugar. Some geniuses saw inspiration in the hole of the trdelnik and decided to fill it with ice cream, turning the pastry into a cone. Ice cream tredlniks can be found all over Prague, but one of the most famous spots to try this fusion food is the Good Food Café & Bakery.

Donut Grilled Cheese

Donuts are really underrated as a sandwich bookend—wouldn’t you rather have a donut surrounding your fillings instead of boring wheat bread? The Tom & Chee fast food chain thinks so, offering donut grilled cheeses done a variety of ways. Try the Original—two grilled donuts with melted cheddar cheese in the middle—or go even sweeter with the S’More: grilled donuts with chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow.

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Sushi Pizza

Is there any food you can’t top pizza with? The answer seems to be no, as evidenced by the fact that sushi pizza exists. Found at Itadaki in Boston, the sushi pizza features a fried rice cake as the crust, topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and a variety of fish.

Ramen Burger

If you think the best part of ramen is the noodles and not the broth, than you’ll love the ramen burger. Order it at Tatsu Ramen in California, and you’ll get a Wagyu beef patty topped with soft-boiled egg and green onion served between two ramen noodle buns.

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Sushi Burrito

The sushi burrito is probably the most popular of the fusion foods on this list—you can find this frankenfood everywhere (I’ve even seen it at Whole Foods). The sushi burrito swaps a tortilla for nori, meat for fish, and salsa for soy sauce—but the guacamole and rice remain the same.

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Caroline Morse Teel will travel for fusion foods. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos of food and scenery around the world.

Categories
Beach Cities Food & Drink Miscellany

10 Best Fort Myers Beach Restaurants

Located on Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach is both a township and a larger, more colloquial frame of reference. Its restaurants showcase a variety of cuisines and cultures, but many of the best Fort Myers Beach restaurants highlight the spectacular West Coast sunsets, feature outdoor seating, and make as much use as possible of the local bounty.

10 Best Fort Myers Beach Restaurants

Choosing between the best Fort Myers Beach restaurants is difficult, so here’s a list to help you narrow your choices.

The Dixie Fish Co.

fort myers beach restaurants

[st_content_ad]Fashioned after a classic Florida fish house, this favorite Fort Myers Beach restaurant, which began life in 1937 as a market selling mullet, snapper, clams, and oysters, has a stunning view of Matanzas Harbor. It’s not just waterfront dining—the restaurant patio actually sits out over the water. Grab a spot outside on the extensive dock and sup on the “pink gold,” the nickname that was given to the local fresh shrimp that are as plentiful as sunsets. You can also choose among a selection of freshly caught fish including grouper, mahi-mahi, snapper, and other Gulf fish.

With a tin roof and no windows, this open-air restaurant has weathered hurricane winds, tidal surges, and more. The Dixie Fish Co. also offers live music most evenings.

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill 

fort myers beach restaruants

Named for novelist Randy Wayne White’s well-known character, this sports-bar sibling to The Dixie Fish Co. is a waterfront institution. It’s also now a chain with three locations, but the original spot is within splashing distance of Dixie. Fare is mostly Caribbean-inspired fish and seafood, though there’s an occasional outlier (Maine lobster, Scottish salmon, Texas barbecue ribs). The menu is extensive, so even large groups won’t have trouble feeding everybody.

Randy Wayne White was a full-time fisherman before he started writing, and his personal history is detailed on the menu. Read it while you wait for your meal, or put the menu down, kick back, and listen to the live entertainment; it gives you a great glimpse into what Fort Myers Beach was like before it became a vacation spot.

Flipper’s on the Bay 

fort myers beach restaurants

Flipper’s offers peaceful surroundings even in the months when Fort Myers Beach feels inundated with tourists. Here, the tropical-centric menu brings seasonal harvests (citrus, mango, coconut, banana) and aquaculture (grouper, snapper, shrimp), and blends them with Latin staples (corn, beans and root vegetables). Executive chef Juan Cruz, an El Salvador native who trained with Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller, serves three squares per day in this lovely Lover’s Key Resort restaurant. His hand with mother sauces ties every dish together as if with silk thread.

Sit outside for a view of Estero Bay—you might even catch a glimpse of dolphins at play.

Fresh Catch Bistro

fort myers beach restaurants

You might have noticed a theme about the best Fort Myers Beach restaurants: They all follow a certain predictable equation. Great seafood + gorgeous views = a true winner. But the truth is, it’s easy to produce a superior sunset when you have the location. Just look west. The product, too, isn’t that hard to source—this is the Gulf of Mexico, after all. Putting it together the way Fresh Catch Bistro does is just a bit harder. This fine-dining spot is literally beachside—the sand is mere inches away—yet it manages to pull off table linens, genteel service, and stunning, five-star fare that’s beautifully plated.

Appetizers pull influences from all over the globe, but main courses are mix-and-match—you choose the protein (try the hogfish), the preparation (Caribbean jerk), and the sauce (with tropical fruit salsa). Technique is impeccable, and while an excellent wine list is on offer, the martinis here rock as well.

Heavenly Biscuit

fort myers beach restaurants

This cottage restaurant, which appears to have been transported from a Caribbean island, is justifiably famous. As such, it’s always busy—expect to wait in line to try the biscuits. Are they worth the wait? Yes—especially given what’s served alongside them, options that range from your typical eggs, bacon, smoked sausage or honey ham to a salmon steak, ahi tuna, fried chicken, or a country fried steak. 

The Heavenly Biscuit is open for breakfast/brunch and lunch, but only takes cash. Fortunately, there’s an ATM in the restaurant if you get carried away.

Hoosiers in Paradise

fort myers beach restaurants

If you’re from the Midwest and visiting Fort Myers for vacation, look no further. This neighborhood bar and restaurant will make you feel right at home, offering pork loin sandwiches and “spudskins” (half-cut potatoes filled with cheese, bacon and scallions, or chili and cheese). But it’ll also give you that home-away-from-home feeling, as it’s known for its fish tacos filled with beer-battered fried cod, homemade broccoli slaw, and sweet-hot habanero sauce. Picnic tables on a patio account for the “paradise” part of the name. Ultracasual and filling, Hoosiers in Paradise is the perfect way to recharge after a day at the beach.

The Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar

fort myers beach restaurants

For a dichotomous kind of dining, check out The Lighthouse at Port Sanibel Marina, which overlooks the waters that lead to Connie Mack Island. When you sit outside on the 160-degree deck—which is screened, incidentally, so no need for smelly bug spray—you have a dual landscape of superyachts and native wildlife. Inside, you’ll find a warm, homey lounge with nightly live entertainment, as well as an expansive, plantation-style dining room.

The staff here is stellar, serving sophisticated seafood dishes that take advantage of the regional influences, plus steaks, chops, poultry, and pastas. The Lighthouse specializes in special events, so large family or friend groups don’t throw them in the slightest.

Smokin’ Oyster Brewery

fort myers beach restaurants

First fact: The name of this Fort Myers Beach restaurant is mostly a misnomer. It’s neither a brewery nor a smokehouse, though it does serve oysters. Fact number two: Call it S.O.B. like a local. Why? Why not. Fact number three: If you leave a piece of memorabilia from your home to add to the international collection covering the walls, you’ll probably give yourself away as a visitor. But you’ll also be immortalized at this popular joint, which has been collecting such stuff since it opened in 1997. Then order an ice-cold beer, a bowl of chowder, bucket of crabs, or plate of fried seafood, and sit back and listen to the live music.

Like many of the best restaurants in Fort Myers Beach, S.O.B. has an outdoor seating area—in this case, a porch of the renovated home that serves as its locale. Take advantage, especially during sunset.

South Beach Grille

fort myers beach restaurants

Located in Santini Marina Plaza, South Beach Grille is named for and decorated to recall Miami’s Art Deco District. A former grocery store, the restaurant’s large dining room makes good use of its space with banquettes along one wall, a decorative bar along the other, an open kitchen at the back, and linen-covered tables throughout—all under a swirling geometric ceiling.

The fare is a global mix of seafood and meats, taking inspiration from New Orleans, Italy, Asia, and beyond. But it all works, given the high quality of the ingredients and the deft hands of the chefs. The staff can help you pair your meal with a drink from the generous wine list or a creative cocktail starring top-shelf liquor. For dessert, consider the fresh Florida citrus crème brulee or one of the spirited “ice cream” drinks instead.

Tuckaway Café

fort myers beach restaurants

Traveling with your pup? This European-style café welcomes dogs and humans, and offers free Wi-Fi to boot. Coffee drinks made with Lavazza espresso—not to mention fruit smoothies—are always in high demand, but this spot is more than simply a coffee house. For breakfast and lunch, there are two unique treats: authentic steamed bagel sandwiches loaded with fresh ingredients, and a traditional Liege “wafel,” made from a 400-year-old European recipe and topped with whipped cream.

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– Original reporting by Jen Karetnik

Categories
Cities Food & Drink Travel Trends Weekend Getaways

10 Best Restaurants in Chicago

Home to more than 40 James Beard Award-winning chefs and restaurants, Chicago has a thriving culinary scene that rivals that of any U.S. city. But accolades alone don’t define the best restaurants in Chicago. So while the recommendations below include plenty of award winners, I’ve also listed several restaurants visitors simply must experience to get a true taste of the Windy City.

The Best Restaurants in Chicago 

The following Chicago restaurants are an eclectic mix of fine dining, romantic, ethnic, and historic eateries that Chicagoans love dearly and dine at frequently themselves.

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North Pond

North pond

[st_content_ad]Perched on the tree-shaded shores of North Pond, the eponymous “earth-to-table” restaurant offers a dining experience memorable for both its setting and food. North Pond occupies a former ice skaters’ warming house built in 1912, with stunning views of the park and Chicago skyline beyond. Multiple James Beard Award-winning chef Bruce Sherman creates seasonal, contemporary American cuisine, including a six-course tasting menu featuring creative preparations of quail, venison, snapper, and pork tenderloin. The wine list showcases American small vintners. Dinner and Sunday brunch are served year-round, with lunch added from spring through fall.

Frontera Grill 

Frontera grill

Chef Rick Bayless and his wife Deann changed the landscape of Chicago restaurants when they opened their authentic Mexican eatery in River North in 1987. Today, foodies are still hungry for Frontera Grill‘s regional Oaxacan cuisine, including carne asada, mole poblano chicken enchiladas, wood-grilled shrimp tostadas, and tacos. Tortillas are handmade from organic heirloom corn from Mexico. Pair your heaping platter with a killer margarita.

Maple & Ash

Maple & ash

This swank Gold Coast restaurant in a sliver-thin high-rise offers a modern twist on Chicago’s traditional steakhouses. From the ground floor’s Eight Bar, where well-coiffed bartenders craft dazzling martinis, guests take the elevator up to the dining room with views of chefs roasting steaks and seafood over licking flames. Caviar atop wavy potato chips, glistening seafood towers, prime cuts of dry- and wet-aged steaks, and fluffy coconut cream pie tempt patrons to Instagram their dishes before digging in.

Lula Cafe 

Lula cafe

Urban grit meets veggie-centric gourmet at the bohemian Lula Cafe, a pioneering restaurant in Logan Square. Husband/wife co-owners Jason Hammel and Amalea Tschilds started serving sustainable, farm-to-table food more than 20 years ago. Seasonal ingredients dictate what’s for breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner—but menu staples include lake trout and arugula scrambled eggs, milk-braised pork cheek, and tender baby squid atop black risotto. Save room for dessert (the creamy carrot cake is particularly popular).  The modestly priced wines, craft beers, and cocktails are another reason why locals consider Lula Cafe one of the best restaurants in Chicago.

Avec

Avec

The constant line snaking out the door of this tiny West Loop restaurant says instantly that it’s one of the best places to eat in Chicago. Both the rustic space and food are designed to share, with diners seated at communal tables. The lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch menus feature Mediterranean small plates like grilled butcher’s steak, steamed mussels, chorizo-stuffed dates, and chardonnay vinaigrette-drizzled apple salad. Braised lamb, smoked whitefish pizza, and paella come in bigger portions. Wines hail from boutique vineyards in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, as do cheese plate selections.

Everest

Everest

This romantic French restaurant on the 40th floor of the Loop’s Chicago Board of Trade Building has been one of the best restaurants in Chicago for more than 30 years, racking up multiple James Beard Awards, AAA Five Diamonds, and Michelin stars. Everest owner/chef Jean Joho is from Alsace, France, and creates edible art on every plate, from roasted Maine lobster to Caspian Sea caviar. The roast rabbit preparation is based on a recipe served to King Louis XIV. The museum-quality art collection and views of Chicago’s glittering skyline make dining at this Relais & Chateau restaurant especially memorable.

Girl & the Goat 

Girl & the goat

If it’s adventurous dining you’re after, this West Loop restaurant is your go-to. It’s owned by Chicago chef Stephanie Izard, a Bravo “Top Chef.” Creative food combinations and Chicago craft brews are served in a comfortable loft space with exposed brick and wood beams. Share the green garlic pierogies with charred scallion sour cream and smoked tomato-rhubarb relish, and brave the bacon-tamarind sauced escargot ravioli and duck tongues. Goat meat appears in empanadas and liver mousse. End simply with the honey and pine nut tart.

Spiaggia

Spiaggia

The splurge-worthy Spiaggia has been a local favorite for special occasions and romantic nights out for more than 30 years. Innovative pasta preparations achieve gourmet heights, such as the black truffle gnocchi bucatini tossed in saffron, honey, truffle, and caviar. The grilled bistecca alla Fiorentina porterhouse for two rivals anything you’d find at Chicago’s best steakhouses. The wine list includes some 700 Italian bottles. Located in a skyscraper on North Michigan Avenue, Spiaggia offers sparkling Lake Michigan views.

The Berghoff

Berghoff

For a taste of Chicago culinary tradition, head to the Loop’s fourth-generation, family-owned restaurant The Berghoff. One of the best restaurants in Chicago, The Berghoff opened in 1898 and was the first local establishment awarded a liquor license after Prohibition. That’s reason enough to sip a Berghoff-brewed beer at the historic bar. In the Century Room, surrounded by original murals depicting Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, office workers, shoppers, and families dine on wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten, knockwurst, and house-made apple strudel. Kids love the giant Bavarian pretzels and draft root beer.

Le Colonial

Le colonial

Romance is always in the air at Le Colonial, as are the tantalizing aromas of authentic French-Vietnamese cuisine. Patrons seated at cozy tables inside the dining room and on the seasonal outdoor patios dine on Vietnamese specialties such as shrimp chao tom and sesame beef atop rice noodles. The affordable, international wine list offers many by-the-glass selections.

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—Original reporting by Kit Bernardi

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Weekend Getaways

10 Best Restaurants in Atlanta

As with any world-class city, Atlanta boasts a number of audacious and international restaurants that offer splendid culinary experiences. With concept menus, fusion dishes, and the very best of Southern food, the best restaurants in Atlanta will wine and dine you.

The Best Restaurants in Atlanta

To experience the best restaurants in Atlanta, drape yourself in your best attire and head to these locations.

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Staplehouse

Staplehouse

[st_content_ad]Recommending any specific dish on the menu at Staplehouse would be almost impossible, since its menu changes based on the season and the whims of the chefs. Most ingredients are locally sourced, so you can expect every meal to be fresh, imaginative, and, above all, delicious.

Because of its popularity and top reviews, Staplehouse is one of the most exclusive restaurants in Atlanta, operating on a reservation-only basis. Reservations open on the second Friday of every month around noon, and tables are quickly snatched up. Profits are partially used to fund The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit that helps local members of the restaurant business who are facing hardship.

1 Kept Kitchen & Bar

1 kept

Dimly lit and intimate, this is one of those places locals hope tourists don’t find out about. (Sorry, locals!) You can count on flavorful dishes served in a rustic atmosphere. The truffle popcorn is surprisingly perfect for an appetizer—and gluten-free, too! The duck risotto and fried brussels are also worth a try, but the gold medal undoubtedly goes to the pimento cheese board, which has yet to leave a (sane ) customer unsatisfied. 

Marcel

Gunshow

American steakhouse and French food meet in perfect harmony at this upscale Midtown restaurant. Every dish is infused with flavor, and the cocktails have a great reputation of their own.

Start with garlic-infused bread and go wherever your fancy takes you, from escargos to shrimp risotto to steak frites doused in green sauce. Don’t shy away from the cheeseburger, either—it gives a whole new meaning to fine dine burgers.

Gunshow

Gunshow

One of the best concept restaurants in Atlanta, Gunshow is the creation of Kevin Gillespie, who competed on Top Chef. With minimal decoration and communal tables, this experience is truly just about the food, which comes to you in roving carts. The chefs themselves come out with each dish and present their creations in minute detail and obvious passion.

If one of the chefs offers something that sounds interesting, you can order it then. Otherwise, you can simply decline politely and wait for the next offer. The menu changes constantly, often even from one day to the other, so your meal is always unexpected.

Atlas

Atlas

Located at the St. Regis Hotel, Atlas receives rave reviews for its tasteful decoration (which includes a collection of 20th-century art) and farm-fresh American cuisine. Each dish is perfectly balanced, with the steaks being the restaurant’s crowning glory. A wide-selection of fish and seafood is also available, and changes depending on the season.

The dessert menu is equally blissful, though even those with no room for dessert will receive complimentary hand-made chocolates. The restaurant is complemented by The Tavern, which offers locally sourced cocktails and small, but nevertheless delicious, plates. 

Ray’s in the City

Ray’s in the city

Come for the seafood, stay for the live jazz. Ray’s has made a name for itself with a selection of seafood and steaks that are not only delicious, but also combine culinary traditions. Get the shrimp and grits if you’re feeling like comfort food, the eel nigiri for Japanese flavor, and the broiled seafood platter for when you want to feel like you’re right next to the ocean. Top off your meal with a seasonal cheesecake or the classic, but never disappointing, Red Velvet Cake.

Bacchanalia

Bacchanalia

Often referred to as the best restaurant in Atlanta, many locals believe this should be the city’s first Michelin Star. Bacchanalia offers a four-course prix fixe seasonal menu, which is made exclusively with organic ingredients, often sourced from the owner’s/chef’s own farm. The menu offers exquisite supplements for those who want more, and includes wine pairing suggestions for every dish.

Saltyard

Saltyard

New American with an international twist makes Saltyard one of the best restaurants in Atlanta. The seasonal menu offers everything from tapas, tacos, and scallops, to summer meals made with sweet Georgia peaches. Pair your meal with a craft beer or cocktail and enjoy the minimalist industrial-chic decor.

Superica

Superica

When you’ve got a reputation for being one of the best Tex-Mex restaurants in Atlanta, you know you’re doing something right. A welcoming and intimate atmosphere gets you ready to enjoy delicious food at affordable prices. All-around favorites include the steak nachos for appetizers, and wood-grilled shrimp fajitas and the slow-braised short rib for entrees.

The tacos are also something worth writing home about, especially the perfectly juicy tacos de carnitas. Accompany your meal with a fresh margarita.

Cooks & Soldiers

Cooks & soldiers

An interesting name with an even more exciting menu, Cooks & Soldiers serves dishes inspired by Basque Country cuisine. It offers exquisite pinxtos, or Spanish-French tapas. You can spend the evening trying numerous pinxtos for a mix of flavor, or get a woodfire grilled meal to share.

The pinxtos are all delectable, but some favorites are the Vieras, butter roasted scallops, jamon iberico, and hazelnuts; and the Barbakoa Vasca, Kalimotxo braised beef with aioli and pickled peppers.

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– Original reporting by Mariana Zapata

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Health & Wellness Historical Travel Miscellany

The 10 Best Spots for Brunch in Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is a town that takes its brunch seriously. That means that the top spots for brunch in Washington, D.C. don’t offer just great food, but also a front-row seat on the world of political wheeler-dealers as they fortify themselves for the week ahead.

Top Spots for Brunch in Washington, D.C.

As befits the District’s ever-expanding range of good cuisine, the brunch scene offers huge variety, from traditional American favorites to Middle Eastern, Greek, and Indian offerings. Here are the places that offer the best brunch in Washington, D.C.

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Blue Duck Tavern

[st_content_ad]The Michelin-starred Blue Duck Tavern is a perennial favorite for upscale brunch in Washington, D.C. Located in the Park Hyatt hotel in Foggy Bottom, the airy, beautifully appointed restaurant features an open kitchen with a wood-burning oven. The restaurant has always had a slight Southern bent, and whether it’s sticky buns, gingerbread waffles, short rib hash, or shrimp and grits, the rustic-style cooking is sure to leave you deeply satisfied. The Blue Duck is one brunch spot that acquits itself equally well in all the other meals of the day.

The Sovereign

If you’ve got a Belgian bent, The Sovereign’s the place to brunch in D.C. Originally conceived as a paean to Belgian beer—it stocks some 50 beers on draft, and a whopping 350 in bottles—with accompanying cuisine built around it, the restaurant’s food has become worthy in its own right. The brunch menu ranges from coq au gueuze (a beer-braised version of coq au vin) to choucroute Benedict, which features pan-roasted pork belly. Belgian standbys include mussels and steak frite with eggs, as well as savory flammekueches, or tartes flambees.

Open City

If you’re in the mood for a more relaxed, casual brunch, check out Open City. In keeping with its proletarian leanings, it doesn’t take reservations. But it does dish up a range of dependable grub, ranging from burritos, croissants, scrambles, breakfast parfaits, and hash brown bowls to the now-ubiquitous chicken and waffles. The all-day brunch bar menu includes a cowboy BBQ Bloody Mary, mimosas, and aperol spritzes.

Bombay Club

Inspired by the punctilious tradition of the Indian supper club, the Bombay Club has become a sophisticated D.C. fixture. The restaurant opened in 1989 but feels like a creature of another era altogether. In authentic Indian style, the format is a buffet of gleaming chafing dishes, accompanied by the stylings of a musician on a grand piano. The food runs the gambit from chaat, the streetwise snacks found on practically every Indian street corner, to classic dishes such as lamb korma, making this a unique brunch in Washington, D.C.

Compass Rose

Founded by the wife of an NPR international bureau chief who partnered with a veteran international D.C. chef, Compass Rose promises a globetrotting tour of good eating. Brunch is no exception. The small but capably executed menu might feature shakshuka, the Middle Eastern staple of eggs poached in a tomato and pepper sauce and garnished with feta, yogurt, and spicy zhoug, or khachapuri, the addictive Georgian cheese bread topped with egg. If you happen to have a party of six, try reserving the harem-like “Bedouin Tent” on the back patio.

Fiola Mare

In Georgetown, seafood-focused Fiola Mare offers a beautiful space with stunning views of the Potomac waterfront and a brunch to match. Try the restaurant’s Italian take on shrimp and grits: tiger prawns braised with tomato, garlic, white wine, and rosemary, accompanied by polenta. There’s also lobster ravioli and the lyrical-sounding gragnano spaghetti alla granseola—Alaskan king crab with pasta. Even the drinks carry a whiff of the sea: Try the Bloody Mary Royal, served with pickled vegetables and a tiger prawn.

Kapnos Taverna

With four locations, all-you-can-eat brunch, and 25-cent mimosas, Kapnos Taverna is hard to beat for brunch in Washington, D.C. Kapnos specializes in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, and gives its all-you-can-eat diners carte blanche over the entire brunch menu. The offerings include stone oven-baked eggs with crispy lamb; gryos; a wide array of spreads with flatbread; Greek coffee waffles; shakshuka; spanakopita; and soutzoukakia—football-shaped meatballs in tomato sauce, served over trahana, the fermented wheat-and-yogurt pasta.

Trummer’s on Main

Despite the fact that it’s a 30-mile haul southwest of D.C. in Clifton, Virginia, Trummer’s on Main consistently shows up on lists of top area brunch spots, and for good reason. Occupying all three floors of what was originally a hotel built in 1869, Trummer’s is just far enough outside the Beltway to offer breathing room from the carnival of D.C. politics, and the menu features soul-soothing Southern refinement and hearty food. The shrimp and grits with lobster cream has long been a star of the menu, but there’s plenty of inviting stuff here, like beignets, forest mushroom omelets with pickled ramps, and soft shell crab Benedict.

Le Diplomate

Among the top contenders for best brunch in Washington, D.C. is Le Diplomate. The reigning sovereign of French cuisine is a relaxed brasserie that, in true Parisian style, offers great patio tables. The a la carte brunch menu is a veritable cornucopia, and includes pastry baskets, gougeres (cheese puffs), escargots, steak tartare, boudin noir (blood sausage), foie gras parfait (!), mushroom tarts, trout amandine, beef Burgundy, and seafood platters. Save room for dessert (think profiteroles and vanilla creme bruelee).

Busboys and Poets

A combination of restaurant, coffee shop, and bookstore, Busboys and Poets is the place to go if you don’t want to break the bank for brunch. Known for its friendly service, the restaurant (which has several locations around town) works hard to accommodate individual tastes. Many of the offerings, like spinach and wheatberry salad, lean toward the crunchy end of the spectrum, but there are plenty of brunch standbys like American meat-and-egg breakfasts, omelets, and eggs Benedict. For something truly exotic, try the mekhleme, which the restaurant describes as “Iraqi ‘corned beef’ hash” with poached eggs on top, a dish the Busboys and Poets owner grew up eating.

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—Original reporting by Matt Jenkins

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Miscellany

10 Places to Find the Best Brunch in Seattle

Brunch may be Seattle’s most hallowed meal, capping off a couple of big nights out or fueling up for a busy afternoon outdoors.

Where to Find the Best Brunch in Seattle

You’ll find a full range of flavors at these top spots for brunch in Seattle—and you can be assured of great coffee, of course.

Westward

brunch in seattle

[st_content_ad]With a cheery nautical dining room nudged right up against Lake Union, Westward could coast on its location. Instead it builds on it, with an inventive brunch menu that makes you never want to leave: lamb shoulder hash, bagel and house-cured gravlax, and a Pacific oyster roll are among the temptations, along with plenty of bubbles and day drinks to enjoy in the Adirondack chairs outside.

Tarsan i Jane

brunch in seattle

Valencian touches infuse the wildly ambitious dishes of Spanish-born chef Perfecte Rocher. Brunch may be the best introduction, a five-course affair that culminates with a slow-cooked, perfectly crafted paella that reflects the best ingredients available. The name, Tarsan i Jane, is a nod to his grandfather’s restaurant in Valencia, proof that his culinary roots run deep.

Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge

brunch in seattle

This Queen Anne favorite brings a New Orleans-inspired joie de vivre to brunch in Seattle, with an enormous menu that includes spicy Creole andouille hash, Dungeness crab eggs Benedict, crawfish egg scramble, creme caramel French toast, and, of course, beignets. It all happens in a boisterous room lit with hundreds of votives.

Portage Bay Cafe

brunch in seattle

Portage Bay succeeds in its simplicity, namely egg dishes and other breakfast staples done right: organic eggs, homemade breads, homemade granola, and locally grown sustainable vegetables. And don’t forget the killer breakfast bar: Order up pancakes or French toast, then top ‘em off with a bar full of fresh fruits, nuts, whipped cream, and pure, organic maple syrup. Some call it the best brunch in Seattle, served seven days a week at its Ballard and 65th Avenue locations.

Rockcreek Seafood and Spirits

brunch in seattle

The vibe is warm and woodsy, a northwoods fishing lodge transplanted to Fremont. James Beard nominee Eric Donnelly consistently delivers, with a wide-ranging menu that takes you from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South. Not that you need another reason to visit, but every last Sunday in the summer months, a DJ spins turntables for Rock Creek’s hip-hop brunch … because that’s how brunch in Seattle rolls.

2120

brunch in seattle

Named for its street address next to the Amazon headquarter “spheres,” 2120 brings Latin flavors to brunch in Seattle without a breakfast burrito in sight. Instead, tuck into donuts made with dulce de leche and agave whip, pork belly migas, poblano scramble, and a bloody Maria with tequila and house bloody mix.

Palisade

brunch in seattle

Palisade keeps alive the traditional all-you-can-eat brunch, with a lavish buffet that features a seafood and oyster bar, egg dishes, assorted salads, meats and cheeses, housemade pastries, and seasonal fruits. There’s even an “endless mimosa” bar. Add to that a dining room that arcs out along the waterfront with views stretching across Elliott Bay, and you have one of the best brunches in Seattle.

Stateside

brunch in seattle

French and Vietnamese flavors blend beautifully at Stateside, where the brunch menu includes classics like brioche French toast and lemongrass soup alongside less-expected treats like charcoal waffles served with coconut syrup and mango jam.

All Water Seafood and Oyster Bar

brunch in seattle

Just blocks from Elliott Bay, All Water celebrates Seattle’s maritime tradition in its decor (worn wood, portraits of fishermen) and its menu, with specialties like the salmon- and crab-stuffed Pacific Northwest frittata. You’ll find plenty of terra-firma flavors, too, like a pulled-pork eggs Benedict and the tempura cinnamon roll with apples compote and maple-bacon glaze.

The Wandering Goose

brunch in seattle

Chef and North Carolina native Heather Earnhardt brings Southern comfort foods to Capitol Hill at Wandering Goose. Fried chicken stars on Friday nights; homemade biscuit sandwiches star in the mornings, filled with country ham, poached egg, sawmill gravy, and other delights.

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—Original reporting by Tina Lassen

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Cities Food & Drink

The 10 Best Cheap Eats in Seattle

You don’t need big bucks to eat well in Seattle. You’ll find cheap eats scattered throughout the city, many with the same dedication to locally sourced, sustainable ingredients as Seattle’s top tables.

Cheap Eats in Seattle

From Pacific Northwest classic clam chowder to fantastic pho, here are 10 local restaurants that dish up cheap eats in Seattle.

Humble Pie

cheap eats in seattle

[st_content_ad]There’s nothing humble about the pizzas at Humble Pie, with a perfect amount of chew in the wood-fired crust. They’re sprinkled with top-shelf ingredients like local Beecher’s cheese, pickled onions, and pork smoked on site.

Pike Place Chowder

cheap eats in seattle

Sometimes the best-known spots for cheap eats in Seattle are the best spots. So is the case with this tiny shop in Pike Place Market’s Post Alley. Prepare to wait, then order a big bowl of briny comfort,  with choices that include smoked salmon, crab and oysters, or seafood bisque.

Paseo

cheap eats in seattle

The Caribbean comes to Fremont and South Seattle courtesy of Paseo, beloved for its Cuban sandwiches of roast pork, banana peppers, and caramelized onions piled high on soft Cuban bread. You’ll find plenty of other island flavors on the menu, like the Caribbean Plato with chicken, jasmine rice, corn, and black beans.

Red Mill Burgers

cheap eats in seattle

Seattle’s favorite burger joint originally began in the 1930s, was resuscitated in the 1990s, and has been winning awards ever since. What’s the key? Quality beef, quality toppings (particularly the pepper bacon), and killer onion rings. The classic malts and shakes are good, too.

Emerald City Fish and Chips

cheap eats in seattle

Combine a couple of Seattle brothers with New Orleans roots, the city’s high-quality cod, salmon, and halibut, and a good panko batter seasoned with cayenne, and the result is mighty fine fish and chips. Emerald City also cooks up a mean gumbo on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Easy Street Records

cheap eats in seattle

Pair a vintage music shop that sells vinyl, CDs, and old movies with a breakfast cafe, and you get this hot spot for cheap eats in Seattle. Breakfast burritos with fresh salsa and jalapeno-spiced Horton Heat Hash are favorites. There’s often a wait, but with walls and bins filled with Seattle music memorabilia, you’ll hardly even notice.

Tsukushinbo  

cheap eats in seattle

It isn’t easy to find, but anyone who loves good Japanese cooking can direct you to this gem in Seattle’s international district. Come for the weekday lunch bargains like ramen and beef curry udon, or sit at the sushi bar and let the chef serve you specials (on the blackboard in Japanese only) that will expand your raw fish horizons.

Tilikum Place Cafe

cheap eats in seattle

The bargain at this Belltown bistro is the Dutch Baby, a fluffy thick pancake of a meal. Whether you order it savory or sweet (flavors change seasonally) or just the classic with  lemon and powdered sugar, it arrives at your table piping hot, erupting out its cast-iron skillet and caramelized to buttery perfection.

Senor Moose Cafe

The owners of this Ballard favorite gathered family recipes from the small roadside restaurants in central Mexico and brought them back to Ballard. It stays true to comida tipica with homemade chorizo, smoky mole, and chilaquiles with smoky tomatillo salsa.

Than Brothers

cheap eats in seattle

The Than brothers were clearly onto something when they opened their first pho (Vietnamese rice noodle soup) restaurant in the 1990s. They haven’t expanded the menu, but have expanded their presence to more than a dozen Seattle locations, serving cheap, hot, and delicious pho, with their signature cream puff for dessert.

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—Original reporting by Tina Lassen

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Miscellany

Where to Find the Best Cuban Food in Miami

In a city where nearly 70 percent of the population is Hispanic, Miami has rightfully earned the nickname “Capital of Latin America.” But while multicultural restaurants abound here, including everything from empanada stands to ceviche shops, no other cuisine seems to be as synonymous with the city’s identity as Cuban food in Miami. When Cuban refugees fled to Florida for freedom, they brought one important piece of culture: Cuban cuisine. Cuban restaurants have sprouted up everywhere from Little Havana to Miami Beach, with options ranging from fast food joints to fine dining, fusion-style establishments.

Where to Find the Best Cuban Food in Miami

For a taste of authentic Cuban cuisine, pop into one of these 10 stand-out Cuban restaurants in Miami.

Versailles

cuban food in miami

[st_content_ad]Versailles touts itself as “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant” and has spent more than four decades delivering some of the best Cuban food in Miami. The Little Havana-based eatery has expanded to outposts at the airport, but the flagship locale was once the unofficial town square for Cuban exiles—and served the same role after Fidel Castro passed away. Today the restaurant draws politicians, families, and travelers to its tables thanks to its reliably good, reasonably priced Cuban cuisine. For the full experience, order a sampler platter piled with classics like sweet plantains, ham croquettes, black beans, and roast pork.

Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop

cuban food in miami

The classic Cuban sandwich, two pieces of crispy white bread stuffed with ham and cheese, started as a lunchtime staple at cafes in Key West and Ybor City, Tampa, catering to Cuban cigar factory workers. Now you’ll find this sandwich at nearly every Cuban restaurant in Miami. Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop is by far one of the top picks for locals, who queue up come lunchtime at the window for cheap and fresh sandwiches, as well as one of Miami’s best cortaditos, an espresso shot topped with steamed milk.

El Palacio de los Jugos

cuban food in miami

Though the name translates to “The Juice Palace,” El Palacio de los Jugos is more like a Latin American market than a juice bar. What started as a casual takeaway spot on Flagler Street in the 1970s has expanded into an empire of open-air restaurants with nine locales around town, each keeping alive the original concept of market-fresh produce served casually from stands and stalls. Here, you’ll find an array of fresh juices from melon to mango, plus no-frills Cuban cuisine like pollo con papas (chicken and potatoes), croquetas, and yuca frita (fried yucca).

El Rey de las Fritas

cuban food in miami

Many of the Cuban restaurants in Miami boast a claim to fame, and at El Rey de las Fritas, it’s the original Cuban burger. Husband and wife duo Victoriano “Benito” and Angelina “Gallega” Gonzalez invented the original frita Cubana when they moved to Miami from Cuba in the 1970s. Now second-generation family members help run the business that has expanded from Little Havana to three other locales around town. Swing by the original diner-style space to sample the main attraction: burgers piled high with shoestring fries bulging between the buns of a fluffy white Cuban roll.

Sergio’s

cuban food in miami

The mother and daughter behind Sergio’s have spent the last 40 years perfecting their croquetas, which are so legendary they’ve drawn chefs like Emeril Lagasse for a taste. Homestyle cuisine here spans all the classics from vaca frita (flat-iron grilled shredded beef and cooked onions) to masas de puerco (fried pork chunks with homemade mojo sauce). There’s also a modern menu with low-calorie ropa vieja, palomilla steak, and mahi mahi—plus a trendy selection of sides like spiralized vegetable noodles and cauliflower rice. You can’t leave without sipping a cafecito, so do it in true Cuban fashion at the window.

David’s Cafe Cafecito

cuban food in miami

David’s Cafe Cafecito has been a fixture in South Beach for the past 40 years, serving up some of the best Cuban food in Miami. While the original locale shuttered its doors a few years ago, the Gonzalez family still runs a cafecito concept on Alton Road that pays homage to their Cuban background through one of the country’s most-loved daily traditions: coffee. Colorful Cuban tiles line the intimate space scattered with just a few tables that are typically filled. This is the go-to spot for classic Cuban breakfast. Post up at the bar and order Cuban toast served alongside a strong and sweet cafe Cubano, or cafecito.

Havana Harry’s

cuban food in miami

Havana Harry’s is a neighborhood fave in Coral Gables, where families gather over spruced-up Cuban classics like tostones guayaberos, twice-fried plantain slices topped with shredded pork and grilled onions, drizzled with a guava barbecue sauce. The atmosphere is loud in true Latin style and portions are generous (read: XXL), so come with an appetite and leave room for the real star of the show: dessert. You may be familiar with tres leches, a sponge cake soaked with a melange of three types of milk, but Havana Harry’s adds in a few more ingredients for a version aptly dubbed cinco leches, a pastry filled with dulce de leche that’s covered with homemade meringue.

Finka Table & Tap

cuban food in miami

Don’t let its shopping center location in West Kendall throw you off. Finka Table & Tap has rightfully earned its high-ranking position among Miami’s top gastropubs for its blend of Korean, Cuban, and Peruvian cuisine paired with Florida microbrews on tap. Chef and owner Eileen Andrade got her culinary start alongside her grandparents at one of the more famous Cuban restaurants in Miami, Islas Carnitas, later traveling and cooking throughout Korea. Flavors pull from some of Florida’s finest ingredients (think fried alligator) and throw in Asian flair with sides like fried wontons and spicy kimchee fried rice. If you’re waiting to see where the Cuban influence comes in, one bite of the vaca frita-topped tostones will definitely do the trick.

Azucar Ice Cream Company

cuban food in miami

Sitting along the famous Calle Ocho strip in Little Havana, Azucar Ice Cream Company is more famous in Miami than chains like Haagen-Dazs. Azucar plays on the style of confections your abuela would make, with fruit bought from local fruit stands and farmers’ markets. You won’t be able to miss the ice cream shop, topped with a glowing neon sign and larger-than-life cone extending from the facade. Inside, more than 70 all-natural ice cream and sorbet flavors are hand-written on a chalkboard sign, with options ranging from classic Cuban vanilla mantecado cookies to cuatro leches and Coca-Cola.

Ball & Chain

cuban food in miami

Just next door to Azucar Ice Cream Company lies one-time saloon Ball & Chain, which got its start during the Depression. In the 1950s, Billie Holiday and Chet Baker were among the circuit of talented musicians who performed at the club, which was converted into a furniture shop a decade later. Now Ball & Chain has embraced its Cuban surroundings and is one of Little Havana’s most vibrant lounges, with live salsa and jazz bands playing in the open-air bar and dining area. While it serves as a neighborhood nightlife institution, Ball & Chain doubles as a great Cuban restaurant in Miami with tapas-style dishes like housemade mariquitas de maduro (sweet plantain chips) and chicharrones (fried pork belly).

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—Original reporting by Lane Nieset

Categories
Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Food & Drink Oddities

10 Popular Los Angeles Restaurants for Celebrity Sightings

The list of best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities is a tough thing to pin down. A-listers are notoriously unfaithful and whether they deem a place “cool” seems to change with the wind. Still, there are a solid handful of eateries that they would never abandon, at least not anytime soon.

Los Angeles Restaurants for Celebrity Sightings

If you’re looking to see a star in L.A., head to one of these 10 hangouts of the Hollywood elite—if you can get in, that is.

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Catch LA

 los angeles celebrity sightings

[st_content_ad]Catch LA is, by far, the coolest new kid in town. This West Coast outpost of the hip New York seafood eatery opened in West Hollywood in 2016 and immediately became the city’s most popular celebrity hot spot. The brick-and-wood rooftop space is filled with plants—and L.A.’s most beautiful people.

Sitting high above Melrose Avenue, stars of every stripe (Kardashians, Mariah Carey, Kate Upton, Cuba Gooding, Jr., David Beckham, Cindy Crawford, Quincy Jones, Paris Hilton, and so on) order sustainable seafood, or request the vegan menu, then stay for the see-and-be-seen nightlife, since closing time isn’t ‘til 2:00 a.m.

Be warned, though—it’s very tough to get in if you’re not famous, gorgeous, or quite wealthy.

The Magic Castle

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Really a private club rather than a public restaurant, the Magic Castle is where entertainers come to be entertained. Its ornate, Victorian-style dining room serves standard American fare (steak and the like) but the food isn’t the star attraction—that would be the spectacular magic shows in the castle’s theater, which is why you’re more than likely to have a celebrity sitting a seat over.

Since 1963, the Academy of Magical Arts—guests must be members or invited by one—has hosted Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, David Blaine, Johnny Carson, Dick Clark, Norman Schwarzkopf, Jason Alexander, and Neil Patrick Harris, the academy’s former president.

Resourceful travelers to L.A. set on getting in could stay at the Magic Castle Hotel or reach out to one of the performing magicians for an invitation.

The Restaurant at the Chateau Marmont

los angeles celebrity sightings 

This André Balazs hotel right off Sunset Boulevard may as well be the official country club for Hollywood stars, especially hard-partying musicians and actors big on drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll. It certainly has one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities—and is notorious for being a place where famous folks act out.

Its reputation for drama and debauchery started back in the 1930s, when Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were regulars. Over the years, the restaurant has also fed Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, John Lennon, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, and Heath Ledger. These days, you’re likely to see Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Courtney Love, Salma Hayek, Lindsay Lohan, Denzel Washington, or Britney Spears sitting a table over.

The restaurant, known more for its ambiance and celebrity sightings than its food, serves a standard American menu offering breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, plus a late-night menu and full bar. Dine in the intimate indoor space, or outdoor on the lush garden terrace.

Gracias Madre

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Paparazzi station themselves just outside the door of this hip vegan haven—all the better to snap shots of regulars like Natalie Portman, Ellen Degeneres, Mariah Carey, Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba, Amy Adams, Jesse Metcalfe, Olivia Munn, and Sophia Bush. They—vegetarians and omnivores alike—come to West Hollywood for chef Chandra Gilbert’s fresh, flavorful Mexican food made from all-organic ingredients.

There’s a long menu of worthwhile craft cocktails, including a few made with cannabis. Friendly servers bring them out to patrons enjoying the airy white space indoors, or sitting outside on the charming Melrose Avenue courtyard.

The Polo Lounge

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Ensconced in the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Polo Lounge is almost as famous as its regular patrons. Since Hollywood’s early days, dealmakers have been having their power lunches here, while starlets and socialites enjoy the classy American food and full cocktail menu. In this, one of the very best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities, the dining room’s ceiling is run with iconic green-and-white stripes, while the patio is flowery and sunny.

Being a hotel restaurant, it’s open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner—come evening, live piano or jazz music accompanies your meal. Back in the day, the Polo Lounge crowd included the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, and Clark Gable.

Among the eatery’s famous faces these days: Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Diane Keaton, Taylor Swift, Chris Rock, Calvin Klein, and Janet Jackson.

 The Palm Beverly Hills

los angeles celebrity sightings 

Four decades ago, Fred Astaire tap-danced on the bar at this legendary restaurant’s previous West Hollywood location. In late 2014, the Palm’s owners moved their bona fide celebrity hot spot into its new Beverly Hills location, on Restaurant Row, and the stars have not stopped streaming in.

Among those who’ve chowed down on the Palm’s steaks and seafood: Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, and Alyssa Milano.

Augustine Wine Bar

 los angeles celebrity sightings

This one’s our little secret: All the way out in Sherman Oaks—yes, that’s the San Fernando Valley—is a little-known spot where chances are good that you’ll see more than one famous person during dinner. Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes, and Channing Tatum have all been spotted at this under-the-radar celebrity hot spot.

The kitchen offers a small, solid menu featuring salads, soups, pastas, steak, and seafood, plus your choice of cheese trays and charcuteries. Decor is charming and straightforward—this is the type of place where specials are written on chalkboards.

Urth Caffe

 los angeles celebrity sightings

This popular coffee shop sells organic coffee and fine teas alongside its hearty, healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, made mostly from local, sustainable ingredients.

It has multiple locations, but you’ll want to go the one on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood if you want a side of celebrity sightings with your meal. Regulars here include Jake Gyllenhaal, Paris Hilton, Jessica Alba, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Caitlyn Jenner, Lana Del Rey, and Amanda Seyfried.

Canter’s Deli

los angeles celebrity sightings 

It doesn’t get more casual than Canter’s. This famous Jewish deli, founded in 1931 and still operated by the Canter family, is an old-time diner with no decor to speak of, on an unassuming stretch of Fairfax Avenue. And yet, despite this total lack of trendiness or fanciness, it’s one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities.

Since it’s open 24 hours a day, stars fill the booths at all hours of the night, scanning Canter’s book-length menu for massive meat-filled sandwiches, what many swear is the world’s best matzo ball soup, bagels and lox with house-made pickles, beloved waffles, and many other varieties of Jewish comfort food.

Popular shows have filmed scenes here, including Mad Men, Entourage, and Curb Your Enthusiasm; and clientele over the years have included Marilyn Monroe, Jack Benny, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Sydney Poitier, Mel Brooks, Larry King, Mick Jagger, Barack Obama, Sarah Silverman, Rachael Ray, John Travolta, Prince, Conan O’Brien, Roseanne Barr, Julia Roberts, and Steven Tyler.

Musso and Frank Grill

los angeles celebrity sightings


Musso’s looks like a place Dick Tracy would come to think. And drink. It’s manly, moody, dimly lit—outright noir, in fact. And, since 1919, this iconic watering hole has been one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles to see celebrities.

As you’d expect, martinis are stiff and dry, the menu lists mostly steak and seafood, and the red-jacketed waiters have worked here for many decades. Back in the day, the regulars were Charlie Chaplin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Humphrey Bogart, and the actual Warner brothers. Today, don’t be surprised if, nestled into the mahogany booths, you spot Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Mila Kunis, Nicolas Cage, Tom Selleck, or the Rolling Stones.

The Perfect Outfit for LA Celeb Sightings

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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– Original reporting by Avital Andrews

Categories
Arts & Culture Experiential Travel Family Travel Food & Drink

7 Strangely Delicious Japanese Foods Worth Traveling For

If you think sweet sake and crispy tempura are the only tantalizing Japanese foods worth hopping on a flight for, add these to your list. The Land of the Rising Sun’s complex culture, deep history, and creative spirit are responsible for some of the most unique eating experiences, and Japanese cuisine caters to travellers who are open to trying something new.

Japanese Foods Worth Traveling For

These Japan snacks combine eyebrow-raising ingenuity, delicious bites, and some slightly questionable choices for unique eats that are well worth the plane ride—and they deliver photo-op moments that are social media perfection.

[st_related]7 Tips for Seeing Cherry Blossoms in Japan[/st_related]

Ice Cream for Your Pocket

[st_content_ad]You’re craving ice cream, but the dripping cone you could do without. Enter Coolish: A mildly addictive ice cream served in a genius juice-box-like pouch. Soften the contents slightly by squeezing the packet with your hands, pop the top and you can savour all the soft ice cream goodness without worrying you’ll be left holding a sticky mess.

Braver still? Try the packaged corn-on-the-cob-flavored ice cream bars that are available at local convenience stores.

Lucky Pierrot’s Squid Burger

There may be a clown mascot out front, but this is no McDonalds. Lucky Pierrot’s cult following ran the golden arches out of town years ago. When that fast food craving strikes, head to the city of Hokodate—the only place in the world where you’ll find the beloved restaurant chain’s squid brurgers.  Along with squid you’ll find a host of fast food options, including the bestselling Chinese Chicken Burger (Think General Tao chicken on a bun).

Silent Ramen for One

Sometimes you just want to slurp your Ramen without the prying eyes of neighboring tables. That’s no problem at the Ichiran Hondori shop in Hiroshima. Customers punch their order into a vending machine, grab their numbered ticket, and sit in a stool at the corresponding booth. Each is shuttered on both sides so that you never need make eye contact with your neighbor, and even your food is delivered with a healthy respect for your personal space: The bamboo curtain in front of you rises and your steaming bowl is quickly delivered before the divider falls shut again. It’s an introvert’s delight.

Sushi via Train Delivery

Want a meal with some entertainment?  Hit a $1-per-plate sushi house and choose from options that range from the non-traditional burger sushi to classics like sashimi.  The real treat is the mini-computer in your booth for ordering: Punch in your dining choices and a tiny train delivers your meal at your table.

[st_related]Getting Around Japan: Transportation Tips[/st_related]

Treats That Are (Almost) Too Cute to Eat

Who wants boring old custard when you can have a cake pop shaped like a puppy? Why settle for a bag of cotton candy when you can have a perfectly-shaped cloud of it that’s the size of your head? At shops throughout Tokyo, you’ll have a hard time deciding if you should eat your treats or adopt them. The cuter the better, especially in the Harajuku area of Tokyo, where the treats come with a side of people watching.

7/11 Seafood Snacks

In Japan, the local 7/11 store offers way more than just your standard bags of chips and chocolate bars. Try something different to satisfy cravings you never knew you had, for tiny mackerel fish mixed with slivered almonds, wasabi-covered peanuts, dried squid, or crayon-shaped gummy candies.

[st_related]7 Strange Foods from Around the World[/st_related]

Noodles at Any Speed

Japan’s commitment to a hot noodle meal should be applauded, and there’s never an excuse for missing out on a bowl here. Waiting for the train? On most station platforms, you’ll find a vendor with tables at the ready for you to quickly slurp before you go.

Got more time? Make your own noodles in Takumi No Sato village. Local women will show you how to knead dough with your hands (and feet!) before cooking them up for you to eat.

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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on GlobeTrottingMama.com.