Oplante

Oplante (Montreal, QC)

As you can see from our recent review, we again found ourselves heading up to Montreal for a weekend of particularly excessive Quebecois dining. This usually leaves me craving a lighter, healthier meal at some place, and in the past, we’d often hit up Yuan Vegeterien for some light vegeterian-based Japanese and Chinese food. We decided to do that again this trip, and ran into a slight hitch: Yuan isn’t quite there any more. Around January of 2022, it re-branded as Oplante. It is mostly the same concept, but shifting from vegetarian to vegan, and focusing more on serving all-you-can-eat buffet-style food (although they still offer an a la carte menu, which is what we ordered on).

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Summer House CLT

Airport Dining: Summer House (CLT, Charlotte, NC)

Due to the amount of travel we do here at Offbeat Eats, one of the more common topics here is airport dining. I’ve found that, while never really outstanding (and often both expensive and disappointing), airport dining is cyclical in nature. In this case, the pandemic business interruptions at most US airports have made for a few seismic shifts as long-established businesses either closed or got outbid on renewing their leases. And several airports have really shifted their food strategy; Chicago Midway in particular seemed to remove most of their moving walkways and turfed out tried-and-true vendors so they could cram in more expensive bars that take up valuable seating space (heck, you can’t even score a decent Hot Italian Beef anymore, and there used to be a good half-dozen options). And most every place these days also seems to suffer from the ever-present “staffing issues”. So when I find myself at an airport, particularly with domestic travel, it’s rare that I find a place that’s both reasonably-priced and reasonably-tasty, so when I do, I try to review it. That brings me to a recent trip through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, where I found Summer House.

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Brood and Barley

Brood & Barley (North Little Rock, AR)

After our ~55 mile backpacking trip along Arkansas’s Ouachita National Scenic Trail, we had two items on our agenda before heading back to NH. The first was a relaxing trip to the Quapaw Baths in Hot Springs for a good hour-long soak in the famous baths. The second was going out for dinner to celebrate the end of the trip (to use our well-weathered phrase “after the doing, there is the un-doing”). Looking at the various options around the greater Little Rock area, that lead us to Brood & Barley over in North Little Rock.

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Big Bad Breakfast (Little Rock, AR)

Before heading out on our 50+ mile backpacking trip mid-day, we decided to do one more walking tour of downtown Little Rock and get breakfast. Downtown Little Rock’s Main Street has been through a few economic downturns, but a good stretch of it has been nicely reinvigorated as a restaurant row, with the 300 block in particular hosting a half dozen restaurants. One of these was our destination, Big Bad Breakfast.

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Three Fold (Little Rock, AR)

After we concluded our backpacking trip in Arizona, we ended up quickly cleaning our gear and repacking so we could head out to Arkansas to hike the Ouachita Trail. In addition to the backpacking trip itself (which was reasonably enjoyable), we had the secondary goal of being in a nice, remote area near the centerline of the April 8, 2024 total eclipse. Secondarily, we got into town a day earlier, so this was a rare chance of mine to visit a new-to-me metropolitan area: Little Rock. Without double-checking the marked-up map in my parents’ hallway, I’m not 100% sure I’ve even been to Little Rock before, and if so, it’s been a long time (I have been to Arkansas a lot more recently, however, Bentonville and West Memphis…). It’s always nice to explore a new area, and I quickly found that Little Rock has a nice downtown area: a nice river walk with sculptures, several cool older railroad bridges converted in pedestrian bridges, and even an enjoyable brewery. After the better part of a day walking around, we then decided it was time to head out for dinner, checking out a place on the south side of downtown, Three Fold.

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Del Yaqui (Guadalupe, AZ)

One of the things that I enjoy about visiting the Southwest is that you can get a much broader menu of Mexican food choices. While a bit of determined scouting can yield some decent burrito joints and even taquerias up my way, if you are searching for, say, pozole or albondigas, you’re going to have to search pretty hard. But when I’m in Arizona, it’s actually pretty easy to chase some of these things down. In this particular case, I was looking for lunch after helping a friend clean out a fake server farm (Really! Backstory here, he bought the remains of the farm at auction), and decided that what I was really craving was a proper Mexican-style Torta. Since we were in the west Tempe/North Awatukee area, I had a plan: I was going to head up to the Guadalupe Mercado, a nice outdoor market at the corner of Guadalupe and Avenida del Yaqui in the small town of Guadalupe. There we found Del Yaqui in one corner of the Mercado.

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Taqueria Mi Casita (Chandler, AZ)

One of the nice things about visiting my childhood home in Mesa, AZ is that there almost uncountably many good places with a 10 minute drive to score a really good Mexican breakfast (you can see my previous reviews of Amada’s in Mesa and Salazar Bros. in Tempe, for example). But I really like to mix it up and try new places when I can, so when we recently found ourselves heading down to downtown Chandler for a trip to Peixoto, we decided to check out another place on my potential breakfast burrito hit list: Taqueria Mi Casita.

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Culinary Dropout (Scottsdale Quarter, AZ)

As mentioned in the previous review, a trip to Arizona often involves meeting up with friends. For our second lunch outing with friends, we went to an old favorite, Culinary Dropout, that I hadn’t visited in a few year. Culinary Dropout is an Arizona-based chain, with the original location opening back in 2010 on Scottsdale’s “Waterfront” to good reviews, and now it has grown to over a dozen locations. We went to the relatively new Scottsdale Quarter location, which is one of the newer “outdoor malls” in North Scottsdale.

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Delhi Palace (Tempe, AZ)

My visits to Arizona’s Valley of the Sun always involve a combination of trying to find the new and exciting places to dine, while occasionally indulging in an old favorite. In this case, we headed over to Tempe, AZ, where there, in a fairly nondescript strip mall a block east of Rural Road, sits Delhi Palace. Back in my undergraduate and graduate school days, Delhi Palace was the standard gathering place of not only my own friends, but my brother’s as well; a typical Christmas visit to Arizona could see as many as ten people gathering for the lunch buffet. But as folks age, move away, start families, etc, the annual gathering at Delhi Palace started to fade away, with my last visit with friends happening in 2015 (although a few of us migrated to a similar periodic gather at Haji Baba a few blocks away. This trip, however, I decided to call up my old friend Karla (a veteran of many previous Delhi Palace gatherings) and see how our old haunt was doing.

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The Birch on Elm (Manchester, NH)

Due to a decrease in various airlines’ service to Manchester, more of my travel these days has been out of Boston, but our recent combined trip to Arizona and Arkansas actually had us scheduled through Manchester (as luck had it, weather resulted in us getting rerouted through Boston, but that’s another story…), so we decided to do one of those Park/Sleep/Fly deals, driving down the night before our trip. That gave us a good opportunity to check out Manchester’s dining scene, and we decided to try out a place that had been on our hit list for a bit: The Birch on Elm.

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