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Penny Red’s (Detroit, MI)

One of the more developments I keep seeing these days is the development of “food halls” and “beer halls” (such as the Market Hall Victoria in London that I detailed in my review of Gopal’s Corner) in which one or more bars and a handful of restaurants are combined in a large hall, reminiscent of the food courts of a classic US shopping mall, but including alcoholic beverages and a more curated selection of dining options. In the United States, this concept has been used a lot by the Galley Group who has opened “Galleys” in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit (with more coming in Chicago and Minneapolis), combining beer bars and cocktail bars with a handful of selected dining establishments that all bus your ordered food out to common dining tables. It’s a rather nice model. A more limited version of this opened this Spring in Detroit behind the new Shinola hotel at The Brakeman. Nominally a beer hall, the Brakeman also has two associated businesses attached to it: a cocktail bar inside the Brakeman, and fried chicken joint, Penny Red’s, the focus of this review.

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Gaku Ramen (Burlington, VT)

Since we live a little over an hour from Burlington, we tend not to do a lot of late night dining around town, since it’s often easier to grab something in Montpelier or the Upper Valley on the way home. But our recent trip had a staying a night in the very pleasant Hotel Vermont (which has a truly fine beer bar in the lobby), and between our earlier event with friends from the FOM and having a night cap at the Hotel Vermont bar, we decided to do a late evening stroll down Burlington’s Church Street, checking out the late night shopping and dining options. A lot of Church Street’s options close at 9, but a few places keep going for quite a while. While we almost got drawn into Ken’s Pizza (itself worthy of a review at some point), as we got to the south end of Church Street I remembered a place that’s been on our hit list for a while: Gaku Ramen.

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Bleu (Burlington, VT)

For our annual celebration of Carol’s birthday, we decided this year to head up to Burlington, VT for a weekend of hanging out with friends, exploring more of Burlington’s great scenery and dining options. Our usual go-to for Burlington is Asian food, since it’s the nearest metro area with a decent selection of Asian restaurants (and indeed, our previous night’s visit was to a ramen shop), but Carol was craving seafood, so we opted for a brunch at Bleu, located inside Burlington’s Courtyard by Marriott.

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Creek House Diner (Bethel, VT)

I really like wandering around the back roads of Vermont, and while a lot of the little towns in central Vermont (especially along Route 100) seem to have a lot of neat restaurants, I unfortunately don’t often seem to be driving through those parts of the state when we’re looking for food. But a recent trip to a beer festival in Killington, VT finally gave us a chance to check out one of the places that’s been on our hit list: Creek House Diner in Bethel, VT.

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Kowloon (Saugus, MA)

In the post-war Era, literally thousands of “Polynesian” and “Tiki”-themed restaurants showed up around the US, peddling a mostly even mix of Polynesian, Maori, Asian, Pacific Island, and Escapism. Providing a spot where you could get away and sip any one of a number of Tiki or tropical drinks, nosh at a pu pu platter, and, for the larger establishments, maybe even catch a floor show. Sure, if one is looking for “authentic” food (Chinese, Polynesian, Japanese, or otherwise), this isn’t your place, but like I said in last year’s House of Wu, these sorts of places still have a valuable niche in American cuisine, with somewhat equal parts sentimentalism, nostalgia, preservation, adaptation, and, admittedly, bastardization. Once plentiful, changing American tastes, a wider variety of competing cuisines, changing local economies, and different challenges of running a huge restaurant have taken their toll, and many of these 1950s and 1960s places have faced the wrecking ball (including the recent 2018 closings of both Chicopee’s Hu Ke Lau and Lynnfield’s Bali Hai, both former Tiki icons). Despite the trend, Kowloon, in Saugus MA, still hangs on (and heck, it’s one of New England’s highest volume restaurants).

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Little Brother Burgers (New London, NH)

Sometimes it can be nice to break a curse. We all know them, those “cursed” restaurant locations that, for one reason or another, seem to consistently fail to thrive as a restaurant for one restaurateur after another, until finally either a restaurant manages to break the curse, or the building owner gives up and converts the space to something other than a restaurant. Well, recently I was heading back home from SE New Hampshire, and decided to meet Carol for dinner in New London at Little Brother’s Burger Company for dinner. Looking up the address, 420 Main St (an, ahem, memorable address), I immediately recognized it as New London’s cursed spot. In my 18 years living in the region, that same address has had one failed restaurant after another. Most recently, it was Cataleya’s Caribbean Grill. Before that, the Hole in the Fence Cafe. A tavern before that, and several other places that have since faded into memory (Snyder’s Tavern, College Cafe, …). The track record for places opening here is, quite frankly, dismal. But hey, a new owner, some new ideas, maybe something will catch this time?

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15sx (Andover, MA)

As a NH resident who is primarily going to Boston, Worcester, or Natick when I visit, there are some surprisingly large regions of Massachusetts that I haven’t explored in much detail, just because they sit between my usual traffic routes, such as Melrose (just north of Malden) which I visited for the first time earlier this year, or Andover, which I’d somehow managed to visit every surrounding town but not Andover itself. But a recent Robotics event I was judging in Salem, NH had me looking for cheap but decent hotel accommodations, and I ended up at a reasonably pleasant Holiday Inn Express in North Andover. And, while my various robotic judging activities did include a reasonable amount of food, after things wrapped up one evening I was still interesting in having a light dinner, so I drove over to downtown Andover to finally check it out. It’s a pleasant New England downtown area with a good number of shops and restaurants, and while I originally was eying Andolini’s Italian restaurant, since I was looking for just a light dinner, I ended up in what is essentially their annex next door, 15sx.

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Quality Chop House (London, UK)

While this particular London trip was a flurry of visits to different cuisines ranging from Chinese, to Malaysian, to Turkish, I try to make it a point to visit at least a few places featuring classic British cuisine on each visit, both on the casual side of things (a near-obligatory visit to The Regency Cafe happening on this trip as well) and the formal end as well. After an informative trip to The Postal Museum and it’s related, not-to-be-missed Mail Rail exhibit taking you through old, compact mail tunnels running under the streets of London, it was time to wander down Farringdon Road and get a lunch of classic, old-school British fare at Quality Chop House.

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Westow House (London, UK)

Our second to last full day in London involved a trip out to Crystal Palace Park to gaze upon what little remains of the old Victorian era Crystal Palace. Built in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851, and later moved to Southeast London on top of a hill, the palace itself burnt down in the 1930s, but bits and pieces of the former wonder still remain: the foundation, the main staircase, some sphinxes, and some curiously outdated but historical dinosaurs. After a nice walk seeing the park, being a Sunday, we decided it would be nice to duck into a pub and score some classic pub food, wandering over to Westow House on the west edge of the park.

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Cyprus Mangal (London, UK)

One of the enjoyable aspects of my London trips is that, in addition to all the great British and Commonwealth cuisines that get good representation, the London metro area has quite a good collection of Turkish restaurants. Previously, I’ve gotten to enjoy Tad in Hackney, and Likya in Golders Green, and particularly Kazan right down the street from my brother’s flat. Kazan isn’t the only Turkish option in Pimlico, either, just around the corner lies Cyprus Mangal. We’ve been there a few times before, when the food was excellent but I would have called the dining room ambiance “cozy”. But sometime in the last few years Cyprus Mangal had a rather major renovation and we decided it was a good opportunity to drop in and give them another try.

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