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Health Check: Reservoir (Montreal, QC)

Back in 2013, I did a brief review of one of my favorite Montreal beer bars: Reservoir. Since then, I’ve had half a dozen revisits there, ranging from just stopping in for a pint, having dinner, and, well, everything in-between. On our recent trip to Quebec, we needed a light “fill in” meal to tide us over to a feast the next day at Au Pied de Cochon’s Cabane a Sucre, and this turned out to be the perfect opportunity to stop in and do a follow-up review of reservoir, including some of their mid-day menu.

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Health Check: Haji Baba Middle Eastern Market (Tempe, AZ)

Despite doing most of my growing up in Arizona, once I graduated from high school I pretty much immediately moved across the country for school, and haven’t lived there in almost 30 years. However, I still have a small stable of favorite restaurants from my years living there that I like to revisit on occasion. Many of those places I used to love are now gone (like Apache Junction’s The Mining Camp, which closed after a fire back in 2015), or some of even sadly morphed into poorer versions of themselves, but there’s a good number of places like The Chuck Box that manage to soldier on, even as the neighborhood around them changes (the Box, for example, is now dwarfed by high rise buildings built by ASU). Every once in a while it’s nice for me to do a followup on old favorites, revisiting them and make sure that they are staying in form. With that in mind, when I was passing through town on a recent business trip, meeting up with my friend Karla for another trip to Haji Baba was in order.

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Health Check: The Baited Hook (Lebanon, NH)

Since I’ve been running this blog for well over a decade, every once in a while it’s worth revisiting some of my old favorites and see how the places are doing. In this case, an outing with a local Upper Valley Foodie facebook group has us revisiting The Baited Hook, the well-known “clam shack” on the shores of Mascoma Lake in Lebanon, NH (years later, I still get in arguments about this, but The Baited Hook in unarguably still in Lebanon). Indeed, it was way back in 2008 that I originally reviewed them, and there was a lot I liked back then: a nice dining room and outdoor patio overlooking the lake, a decent burger, and a fair selection of fried seafood specials. Nothing fancy, but certainly enjoyable, and popular with the folks living on the lake.

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Health Check: Al’s Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN)

Every once in a while it’s nice for me to do a followup on old favorites, revisiting them and make sure that they are staying in form. In this case, my trip to Minneapolis gave me a good chance to stop by and check in on what remains as perhaps my favorite breakfast place ever, Al’s Breakfast. It’s best if you read over my older review, but it’s basically a small, 14-stool diner wedged in what’s literally a roofed over alleyway in Minneapolis’s “Dinkytown” neighborhood. “Narrow” is an understatement, since a limber person literally can touch both walls at points, and as you sit enjoying your breakfast (aside from special events, it is a breakfast-only joint), if it’s at all busy there’s someone hovering mere inches away waiting for your seat. And the food? The breakfasts at Al’s are fantastic, ranging from egg dishes and omelets to pancakes to house-made CBH, and it’s the ultimate in the short order experience: your order belted out by the staff, echoed back by the person running the grill (back in the days, it was almost always one of the two owners, Doug or Jim).

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Health Check: Black Pig (Cleveland, OH)

Way back in 2013, I did a review of a relatively new addition to the Ohio City dining scene: Black Pig, which had been newly opened by chef Mike Nowak (who had previously been executive chef at several other Ohio City hot spots, including Bar Cento and Market Garden. Since that visit, a lot has changed with Black Pig. For starters, they’ve moved, from their relatively cozy location on W 25th to a substantially larger location on Bridge Ave that used to hold the revered Parker’s restaurant (meanwhile, their old location was taken over by neighbor Nano Brew, providing them a much-needed increase in space). With the move, they ended up retooling the menu a little bit; the focus is still definitely on “New American Cuisine” using locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients, particularly focusing on Ohio’s beef and pork products, but shifting a bit more towards a more regular menu; my two previous Black Pig visits had custom chef’s tastings, and while they’ve still got an impressive “Tasting Menu”, it’s generally now just a prix fixe menu with periodic seasonal updates. And with the substantially enlarged space, Black Pig does a lot more “Private Dining” events than they used to as well. But I continue to hear some really good word of mouth about Black Pig, so I figured that ending this year’s Death March there would be a great opportunity to check in on how they are doing.

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Health Check: Wonton Gourmet (Cleveland, OH)

I’ve got a number of reviews here that are, in the grand scale of the internet and blogging, well, ancient. For example, way, way back in 2009 I did a review of Wonton Gourmet in Cleveland, and while I’ve had many, many trips back to the Cleveland area, I haven’t actually been back to Wonton Gourmet in almost a decade. But with this year’s Cleveland “Death March”, not only was I revisiting Cleveland, but we were literally walking right by Wonton Gourmet at lunch time, so I decided it would be a good place to stop, take a break, and see if Wonton Gourmet was still as good as I remembered.

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