Archive | United States RSS feed for this section

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.

Continue Reading ...

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.

Continue Reading ...

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.

Continue Reading ...

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.

Continue Reading ...

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).

Continue Reading ...

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?

Continue Reading ...

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.

Continue Reading ...

Cornerstone Burger Co. (Northfield, VT)

Way back when we moved to Northern New England, the town of Northfield was one of those little Vermont towns that was easy to miss; the routing of Interstate 89 somewhat bypasses it, and at the time it didn’t have much other than Norwich University and the Cabot Hosiery Mill (now “Darn Tough”) annual sock sale that would draw people into town. Well, a lot has happened in Northfield; it’s still a “quaint New England college town”, but it’s started to become a good local center for food, beer, and coffee. Downtown Northfield has had some fits and starts, but several developments on East St now have lead to a trio of businesses all in a row: Carrier Coffee Roasting, Good Measure Brewing (shared owners with Carrier, and during most operating hours, sharing the seating area), and Cornerstone Burger Co (an offshoot of the larger Cornerstone Pub and Kitchen in nearby Barre, another perennial entry on my “hit list”). After a recent visit in which we stocked up on Guatemalan coffee beans at Carrier and then had a nice pint of cream ale at Good Measure, we decided to finally stop in and try Cornerstone.

Continue Reading ...

Lao’De Café (Lowell, MA)

A regular feature of my enjoyment of both cooking and Asian cuisine in general means that occasionally we’ve got to head down to Massachusetts on a run for ingredients. This time, it was a trip down to Penzey’s Spices (my favorite for getting high quality spices), then a trip over to the surprisingly affordable and expansive selection of Indian ingredients at Patel Bros in Waltham, followed by the inevitable trip to H-Mart in Burlington, MA for our Japanese and Korean groceries. After a rather successful trip to all three, we headed back home to New Hampshire, passing through Lowell, MA around dinner time. As you can see from my other reviews around Lowell, it’s a neat little town, with one of the more rich and diverse histories. Named after industrial pioneer Francis Cabot Lowell, Lowell was originally founded as a mill town, replacing farmers’ field in Chelmsford MA with a combination of textile mills, factories, and canals as one of the nation’s earliest industrial centers. After a lull in the mid-20th century as, like almost every other mill town in New England, things moved to the South and overseas, Lowell hit a second wave of development in the late 20th century with a combination of education (Umass-Lowell), computers (Wang was founded in Lowell), and then and interesting demographic change as it became a major center for Southeastern Asian immigrants, forming substantial Cambodian, Laos, Vietnamese, and Indian communities. This gives it a very interesting mix of everything from old school blue-collar diners (like The Owl), Portuguese food (Cavaleiros), over a dozen good Cambodian places , and even a handful of Laos places. Which brings us to Lao’De Café.

Continue Reading ...

Sichuan Garden (Brookline, MA)

A few weekends ago, Carol and I went down to Brookline, MA on an expedition to meet up with some of my fellow Fraternal Order of Moai colleagues for some exploration of some of Boston’s cocktail bars new and old. One place we were looking to explore was a relatively new addition to Brookline: Blossom Bar. Nominally replacing the previous Sichuan Garden restaurant, it sounded like a nice place to start our wandering, since they opened at 11am. Well, it appears our intel was wrong; Sichuan Garden is still alive and well in restaurant form, their cocktail bar distinctly doesn’t open until 5pm; at 11 am they are still just a restaurant without cocktails. While slightly disappointing, I was quickly soothed by the fact that the food menu looked good. Really good. So once our posse arrived, we ordered up a bunch of appetizers and food to sustain us on the rest of our trip through Boston.

Continue Reading ...