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Fox and Harrow (Royalton, VT)

(Closed) It’s always a bit weird that when the various delays involved in writing up my restaurant reviews result in my having a review written for a place that, after my visit but before the review posts, ends up closing… With a usual delay of 2 months or so between a visit and a review, this isn’t the first time it has happened, indeed, you end up with these odd sorts of reviews that are like flies trapped in amber, referring to a place that my readers could never go. Indeed, in a bit of irony, my review of the previous restaurant to inhabit this space, the old Fox Stand Inn in North Royalton, fell to exactly this fate, closing two weeks after a rather pleasant dinner I had. My usual policy is to forego these reviews in favor of working on my backlog, but in this case, I thought I’d share the review in a bit of an ode to what pre-pandemic dining was, and what we hope it will soon be again.

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Funkalicious (White River Junction, VT)

While Covid-19 continues to tally up some casualties on the dining scene, I’m still thrilled when someone is able to reverse the trend with the occasional opening. In this case, over in White River Junction, VT, in an older storefront that last I knew held Kibby Equipment Company (purveyors of fine chainsaws), Kevin Halligan and Dee Sonthikoummane have opened Funkalicious Market and Deli. This wasn’t a sudden opening; I remember seeing an announcement in the Valley News almost a year ago that they were installing countertops and getting ready for opening a market and deli that was focusing on housemade meats and specialty sandwiches, with an opening in February or March. Well, we all know those sorts of plans turned out… but in late October 2020 Funkalicious was finally able to open their doors, primarily offering a butcher counter and a menu of interesting sandwiches showcasing their smoked meats and other prepared deli foods.

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Amada’s Mexican Food (Mesa, AZ)

While it’s pretty quiet here at Offbeat Eats due to us being in month 8 of the general pandemic shutdown, I’ve still had the occasional travel. In this case, I had to take a trip to visit my parents in Arizona and help take care of some issues around the house. A long tradition of mine when I’m visiting my parents is to indulge in something that’s pretty rare around VT and NH: a really good breakfast burrito. Well, the Phoenix metro area has, seriously, probably a thousand places where one can get a good breakfast burrito, and during these Covid pandemic times, getting some takeout burritos is still a viable strategy. Most trips, I would head over to Amado’s Mexican Food about a half mile away and get a righteous machaca and chorizo breakfast burrito. I just ran into a small glitch this time: Amado‘s Mexican Food isn’t there any more. It’s now, after a sale to a new owner (one of Amado’s co-owners took full ownership), in a triumph of sign updating minimalism, now known as Amada‘s Mexican Food.

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Lalo’s Taqueria (Lebanon, NH)

Well, it’s been pretty quiet here at the blog. My last real restaurant review (of a repeat trip to Pied de Cochon’s Cabane a sucre) was for a visit that happened almost a year ago. Here in NH, March 16th 2020 brought the abrupt closure of restaurants, and now a full six months into Covid, we’re still not back to order. Many places have closed permanently, and with very few exceptions, almost every restaurant still running is, quite frankly, trying to make do with a combination of takeout, outside dining (now on the wane as the temperature drops), and “socially-distanced” dining, and most places are trying more to just stay open than put their best foot forward. I’ve actually got photos and partial reviews for a good dozen places in my backlog, but most of them are now outdated reviews of how things once were, and not how things are, but it seems like a poor time for restaurant reviews in general until things recover a bit more (and nobody wants to read reviews of an experience they can’t currently indulge in). But there have been quite a few bright spots throughout the dismal Covid-19 landscape. I’ve seen more than a few creative approaches for outdoor dining, takeout (including more than a few retrofitted takeout windows), and ways to just keep basic operations going (and staff employed). And in this landscape filled with restaurant closures both temporary and permanent, my local area has even had one notable restaurant opening: Lalo’s Taqueria.

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The Parker Pie Company (West Glover, VT)

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is very pleasant to visit: nice, rolling, forested hills and meadows, with some very nice views of the White Mountains to the east, the Green Mountains to the West, and a few smaller peaks scattered across the landscape. It’s also rather rural at times, so there’s not always a lot of good dining options. But there are some real gems hiding in some of the smaller towns and villages across the Northeast Kingdom’s landscape. One such spot is located in the village of West Glover, VT. Going behind the Lake Parker Country Store, you find yourself at the entrance of a pizza place: Parker Pie.

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Oak and Grain (New London, NH)

In a recent celebration of the 20th anniversary of our first date, Carol and I decided it was a nice opportunity to check out a local restaurant that has been perennially near the top of our hit list: Oak and Grain. Oak and Grain is the in-house restaurant at The Inn at Pleasant Lake, a small lakefront hotel overlooking Pleasant Lake that specializes in weekend getaways and appears to have quite the nice barn rental for weddings as well.

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Barrio Cafe (Phoenix Airport)

If there’s one place in Phoenix that friends are consistently telling me I should visit, it’s Barrio Cafe. Opened back in 2002, Barrio showcases the work of chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, who has gotten quite a following for doing upscale Mexican-American cuisine. Well, I still haven’t made it to Barrio, but I have made it to a close cousin: there’s an offshoot of Barrio Cafe in Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. A combination of weather and equipment issues had me with first a very-delayed, and then a canceled, flight, so I had more than a few hours to wander over to Barrio Cafe in Concourse D (the newest one at PHX, which has substantially more space dedicated to food than the other concourses), so I sit back and had a nice dinner at Barrio Cafe, Airport Edition.

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FnB (Scottsdale, AZ)

On my second night in Arizona, I met up with my old friend Allyson. She wanted to try out a place in Scottsdale recommended by her friends, FnB. Opening back in 2009, FnB has gotten quite a bit of press in recent years, up to and including the head chef Charleen Badman winning the 2019 James Beard award for Best Chef of the Southwest. FnB is primarily known for doing farm-to-table cuisine with local ingredients (including the wine list; FnB has quite the list of Arizona winemakers in their cellar), serving up gastropub food in a modest restaurant space located off of Craftsman Court in Old Town Scottsdale.

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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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The Famous Steak House (Colorado Springs, CO)

Colorado Springs has a lot of the old, classic “Out West” vibe going strong, and one place that really stands out is in the selection of fine dining restaurants: Colorado Springs has quite a few high-end steakhouses right in town: Saltgrass, Mckenzie’s Chop House, Peppertree, and the Famous, just to list ones easily walkable from my hotel. After several long days of work, we decided that it was worth going out and celebrating, and since I had wandered by The Famous a few times, we decided to drop in and give it a try.

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