33 & Melt

The Melt

Exterior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

When you specialize in one type of sandwich you’d better be good at it, and indeed 33 & Melt is very good at grilled cheese sandwiches. Many varieties are available with various additions, but I went with The Melt. The combination of cheeses was perfect, and the bread was grilled to a lovely deep golden brown.

The sandwich came with a small cup of homemade tomato soup for dipping, but I just sipped that by itself. Delicious. There was also a mixed green dressed in a vinaigrette, but I thought it was a bit salty. Fries might have been a better option. It all came for one reasonable price.

There’s an inside counter and a few tables, plus several nicely shaded outside tables. I liked the classic rock soundtrack. Service was quick and friendly.

33 & Melt
13790 Bridgewater Crossings Blvd
Ste 1000
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 614-3843
https://www.yelp.com/biz/33-and-melt-windermere

The Tam O’Shanter

Prime rib English cut

Toad in the hole

Exterior

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

Opened in 1922, Tam O’Shanter is one of LA’s oldest restaurants. Although it is owned by Lawry’s, the atmosphere is quite different, with cozy nooks and fireplaces everywhere throughout the rabbit warren of rooms.

As at Lawry’s, prime rib is a major attraction, but there are many other interesting dishes, some with an Old World history, such as Toad in the Hole, which here is served as a large Yorkshire Pudding filled with stew ingredients.

The wine list at first looks small, but it is simply compact. Extensive selections are available in every category, and pricing is reasonable.

Our server, Mark, was that rare mixture of professional waiter, interesting personality, and gracious host, and he made our evening a delight.

The Tam O’Shanter
2980 Los Feliz Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 664-0228
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-tam-o-shanter-los-angeles

Pacific Dining Car

Onion rings

Lobster Mac and cheese

Chilean sea bass

Scallop appetizer

Sign

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Great ambiance and excellent food are the highlights at this historic restaurant near downtown.

The original section, build in 1921 to look like a dining car and actually equipped with wheels, was indeed moved to its current location a few years later. The rest is added on.

Steaks are excellent here, but my favorite item was the wedge salad, which had an interesting balsamic ranch dressing and real Roquefort cheese. Onion rings and truffle lobster mac were also excellent sides.

The Chilean sea bass was the best I’ve had, a giant piece perfectly seared and not overcooked.

Chocolate souffle didn’t seem particularly special but was okay.

The downside here is the pricing, which is 50-100% higher than any other steakhouse in LA. $26 for a salad appetizer? True, it could be split, but still…

Oddly, the wine pricing is very reasonable, so if you order a couple of bottles you might come out even.

Professional service that didn’t rush us, even on a fairly busy day. It’s interesting that the restaurant is open 24/7. I wonder what a fine dining resturant is like at 5am.

Pacific Dining Car
1310 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 483-6000
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pacific-dining-car-los-angeles

River Roast

*** (3 stars)

I was expecting River Roast to be like all the steakhouses in town, but it’s not. For one thing, they don’t have steak. It’s also much more casual.

The concept here is that almost everything is roasted. I guess that makes sense, given the name. On the day we visited there was one selection of fish, prime rib or chicken as the protein sources. We didn’t choose any of them, although perhaps we should have.

Instead, we tried almost everything else on the menu. Unfortunately, despite that diversity, we didn’t really find anything we’d want to eat again. Here’s what we had:

House pickles were good, actually the best thing we had, but beware the red peppers as they are insanely hot.

Chicken “gobbets” were bite size chunks of fried chicken in a crispy batter, served with honey. They were the other dish we liked.

Shaved salad had a broad mixture of fennel, radishes, mushrooms, arugula, carrots and other stuff, dress in a lemon vinaigrette. The ingredients didn’t really come together into a cohesive dish.

Smoked salmon was served in a sauce that didn’t do it any favors.

Roasted carrots and “dirt” were pretty plain tasting carrots with some crumbs on them. A bit of the honey from the chicken helped them.

Peas were served in a bowl, and couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be soup. The bits of ham added some flavor, and these were probably the best vegetable.

Roasted curry cauliflower had a nice char on top, but the only flavor was from the red sauce underneath which it is a stretch to call curry.

Overall, nothing would bring me back unless I had a craving for prime rib, which might be good.

The service staff was friendly and efficient.

The night we visited there was a live jazz trio playing in the dining room, even though it was early. They were talented and the music was at a reasonable level.

River Roast
315 N La Salle Dr
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 822-0100
http://www.yelp.com/biz/river-roast-chicago-3

Farmhouse

**** (4 stars)

This is a review of Saturday brunch. The menu combines lunch items such as a burger with traditional brunch items prepared in non-traditional ways.

The Farmhouse breakfast included delicious scrambled eggs with spinach and cheddar. Contrary to the menu description it was not white cheddar, and the spinach was somewhat over-salted, but the combination–particularly the shallots–was delicious. Accompanying potatoes were nicely crisped even though they were in huge (as in half a potato each) chunks that made them look like cottage fries for Godzilla. The bacon and toast were unremarkable.

French toast, a new menu item, was served in three 3-inch by 3-inch by 3-inch cubes, browned on the outside, and topped with a mixed berry compote. It was tasty but very sweet.

Service was friendly, and the space is light and airy at lunch time. Upstairs and downstairs are nearly identical.

Farmhouse
228 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 280-4960
http://www.yelp.com/biz/farmhouse-chicago-3

Bijan’s Bistro

**** (4 stars)

It’s hard to categorize Bihan’s because of the incredibly diverse menu, which offers something for nearly every taste, from French and Mediterranean food to Burgers and sandwiches, Italian, and even bar food.

We liked everything we had, but in particular the spinach artichoke dip with lavash was really excellent.

There’s an extensive bar, and all the standard cocktails as well as wine and beer. Service was friendly and attentive.

In addition to all-day dining they server really late (4am).

Bijan’s Bistro
663 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 202-1904
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bijans-bistro-chicago

Untitled Supper Club

**** (4 stars)

Untitled isn’t exactly a supper club or a speakeasy, but it does have some elements of those. You enter down a broad staircase into a foyer off of which large rooms extend in all directions. One room is a large lounge that serves over 500 whiskeys, another has a stage for live performances (there was a very good Jazz quintet playing the night we visited) and a third room is strictly for dining, and features private alcoves for six all around the edges. This last room was most to our taste, as the live band was audible but conversation was still possible. Decor throughout is romantic and 1920s inspired.

The menu contains a nice variety of shareable plates, and a selection of full-size entrees. We loved the Mussels, which were served in a green curry broth that tasted like Tom Yum Goong. There were a LOT of mussels in the bowl for a very reasonable $16.

We also vaporized two other small plates, deviled eggs, and bacon fat fries. Yes, you read that right–write, BACON FAT FRIES! They were as good as you would imagine.

Well after all that, we could only share a salad as our main dish, and our server’s recommendation of the asparagus salad was a great one. Raw, pickled and grilled asparagus were combined with mixed greens and an excellent green goddess dressing.

An interesting cocktail list includes smokey, bitter and other exotic flavors. A nice variety of wines by the glass is on offer, along with a limited bottle list that seemed a bit pricey.

Service was amazing (as was our server’s dress). Her recommendations were spot on. Note that many of the hostesses and servers were scantily clad, and apparently things get bawdy as the evening progresses.

It’s a bit hard to describe the concept here, because they are trying to be several things at once, and are doing so pretty successfully. I can see it as a place for business over whiskey, for cocktails, for a romantic dinner, or a late night show. And by moving from room to room, you could actually do several on the same visit.

Untitled Supper Club
111 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 880-1511
http://www.yelp.com/biz/untitled-supper-club-chicago

Bridges Waterside Grille

**** (4 stars)

This place is right on the canal, and offers a nice view of the boats passing by, as well as having slips for boaters who want to eat. There are quite a lot of tables, but the staff did a good job of keeping up with them, even though they were full.

The food is fairly standard sports bar/fish camp stuff, with lots of sandwiches and fried offerings. They also serve alcoholic beverages.

Bridges Waterside Grille
508 E 2nd St
Michigan City, IN 46360
(219) 878-0227
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bridges-waterside-grille-michigan-city-2

Keke’s Breakfast Cafe

**** (4 stars)

This is one of the better Keke’s locations, with a nice interior and excellent staff. While I usually go to Keke’s for breakfast, they have a fair variety of lunch items as well.

The Carolina Chicken wrap I tried on this visit combined fried chicken chunks, pecans, bacon, tomato, and lettuce. It was good with the accompanying spicy remoulade, which was really intended for the rather flavorless onion rings.

Keke’s Breakfast Cafe
2433 S Hiawassee Rd
Ste 130
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 298-3684
http://www.yelp.com/biz/kekes-breakfast-cafe-orlando-7

The Kerryman

*** (3 stars)

OK, I admit I’m not a huge fan of Irish pubs, but occasionally I’m dragged to one by my wife and discover the food is far above my expectations. This was not one of those times.

A general fogginess from the server about the characters of the beers and Irish spirits available did not bode well. Irish coffee was potable but not stellar, and they were out of the Jameson I ordered.

Sometimes you get decent American bar food in an Irish pub (this even happens in Ireland) so it’s not entirely stupid to order stuff like chili or a quesadilla. The chili was acceptable, the quesadilla about as mediocre as you’d guess.

But what should be really good is fish and chips, and indeed it was beautifully cooked, with a crispy brown batter. Unfortunately it was pretty greasy, and the fish, although tender and flaky had no flavor whatsoever. The accompanying fries were excellent, though.

There was one standout dish, though: the smoked gouda mac and cheese. It was the best thing I’ve ever had in an Irish pub, and the best mac and cheese I’ve had that didn’t involve lobster. This dish might by itself justify a return visit.

The Kerryman
661 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 335-8121
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-kerryman-chicago