Sayat Nova

**** (4 stars)

Most of the items I tried at Sayat Nova were fine, but not stellar. The hummus appetizer was a bit grainy but okay, and it was served with fresh warm pitas. The number 2 combination at lunch features a nice assortment. I really liked the salad dressing, and the stuffed eggplant was good. the Plaki was pretty thin and rather flavorless.

But the Spinach Boereg was phenomenal–a perfectly flaky philo triangle filled with scrumptious saut√©ed spinach. I would definitely go back just for this one item, and probably try some kebabs or other items, too.

Service was very friendly, and the decor is neat, although I ate on the sidewalk because it was a beautiful day.

Sayat Nova
157 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 644-9159
http://www.yelp.com/biz/sayat-nova-chicago

Taverna Opa

**** (4 stars)

Taverna Opa offers one of the most fun venues at Pointe Orlando. Serving both lunch and dinner, the restaurant has very different atmospheres at day and night.

Lunch is a quiet affair where you can eat outside, inside, and large parties can be accommodated in the spacious back room. At night it transforms into a lively party atmosphere, with much twirling of napkins and shouts of “Opa!”

The menu offers all the Greek standards. The cold appetizer platter is a nice sampling of three dips, and the hot appetizer platter offers delicious wings, lamb ribs, and so-so calamari.

Complimentary hummus that you crush yourself is served with very fresh pitas.

The best appetizer is probably the flaming cheese.

The souvlaki is actually a gyro served with fries, and your choice of filling.

Service is friendly and the wine list is extensive.

Taverna Opa
9101 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 351-8660
http://www.yelp.com/biz/taverna-opa-orlando-3

Nia

**** (4 stars)

This tapas place at the start of Randolph Street’s restaurant row offers a nice assortment of small plates, craft cocktails and interesting wines.

The food emphasizes Greek and Eastern Mediterranean food rather than Spanish tapas. An eight course dinner offers several selections for each course, providing a nice way to sample a whole range of offerings without being stuck with preset choices.

Several interesting wine flights are available, including uncommon varietals from Greece. Service was friendly and efficient.

Nia
803 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-3110
http://www.yelp.com/biz/nia-chicago-2

Travelle

salmonbenedict

***** (5 stars)

Beautiful space with high ceilings and lots of light. We went for a Saturday brunch. There is an extensive buffet, but we ordered off the menu.

The skillet we had was good, but the highlight of the meal was the Benedict. We selected the salmon, and it was an amazing blend of ingredients. The sauce was not a standard Hollandaise as is usual on a Benedict, but rather something much more citrusy and a perfect accompaniment to the salmon and the beautifully cooked eggs. Wedge potatoes had a strong herb flavor but were unremarkable. Service was attentive.

It should be noted that, although we did not have wines (since it was 10am), the wine list here is perhaps the most interesting in the city, with a very broad range of selections ranging from extravagant to affordable, and all very interesting.

Travelle
330 N Wabash Ave
2nd Fl
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 923-7705
http://www.yelp.com/biz/travelle-chicago

The Purple Pig

**** (4 stars)

Despite the name, this place is also a good choice for vegetarians. We had six courses, and aside from a little bacon in one of them, there was no pig or other meat involved. The highlights were the peas (because of the fresh mint mixed in) and the leeks.

There is a great selection of both pasteurized and raw milk cheeses, which made a wonderful dessert plate for two.

For me, though, the reason to go is the remarkable wine list, with hundreds of selections, all from countries bordering the Mediterranean. Nearly every selection is available by the glass, demi, half or full bottle, and they’ll even open a bottle of any of the wines priced under $50 (which is nearly all of them) and pour you just half. So it’s a great place to explore varieties and appellations you’ve never heard of.

One word of warning: the atmosphere is vibrant (read that as LOUD) to say the least, so it’s not a place for intimate conversation. It’s somewhat better on the patio, but even there it’s pretty boisterous.

The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 464-1744
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-purple-pig-chicago

Clos Maggiore

**** (4 stars)

Clos Maggiore has a well-deserved reputation as London’s most romantic restaurant. It’s convenient to the West End theatres, and open late enough to go after the show.

The food is reliable and elegantly presented, and the wine list ad Bas Armagnac are extensive and top notch.

But above all it’s the romantic atmosphere of the garden-like (but completely indoor) dining room that draws us back.

Clos Maggiore
33 King Street
Covent Garden
London, WC2E 8JD
+44 20 7379 9696
http://www.yelp.com/biz/clos-maggiore-london-2

Noyes Street Cafe

**** (4 stars)

I really enjoyed my lunch here, and they were able to accommodate my limited time frame.

The meal includes a simple green salad or soup. I had the salad with balsamic dressing.

I chose the broiled fish sandwich, which was a nice serving of salmon on a good bun. The sandwich was accompanied by lettuce, tomato, cole slaw, pickles, cucumbers, tartar sauce and thin slices of carrot, so I had no trouble finding an interesting way of dressing it! There was also a large mound of hot, crisp french fries.

This was a good sized lunch, all fresh and quickly prepared, and I felt the $11 price tag was quite fair.

Noyes Street Cafe
828 Noyes St
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 475-8683
http://www.yelp.com/biz/noyes-street-cafe-evanston

Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop

***** (5 stars)

I first had falafel many years ago in Los Angeles, so that’s how I expect it to be, and Hubbly Bubbly does it just that way, slicing the pita in half and filling each half, rather than rolling it up. I like the fact that you can select from an array of ingredients as you walk along the counter.

They also have “bowls” and Halal meats, so there are many possible combinations.

Sides include a sort of potato puff and “crispy” cauliflower, which is fixed in the fryer, without batter. I tried both, and though the potatoes were a bit heavier than I wanted, the cauliflower was delicious, and almost completely drained due to the lack of batter.

The owner, George, took time to explain to every new customer what all the options were, and provided free samples of things to try next time.

My new favorite place for falafel in Orlando.

Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop
3405 Edgewater Dr
Orlando, FL 32804
(407) 985-5841
http://www.yelp.com/biz/hubbly-bubbly-falafel-shop-orlando

Mykonos Mayeron Authentic Greek Cuisine

**** (4 stars)

Excellent authentic Greek food, attentive service, and a nice spot to dine outside on the front porch. The three dip sample was an excellent appetizer choice, and the accompanying pitas were perfectly grilled.

Also perfectly grilled was the chargrilled octopus which was tender and flavorful. A nice assortment of Greek wines is available by the glass.

Mykonos Mayeron Authentic Greek Cuisine
2401 W State Rd 434
Longwood, FL 32779
(407) 788-9095
http://www.yelp.com/biz/mykonos-mayeron-authentic-greek-cuisine-longwood

Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar

***** (5 stars)

A very interesting approach to dining. ¬†Originally I think the plan was an all iPad menu and ordering, and that’s still available, but now there are also paper menus, and very attentive service. Everyone was extremely friendly, and the ambience is great.

We tried an array of appetizers and liked them all, including the chickpea fries (great curry aioli), edamame hummus, short rib and mushroom flatbread (didn’t really need the short ribs) and grilled veggies.

Wines are available in as small as 3oz pours, which makes it fun to try different things. (Check out the Klinker Brick Farah Syrah, which won best of show at the state fair).

I love this new addition to the Winter Park dining scene.

Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar
140 N Orlando Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 513-4912
http://www.yelp.com/biz/carmel-cafe-and-wine-bar-winter-park