The Stubborn Mule

Tuscan flat bread special

Tuna bowl

pastrami sandwich

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

This was an odd meal, parts of it fine, others pretty much off the rails. It’s hard to judge how much of the experience was colored by a fairly dreadful server, but there were some issues in the kitchen, too.

First the good:

There is a nice outdoor seating area.

The menu is interesting.

The day’s special Tuscan flatbread was delicious, with a perfectly crisped naan crust and a lovely combination of toppings.

The rosemary fries were very good.

Now the not so good:

I would have been better disposed toward the experience if not for the server. We started with the wrong wine, and ended with the wrong entree.

I ordered the smashed salmon sandwich, but I got a pressed pastrami. I like pastrami okay, but this was fairly fatty, and there was an unappealing bitter spread.

Our server offered to correct the mistake, but at this point we were two hours into lunch, and it seemed futile. And that was also two hours without a water refill, so we were getting parched.

The tuna bowl had good tuna and avocado, but I suspect that consumption of the dressing (thankfully served on the side) would have made us sick, as it was pretty clearly spoiled.

I suppose if you’re looking for a burger that might be a good choice. Maybe you’ll have better luck than we did.

The Stubborn Mule
100 S Eola Dr
Orlando, FL
32801
+1-407-730-3400
https://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/the-stubborn-mule-orlando-2

Roque Pub

Interior

The Silo

***** (5 stars)

Roque offers a very extensive selection of beers on tap, and a really staggering list of beers in bottles and cans. There are many local offerings, and the list is brilliantly categorized by style, alcohol, bitterness and color. This was the most informative beer list I’ve ever seen, and is ther reason for their fifth star.

Unlike many of the beer-centric places in town, they also have a nice menu of sandwiches and pub food. The Silo was piled high with tender roast beef, and the grilled cheese panini was even better.

Service was fast and friendly, and there are darts and electronic games, plus live entertainment and special events most nights of the week.

Roque Pub
3076 Curry Ford Rd
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 985-3778
https://www.yelp.com/biz/roque-pub-orlando

Currito

Interior

Cantina bowl

Quesadilla

Frijol torta

*** (3 stars)

If Currito were a Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood I probably wouldn’t be a regular visitor. But on the other hand, I’m not a regular visitor to places like Chipotle or Tijuana Flats, and frankly the food is better at Currito.

The atmosphere isn’t bad–considering the time-worn condition of this terminal at La Guardia, they’ve carved out a cozy niche.

We tried a quesadilla, some chips and salsa, a bowl and a wrap. All of them were just fine. The salsa was better than at half the Mexican restaurants I go to, and the chips were nice and crisp.

The house margarita is excellent, and a decent value and size serving for an airport drink.

Service was polite and reasonably attentive.

Currito
Newark International Airport
Terminal A
Newark, NJ 07114
(973) 547-7938
https://www.yelp.com/biz/currito-newark-3

Valor

Cheeseburger

Salmon

Sorry, there’s only one rib left for you. We fell on the rest like hungry wolves.

Trio of ice creams and bombe

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This popular cafe serves good food with a bit of a French influence to some dishes.

We started with four appetizers. The one we absolutely loved was the Sticky Asian Pork Ribs, which were coated in a wonderful soy-infused teriyaki sauce. Popcorn Cauliflower was also very good, especially dipped in the leftover rib sauce! Warm Brussels Sprout Caesar and Roasted Broccoli and Grilled (cold) Shrimp were both just okay.

Everyone also liked their entrees, which included the Steak Frites, Salmon, and a Cheeseburger.

For dessert we had a housemade ice cream trio and a Chocolate Bombe, both of which were also good.

The wine list is a bit obscure, but we found some interesting selections, and prices are reasonable.

Service was attentive and friendly.

Valor
667 Vernon Ave
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 786-4324
https://www.yelp.com/biz/valor-glencoe

Wine Bar George

Upstairs

Downstairs

Exterior

Jicama and kholrabi

Wine flights – any wines and any size pours you want

***** (5 stars)

Finally there is a place in Orlando I can refer my wine loving visitors to! When I first came to Orlando in the early 1980s there were several prestigious wine lists in town, like Chris’ House of Beef. Today there are essentially zero. I end up sending visitors to Berns in Tampa.

But Wine Bar George is something completely different. It’s actually most like the early days of Seasons 52 (before they dumbed down the list), when you could get any of a hundred or so very interesting wines on the list poured by the glass. Wine Bar George goes that one better, and lets you get any wine in any amount, down to an ounce. So you can build your own flights anyway you like.

We had a French and a California Chardonnay, and then a flight of Cabernet, Cab Franc (from South Africa) and Syrah. Two ounces is a perfect pour for wine flights as far as I’m concerned. Then we finished with an ounce of two high-end Dujac wines that I’m sure are not served by the glass anywhere else.

The cheese plate was a great accompaniment, and also included some delicious house marinated olives. Jicama and Kholrabi salad was a great palate cleanser, and then we finished with some Asian influenced chicken skewers.

Service was polished and our server Zach was very knowledgeable. We also chatted with server Chris, who recognized us from past wine dinners. The staff is extremely professional and enthusiastic.

In case you’re wondering who George is, he’s Master Sommelier George Miliotes, and the quality of wine bar George is no accident. His dad owned Chris’ House of Beef where George was a somm as a kid, and George later created that wine program at Seasons 52. Now he’s doing his own thing, and Orlando is all the better for it.

Wine Bar George
1610 Buena Vista Dr
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 490-1800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/wine-bar-george-orlando

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates

Interior

Scallops

Truffle tuna tar tar

Crab cake

Mussels

Brussels sprouts

Squid ink pasta

Shrimp bombs

Red curry elotes

Tiramisu

Mango mousse

**** (4 stars)

This is a charming small restaurant in a quiet section of Andersonville. It focuses on seafood, with a touch of Thai.

Appetizers are a good way to explore the menu here, and we tried most of them.

By far the best thing we had was the Truffle tuna tar tar. The scent of truffle was certainly there, but the thing that made it outstanding was the complex combination of spicy and citrus flavors and interesting tender and crunchy textures.

Seared scallops in curry were also good, and the crab cake was one of the best I’ve had, with a spicy kick and crusty outside.

Mussels were a disappointment. They seemed fishy, and we didn’t finish them.

Shrimp bombs were probably the most typically Thai dish, with a bite of minced shrimp mixture in a deep fried wanton purse. They were okay, but probably not worth the price for what was essentially three bites.

Squid ink pasta was a very substantial plate of dense, black pasta with rings of calamari. You will look like a goth after eating this dish!

Brussels sprouts was an okay side dish, nothing remarkable about them, and not much of the promised maple syrup flavoring.

Red curry elotes was definitely a Thai-spice-level take on this traditional street corn.

For dessert we finished with the mango mousse and tiramisu. The tiramisu was the better of the two, but wasn’t like what you’re picturing. Instead it is a dome with a chocolate crust encasing Thai iced tea flavored mousse.

Service was good, particularly considering that our server and her trainee were handling the entire restaurant.

Note that it is BYOB, and the liquor store across the street has incredibly poor taste in wine. Best to bring your own.

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates
5701 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 944-0575
https://www.yelp.com/biz/blu-57-seafood-and-small-plates-chicago

Sealegs Wine Bar

Interior

Chilequilles

Ceviche

***** (5 stars)

This is a pretty darn good place, especially for an airport lounge. There’s a nice selection of wines by the glass and bottle, at fairly reasonable prices for an airport. There’s also a great menu off well thought-out, atypical food. Service was a bit slow, but when you’re trying to kill time during a layover and have a nice bottle of wine, that’s fine.

Sealegs Wine Bar
200 World Way
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(424) 227-8295
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sealegs-wine-bar-los-angeles

The Stinking Rose

Interior

Combo mussels shrimp crab

40 clove chicken

Prime rib

Garlic ice cream with caramel mole sauce

**** (4 stars)

I’ve been wanting to go to a Stinking Rose since I first saw one many, many years ago in San Francisco. I was expecting it to smell of garlic and for every dish to have an overwhelming taste of garlic, but that was far from the case. Garlic was very judiciously used to enhance each dish without being the focus.

By far the best thing we had was the seafood skillet, particularly the mussels. This was the best mussel preparation I’ve ever had.

Prime rib and the 40 clove chicken were good but not remarkable.

Garlic cream is an interesting experience you probably will only want to try once!

The Stinking Rose
55 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-7673
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-stinking-rose-beverly-hills-4

The Ivy

Interior

Patio

Interior

Complimentary garlic toast

The Ivy Sundae

*** (3 stars)

This is a really charming restaurant, from its lovely outdoor patio to the beautifully decorated and intimate dining rooms. Each table is adorned with a vase bursting with fresh roses.

Your experience begins with complimentary glasses of Champagne, and your meal begins with complimentary garlic cheese toast. Both were wonderful, and were actually the two best things we had.

Ceasar salad and tuna tartare were very good starters. The entrees were less impressive. There was nothing noteworthy about the grilled swordfish, and my companion’s steak, ordered medium rare, was cooked far beyond well done, to medium cremated. We never send anything back to the kitchen, but we had to send this back. To their credit, it was swiftly whisked away and removed from the bill.

The sundae was a very nice dessert, served deconstructed, with two excellent sauces.

The service was pleasant and responsive, but not necessarily attentive.

There are some decent wines by the glass and a few lesser wines with reasonable prices, but the good wines on the list are steeply marked up, which is opposite the usual strategy. As a result we settled for one that was only adequate.

The Ivy
113 N Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 274-8303
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-ivy-los-angeles

The Little Door

Door

Exterior

Mussels

Sesame Seared Day Boat Scallops, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Chermoula Marinated Grilled Octopus, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare and Shaved Fennel Salad

Patio at night

***** (5 stars)

The extraordinarily romantic ambiance of The Little Door makes it almost a magical dining experience. Divided into many intimate spaces, it feels like you’re dining in a patio, or a forest, or a cottage, depending upon where you sit.

Tuna tartare was a nice starter, but the grilled octopus was even better, extremely tender and flavorful.

The mussels appetizer which my companion had as an entree was huge; she could only eat half!

My grilled scallops were perfectly cooked and accompanied by carrots seasoned with interesting Morrocan spices.

The extensive wine list is extremely reasonably priced.

Service was professional, attentive, and friendly.

The Little Door
8164 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1210
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-little-door-los-angeles