First Watch



Veggie omelet

**** (4 stars)

I really like the interior decor of this place, with high, modern ceilings, and large walls of glass. It’s much nice than the other First Watches I’ve been to, and also the competitors.

I have to confess that I’m a bit old school as far as breakfast, and I actually prefer most of the items at coffee shops to here, but there are some more heathful options that are interesting. The veggie omelet is a good choice, for example.

The staff was friendly and service was quick.

First Watch
7910 Winter Garden Vineland Road
Windermere, FL
(407) 612-2022

Dixie Belle’s Cafe


BBQ Pork sandwich with onion rings

Sweet potato biscuit

***** (5 stars)

This is a great diner with traditional breakfast and a very wide array of lunch offerings. There’s a counter, lots of indoor seating, and limited outdoor seating.

I had a barbecued pork sandwich. It came with two sides, and I upgraded slightly to get onion rings and a sweet potato biscuit. Everything was perfectly prepared, and the BBQ sauce had just the right tang. It was nice that it was served on the side so you could use as much as you liked; I ended up making two open-faced sandwiches. The onion rings were nicely breaded and very crispy.

It might seem strange to have a sweet potato biscuit in addition to a sandwich, but it was essentially dessert! Crisp on the outside, dusted with sugar, and slightly salty from the pan, it is no wonder they are famous for these.

Service is fast, attentive and friendly.

Dixie Belle’s Cafe
7125 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32809
(407) 906-2476

Cat Store

Cat cookies



Garlic toast

Caramel apple and ice cream


Smoked salmon pizza

Interior with JJ

**** (4 stars)

This was a fun lunch. It’s a bit hard to find the place, as the signage by the entrance to the building is very small, and then you take a tiny elevator to the third floor. But once inside the place is surprisingly spacious.

Don’t expect to have a cat in your lap, but the cats were surprisingly interactive (it was feeding time) and very tolerant of the children who didn[t quite know how to interact with them in proper cat fashion.

The food was surprisingly good. I really like my iced chocolate coffee and apple with ice cream. The cat cookies were homemade and very tasty.

Cat Store
Flat D-E, 3/F, Po Ming Building, 2-6 Foo Ming Street
+852 2710 9953

La Madeleine Country French Cafe


*** (3 stars)

Although the name implies this is a cafe, it’s really a counter serve place, albeit one with some nice outdoor seating.

The best bets are the baked goods. My chicken salad sandwich came on a very authentic croissant. The accompanying Caesar salad and fruit salad were nothing special.

Several in our party had various pastas, and all through they were watery.

Decaf coffee was certainly not the quality you’d get in France.

The employees were friendly enough, but since it is counter serve, there isn’t really much service.

La Madeleine Country French Cafe
4175 Millenia Mall Blvd
Orlando, FL 32839
(321) 332-7001

Dialog Cafe



***** (5 stars)

This cute, family owned coffee shop just off the Sunset Strip offers friendly service and excellent coffee drinks. There are also a large number of breakfast items, and tasty croissants. My macchiato was perfect and attractive.

Dialog Cafe
8766 Holloway Dr
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 289-1630




**** (4 stars)

This is an attractive coffee place in the Fours Seasons. There is a nice selection of pastries. I have to say, though, that the decaf macchiato contained the bitterest shot of espresso I have ever had, requiring the addition of an equal amount of milk and an entire teaspoon of sugar. The Chai tea was quite good.

Four Seasons Hotel
2 Dole Dr
Westlake Village, CA 91362
(818) 575-3000

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe

Bacon cheeseburger



**** (4 stars)

This combination wine shop and cafe is where one of the best scenes in Sideways was filmed. They have an excellent selection of retail wines, focused on the surrounding area, at reasonable prices. Wine tastings are also available, and the central wine bar is a good place to have a glass of your favorite.

The cafe has excellent food. The hamburger is particularly good, especially loaded up with bacon, sauteed onions and your choice of cheese.

I’ve been a member of the wine club for many years, which I particularly like because every quarter you receive high-end wines from completely different wineries, so there is much more variety than in most clubs.

Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe
2879 Grand Ave
Los Olivos, CA 93441
(805) 688-7265

Mariano’€™s Fresh Market

***** (5 stars)

I think I’m in love.

I’ve always considered the ultimate grocery store to be Southern California’s Gelsons (although many vote for Wegman’s, where I’ve never been) with The defunct Florida Gooding’s a close second. But Mariano’s certainly has those two beat.

Basically it’s like Whole Foods plus normal foods, plus a good wine, spirits and liquor store.

I love the vast variety of produce, the way everything is displayed, the logical arrangement of the two levels of the store, the extensive cheese offerings, and the large international section.

It’s great to be able to get organic produce, gourmet products and everyday packaged foods (okay, junk) without having to visit Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Jewel. Mariano has it all. Although I’m not a comparative shopper, prices also seems quite reasonable.

The employees I met were very helpful and cheerful, and the whole store seems like a great place for everyday shopping and discovering new goodies.

I think it will be a long honeymoon.

Mariano’s Fresh Market
333 E Benton Pl
Ste 206
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 228-1349

Labriola Ristorante & Cafe

**** (4 stars)

This is one of the best places for outside dining in the Magnificent Mile area, because the sidewalk cafe is actually a balcony far above Grand Street, so there’s no automobile traffic.

The usual pasta dishes are on offer, but we concentrated on appetizers, and loved everything we tried, particularly the zucchini blossoms, which were very lightly fried and stuffed with a creamy smoked mozzarella that was delicious.

The ricotta appetizer was also excellent, with fresh honey and crusty toasted bread.

Clams and mussels are served in a garlic laced broth that’s not too rich.

We also shared a pizza. The offering changes weekly, so your mileage may vary. We loved the authentic Naples-style crust, but didn’t care for the raspberry and onion based sauce on our particular offering.

There are some nice selections on the wine list, and the service was friendly yet professional.

Labriola Ristorante & Cafe
535 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 955-3100

Amazing Kale Burger Lunch Counter

**** (4 stars)

It’s always a pleasure to eat where the employees are really passionate about what they do, and that epitomizes The Amazing Kale Burger. From the moment I walked in I felt right at home, and my server’s enthusiasm for the food was very clear.

I tried the Vaden, which is served with a beet-based BBQ sauce. The kale burger patty is quite delicious, with all the ingredient in balance, and a nice crust from cooking. The accompanying lettuce and tomato were quite fresh, and the BBQ sauce was delicious. The bun was a bit small, sturdy and dry for my taste, but I can see where others might like it.

For a side dish I had pickled asparagus, which was tossed with yellow peppers and extremely fresh oregano bits. It was delicious.

House made mint tea was pleasantly unsweetened.

The kale burger was one of the better vegetarian patties I’ve had, and I’d often choose it over a meat patty if it were available elsewhere. Coincidentally, I ate here on national burger day!

Amazing Kale Burger Lunch Counter
741 Howard St
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 660-4330