Bar Louie – I-Drive


**** (4 stars)

This location is a bit of dejavu, since it is almost the same as the previous Bar Louie on Sand Lake Road. No doubt this is a better spot for the evening tourist trade. The large bar makes it good for groups, and the many roll-up doors are nice on cooler evenings. The menu is the same as other Bar Louies, with a mix of bar foods and burgers. A few of my favorite items from the past have disappeared or been simplified, but it’s still probably one of the better choices in the tourist corridor.

Bar Louie – I-Drive
8510 International Dr
Orlando, FL
(407) 553-8502

Michael Mina Pub 1842

Bacon Cheeseburger

Salmon dip

Beer flight



*** (3.5 stars)

This is a nice sports bar at the rear of the MGM Grand. There are lots of large screens so it’s a great place to watch a game.

The beer flights give you lots of flexibility to sample four of your choice, and there is an interesting menu, with excellent burger options. We also really like the salmon dip appetizer which was plenty for several people to share. Service was quick.

Michael Mina Pub 1842
3799 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 891-3922

The Gnarly Barley



Gnar BQ Taco

1/2 Grown Up Grilled Cheese and side salad


***** (5 stars)

A great little dive bar with excellent food and 16 beers on tap.

The place is really small, but there are also some larger tables on the back porch.

The Gnar-BQ Taco was a nice portion of savory shredded pork offset by crisp, tangy slaw.

The Grown Up Grilled Cheese combined cheddar, Swiss and goat cheese with bacon, but the real highlight was thin, crisp apple slices. It was perfectly grilled. I had it as “Mom’s Special”: a half sandwich with a side salad. The blue cheese dressing is VERY chunky.

It’s nice that their tap beers are available in half portions so you can try more. Service was friendly.

The Gnarly Barley
7431 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32809
(407) 854-4999

Bulla Gastrobar






Salmon rillettes


**** (4 stars)

I love the interior design of this place, which has cool lighting and excellent acoustics. It is a Spanish tapas restaurant, but at least at brunch I found the selections to be more modern American that authentic Spanish tapas.

My companion had the gazpacho, which was excellent, although unusual in that it seemed to include cream. She also had the ceviche, which included a very generous portion of cooked shrimp, but wasn’t really what she was looking for in an authentic Spanish ceviche.

I had the brunch, which allows you to choose three plates for $27. While that might sound steep, they are very large servings and quite shareable.

I had the flatbread with Mahón cheese, sunny side up quail eggs, caramelized onions, oyster mushrooms and bacon. It was one of the best flatbreads I’ve had, with a thin, crisp crust, charred around the edges, and the eggs and bacon perfectly cooked. The sweetness of the caramelized onions went perfectly with the savoriness of the other ingredients.

My second plate was supposed to be the salmon crostini, slices of salmon on crostini. Due to confusion in the kitchen (or a mistake our waiter was unwilling to admit to) they actually brought me the Salmon Rillettes, which was a spread. It’s actually not a selection on the brunch tasting menu, but I liked it fine, despite my confusion.

My third plate was the least successful. The Bulla Burger was a generous serviing of 45 day dry-aged beef, topped by cheese, sauteed onions and a single pepper. The meat was, in fact far too generous, more of a baseball than a patty. As a result the “medium” I ordered ended up charred on the outside but completely raw throughout the middle. I also felt the burger needed some condiments, as the ingredients didn’t really have that much flavor. However at this point I’d had so much food it didn’t really matter that this course went largely uneaten. I will say the accompanying “truffle fries” (which were actually rosemary flavored diced potatoes) were well cooked and tasty.

I’m not a big brunch fan, so I appreciated the wide varieties of non-brunchy offerings at Bulla. Service was friendly, and I’d definitely go back.

Bulla Gastrobar
110 S Orlando Ave
Ste 7
Winter Park, FL 32789
(321) 594-4175

F&D Kitchen & Bar



***** (5 stars)

This gastro pub has an excellent menu that is more healthy than most. There is less frying, more grilling, and a thoughtful selection of vegetables.

There is also an extensive selection of carefully chosen quality wines by the glass.

The decor is sophisticated, with an acoustic-friendly ceiling that works well.

Service was friendly and helpful.

F&D Kitchen & Bar
1541 International Pkwy
Ste 1001
Lake Mary, FL 32746
(407) 915-5687

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

Copper Fox

**** (4 stars)

This space that occupies one section of the ground floor of a hotel doesn’t look much like a  gastropub, but the food definitely qualifies.

The standout item was the #16 Biscuits, probably the best biscuits I’ve ever had. They were crunchy on the outside, warm and flaky on the inside, with a slight herbal scent. The honey butter was a perfect accompaniment.

Smoked gouda mac and cheese was also very good, with slightly crisped edges due to the bubbling hot skillet it was served in.

The seven layer chicken salad was a nice combination of romaine, corn, black beans, shredded chicken and ranch dressing. Less interesting was the hamburger, which was fairly ordinary, and served with thick cut, skin on, somewhat limp fires.

Service was friendly. There is an adjoining bar making some interesting cocktails, including several complex variants of the Moscow Mule.

Copper Fox
155 East Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 255-8505


**** (4 stars)

I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1960s, so I have fond memories of the original Lawry’s and CC Browns Ice Cream Parlor. But I’m rarely in the mood for a complete prime rib dinner, so I was interested in trying the Side Door, since it is essentially the bar for Lawry’s Chicago.

Side Door bills themselves as a gastropub, but to me that implies more eclectic and gourmet food than you’ll find here. This is basically bar food, with an emphasis on hamburgers, sandwiches, and some large salads.

Of course, the most popular item–and the one I tried–is the prime rib sandwich. It was served on the kind of roll you’d get with a French Dip, and with the same au jus, so it was essentially a Prime Rib French Dip, and a good one at that. The prime rib was perfectly medium rare, very tender, and expertly trimmed.

Since the sandwich contains 7 ounces of prime rib it seems a far better deal than their meat plates, which cost the same but contain a mere 4 ounces of meat.

I also tried the curried cauliflower which was good, if a bit dry.

There’s a substantial selection of beers with an emphasis on stouts–a list after my own heart!

The space is divided into two rooms, one a bit too brightly lit, where the meat is prepared, and the other with the typical bar TVs.

Service was extremely gracious and attentive.

100 E Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 787-6768


**** (4 stars)

This intimate gastropub is a great place to dine by candlelight.

The wine list is a bit limited and the selections rather quirky, but there are plenty of cocktails.

The short menu is heavy on gastropub staples like pork and beef cheeks, but they also have a good hamburger, and a fairly sophisticated scallop entree.

My favorite was the chicken sandwich, which has been voted among the top 25 in the country, and with good reason. A think, succulent slab of white meat is  sealed in a wonderful crust without being greasy at all. Served with house made pickles on a bun, with fresh from the fryer crispy fries. Four condiments elevated it even further.

The root beer float was a great dessert.

Service was friendly and attentive. Recommended.

625 Chartres St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 265-8123

The Gage

**** (4 stars)

This is a great go to place for after work drinks and dinner. I like to sit in the corner of the side room where you are somewhat isolated from the noise in the bar and the rather load back rooms.

I’ve liked all the appetizers and main courses I’ve tried on several visits, and most dishes are very shareable, so you can try a variety. The wine list is extensive, and there are some great selections by the glass, including a terrific Madeira.

Service is professional and knowledgable. And of course there’s a hug and boisterous bar if you’re just looking for a drink.

The Gage
24 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 372-4243