JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa

***** (5 stars)

This sleek new hotel is my favorite of the Bonnet Creek offerings. It may not have all the resort amenities of the massive Wyndham, or the poshness of the Waldorf, but its modern, high-ceilinged lobby is just somehow more welcoming, and the bar and restaurant are marvelous.

We live nearby, so we just stayed for one night to try the place out, and didn’t make use of the pool, but it looked nice. The view from the higher floors looks out over the surrounding forest and wetlands, with Disney icons in the distance. A soon to open rooftop bar should be very nice.

Our room was nicely outfitted with a desk, love seat, refrigerator, and espresso machine. The king-size bed was very comfortable, and the bathroom is luxurious, with tub and separate, large stall shower.

We stayed during the pandemic, and it was a bit eerie to have an entire hotel almost to ourselves, but we certainly enjoyed the welcoming staff, and their pampering attention.

JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa
14900 Chelonia Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32821


Santa Ynez Inn


***** (5 stars)

Complimentary breakfast

This beautiful property offers spacious rooms with traditional (and posh) decor in a very convenient location.

The decor incorporates fine woodwork and beautiful tile and mosaic floors into a blending of modern floorplans and colonial ambiance.

Prepared to order breakfast, evening wine, and nighttime desserts are included in the room price.

The staff are friendly hosts, and you feel as if they are inviting you into their home. While this imparts a bed and breakfast feel, the service level is what you would expect from a five-star resort.

Many good restaurants are within easy walking distance, and dozens of wineries and tasting rooms are just a few minutes away by car.

Santa Ynez Inn
3627 Sagunto St
Santa Ynez, CA
(805) 688-5588

Bavarian Inn, Black Hills

Breakfast buffet

***** (5 stars)

Delightful independently run inn with charming touches. Convenient location and friendly staff.

Nice rooms and a great breakfast included. Pancake making machines! And a coffee machine that makes great decaf espresso. Highly recommended.

Bavarian Inn, Black Hills
855 N Fifth St
Custer, SD
(605) 673-2802

SIRTAJ Hotel Beverly Hills

**** (4 stars)

This is both a hotel review and a restaurant review.


This boutique hotel bills itself as posh. It’s not quite that, but it is a great choice. The location is absolutely perfect, just south of Wilshire on a quiet residential street within easy walking distance of all of downtown Beverly Hills.

The rooms are clean, modern, with interesting fairly techy amenities. They’re not Four Seasons level luxurious, but for a third the price, they are a great deal. Even the minibar, populated with half bottles of booze, is reasonably priced. Parking, at $38 per night less so.

We were initially given room 102 (you do not want this room!) and it overlooked the interior of the bar, and was immediately adjacent to the kitchen, where you could hear every pot and pan, and every word the cooks said. When we asked to be moved, we were, but somewhat begrudgingly. Really, this room should not be used for guests.


The hotel’s restaurant serves three meals a day, and the evening focuses on Indian cuisine, although pizza and some other items are available. The Indian food was very good.

There are only a handful of tables, and early on a friday night we were the only diners, so it was easy for the bartender to also act as server, and he did an excellent job.

SIRTAJ Hotel Beverly Hills
120 S Reeves Dr
Beverly Hills, CA
(310) 248-2402


Peel and Eat Shrimp

Cheese Monger

Hamachi crudo


**** (4 stars)

If you are a cheese lover, Haven is a must visit. There are dozens of cheeses on their menu, and the “Cheese Monger” offers a selection of 18(!) of them on one well-organized plate. My only wish was for more variety, as they were almost all cow’s milk, and mostly the same firmness. I’d have liked some more soft ones, and some stinkier ones. But that’s just me.

The menu also offers a nice selection of other small plates. We liked the hamachi crudo. The peel and eat shrimp was okay, but I didn’t care for the harissa flavor of the accompanying remoulade, as it overwhelmed the other flavors.

The interior decor is gorgeous, with reasonable lighting levels and not too noisy, even though there are no soft surfaces except the booths (which offer the quietest place to sit).

The wine list is extensive, and the more expensive wines are actually the better deals.

Service was friendly and efficient.

2208 W Morrison Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 258-2233

India House Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This is a very nicely decorated restaurant with about 150 different dishes on the menu. Unfortunately the staff isn’t very good, and the food is just average.

It’s odd browsing through the menu, because it seems to have little organization with multiple sections devoted the similar categories, and very few of the standbys like korma, saag, and so on.

We tried Papdi Chat as an appetizer, and the flavors were good, but it wasn’t enhanced by the sturdy wafers mixed into it.

Mahi Mahi Fish Tikka was good fish, but the seasoning on the fish skin wasn’t my favorite flavor.

Bhuni Gobi was extremely overcooked cauliflower; it resembled something that had been sitting on a buffet for hours.

The best dish was Channa Palak, chick peas in a garlic, onion and spinach sauce. Garlic naan bread was also okay.

The service staff seems to be mostly Russian, and wasn’t strong on communication. They were out of all the juices, and couldn’t produce a beer list.

There aren’t many Indian restaurants in River North, but even so, I wouldn’t bother to return here.

India House Restaurant
59 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 645-9500

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

LAKEHouse Restaurant


*** (3 stars)

This restaurant, located in the former Cascades space, has been completely remodeled into a trendy and airy space. Unfortunately the food and service could still use some remodeling.

There’s nothing really wrong with the menu, but the more creative the dishes, the less the flavors seem to click. For example, the idea of making a shrimp cocktail using grilled, chilled shrimp sounds inventive, but turns out to produce a fairly off-putting texture.

The house pizza combined citrus, boursin cheese, asparagus and chicken, but somehow managed to be nearly flavorless. It’s the only time I’ve ever put salt and pepper on a pizza.

The LAKEhouse salad bowl combines interesting ingredients such as figs, spicy pecans, arugula and parmesan cheese, but they don’t really work together.

The best thing I had was the “cauliflower steak”. Like many of the dishes on the menu, the name is not descriptive. It’s simply cauliflower and several other vegetables that have been nicely grilled.

An extensive cocktail list tends toward sweeter drinks. The wine list offers quite a few selections, although the most interesting ones are available only by the bottle.

Service was well-intentioned, but not at the level of a fine dining restaurant; perhaps is is more appropriate for breakfast or lunch, when the space serves as the hotel’s coffee shop.

LAKEHouse Restaurant
1 Grand Cypress Blvd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 239-1234

CityVu Bistro

**** (4 stars)

This is probably your best choice for dining in Holland. There is a nice view, and the menu offers and excellent variety of well-prepared food. We particularly liked the salmon spinach salad and the San Francisco flatbread. Inside can be noisy, so sit on the terrace if it’s not too sunny.

CityVu Bistro
61 E 7th St, 5th Fl
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 796-2114

21c Museum Hotel

***** (5 stars)

I love this unique boutique hotel, where every wall is filled with captivating modern art. There are extensive galleries off the lobby and downstairs, and many different media are represented. There is also an excellent restaurant, Proof on Main. Many of the city’s most interesting attractions are within two blocks. This is definitely the place to stay when passing through Louisville.

21c Museum Hotel
700 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 217-6300