An Afrikaans word, “braai” translates simply to “barbecue,” but to Capetonians a braai offers much more than merely eating together. Locals head to Mzoli’s on their weekend mornings to let loose with friends, to dance together, and to congregate over juicy meats prepared in the South African fashion.
“Eat Oysters, Get Lucky,” screams the multicolored neon sign over the bar. Oceana Grill is located in a 200-year-old house and serves contemporary Louisiana fare with an emphasis on the bounty of the Gulf, including those oysters you’ll need to “get lucky” — fresh, chargrilled, or Rockefeller.
We stepped inside the warm, cozy restaurant where the menu boasted “fresh, modern, Mexican cuisine” along with various constructions of unique, delectable margaritas. The aromas filtering from the kitchen were enough persuasion to ask for a table. As we savored the sweet and salty tang of spirits, the owner stopped by our table to personally welcome us. The place was busy on this weekday evening, and we found out why. Hatch has developed a reputation for not only having great food and drinks but also for their happy hours seven days a week, regardless of the season.
On a short, pleasant drive from the center of colonial San Miguel de Allende, you will find Rancho Zandunga, a music and dining venue created by world-class musician Gil Gutierrez and Rebecca Kemelhar. Six years ago, Gil and Becca began building a “country place” to join with friends and indulge in their passions: making music, cooking and eating good food, drinking flavored margaritas and mezcal cocktails, and relaxing in the country surrounded by the mountains of Guanajuato.
In between bites, Pang provided information about the differences in food from Central, North, Northeast, and Southern Thailand; Central tends to be sweet, Southern fiery, North herbaceous, and Northeast simple and spicy. She also shared a bit of history about the neighborhood we visited. For example, Bangrak can be loosely translated as Village of Love, but it also served as a major shipping port in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the restaurants we patronized have been in the same building for decades. Panlee Bakery, for example, is located on Charoen Krung, the first road in Bangkok; until it was constructed in the 1860s, canals and the Chao Phraya river provided all transportation.
Lafayette Bakery & Café serves up a fanciful array of French goodies in a casual street-café atmosphere. In sparkling and stuffed-to-overflowing display cases, delicious products — which have traveled about 15 feet from the busy kitchen readily visible from the counter — are proudly displayed. The beauty, textures, and flavors of both sweet and savory entrées evidence many years of old-world French experience, where this team ran a bakery and café. Reasonably-priced perfection for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.
Java Point Cafe is a local, family-owned cafe with a small-town vibe, a coffeehouse located at the foot of 1st Street in northern California’s first capital, where hand-painted art by locals hangs for sale and the smiling staff know their regulars by name.
Seems like Lynnwood rolls up the carpet at 10:00 p.m. By then most of the good eating places are closed. Even Cliffhanger’s restaurant lobby is closed, but the good news is the kitchen is open until 1:00 a.m. They serve their full menu of homemade dishes — yes, even their signature $5.99 breakfast is available. So if you’re hungry, you’re in luck, and you don’t have to put up with cafeteria food from Applebee’s, Sheri’s, or Denny’s.
In addition to serving its customers outrageously good fare, Mountainside Café serves another mission. As an integral part of Mountainside Treatment Center (a drug and alcohol rehab center located in Canaan, Connecticut), the café draws much of its staff from the Center’s extended care clients. While serving its customers, Mountainside Café is, as well, serving its staff. The goal, says a Center spokesman, “is not to turn out bus boys, servers, and dishwashers,” but instead “to help people transition back to sobriety in a work environment.”
The meals are interchangeable between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These are usually small places (10 to 15 chairs) specializing in one or two dishes. Often no menu is provided. Expect low tables, plastic chairs, and elbow to elbow eating. If it’s busy (a good sign), have patience, they’ll find room for you. Only the Nem Nuong restaurants tend to be larger in size.