Bold, Playful Flavors Found at Montrio Bistro in Monterey

Every month or so, we like to head south of San Francisco down to Monterey. For us, it’s a nice way to take a mini-vacation and because it’s a beautiful place within driving distance and we have family there to crash with. We’ve done a variety of food exploration in the area on our own, but as is usually the case, a recommendation by a local resident usually holds more weight than what I can uncover. In our hosts’ opinion, Montrio Bistro is one of the best restaurants in all of Monterey and it happened to only be a five minute walk from their downtown home.

The restaurant is located right on the main drag of town and even though we had headed over quite late on a late Sunday night, it still wasn’t easy to grab a table for four. Quick on my feet, I pulled up OpenTable at exactly 8:48 PM and successfully nabbed a table for us all at 9:00 PM. Bam, that did the trick. Only a few minutes later, my name was called and we were seated in the surprisingly bustling restaurant.

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Magnificent, Modern Southern Cuisine at Odd Duck in Austin

Another day, another awesome, upscale dinner out in Austin. This place called Odd Duck is the sibling restaurant to chef Bryce Gilmore‘s also amazing, tasting menu-only hot spot Barley Swine which I had visited only a few night earlier. Similar to Barley Swine, the theme of this meal seemed to be small plates with either a pickled element, runny egg yolks, or both.

The menu leans heavily toward Southern gastropub fare with plenty of clean, modern, cheffy flair and even a bit of molecular gastronomy trickery thrown in. The vibe of the decor matches the tone of the food with its use of mismatched country miscellany carefully arranged by an smart, upscale, interior designer’s touch. This restaurant is pretty well known in the Austin food scene as one of the more exciting places to have a meal and it makes sense why. It has such an interesting menu that continues to experiment and evolve over time – the fervor is only going to grow as this place continues to get the industry recognition it rightly deserves like the James Beard Award Rising Star nod it just recieved.

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Date Night with Fancy, Open-Faced Sandwiches at Tartinery in Nolita

I’d never thought to go to Tartinery in Nolita before, but I’ll be damned if that place wasn’t an absolutely perfect spot for an impressive first date. You wouldn’t know it from the street, but inside the understated exterior of this restaurant there’s an incredibly sexy, well-thought-out, subterranean dining room with large vaulted ceilings with exposed brick walls accented by lots of black iron and flickering candle lights. It’s a really incredible space and if you’re looking to put the vibe in the air, this place is perfect for that.

The menu is also great for two people getting to know each other. It features a vast array of French-inspired open-faced sandwiches known as tartines. And there’s a wide selection of very accessible toppings offered – so you know that picky eater Tinder first date is going to be able to find something they can eat – yes, even vegetarians.

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Epic Deep-Fried Sandwiching at Hey!…You Gonna Eat Or What?

No, really. That’s the name of the place: Hey!…You Gonna Eat Or What? We were wandering around the South Congress Austin neighborhood popping into awesome places like Allens Boots, Uncommon Objects, and Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds. While walking further down the strip we found ourselves up getting hollered at by a food vendor who successfully sucked into a lot full of food trailers including his own – the aggressively named Hey!…You Gonna Eat Or What?

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too.

Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year’s, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let’s begin!

And if you wanna hear about the 2014’s Best Cocktails, read more here.
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The Very Best Airport Food I’ve Ever Eaten

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It’s getting to be that time when we look back on the year in review and 2014 was a very big year of travel for me. Between working remotely in Silicon Valley while still officially living in NYC, moving from NYC to SF, and other miscellaneous leisure travel, I spent a lot of time in airports.

I know that airports get a bad rap when it comes to dining options and you know what, most of the time the food really does suck. But, every now and then I’ve been able to come across some truly excellent dishes. Beyond that, I’ve even managed to find a number of dishes served in airports that blew me away – the overacheivers – the kinds of things I would get even if I wasn’t stuck eating in an airport. Without further ado, read on below to see the best of the best to eat before you fly in the sky. (more…)

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Get a Real, Delicious, Cheap Taste of Italy at Fiat Café in Nolita

I told you guys I’d be back. I knew you couldn’t keep me away from New York for too long. And Thanksgiving was just the right occasion to come back East for a few days of powering through my old stomping ground. To be honest, this rampage sort of turned into a food and drink greatest hits extravaganza. You’ll see what I mean when I get around to publishing everything I ate…

Anyway, while in SF, one of the things I’ve been missing most from my time in NY is access to great, simple, Italian comfort food. I just haven’t been able to find a reliable red sauce joint out here yet. So, I made sure that one of my first stops in NY was at one of my old NYC favorites, Fiat Café in Nolita, for a cheap, filling, and reliably delicious meal.

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Unique Pizza: Beautiful Thin-Crust Bar Pies at Colony Grill in Stamford, CT

I had no idea how much of a dump Stamford, CT was until I visited. I had these visions of nature and colorful foliage, but that’s not what I found in that horrible mini-metropolis. In need of a really good post-wedding hangover meal in the area, we ventured from the Fairfield and Norwalk area over into the heart of Stamford and headed to a place called Colony Grill to see what Connecticut-style pizza was all about.

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If You Want Great Food, Go to the Airport

As a recent transplant from NYC to San Francisco with plenty of reasons to be back in NYC often, JetBlue‘s brand new Mint service definitely had my attention right out the gate. It’s a premium service flight offered only between New York JFK and San Francisco SFO or JFK and Los Angeles LAX. Considering that most of my family is still in the New York area (and I frequently need to fly between SFO and JFK), it feels almost as if this service was designed specifically for me.

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