A True Cajun & Creole New Orleans Experience at NOLA in Palo Alto

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For Stanford students, there’s only a few bars that everyone goes to. One of the biggest nightlife hotspots is NOLA, an aggressively Mardi Gras themed bar and restaurant that’s gaudily decorated with scattered dangling beaded necklaces. It’s the kind of place that I’d normally write off at first glance, assuming they’d only be able to make stupidly sweet and strong alcoholic punches and serve shitty bar food, but that assumption would be wrong.

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Impeccable Modern American Cuisine at Scratch in Mountain View

It’s not always easy to find quality restaurants in Silicon Valley, but Mountain View has proven time and time and time again that there’s some really excellent places to eat and drink on their main downtown drag. There are not many restaurants that I have loved enough to eat at multiple times out here, but Scratch has sort of become my go-to, not-sure-what-I’m-in-the-mood-for dinner and drinks spot.

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Pig Out with NYC’s Best Texas Style BBQ at Fette Sau in Williamsburg

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With my Texan girlfriend leading the way and teaching me everything there is to know about true Texas ‘cue, I’ve become a bit of a barbecue aficionado, as regrettably also a bit of a snob. I’ve had enough experience consuming the real stuff to know what makes good and bad BBQ and NYC has plenty of each. I’ve travelled around NYC, throughout the boroughs, to Cochon 555, and The Big Apple Barbecue Festival a number of times. Hell, I’ve even been to a barbecue head-to-head event where many of NYC’s top BBQ producers go to show off their chops. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s what in the New York BBQ world.

There’s been much written lately about the booming NYC barbecue scene, but I’ve often found myself disappointed with many of the most highly-regarded, hyped, big-name places. But there also really is some incredible barbecue to be had around NYC. I’ve written previously about my love for Mighty Quinn’s and I think that Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke is pretty phenomenal, but I think the best of the best might be at the old Brooklyn mainstay Fette Sau in South Williamsburg. Fette Sau’s name means “Fat Pig” in German and that’s exactly how you’ll feel after indulging in a meat-tastic gorge-fest there.

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Great Global Tapas with a Latin American Edge at Cascal in Mountain View

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It ain’t easy finding great restaurants out in Silicon Valley, but they do exist if you look hard enough. Downtown Mountain View has proven over and over again that it’s loaded with great spots and the Latin inspired tapas joint Cascal is no exception. Buckle up, this is gonna be a long one. But I guess that’s bound to happen when you dine tapas style as a party of eight. I’ll try to keep my commentary concise because honestly all of the food was really awesome.

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Quality Cocktails & Seriously Delicious Smokey Bar Food at The European in Union Square

*Editor’s Note 1/30/15: This bar used to have a food menu, but now serves only cocktails

This is San Francisco’s hot new opening. Near Union Square, at the Warwick Hotel, on the cusp of the truly sketchy Tenderloin neighborhood, famed and well-loved Top Chef contestant Casey Thompson has opened a gourmet restaurant named Aveline and an accompanying cocktail bar called The European.

I happened to be staying in a hotel in the neighborhood and stopped by on the opening Friday night. When I arrived at around 9:15 PM it was still a relatively quiet and empty bar, but it wasn’t long before it filled out with the who’s who of the San Francisco dining scene. I was able to secure myself a seat at the truly sexy bar and ordered myself a cocktail while I looked over the bar menu.

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Drink Your Face Off with Bottomless Cocktails & Latin Brunch at Yerba Buena in Greenwich Village

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New Yorkers fucking love brunch. Not only do New Yorkers love brunch, but they love to drink cocktails aggressively while they’re at it. It’s a quintessential part of NY culture, to go out partying ’til 4 AM, wake up disturbingly hungover the next morning afternoon and rely on the old hair of the dog trick to get through the torturous pain that comes with a brutal hangover. And that’s why All You Can Drink brunch was born, to solve this distinctly New York-y problem, but not all AYCD brunch spots are alike.

Some brunches are super expensive, others have mediocre-to-poor food, others have crappy generic cocktails, and others are just too damn crowded to tolerate. When I’m in the mood for an awesomely excessive AYCD brunch, my go-to is Yerba Buena on Perry Street in Greenwich Village.

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Old-World Formality & High-End Cajun Cooking at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans
Formality & High-End Cajun at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans

Old-World Formality & High-End Cajun Cooking at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans

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When’s the last time you put on a suit to go to dinner? I can’t really remember the last time, but I think it may have been my sister’s Bat Mitzvah 10 years ago? And yeah, I was probably wearing the same suit. In my experience, I’ve found that New Orleans is an amazing place to visit whether you’re looking for great music, great dining, or great drinking. But, if you’re looking for a really special meal, there’s one very famous restaurant that seems to keep on living in a completely different, older era.

This restaurant, Commander’s Palace, is housed in a Victorian mansion right in the middle of the primarily residential Garden District neighborhood and has been a staple of the New Orleans fine dining scene since 1880. As you could imagine, many famed chefs have passed through these kitchen doors including the esteemed New Orleans celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse.

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Upscale, Meaty, Cajun BBQ Paradise at Cochon Restaurant in NOLA
Upscale, Meaty, Cajun BBQ Paradise at Cochon Restaurant in New Orleans

Upscale, Meaty, Cajun BBQ Paradise at Cochon Restaurant in NOLA

Last December, on a two-day trip to New Orleans, I had one of the most incredible meals of my life at Cochon Restaurant. We indulged in a variety of amazing specialties like Fried Alligator, Fried Boudin, Rabbit & Dumplings, Sweet Potato & Hog Jowl Casserole, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. After spending two days in rural Opelousas, Amy and I drove to New Orleans for a 24-hour stopover and made sure to have a reservation to return to Cochon for another insane meal.

Located in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, only about a 15 minute walk south of the chaos of the French Quarter, Cochon, helmed by executive chef Donald Link, serves up mighty fine, upscale takes on hearty, Southern and Cajun cuisine. Whether you’re in town for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, or for no particular reason at all, I urge you to make Cochon one of your dining destinations.

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A New American Date Night Spot in NoHo at Bleecker Kitchen & Co.
A New American Date Night Spot in NoHo at Bleecker Kitchen & Co.

A New American Date Night Spot in NoHo at Bleecker Kitchen & Co.

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It’s not always so easy finding a good date night spot in NYC. Often times at the popular places it’s tough to get a table without a long wait, or the menu is super-pricey, or the restaurant focuses more on ambiance than the food itself. I’ve certainly found some great (and unusual) places along the way, but sometimes you want a place that has the ambiance, good drinks, and upscale but accessibly comfortable food. That where’s the newly opened Bleecker Kitchen & Co. comes in. In my opinion, it is a great addition to the NoHo dining landscape which could always use a reasonably priced, quality date night spot.

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