Saturday, April 14, 2007

What's Your Favorite Restaurant?

The Double Musky Inn in Girdwood, AlaskaI'm a little early with my post for tomorrow but we're heading out of town . . . My favorite thing to do on Friday night is to go out to dinner with Andrew. It isn't original, but after a week on the job to sit comfortably and quietly with another adult, to choose what I want to eat and have another person clean up after me is an experience like no other.

Andrew is sweet about it and usually lets me choose where we go. His reasoning is that he eats out during the week frequently on business lunches so he wants me to be able to go where I want. This earns him big points I tell you.

You may think Anchorage, with its population of around 300,000 is too tiny to have any decent food but oddly enough, with it's proximity to Asia via air Anchorage has developed an arts and food culture that is unusual in a town its size. Tourists and business people, Fedex planes and oil execs all seem to route through Anchorage and have contributed to a quality dining experience. We may not be fancy--jeans are optional--but we know good food when we taste it.

I've written about my favorite restaurants in Anchorage and Andrew's Washington D.C. business trip last month which supplied me with sandwiches from our favorite sandwich shop back there, but there have also been a few other restaurants that have special significance for us.

The Olive Garden. Don't laugh, I know it's not exactly haute cuisine but it was the nicest place to eat in our college town back in 1991 so it was the scene of our first date. Later, we ate at the Olive Garden in Littleton, Colorado the night before we got married, then at the Olive Garden in Louisville, Kentucky on our first New Year's Eve together. We ate there for our first date after Grace was born and I took Grace to that same first-date Olive Garden when we took a mother-daughter trip together last March. Funny thing is, there's not an Olive Garden in the entire city of Anchorage. Go figure.

Cafe Ciao. A couple years ago when we took the kids to Maui Andrew and I had Grace babysit while we went into Wailea for dinner. The meal at that restaurant was perfect. We ate outdoors, serenaded by a guitar (or rather a man playing a guitar) and ate the most fabulous food that tasted far superior to the Costco fare we'd been consuming all week. Stars, surf, moonlight, mushrooms, nothing else could have been better.

International House of Pancakes. Ha! Another classy place, but it was the scene of Thanksgiving breakfast 1992 when Andrew had his first trip to California. We ate at the IHOP in Anaheim next door to Disneyland--the old chalet-style one that's been replaced--and he ate fifteen pounds of strawberry-covered bacon Belgian waffles before his first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. We still remember how fun that day was.

And there are others . . . breakfasts with my Mom at the Woodmark in Bellevue, Washington, a family-style meal in an Amish barn in Lancaster, PA, a machete-sliced pineapple off the back of a pickup on Harbor Island in the Bahamas, a ridiculous meal at the Mayfair in Brussels where I could only translate "steak and French fries" so that's what I ordered. Funny how dining isn't just an experience for the mouth but for the memory as well.

So what restaurant is your favorites? Is there a reason for your affection such as a particular dish served or a particular memory associated that makes it so special? Is the restaurant still in business? Now's your chance to play restaurant critic and pass on your advice for the world to read (or at least the ten or fifteen people that read this blog).

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37 comments:

Daisy said...

My son and I make a habit of going out to lunch together. Despite his blindness and his autism, he manages to befriend every server we've ever had. Some of the full-timers recognize and greet us! As for chains, we do like iHop.

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

the amish food experience sounded soo cool.

husband and i have this ritual almost every single sat morning. we go to "JUDY'S CAFE" for brunch. (anchorage, at old seward and klatt). awesome, we love it, it is small, country cooking feel to it, feels like i'm in grandma's house, it is cozy, and almost every weekend, we get the same waitress. we're so used to her, sometimes when she's not too busy, she will sit with us for a little at our table and visit with us. the owner and staff are so nice. this is a great neighborhood joint. when we show up, there is usually a small line, but you never have to wait very long to get a seat. the food and everything is worth it.

YUM!

janet said...

East Cafe in Aurora Colorado. Been going there for 22 years!

Alexandra said...

I can't laugh because we like O.G too! I like the canned Italian-American music, and sometimes I pretend I'm in Italy when I'm there...gaze at the lovely giant posters of Rome, Milan, Venice, etc.

Heffalump said...

Anchorage is small at 300,000? My town has a population of less than 5,000. I feel like my hometown of Vancouver, WA is huge at over 158,000. (Although Vancouver DOES have an Olive Garden.) When we want to eat out, we usually wait until we are in Vancouver. Silver Dragon (chinese) is our favorite and we also love Olive Garden. We eat at Sharis a lot too because kids eat free on Saturday evenings if you buy them a kids milkshake or smoothie. Once the kids are old enough to be home alone, we may eat out more, but for now special to us is frozen philly cheese steak sandwiches from Costco that we eat after the kids are asleep. I bet your sandwich place has better food.

Rae said...

I like simply chain restaurants too, especially with memories like that tied to them! My favorite place is Otto in NYC, owned by Mario Batali. On my first trip to NYC I went to another one of his restaurants, Babbo, but I found Otto had a more "relaxed" atmosphere. Authentic Italian food and the yummiest margherita pizza I've ever had. Not much for memories but it does a lot to the taste buds! ;) As far as chain restaurants go, I like TGIF. Only one certain meal from there though. My fiance and I had our first date, Valentine's Day, birthday, etc. dinners there! Hope you have a fabulous weekend! =)

An Ordinary Mom said...

Olive Garden was were my DH and I had our first "real" date, too! We still love to go there and eat soup, salad and bread sticks with Alfredo dipping sauce.

Have a fantastic weekend out of town!

Overwhelmed! said...

I love having the soup, salad, and breadsticks at Olive Garden for lunch once in a while. Yummy! :)

WE have a favorite local French cafe that we eat at every Sunday after mass. We've gotten to know the owner (she's really nice) and most of the wait staff. They try to save us our favorite table. Their food is delicious!

We also have a little mom & pop restaurant down the street from us that we've gone to on a frequent basis since Snuggle Bug was about 8 months old. The wait staff loves Snuggle Bug so much that they give him free reign in their restaurant. He even gets to go back in their kitchen where the cook gives him a little treat.

The only problem with this is that now Snuggle Bug thinks he has the right to walk into the kitchen of ANY restaurant we go to. :) It's been a challenge explaining to him that only one restaurant gives him free reign. :)

my4kids said...

I don't really have a favorite restaurant. Mostly though I go with the chain restaraunts though because I know the food.
Problem is I am a food chicken and afraid to try something new....

Yvonne Russell said...

Hi Michelle

I agree it's as much about the memories as the food.

I remember great times at The Spaghetti House in Hong Kong, and Asia Kitchen in Singapore... both chains, but delicious food!

I live in Australia, so when visitng Sydney, any of the many restaurants in Glebe Street, near the University, are a good bet.

Yvonne

Val said...

I think you prolly have more than 10 - 15 readers. :-)
I love going to the Haute Quarter Grill in Eagle River. Yum!

Stine said...

Hi, thanks for visiting! They have restaurants in Alaska??? (And no polarbears in the streets of Oslo??)
The only international restaurant chains we have over here are the obvious burger ones, and Hard Rock Cafe... But I loooove a good Italian Pizza, and you do get them here too!

PortraitofPeter said...

A wonderful post and an education too of Alaska and food cuisine.
We all need to indulge and time out for ourselves - hence your helpful post.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Marie N. said...

We have a neighborhood diner at the end of our street that has good food and friendly service. That's a winner! Rick and I have fond memories of Dante's Down the Hatch in Atlanta -- live jazz, fondue, and loads of atmosphere!

dcrmom said...

I have so many favorites. I love to eat out. Bahama Breeze is great for drinks and appetizers. Love their coconut shrimp. If I'm going to a nice dinner, I love the Kimberton Inn, which is a local place that has a lovely atmosphere, impeccable service, and a lovely filet mignon. And speaking of filet, I could never tire of Morton's. Mmmmm... Then there's nothing quite like the Ma and Pop pizza/cheesesteak joints. That's the best part of living in Philly. :-)

Blondie said...

My favorite restaurant in Chicago is Cafe Ba Ba Reeba hands-down. Spanish tapas that are making me salivate right now even though it's 8:41AM. :)

Mrs_Scotsman said...

I am so jealous that you have an IHOP! The nearest one to us is a hour away. What kills me is that they have IHOP commercials on our network.

O.G. is a popular place for us to meet up with other parents of small children after church. You can't beat the 6.95 soup, salad and bread sticks. It gives the parents time to catch up while the kids eat then it is time to go home for afternoon naps.

Le laquet said...

Well if you're ever in south west France there's a little restaurant just down the road from my parents called La Garrisade ... beautiful sun warmed terrace on a cool summer evening. Fanatastic earthy French cooking - read garlic and duck fat in abundance. Amazing garlic and pink onion soup and black pudding with pan-fried apples! *sigh* I dribble thinking about it!

PortraitofPeter said...

I so luv Greek restaurants - but one has to travel into either Edinburgh or Glasgow, otherwise I would be a regular attende!!

scribbit said...

Daisy: I've had friends that do that, where they take a child to lunch regularly. It's been hard still having small children and doing that but my youngest hits kindergarten this fall. . .

Heffalump: I guess Anchorage is only small when compared to some, but it's as big a city as I'd care to live in.

Val: I read a review of the Haute Quarter Grill a year or so ago in the ADN and have meant to try it but have never made it. Maybe it's time for us to give it a go. My favorite Anchorage Restaurant is the Southside Bistro, hands down.

Blondie: Cafe Ba Ba Reeba sounds hysterical, the name alone would get my business.

Le Laquet: I'm totally jealous of your available dining experiences. It sounds heavenly.

And actually they have an IHOP in Anchorage, and I went there once, but it just wasn't as fun as the trip to IHOP in Anaheim with a day at Disneyland to follow.


I'm not really a fan of chain restaurants but Olive Garden has the memories.

mcewen said...

Anywhere that is noisy [so that we can blend in] and somewhere that serves French Fries, as that is the only restaurant 'food' that one of my sons will eat.
Other than that, I'm easy.
Cheers

Lene said...

I love eating out on Friday nights. It is what I always look forward to. Well, that was pre-kids and preGTMO.

We only have a handful of restaurants and they all stink. Our highlight of the week is going to the Galley (like the "mess hall"). Ahh the life of a military family living on a secluded military base. fun fun!

kailani said...

Two of your three are on my list of favorites -- Olive Garden and IHOP. I just love their soup, salad and breadsticks lunch!

Momish said...

I LOVE Olive Garden! It seems odd to frequent a chain restaurant when we live in a major city known for its many independant places, but Olive Garden a tried and true favorite! Their portabello raviolis are to die for.

There is a little Creperie place around our way that is my all time favorite. That and any Thai place.

Breakfast for dinner is also a great treat to me. It always makes me feel like I am sinfully cheating, like when you are on vacation or something. So IHOP gets my vote as well!

This Eclectic Life said...

I like Olive Garden, so I'm not snickering. Here in Denton, TX we have a wonderful Italian restaurant called Giuseppe's. It's in an old Victorian House with wonderful ambiance. No one strums a guitar, but Sinatra sings in the background. Giuseppe (who is a hunk...but don't tell my husband I said that) always drops round to personalize the service. They catered our wedding four years ago next Thursday, so that's the memory.
Thanks for bringing up those memories!

Jonesey said...

Chili's! My husband and I & friends used to frequent chili's because it was close and yummy. My favorites are the Margarita Grilled Chicken and Chocolate Milkshakes sans sprinkles :) Non-Chain: A place called The Canyon Grill on Lookout Mountain in Georgia. You have to drive up the mountain (unless you live on it) and drive about a half hour out once you are on the top and it's a beautiful drive and when you get to this restaurant in the middle of nowhere, GA you can smell the giant grill! The atmosphere is fantastic and so is the food. Southern but classy, well except for one dish called "Slash & Burn" An entire Catfish Head to tail, battered & fried :) Not my choice, but we have celebrated some great occasions there...Oh I can just feel the Southern air right now!

Eagles Wings said...

aOh yeah - Bird-in-hand restaurant in Lancaster Co, PA. Ham, Egg & cheese croissants anywhere!
Steak subs - Filleit's Sub Shop - Baltimore MD...
O'Charley's - Cleveland TN.
Oh yeah Olive Garden - hubby LOVES their salad!

Code Yellow Mom said...

My husband brings me an Outback steak to the hospital after I have a baby, and man does that ever taste fabulous, so it's a favorite.

I also love the Carlisle Grand in DC because that's where we ate together the day we got engaged.

I really love a little hole in the wall place here called El Pollo Rico - it's El Salvadoran rotisserie chicken and the only option on the menu is how much of the chicken you want - it comes with potato fries and coleslaw and yummy yellow sauce, you eat it all with your fingers and leave with the satisfaction of having greasy fingers and a pile of bones on your paper plate. Absolutely fabulous.

Love your reasons for loving IHOP.

K T Cat said...

JV's taco shop in Linda Vista, CA. I went there today and had my usual, two chicken tacos, rice and beans. It's the gold standard for Mexican food!

Alex Elliot said...

Sometimes I'm just really in the mood for Friendly's. It's not fancy, but everyone can get something that they like not to mention great ice crea.

JennyMcB said...

Olive Garden, my favorite memory is when I brought my three boys out to eat 8 years ago without Dad who was traveling. My youngest, the picky eater was 5 years old and kept saying, "where's the breadsticks, are we getting more?"

For a fancy weekend in NH, nothing beats the food and service at the Balsalms. But for a nice evening out, I love going to a Bed and Breakfast in Henniker, called The Colby Inn for special dinners. There's something to be said for quiet dining without children.

la bellina mammina said...

Alaska sounds like Singapore, with all its diverse choice of restaurant! I used to frequent Bice (i think there's one in NY too), really scrumptious italian cuisine - but they closed it down a few years ago. Can't really have I have a favorite restaurant at the moment, but I'm going through a "yong tau foo" period at the moment and I have that almost every day for lunch!

Melissa R. Garrett said...

Michelle,

If you ever find yourself in Ithaca, you MUST visit our famous Moosewood. The vegetarian menu is chock full of local and organic ingredients, always a BIG plus in my book.

Also, I love to visit our (also) famous farmer's market and try various vendors from all around Ithaca. With our three children, the cost of babysitters, and the fact that Granny & Papa are not always available, taking a trip to the farmer's market for a quick bite to eat down by the lake is always a great, low-key experience. :-)

Amanda said...

This is such a neat idea. Three months after my husband and I were married he had two masses removed, one the size of a grapefruit from his hip cavity and another slightly smaller from his abdomen. Going into it we had every reason to believe the results might go from lypoma to sarcoma. We were rocked to our very core with relief to find a few weeks later that the results fell into a space outside of benign, but not malignant.
We went to a little place called One Caroline Street Bistro in Saratoga Springs, NY to celebrate. We shared a bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and two entrees that delighted with every bite. Though I cannot remember exactly what we ate, I'll never forget the warmth of the staff, the magic of the candle light or the sensation of knowing with utmost certainty how very true the vow of through sickness and health had been and how grateful I was that it seemed that til death us do part was not coming so soon.

The Thrifty Blogger said...

Mmm IHOP is yummy! And I love Panera Bread. Is there any out there in AK? Good wholesome food, very satisfying. My kinds of restaurants. :)

Poppy Fields said...

For a special treat, I like Japanese. In Honolulu I liked Beni Hana's and in Aix en Provence, I like to go to Yoji.

Islandsparrow said...

We live on Prince Edward Island - total population about half the size of Anchorage. We live about 25 min away from the capital city Charlottetown - pop.about 35,000. You really would think that it would be too small to have many restaurants but actually we have a lot. We have Indian, Mexican, Italian, Vegetarian, specialty coffee shops (esp. Tim's of course), African, lots of seafood places, Thai,Vietnamese,Chinese, Tea Houses, ice cream places and regular Canadian/American type restaurants including 5 star restaurants. I'm not sure why we have so many - perhaps because tourism is one of our major industries. One of my our favourites is called The Dundee Arms. It's an inn with a charming European atmosphere. They specialize in seafood-I love to have lobster when it's in season - Hot with melted butter and strawberry pie for dessert.