fruity drinks, good food

photo by Anne Jansen

There’s a place in Boca Raton called the Grand Lux Cafe. This place exists in many other cities as well, but I discovered it here. It boasts exceedingly large portions, amazing blended drinks, and elaborate decor. I went twice — once for a fruity drink and good company, and a second time for brunch (and more fruity drinks). Here’s what I found.

photo by Anne Jansen

The Hawaiian Smoothie (pictured at top) is the perfect Floridian beverage. It’s blended, it’s a tropically orange color, and it has fruit on the rim. Plus, it’s delicious! The Mango Ice Swirl (above) is also amazing, although slightly less to my taste (meaning slightly more sweet and less tart than the Hawaiian Smoothie). However, it makes a splash with its presentation!

photo by Anne Jansen

Of course, there’s also the actual food. I went to Sunday brunch, and the Banana-Pecan Pancakes (above) were perfectly fluffy with a comforting topping of cinnamon, warm bananas, and chopped pecans. Even though this was a chain restaurant, it was a great dining experience!

a pink drink & enchiladas

photo by Anne Jansen

Yesterday I ended up at Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar — a truly wonderful culinary experience (albeit with an unbelievably, comically horrible waiter). Dinner started with the lovely pink drink pictured above: a virgin blended Prickly Pear Margarita. Delicious! Then came the guacamole (pictured at the bottom of this post), made-to-order right in front of us to our desired level of hotness. The accompanying chips were lightly spiced with a chili powder medley that lent them a nice mild flavor of their own. Finally, the main course:

photo by Anne Jansen

That’s right: cheese enchiladas verdes, and boy was that sauce fresh! As you can see, the meal came with rice and beans — light, fluffy rice and vegetarian refried beans — and the enchiladas were perfectly cheesy without being sickeningly rich. A hard balance to attain, I’ll admit, but nicely done in this case! Yummy! Slightly overpriced, but definitely worth it if you’re willing to splurge.

photo by Anne Jansen

friendly surprise

photo by Anne Jansen

Yesterday, I arrived in Boca Raton, Florida, where I’m attending a conference. I dined at our hotel’s restaurant, Umbria (no website) where I was surprised to find delicious food and a friendly waitstaff. I ordered the Margarita Pizza, and it was pleasantly cheesy and flavorful (the basil was fresh and yummy!). Our waiter was kind enough to indulge my non-alcoholic fancy-drink request and brought me my ADD (Always-Designated-Driver…my ginger-ale-with-a-splash-of-lime-and-cranberry-juice concoction). It’s always interesting to have different places make this drink for me, since they all put their own twist on it; I was not disappointed when my drink arrived looking dressed for the tropics with a squeezed lime and three maraschino cherries topping it off. Overall, this was a pleasantly surprising dining experience where our hotel restaurant impressed (rather than disappointed) me.

photo by Anne Jansen

HUBba HUBba

photo by Anne Jansen

I stopped in for a hearty lunch at Hopworks Urban Brewery, aka HUB, after hiking around in the lava tubes at Mt. St. Helens. It turns out they make a mean burger. I ordered their House Burger with their house-made veggie patty (consisting most prominently of black beans), which was served on an onion cheese bun. It was delectable, but still not as good as the house-made organic root beer! It had some serious bite to it, but also had a crisp sweetness to it. If I lived in Portland, I’d be a regular at HUB.

photo by Anne Jansen

better-than-a-pub

photo by Anne Jansen

Bodega may boast 50 beers on tap and an extra-long happy hour (M-F from 4-8pm), but they’re not your average pub. In fact, they’re not average in any sense of the word. From their excellent service to their delicious food, Bodega is definitely an eatery I will be returning to! Their nachos were delicious (for nachos in Ohio), having enough heat from the jalape├▒os to make my eyes water and my nose run (a good thing, in my book). But more than that, their “brownie” was incredible. This was not so much a brownie as a wedge of solid chocolate served up with blueberries, strawberries, berry sauce, and whipped cream. It was so much better than the expected brownie with fruit, and ended up lasting for two incredible rounds. If you’ve never been to Bodega, you should definitely fix that!

photo by Anne Jansen

irish surprise

I ended up eating at the Claddagh Irish Pub in downtown Columbus purely by accident. I’d driven downtown to eat elsewhere, only to discover that restaurant was closed. Upon leaving, still seeking a good eatery, I happened upon the Claddagh (which I’ve heard about because of its use by fans of the Columbus Crew) and decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by their unusual menu. I tried out the fruit and cheese plate (pictured below), which was admittedly limited but also very good (and only $3).

photo by Anne Jansen

And of course, the main course: mac and cheese. It was creamy and cheesy…the perfect comfort food. The bread crumbs on top gave it a nice texture, and the use of corkscrew pasta as opposed to elbow pasta was really refreshing. It was the perfect meal for a rainy day, and the servers were friendly and attentive. A good Magic 8 Ball would say “chances are good” I’ll end up here again.

photo by Anne Jansen

creative fusion

photo by Anne Jansen

This eccentrically decorated restaurant was a definite surprise. In Columbus, OH, where many restaurants feature well-recognized and often heavy dishes, Spagio‘s light dishes were a real treat (especially in the hot and humid summer weather). The Tomato Basil Pizza (pictured above) was made with Spagio’s wheat crust, which was airy and mildly sweet in flavor. The tomatoes were fresh and juicy, and the cheese was nicely balanced giving it just the right amount without overdoing it. Perhaps most surprising was the lemonade. Our server informed us that they change their lemonade flavor regularly, often serving mango lemonade but sometimes getting more creating and serving flavors like Pomegranate Strawberry Lemonade (today’s flavor, pictured below) and Watermelon Lemonade (currently in the works). It was a refreshing beverage, with a nice tart kick to offset the sweetness. You can definitely expect more posts on Spagio in the future!

photo by Anne Jansen

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