While visiting some friends-of-a-friend who live in Vassalboro, Maine, I wound up at the Pointe Afta in Winslow, Maine (no website). The restaurant was definitely a local hangout, with a majority of the patrons milling about, untethered to their tables as they wandered through the dining area visiting with friends. The Pointe Afta is casually decorated and immediately comfortable, and even though there aren’t a lot of vegetarian options on the menu, their choose-your-own-toppings pizza provided the opportunity I needed…and the pizza was delicious. While this is one of those “local hangout” establishments, I never felt out of place or alienated in the least. It was a laid back and easy dining experience.
I went to Slate’s Restaurant in Hallowell, Maine, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Slate’s is an eclectically decorated, cozy, contemporary space that is both inviting and spunky. The friendly waitstaff was energetic and welcoming, and made our dining experience a lot of fun. We started with the Homemade Hummus and Tarratore Plate (below), which was a great dish to split between the three of us. It made for a light and nutritious appetizer that suited the social situation and eased our very empty stomachs. For my entree, I ordered one of their grilled pizzas on the homemade whole wheat crust (above). The one I chose was Slate’s version of the traditional Margherita pizza, and was topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and parmesan with a delicious balsamic drizzle.
Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without a fancy beverage to spice things up. Our enthusiastic waitress told us about some fresh ingredients they had at the bar, and offered to have some cocktails specially made for us. I ended up with an extremely large and delicious Melon Purée Margarita (below), which was not only fun to look at, but fun to drink as well!
Okay, this is a bit of a goofy one to post about, but I had such a good time with my friends here that I couldn’t resist. We stopped by ABC Pizza House in Cambridge, Massachusetts on our way home from a pub. ABC is a little hole in the wall pizza joint, and I ordered two pieces of cheese pizza. For pizza by the slice, it was quite tasty. Also, the staff working those late hours of the night were energetic and friendly, and made the wait really fun.
On my last night at the Mohegan Sun resort and casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, I went to Ballo Italian Restaurant for a nice meal. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, and very romantic. The waitstaff was friendly and fun, which also added to the overall experience. I ordered the Artichoke Pizza (above) for my main course, and was surprised to find that they had used fresh artichoke hearts (as opposed to the standard jarred fare you usually find on pizzas). This was an interesting and unexpected twist, and I quite enjoyed it.
Of course, what meal would be complete without dessert? So I decided to try the cannoli (above), which were chocolate and pistachio flavored. They were not only beautiful, but also really scrumptious. And they were my first-ever cannoli experience. I enjoyed them with a cup of tea (below), which I’ve included in this post mostly because of the cute tea cup and saucer it came in. Overall, a great food choice!
I’ve been wanting to try out the food at Knead for several months now, and finally made it downtown for the experience. Knead is a comfortable and friendly restaurant with helpful staff and good food. I split this salad (pictured below) with a friend, and loved the fresh yellow beets and avocado. It was a refreshing appetizer on a hot and humid summer day.
After the salad, we moved on to the Easy Cheesy pizza (pictured below), which came on Knead’s house made whole wheat crust. It was delicious, and we devoured it in less than ten minutes. The cheese was nice and melty, and all the ingredients were well-proportioned (you know how sometimes pizza can come out imbalanced, with so much cheese it’s gloopy, or too many/few toppings — this pizza wasn’t like that).
Perhaps my favorite part of the meal was the beverage: I ordered the root beer float, and it came with Boylan’s root beer (a personal favorite of mine). Again, the portions were right, as they gave me enough ice cream for it to be a true float, but not so much that the vanilla overpowered the root beer. If you’re in town and looking for a good meal at reasonable prices, Knead’s a great option for you.
Madhatter is a remarkably fun little place in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle district. The Alice in Wonderland theme manifests itself in large full-color images from Lewis Carroll’s classic story and a giant top hat above one entrance (see picture at bottom). In keeping with this theme, our waitress brought us all a small cup of the house tea — a gingery concoction that was mildly sweetened and surprisingly delicious (penultimate picture).
I technically ordered two appetizers: the edamame (immediately above — so delicious!) and the Hatter’s House Pizza (pictured at top). These two appetizers made for a very satisfying meal. The edamame was lightly salted and perfectly delicious, while the pizza was fresh and crispy.
But I think the best thing about Madhatter was the atmosphere. It was interesting, eclectic, and really pleasant. In fact, as I was taking pictures of the cute dining area, one of the managers happened by and invited me to come upstairs to their private party space (he was showing a couple the space so they might use it for their engagement party) so I could take pictures from the little balcony that looks down into the dining area. All of the staff turned out to be really friendly and helpful, and it made for a really great dining experience.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is a Chicago staple. It’s one of the three big Chicago deep dish pizza chains, so I absolutely had to give it a try. I was walking back to the city from Lincoln Park, and came across the Gold Coast Lou Malnati’s location. I stopped in for some garlic bread with marinara sauce (pictured above) and a deep dish pizza (below). It was super tasty, although very heavy (not a surprise). The pizza was really flavorful and rich, and while I don’t usually favor the thick-crust pizza, this was good. The crust (we ordered the Buttercrust style pizza at the suggestion of friends and guidebooks) was actually yummy, and I ate it all when I almost never eat the crust. It was a good call, and the lunch tided me over for the rest of the day!
…would taste as sweet! And oooooh how sweet it tastes. While wandering around Chicago’s River North district, I stumbled upon the Rosebud Trattoria. I ordered the Antipasti Misto (above), which was very tasty. The olives and cheeses were flavorful and delicious, and the Margherita Pizza (below) was that perfect balance between crispy and soft. Perhaps most surprising was the friendly and fast service, and the romantic atmosphere (from the outside, the place didn’t look like all that much). It was a really good meal, and a nice dining experience.
The Brewery at Lake Tahoe is one of those places I end up visiting every time I’m in town even though the service is unbelievably slow. There’s just something about the place — the casual, happy atmosphere; the vast menu full of comfort food; the noisy cheer and of course the house-brewed beer — that keeps me coming back for more. Even though we had an hourlong wait this time (we did, after all, walk in during the peak dinner rush with a group of 10 people), the staff was friendly and helpful. Our waiter even got up on a chair and took some pictures of our group for me (twice!) and smiled and joked the whole time. I couldn’t resist the Bad Ass Loaded Baked Potato Pizza (pictured), and I was not disappointed. The pizza comes with spicy white sauce, garlic, diced baked potatoes, parmesan cheese, peperoncini, green onions, bacon (I subbed tomatoes), and a drizzle of sour cream ranch sauce. It was perhaps the most delicious pizza I’ve ever eaten…and I could have split it with at least two other people, because there was no way I could eat any more than a couple of slices. So if you go to the Brewery at Lake Tahoe, you can expect some slow but friendly service, and some really great comfort food. It’s worth the trip, even if it does take a while.
The food at Trastevere, an Italian restaurant in the heart of Santa Monica’s famous Third Street Promenade, is a true delight. The ambiance is romantic (table candles, white table cloths, a patio where you can dine under the starry LA sky), the service was prompt and friendly, and the location simply can’t be beat. In the above picture you can see the Pomodoro e Mozzarella Bruschette. The tomatoes were amazingly fresh, the mozzarella was cut down to the perfect size (sometimes it’s too big on these kinds of dishes, and other times it’s scant), and the basil was so flavorful it may as well have been plucked right off of the plant immediately before we ate it. I also have to mention the complimentary bread (which was nice and fluffy, served warm). Usually, complimentary bread is nothing to write home about, but Trastevere’s bread is so good. And surprisingly enough, it’s served up with a tantalizing olive tapenade that makes my mouth water just to remember it. I could probably just eat this bread and tapenade all day (if the rest of the food wasn’t so damn delicious).
For the main course, I ordered the Ricotta e Spinaci Pizza (below). Now, usually I’m not a fan of cooked spinach, but I thought I’ve give it a whirl. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed! This pizza (which doesn’t have marinara sauce) was so light, and it managed to walk that fine line between substantially-doughy and thin-and-crispy, resulting in a nice crispiness on the outer edges of the crust without any sogginess or heaviness in the rest of the dough. It was a culinary experience I’d love to repeat.
I’ve been to Spagio before, but I had to write about the Brie Pizza I tried the last time I was in. It’s a taste-explosion in your mouth: apple butter, brie cheese, pears, and candied walnuts make this one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had…and incredibly innovative at that! The flavors were rich and thick, but the pizza itself was nice and light.
Every time I go to Spagio, I order their lemonade-of-the-day — this time, it was Kiwi Lemonade. The playful flavors were exactly the refreshing treat I needed on a hot summer’s day, and it was an oddly suitable complement to the Brie Pizza. The original combination of ingredients and tastes in Spagio’s dishes is what makes me keep coming back for more. Awesome, as usual!
The Blackstone Brewery in Nashville is a quiet, clean restaurant with fantastic service and good food. The Santa Fe Pizza (pictured above) had a thin cornbread crust and a nice assortment of southwestern vegetables topping it off. It was surprisingly light and refreshing. When you combine the quality of the food with the quality of the service, the Blackstone Brewery is too good to pass up. Give it a whirl next time you’re in the area!