Here are a list of my favorite restaurants from all the places that I've lived or traveled! I hope that these reviews will help some of you decide on places to eat when you're around any of these cities.
Place: Smoqued BBQ
Favorite Menu Item: Smoqued Pork Nachos
Description: BBQ. This place it located in Old Town Orange, about a 10 minute drive from the Disneyland area. It's a neat little shopping place with red brick and old buildings with lots of little antique shops. This place was a recommendation from a coffee shop within Old Town orange. It had a fun BBQ, rustic feel. We ordered the smoqued pork nachos (on fries, not chips) and they were amazing. The pork on them was soo delicious and it had cheese, onions, tomatoes, jalepenos (that were really hot), and chives. It was to die for. We also ordered a side of mac and cheese for our daughter and it was huge! For the price, we felt like we definitely got our money's worth. If you're in the LA area, you should definitely check this place out.
Los Angeles (Disneyland)
Place: Cafe Orleans
Favorite Menu Item: N'awlins Vegetable Ragout with Blackened Chicken
Description: French Quarter. This place is located within New Orleans Square in Disneyland. We had wanted to try it because it was Halloween time and they were serving Pumpking Beignets...and if you know me, I love everything pumpkin. We made reservations for dinner one night while we were there - highly recommended, it gets crowded! My husband and I shared the Vegetable Ragout with Blackened chicken and it was amazing. The vegetables were soft and delicious, and the chicken and sauce (red sauce that we weren't expecting) just blew our minds. One of the best meals I've had in a long time. We of course finished with an order of the Pumpking Beignets which were also very good. We also ordered the Pommes Fries, which are basically garlic fries. It was huge, probably could share with a party of 4. They were delicious and we loved the sauce it was served with. They were great when we asked for an extra side of it.
Place: Moose McGillycuddys
Favorite Menu Item: Kalua Pig Quesadilla
Description: Mexican. This restaurant was so much fun! It was on the second floor (finding the front door was a little difficult. But we were able to see the ocean from our table. They also sold cocktails in souvenir glasses that looked like Totem poles. The Kalua Pig quesadilla was one of the best things I've ever tasted. Kalua pig is just delicious in general, but with the cheese and salsa, it was amazing. They even have a little souvenir store where you can buy shirts.
Place: Java Jazz
Favorite Menu Item: Pancake Breakfast
Description: Eclectic cafe. This restaurant was a neat little place. There are Polaroid pictures and art hanging on every single inch of wall space. We ate breakfast here before heading to a snorkel tour. It was the only thing open that early - but boy was it good. We had the pancake breakfast which gave us eggs, bacon and 1 pancake. We questioned whether that would be enough food, and the server/owner told us that it mostly likely would be. We were still skeptical...but when it came out, that one pancake was enormous! And the price for that breakfast was very reasonable. The coffee here was pretty good also.
Place:Teresa's Brick Oven Pizza & Cafe
Favorite Menu Item: Pizza and Garlic Knots
Description: Italian. We stopped for a bite of lunch at this little pizza place after our Radio City Music Hall tour. It was pretty crowded so it was hard to find a place to sit to eat. The pizza was great and the garlic knots were absolutely delicious. It was hard to find a unique place to eat in New York without paying a huge price or having a snooty server. I definitely have a place I DON'T recommend in New York, but not this place. If you're looking for a good slice of NY pizza and are in the area, stop here and grab some garlic knots to go with it.
Place: Bongo's Cuban Cafe
Favorite Menu Item: Bongo's Famous Black Bean Dip and Cuban Style Steak
Description: Cuban, old Havana style restaurant. This restaurant is located at Downtown Disney on the west side. Downtown Disney in Orlando has a very different atmosphere than in Anaheim. The west side features all the restaurants and entertainment. There was music everywhere you walked. Bongos had their own live music as well. We sat on the patio which was also right next to the little green area where they hold concerts. So we got to listen to a small concert while we were there which was cool. Our service actually started out really bad here because we waited 15 minutes with no one acknowledging us, until we had to ask someone if we had a server. So why do I recommend the restaurant, you ask? Because once our server finally showed up, we had great service. The food was also delicious. With the black bean dip you get Plantain chips (which I'd never had) and they were amazing. The dip is actually really thick though and you almost had to use your utensils to scoop the dip and then eat a chip. And the steak we had was mouth watering. It had this sauce that tasted so different and was very good. And fried plantains were amazing with the steak. They're sweet so they added a different layer to the meal. Then our server paid for a dessert to make up for the beginning of our experience. There's not much more you can ask for. The prices are a little steeper than we usually pay, but when you've been spending the same amount for food at Disneyland, this food is 10 times better for the same price!
Favorite Menu Item: Bruschetta Boards
Description: Italian - this is a chic Italian restaurant. There are a few located around the Phoenix-Metro area. The place is very popular and you might wait for a table for a while depending on what time you arrive. The bruschetta boards are by far the best thing on the menu. You get to choose four types of bruschetta and they have some pretty tasty ones. I also recommend the salted caramel sundae. The corn nuts in it are a little weird, but it all works together in this amazing, mouth-watering dessert.
Favorite Menu Item: Fiesta Platter
Description: Mexican. We stumbled upon this place when Buffalo Wild Wings was charging a cover for a fight. We didn't want to pay, so Manuel's was in the same parking lot so we went there instead. Boy are we glad we did. Their salsa is absolutely delicious. The Fiesta Platter is perfect because it gives you a little bit of everything - but the Pollo Especial is the best. You can order just the Pollo Especial as well. It is like a Pollo Fundido, but it has more sauce and some green chilis inside too. Mmm mmm. Also, at our location we had the best server. He started out as a busboy when we first started eating there. He was so hard working and personable that he made it up to a server. And now he's an assistant manager, and serves tables still every once in a while. Part of what I love about this restaurant is what they did for that busboy - how they let him move up the ladder because he was so good. Way to go Manuel's! And the food is good. If you sit in the bar, they also have several TVs to watch the current sporting events!
Place: Maizies Cafe
Favorite Menu Item: Feta Inside Out Burger
Description: American Bistro. This is a quaint little bistro in downtown Phoenix. It is a pretty small space, but it also has some great outside seating (when it's not freezing outside!). They have amazing stuffed burgers. I recommend the Feta inside out burger. These are basically stuffed burgers. This one has feta and sun-dried tomatoes. One of the most delicious things I've ever had. And they also offer breakfast, brunch and lunch at reasonable prices.
Place: Joyride Taco House
Favorite Menu Item: Churros con Chocolate
Description: Mexican Chic. This is another chic little restaurant in downtown Phoenix. It is actually owned by the same people who own Postino which I've also listed as a favorite restaurant. This place has a neat lounge area for you to relax and order drinks and sit while waiting for your table, which I really liked. The servers were pretty good, though it was hard to distinguish who worked there because they wore regular clothing with nothing identifying them as staff. The food was pretty good - I really liked the roasted salsa. The Beast Burrito was delicious and so were the 3 types of tacos we tried. But my favorite part was dessert. We ordered the Churros con chocolate. They were heavenly. They used a bitter chocolate to offset the cinnamon of the churro. It was delicious and a perfect ending to our Mexican meal.
Place: St. Francis
Favorite Menu Item: Housemade Baguette
Description: Urban New American. The atmosphere here was the best thing about this place. I could come here during the Spring or Fall and just eat appetizers or have drinks. It was a really neat building. You can even rent the mezzanine for parties. There was an amazing fireplace outside which was burning bright and smelled so good. When we left, we also noticed they had an old black and white movie playing on a wall outside. We arrived early for our reservation and they seated us right away, so we were able to take advantage of Happy Hour prices - definitely worth it, because this place is a bit pricey. The housemade baguette with olive oil and sea salt was the best part of the meal. I ordered the Moroccan meatballs. The sauce had a weird, sort of cinnamony flavor that was hard for me to get used to. The meatballs were pretty good though. My husband ordered Chile Pork Verde which was good. It was neat that they served everything in cast iron. But I mostly enjoyed the environment. They also offer brunch on Sundays which I am interested in trying some day.
Place: Cafe 21
Favorite Menu Item: Short Rib Omelet
Description: Organic, Local. This is a really cute little cafe. They serve an amazing brunch. They have 6 varieties of homemade Sangria every day. They all sounded amazing. We had the tiramisu pancakes and short rib omelet. Both were absolutely amazing. The service was really great too. And the host had so much energy, that it was fun to watch him while you waited for your table.
Place: Cafe Zucchero
Favorite Menu Item: Cannoli
Description: This restaurant/bakery, located in Little Italy, is scrumptious! Whenever we're in San Diego, we make a stop here to get some cannolis. They are large, filled with cream and chocolate chips and topped with orange slices. They're to die for. The also have many other delicious looking desserts, but we can never try them because we always want cannolis. On the left side, it also has a restaurant with Italian food - however we've never tried it. But if they're desserts are any indication, the food must be delicious too. It is run by Italians who emigrated to the San Diego and opened the shop. The accents are fun, and if you can sit and drink a cup of coffee while eating the cannoli, you will be in Heaven. Highly recommended!
Place: Duck Donuts
Favorite Menu Item: Donuts!
Description: Fresh made donuts. This was a great find!! We stayed at our timeshare's resort in Williamsburg and drove by this donut place on the way in. When we decided to take a day trip to Washington DC, we decided we didn't want to make breakfast - that it would be easier to take some donuts to go and eat on the way. This place was fabulous. They made the donuts right there in front of us. They rode a conveyor in to the oil, rolled out, and were immediately dipped in what ever icing we had chosen and then place right in the box for us. If you try to eat them immediately (which delicious hot), the icing is very runny and makes a big mess (which isn't a big deal if you're not driving in a rental car like we were). But after about 20 minutes, the donut and icing cooled down and solidified. They were amazing. They are just vanilla cake donuts with a variety of icing options, and if you choose, you can add some toppings. My favorite were just the regular icings (chocolate, maple, and lemon were delicious). My husband had the maple bacon one - it was not that delicious - but then, I do not like bacon on things. I like eggs and bacon separate. I don't do bacon chocolate chip cookies or anything strange like that. But you would probably love it if you do enjoy those combinations. If you're anywhere near a duck donuts (located in North Carolina and Virginia), I highly recommend going there!
Place: Ristorante Pizzeria Andrea
Favorite Menu Item: Pizza
Description: Italian. This was by far the best restaurant that we ate at during our trip to Europe. And we never would have found this gem if a nice local guy didn't help us find our hotel and suggest this restaurant for dinner. Thank you local guy! The prices were very reasonable. A bottle of house wine was only 9 euros. We had a garlic bread for the appetizer. It was so simple, and yet so incredibly delicious. We actually ate here 2 of the 3 nights we were in Rome, and had a different pizza each night. Both were delicious. You would think egg sounds weird on a pizza, but it's actually pretty good. Also, the service was great - we had the same server both nights and she was very nice. She even gave us Limoncello (the night that we had visited the Amalfi coast - so we knew what it was!) for free while we stayed chatting with a nice couple from Holland who was sitting next to us for several hours. Oh, and their tiramisu is very different from America's! If you don't like American tiramisu, order it here - it was divine! Mmmmm. If you want an awesome local, authentic Italian restaurant, you have to come here!!
Place: Villa Symposium
Favorite Menu Item: Eggplant with Baba Ganoushi
Description: Greek. This restaurant was a stop on our Delphi tour. It was very pretty from the outside and very dressy, upscale on the inside. We has salad and bread, eggplant with what we think was baba ganoushi on top and rice, and when we thought we were done (and full!), they brought us chicken with lemon and potatoes. And for dessert we had a fresh fruit plate. The eggplant meal was so amazing. I'm still not completely sure what it was, but it began my love of eggplant! This restaurant was very pretty and really good. I'm glad we were able to eat here. And if you're in Greece, you must go see Delphi! It was one of our favorite places.
Place: Ristorante Osteria N.1
Favorite Menu Item: Pizza
Description: Italian, red-checkered table cloths. This was our first Italian meal in Italy. And also the first place on our trip through Europe where wine was cheaper than soda! We had a pizza that had artichokes, asparagus, and prosciutto on it. It was pretty good - the artichokes and asparagus were actually really good on pizza. They also had weird bread sticks that were actually sticks - about the size of a straw and the consistency of a cracker. The atmosphere was really neat here with the candle light and checkered table cloths and a little fountain. If you come here, you should definitely sit outside and enjoy the weather and atmosphere.