Good bye Hawaii, it’s been fun. Until we meet again.

My last two days on Kauai were low-key and relaxing trying to take it all in of my first visit to Hawaii.

Laying low my next to last day.

I stopped for a donut at Daylight Donuts on my way to breakfast at Daddy O’s, a recommendation from locals the night before. I went with early bird special for $6.95. 2 eggs, Portuguese sausage and hash browns. One thing I realized is breakfasts are not exactly man-sized meals(except Da Big Moco at Roland’s Mix Plate) in Lihue. After a blog post I made a lunch run to Historic Kapaa town from the popular Tacos Al Pastor food truck. Bored of fish tacos I went with….al pastor tacos.

I found myself chatting with a California transplant to Hawaii who owns Java Kai coffee shop that I visited a few days earlier. I didn’t get her name but she seemed to adjust well to the culture shock after living on Kauai for 10 years. With 3 business’s and 3 kids she hasn’t slowed down. After lunch I strolled the main drag looking for that special souvenir t-shirt. Pictures and memories only go so far. Found the right t-shirt and what I thought would be my last shaved ice at Ono Ono Shave Ice.

On my way back to Kauai Palms Hotel I stopped into the Koloa Rum Company Store & Tasting Room. The tasting room is at Kilohana, a 104 acre plantation for visitors to explore with a train ride, restaurants, garden and galleries. A great way to get a feel for old Hawaii.

Kale was behind the bar and told me about the rum, distillery and the history of the Kauai sugar industry. I looked for the distillery in Koloa only to find out it’s in the next town over and isn’t open to the public yet.

After a brief nap I made my way to Rob’s Good Time Grill for dinner and couple of tropical drinks. Rob’s is a sports bar serving bar food and was the busiest place in town with most games on TV. Getting there for happy hour and $2 off drinks Ola made good Mai Tai’s using Koala white and dark rums. The pastrami burger was really good and uses locally sourced Kauai beef. The refreshing Mai Tai’s did their thing I and I was done for the night. See you tomorrow.

Good night the party’s over

With a full day ahead of me before my red-eye flight to Phoenix I tried to keep busy. Check out is at 11 a.m., rental car back by 3 p.m. what to do. Hoping to sleep in I didn’t and found my way back to Daylight Donuts before breakfast. With nothing but time on my hands I walked back to Roland’s Mix Plate for breakfast. Roland’s serves the best breakfast in Lihue in my opinion. Back to hotel to relax some more and pack up checking out just before 11.

I decided to swing into the Kauai Marriott Resort to see what it’s about. Glad I did as the beachfront resort is bigger than I thought and offers great views across Nawiliwili Bay.

I strolled the resort to a touristy shopping area and grabbed a lunch from a Kikukchi’s food truck. A local recommended the Ginger Fried Chicken Bao or Hawaiian Club sandwich with Ginger Fried Chicken. I went with Hawaiian Chicken Club sushi roll. A good recommendation. I saw a Shave Ice shack and couldn’t resist, Coconut Cream shave ice was on. Plenty of dining options for resort guests and NCL cruise ship passengers that drops anchor every Thursday. Time to take the car back and wait out the rest of the day at the airport watching football while planes land and take off.

A few things to know about Kauai and Hawaii

  1. It’s often cloudy and humid on the island. Rain in the morning but clears up. Blue sky is shared with clouds almost always over the mountain. Don’t forget sunscreen though. Temps at during my visit were between 83-92 F during the day.
  2. Getting around is pretty easy as Highway 50/56 is the only road that gets around the island from Kekaha to Hanalei. Traffic flows pretty good but slows down to a crawl through Kappa and Wailua most times of the day. You could probably do end to end in less than 2 hours.
  3. Most beaches are public and easily accessible.
  4. If you go to Waimea Canyon, locals suggest early in the day as cloud hamper visibility later in the morning.
  5. Lihue Airport is small and easy to maneuver with 1 terminal only 5 minutes from Lihue center and highways 50/56.
  6. Hotels are not everywhere, most are in the southeastern part of the island between Poipu and Kappa.
  7. Shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops are the norm. The evenings stayed warm in the 70s overnight.
  8. Prices are higher in Hawaii…I noticed gas about $4-$4.08/gallon. Most breakfasts are $9 and up even for a simple breakfast 2 egg breakfast.

I’ll be back to Kauai but first I need to explore Maui, Oahu and The Big Island. Mahoalo!

*** For photos and videos see Facebook & Twitter @SandyWasserman and Instagram @SandyWass*** Feel free to comment and subscribe to my blog and social media.

 

 

 

Waimea Canyon then back to the east end of Kauai

After my day at sea I continued west toward Waimea for the night so I could drive through Waimea Canyon and where else the road would take me. I pulled into Waimea Plantation Cottages for the night to refresh and enjoy the beachfront accommodations.

A bit higher than I wanted to pay for less than 24 hours I ponied up the cash for the studio($184) and enjoyed the surroundings. Since this was the western most part of the island I was staying on I hoped to see a sunset from the beach but the clouds put a damper on those plans.

A bit disappointed with the amount of insects in the room my $25 resort fee was refunded. That’s what you get with arid temperatures near the ocean.

Up to Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park

I woke up energized and made my way up Waimea Canyon Dr. (550) towards Waimea Canyon State Park taking in the views of Waimea area and the Pacific.

Winding roads climb in elevation as this area is where hunters, hikers and campers head to enjoy the outdoors. Many pull-offs to stop to take pictures I make it into the park and view steep green and brown cliffs and waterfalls.

In the distance you hear but barely see the helicopters taking tourists even closer.(See below). After several pictures and “oohs” and “aahs” I exit the park and continue toward Koke’e State Park.

I pass military outposts that take advantage of the farthest west part of the U.S. and high elevations to protect our country. Koke’e State Park offers views of Napali Coast from Kalalau Valley Lookout and  Pu’u O Kila Lookout. There are breathtaking views from high above of steep rock formations spiking upwards. Hiking trails lead to beaches through the green lined cliffs. Shorter hikes can be done and you should always prepare accordingly.

Down the road and heading back east

After two hours taking in breathtaking views I head down to sea level and cruise back through Waimea towards Lihue making stops along the way. First stop was Kauai Coffee Company to taste the locally grown coffee and take a self guide tour. Much what you’d expect of coffee samples, gift shop, a coffee museum, local plants and rows of coffee trees. Free tours are available and so is a small sandwich shop. Definitely worth  a stop to take in the local culture and surroundings.

I was hungry so I made my way to Koloa and grabbed fish tacos from a food truck before I strolled the village. Old Koloa Town is a plantation village with shops, restaurants and rich in sugar plantation history….and filled with chickens roaming and singing. I love the trees in the area as their canopy offers shade and seem very nicely manicured.

I headed back through the resort town of Poipu past small local beaches and condos towards the Spouting Horn geyser. Taking a few minutes to watch the surf erupt through the lava holes forming spouting geyser. A nice stop to view the surf crashing and let mother nature do her thing.

I made my way to Kapaa to Bubba Burger on a recommendation from a friend for dinner. Using local Kauai beef Bubba Burger is tasty and easy on the wallet. Sit above the street and watch people and traffic go by along the beach road. After my burger I U turned it back to Hilue for my night at The Tip Top Motel.

Hiking Hanalei and helicopters

The Tip Top Motel, Cafe & Bakery made for an ok stay as accommodations were fine(as were other places I stayed) but the breakfast wasn’t the 4 stars I saw on Yelp!. An average breakfast and no complimentary coffee other places I stayed have offered. At $120 a night(taxes & fees incl) for basic accommodations a couple of cups of coffee would’ve been nice. They say it’s the little things that matter the most.

Checking out during the morning rain I continued my way east towards Hanalei hoping the rain would end so I could hike that I previously mentioned. As I drove I saw blue sky peeking trough the clouds giving me optimism my hike would happen.

In no hurry I turned off Kuhio Highway often to drive along the beach and hills to see the sights. Not being able to see a sunrise or sunset due to clouds or my location on the island I was glad to see a rainbow over the mountain.

A quick left over the single lane bridge into Hanelai is the road that leads into the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge and the Okolehao Trail. The only car in the parking lot I was skeptical but determined to head up the steep and muddy trail. Grabbing a walking stick I made my way up through the forest trying to keep my balance.

After 25 minutes I made my way to a great vantage point for viewing Hanalei Bay and the farms below. I continued 200 yards through thicker forest, with rain clouds in the distance I figured I’d seen enough and headed down.

On my way down I met a hikers on their way up who mentioned I made it to the best point to see the view. The trail goes higher and steeper I was told that captures a view of the whole island. With the clouds I doubt I would’ve seen it all, perhaps on my next visit.

Pulling into Hanalei village I walked to the beach to fill a container with sand for a friend who collects sand(???). I then made my way to Tropical Taco for Ahi tacos for a#TacoTuesday lunch.

Leisurely I headed back to Lihue pulling off Kuhio Highway to see the sights on the northern side of the island. I stopped at Island Helicopters to book a flight and found myself on a flight 90 minutes later. Island Helicopters is the only helicopter company to land at Jurassic Falls. I didn’t take that tour but did take the Grand Deluxe tour ($180 cash/ $187 cc) which lasted 50-60 minutes. I did my research and Island Helicopters offers the best price for helicopter tours on the island.

With a front row view we lifted off from the Lihue Airport heliport and had amazing views of Kauai. Mountains, waterfalls, farms, over the ocean, Napali Coast, Waimea Canyon you see everything and many only visible by air.

Our pilot Joseph is a Kauai native and knew about everything we flew over from who owned what land, what it used to be used for, what movies we’re filmed where on the island(The Descendants, Seven Days & Six Nights and Jurassic Park, etc) and so on. An amazing adventure that I almost talked myself out of.

After the hour in the air I walked to Smiley’s Local Grinds for dinner. A small restaurant in a Lihue strip mall filled with locals and people taking out dinner. Good Hawaiian food ( I had Smiley’s Chicken in Garlic Chili sauce ($11.85) at good prices. Nothing fancy just good food and a smiley face whether you’re on a budget or a big spender. Go where the locals go.

The last two days of my trip will be relaxing though I will be out to see and eat more. See ya soon!

***Check out my Facebook & Twitter @SandyWasserman Instagram @SandyWass #SandyTakesKauai for photos and video.***

 

 

On the waters on and around the Garden Island of Kauai

This is the second part of my journey on the island of Kauai where I did a couple of adventures. This post is about two adventures on the waters in and around the island.

Inland waters of Wailua river

I woke up early in Kapp’a as I had a 8 a.m. call to go kayaking up the Wailua River then hike to the secret falls. My day started at Java Kai for coffee, a breakfast burrito and catching up on the internet. I heard about Java Kai on a Youtube video and it sounded worth my visit. A good crowd followed me in at 6 a.m. as it was one of the earlier places to open around town.

Kai & Blake our kayak guides

I made my way to Ali’i Kayaks just of Kuhio Highway near where the Wailua River meets the Pacific. I met up with our local guides Kai & Blake and the other 11 kayakers going up river. After a brief kayaking lesson we headed up river two to a kayak avoiding a speed boat with a wakeboarder  in tow and other kayak groups. As we made our way up the river Kai & Blake pointed out interesting bits of information of the area and history.

We learned that as we passed several spots on the river many Hollywood films were made there including Outbreak and the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy is running to the plane being chased by natives. Cool to learn about on of my favorite movies.

Secret Falls

As we made our way up river over a mile we found our landing spot to pull off and start our hike to Uluwahi Falls (Secret Falls) which is only accessible by foot. We learned about native birds, flowers and plants along the way as we walked through a sometimes muddy trail. Crossing creeks as we passed other hikers making their way to and from the trail that was about 1.5 miles from our kayaks. Shortly before we reached the falls we came across a smaller waterfall called King Eoutu’s Bathtub, the king who kept Kauai’s independence from King Kamehameha’s Hawaii.

King Eoutu’s Bathtub

Arriving at the falls we spent about 45 minutes cooling of in the watering hole and taking pictures. We made our way back down the trail to our kayaks where we casually made our way down river to our meeting point. After loading up the kayaks on trailers we made our way across the river to the office where we met and went our separate ways. The $65 cost seemed pretty reasonable for our 5 hour adventure.

Off to Port Allen

After I left Ali’i Kayaks feeling sore in the upper body I drove about 45 minutes to the southside of the island to Port Allen where I was getting ready for my next days adventure. Not much going on in Port Allen I drove a few miles back to Po’ipu which is a resort community with condos and hotels.

I found the famous Puka Dog for dinner, a sausage in fully enclosed bun with a variety of fruit salsa and hot sauces injected for a spicy sweet flavor. After dinner and checking out Po’ipu I went back to Port Allen for the night but not before stopping in for a couple of local beers at Kauai Island Brewery and Grill.

Kauai Island was filled with local fishermen and those that work on the nearby Army base and is considered the World’s Westernmost Brewery. A couple of beers and chatting with locals and catching up on the day’s college football games I called it a night for my early wake up for my next day’s adventure.

Heading to the Napali Coast

6:00 a.m came pretty quickly and loud with the rooster waking up the town as we met at Holo Holo Charters at 6:30 for our day trip. After meeting Captain Drew and his crew we launched for a 7 hour trip out across the channel towards the Forbidden Island of Niihau and snorkeling off nearby Lehua Crater. Snorkeling in beautiful blue waters with fish and a lone seal made the snorkeling cool to see. Not cool was the choppy surf making it a little challenging. After an hour of snorkeling we pulled up anchor and circled the crater to see the full view of the now bird sanctuary.

Lehua Crater bird sanctuary

The choppy waters made for an exciting and wet return across the channel as we head toward the 16 mile Napli Coast. If there is a roller coaster on water this would be it. Hold on everybody! The 4 person crew was good at keeping us informed on the trip pointing out local birds, fish and the occasional dolphins.

We made it to the Napali Coast after an hour which is full of steep cliffs up 4,000 feet high. The lush green comes from all the rain this side of the island gets. Isolated beaches and caves are seen and many are only accessible from the water. Certain areas can be hiked to from Waimea Canyon.

We got a close up look cruising our catamaran close enough you could touch the rocks and get wet from a small waterfall dropping to the sea. A long day but well worth seeing the beauty of the sea and rugged coastline.

We sped back to port in calmer waters after an amazing adventure at sea and said our good byes. I look forward to seeing the rugged mountains from my visit to Waimea Canyon in coming days. Stay tuned.

***Breakfast, lunch, beer and wine(beer & wine after snorkeling) were provided and all snorkel equipment was supplied for the trip.***

Follow me on Instagram @SandyWass for pictures and see my post about my first couple of days exploring the island http://pullingcorksandforks.com/sandy-takes-kauai/

 

 

 

 

Sandy Takes on Kauai

I made my way for my first visit to the Hawaiian islands and chose The Garden Island of Kauai. Follow my escapades as I hope to include more travel posts to Pulling Corks and Forks.

Kauai Day 1

I tend to travel solo and on a budget so I found a great direct flight from Phoenix to Lihue for under $500. Lihue is a quiet town that’s used like the other towns on Kauai as people pass through to get around the island. The island isn’t very big so you can drive it in a couple of hours.

Kauai
Hanalei Bay

Landed about 3 p.m. island time and was starving after an 6 plus hour flight so I made my way to Kauai Beer Company for fish tacos and a cold Lihue Lager. Good food and the place was filed with locals for a lazy Thursday afternoon. After a quick bite I had time to kill before I could check in to my hotel so I went exploring in rented car. Just a couple of miles from town is Kilua Falls and spectacular view from above. A selfie and few other pictures and I continued to drive to get the lay of the land so my next day would be easier.

I decided to chill out at my hotel after exploring as I was still 3 hours ahead and getting sleepy. Not very fancy places to stay nearby so I wound up at a budget friendly hotel my first night. No bells and whistles, decent wi-fi and coffee in the morning. Good night and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Kauai Day 2

Kiluea Lighthouse
Kiluea Lighthouse

Still on Arizona time I woke up before the roosters who by the way rule the island, they’re in neighborhoods, beaches and on the mountain roads. No need to set the alarm as you’ll start to hear them about 4 a.m.

Walked Lihue waiting for a place to open for breakfast at 6:30, made it to Roland’s Mix Plate for Da Big Loco. Moco Loco is local breakfast bowl of beef patty with eggs your way and gravy over rice. Roland’s serves with crispy pork belly on top. Much needed fuel for the day exploring the island with left over rice and mushroom gravy.

Roosters rule Kauai

I left the hotel about 7:45 and made my way up towards Oloekao Falls and up the mountain road through neighborhoods to see what was a top the mountain. I pulled into the Scared Forest home to Rudraksha trees a.ka. Blue Marble Tree and shrine of Ganesha. Holy in the Hindu world. Continued my way up the mountain til the roads got a bit rough for my rental car.

Down at the bottom of the mountain I made plans to go kayaking and hiking the next day before I proceeded up the Kuhio Highway through the small towns including Kappa’a where I post this adventure. Stopping along the way to check out the surf I take pictures before I get to Kiluea National Monument and the lighthouse and continued past Jurassic Kahili Ranch where several scenes in Jurassic Park were filmed. Open fields, trees and mountains, if you’ve seen the films you should recognize the area.

I continued up the windy road through the hills pulling off at several Scenic Lookouts to view and photograph the mountains and the sea.

The road ends in Hanalei a small village situated between mountains and the Hanalei Bay. I had lunch at L & L BBQ, a Hawaiian chain serving good Hawaiian BBQ. Plenty of food trucks and other food offerings are available on the strip of less than a mile long. After lunch I went to JoJo’s Shaved Ice as shaved ice is big in Hawaii and I was told about JoJo’s from a friend in Phoenix. Hanalei is slightly touristy but nothing compared to the bigger islands and worth the drive and a visit.

Sacred Forest and Ganesha Shrine

I was told of the Okolehao hiking trail(about 1.5 miles) outside of town by a couple of locals and I went to check it out as it would lead up the mountain with a beautiful views. After hiking a 100 or so yards I realized with a muddy trail and no water I wasn’t ready so I put the hike on hold til I came back prepared. The highway used to continued on to Ha’ena until earlier this year for about 6 miles but is now closed from landslides and flooding in April.

I took a leisurely ride back the way I came and pulled off a Kapa’a and hung out for the night. This is where you’ll find most of the activity on the island along with neighboring Wailua. Hotel, resorts, beaches, shopping and restaurants in this 3 mile stretch that hugs the beach at times. I visited some of the resorts to check them out and most were filled with families vacationing. Kapa’a and Wailua also has a good mix of local transplants and natives here for the surf and laid back lifestyle.

So as you can see a busy first couple of days getting my way about the island. Days ahead will have activities I’ve scheduled so check back to see if I survived them. Follow me on Instagram @SandyWass for up to date food finds and scenery from each day.

J & G Steakhouse re-opens with a refreshing new look and menus.

The Phoenician’s award-winning J & G Steakhouse re-opened this week with a refreshing new look and menu. The 3 month re-model is inspired by the desert landscape and coincides with the re-model of the resorts lobby, spa, lounge and pool.

The restaurant has an all new interior that include wall to ceiling windows offering guests a beautiful south-facing view. Neutral earth tone colors are visible in the main dining room and lounge along with new stylish decor. Shiny metals, new mid-century modern booths and chandeliers were added to offer guests  new look and ambiance.

J & G Wagyu Tomahawk Ribeye. All photos courtesy of J & G Steakhouse at The Phoenician

The new interior was designed by Parker Torres Designs who also designed the resorts luxurious recent re-model.

The outdoor dining patio includes new fire pits, seating for more guests and ceiling fans for year round outdoor dining.

New seasonal menu at in the steakhouse

Serving dinner daily from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. guests will enjoy an exciting new seasonal menu from Executive Chef Jacques Qualin. The new menu offers a 30 ounce Wagyu Tomahawk Ribeye, Roasted Red Snapper with baby leeks & mushroom vinaigrette and an impressive Alaskan King Crab Legs entrée. Additional new menu items include Roasted Porcini & Chestnut Risotto, Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Rack of Lamb.

steakhouse
Roasted Porcini & Chestnut Risotto

Head mixologist Robert Porter has created a new handcrafted cocktail menu including the jalapeno spiced Fiery Mandarin and a classic with a Mexican twist, the Mezcal Negroni. J & G Steakhouse was awarded the prestigious “Best of Excellence Award” for 2018 from Wine Spectator magazine for its worldly wine list.

Fiery Mandarin

J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician is at 6000 E. Camelback Rd. in Scottsdale. For reservations call 480-214-8000 or visit https://www.jgsteakhousescottsdale.com/

Enjoy a wine weekend with Isabel & Michael Mondavi at L’Auberge de Sedona

Update: This weekend has just been re-scheduled for November 2-4 2018. A “Meet the Winemaker” reception has been added for the evening of Fri. Nov. 2 for the public to purchase tickets and enjoy the creek-side reception. Additional details to follow.

How better to spend a hot weekend in Phoenix than to drive 90 minutes north to Sedona and the luxurious L’Auberge de Sedona to sip wine and cool off.  If you’re one of the 50 guests who RSVP for the weekend of August 3-5 you will enjoy that and more with winery owners Isabel & Michael Mondavi of Michael Mondavi Family Estate.

“An Intimate  Weekend with Isabel & Michael Mondavi” will be set amongst the beautiful  red rocks of Sedona with wine dinners and delicious meals prepared by L’Auberge de Sedona’s executive chef Frank Desplechin.

Guests will get an up close opportunity to taste wine, speak with and listen to stories from Isabel & Michael about their over 40 years in the Napa Valley and international wine industry.

L'Auberge de Sedona
Michael & Isabel Mondavi. All photos courtesy of Alexa Forshay of J Public Relations

L’Auberge de Sedona wine events

The weekend long wine experience will offer events while also

offering guests time enjoy the resort spa to relax between meals and all that the amenities Sedona area offers.

The weekend highlights include……

  • Meet the Winemaker Creekside welcome reception with passed bites by Chef Desplechin and wines from the Isabel Mondavi wine portfolio
  • A four-course, starlit Epicurean Winemaker Dinner overlooking red rock country curated by Chef Desplechin with wine pairings by Isabel and Michael Mondavi
  • “Sweet and meet” chocolate degustation with Sedona chocolatier Lulu’s Chocolate and Michael Mondavi
  • Signed bottle of Michael Mondavi Family Estate wine as a keepsake takeaway
  • A creekside lunch with Michael pouring renowned wines perfectly paired with cuisine by Chef Desplechin
  • Creekside winemaker Sunday brunch at ETCH Kitchen & Bar

The epicurean weekend package starts at $3,500 for two people, includes two nights of accommodations in a luxurious Cottage, select meals and Mondavi Family Estate wines and a $200 spa credit per person for treatments, private yoga or meditation, or retail. To book a reservation visit www.lauberge.com and use promo code: MONDAVI2018 or call (888) 587-7848.

 

Where to eat when in downtown Las Vegas

Are you a foodie who doesn’t like all the pomp & circumstance of the Las Vegas strip and their celebrity chef driven restaurants and buffets and prefer the character and history of downtown Las Vegas but want to avoid the touristy chain restaurants along the Fremont St. Experience continue reading this post.

I spent 4 days last weekend in downtown Las Vegas and for several meals stepped outside the Fremont St. Experience to explore several local restaurants of interest. Not to say I didn’t eat a meal or 2 in the hotels which will get a mention here but I wanted to see where the locals eat.

Day 1

The drive to Vegas up Route 93 where restaurants are hard to come by until you get to Wikieup is where we stopped for a quick-lunch at Luchia’s where my turkey club sandwich on homemade sourdough bread really hit the spot. Luchia’s is the last chance to eat before you get to I-40 & Kingman with only a couple of options a few miles before you get to Luchia’s.

After checking in at the downtown Las Vegas staple Golden Nugget, Ziggy and I made our way to the Artisan Hotel for a wine tasting & tapas at Barcelona Restaurant. The Artisan Hotel is off the strip and may be my new favorite hotel with its dark lobby and art decor with many paintings from Van Gogh, Picasso and more lining the walls along with statues and sculptures around the lobby. The tapas were satisfying and included Empanadas, tacos, croquettes and more at happy hour prices of $5 or $6. Washed down with the wines from Rock n Roll Wines it made for a great 1st night in town. http://www.artisanhotel.com/

Several hours later the we found our self  hungry and decided on a couple of slices of pizza from Pizza Lotto (in the El Cortez & Casino) after a beer at Atomic Liquors(another must visit) several blocks down Fremont St. among the hipsters and locals. This pizza snob thought the slices were spot on like you’d find in NYC.

Day 2

We passed on the all you can buffets and Denny’s for breakfast and made our way down Carson St. to Eat on a recommendation from a friend. Waiting outside til they opened at 8 was worth it as my corned beef hash was one of the best I had and Ziggy’s chicken fried steak looked real good. This breakfast & lunch joint almost had me coming back for the Truffled Egg sandwich but will save it for my next visit. Owner/Chef Natalie Young’s place commands a line on most mornings and for good reason with her breakfast providing the fuel we needed for our chilly mid-morning hike in the Red Rocks west of town near Summerlin. http://eatdtlv.com/#

After burning off our breakfast with the aforementioned hike Ziggy had mentioned Chicago Brewing Company’s large Bloody Mary’s served with appetizers attached. We went next door to the Four Queens Hotel & Casino for lunch which started with my Ghost Mary that came with mozzarella stick wrapped with bacon and spicy chile pepper. The Bloody Mary was made with a spicy ghost pepper Bloody Mary mix and I didn’t find either to be as spicy as expected but both disappeared real quick. My Muffelatta sandwich did me good til our next meal. Ziggy went with his hometown favorite Chicago dog and was underwhelmed with the diced tomatoes as opposed to sliced ones.

Dinner consisted of appetizers during our hosted Happy Hour at Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar inside the Golden Nugget. Nachos, Ahi Tacos and Margaritas tasted the way they would at any other Mexican restaurant. No complaints here.

Day 3

Waking up Saturday morning had me indecisive about where to go for breakfast and I decided to keep it simple with a donut and coffee from Donut Bar on Carson St. After waiting with others til they opened at 8(see a trend here) more indecisiveness kicked in with all my donuts choices including The Big Poppa Tart with a Pop Tart in the middle and many more, see my Instagram video for more (@SandyWass). On this day I went with the Maple Bacon Cinnamon Roll and a large coffee from Portland’s Stumptown Roasters. The Las Vegas location is the 3rd with the other 2 in San Diego. http://www.donutbar.com/

A banquet style lunch was in the Golden Nugget and was good piece of steak but lets jump to dinner at Chow. Dining solo for dinner I went back down Fremont St to Chow, Natalie Young’s (of eat.) southern & Chinese food joint that is open for lunch & dinner(closes at 8pm). I started with a Pork Belly bun followed by 2 pieces of southern fried chicken. The overnight brined chicken was crispy  and good and the pork belly bun made me wanting more than 1.  I will definitely be back for noodles and more. http://www.chowdtlv.com/

Day 4

Our final day in Vegas had us in town long enough for breakfast before we hit the road back to Scottsdale. We headed to east Las Vegas to drop of our buddy G. Scott. East Las Vegas is mostly chain restaurants and drive thrus but we did discover Blueberry Hill Family Restaurant before we hit the highway out-of-town. This locally family owned restaurant has 4 Vegas locations and we found ourselves at the east Flamingo Rd location. Good, affordable breakfast and lunch comfort foods such as pancakes, waffles and more on the big menu. I went again with a corned beef hash skillet which almost defeated me but I didn’t let it happen. The always full coffee cup was perfect on this Sunday morning and we left full enough that a lunch stop on the road was not even necessary. http://www.blueberryhillrestaurants.com/

After paying our bill we hit highway south toward Arizona with me thinking of when I can return to Vegas for more local eats as we barely scratched the surface and left me  wondering about others we missed. Ciao for now Las Vegas!

 

 

Eating my way through Delray Beach, Boca Raton & Boynton Beach.

Some live through stereotypes, some live in stereotypes and from time to time I live in a stereotype. That is the case when I travel to visit family in southeastern Florida towns of Delray Beach, Boca Raton and Boynton Beach. Certain aspects feel like a Seinfeld episode when Jerry is visiting his parents in “Del Boca Vistas”. The best times revolve around food and eating out and all that come with the experience. On a recent visit I ate out for most meals in strip mall eateries or dockside by the water and these are my chronicles, see if my experiences sound familiar.

Most were simple meals with family and friends catching up and watching life go by as its high season in south Florida with snow birds, families visiting parents & grandparents and full-time residents.

Shortly after arriving in time for a mid-morning breakfast on the way back from the airport we decided on my aunts favorite greasy spoon, The Green Owl III in Boynton Beach. Breakfast and lunch served with simple staples of eggs, French toast, pancakes and the special of the day, Scrapple. I’m not entirely sure what Scrapple but you don’t see it here in Phoenix very often. I can say the eggs, corned beef hash and slice of French toast is exactly what you’d expect. Not huge portions but good solid breakfast foods with the regulars and an always full & hot cup of coffee with change back from a $10 in most cases. Cash only!

As often as I’ve visited in my 40 something years to this area there’s always a  favorite or 2 on the eating schedule. For dinner we made reservations at the family favorite Banana Boat on the Intercoastal Waterway in Boynton Beach. It was my 1st visit in a long time at this nautical & beach themed restaurant where seafood is good and fresh. The French Onion soup was spot on for bargain price of $6.95 before I stepped out of my seafood comfort zone and went with filet of Macadamia crusted Key West Grouper. The fish was good and flaky and the Orange Rosemary sauce was vibrant and delicious. http://bananaboatboynton.com/

We passed on desert as we headed down to the bustling Atlantic Ave. in Delray Beach to Doc’s All American for soft serve ice cream. Doc’s pre-dates any of my visits back to when my aunt grew up in the area and Doc’s was the place to go for food and fun when she was in high school.

I know what you’re saying, where’s the stereotypes and Seinfeld episode in all of this. That picture comes into play when family continues to arrive and we head to Saturday morning breakfast at Poppie’s Restaurant & Delicatessen  in Delray Beach where Miltary Trail meets Linton Blvd. This staple for gossip, big portions and people watching is slowly filing with regulars for morning coffee or after tennis at the club. Walking by the glass encased meats and deli favorites right to our table or booth I don’t remember but you get the drift. I expect Jerry, George and Elaine to coming strolling through the door any second as if they’re visiting Jerry’s parents. http://www.poppiesdelidelray.com/

I went with a platter of eggs, home fries, corned beef hash & a bagel. Big portions tasting the way it should as if we were up in New York deli.

For lunch, plans get made with our hometown friend for our traditional sushi lunch at Lemongrass Asian Bistro www.lemongrassasianbistro.com/  in downtown Boca Raton among the Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s. This was our first visit to Lemongrass as our previous sushi place a couple blocks away has jumped on the ramen & noodle bandwagon. The sushi was fresh and filing as was it’s presentation. The Summer Roll(Vietnamese spring roll, not sushi) was one of favorites with its mint and shrimp stuffed goodness. Our favorite roll was the Aloha Roll with pineapple and more and my Bento box of sashimi and a “Sex on the Moon” roll was perfect.

During our late lunch I was informed dinner would be of the early bird kind at 4:30 for Chinese food. Up I-95 a few exits back to Delray Beach in a nondescript strip mall is Bird Nest Tree. http://www.birdnesttree.com/

My sister & I must have been the youngest patrons of this (stereo)typical Chinese food restaurant with dim lighting, leather booths and round tables. I opted to skip dinner as the taste of sushi still lingered on my palate and dinner plans with friends in Ft. Lauderdale was only an hour or so away. I did nosh on the large fried wontons on the table and grabbed a taste of Kung Pao chicken before our server scolded me and slapped a “sharing” charge on my families bill. It all looked and smelled like good Chinese food, maybe next visit for a full experience.

That’s not the end of my eating escapades as other meals were had at the country club, in homes of friends and family and at the wedding which brought all of us to Florida, that’s another post in itself. If you find yourself traveling the roads of these parts, these and other restaurants from previous visits make for good eating and people watching.