I tend to prefer mildly spicy food with complex combinations of tastes. Southwest, Mexican, Indian, Thai, Fusion, Californian, and especially Pacific Rim. I can enjoy classic French and Vietnamese, but the subtlety is sometimes lost on me. Great meals involve more than food. It also is about being with people I love and an atmosphere that allows connection and where it’s not too noisy.
Best Meal Ever
A Pacific Cafe, Kauai. HA. Everything was excellent, but the pan-seared mahi-mahi with garlic and sesame was unbelievably good when owner/chef Jean-Marie Josselin was on-site. The meals were merely excellent when he was minding one of his other establishments. Some people have described their food as better than sex. This restaurant is closed now, but the chef has opened a new establishment called JO2 which was good, but I felt fell sort of A Pacific Cafe.
Second Place… It’s Not Just the Food
- Fresh caught Mountain and Rainbow Trout cooked over an open fire after hiking to Adelaide lake in Cloud Peak Wilderness with my dad.
- Hole in the wall Uyghur restaurant in Urumqui, China. We asked if the “chicken dish” was still on the menu. The owner walked out the door. Five minutes later he returned carrying a freshly slain chicken by it’s claws. He said “Yes, I can make that for you.” 30 minutes later I had the freshest chicken dish in my life. More than that, the owner and his family welcomed us and shared their love of food and seemed to have real joy serving their customers.
- Terras, St Helena, CA. French meets Pacific Rim. Quiet, intimate setting, great service. The perfect place to celebrate with someone dear to your heart. It was the best place my wife and I have shared a meal. (Closed in 2018)
The following are places I recommend. Most are without reservation. There are a few places I list here as a reminder what to skip… they are restaurants which have a good reputation, but I was unimpressed.
Greater San Francisco & Penisula Area
There are a bunch of restaurants I need to add to the list below. In the mean time I will note that all of the bay area michelin stars restaurants I have visited have been tasty, though some were overpriced. Some of favorite have been
- Manresa, Los Gatos, CA. Wonderful farm to table restaurant which always delivers. It has gotten quite pricy in recent years but wonderful food and service and not pricy compared to other michelin 3 star.
- Chez Panisse, Berkeley, CA. Alice Water’s wonderful establishment.
- Flea Street Cafe, Menlo Park, Farm to Table. Seemed to be one of Steve Job’s favorite resturants.
- Orchard City Kitchen, Campbell, Farm to Table small bites. Tasty, nice combination of sweet and spicy, though maybe a bit too much sweet.
I have listed some of the restaurants in mid-penisula I like on a different page.
There are lots of places… Need to pull my list from elsewhere.
- French Laundry, Yountville, CA. Hearld as one of the best restaurants in the world. The meals I have was excellent, but I didn’t find it heads and shoulders above other top destinations. I have enjoyed dining at Terra more and a lot less money and without having to make reservations nine months in advance. Alas, Terra is now closed.
- Ad Hoc, Yountville. Yet another Thomas Keller place. High end comfort food at a bargain price given quality and quantity of the food. Fun, casual atmosphere. Food served family style. Spicy fried chicken which is typically only available 1 Sunday / month is amazing. Offer food for take away as well as in restaurant.
- Auberge Du Soleil, Rutherford, Michelin 1Star. Classic food, excellent service, great view of the valley.
- The Charter Oak, St Helana. Where Tra Vigne used to be. Good outdoor seating. Tasty food.
- The Restaurant at Meadowood, St Helena, 3star. Has been closed for retooling for a couple of years. Should be re-opening soon. Will be interesting to see what comes back.
- Latoque, Yountville, French. Pricy, well executed food, nice atmosphere, but not as good as the prices are high.
- Bistro Jeanty, Yountville, CA. So/so food. I would pass
- Brix, Saint Helena. Tasty food, nice garden behind the restaurant
- Picobar, Calistoga, Nice food in front of the Solage resort
- Single Thread Farms, Healdsburg, 3star
- Ca Bianca, Santa Rosa. Italian. Good house made pasta will nice outdoor seating.
- Jacksons Bar and Oven, Santa Rosa. Brew pub feel. Tasty food. In the historic rail area.
- Handline, Sabastapol. Well done conversion from a Foster Freeze very tasty food with a nice outdoor seating space. Fish tacos quite good.
- Stark Reality Restuarants in particular
- Willis Wine Bar, Santa Rosa
- Bravas Bar de Tapa, Healdsburg
Sata Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove
- Oswald’s, Santa Cruz, CA. Simple French country cuisine, good quality ingredients well prepared.
- passionfish, Pacific Grove, CA. Sustainable sea food with a South American influence
- Tarpy’s Road House, Monterey, CA, Modern American
- Montrio, Monterey, CA, Mediterranean / California. Ok, but over rated.
- Rio Grill, Carmel, CA. Southwest Grill
- Flying Fish, Carmel, CA French meets Thai.
- Patisserie Boissiere, Carmel, CA, Authentic French
- Pacific’s Edge, Carmel, CA. Continental Cuisine. Some visit was amazingly excellent, but other times the food was merely good.
- L’Orangerie, Los Angeles, CA. Classic French.
- Haleiwa Joe’s, Palm Springs, CA: Best Hawaiian fish I have had outside Hawaii (including the California branches of Roy’s)
- Kaiser Grille, Palm Springs, CA
- Jake’s on the Lake, Lake Tahoe, CA. Part of a chain based in Hawaii. Pacific Rim like.. but the fish isn’t as fresh as in Hawaii.
- Tahoe House, Lake Tahoe, CA. Great bakery.
- M by Jeremy Shigekane, Oahu, Hawaii. Chef driven farm to table menu. Possiblity my favorite restaurant which is still open.
- Canoe House, Big Island, Hawaii. Located in the Mauna Lani Resort. Fish in an incredible sauce, great service, and atmosphere. The back deck is a great place to watch the sun set.
- Roy’s Kahana Bar & Grill, Maui. Chocolate cake for desert a must. They treat children well.
- Spago at 4 Seasons Resort in Wailea, Maui. Wonderful meal with great service. They treat children well.
- David Paul’s Lahaina Grill, Maui. Interesting Pacific Rim fusion.
- King and I, Kauai. HA, Thai. Pad thai so/so, but everything else was great. Rice noodles in prawns was excellent.
- Merriman’s, Waimea, HA, Pacific Rim. Good, but over-hyped. Daniel Thiebaut was better and cheaper, but is now closed.
- Paolo’s Bistro, Pahoa, HA
- Duke’s. Tasty food though I find restaurants listed above better.
- Euro Cafe, Mesa, AZ. Eclectic
- RoxSand, Scottsdale, AZ. Southwest meet California. Excellent service
- Christophers Bistro, Scottsdale, AZ. French meets California
- Rancho Pinot Grill, Scottsdale, AZ. Very good wine list. Very good service. Brought out free champagne to celebration Libby’s Au.D.
- Cowboy Club, Sedona, AZ. In the 1990s this was a great place. Interesting southwest food, has fun serving staff that had fun attitudes and good food. Portions too large. In 2007 and 2008 we visited again was were disappointed. Food and service were only fair for moderately expensive prices… I would skip it.
- Yavapai Restaurant, Sedona, AZ. Tasty but expensive southwest cuisine. Very good service.
- Geronimo’s, Santa Fe, NM. Classic white table cloths and food to go with it.
- Saxon, Santa Fe, NM. The best Mexican food I have ever had. Wonderful moles, quiet atmosphere, with good service.
- Anasazi, Santa Fe, NM, Lots of wild game, very nice breads
- Santacafe, Santa Fe, NM, New American / Southwest
- Paul’s, Santa Fe, NM, New American / Southwest
- Coyote Cafe, Santa Fe, NM, Southwest. Over-hyped. Try other options in the city.
- Ataula, Portland, OR. Amazing Spanish tapas. Lively atmosphere, but quiet enough that you can talk.
- Ambria, Chicago, IL. New French.
- K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, New Orleans, LA.
- Palm Court Restaurant, Cincinnati, OH. New American
- Back Porch Cafe, Outer banks, NC. Bourbon pecan chicken very good.
- Dahli Lounge, Seattle, WA, Seattle cuisine
- Wild Ginger, Seattle, WA
- The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA
- Kinkeads, Washington DC, Seafood
- Obelisk, Washington, DC..
- Gerard’s place, Washington, DC. French, very small, chef owned & operated.
- Citronelle, Washington, DC. French (from California)
- Georgia Brown’s, Washington, DC. Southern, lots of politicians eat here. Food like fried catfish, shrimp and grits, she-crab soup.
- City Lights of China, Washington, DC. Chinese, not much atmosphere, but terrific food.
- The Grill from Ipanema, Washington, DC. Brazilian
- Primanti, Pittsburgh, PA. Overhyped, but good memories with friends.
- Leah and Louise, Charlotte. Tasty modern southern cooking. Casual, by art center.
- Angelina’s: On rue de Rivoli. for the best hot chocolate in the world
- Berthillon for tasty ice cream in the middle of the Seine
- Osteria Ai Do Archi, Venice, in house bakery / pasta making, corrected our wrong order
- The Matheson, Healdsburg
- Quince, San Francisco
- Acquerello, San Francisco
- Sons and Daughters, San Francisco
- State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
- Various michelin 3-star restaurants
Great Memories but now Closed 🙁
- A Pacific Cafe, Hawaii. Listed above.
- Terras, Saint Helena. Listed above
- Tra Vigne, Saint Helena, CA. Very good Italian food at a reasonable price.
- Jovanna’s. Palm Desert, CA: Chef owned and run bistro. Good food. Friendly atmosphere which is a relief from the general snootiness of Palm Springs / Desert higher end eateries. You should try the fun crispy spinach appetizer
- Stokes Adobe, Monterey, CA. Mediterranean / Californian.
- Zibibbo, Palo Alto, CA. Seattle cuisine. Can be uneven… but generally quite good
- Daniel Thiebaut, Waimea, HA. Pacific Rim
- Ala Carte, Columbus, OH, European
- Shalom, Columbus, OH. Israeli
- Seva, Columbus, OH, Veggie
- Jocco, Los Altos, CA. Mediterranean/Californian – lamb & bread pudding really good
- Benbo, Palo Alto, CA. Great kababs