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.
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.
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 best chicken dish in my life.
Third Place… All Around Amazing
- Terras, St Helena, CA. French meets Pacific Rim. Quiet, intimate setting, great service. The perfect place to celebrate with someone special. (Closed in 2018)
- 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.
- Ataula, Portland, OR. Amazing Spanish tapas. Lively atmosphere, but quiet enough that you can talk.
- Saxon, Santa Fe, NM. The best Mexican food I have ever had. Wonderful moles, quiet atmosphere, with good service.
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.
San Francisco Bay Area
- The Flea Street Cafe, Menlo Park
- Joya, Palo Alto. Tapas.
There are lots of places… Need to pull my list from elsewhere.
- Bistro Jeanty, Yountville, CA. Tasty French food at a reasonable price.
- French Laundry, Yountville, French country. Highly regarded. Very good, but found it over priced. I have enjoyed dining at Terra more and a lot less money and without having to make reservations six months in advance.
Sata Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove
- Oswald’s, Santa Cruz, CA. Simple French country cuisine, superior ingredients well prepared.
- passionfish, Pacific Grove, CA. Sustainable sea food with a South American influence)
- Flying Fish, Carmel, CA French meets Thai.
- Rio Grill, Carmel, CA. Southwest Grill
- Tarpy’s Road House, Monterey, CA, Modern American
- Pacific’s Edge, Carmel, CA. Continental Cuisine. Some visit was amazingly excellent, but other times the food was merely good.
- Montrio, Monterey, CA, Mediterranean / California. Ok, but over rated.
- L’Orangerie, Los Angeles, CA. Classic French.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Over-hyped. Daniel Thiebaut was better and cheaper, but is now closed.
- Paolo’s Bistro, Pahoa, HA
- 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. Have a very nice 2004 Pinot (Sonoma, Cavarious, B&W?)
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Geronimo’s, Santa Fe, NM.
- 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 Very
- 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 , both black and white, 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. Wear. Overhyped, but good memories with friends.
- 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
Good Memories but now Closed 🙁
- Trav Vigne, Saint Helena, CA. Very good Italian food at a reasonable price. (Closed)
- Stokes Adobe, Monterey, CA. Mediterranean / Californian. (Close)
- 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.
- Seva, Columbus, OH, Veggie
- Jocco, Los Altos, CA. Mediterranean/Californian – lamb & bread pudding really good
- Benbo, Palo Alto, CA. Good kababs