I like to document things, so Justin helped make a list of every single bar or restaurant where we ate or drank during the period between May 25 – June 15.
Have YOU been to any of these places?
Denson Liquor Bar: Overrated little cocktail joint. Super slow service both times we went. I can’t say it was worth the price of the drinks. (And the second time we went, my drink was super sweet when it shouldn’t have been.)
Zaytinya: Omg what a meal! Sharing plates style. Mediterranean. Lots of vegetarian. Huge wine list (I wish I could still drink wine!) and okay cocktails, not amazing. This place is huge, and just really good food. I ate SO MUCH.
The Columbia Room: A super cute speakeasy type joint, where you have to enter from the back through an alley.
West Wing Cafe: We stopped here for a cold water and a quick bite before visiting the Capitol. Huge selection of sandwiches and lunch-time snacks. Lots of healthy-ish options too!
Bar Charley: We went here twice, as Justin was so impressed by the menu design and the bartenders. I was less enamored by it simply because the general manager / primary bartender kind of gave me a hard time for drinking my first cocktail with a straw (I do not like ice hitting my teeth or face, but I understand that it was kind of insulting to ask for a straw when the drink didn’t call for one, so I apologized but also didn’t think he had to be such a dick about it). The drinks were good, and both times we went we had well-crafted cocktails. The second time we went, it was INSANELY busy and the general manager bartended; he was a machine. I don’t know how he churned out as many drinks as he did as quickly as he managed. I will also give him credit for not hounding me when I ordered an off-menu drink that I like to make at home; I was just out-cocktailed, had had too much sugar in the previous days, and needed something light. I call it a Grass in a glass (a gin mojito, no sugar, bonus points if there’s muddle cucumber). One of my friends who was with me, ordered the same thing. He kind of gave us a look, and Justin made a joke, and the guy goes, “She wants what she wants,” and shrugs, so I appreciated him cutting me some slack; I was a paying customer after all.
Farmers and Distillers: We met some friends here for dinner and had a nice time. The strangest but most delicious chicken spring rolls, and perfect home made donuts for dessert. Service was top notch, and the menu was well designed, but the meal we had ended up being over-shadowed by so many more on our trip.
Teddy and the Bully Bar: This place had good reviews but turned out mediocre. I also felt like we were being judged by the staff for having an early bird dinner; we met some friends there at 5ish so we could go drinking afterward and still get a good night’s sleep before driving the next day, and service was kind of meh. Food was okay. Drinks were okay. I can’t say I’d recommend anyone go here.
Tony Luke’s: Um. So, I’m probably not the best person to write a review of a place famous for cheese steaks, as I don’t really eat dairy and I don’t ever eat red meat. LOL Justin said his was “good, but I would not go out of my way for it again” and the turkey sandwich I tried to eat was soggy and gross. I took two bites and threw it out.
Lefteris Gyro: We didn’t stay in Tarrytown, but in nearby Elmsford. Our host took us into this cute little river town to pick up food to take back to the house. Maybe it was because I was starving, but I thought it was DELICIOUS.
The Oath (Craft Beer Sanctuary): While we were waiting for dinner, we had a drink at the Oath. The boys had some local beers (because they have a huge beer selection) and I had a very strong gin and soda, and then took home one of their bottled gin cocktails to have with dinner at the house. Great service from the barman!
Union Oyster House: Omigod what a terrible place. Tourist trap galore. Expensive lobster. Undercooked, flavorless potatoes. Mediocre service. Boring menu. I can’t believe we got suckered into going here.
Saus: Omg the fries. Go here. So good.
Mare: Maybe one of the best meals of the entire trip. A bit spendy, for sure. But high quality. We had three shareable plates — the octopus, so tender, well seasoned; the crudo, that was all Justin; and the lobster spring rolls, which I pretty much devoured, this was one of my favorite plates of food. Amiable bar service, too!
Citrus and Salt: Super cute, modern and fresh feeling Mexican restaurant. We had hoped for more quality in the bar but the bartender was nice. We went in for a quick drink, and didn’t eat so we can’t speak to the food quality. I was feeling ill so I couldn’t drink. Justin reported that this drink was okay; not super well-balanced and a bit pricey for what it was.
Ernesto’s Pizza: Amazing place in Little Italy. Justin paid like $4 for what he thought was going to be a huge piece of pizza, and it turned out to be TWO huge pieces of pizza. Basically a quarter of the pizza. And I had a couple bites….. it was better than any pizza we’ve had anywhere else. Legit.
Regina’s Pizzeria: Justin ate pizza here by himself one evening. Brick oven, old school, local family joint. Justin can’t decide which pizza place he liked more. Guess we’ll have to go back! 🙂
The Green Dragon Pub: Supposedly the oldest tavern in America, so we went here for the kitsch factor, to imagine what it must’ve been like to plan a revolution over some beers. Being a place that must see a lot of tourists, we were surprised by the grouchy service, but unsurprised by the overpriced poorly crafted drinks. We paid like $14 for a super sweet “sangria” that was thrown at us with a sneer. OH well.
Cheers Bar: Exactly what you expect and nothing like what you want. Again, went here for the kitsch factor and to check it off the list. No need to return.
Hops and Scotch: This place is special to me only because we got to hang out with my friend, David, who was in town for his book tour (check out New York Times best-selling author David Arnold! His books are SO GOOD), and I wasn’t drinking that night, but it seemed like a neat space with a nice, fairly priced menu. Some interesting drinks! The boys seemed pleased with the ones they had.
Some little bakery in Chinatown: I got an apple turnover for $1 and it was delicious.
Top of the Hub: What we thought was the douchiest place we patronized, but that prize actually goes to a rooftop bar in Montreal. Anyway, this place was nice looking with white table cloths on the tables and the bartender was dressed all snazzy but we were clearly not the high class clientele they desired; when I asked for tea, the bartender was like, “I’m going to have to ask one of the servers to get that?” as if that would change my mind; yes, bring me the tea, please. Great views of Boston, though they wouldn’t let us go near the windows because they were setting up for dinner, lol. Were we really going to be that much of a nuisance for taking a few photos from the windows?
The Barking Crab: Cool place on the harbor. Outside, no walls, not amazing service but that’s not why you go. You go for the local fresh seafood. Mmmm.
The rooftop bar at the Envoy: This was going to take the cake for douchiest bar, and came very close. They charged me $4 for club soda. But the view was nice.
Jeveli’s: We met a friend at her favorite spot in east Boston. It seemed authentic and local; old ladies serving and forgetting what we ordered. You don’t go here for high quality fare or a lot of class, but you do go here to see where the locals hang out and to carb-o-load.
Miracle of Science Bar and Grill: Cute little spot near MIT that had good food! Huge portions for the price. Really creatively designed menu, too. Loved the concept. Would eat here a lot if it were local to us.
Green Street: A cute, local, elevated dive bar in the MIT area with fairly-priced and well-made cocktails. We’d go back here if it were in Nashville.
Turner Seafood at Lyceum Hall: Very cool ambience, given that Lyceum Hall is where Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the first long distance call! Also we had GREAT food and good service, very personable locals. The sweet and sour pineapple shrimp were so good, and the summer crunch salad was more like a fancy dry slaw and SO DELICIOUS. Someone make me that again! 🙂
The Clam Shack: We only stopped here because several people on Facebook recommended we go, so we made a quick stop on our way north. The clams were good! And Kinnebunk was cute, the weather was nice… but we didn’t really get a whole lot out of the experience. It’s not a place where you easily start talking up locals, since it’s literally a shack.
*What a food scene! I’d say it’s a tie between Portland and Toronto for the best food of the trip!*
J’s Oyster: Highly rated of the more touristy places, and even though we had to wait for over an hour, the food was GREAT. I had lobster scampi, and Justin had lobster. So good. You should go!
Vena’s Fizz House: This may be my favorite cocktail bar of the entire trip, for the following reasons: warm and friendly staff; welcoming, cozy atmosphere; tons of non-alcoholic options including mocktails and house-made sodas; family-friendly, all ages welcome; all natural ingredients used; an approachable drink menu. We went twice, and enjoyed ourselves immensely both times. It may not be the most creative place in terms of flavor profiles or ingredients, but I think it was one of the most inclusive and non-intimidating craft cocktail bars. (Note: I did not say it was the BEST cocktail bar.)
Urban Farm Fermentory: Definitely one of my favorite finds on this trip. A fermentory! Devoted to KOMBUCHA and juns, and ciders, and beers. Jun, I learned, is like kombucha but made from green tea and honey instead of black tea and sugar cane, and is delicious. We each did a flight of kombuchas and juns, and Justin had two servings of their fire cider, which will either put hair on your chest or clear up your chest cold, and I got some jun and kombucha in growlers to go. Cordial, informed, approachable staff; and very photogenic, comfortable environment. Are there any fermentories near Nashville?? I want to go!
Blythe and Burrows: A cocktail bar with a progressive shared plates and tapas menu. The kale chips were to die for. Justin had the poke bao, a play on Hawaiian poke and Korean bun bao. They also brought out a tasty amuse-bouche: a slice of cucumber with tzatziki sauce and something crunchy on top (I can’t remember!) The cocktails themselves were inventive, playful, a tad bizarre. We each agreed that this was the BEST craft cocktail bar of the entire trip. We went twice, and both times met some friendly locals and travelers, had good bartenders, and tried a variety of flavors. One of Justin’s drinks was even smoking in a glass container that the then poured into his glass. Oh la la!
The Broken Dram: A speakeasy in the basement of Blythe and Burrows. You had to enter either through a back alley (no sign!) or through a bookcase in Blythe and Burrows. They had a neat concept that just wasn’t as well-executed as it could have been: tragic couplings (like Rizzo and Kenickie, or Elvis and Priscilla, or Bobby and Whitney), in the pair of highballs and drams. You could mix and match, one of each, for $13. I did just a highball, but Justin did a pairing. The drinks were watered down and not balanced, which was super disappointing 😦
TIQA: A mediterranean joint where we had brunch. We were literally the only people in there, which was a bit off putting, but the food ended up being very tasty. Justin had a mid-morning cocktail while I opted for espresso, both of which were great. The bartenders were both good at their jobs and keen to offer recommendations. Lots of food, fairly priced. We would def go back here.
Holy Donut: Oh my god, I wanted like 100 things here. Incredibly donuts made with mashed potatoes, whaaaaat? So moist, so big, so good.
Izakaya Minoto: An inventive Japanese place recommended to us by the good folks at Blythe and Burrows. The menu was really cool, creative twists on classics. The food was good, and the drinks were inventive; I had one of my favorite cocktails at this place: what I’m calling a “healthy” margarita, or a margarita made with kombucha (!) and no added sugar. It was tasty 🙂 Perhaps a bit overpriced for the size of the plates.
Arcadia National Bar: A pinball bar with fun cocktails that didn’t suck?! And only 50 cents to play? YES PLEASE. We lost track of time here and had way too much fun. If this were near us at home, we’d be here all the time, so it’s a good thing it’s not. 🙂
Street and Co: Upscale seafood place. We sat at the oyster bar, drooling over food the couple next to us were eating. Bar service was efficient and no-nonsense, but polite and friendly. Justin didn’t love the pesto swordfish flatbread like I did, but we both went gaga over the octopus and the branzino (though one side was a bit salty).
Bar Antidote: On recommendation from our friends/hosts, we went to this local underground restaurant (literally, in the basement of another restaurant), and we enjoyed ourselves! Vegennes is a TINY little town. Like tinier than Stars Hollow. But we enjoyed the food while staying there! (Better than in other locations, coughNiagaraFallscough).
Park Squeeze: A local family joint famous for their Burger Nights (half price burgers, y’all!). We went for the birthday of our friends’ 9 year old daughter (“I’m nine!” she shouts proudly after the whole place sings her a song) and enjoyed home made fries and good burgers/sandwiches. Service was slow, we think we had the new girl, but I get why it’s a locals’ favorite. Really fair prices.
The Laundry: Frankly, I’m not sure why we went here. Justin hates breakfast/brunch, and I was feeling so ill I couldn’t eat. Graciously, they made me some scrambled eggs off menu, and he had an omelette. Definitely cute, full of character, and nice people. The pastries looked good too.
Hen of the Woods: We went her specifically for their $1 oyster happy hour and couldn’t believe how UNcrowded it was. Where was everyone? Prices like these, you’d expect everyone and their mom to be there! Justin and our two friends gobbled down 36 oysters between them, while I nommed on some fantastic home-made bread. We all had balanced drinks, and came out of there for less than we had anticipated. All in all, a great place, we would go back!
The Red Square: We stopped for a quick drink here, to get out of the sun and the crowds (jazz fest!). Can’t say much for craft of drinks since everyone had beer and I had a well-drink (that came back wrong the first time). Ditzy server, not amazing.
Spot on the Dock: Crazy busy, popular spot, and with good reason because the views are gorgeous. The loud techno/club music wasn’t super appreciated, nor was the bad service (they were short staffed, and a whole bunch of the outside tables got stuck with floater servers), but we all enjoyed our meals. And really, you’re paying for a spot on the dock with a beautiful view, so what’s not to enjoy?
Distillerie No. 1: We both had low expectations of this place, but were pleasantly impressed not just by the friendliness of the bartenders (who hand wrote us a list of restaurant recommendations) but by the menu design — me, from a literal design perspective, and him, from a drink profile perspective. It was thoughtful, informative, and cute. Would def go here again. And they had two other locations, including one that was part hostel!
Bar Le Lab: We wanted to go back to this place but didn’t make it. Dark, moody, 1800s inspired atmosphere, with old timey music mixed in with some Caribbean tunes. The AC was off so it was a bit toasty inside, but it only contributed to the warm vibes of the place. The menu design was beautiful and heavily themed, both in terms of visual and drink designs; they had some good mocktail options, which more places are doing now. The bartenders, both female which is kind of rare at these places, were ON IT, knocking out orders efficiently with a smile.
Le Mal Necessaire: A tiki bar in Chinatown that a friend recommended we check out since Justin LOVES tiki. The name translates to “the necessary evil” which is too perfect. This place also had a vast, varied menu with options for every type of palette. We hung out with a 19-year-old Quebecois who was pretty drunk, celebrating his birthday alone. We ordered some food, which comes from the next door Chinese restaurant; that service was insanely slow, so slow that they didn’t even charge us for our food. The drinks were great! And their happy hour prices were reasonable.
Le Majestique: We stopped in here on a whim, to get out of the sun and the crowds (so many festivals happening that weekend!) and to give our aching feet a break. It was set up as if a French hipster had read about American diners and then decided to do his own thing when designing the place. Funky and fun, with a simple menu. It seemed like a popular spot with the locals – we overheard mostly French, very little English – and the food was good. The service was a bit more “French”, more of what I expected from Montreal, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good, polite, or personable, it was just dialed back from what Americans define as ‘friendly.’
Les Enfants Terribles: And the winner for douchiest bar is…!!!! We got there early during happy hour so it wasn’t crowded at all, but it took over 10 minutes of sitting at the bar and staring at the half dozen staff before someone came over and asked if we were ready to order. Um, could we see a menu first? Prices were lower than what I’d expect, but attitudes were exactly on par with what I’d expect. We took our drinks outside to sit on the rooftop, which provided beautiful vistas of Montreal, which is quite a stunning city. So much green! The view definitely makes up for the service.
Restaurant Le East: This place was crazy expensive. Really great service, and our bartender suggested we go up to the rooftop bar for good views, which I appreciated; and the tea they served me was actually hot. But man, what some places get away with charging for tiny amounts of food….
Barraca Rhumerie and Tapas: Justin loves rum so we had to check out a rhumerie. They had a four-level lazy susan of bottles! Cool vibe and okay prices. But a less than thrilling menu, for food and drinks. Justin had one drink, while I had a virgin sugar-less mojito before we headed to dinner elsewhere.
Le Chien Fumant: OMG. The food. I forget how we ended up here, who recommended it, but thank you! Everything was really good. Our waitress was so personable and adorable. Our meals, though a bit spendy, were worth it. I got the homemade tagliatelle, lemon “beurre-blanc”, snow crab and parsley, but they were out of crab and had to sub in lobster. The mouthfeel of this meal was indescribable. Tiny place, only seats 44 (we counted!) so if you don’t get there early like we did, you may have to wait. Worth it!
Terra Coffee and Tea: We went here both mornings for coffee and croissants since it was right around the corner. Fast, affordable.
Kibo Sushi House (in Leslieville): Fair prices, and decent sushi! Tiny place, seems authentic.
Maple Leaf Tavern: We had a couple drinks at the bar. Not a super original menu, but seems like a nice place in the neighborhood. Good service. I got to be the guinea pig for the bartender’s new martini recipe that he’s prepping for National Martini Day.
Rooster Coffee House: The coffee shop around the corner. The pastries looked really good but I restrained myself 😦 Big tea selection. Good espresso. Fast service.
The Loose Moose: Big tap listing. Standard pub menu. Seems like a kind of average city pub, but I actually really enjoyed the honey sesame chicken wonton bites I had. Lots of interesting textures. Service was fine for mid-day, and prices were reasonable.
The Lockhart: Amazing Harry Potter themed bar. More details in my fourth update. When we go back to Toronto, we will be returning to this bar, for sure.
Barchef: Impressive and super friendly (female!) bartender who made time for conversation even as she managed making drinks for every single person in the place, by herself. Dark, classic, somewhat Victorian atmosphere. Menu was impressive if somewhat intimidating. All drinks were $16 (Canadian), and the third section of the menu featured “modernist” drinks, the most expensive of which cost $45. We did not have any of those 🙂 But for our second, I did let the bartender make something up for me, telling her my preferences, and she knocked it out of the park.
La Palette: We didn’t know where to eat dinner, so the bartender from barchef recommended a traditional French restaurant just a block down the street. Unpretentious and charming. We sat at the bar and had the best service from the Bulgarian bartender. She was so sweet. Justin tried horse heart carpaccio (!!!), and then he had the best duck either of us have ever had (it fell right off the bone), and I had a hearty chicken dish that reminded me of being in France. We would definitely go here again!
Emma’s Back Porch: Beautiful view of the lake! Decent standard lunch fare. Handcut fries! Whole wheat options for wraps. Fairly priced.
Niagara Falls, ON
Antica Pizzeria and Ristorante: Mediocre Italian restaurant. When everything else was a chain or had under 4 star reviews, this was actually a decent spot. The pizza was good! The bar drinks and prices, meh. The fish was overcooked and the pasta sauce lacked seasoning, but service was adequate.
Niagara Brewing Company: The hops smell was CRAZY strong when we first arrived, waiting out the rain, like so strong I thought I was going to vomit. I didn’t drink anything but Justin had a local lager and liked it.
Elmo’s: Justin ate double-dipped wings (hot and cajun), and I ate a wrap that didn’t suck. This was a dive bar extraordinaire known for their wings. We got excellent service, and a friendly local even bought our meal! You go here for wings and people.