Left at the Fork

the road | the food | a new direction

Author: Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle (page 1 of 60)

Terrapin, Virginia Beach VA

REVIEW

Calling all Deadhead locavore herpetologists! Here’s your restaurant! Owner/executive chef Rodney Einhorn named his restaurant after the Dead’s Terrapin Station while also paying tribute to the local diamond-back terrapins. Terrapin has long been “the best restaurant in town,” but they recently underwent a makeover so that today’s edition is a more casual and accessible place, while retaining the uncompromisingly fresh and creative food. Continue reading

Checking in at: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Virginia Beach VA

Porter Hardy, former home brewer and attorney, began Smartmouth in Norfolk’s Chelsea district, on the west side, in 2012. It’s still their home base today, and it’s there you can learn more on a Saturday tour. They call the branch in Virginia Beach, which opened three blocks from the ocean at the end of 2017, the Pilot House. While most of the brewing is still done in Norfolk, the Pilot House is set up with a small-scale brewing system to produce experimental and limited edition brews. Continue reading

Charlie’s Cafe, Norfolk VA

REVIEW

The omelets are fluffy, the neighborhood is vibrant, and the restaurant has character. Reasons enough for Charlie’s Cafe’s success. How do they get those omelets to billow as they do? They run the eggs through a milkshake blender. It’s not clear who originally thought of doing that, although some think it may have been Charley himself, three owners ago.

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Steinhilber’s, Virginia Beach VA

REVIEW

If you spend some time in Virginia Beach, and local cuisine interests you, you’ll probably do a little research. The name Steinhilber’s will come up repeatedly, touted for their fried shrimp. So you do a little more digging on Steinhilber’s and discover this is no beachside fried seafood shack. Rather, it’s an expansive, old-school restaurant from 1939, on the grounds of a former country club, popular for weddings and anniversaries. If that dissuades you from paying Steiny’s a visit, you will have made a huge mistake. Continue reading

Checking in at: Wasserhund Brewing Company, Virginia Beach VA

Microbreweries tend to produce ales. Many brewpubs begin as home brewing hobbies, and the exacting requirements and cold temperatures required for the brewing of quality lagers are just not for beginners. This means that craft breweries rarely specialize in German brews. Oh, sure they’ll mix a few hefeweizens, weissbiers, and the occasional gose and kolsch in with their IPAs, but you can’t really be said to specialize in German beer without including some lagers. Continue reading

Taste of Smithfield, Smithfield VA

REVIEW

When you’re in Smithfield, Virginia you’re in the heart of ham and peanut country. Sure, times have changed, as they always do – the giant pork processor in town, Smithfield Foods, is now Chinese-owned, and the last Smithfield ham smokehouse in town was shut down last year. Hogs no longer graze on harvested peanut fields to fatten up, but the law still requires the hams to be produced, and smoked, within the town limits to be called Genuine Smithfield Hams. (What Smithfield Foods plans to do is still up in the air; they have a large backlog of aging Smithfield hams available to carry them for a while.) Continue reading

12 Farms, Hightstown NJ

REVIEW

We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Restaurants like this rarely open in our neck of the woods, and even more rarely do they stay open very long. Yet 12 Farms, the farm-to-table eatery in Hightstown, has been up and running for over four years and, as far as we can tell, is thriving. Yippee! Continue reading

Smithfield Inn, Smithfield VA

REVIEW

The Smithfield Inn was built as a residence in 1752. Seven years later it was converted to a restaurant and inn. Like any restaurant over 250 years old, it’s obviously gone through many owners and had its ups and downs. For a long time in the 20th century it was well-known for traditional home-style Southern cooking. It was eventually even owned by Smithfield Foods, the giant pork processor and home of the world-renowned Smithfield Ham. Continue reading

Checking in at: Commonwealth Brewing Company, Virginia Beach VA

The local brewers love to combine fruits with beer, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Commonwealth Brewing in the Chic’s Beach neighborhood of Virginia Beach (just a minute or two off the south end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel). There are brews with peaches, apples, lemons, blackberries, black currants, pineapple, apricots, limes, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, oranges, yuzu, Buddha’s Hand, prickly pear, and pomelo. And those are just the fruits that showed up on today’s menu of 22 beers! Check the website and you’ll find well over a hundred brews listed. Continue reading

Chesapeake Bay Farms, Pocomoke MD

REVIEW

Have you noticed how dairy farms have taken to making and selling ice cream on site to the public? It’s part of their struggle to survive as small farms, like much of America, participate in the gig economy to make ends meet. From an ice cream lover’s perspective, it’s a welcome trend, bringing not just the chance to sample homemade ice cream, sometimes even made from the milk of the cows grazing on that farm, but also the opportunity to get out and enjoy rural life for a few hours. Continue reading

Checking in at: Seafood City, Felton DE

Our fried flounder sandwich and crab cake sandwich were quite ordinary but it’s really unfair to judge Seafood City based on that. This place is known for steamed crabs. We stopped in at 11AM, as soon as they opened for the day, for a quick lunch. We were, of course, their first customers. And we weren’t about to tear into a pile of crabs right then – we had to hit the road. Continue reading

Ice Cream on Grand, Englewood NJ

REVIEW

Ice Cream on Grand is one unique ice cream shop. All the ice cream is homemade, using fresh fruits and quality ingredients, but it has none of that preciosity you find in those urban ice cream sanctuaries found in city neighborhoods populated by 20-somethings. There are crowd-pleasing flavors and colors, like at Baskin-Robbins, but unlike BR, this ice cream is really, really good. Continue reading

Checking in at: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Fairfield CT

Frank Pepe pizza was once the insider’s choice for America’s best pizza, unless that insider professed a love for their competitor down the street in New Haven, Sally’s. Then the pizza renaissance happened. America discovered days-long dough fermentation, Italian double-zero flour, hand-made charcuterie toppings, the freshest of homemade cheeses. They took trips to Naples and wrote volumes on the science and art of “real” pizza. Continue reading

The Shack, Groton CT

REVIEW

When The Shack opened in East Lyme in 1989, it was practically a shack, albeit a shack that quickly became known for the quality of its breakfasts. Thirty years have come and gone, and there are now two additional Shacks not all that far from the original, in Waterford and Groton, and that first Shack has found a new, more modern home in East Lyme. They’ve also expanded their hours, now serving all three meals (except on Sundays, when it’s still breakfast only). Continue reading

David’s Place, Oakdale CT

REVIEW

We love coastal drive-in restaurants, even more than we love diners. There’s something about dining on fried seafood and inhaling the inimitable aroma of onions and potatoes and vaporized cooking oil mixed with the salt air that gets our juices flowing. If we’ve just spent the day in the sun, within sight and sound of the water, it doesn’t even matter if the drive-in is ten miles inland, as David’s Place of Oakdale, CT is. Our memories supply the salt air. Continue reading

Checking in at: Holmberg Winery, Gales Ferry CT

Holmberg Orchards was started in the late 19th century by Swedish immigrants. The operation is still in the family, run by the third and fourth generations. It’s that fourth generation, Russell, who has introduced fermentation to the family business. They’ve planted grapes and produce both traditional wines and fruit wines from the Holmberg orchard. Those fruit wines are notable for two reasons: they are actually made from the juice of fruit (not grape wine flavored with fruit “essences”), and they have a clear and clean taste of the fruit from which they are made. We find them particularly drinkable and enjoyable, in a country wine sort of way. Continue reading

Checking in at: Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank CT

We had a gorgeous, sunny day for our kind-of-annual visit to Abbott’s on the eastern Connecticut shore. There was once a time, many years ago, when we were able to say that we’d tried everything on Abbott’s menu. No more; they continue to add to their offerings. There’s a steamed artichoke, bowls of pasta, ribs… presumably for fish-frowners dragged here against their will. We sampled the lobster deviled eggs for the first time today: they are fine, the eggs themselves are a little sweet in a Miracle Whip kind of way, and the lobster is totally unnecessary. Which we say about lobster mac ‘n’ cheese as well. Continue reading

Paul’s Pasta Shop, Groton CT

REVIEW

We live in a part of the country where casual Italian restaurants are more common than fast-food restaurants, so you might figure it’d take a lot just to get us to walk through the doors of an Italian eatery when we travel, not to mention come away impressed. But impressed we were with Paul’s Pasta Shop of Groton, which would have fit in quite nicely with the rest of the old-time joints back in our old NJ Italian neighborhood (when it was still an Italian neighborhood). Continue reading

Smakosh Restaurant, Uncasville CT

REVIEW

The name of the restaurant is Smakosh, which doesn’t sound familiar to American ears. Is it someone’s name? What ethnicity is it? Turns out that it’s a Polish word for gourmet, and if you figured that out ahead of time you might assume that Smakosh is a Polish restaurant. There are a smattering of Polish dishes on the menu, although most of the offerings are straight-ahead American breakfast and lunch foods like Benedicts, western omelettes, burgers, and tuna salad. It’s those Polish dishes, however, that brought us here, as well as the fact that they, like us, consider pierogi a more than suitable breakfast option. Continue reading

Buttonwood Farm, Griswold CT

REVIEW

We’d heard good things about the ice cream at Buttonwood Farm, but it was a dreary, drizzly evening as we motored through the rural Connecticut countryside. Surely we’d be their only customers when we arrived, if they were even still open. Perhaps on this most uninviting day for ice cream they decided to close up early. Turning in to Buttonwood from the country road, we were astonished to see an ice cream stand and parking lot bustling with activity. What were they all here for? Was there some sort of event we were unaware of? Continue reading

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