Left at the Fork

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Category: Reviews (page 1 of 15)

Consol’s, Endicott NY

REVIEW

If you ask around in Endicott for the best Italian restaurant in town, you’ll hear about two restaurants repeatedly: Oaks Inn and Consol’s. It’s local sport to debate the relative merits of the two restaurants. Both are many decades old, both serve old-time Italian/American food, and they are just across the street and down the block from each other. If you dine in both to see what’s what for yourself, however, things become less, not more, clear. Why are these two restaurants compared at all? They don’t even play in the same league.

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Buck Hill Brewery and Restaurant, Blairstown NJ

REVIEW

We ordinarily restrict ourselves to the liquid refreshments at brewpubs. It’s not that we think brewpub food is bad, per se, it’s just that there’s usually more interesting things to eat elsewhere. We’re glad to have broken free from our usual habit at Buck Hill, however, as we were afforded the opportunity to indulge ourselves with the Fat Buck Fries. This poutine cousin tops fries with beer-braised brisket, cheddar and mozzarella, and beer gravy. Not only does it supply you with your minimum daily requirements for calories for the day, it’s also dizzily delicious.

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Craylee’s, Utica NY

REVIEW

Signs of life in downtown Utica! Craylee’s, just down the street from the old Hotel Utica (now a Doubletree) has been open for three years, serving breakfast and lunch till 2PM everyday except Monday. Breakfast at Craylee’s is a Utica highlight, especially on Sundays when the off-the-menu fried dough is offered. We tried to nab a serving but, damn, they’d just run out. Almost every other table had a basket of these sugared, roughly hewn doughnut cognates; we were tempted to beg sweetly from a neighbor but thought better of it.

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Top of the Morning Cafe, Utica NY

REVIEW

Apparently, the New Jersey/metropolitan NY diner tradition of a late-night sandwich or burger with a plate of onion rings doesn’t exist in Utica. Oh, there are diners, alright, plenty of them, in fact, but try finding one that’s open past 7PM. Seems most of them close after lunch, while a few push it to early evening. We searched hard for a diner open past 8PM on a Friday and were led to Top of the Morning Cafe.

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The Cider Mill, Endicott NY

REVIEW

The Cider Mill has been an Endicott fixture for as long as we can remember (our local memories extend as far back as 1974). In fact, the current mill is a 1972 model constructed after a fire destroyed the original 1926 cider mill. Unlike most cider producers in apple growing country, The Cider Mill is not a farm; they do not grow apples. They buy New York State apples, primarily from Wayne County, for their cider, and also for selling fresh.

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Oaks Inn, Endicott NY

REVIEW

“Which way EJ?” That’s the question, perhaps apocryphal, Italian immigrants were said to have asked when they arrived at Ellis Island in the early 20th century. Word in Italy was that there was work to be found in Endicott, NY at Endicott-Johnson, the shoe manufacturer. By the start of the new millennium the company was gone but Little Italy, on the north side of Endicott, remains.

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Miss Monticello Diner, Monticello NY

REVIEW

If you find yourself motoring through the Catskills in New York when hunger strikes, we suggest locating a diner and settling in for a quick meal of American classics. We like to think that much of the appeal of diners is their fungibility and predictability, but in all honesty that probably overstates the situation. Yes, if all you want is an omelet or a burger, just about any diner will do, but some diners really do a better job than others. One of the most reliable of the breed is the Miss Monticello. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

PJ’s Pancake House and Tavern, Robbinsville NJ

REVIEW

PJ’s is one of those longtime Princeton breakfast institutions that seem to exist in just about every college town: not especially known as a haven for breakfast epicureans, but popular. They’ve been branching out lately, expanding to five restaurants in the area with the recently opened Robbinsville spot. They’re also trying to break out of their breakfast-only identity, with what they call a tavern menu and outdoor bistro-style seating. Judging from the Robbinsville  location, we’d have to say the tavern-like atmosphere kills the breakfast mood more than it helps the lunch/dinner vibe. Continue reading

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