Cat Store

Cat cookies



Garlic toast

Caramel apple and ice cream


Smoked salmon pizza

Interior with JJ

**** (4 stars)

This was a fun lunch. It’s a bit hard to find the place, as the signage by the entrance to the building is very small, and then you take a tiny elevator to the third floor. But once inside the place is surprisingly spacious.

Don’t expect to have a cat in your lap, but the cats were surprisingly interactive (it was feeding time) and very tolerant of the children who didn[t quite know how to interact with them in proper cat fashion.

The food was surprisingly good. I really like my iced chocolate coffee and apple with ice cream. The cat cookies were homemade and very tasty.

Cat Store
Flat D-E, 3/F, Po Ming Building, 2-6 Foo Ming Street
+852 2710 9953

MingHin Cuisine




BBQ Pork Crepe

Oyster congee

Fried shrimp roll


Siu Mai

Shrimp dumpling with chive

Fried pot stickers

**** (4 stars)

This is probably the most nicely decorated and modern restaurant in Chinatown. It’s populated mostly by locals, not tourists, so you know you are going to get a very authentic experience. Fortunately there is an extensive pictorial menu, so you can get a pretty good idea of all the dishes before you order.

Be aware that this is real Chinese food and dimsum, not the variety served at the Chinese restaurant in the mall. As such, many of the items are going to be more gelatinous than you are used to, so examine the pictures carefully. Crepes, for example, are not what you think they are.

Of all the things we tried, we liked the Siu Mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) the best.

At lunch time, the dim sum is very reasonably priced. We left stuffed for under $30 for two of us.

MingHin Cuisine
2168 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 808-1999

Mariano’€™s Fresh Market

***** (5 stars)

I think I’m in love.

I’ve always considered the ultimate grocery store to be Southern California’s Gelsons (although many vote for Wegman’s, where I’ve never been) with The defunct Florida Gooding’s a close second. But Mariano’s certainly has those two beat.

Basically it’s like Whole Foods plus normal foods, plus a good wine, spirits and liquor store.

I love the vast variety of produce, the way everything is displayed, the logical arrangement of the two levels of the store, the extensive cheese offerings, and the large international section.

It’s great to be able to get organic produce, gourmet products and everyday packaged foods (okay, junk) without having to visit Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Jewel. Mariano has it all. Although I’m not a comparative shopper, prices also seems quite reasonable.

The employees I met were very helpful and cheerful, and the whole store seems like a great place for everyday shopping and discovering new goodies.

I think it will be a long honeymoon.

Mariano’s Fresh Market
333 E Benton Pl
Ste 206
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 228-1349

Labriola Ristorante & Cafe

**** (4 stars)

This is one of the best places for outside dining in the Magnificent Mile area, because the sidewalk cafe is actually a balcony far above Grand Street, so there’s no automobile traffic.

The usual pasta dishes are on offer, but we concentrated on appetizers, and loved everything we tried, particularly the zucchini blossoms, which were very lightly fried and stuffed with a creamy smoked mozzarella that was delicious.

The ricotta appetizer was also excellent, with fresh honey and crusty toasted bread.

Clams and mussels are served in a garlic laced broth that’s not too rich.

We also shared a pizza. The offering changes weekly, so your mileage may vary. We loved the authentic Naples-style crust, but didn’t care for the raspberry and onion based sauce on our particular offering.

There are some nice selections on the wine list, and the service was friendly yet professional.

Labriola Ristorante & Cafe
535 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 955-3100

Amazing Kale Burger Lunch Counter

**** (4 stars)

It’s always a pleasure to eat where the employees are really passionate about what they do, and that epitomizes The Amazing Kale Burger. From the moment I walked in I felt right at home, and my server’s enthusiasm for the food was very clear.

I tried the Vaden, which is served with a beet-based BBQ sauce. The kale burger patty is quite delicious, with all the ingredient in balance, and a nice crust from cooking. The accompanying lettuce and tomato were quite fresh, and the BBQ sauce was delicious. The bun was a bit small, sturdy and dry for my taste, but I can see where others might like it.

For a side dish I had pickled asparagus, which was tossed with yellow peppers and extremely fresh oregano bits. It was delicious.

House made mint tea was pleasantly unsweetened.

The kale burger was one of the better vegetarian patties I’ve had, and I’d often choose it over a meat patty if it were available elsewhere. Coincidentally, I ate here on national burger day!

Amazing Kale Burger Lunch Counter
741 Howard St
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 660-4330

First Watch

**** (4 stars)

This location has the best decor and ambience of the various First Watches I’ve been to. Our server was amazingly friendly (to the point of being perky). We went for lunch and I had the 2 For You, a sort of variant on Panera’s Pick 2. I chose a half Reuben sandwich and half pecan salad. Both were delicious (be sure to get the dressing on the side, it’s quite sweet so you don’t need much). I would definitely have both again. My best First Watch experience to date.

First Watch
7500 W Sand Lake Rd
Ste A101
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-5622

Succulent Cafe Wine Charcuterie

*** (3 stars)

This is more of a counter service sandwich shop (at least at lunch time) than an actual cafe. However they do have wine by the glass or bottle.

The “fish” on my salad was actually a round patty of minced and then fried fish and spices, presumably intended for a fish burger. However it contained about ten times the amount of salt that would have rendered it edible, so this was not successful. My companions’ tuna melt and ham sandwich were better.

The outside seating area is pleasant, and set back far enough from the main highway to create a nice oasis in busy Solvang.

Succulent Cafe Wine Charcuterie
1555 Mission Dr
Solvang, CA 93463
(805) 691-9444

Buena Vista Cafe

***** (5 stars)

This place never changes. They invented the Irish coffee (or at least did a darn fine job of copying it) and I don’t know of anyplace to get a better one. Perfect balance of coffee and liquor (and obviously very good coffee to start with) plus an amazing cream that is thick and rich yet floats and remains distinct from the liquid. Great on a cold day, but even on a warm one thesis an essential stop on any visit to San Francisco.

Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 474-5044

La Macchina Cafe

**** (4 stars)

This is one of the better Italian restaurants in Evanston, despite the confusing name that makes it sound like it’s a coffee place. They do indeed have good espresso, but it really is an Italian cafe.

I tried two specials of the day. The first was the “artichoke fritters” which weren’t actually fritters, but lightly battered artichoke pieces deep fried. A better choice was the mussels in cream sauce. These were nicely done, and the cream sauce was delicious without being too heavy. A basket with two types of bread was provided, and one of them proved perfect for dipping in the leftover sauce.

There is a thoughtful list of wines by the glass, including many Italian selections, and the pours are generous.

A macchiato was the perfect way to finish off the meal.

La Macchina Cafe
1620 Orrington Ave
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 425-1080