India House Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This is a very nicely decorated restaurant with about 150 different dishes on the menu. Unfortunately the staff isn’t very good, and the food is just average.

It’s odd browsing through the menu, because it seems to have little organization with multiple sections devoted the similar categories, and very few of the standbys like korma, saag, and so on.

We tried Papdi Chat as an appetizer, and the flavors were good, but it wasn’t enhanced by the sturdy wafers mixed into it.

Mahi Mahi Fish Tikka was good fish, but the seasoning on the fish skin wasn’t my favorite flavor.

Bhuni Gobi was extremely overcooked cauliflower; it resembled something that had been sitting on a buffet for hours.

The best dish was Channa Palak, chick peas in a garlic, onion and spinach sauce. Garlic naan bread was also okay.

The service staff seems to be mostly Russian, and wasn’t strong on communication. They were out of all the juices, and couldn’t produce a beer list.

There aren’t many Indian restaurants in River North, but even so, I wouldn’t bother to return here.

India House Restaurant
59 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 645-9500
http://www.yelp.com/biz/india-house-restaurant-chicago-2

Bridges Waterside Grille

**** (4 stars)

This place is right on the canal, and offers a nice view of the boats passing by, as well as having slips for boaters who want to eat. There are quite a lot of tables, but the staff did a good job of keeping up with them, even though they were full.

The food is fairly standard sports bar/fish camp stuff, with lots of sandwiches and fried offerings. They also serve alcoholic beverages.

Bridges Waterside Grille
508 E 2nd St
Michigan City, IN 46360
(219) 878-0227
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bridges-waterside-grille-michigan-city-2

LAKEHouse Restaurant

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*** (3 stars)

This restaurant, located in the former Cascades space, has been completely remodeled into a trendy and airy space. Unfortunately the food and service could still use some remodeling.

There’s nothing really wrong with the menu, but the more creative the dishes, the less the flavors seem to click. For example, the idea of making a shrimp cocktail using grilled, chilled shrimp sounds inventive, but turns out to produce a fairly off-putting texture.

The house pizza combined citrus, boursin cheese, asparagus and chicken, but somehow managed to be nearly flavorless. It’s the only time I’ve ever put salt and pepper on a pizza.

The LAKEhouse salad bowl combines interesting ingredients such as figs, spicy pecans, arugula and parmesan cheese, but they don’t really work together.

The best thing I had was the “cauliflower steak”. Like many of the dishes on the menu, the name is not descriptive. It’s simply cauliflower and several other vegetables that have been nicely grilled.

An extensive cocktail list tends toward sweeter drinks. The wine list offers quite a few selections, although the most interesting ones are available only by the bottle.

Service was well-intentioned, but not at the level of a fine dining restaurant; perhaps is is more appropriate for breakfast or lunch, when the space serves as the hotel’s coffee shop.

LAKEHouse Restaurant
1 Grand Cypress Blvd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 239-1234
http://www.yelp.com/biz/lakehouse-restaurant-orlando

CityVu Bistro

**** (4 stars)

This is probably your best choice for dining in Holland. There is a nice view, and the menu offers and excellent variety of well-prepared food. We particularly liked the salmon spinach salad and the San Francisco flatbread. Inside can be noisy, so sit on the terrace if it’s not too sunny.

CityVu Bistro
CityFlatsHotel
61 E 7th St, 5th Fl
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 796-2114
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cityvu-bistro-holland

21c Museum Hotel

***** (5 stars)

I love this unique boutique hotel, where every wall is filled with captivating modern art. There are extensive galleries off the lobby and downstairs, and many different media are represented. There is also an excellent restaurant, Proof on Main. Many of the city’s most interesting attractions are within two blocks. This is definitely the place to stay when passing through Louisville.

21c Museum Hotel
700 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 217-6300
http://www.yelp.com/biz/21c-museum-hotel-louisville

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

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**** (4 stars)

This is quite a spectacular hotel, with the rooms facing huge (as in HUGE) atriums filled with plants, waterfalls, rockwork and rivers. There are many restaurants scattered about, and the theming is really well done.

Having been to the Gaylord in Orlando, I was surprised to be reminded how much larger and nicer this Nashville one is.

As with any giant hotel, there are hordes of guests, so part of the trick of staying here is to try to avoid the rush. That means not arriving right at check in, when there can be 100 people in line at the front desk, particularly on a Saturday night. And if your room includes breakfast, go early before the lines form.

Staff is very friendly, so as long as you can avoid the crowds it’s a good place to stop in Nashville (note that it is nowhere near downtown, though).

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
2800 Opryland Dr
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 889-1000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center-nashville-8

The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta

*** (3 stars)

Conveniently located downtown near tourist attractions and convention center, this is a good choice for a quick stay in Atlanta. The staff is the usual welcoming, well trained Ritz personnel.

The facility itself feels more like a Marriott than a Ritz. There is nothing particularly posh about the rooms or amenities.

The Atlanta Grill offers live jazz and a good spot for drinks, but there are better choices for food in the area.

The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta
181 Peachtree Street, N.E
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 659-0400
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-ritz-carlton-atlanta-atlanta

Clarion Inn

**** (4 stars)

The staff here is very nice, and the place has been so completely refurbished that it’s hard to find a surface that hasn’t been covered with some new material or coating.

It’s the old style of motel, with window shaker AC units and exterior hallways, but I have to say the AC units here are the quietest I’ve encountered.

That’s in contrast to the incredibly noisy pool area, which features deafening music all day. Fortunately, they have very good taste in music. But if you want a quiet room then you should (counterintuitively) ask for one facing the parking lots, not the enclosed courtyard.

On the other hand, the east side of the building faces a noisy commercial street. So that leaves the west side of the building, which is basically an alley next to a flooring store. So there you have it.

I will say the room interiors have been redone fairly well, not to the level of a Hilton Garden in or other modern hotel (I mean, come on, this used to be a Best Western) but there is a microwave and nice sized refrigerator, and in-room coffee.

Clarion Inn
9331 E Adamo Dr.
Tampa, FL 33619
(813) 621-5555
http://www.yelp.com/biz/clarion-inn-tampa

Hemingway’s

**** (4 stars)

I guess I’m what you’d call a long-time customer since I’ve been going here for almost 30 years. It’s a magical little oasis outside the Grand Cypress hotel, completely surrounded (and high above) the rock work waterfalls that feed the elaborate pools. Every room is essentially a glassed in veranda, and one is screened in for those balmy evenings.

The food is reliable and tasty, and the service is friendly and accommodating.

Over the years many menu items have changed, but one constant has been my favorite salad, the Key Wester, and complex combination of a mild blue cheese dressing, ham, bacon, a few olives, and other goodies. Highly recommended.

Hemingway’s
1 Grand Cypress Blvd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 239-1234
http://www.yelp.com/biz/hemingways-orlando

Top of the Mark

*** (3 stars)

Sad to say, this favorite haunt of my youth has fallen on hard times, and now just seems a bit seedy. The views are still great, except that the former dark and romantic lighting has been replaced by a brightly lit (and completely empty) dance floor and a big screen TV, both of which are brightly reflected in all the windows. Drinks are decent if pricey (presumably to pay for the view), and the menu is basic bar food, although nicely presented. Service was efficient.

Top of the Mark
1 Nob Hill
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 392-3434
http://www.yelp.com/biz/top-of-the-mark-san-francisco