LYFE Kitchen

Exterior

Interior

Guacamole

Buffalo chicken

Vietnamese shrimp salad

**** (4 stars)

This is a quick serve healthy concept where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table. It’s not entirely vegetarian, but that’s the emphasis.

The guacamole appetizer was very fresh and well seasoned, although the accompanying chips are a bit on the indestructible side.

Buffalo chick is baked rather than fried. It was moist and flavorful, although the coating was much more like barbecue or chili powder than true BUffalo sauce.

The best item I tried was a special, the Vietnamese shrimp salad, which had a nice mix of romaine and arugula dressed in a vinaigrette, and a handful of shrimp in sweet Tahi chili sauce.

This location is large and airy, with lots of sidewalk seating, too.

LYFE Kitchen
413 North Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 836-5933
http://www.yelp.com/biz/lyfe-kitchen-chicago

Munch

Interior

Hummus

Nachos

***** (5 stars)

This place serves excellent vegetarian and vegan food in a cozy atmosphere.

The hummus plate was a nice appetizer for two, with tasty, citrus-tinged hummus and lots of fresh veggies for dipping.

I had the nachos as my entree. They were a heaping plate, with crisp corn chips, excellent guacamole and a very convincing spicy “meat” and bean chili.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Munch
104 N Marion St
Oak Park, IL 60301
(708) 848-4226
https://www.yelp.com/biz/munch-oak-park-2

Pop Thai Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This is a nicely decorated space with very friendly service. The food is serviceable Thai. We tried a couple of lunch dishes and an appetizer, and although there were no standouts, everything was fine.

My favorite items were actually the soup and salad that came with the lunch. It was a particularly flavorful version of chicken rice soup, and the salad dressing had a nice mix of peanut and a minty flavor that elevated it above the usual peanut sauce.

I wasn’t a fan of one herb used in the potstickers and spring rolls. It was a flavor not usually encountered in these.

I enjoyed the crispy duck and shrimp lunch special, although the duck was far from crispy. The cocoanut tinged curry was nice.

Fresh Hot Basil was inexplicably missing any basil flavor or leaves; in fact, there was more basil in the duck dish.

If you’re in the area and tired of Vietnamese food and tacos, this is a fine choice for a meal, even if it’s not the best Thai in town.

Pop Thai Restaurant
1227 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 917-6139
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pop-thai-restaurant-orlando

Lac Viet

***** (5 stars)

We had a great meal here, made all the more memorable because the night before we ate at Morimoto Asia. The food a Lac Viet was substantially better, and one third the price.

The interior of the restaurant–which I remember from decades ago, when it was Le Cordon Bleu–is bright and open, divided in to many intimate rooms.

We started with the Tom Yum, which had a thinner and less tomato-based broth than the Thai version I’m used to, but despite it’s clarity, it was the most flavorful Tom Yum I’ve ever tasted, with just the right spice level.

The seafood crepe was also good, although not quite what I was expecting. Fried to a crispy gold, it looked more like a giant taco, filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and other goodies. This is a giant appetizer, so plan ahead.

The Vermicelli bowl is always my favorite at Vietnamese restaurants, and this was no exception, the combination of charred pork, cucumber, sprouts, vermicelli, and greens was delicious, especially with some added fish sauce, hoisin and Sriracha.

The other entree we tried was a massive assortment of pork, beef and chicken. The pork and chicken had each been sautéed with different sauces and vegetables, and were absolutely delicious. This one dish is plenty for sharing, but we were happy to have lots of all three preparations to take home for later. This dish really emphasized the light touch of Lac Viet, because it was similar to Chinese stir fry, and yet there was none of the heavy oiliness that turns me off of Chinese food. Really great stuff.

There is a small but well thought out list of wines and beers. Service is attentive and helpful.

There are quite a few good Vietnamese restaurants in Orlando, particularly in the Mills 50 area, but Lac Viet is the best I’ve been to anywhere.

Lac Viet
2021 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 228-4000
http://www.yelp.com/biz/lac-viet-orlando

The Chicago Diner

**** (4 stars)

This is one of the better vegetarian restaurants I’ve been too. They do a great job of using ingredients such as seitan in ways that give it great texture and flavor.

We started with the barbecued sauce coated “wings” which had a great crust and delicious coating. The serving was generous, to say the least, and when we’d finished sharing the appetizers we were wondering if we could eat any of our entrees.

The cuban sandwich was okay, but the tostadas were great, with just the right balance between quinoa and black beans.

Shakes are a specialty here, and my coffee flavored one was wonderful. Note: a small is plenty!

The Chicago Diner
3411 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 935-6696
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-chicago-diner-chicago

Tempo Bistro To Go

**** (4 stars)

This small shop offers delicious sandwiches and salads made to order from very fresh ingredients. I had the BLT (a surprising offer from a mostly vegetarian place) and it was quite good. I found the inclusion of cheddar cheese odd, and would omit it on a future visit. The green salad was mostly spinach, very fresh, and came with a delicious miso dressing option.

There are only a few tables in side, and a few more out back, so a lot of orders are to go.

Temp Bistro is definitely a great choice when looking for a healthy alternative.

Tempo Bistro To Go
1516 NW 13th St
Gainesville, FL 32601
(352) 336-5834
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tempo-bistro-to-go-gainesville

Yard House

**** (4 stars)

What an extensive menu! And I’m not just talking about the 100+ beers. There are pages of different appetizers and mains in almost every category. Prices seem a bit steep, but I suppose that’s to be expected in the high rent tourist district.

The outside dining area is quite pleasant, and affords a view of the Orlando Eye.

Yard House
8367 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 351-8220
http://www.yelp.com/biz/yard-house-orlando

The Plaza Live

***** (5 stars)

Best live performance venue in Orlando mainly because of decent acoustics in the theaters and reasonable sound levels. The seating isn’t the most comfortable, but when you go to a concert you want to hear it clearly, and this is about the only venue in town that guarantees that.

The Plaza Live
425 N Bumby Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 228-1220
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-plaza-live-orlando

Wild Ginger

**** (4 stars)

This small restaurant offers amazingly good sushi, plus a variety of other pan-Asian dishes. We loved everything we tried, including several creative rolls. The Thai Basil Beef was the best I’ve encountered, as was the hot and sour soup. Particularly creative was the salmon skin salad, which was (different from its menu description) tossed with greens and a touch of spice, making it more Vietnamese or Thai than Japanese. The dinner ambiance was fairly intimate, although I understand it is bustling at lunchtime, and with good reason.

Wild Ginger
212 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 218-8828
http://www.yelp.com/biz/wild-ginger-brooklyn

Pied à Terre

***** (5 stars)

Pied a Terre has become one of our favorite London restaurants. The atmosphere is intimate, and perfectly suited to romance or business discussions.

The food–especially the tasting menus–is as good as any from London’s other top rated restaurants. But the real difference at Pied a Terre is the wine service.

Rather than simply selecting and pouring wines with each course, it is the restaurant’s practice to offer a blind tasting, where the wine is poured first so you can taste it alone, then the course is served so you can see how it matches, and then you are asked to comment on the wine and (if you wish) guess what it is.

We find this to be tremendous fun. It forges a camaraderie with the sommelier that sets the experience apart from all other fine dining experiences.

Pied à Terre
34 Charlotte Street
London, W1T 2NH
+44 20 7636 1178
http://www.yelp.com/biz/pied-%C3%A0-terre-london-3