Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

Definitely the best gift shop of all the area’s wineries! Lots of fun merchandise in a warren of funky little spaces. Plus a great collection of artifacts such as old typewriters ! Serviceable wines, although you’ll find infinitely better product right next for at Melville Vineyards. A fascinating example of the difference in winemaking techniques.

Babcock Winery & Vineyards
5175 E Hwy 246
Lompoc, CA
93436
(805) 736-1455
https://www.yelp.com/biz/babcock-winery-and-vineyards-lompoc

Pea Soup Andersen’s Restaurant

Exterior
Interior
Placemat
Crackers
Quesadilla

*** (3 stars)

A flashback to the 50s in every way from decor to menu to the cracker basket on the table. Even the placements are unchanged! Anderson’s has never been my favorite soup, but the other food on the menu is quite good. My tuna sandwich was just like Mom used to make, and the quesadilla (which I’m pretty sure wasn’t on the menu in the 50s) was huge.

Pea Soup Andersen’s Restaurant
376 Avenue Of
Buellton, CA
93427
(805) 688-5581
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pea-soup-andersens-restaurant-buellton-3

Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery

Exterior
Interior
Grapevines

**** (4 stars)

Solid winemaking, with the Pinot Noir being the standout. It’s a nice facility and the tasting room staff is informative. Not the most complex wines you’ll find in the area, but a good starting point.

Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery
6121 E Hwy 246
Lompoc, CA
93436
(805) 819-3815
https://www.yelp.com/biz/foley-estates-vineyard-and-winery-lompoc

Outback Steakhouse

Exterior
Interior
Appetizer
Ahi
Ribs – 1/2 order
Margaritas

**** (4 stars)

This location seems a little tired, but it’s undergoing a remodel that should improve it. Service was good, and the food was well-prepared and served hot.

The Appetizer sampler offers petals from a bloomin’ onion, cheese and bacon fries, and deep-fried mac and cheese. Stick with the bloomin’ onion petals. The fries in particular don’t really work, as the cheese has a mind of its own, and doesn’t want to have anything to do with them.

The half portion of ribs is a winner. These are the meatiest ribs I’ve ever been served, and the sauce, while sweet, has a nice tang to it.

Drink prices deserve a shout out. The house margarita is a deal at $6, and the sampling of four different margaritas (served on a boomerang!) for $7 is an even better deal.

Outback Steakhouse
8195 Vineland Ave
Orlando, FL
32821
(407) 477-0098
https://www.yelp.com/biz/outback-steakhouse-orlando-3

Cabra

Quinoa Sourdough Peruvian Toast
Shrimpy Shrimp-y Brunch-y Tacu Tacu
Alpaca my bags
Black Plantain Waffle
Octonomiyaki
Goat and Aji de Gallina (chicken) empanadas
Smoked Salmon Queso Fresco Dip
Crab causa
Rooftop dining
Bar
Exterior

***** (5 stars)

I think this is my favorite of Stephani Izzard’s restaurants. The light, open, airy space is quite a contrast to The Girl and the Goat. Views are great, and although the ambiance is definitely vibrant, you can usually be heard without shouting.

Izzard’s take on Peruvian cuisine is quite successful, with fun twists that don’t obscure the original appeal of such dishes as Causas and Ceviche. Although billed as a Cevicheria, I would say the ceviches are actually the least interesting option.

We arrived at 2:30 on a Sunday, the only reservation I could find. 2:30 is the witching hour, when brunch service shuts down and a very limited menu goes in force until dinner begins at 4pm. I’m not sure why they do this, as the place never stopped hopping. Anyway, it turns out that if you arrive slightly early you can still order off the brunch menu, so we were able to try many dishes.

Highlights were the crab causa (which is tiny, so we ordered two) and the goat empanadas. Also very good were the octonomiyaki and the salmon queso. The best brunch item was the black plantain waffle.

Cocktails include a pisco sour of the day (today’s pisco was a bit too sweet) and several other Peruvian inspired choices. The Alpaca My Bags was a nice refreshing gin-based spritz.

Service was okay, focused on efficiency of ordering and delivery rather than the art of hosting, which is pretty typical of Izzard’s other restaurants, too. I would certainly return, once reservations are a bit easier to come by.

Cabra
200 N Green St
Chicago, IL
60607
https://www.yelp.com/biz/cabra-chicago-2

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap

Buffalo and Pancho’s combo wings
Classic Pepperoni
Crispy Southern Fried Pickles
Exterior
Main room
Side room

**** (4 stars)

This sprawling sports bar features a terrific list of beers on tap. I’m a stout fan, and this is the only place I’ve ever encountered six interesting ones on tap at the same time.

We started with the fried pickles, which were very nicely done, large and juicy, with a nice crisp batter and not greasy.

The place has a reputation for wings, which come in many varieties, but frankly I’ve had much better wings elsewhere. However if you like Detroit style pan pizza, this is a very good example, with a nice caramelized edge.

Service was very friendly.

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap
41 E Superior St
Chicago, IL
60611
(312) 266-0400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/jake-melnicks-corner-tap-chicago-2

Pearl District

Bar
Patio
Duck confit pancake
Ahi crudo
Interior

***** (5 stars)

This cozy, stylish spot offers an interesting menu and an upscale experience at reasonable prices. Be aware that although the food is sophisticated, portions are very large, so don’t over order.

We liked everything we had. My favorite was the duck confirm pancake, which was more like a quesadilla.

Save room for Spanish coffee. How can you pass up anything where the second ingredient is “fire”!?

Pearl District
982 S Westlake BlvdSte 8
Westlake Village, CA
91361
(805) 230-9944
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pearl-district-westlake-village-2

Gene & Georgetti

Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Bacon

Potatoes

Creamed Spinach

Broiled Bone – In Rib Eye Steak

1/2 wedge salad

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

A lot of Chicago steakhouses aspire to be “old school,” but Gene & Georgetti really is, having been established in 1941, and little changed since. The traditional dining room, muted ambiance and white-jacketed waiters definitely take you back.

I loved the wedge salad, which we fortunately split, as it was huge. The creamed spinach was flavored with tarragon, and was perhaps the best I’ve had. My companion’s melted cheese, bacon and tomato sandwich was huge and absurdly inexpensive, and came with a plate of fried potatoes.

In fact, everything was great except the steak. There was nothing obviously wrong with my bone-in ribeye, it just wasn’t very interesting. It lacked the usual ribeye marbling, and hence any flavor. And it wasn’t particularly tender, either. It was, however, perfectly cooked.

Gene & Georgetti has some of the lowest prices of any steakhouse in Chicago, and lunch and brunch are even better deals. I will definitely return. I probably won’t have steak.

Gene & Georgetti
500 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 527-3718
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gene-and-georgetti-chicago-6

STK Chicago

Brussels Sprouts

Bone-In Filet

Grilled Octopus

Bread service

Interior

Interior

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

STK is the 26th steakhouse I’ve been to in Chicago (not all the same week, mind you!) and I’d rate it somewhere in the second half of that list.

The atmosphere is different from the others, in that it’s trying to be more of a trendy spot with a live DJ in a booth creating a sometimes too-loud soundtrack that seemed to be appreciated more in the open bar area than the dining area.

The wine list is more limited than some of the other steakhouses in town, and prices are the usual River North markup.

Bread was sort of like a pull apart Parker House roll. It was topped with blue cheese butter, so if you don’t like that say so up front.

I enjoyed the grilled octopus I started with, which combined a nicely grilled tentacle with some tender octopus ceviche.

The brussels sprouts where nicely roasted, but were swimming in a sweet balsamic. It was good, but far too much of a good thing.

My biggest bone to pick (ahem) was with my steak. It was a bone-in filet. As you would expect with a filet, it didn’t have a lot of flavor, but it should have had more flavor near the bone. And since it was a filet, it should have been more tender and gristle-free. It wasn’t. At over $70, I think my money is better spent on a place with prime meat.

Service was fine.

On to number 27.

STK Chicago
9 West Kinzie St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 340-5636
https://www.yelp.com/biz/stk-chicago-chicago-2