Lazy Bear (San Francisco, CA)

Lazy Bear
3416 19th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dining date: 11/24/17

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Lazy Bear is one of San Francisco’s most unique dining experiences. The restaurant began as an underground supper club in chef David Barzelay’s home; it was wildly successful and became one of the toughest seats in town. The success led to this brick-and-mortar location in 2014. Two Michelin stars later, the restaurant is still going strong.

The evening begins with cocktail hour on the second floor mezzanine. Guests are invited to mingle, sip on a cocktail, and enjoy a few small bites. After cocktail hour, dinner shifts downstairs where there are two large 40-seat communal tables. An open kitchen anchors one end of the tables, providing a close look at the food as it’s being prepared.

We managed to get tickets here for the day after Thanksgiving.

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Vernick Food & Drink (Philadelphia, PA)

Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Dining date: 6/23/17

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Vernick Food & Drink is high on many lists of best restaurants in Philadelphia. It’s been one of the most highly regarded upscale restaurants since opening in 2012, from being named one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit to its chef, Gregory Vernick, being named ‘Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic’ this year by the James Beard Foundation. As expected, the restaurant is very popular but we were able to squeeze in on a late Friday seating.

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Tasty n Alder (Portland, OR)

Tasty n Alder
580 SW 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
Dining date: 3/11/17

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Brunch is supposedly a big deal in Portland on the weekends. Meeting up with an old friend, he suggested having brunch at this place, one of the most popular spots in town. Tasty n Alder is part of John and Renee Gorham’s restaurant group that owns and operates a number of concepts in town (Toro Bravo, Tasty n Sons). Even though we thought we got to the restaurant relatively early (9:30), our party of four still waited 90 minutes for a table (Heart Coffee Roasters across the street was a great place to kill some time).

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The Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena, CA)

The Restaurant At Meadowood
900 Meadowood Ln
St. Helena, CA 94574
Dining date: 1/14/17

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I’ve been to the Restaurant at Meadowood once, seven years ago, and had a great meal. Since then, the restaurant has garned a third Michelin star (it had two at the time) and undergone a renovation, although Executive Chef Christopher Kostow is still at the helm. I’ve been wanting to return for some time and finally had a chance over the MLK Day holiday weekend.

Whereas an a la carte menu was available the last time I was here, the dining room menu is now tasting menu-only. $275 (before 20% service and tax) pays for about a dozen courses.

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Alexander’s Steakhouse (Pasadena, CA) [2]

Alexander’s Steakhouse
111 N Los Robles Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
Dining date: 1/27/17

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I’ve been to Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco and Pasadena a few times and have had a few good meals here. This latest visit was prompted by DineLA restaurant week, in which the restaurant was offering six courses for $115. One of those courses, the steak course, offered an option of an 18oz dry aged New York strip or 3oz of Kagoshima wagyu. This tasting menu provided quite a bit of value (compared to regular pricing) and an opportunity to try a little bit more of the menu here.

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Wayfare Tavern (San Francisco, CA)

Wayfare Tavern
558 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94111
Dining date: 12/26/16

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Each year, my cousins, brother and I take our grandmother out for a birthday meal. The timing is convenient as her birthday is around Christmas, so everyone is typically in town (except for my brother this year). Due to timing and scheduling we weren’t able to do a dinner, but were able to have a lunch the day after Christmas. Options were a bit limited for lunch on the 26th, but luckily Wayfare Tavern had room for the five of us.

Tyler Florence’s financial district restaurant has been going strong since opening in 2010. I’ve been here once, for lunch, and still remember the fried chicken and salmon I had that meal. We ordered both of those dishes again, as well as a bunch of others, for this post-Christmas lunch.
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