ibai sole
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Ibai (San Sebastián, Spain)

Ibai wasn’t initially on my radar while researching potential restaurants in San Sebastián. It’s not in the Michelin guide and isn’t highly ranked on either Yelp or TripAdvisor. However, I stumbled across it on a few food blogs that gave rave reviews of the restaurants’ simple, homey cooking with warnings of how difficult a reservation is to attain.

The restaurant is small, fitting only 5-6 tables, and is only open weekdays for one lunch seating. That is it; the restaurant is not open for dinner, nor on weekends. To complicate matters, the restaurant would not accept reservations from abroad so we had to make the reservation once we were in town. On our first day in San Sebastián, we walked in that afternoon to seek out a reservation. To our surprise, there was a table available the next day, so we were all set.

merluza @ le bernardin
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Le Bernardin (New York, NY) [3]

For a weekday lunch in midtown, I stopped into Eric Ripert’s flagship restaurant. This was my third time dining at the restaurant and second time for lunch.

The restaurant’s lounge offers a prix fixe menu of 3 courses for $55 with two options for each course. $5 of each purchase goes straight to City Harvest, a local organization that “rescues” excess food from local restaurants, grocery stores and farms and distributes this food to community programs to provide meals to underserved populations.

le bernardin nyc
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Le Bernardin (New York, NY) [2]

I’ve been to Le Bernardin once, dining on the chefs tasting menu in the main dining room. This time, I came to try more of Eric Ripert’s seafood-centric cuisine in the bar/lounge area.

The restaurant serves the full menu in the lounge, as well as a ‘City Harvest menu’ for lunch. This fixed menu offers three courses (two options for each) for $49, with $5 of that going to a local organization called City Harvest (which helps feed the city’s underprivileged). Given that $49 could be the price of just one entree in the main dining room, this seemed like a great price point to drop in for lunch on a few courses.

hog island clam chowder
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Hog Island Oyster Co (Napa, CA)

Hog Island Oyster Co. is based out of Tomales Bay, just north of San Francisco, with oyster bar locations in both San Francisco’s Ferry Building and Napa’s Oxbow Market. As its name implies, the restaurant serves up fresh oysters and other shellfish of all varieties, prepared very simply.

I’ve been to both the SF and Napa locations a couple of times. They’ve been very popular with both locals and tourists; lengthy waits are commonplace at this no-reservations spot especially on weekends. While spending the long holiday weekend in Napa, I stopped in for a lunch meal.