My mother told me that when she started giving me solid food as a baby I would mmmm, mmm, mmmmmm the entire time food was in my mouth, letting everyone know exactly how much I was enjoying myself. I'm sure potatoes and carrots had to be a huge upgrade from the monotony of breast milk. A couple of decades later, I still love good food and the various atmospheres that accompany it. The traditional home-cooked family meals filled with noise, laughter and great company mean the most and create lasting memories because Dad's roast is dependably delicious and Mom's baking is top-notch. While family meals are dear to me, I am also fond of exploring new restaurants and the interesting food choices they have to offer. I'm much more adventurous than my husband, but he's come a long way from his steak, potatoes, and ketchup family. One of the perks we've discovered with not having children is Gary and I have had much more time and funds to travel and try new restaurants. Some places have proved disappointing, others have rated fair or average, while others have provided some of the best meals we've encountered. I've decided to share some of our favorites with you so if you're ever in the area and looking for great quality, you'll have a starting point.*
CLOSE TO HOME:
Promenade Cafe at the J.W. Marriott Resort & Casino
-Gary and I spent the first two days of our marriage at this resort and ended up eating at this little cafe 3 times because they served the best breakfast we'd had in a while. We're talking fresh berries, whipped cream, spectacular omelets, and crisp hash browns. No soggy frozen fruit and runny eggs here and the best part is that it's open 24 hours a day, so when you're craving breakfast at midnight you don't have to settle for Denny's.
Cheesecake Factory in Boca Park
-This is a new favorite of ours. If you're looking for a little more luxury, amazing food, but don't want to break the bank, Cheesecake Factory is great. We were utterly taken aback at the wide selection of menu items they offered, both familiar and unique. There is truly something for everyone here and averaging $15-$20 a plate the food was perfect! Oh yeah, don't forget dessert, you'll regret it if you do.
Claim Jumper in Town Square
-It's been much too long since Gary & I savored a meal here. Claim Jumper can be a little pricey, but believe me, you get your money's worth. YOU WILL HAVE MORE INCREDIBLE FOOD THAN YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH. This place is all about comfort food, steaks, mashed potatoes, chicken pot pies, turkey dinners, triple layer chocolate cake, man I'm salivating just thinking about it! And like any good comfort food should, it comes in super-sized portions. If you can't make it home for mom's cooking, try this place, you might find that they make it better. KIDDING! Blasphemous I know, nothing is better than mom's home cooking. Oh, just make sure that you hit this joint up in Vegas and not St. George or any of the Utah locations. Completely different chain, all they share is the name.
Katherine's at the Casablanca in Mesquite
- A high-end steakhouse serving more familiar food, but very classy, surprising for Mesquite. Before your meal you'll receive a warm, moist towel scented with almond to wash your hands. Very romantic, very good, and very expensive.
Marrakech near the Strip
-If you're feeling adventurous and want to try something exotic this small, intimate restaurant is it! Imagine sitting on red, velvet cushions surrounding low teak tables, richly colored fabrics draped on the walls & ceiling, and belly dancers. That's right, BELLY DANCERS. This Moroccan restaurant was unlike anything I've ever tried. Oh and if you're wondering what you'd pick from the menu, don't worry about it, they serve a fixed 6 course meal. Come hungry and pace yourself because you'll want to have room to try all 6 courses. Eating with your hands is encouraged, but you can request silverware if you want (it's not as fun though). At $39.99 a person it seems a little steep, but I promise it's well worth it! You're really getting dinner and a show so be prepared to spend most of your evening enjoying the food and dancing. Gary and I were there for over 2 hours by the time the last course was served. It was a fantastic night!
Pier 49 Sourdough Pizza on Bluff in St. George
-Yes you're going to pay a little more than Domino's, but it is so worth it! Domino's doesn't give you a fluffy sourdough crust or alfredo as a sauce option. Pier 49 was fresh with plenty of toppings and cheese minus the grease. I ate 3 slices in one sitting it was so good. Yes . . . . I'm a pig.
The Painted Pony in Ancestor Square, St. George
- Wow, this place was excellent. My mother and I actually shared a meal here for our birthdays. The menu changes often because of their dedication to freshness. Nearly all of the produce is organic and grown locally so they create flavorful dishes with ingredients that are in season. In addition to the food, it's in a beautiful location. Save this joint for special occasions because it will break the bank.
NOT SO CLOSE:
Christy Hill on Lake Tahoe
- There's just something incredibly romantic about dining outdoors, but even more so when it's on the beach of beautiful Lake Tahoe as the sun is setting. Absolutely gorgeous! Wood deck, crisp table linens, hanging lanterns and don't forget the gentle breeze. It was a little scary picking an entree when all the titles were in french, but I believe we picked well. Like the Painted Pony, Christy Hill serves a seasonal menu as well to ensure you're getting the freshest ingredients. This was a pivotal meal for both me and Gary because I discovered that I actually do like seafood if it's fresh and prepared well and Gary realized that it's ok to guess sometimes (Gary doesn't guess, Gary knows).
Rene at Tlaquepaque in Sedona, AZ
- Tucked away in the tile-mosaic village of Tlaquepaque, Rene served us a wonderful lunch while on our honeymoon that we now recreate at home. A fair amount of deli sliced turkey and ham, steamed broccoli and melted pepper-jack cheese all in between a large sliced croissant. Grapes make an incredible side. A light and breezy atmosphere with a touch of elegance.
Boudin Bakery San Francisco Sourdough
- My hubby and I were never fans of sourdough bread until we had real sourdough. Now we can't get enough. This bakery is actually a rather large factory located on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and, oh my, the smell wafting out of that building was enough to have me sleeping on their front steps. Freshly baked bread, ALL THE TIME! I swear Gary and I kept them in business that day with all the loaves of bread we bought. Ok that might be a gross exaggeration, but with orders put in by both our families, we probably walked out of there with 10 round loaves of sourdough. We didn't have the pleasure of eating there, but they do have a cafe at the bakery as well. I can only imagine soups, salads, and sandwiches paired with that amazing bread!
NOT EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE:
Keoki's Paradise in Poipu Beach on Kauai, HI
- Most definitely a piece of paradise. If you don't feel like you're in Hawaii yet, you will when you walk through Keoki's doors. Right in the middle of the restaurant is a beautiful lagoon surrounded by lush plants and exotic flowers. A truly tropical setting that wouldn't be complete without the flaming tiki torches. The fish was of course fresh, but my husband's entree proved to be especially delicious (ok, read the last 2 words again, but this time say them like Nacho would), Coconut Crusted Chicken Breast with Asian Mango Sauce, aw don't you wish you were in Hawaii right now? The only downside to my evening in paradise was that the mosquitos thought I was delectable. The rest of my family escaped unscathed, but I sported 23 red, itchy welts for the next 2 days. Oh well, good food comes at a price, it's just usually monetary.
Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, NYC
- The sheer enormity of this place was astounding with seating available for 708 people. SEVEN HUNDRED AND EIGHT! Even with that much seating, there was still a 25 minute wait for Gary and I. The wait wasn't so bad due to the fact that there was so much music memorabilia to take in and we're talking the real deal. This isn't Applebee's with the same set of decor littering the walls of each restaurant. The Hard Rock chain has been collecting rock memorabilia since the 1970's and has over 70,000 items scattered across the globe displayed (behind glass of course) in their hotels, casinos, and cafes. A low-light, groovy atmosphere rich in rock history. Be prepared for loud music and the associated music videos playing on flat-screen TVs throughout the restaurant. Gary and I especially enjoyed looking at the Beatles treasures. Oh yeah, the food was great. They served familiars with flair. I ordered huge spiral macaroni and cheese with grilled chicken and sweet red peppers, a delicious twist! I'm sure a similar experience can be had at the Hard Rock Cafe located in Vegas.
Rue 57 60 W 57th Street NYC
-How to describe this place? Ah, I know. Gary wants to jump on a plane and fly all the way back to New York City just to eat at Rue 57 again. He's more conservative then I am when it comes to food and doesn't always understand why I want to spend more on a meal once in a while. He understood at Rue 57. This restaurant has trumped all others thus far. Food is an art form here, so not only did our food taste INCREDIBLE, it looked incredible too. It was so yummy that when Gary discovered mushrooms in his dish (he has an irrational fear of mushrooms and anything they've touched) that HE PICKED THEM OUT AND CONTINUED EATING. That's a big deal. I on the other hand never realized that shrimp could taste that good. Candlelight, bunches of fresh flowers, and crisp white linens set against rich, dark woods and dark brown leather created an atmosphere I wasn't too keen on leaving. I insisted on dessert because I wasn't about to whisk out of there any sooner than necessary, and oh boy was I glad I didn't. WARM CHOCOLATE VALRHONA CAKE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM. You know those chocolate cakes with the melted fudge in the center? Well the one at Rue 57 is king. Gary and I were tempted to lick the plate, but restrained because that wouldn't have been proper dining etiquette.
*Disclaimer: I will not be responsible for any charges you may incur at these restaurants or any others. Some of these places are pretty expensive, so please, check prices & your budget before eating otherwise you might be washing dishes.