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One of our first stops in New York was The Butcher’s Daughter. Known for its ability to serve simple, delicious and wholesome food, the restaurant has a wonderful way of changing the way the people think about the way vegan food looks and tastes. We stepped into the shop and fell immediately in love with the entire look of the place.
Intuitively, you might guess that from the name of this restaurant, a mash up of Asian and Western food would be served here. For better or for worse, there is no trace of Asian-ness in the food, the decor or the atmosphere. Instead, it is a modern, rock-themed diner that serves up greasy diner food (for the record, the music that was playing when we went was amazing). Shanghai Cowgirl is simply a name – and an intriguing one at that. I just keep imagining this fierce Asian lady in a flower printed high collared cowgirl outfit on a horse kicking ass somewhere in the South. Is it just me?
Desperately searching for a last minute brunch place to take my parents to Saturday morning, I came across Julieta’s after a few minutes of research. See, my parents are hard to please when it comes to the food department. They have a natural, predominant preference for ethnic food regardless of what time of day it is – and they love to try new restaurants as much as I do.
Walking into Griffintown Cafe, you immediately take note of the high ceilings, panelled wooden floors and the spacious interior. The tables are pushed towards either side of the restaurant, leaving tons of space in between, giving the place an airy, open feel that is fabulously refreshing.
With decor that can be only be described as eclectic and entirely whimsical, Chez José is a favourite local lunch spot with smoothies to die for, bangin’ sandwiches and awesome homemade pastries. Looking around the small shop, brightly contrasting animal prints (red and yellow leopard print, purple and black zebra stripes), funny bits and pieces of memorabilia (“sex scene – do not cross” tape, Ken barbie doll, disco ball) and high res photographs of nameless individuals catch your eye and make you smile.
Located immediately next to Le Panthere Verte, Crudessence is in tied in tough competition with its neighbor, pulling vegans and vegetarians and those who have a craving for something a little healthier for lunch this way and that. Just by rough comparison, Crudessence seems to be a bit more trendy in style – walking in you’ve got a long row of wooden banquettes and stained glass windows in the back bouncing beautiful rays of color all over the wooden floors, giving the whole place an organic feel. Flipping through the menu, I was surprised and delighted to find so many interesting sandwiches, salads and cakes that used unconventional ingredients to spice up standard dishes. Places like these are bound to arouse curiosity and shock – how can something so healthy taste so good? It’s almost an oxymoron.
Lola Rosa is located in the heart of the McGill ghetto, making it a convenient and relatively affordable eatery for the multitude of students who live around and frequent the university campus. The restaurant is a small, vegetarian, indie-vibing kind of joint with some of the most friendly staff I’ve been in contact with in the city as of late. Here’s a unique feature of the restaurant you won’t likely find anywhere else: most of the vintage style tables in the place have little drawers filled with pieces of scrap paper with wishes, words of encouragements, notes and general comments scrawled on by previous diners. All are welcome to add their own personal messages and rummage through the ones already inside for inspiration or just for fun!
An Arepa is a traditional Venezuelan corn bread. Arepera du Plateau bakes these delicious breads and fills them with fresh ingredients ranging from boar chorizo, onions and peppers to minced stewed shark in tomato sauce. The restaurant is located on a very central spot at the corner of Du bullion and Duluth and has a decent amount of seating. The staff was extremely friendly, greeting diners with a joyous “Ola!” and singing along to Spanish songs as they worked. A veritable cornucopia of fresh fruit and produce are on display at the counter along with fresh juice for sale ranging from guava, tamarind, sugar cane and mango.
XOCO is run by Rick Bayless – you may have heard of him before. Guest judge of Top Chef on Season Four, winner of Top Chef Masters, James Beard Award winner for best American chef in 1991, national chef of year in 1995, humanitarian of the year in 1998, cookbook of the year in 2001, best chef in the midwest in 2002… The list goes on. In Chicago for the weekend, we eagerly made this our first lunch destination. Not too far from the downtown core, the place is on North Clark street, next to the Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
Hidden between Montgomery and Embarcadero, Hillstone is part of the Houston’s restaurant family and serves New American Fare that is true to fresh ingredients and big flavors. Reservations are essential – even with one there was a slight delay before we were seated. We started with a Iceberg Wedge & Blue Cheese Salad with Campari tomatoes and warm beets along with Oak Grilled Artichokes and Spinach Artichoke dip. The grilled artichokes were charred and served with a few simple dipping sauces – simple and tasty. The Spinach artichoke dip was a perfect dish to share, cheesy and thick. I usually don’t order blue cheese because I find the cheese overpowering but the blue cheese salad was actually quite creamy and well balanced (not too strong).
For entrees we began with Hardwood Grilled Trout which is cajun seasoned trout, served with seasonal vegetables, followed by Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with pommery mustard sauce, served with hand-cut French fries and coleslaw and finally the Flying Tuna Platter with mixed greens, avocado, mango and miso vinaigrette.
The highlight was definitely the Flying Tuna Platter (Above) which was seared perfectly. The mango and avocado complemented the tuna so perfectly that I found myself trying to get a piece of each component in every bite.
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