When I travel, searching the local fare where folks go for a warm meal, brunch with friends, cocktails in the mid afternoon or just a place that has the best of the best is always on my to-do list. Here are some places I have discovered! Bon Appetit!
JACK’s WIFE FREDA | SOHO | NEW YORK, NY
Whoever Maya is at Jack’s Wife Freda, she knows how to make a bowl! Two poached eggs, spaghetti squash, red quinoa, kale and avocado will have you feeling ready for whatever Monday may throw at you in the city. Depending on what time of the day you show up, the space may be a tight squeeze but you won’t notice once you get going on a good cup of coffee from Portland, Oregon roasters Stumptown Coffee.
If you are in the mood for something a bit spicy with a side of sweet, it’s time to get your shakshuka on! Green tomatillo with toasted challah bread, the crunchy yet oh so doughy kind. Challah!
And if you so happen to stop by Jack’s Wife Freda for something other than breakfast or brunch, you must try their chicken peri-peri over chopped salad and couscous -it’s a must!
VESTMANNA TOURIST CENTRE | STREYMOY | THE FAROE ISANDS
The Faroe Islands has a Michelin star restaurant that takes up to 6 months to secure a reservation. You get dropped off at a main parking lot, a land rover arrives, guests of the restaurant climb in, and the driver takes you on a journey through a valley to Koks Restaurant. As much as I would have loved to experience their haute cuisine, I decided to go a bit more local. Although, the public bus did pass the parking lot so I could see the Koks sign. No, I was due for a sailing to see the Vestmanna Sea Cliffs located on the western side of Streymoy and while there, waited in the Vestmanna Tourist Centre. The tourist centre happens to be the Vestmanna museum (located on the 2nd floor), restaurant, and souvenir shoppe (puffin magnet anyone?). The restaurant offered a soup buffet – well, more so, free refills on the traditional Faorese soup with unlimited bread.
If you didn’t plan ahead for that Koks reservation – make a day of being on the sea and don’t miss out on what the tourist centre has to offer. Order cups of coffee (which the Faroese take pride into serving their guests and friends of the island) and the best soup you will ever experience in the north Atlantic.
DE BAKKERSINKEL| RED LIGHT DISTRICT | AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
There is an area in Amsterdam that surrounds De Wallen called the Red Light District and also has the oldest structure and church called Oude Kerk. A very cozy bakery/cafe called De Bakkerswinkel is open for fresh bread, eggs and coffee. Stop in, get comfy, try all three of their homemade jams – everything on their menu is delicious.
Omelette over housemade toast
Fried eggs with housemade raisin toast
Three jams, ginger apricot, strawberry, lemon curd
LUCCA DUE | AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
After arriving in Amsterdam for two days from Brussels, I craved the warmth and deliciousness only pasta can provide. Luckily, I found a busy local restaurant serving delicious house made pasta with fresh ingredients and seafood. Buono appetito!
CAFÉ JOSÉLITO | AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
Alongside the Singel canal near the heart of the city, is a brightly lit restaurant with large windows. Although one can barely see into the restaurant due to the steam rising off their open kitchen as well as the many people that frequent this local establishment. Perfect for a late evening dine, pop in, grab a table, bring some cash and happy tapas!
Yellow & vegetable rice
PECK 22 | BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
Have you ever had a savory waffle? Neither have I – although, that has changed. Before leaving Brussels for Amsterdam, I stopped by rue Jordaan for a bite at Peck 22. A place where all eggs come to be cooked – well, at least that’s what the chickens say. If you have the time and arrive earlier than most, grab a seat by the window, watch the foot traffic pass by and watch the light dance off the table.
Savory chive waffle with poached eggs & spring salad
Savory biscuit with lox & spring salad
FRIDHEIMER | SELFJOSS, ICELAND
Iceland is a difficult place to grow agriculture for many reasons. A few reasons are the harsh weather conditions, lack of sun for six months and the soil is unfit for growth. Fridheimer is a tomato greenhouse that serves unlimited tomato soup with fresh baked bread made daily. Served with cucumber salad, butter and sour cream, fresh basil plants adorn each table to compliment your soup.
REYKJAVIK DOMESTIC AIRPORT | REYKJAVIK, ICELAND
Traveling to The Faroe Islands is no easy feat. There are very few places of departure but luckily, there is a fight from the Reykjavik domestic airport in western Iceland that departs two or three times a week. While waiting, there is a standard airport cafe that serves coffee, snacks, pastries and traditional Icelandic soup! The server spoke with great pride about this Icelandic soup that Icelanders depend upon in the worst weather. It provides comfort and warmth in the darkest and snowiest days in Iceland. Root vegetables and lamb are simmered in a rich broth all day then served with fresh bread and a hot cup of coffee.
SONARGAO | BRICK LANE MARKET | LONDON, ENGLAND
Brick Lane in East London has an array of curry houses, Bengali specialty restaurants and stores with Sunday Markets featuring artisans and a food hall offering as many as 20 different cuisines and dishes. Take the tube to Aldgate East, head over to Brick Lane and spend a Sunday perusing the fare, vintage pieces and artist work! Don’t forget to have a delicious dish.
CAFÉ ROUGE | LONDON, ENGLAND
Right across St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, is Cafe Rouge. Looking for a traditional breakfast under £8? Check out their traditional English Breakfast. There is also a full Parisian menu, in the event you’re not feeling so English.
SPUNTINO | SOHO | LONDON, ENGLAND
It wouldn’t be a trip to London without a stop in a pub. I know, there should be a pint of ale beside my plate or even a cup of tea but I needed coffee. A copy of British Vogue, a Reuben sandwich with cubed potatoes started my day!
KOBRICK COFFEE | CHELSEA | NEW YORK, NY
If you happen to be in Chelsea and are in need of a good cup of coffee with possibly a pressed egg sandwich, take a seat at Kobrick Coffee on 9th Avenue. Four generations of coffee roasting has happened in the past 98 years (they will be celebrating a centennial in 2020)! If you feel you should be on your own until you have had that first infusion of caffeine, bar seating in the front is available – if you’re feeling a bit more social, there are tables towards the back of the cafe.
AUGUSTINE | FINANCIAL DISTRICT | NEW YORK, NY
Inside the newly renovated Beekman Hotel, the French brasserie by Keith McNally, Augustine, sits dimly lit with a golden hue reverberating off its glazed tiles of vines, stalks and flowers. Bustling with knowledgeable servers, the sounds of glasses chiming and the impressive bar that greets its guests, you are suddenly transported to vintage Paris – and before long, completely immersed in French classic culinary fare.
Spiced olive oil with garlic
Augustine salad with fresh herbs, radishes, spring greens, carrots, goat cheese, crostini
Bouillabaisse with mussels, shrimp, crab, calamari in a rich lobster broth
Duck a l’orange, duck breast and grand marnier braised leg with turnips, greens, orange marmalade
TESSA | UPPER WEST SIDE | NEW YORK, NY
Located in the heart of the Upper West Side, Tessa is industrial chic with a modern Mediterranean menu. The open brick walls and space for large parties makes this brunch spot the place! Throw in their bloody Mary’s and basket full of goodies, and you’re good to go!
Smoked salmon benedict served over lemon aracini, poached eggs
Basket full of goodies (cinnamon roll, bran muffin, chocolate croissant, butter croissant)
Smoked salmon w/coddled egg, crostini
Grilled hangar steak w/pressed garlic fingerling potatoes, poached eggs
Cinnamon roll, coffee
Burger w/bacon, fries
RUE LA RUE | WASHINGTON HEIGHTS | NEW YORK, NY
Sadly, Rue La Rue, a cafe in Washington Heights that was an homage to Rue McClanahan (otherwise lovingly known as “Blanche” from The Golden Girls sitcom) is no longer. Though short lived, it thanked you for being a friend. I was able to nab a seat on a winter morning while warmth filled the air as past Golden Girl episodes played continuously on a large flat screen. Patrons would sing along with the theme song! On the opposite wall, the green palm tree wallpaper and yellow telephone are prominently displayed – all that was amiss was the lanai. Photographs of all actresses, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty adorn ever inch of the cafe. The menu boasted recipes from all four ladies – And of course, cheesecake! If you’re a Golden Girls fan, this was the place for you.
Mushroom Quiche with Spring Salad
Buttermilk Biscuits with Strawberry Butter
STATESIDE | CAPITOL HILL | SEATTLE, WA
Seattle is known for coffee, rain and steep hills but it also has become a booming food scene varying from haute Americana cuisine, street food, food trucks (although Portland, OR still reigns Queen in that category) and offers a slew of Asian cuisine. Need a little more zing to your coffee AND your omelet? Try Stateside on Pike Street – from the light filled room to the open omelet, you won’t regret it.
Fresh Duck Roll w/Basil
Open Omelet w/Crab, Basil, Bay Shrimp
TIPSY PARSON | WEST CHELSEA | NEW YORK, NY
In West Chelsea, Tipsy Parson serves up southern comfort food daily. The location is perfect if you’re taking a walk along the Highline or just hanging out near the meatpacking district. Stop in for some southern comfort times two! A group of friends and I stopped in for brunch on a lovely Sunday afternoon!
Red Corn Hush Puppies
Shrimp & Grits
Burger & Fries
Peanut Butter Krispie Sunday
BA BAR | CENTRAL DISTRICT | SEATTLE, WA
Ba Bar is a Vietnamese bakery and restaurant located across Seattle University in the central district in Seattle, WA. This brother and sister owned and operated haunt is a dedication to their father – offering up traditional Vietnamese dishes with intense flavor and the freshest of ingredients. Their bakery is not to ignore! Take a visit in the morning for a strong cup of Vietnamese coffee with a lovely croissant, macaron or pastry! Or have a bowl of congee or Pâté Chaud!
LUCE | PORTLAND, OR
Portland, Oregon is known for its foodie scene, its craft beer and spirits, so it is no wonder that one of their restaurants made it to Bon Appetit’s list of Best New Restaurants. I have forgotten what year that exactly was…but, I did make it to the restaurant to check out the Italian themed menu. Cosy and cute, with a tiny store front offering Italian imports of olive oil, wine and anchovies, I enjoyed the relaxing vibe and the non reservation policy without having to bump elbows with any other guests sitting next to my table.
Linguini ai tutti di mare
Pasta all’uovo alla Bolognese
REZA | ANDERSONVILLE | CHICAGO, IL
I grew up in Chicago and while an undergraduate at DePaul University, I lived in a baby blue, two floor bungalow apartment in Andersonville. It’s north of downtown and south of Evanston (where Northwestern University is situated). Clark street ran north and south in Chicago and Andersonville boasted of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. I lived two blocks west of Clark street – easily close to all Andersonville had to offer. Reza’s offers Persian cuisine with the freshest ingredients and serves perfectly grilled dishes. Reza’s, is still to this day, one of my favorite restaurants. It holds plenty of good memories; including, having dinner there often with my best friend Erin or the many, many bad dates I endured (if you’re going to have a bad date, at least have a great meal) to having dinner after meeting Gillian Anderson at the DePaul Theater School for a fundraiser. No matter where I am, Reza’s will always have a special place for me. *(Note, I unfortunately do not have a photograph of their famous sautéed mushrooms…probably because we ate them before I can take a photograph!)
Parsley, radish, feta
Tomato lentil soup
Grilled chicken & onion with dill and white rice
Honey & rum soaked bamieh
THE PAVILION | UNION SQUARE | NEW YORK, NY
Once Spring springs forth, The Pavilion at the northern end of Union Square is open for outdoor seating. The hustle and bustle of the Farmer’s Market adds to the energy and ambience if you happen to stop by on one of their days! Grab a group of friends, grab some cocktails and order up some tasty dishes from the market place menu!
Maine lobster rolls
White wine & apple mussels
SOTTO 13 | WEST VILLAGE | NEW YORK, NY
If you are into crafting your own Prosecco cocktail, this place is for you. Head over to West Village on the west side of lower Manhattan for a brightly lit dining room and intimate corner tables for a lively brunch with your friends. The menu boasts of wood-fired pizza, benedicts and sandwiches with a full cocktail menu. Fresh donuts with Nutella Chocolate sauce is a must! Order one for yourself or share with your table; although, sharing may be difficult. Their menu is seasonal, so make sure to visit at least twice in a year!
Fresh donut with Nutella chocolate sauce
Scotch egg with salad
Vegetarian lasagna with fried farm fresh egg
MEE NOODLE HOUSE | HELLS KITCHEN | NEW YORK, NY
Along 9th Avenue in New York, the streets are lined with deli’s, shops and hole in the wall restaurants that locals call their regular to go spots. When I was teaching at a community music school, my local place of comfort was Mee Hoodle House (before and after their renovation). The abundance of choices are endless from their shrimp omelette over steaming white rice with a special brown sauce (I still cannot figure it out) to hand made dumplings made fresh every morning, you will fall in love with a dish to call your own. Make sure to order a scallion pancake or your choice of fresh noodles in broth simmered all day – rain or shine, their doors are always open for new and old guests.
Wonton soup with greens
Shrimp omelette with brown sauce over rice
REPUBLIC NOODLE HOUSE | UNION SQUARE | NEW YORK, NY
One of my go-to’s on a chilly New York day, was to head over to Republic in Union Square. They were known for plenty of noodles but my favorite was the fresh green papaya salad. Unfortunately, due to the hike in rent, this establishment closed in 2017. I’m unsure if it will re-open in a new location but, fare thee well fun and delicious noodle shop! I will miss you every season the leaves turn red.
KUNJIP | KOREATOWN | NEW YORK, NY
Since we are on the discussion of local eats, my go-to when it comes to after hours or midnight dinners is Koreatown in mid-town Manhattan. Kunjip is open 24/7 and offers Korean barbecue, traditional bibimbob (a base of rice with all sorts of goodies piled on top in a clay pot), and small dishes that range from pickled vegetables to seasoned, steamed, scrambled egg. It helps to have these dishes when you’re raging hungry at 1:00am!
Copyright 2002-2022 ERICA HILARIO
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