, ,

Top 10 Hip London Pubs


London is rife with traditional as well as modern pubs and bars, from the scenes of Soho to Jack the Ripper’s favorite haunts, make sure to check out the hippest places to drink across the pond!

Blind Pig

Prohibition meets modern class at this New York style Soho drink stop. Located quietly and quaintly above Social Eating House, make your way there during the day for a relaxed vibe (although reservations, any time of day, are advised!), or pop in at night to take in the ambiance. Their unique cheekiness can be seen in their décor as well as their menu. Find the brass door-knocker appropriately shaped into a blindfolded pig, and settle into a leather banquette with a Bulleit Rye or a Vitamin C Vesper – just to make your habit seem healthy for a drink or two!

Address:

58 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR

The Ten Bells in Whitechapel

A personal favorite, the Ten Bells sits as an antiquity – and for good reason. Conjure up the spirit of Jack the Ripper with a few spirits of your own, known for one of the locations where he met his ill-fated victims. The friendly staff and tasty Pimms cocktails mix well with the location, directly across from the lively Old Spitalfields Market. Take your drink outside and watch the city walk by, and make some new friends in the process.

Address:

84 Commercial St, Spitalfields, London E1 6LY

Bradley’s Spanish Bar on Oxford St

When not in Spain, let Bradley’s bring the Spanish vibe to you! This low-key pub is perfect for a rainy day when only a glass of wine and a song from the jukebox will do. Drinks are well priced and the atmosphere is enhanced by the local customers who spill out into the streets for good cocktails and conversation. Visit Bradley’s for classic music, a glass of Spanish wine, and a laid-back atmosphere as the sun sets.

Address:

44 Hanway St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1UT

The White Hart Pub

Another Ripper reference sits quietly on White Chapel High Street, just east of central London, with excellent food and a laid-back atmosphere that appeals to locals and tourists alike. Conveniently located across the street from the Aldgate East tube stop, the White Hart is an ideal spot to grab a quiet drink and have a long conversation with your friends, or anyone else who happens to pop in!

Address:

89 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7RA

Coach & Horses in Soho

Another one of London’s old-school pubs in Soho, Coach & Horses is a great place to toss back a pint where the stained glass windows and well-worn carpet create a story onto themselves. Take a Wednesday or Saturday night to visit this classic pub for their piano sing-along and get into the spirit (and the spirits!) with the crowd, known for their classic cockney renditions as well as a more modern play list. Grab a Fuller’s or a Hopspur and join in!

Address:

29 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 5DH, UK

Cross Keys in Covent Garden

Put the keys up and grab a cab to the Cross Keys for a low-key afternoon pint. A traditionally British pub, relax and lift a glass outside while the greenery and glow of the sunset light up the night. As one of the quaint antiquities that defines classic London tap rooms, its all about that homey feel you search for at the end of the day. Try a pint from Brodie’s, a classic local London brewery. Have a bite or two while you’re there as well; the Doorstep Sandwich is a local favorite.

Address:

31 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9BA

Doodle Bar in Bermondsey

Bring your inner kid and grab a stick of chalk at this unique spot in Bermondsey, where you can write on the walls while hoisting your favorite pint. In addition to the whimsical vibe, food trucks frequent the establishment for late night revelers looking to eat as well as imbibe. Originally started as a hard-to-find pop-up pub, the Doodle Bar has evolved into a hip and chill every-day spot for the locals. Try their signature beer, an aptly named Doodle’s Pale Ale. Get to the bar in the evening for a chiller vibe, before the larger crowds grab a spot and start chalking it up!

Address:

60 Druid St, London SE1 2EZ, UK

The Elephant & Castle (in Elephant & Castle)

This pub puts the the hip in what’s happening and not necessarily the hipster. A trendy spot that’s been courted by the city after a rough and tumble history, the Elephant stands as a testament to how the past can bring the future into the forefront. It’s not only craft beer that lines their bar; Heineken and Amstel mingle nicely with local IPA’s and great crowds.

Address:

119 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN

Harp in Covent Garden

No need to go to church on Sunday, just visit the Harp for a communion with stained-glass windows and a bit of the spirit. A great spot for beer-o-philes and pub aficionados alike, Harp is a small bar with a lot of traditional flare. Another favorite among locals, it’s rightfully been named pub of the year. Take a mill around Harp when you find yourself in central London and toss back a pint of any one of their rotating brews.

Address:

47 Chandos Pl, London WC2N 4HS

Royal Oak in The Borough

The Royal Oak is where history meets a modern tavern. Voted one of the best places to drink a beer, this pub espouses Chaucer’s spirit with it’s homey feel and warm yet up-to-date character. A nice mix of the old school and the moving tone of London, venture in and ask for a Cask Mild and enjoy your evening, you won’t be disappointed.

Address:

44 Tabard Street, Borough, London, SE1

Bonus Bar – Phoenix Artist Club in Covent Garden

Another one of our personal favorites for a late night plug, the Phoenix Artist Club serves up a very unique (and, of course, artsy) vibe. From the congenial bartenders, to the thespian memorabilia and the secluded back room where some of the most famous theatre greats frequented (and still do), it’s like stepping back in time – while present in the ethereal, low-lighted moment. The caveat to this establishment is that you have to be a member, available for about 70 Pounds per year. That is, unless you have a ticket stub from any one of the unforgettable London theatres. We chose Phantom of the Opera for our last visit in the West End and topped it off with the Phoenix… well worth the price of admission in every sense of the word!

Address:

1 Phoenix St, London WC2H 8BU

London is the quintessential and classic city for some of the best pubs in the world, make sure to venture out and find your favorite!

 

, , ,

Travel Barcelona – Art to All Night


The beauty of Barcelona is bejeweled and multi-faceted. Between the vast array of art museums and Gaudi architecture, to the streets that lead you to early morning coffee shops with bocadillos waiting for customers at five o’clock in the morning, to those early afternoon corner bistros with the Estrella Damm beer you’ve been craving (Limon flavored, of course!) this city winds its way around your mind in myriad ways.

Estrella – Damm that’s good beer!

For our stay in this eclectic and diverse city, we chose the Barcelona House, an artsy and friendly hotel sitting neatly in the bustling downtown area of the city, just steps away from the main street of La Rambla, leading to the center of the action. The convenient locale of this hotel and the open-very-late staff were thankfully accommodating. The rooms were modern, clean and comfortable, and our quarters overlooked a residential building that simply added to the charm of the place.

A comfortable and cozy room at the Barcelona House Hotel.

After retiring our backpacks in for the night, still hungry from the flight and looking to explore, we ventured down the main thoroughfare after the sun had set and found ourselves at the El Cercle restaurant, serving excellent wine and a great view of the city’s shopping center from the top deck.

Great view for a romantic meal in downtown Barcelona.

Despite the cold of Spain’s late autumn, we settled in at the best vantage point while the nightlife in Barcelona walked by down below. And, perhaps because of the chilly night, we were quite happily the only guests at the top of the eatery. The food was amazing and the service, despite the weather, was impeccable.  Personally, I’m a big fan of anchovies, and while maybe not a great choice while you find yourself elsewhere and land-locked, the fresh fish here was presented with amazing flavor and quite memorable.  (We tried them many places, always delicious in Barcelona!)

In this diverse city there are many centrally-located and beautiful shops and boutiques that are frequented by a mass of visitors and Barcelonans alike. This city is one of both old and new, the new being displayed in it’s rows of high-end shops, featuring the upscale wares of all kinds in the famous Passeig de Gracia.

Day-Tour Around the City

To make the most of a Barcelona trip at a reasonable price, we headed downtown to utilize Barcelona’s Hop On Hop Off bus tour, offering both a blue and red line to see the sights at your leisure without breaking the bank. For about $30 per person you can traverse the city all day. You’ll be taken to the most popular and memorable areas of the city, including the Joan Miro museum, where you can peruse his famous modern artworks in the clean-lined building so befitting of his craft.

Outside of the Joan Muro Museum, as no pictures were allowed inside!

Although you aren’t allowed to photograph inside the museum itself, walk through to the second level, an outside pavilion where you’ll see a crisp, stark rooftop with his colorful sculptures, where pictures are encouraged and the view is remarkable. While inside, however, don’t miss the unique mercury fountain, a sculpture commissioned for the World’s Fair in 1937 – an art piece actually flowing in repetition with mercury itself – a must see behind the glass as you enter the main gallery.

Beneath the steps of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

In addition to the art along your bus tour, you can view the art of Gaudi in the structures that line the streets, a testament to the artist himself, and a view into the traditional history of the city itself. Ethereal and encrusted in tiles and glass, Gaudi history is truly one of the city’s birthrights, not to be missed. As a student of art in my early university years, these buildings hold a certain provenance of Barcelona for me. Not excessive and tasteless (as the word in mistranslation has come to be known as a colloquialism), but they stand moving and bright, an inspired set of architecture in a flat world.

Ground level view of a Gaudi masterpiece!

Restaurants and Markets

The city of Barcelona is highly walkable, and once we departed from our day trip on the bus, we found ourselves happily meandering along the streets, searching for a dinner (and drink!) spot. Our favorite turned out to be Rosa Negra, a colorful and vibrant Spanish restaurant on the Via Laietana, serving the best tacos and mojitos we’d had in Barcelona (or, any city), and in addition to the food and drink, the décor is something to behold. Make sure to ask for their hot sauce, if that’s your flavor, it’s not to be missed! Without question, Rosa Negra is the best food we had in Barcelona.

One of the best meals we’ve had anywhere – Rosa Negra!

 

If you find yourself in the famous area of the Sagrada Familia, make your way to the En Diagonal Bar, a tasty and Mediterranean themed eatery with a wonderful outdoor dining patio. Just a four to five minute walk down Carrer de Sardenya from the famous church, this quaint spot offers traditional tapas, chorizo, and excellent sangria. Stop in for a bite after touring this part of the city and you won’t be disappointed!

A beautiful view of the Mercado de la Boqueria – such fresh produce!

After you find your favorite eatery, of which there are many to choose from, make sure to check out the Mercado de La Boqueria. This indoor market is an impressive expanse, offering local food to chefs as well as home cooks and tourists alike. As one of the liveliest places we’ve experienced in the city, this market is a welcoming and walkable place for anyone in the vicinity. Take your time and mill about the vegetable and fruit displays, as well as the fresh seafood. Even if you’re not going to break out a kitchen set in your hotel, this market is brimming with flavors you can take home with you in memory.

Juice area at Mercado de la Boqueria.

Historical Landmarks

The Sagrada Familia is in itself an impressive and unbelievable work of art as well as history. Apart from the Catholicism of this church, the colorful Gaudi architecture swirls around every corner and window – perhaps the most breathtaking pieces of the structure altogether. Tickets are currently available for 29 euros per person and is worth the experience no matter if you’re an art major or a simply a fan of the great history of this city.

The Labor of Love that is the Sagrada de Familia.

The Casa Amatller is another one of Barcelona’s beauties. While the tours may be short, you are free to photograph along the way. This astounding Gothic structure envisioned by Gaudi the 1880’s has endeared itself as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984. Surprisingly, this unique location was once a residential building in the heart of the city, and has since been rightly converted to a museum and library. If you’re visiting during the day, leave the Estrella Damm pint for later and stop into the local cafe, the Faborit, for a cup of their delicious hot chocolate!

Amazing view of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo – a Barcelona treasure!

Continue through the tour of Gaudi’s masterpieces at the Casa Batllo. This impressive building boasts a façade of balconies that well resemble giant bones and skulls, which juxtapose the well-lit, jovial and colorful windows that adorn the outside. The lines of this structure are mesmerizing as well as a marvel of architecture which runs through the blood of Barcelona.

Visit Salvador Dali in a Day

This is the excursion for art lovers, and especially those in love with the work of Salvador Dali. Leave from Barcelona in the early morning and head to the original Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, designed by the consult of Dali himself, before heading to the Dali home in Cadaques (called the Port Lligat Museum House).

Which do you see – Lincoln or Gala?

The museum is truly stunning, offering a glimpse into the mind of one of the most flamboyant and brilliant artists of modern history. The museum truly lives up to the wishes of Dali, who said, “I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.” Come, see and dream.

Dali’s Round Room, at his home in Port Lligat, is perfectly designed to create an echo for only those in the center of the room!

The Dali home in Cadaques is a masterpiece of artwork itself, having been built for Gala Dali (Salvador’s wife), and the location where the couple lived for more than 50 years before Gala’s death in 1982.

Always remember to look UP!

There are a variety of Dali-inspired trips to the region for all budget levels, and all include the beautiful drive through the eastern Spanish terrain.

Take in the Nightlife in Barcelona

Once the sun sets, its time to party in Barcelona! There are endless choices of venues, from traditional Latin music to the soulful sounds of blues bands, take a night and experience the best of the bustling after-hours excitement!

The Mojito Club in the neighborhood of L’Eixample, Barcelona offers fresh and festive Latin music with salsa dancing and great drinks as well. Locals and tourists alike flood the dance floors to move with the beat until 5am – if you can make it till nearly dawn! Offering dance lessons for individuals as well as couples and groups, start out learning a few steps and then grab a mojito and join the crowd.

A Barcelona club night

For a more modern music scene, hit up Razzmatazz in Poblenou, offering five individual rooms as venues for tastes of every kind. The music here mixes up the crowd well with international DJ’s spinning everything from electronica to rock to hip-hop… also until 5am! Check out The Loft area for a more techno crowd, one of the hot spots of the club. In addition to the weekend parties, Razzmatazz brings in live acts during the week for a mellower vibe, depending on your flavor!

DJ’s Hands at the Carpe Diem.

The beautiful Barcelona beach area offers another option – a spot that goes from day to night seamlessly at Carpe Diem Lounge Club (colloquially known as CDLC), located right on the Mediterranean in Port Olympic. Offering a calming and serene experience during the day, with food and custom drinks, the night turns CDLC into a lively, fresh atmosphere with lots of energy. Dress well and rub shoulders with some jet-setters here, while sipping a fragrant cocktail by the sea!

Beautiful expanse over a stunning Barcelona!

Barcelona is a vibrant, 24-hours-a-day delight for all the senses, from the quaint coffee shops offering frosty glasses of Estrella Damm and sardines to the world-class art and bustling nightlife, get lost on every corner and fill your moments with experiences that will last a lifetime!

, , , , , , ,

5 Free Things To Do In Munich


Munich is a rare city that one could say is, in fact, uniquely its own. The history, each the good, bad, and notoriously dreadful, are all uniquely her. The site of the nationalistic uprising that resulted in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Munich has grown from its treacherous past and is today an impeccably serene, peaceful and idyllic place. From Bavarian architecture and face-sized pints of Weissbier to its understanding and growth from its war-torn history, Munich is utterly unmistakable from any other.

What few know and understand about Munich is that it’s also a great budget travel city, and one in which you’ll find yourself often dumbfounded by brilliance simply by standing, walking or looking up. Here, we’ve covered five great, free ways to make the most of the Old Bavarian capital.

Free Walking Tour

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in Munich is the Free Walking Tour, offered by a handful of independent crews that work by donation throughout the city center. Mostly beginning in front of the Marienplatz, the city’s main square since 1158, you’ll have the opportunity to tour Munich by foot and learn about the deep, rich history of the city.

The one we chose was Sandeman’s, which convened in the city center in front of the Marienplatz. It’s best to check ahead for availability and space, especially weather pending, but actually setting up to attend the tour is quite easy. The tour guides are fantastically knowledgeable about Munich, and will share with you the epic details behind locations such as Marienplatz (and the Glockenspiel that adorns its tower), Englischer Garter, Munich Residenz, Altes Rathaus and the five famous Munchen breweries including the ubiquitous Hofbrauhaus, which dates back to 1589! Other spots include Odeonsplatz, the site of numerous early Nazi speeches and beside the area where Hitler was allegedly shot during the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Truly, Munich comes alive on this tour that brings all stories to the forefront – both the known and the unknown of the city.

Make sure to have a camera handy, as the walking tour offers much of what you expected to see in Munich, a few surprises, and plenty of scenic beauty around this beautiful city center. The free walking tours are a must see, even if you’re only looking for something to fill up one day in Munich.

The Gardens at Nymphenburg Park

Nymphenburg Palace is a place of unspeakable beauty, finished in 1675 and once home to such luminaries as King Ludwig II, who was born there in 1845. While the palace itself is a for-pay attraction, the gardens outside are stunning and free to walk about.

Nearly 500 acres in size, the Gardens at Nymphenburg are bejeweled by stunning fountains such as The Grand Cascade, impeccably manicured hedgerows and beautiful lakes that can be viewed year-round. The grounds retain much of the old Bavarian feel, as they’ve remained largely unchanged beyond a few minor additions and alterations made in the latter 19th century. There are numerous attractions on the grounds, including the Royal Bathing House known as Badenburg and Pagodenburg, a royal teahouse built in beautiful, traditional 19th century majesty.

While there are entrance fees to enter Nymphenburg much of the year, off-times of the year where entry can be had for free – especially if bundled with the palace.

Stroll the Englischer Garten

A popular site on the walking tour, the Englischer Garten shocks one at its mere size – which is larger than both London’s Hyde Park and New York’s Central Park.

Englischer Garten surprises, as it’s both fantastical and diverse – including a Japanese Teahouse given to the City of Munich by Japan during the 1972 Summer Olympics as well as the popular Eisbach, a standing wave artificially produced in a stream and serves as a popular spot for surfers who long for the ocean.

Most commonly, Englischer Garten is a wonderful place to relax. Revelers can be seen soaking in the sun in summer months, either resting on a bench to read a book or decompressing on a blanket with perhaps a few sandwiches in hand. It is this that makes the garden an ideal place to sit, renew the soul and simply watch the city pass you by.

Hofbrauhaus

The already-mentioned Hofbrauhaus is central to Munich’s history, as the site of the city’s most famous brewery since 1589.

Forcibly restored since sustaining extensive bombing damage during the raids of World War II, Hofbrauhaus maintains its original character including vaulted, masterfully-painted ceilings and authentic Bavarian music played live alongside the gigantic steins of liquid courage. Yet, you don’t need to have a pint of the good stuff to enjoy Hofbrauhaus, as its halls and historic upstairs dining area are all must-see attractions that are free and open to tourists year-round.

If you do want to shell out a few Euros while on site, Hofbrauhaus is an essential place to experience one of those over-sized beers along with your first helping of schnitzel! Tracy and I sat for hours, sitting the beautiful, golden lager and listening to a traditional polka band play in the lower hall of Hofbrauhaus, a massively stunning work of art that also boasts excellent acoustics for such a performance.

Olympic Park

Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, still is operational, beautiful, and open to the public. During the summer months, Olympiapark serves the city with a series of free concerts on its beautiful grounds. The stadium still hosts numerous annual events, such as Holiday on Ice and the Six-Day-Run, both of which are widely attended and fantastic for tourists.

Outside the stadium itself is Olympiaberg, another great free attraction and a high hillside that serves picnickers as well as blanket-toting music lovers who would rather hear the sounds of Olympiaparks major concerts from afar – and without cost. These free attractions are where Munich begins, but certainly not where it ends. Full of mystery, beauty and historical significance, it’s a city that presents boundless opportunities to delve deeper.

What are your favorite free things to do in Munich?

 

, , ,

Best U.S. Cities for St. Patrick’s Day


It’s a month away, but like us, you know you’re already thinking about it. You’ve already looked at the calendar, saw St. Patrick’s Day (on March 17th every year, for those of you who aren’t in the know) is on a Friday, and felt your own inner leprechaun tickle your soul. St. Patrick’s on a Friday? Just take the day off. Start early. Go late. Yeah, you know you’re making plans.

Americans, and I guess really anyone, loves a good excuse to drink. Hey, it doesn’t even have to be our holiday (sorry about that, Ireland)! We’ve all but stolen Cinco de Mayo and made it into a tequila-infused day where everyone will readily tell you they don’t have a clue what they’re celebrating. Did you really think St. Patrick’s would be any different? Oh no, my friend. Oh no.

So, with flights to be booked and plans to be made, where are the hottest spots in the U.S. to have a bit of the green goodness and let your inner clover blossom?

#10 Seattle, WA

Despite the most geographically-distant location from where it all started, Seattle does St. Patrick’s Day right. The city leads up to the day with great events on a daily schedule, including a St. Patrick’s Day Dash that continues to grow in size yearly. The race paints the streets of the Emerald City green, as it has done for more than 30 years and is as much of an “Irish Halloween” in the Spring as one could imagine – complete with costumed participants such as the nearly 7-foot-tall leprechaun.

Seattle is a great drinking city as well, and one with enough craft beer joints to help you truly immerse yourself the event – wherever that might take you. If you’re looking for traditional Irish Pub flare, try the Old Pequliar or Mulleady’s Irish Pub, often considered the best of it’s kind in the city.

#9 Roanoke, VA

 

Roanoke? Yeah. Roanoke.

Downtown Roanoke fills up with more than 30,000 revelers each year during what they call their “Shamrock Festival,” a family-friendly affair that still features plenty of pints of the good stuff and a raucous enough environment to make you think you’re back in the Old Country. There are block parties littered everywhere throughout the city, that will grade from as docile and “nice” as you would like to the upper echelons of drunken hooliganism.

#8 Atlanta, GA

St. Patrick’s Day is a huge deal in Atlanta, featuring a city-wide parade that the city has hosted for 135 years, making it one of the oldest traditions in the city. There are several groups that feature in the event as active members and participants, including Clan Na NGael, Fire Emerald Society of Metro Atlanta (FESMA), the Irish Information Center and the Metro Atlanta Police Emerald Society (MAPES). The family-friendly event also includes a 5k race with a hosts of runners of all classes, from walker to professional athlete.

Additionally, Atlanta is a thriving drinking city with a high Irish ancestral population. Our personal favorite is Ri Ra Irish Pub in Midtown, where you can enjoy excellent hand-crafted burgers such as the Dubliner – a rosemary-infused lamb burger with curry aioli and goat cheese on brioche. Goes great with a Guinness!

#7 San Diego, CA

The year-round gorgeous weather of San Diego makes a great backdrop for any parade, but the St. Patrick’s Day parade hosted by the city is one of the liveliest and most well-attended put on by the city’s “Irish Congress” each year.

Each year, San Diego lines up an extensive list of performers of Irish theme, including traditional Irish dance troupes and pipe bands to further authentify the occasion. More than 40,000 people are present each year for the event, which begins at Balboa Park and stretches throughout the city.

#6 Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia is a food and drink mainstay in the U.S., which makes it an ideal location to be on St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish in Philadelphia first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 1771, five years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, making this parade the 2nd largest in the entire United States (behind the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held in 1762). This is massive event with more than 100 events and over 2,000 participants!

Philadelphia, as mentioned, is one hell of a place to get a drink – especially a Guinness. Skip the chain locations and go straight to Moriarty’s on Walnut Street if you want to do it right. Here, you can get all the Irish classics to sop of a few pints of the black stuff – including Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips and the best Bangers and Mash in the city.

#5 San Francisco, CA

 

You may not think Irish when you think of San Francisco, but you definitely think of partying. The LGBT capital of the U.S. is a haven for any group of people looking to mix it up, and the diverse setting results in unique pockets of celebrations that explode throughout the city.

San Francisco has its own parade, massive in its own right and dating back to the mid-1800s. The roster is one of the earliest to begin in the country, and one of the last to end, leaving revelers covered in glitter, filled with green beer and partying late into the night. If you’re really looking for a big crowd and a great time, check out the Financial District’s block party – one of the largest of its kind in the country!

#4 Savannah, GA

Savannah probably isn’t where your mind starts when you think of the best cities to drink green beer and douse oneself in lucky-charm-colored glitter, but have you been there? These people know how to party, and don’t need much of an excuse to do it. Home to one of the largest organized St. Patrick’s parades in the U.S., Savannah literally turns green the week leading up to the holiday with landmarks such as the fountain at Forsyth Park being dyed for the affair.

With proximity to bars being paramount on St. Paddy’s, the parade route smartly runs alongside the more popular areas where followers can watch while piling on the pints.

#3 Chicago, IL

Admittedly, the top three could be argued about their order by Chicago unquestionably deserved a spot. The Windy City dyes the Chicago River green, sparking the city with Irish spirit and the patrons with Irish spirits!

Chicago’s downtown parade occurs on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, beginning with the dyeing of the river at 9am and continuing in Grant Park with a parade at noon. The South Side Irish Parade occurs the following day, stepping off from 103rd and Western at noon, further invigorating the city into full-on celebration.

Skip the deep dish pizza on St. Patrick’s, however, because Chicago features some of the best Irish Pubs in the mid-west. Our favorite is The Grafton, located on North Lincoln and named after the famous Grafton Street area in Dublin, Ireland. The menu includes all of the Irish classics, including a mammoth legend that’s difficult to find done correctly in the U.S. – the full Irish breakfast.

#2 New York, NY

What doesn’t New York do well? The United States’ largest city and cultural wellspring, New York was an early spot for Irish settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries, and has kept in keen sight it’s European roots.

Hosting the oldest St. Patrick’s parade in the United States, which begins in Midtown and ends at the American Irish Historical Society at East 80th Street in the Upper East Side. Any festival in New York is a site to behold, but St. Patrick’s Day brings entertainment of a different sort. Bartenders are common to pass out free shots along the parade route, ill-advised clover tattoos are visible as far as the eye can see and drunken revelers belt out pitchy renditions of “Danny Boy”. Never a lack of entertainment in the Big Apple, is there?

New York is it’s own animal, and the beast gets let loose on St. Patrick’s Day.

#1 Boston, MA

Did you really think another city was going to be first?

Boston is America’s Dublin. The Irish have been in Boston since colonial times, when they arrived as indentured servants, merchants, sailors, or tradesmen in the mid-1600s. Even today, the Irish still represent Boston’s largest ancestral ethnic group.

Bostonian last names are distinctly Irish, from O’Connor and O’Brien to McCormick and Kennedy, the Irish have positively impacted America from the country’s earliest roots – much of which stemmed in Boston.

If there is one parade in America you must attend on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s in Boston. The passion of the ancestral spirit is alive, palpable and proud on this day, as the parade routes from Broadway Station to Southhampton St, making it one of the longest in the country.

Bars? Food? Beer? Boston’s got that too. You can stumble across a myriad of pubs throughout the downtown area, along the financial district and parade routes. One of the most popular in the city is J.J. Foley’s, the more than 120 year-old establishment in “Southie”. Foley’s is a place where you can get all of the traditional Irish pub grub with a flair of class – including dishes such as a magnificent Duck Confit and a Pork Osso Bucco that absolutely melts on contact.

If you can’t make it to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, the U.S. offers many great options. However, you simply have to put Boston at the top of the list.

 

Photo Credits: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

 

 

 

 

, , , , ,

Beautiful Bonaire: The Best Kept Caribbean Secret


Bonaire is truly an undiscovered diamond in, well, a seascape of so many beautiful diamonds. However, Bonaire is unique in that it remains a sort of untouched paradise in an over-saturated world.

The least traveled of the ABC islands (which Bonaire makes up along with Aruba and Curacao), it lies just quietly north of Venezuela in the Caribbean. This small island oasis is a snorkeling and diving paradise, as well as one of the most genial and heartwarming places I’ve ever been.

This particular part of the tropical world holds many wonders, a vast and impressive expanse of ocean that entices travelers from around the globe. The secrets in it’s history are both ancient and new, so it’s no surprise that included among the crystal clear waters sits a snorkeling and diving paradise you might not have even heard about; an island so close to Aruba you could reach it by air in less than 30 minutes and Curacao in about 15!

This land of white sand and orange-gold sunsets has a special place in my heart. As a child my grandparents were missionaries on Bonaire, volunteering at the still-operational Trans World Radio studios. I was blessed to spend a few holidays in Bonaire as well as experience my first solo international trip to visit them from my home in the Northeast US when I was thirteen years old.

Since then, Bonaire has thankfully not changed too much. This island retains it’s peace, it’s familiarity, and it’s warmth. The years may pass, but the culture and the soul of the people never seem to be affected by the seemingly ongoing stress of the world at large.

Beauty and the Beaches

Bonaire has long been a hub for professional divers as well as Dutch vacationers, its clear waters and laid back attitude boast an appealing attraction for discerning adventurers from all over the globe, while still remaining a virtual secret to the majority of travelers.

As part of the ABC Islands and the Leeward Antilles (formerly the Netherland Antilles), Bonaire has for decades had the luxury of sitting largely untouched by rampant tourism. Only 24 miles long, Bonaire sits as the top rated snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean. This ongoing oceanic tranquility is carefully maintained by both private and governmental protection of the reefs, keeping Bonaire a paradise since 1979.

There are many beautiful stretches of white sandy beach to choose from, almost all ideal for snorkeling or diving, with the exception of the north side of the island where the waves and currents are enough to knock you off your feet in an instant!

Sorobon Beach

Located in the southeast of the island, Sorobon Beach is a beautiful location for snorkeling and swimming, as well as just relaxing in the sun. One of the best beaches in the Caribbean, here you can kick back with a tropical cocktail and watch the world-class windsurfers who often hit the waves at Sorobon.

Also located here is the Sorobon Beach Resort and the famous and fun Hang Out Beach Bar, a much-loved Bonaire establishment for good times since 1988.

Bachelor’s Beach

This small stretch of white sandy beach is located in the Belnem district, conveniently located just south of the airport. Sitting at the bottom of a short 10 foot cliff, you can park just next to the top of the stairs and make your way down to this intimate and charming spot. This stretch is, like so many Bonaire beaches, perfect for snorkeling and diving.

The steps are just off the road and simple, and a quick descent to the water. The locals advise you just to watch your footing on the last of the steps where the ocean spray may have made it’s mark!

Te Amo Beach

This is one of the favorites of the Bonairean locals, a great place to spend time relaxing in every sense of the word – get a tan, take a swim, and then have a cook out! Like so many other Bonaire beaches, the sea life is abundant and beautiful, and only a snorkel away from the shore. During certain times of the day there is a local favorite stopping by – the Kite City food truck, which serves delicious fresh fish dishes!

Donkey Beach

Bonaire is a unique island in so many ways – one of which is the proliferation of wild donkeys that roam the local (as well as the wild) areas. Although this beach may be a bit of a misnomer, it’s a local favorite, a breathtaking spot for all things swimming and snorkeling.

This locale is ideal for both new visitors and frequent beach goers alike, as the weekends become a lively local spot with music, family fun and an atmosphere of good vibes!

Klein Bonaire (No Name Beach)

In addition to the popular beach spots on the main island, Klein Bonaire is a small, uninhabited island just 15 minutes away. The fastest way to get to Klein Bonaire from Kralendijk is by water taxi via Caribe Watersport, located at the Eden Resort Beach area directly across from Klein Bonaire, itself. On Klein Bonaire’s uninhabited shores you’ll find yourself at “No Name Beach”, a stretch of unbelievably soft, white sand and it’s signature blue waters gently lapping the shore. Make sure to bring your own snorkel gear (rentals are available at the resort as well!), because this beach is ideal for snorkelers of all skill levels as the shallows are easily navigable and the water is calm. No Name Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Bonaire, and one that will bring you the type of seclusion you’re looking for.

Make sure to also bring along a bag of water and snacks, however, because Klein Bonaire is uninhabited in every sense of the word! There are no drinking fountains or vendors, so pack whatever you think you’ll need from the mainland. Luckily it’s only a fifteen minute boat ride each way and the taxis travel to and from every couple hours. On the beach, there is a small pavilion area where you can catch some shade while not in the water or sunbathing, but keep that sunblock handy!

Buddy Dive Resort

This particular area is one of our favorites, despite the lack of sandy sunbathing areas. Buddy Dive has some of the most amazing snorkel and scuba areas we’ve seen on the island. There is a pool area and many beautiful places to relax.

In addition to the beauty, you can rent a waterproof camera for the day, swim to your heart’s content, and then they’ll give you a disc of every picture you took! The variety of fish in this particular spot is breathtaking once you put that mask on and start out down the ladder into the crystal clear water.

One addition to this spot is the restaurant, which offers amazing, fresh food, and you can sit overlooking the water. You may even have an iguana visitor or two looking for a fresh tomato or lettuce scrap. You’re encouraged not to feed them, but don’t worry – they’re very friendly! We snuck a few scraps to our reptile lunch companion a couple times!

Transportation Tips

The beauty of Bonaire also lies in the fact that it’s simplicity only adds to the tranquility. There are just two main roads on the island, one North and one South, which makes for easy navigation if you choose to rent a car from the airport while you’re there, though it isn’t necessary considering the proximity of every eventual activity you’ll be interested in.

Despite the lack of public transportation systems, taxis are very inexpensive and run by the always friendly and largely English-speaking locals. On our last visit we had the pleasure of taxiing around the island many times with Victor, a wonderful conversationalist and friend to everyone at our resort!

If you’re looking for more wind in your hair during your daily escapes, make sure to take a chance to pedal around the island via bicycle, both standard and all-terrain are available, or explore at a faster pace on an electric bike. Check out Scooters Bonaire or Bonaire Eco Cycling to rent your two-wheeled transportation for the day. Bonaire encourages this eco-friendly mode of travel by providing free charging ports in Sorobon, Rincon, and the Wilhelmina square in Kralendijk.

Sun to Sunset on the Island

Beyond the sea life and snorkeling, the island has much to entice any traveler looking for leisure, including beautiful resorts like Eden and Buddy Dive, both within minutes of the late nights of downtown Kralendijk (a fun and festive city so far off the beaten path that spellcheck can’t yet discern it’s name!).

All of Bonaire’s tranquil resorts, as well as the bustling and friendly downtown, cater to relaxation, ambiance and beauty, as well as excitement. At any moment you can find yourself drinking a Pina Colada in the pure definition of paradise, worlds away from any worries, woes, or car payments!

For nightlife in Bonaire, you won’t have to travel too far if you’re staying at one of the beautiful resorts just down the road from downtown. The most enjoyable weekend nightlife we’ve found is at Spice Beach Club, which is part of the waterfront Eden Resort. Offering delicious food as well as very reasonably priced cocktails, Spice lights up the Caribbean-facing cabanas every Friday night with live music, lights, and a genial party atmosphere that guarantees you’ll make at least 10 new friends after just a couple mojitos!

For dance enthusiasts, there are many options to move to the beat of your choosing, including Little Havana, Karel’s Beach Bar, and the Plaza Resort Bonaire which hosts Latin night every Saturday evening. With just a quick registration, the Plaza Resort also offers a free salsa workshop from 6 to 7 pm, after which you can dance with the best of them! If dancing isn’t your thing, head on over to the casino at Divi Flamingo, where you can also test your skills at the tables and slots, open late every night except Sunday. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Bonaire for even just a long weekend!

While in Bonaire, also make sure to have a few (or a lot!) of their local favorite, Amstel’s Bright beer. A refreshing addition to the beach and sun, Bright is served everywhere and is reasonably priced! In addition to this signature brew, lift a glass of the island’s newly created and brewed “Bonaire Blond”, a light and spicy citrus brew made with locally grown ingredients!

All in all, the nightlife in Bonaire is exciting, fun, and open till the wee hours of the night, maybe even long after you planned on turning in!

Salt Flats and Flamingos

A very unique aspect of this island is that, despite it’s minuscule size and uninhabitable wilderness, there lies one of the world’s only Flamingo Sanctuaries. The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary stands as a breeding ground for the beautiful pink bird, a key area due to the salt flats where they make their nests.

The sanctuary is off-limits to visitors, but while in the area (especially near Pink Beach) you’d be hard pressed not to witness a flock flying overhead. Bonaire’s flamingos hold the special distinction of being some of the pinkest in the world due to their diet, which is rife with red carotene!

Also, keep watch as they fly over, unlike their stunning upper feathers, their beauty is fully seen from beneath where the contrast of their ink-black wings can be appreciated as they fly overhead.

Bonaire’s Lasting Allure

There are so many things that can be said, described, photographed and remembered about this beautiful island. If you get the chance to see it, take it all in! From the warmth and friendliness of the people, to the fresh food, to the sheer beauty of the land and all the Caribbean sea has to offer, there may be no such unique experience to be had in this world.

Untouched for decades, it will remain so, which is just one more endearing and heartwarming quality about this astounding and life changing destination.

 

, , ,

The Unexpected Amsterdam


Amsterdam is ubiquitous. Everyone knows about the beautiful canals, the museums and, of course, the relaxed laws regarding what some would consider unscrupulous behavior. It’s a longed-for destination, a symbol of the devil-may-care within us all that might look for the taboo. To even say you’ve been to Amsterdam is met with an almost child-like joie-de-vivre, a look of a coy knowing what everyone knows. You went to Amsterdam to do something you can’t do here.

We all know Amsterdam – we think. As known as it may be, Amsterdam still serves as a dichotomous object – hidden and seen, forbidden yet open. So, what is Amsterdam? What is there to do in Amsterdam, beside the obvious? What is Amsterdam really?

Amsterdam is everything you think it is, and nothing you think it is.

Our recent time in Amsterdam was planned along with London and Dublin, a two-week excursion through Europe through a website we love called TripMasters.

Arriving late, Tracy and I cabbed with our two friends from Schiphol Airport to downtown Amsterdam instead of taking the last crowded bus to the city center. For the extra price, the time saved was valuable and we still got out of the cab for the Euro equivalent of about $25 per couple. Not bad. The cab driver was overwhelmingly nice, very accommodating and served as a great welcome to Amsterdam.

We checked into the A-Train Hotelideally located on Prins Hendrikkade across from Amsterdam Centraal in the city center and one of the best hotel deals in Amsterdam. I adored A-Train. The small, train-themed boutique hotel was comfortable, with cutesy locomotive-inspired theme throughout.

The front desk staff were all kind, welcoming and incredibly helpful, and the room itself was big enough, casual, clean and served its purpose for our stay. What was really neat was its proximity to a small, quaint neighborhood in the city center, and Tracy took the opportunity to get some early-morning shots over the beautiful Dutch homes.

If you’ve been to Europe, you know that most hotel rooms are much smaller than in the U.S., and Amsterdam is no different. Expect comfortable, but small. We had that, and we were happy about it given the very inexpensive price of the room, which was about $75 per night.

There are, of course, other options if you’re looking to kick in a few extra dollars. The Park Place Victoria is within a block of the A-Train, and for about $135 per night you can have a more lavish experience, or perhaps even the Bellevue Hotel at around the same price point. The Bellevue, one of the luxury hotels in downtown Amsterdam, is about as swank as you would want in a city as laid back as Amsterdam, and it’s level of class belies the fact that it’s in an area of centraal that is so packed with coffeeshops – but, more on those in a minute. Tracy and I? We don’t do swank very often, and as I mentioned, the A-Train gave us all the comfort we needed and was at a price that allowed us to do more with less.

So, the coffeeshops. We’re not talking about coffee, which is a very good distinction to know before visiting Amsterdam. You will not find coffee in coffeeshops unless you brought it yourself from the cafe next door. Cafes are where you get your caffeine. Coffeeshops are where you get (ahem…) other stuff, if you’re into that.

Now, there is an etiquette in these coffeeshops that you would be wise to know. First, alcohol isn’t sold in coffeeshops. Some used to sell beer, but in 2007 a Dutch ordinance was passed that mandated that these shops could sell either cannabis or alcohol, but not both. Secondly, you should know that the employees that work inside are both professional and helpful. This isn’t some 16-year old ne’er-do-well selling you a bag behind the lunch room, these are educated individuals who take their livelihoods very seriously, and their livelihood involves running a place where you can have a good time and be safe. Don’t buy too much, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you decide to enter one of these establishments.

Also, it’s okay if you’re just curious about the inside of these coffeeshops, but don’t care to actually partake. It’s actually common, in fact, as was more the case with me. Just don’t be giddy about it, if you understand what I mean. Be respectful, observe, be responsible – almost library-like. Okay, maybe not, but you understand. Lastly, try to stick to the coffeeshops on main strips and main roads – ones where you see people frequenting in and out of. Those will almost always be a better shopping experience, or just a better cultural experience if you aren’t going to actually partake.

One thing with the coffeeshops that is the same as everywhere else, and it is to this area that we’ll digress. Everyone in Amsterdam speaks English. I still found it proper and kind to know how to say “please” and “thank you”, as we always do in the native tongue, but it really isn’t needed in Amsterdam. In fact, most who live in Amsterdam speak four or five languages fluently, which is another reason why its such a popular destination for travelers from all over Europe and the western world.

Going to Amsterdam is easy. Having fun in Amsterdam is easy. Understanding it isn’t.

Amsterdam is like the person who wants to be understood for something other than his/her looks. Amsterdam is sexy. Everyone wants to be there, to party there, but Amsterdam is so much more than simply a place to get high.

Let’s talk about the food. First thing to know about the local food in Amsterdam is that you can probably leave your diet plan at home, as Amsterdam is very well known for delicious dessert-like snacks such as the Stroopwafel, two thin waffles stuck together with a layer of sweet syrup; these delectable delicacies are best enjoyed hot and gooey from a street market or on-the-go. Also common are Olleballen, a deep-fried sweet dumpling covered in powdered sugar. You want to try both, trust me. The food in Amsterdam is very underrated, as a place that normally doesn’t get discussed in the hierarchy of European culinary trends.

Amsterdam is, in many ways, a culinary mixture of the Nordic lands to the north and Germany to the south. The German influence is evident in the use of potatoes in many dishes as well as fried of cured meats, while much of the Scandinavian influence can be found in the use of Amsterdam’s proximity to the sea.

The Dutch share one well-known commonality with Denmark and Finland – herring. Herring is a thin whitefish typically found along coastal edges and are served great either smoked, salted or pickled. Herring can be eaten raw, as its found in many street carts throughout the city, and has a particularly sweet flavor throughout the summer months.

If raw fish is a bit too adventurous for you, and you’re looking for a delicious fried option, try the Kibbeling – which can be thought of as the Dutch version of the fish used in Fish and Chips. Kibbeling is normally made with cod, same as Fish and Chips, however normally served by itself with a herb mayonnaise sauce and lemon. It’s delicious, and quickly served via food cart to be eaten on-the-go.

Something that makes Amsterdam unique are the prominence of vending machines throughout the city (normally located near coffeeshops, go figure). Now, these aren’t any vending machine. You won’t find Doritos in these machine, but rather deep-fried goodness such as fried cheese dishes similar to cheese sticks or even bitterballen, delicious meat and potato-filled snacks that are often served in pubs with a mustard sauce.

You can’t find a better snack – you really can’t. These are so good, and very consistently made throughout the city in virtually any bar. I ate my body weight in bitterballen while we were in Amsterdam, and never got sick of them. They go absolutely perfectly with beer, and make for a great shareable dish among a couple or friends in your group.

Amsterdam is also much of a cultural cornerstone in terms of the arts and its many museum offerings. Amsterdam is home to many world-class museums that offing very inexpensive (sometimes free) entertainment that will deeply enrich your vacation experience.

Our favorite, as Tracy is an artist, was the Van Gogh Museum. If you’re less of an art fan, take advantage of the Anne Frank Museum – but get there early. Lines at the Anne Frank are long and form early, so make sure to plan ahead. Others you should plan on visiting are the National Maritime Museum, Rijksmuseum, the Hermitage or the Rembrandt House Museum. We were able to make ample time enjoying the museums in Amsterdam, and highly advise you do the same to make the most out of your trip!

A word on transportation – do not attempt driving a car in Amsterdam. Cars are outnumbered by bikes by a favor of more than 2:1, and bike is the preferred method of transportation around the city. Walking is the second most favored, and Amsterdam is a very walkable city. In terms of getting bikes, you can easily rent bicycles throughout the city for just a few Euros that will be yours to use, and yours to drop-off at any cooperating station.

Another popular method of transportation is via paddle-boat. The canals in Amsterdam are absolutely gorgeous, and offer numerous lines and routes you can take while self-navigating yourself throughout the city. You can get tickets through many sites that will combine the paddle-boat experience with other must-do activities, such as the Heineken Experienceat a very good price.

The views along these canals are absolutely beautiful, and really give you an idea of what the makes Amsterdam unique. It is a gorgeous, scenic city from land, sea or canal, and offers a great location to travel solo, as a couple or as a group.

Can you go to the Red Light District? Of course. Is it safe? Surprisingly. However, the Red Light District is for a certain personality to experience, and it’s not something we spent much time doing other than a walk-through for photo opportunities. The point is this – without the salacious elements everyone knows of Amsterdam, it’s still an ideal city to visit. Without those elements, it’s still a top three city in Europe by any measure.

Amsterdam is beautiful, as shown by its many parks such as the world-famous Vondelpark, where one can take a sandwich, relax with a bottle of wine and watch the day go by. Visit the Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, one of the most awe-inspiring gardens in the world. More than seven million flower bulbs are annually planted over this sprawling 79 acre estate, making a great opportunity for nature-lovers, couples and photographers.

Amsterdam offers what most major cities in Europe do, and so much more. She is impossible to define, and perhaps that’s what Amsterdam wants – to remain undefinable.

If you’re a beer-lover or culinarian, Amsterdam is for you. If you love natural scenery and beautiful parks? Amsterdam is for you. If you love history and museums, Amsterdam is for you. We love Amsterdam, and so will you.

If you want to get loose and have a bohemian time, you can do all of that. However, don’t get lost. The array of coffeeshops and the scandalous calling of the Red Lights District are certainly a part of what Amsterdam is – but a small part. There’s simply too much, for a city too grand, for Amsterdam to be categorized.

So, what is Amsterdam? Can you define it? Will she be what you think she is? Yes. And, no. Definitely, and absolutely not. Come to Amsterdam and expect to be amazed, surprised and captivated.

Most of all, expect the unexpected.

 

 

 

 

, , , ,

Where Do Couples Eat in Fort Lauderdale?


We’re fortunate enough to live in a place that, even when we’re not on the road, feels a lot like vacationing. Tracy and I moved to Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, and have since been amazed at the sheer depth of things there are to do in the Venice of America, as it’s called.

Fort Lauderdale isn’t a large city, with only around 200,000 residents in what is considered “proper” Fort Lauderdale. One really does need to make the distinction, as rarely is done, between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. It’s essentially two different planets. The food, the attractions and the cities themselves are different enough to necessitate separating Fort Lauderdale out from Miami in a food-focused post. There are, of course, plenty of reasons we travel, but Fort Lauderdale is a great place to call home when you can’t, and there’s plenty of things to do.

With that being said, Fort Lauderdale is a major tourist attraction in the U.S., and you can’t cover all of it in one post. The beautiful beaches, hot climate and vibrant atmosphere attract visitors from not only the rest of the U.S, but South America, Europe and throughout Asia as well. It is as diverse a place as there is in the United States for tourism, and its deep culinary underbelly reflects much of that.

Given the depths of all there is to experience, we’ve tried to gather as much information to give you a great start the next time you find yourself along Las Olas and A1A, looking for a place to fill you up that won’t break the bank!

Southport Raw Bar

Intracoastal view from the back deck of Southport Raw Bar

Type: Seafood

It’s first on our list for a reason.

Southport Raw Bar is a Fort Lauderdale landmark that has its beginnings in the early 1970’s, and has seemingly grown alongside the city. At the time, Fort Lauderdale was primarily an undeveloped beach town aside from the notoriety it had gained by being featured in the 1960 movie Where The Boys Are. Now, both are synonymous with “island-life” in South Florida.

When company or family comes to town, the first stop is Southport, one of the best seafood restaurants in Fort Lauderdale. With outdoor seating facing the Intracoastal waterway, some of the freshest seafood catch you can find in the Southern U.S. and cheap beer specials, you can come, fill up, slam a couple of pops and just get away for a while.

The service is friendly, the food is great, and the prices are some of the more affordable along the beach considering the quality of the experience. We highly recommend as a place that is sure to get you in the beach-mood.

Gilbert’s 17th St. Grill

Havarti-stuffed burger? On a date? Yes, actually!

Type: Grill

Gilbert’s isn’t just burger joint, it’s the burger joint.

Family-owned for more than forty years, Gilbert’s boasts a small menu that’s heavy on taste, including a selection of more than ten different hand-crafted burgers, grill platters with beef, fish and chicken as well as excellent salads and desserts.

However, don’t sleep on the sides at Gilbert’s. Get the legendary sweet potato fries to go with the blue cheese stuffed burger for a truly transcendental experience!

Looking to keep it thin for your fun in the sun? Gilbert’s offers plenty of lighter-fare options to keep you from feeling beached on the beach!

Wild Sea

An excellent spot for great seafood and a glass wine.

Type: Seafood/Fine dining

Why include a “fine dining” establishment in a post about where to eat on a budget? Wild Sea offers a first-class experience at third-class prices, with one of the most creative seafood menus in all of Fort Lauderdale. The menu is stunning, and you can get a great meal for under $20 per person.

If you know your seafood, I mean really know, Wild Sea offers great catch options outside of the norm such as Monkfish and Wahoo. The decor is elegant, the inside is cozy and warm while also feeling exclusive and providing the background setting for a great date night.

Tap 42

“Tap” is a great spot to meet with friends or have a great cocktail.

Type: Gastropub

Tap 42 is a newer Fort Lauderdale invention that is off-the-rails popular. A place for 30-somethings to both see and be seen, Tap 42 is most popular as a brunch location that gets busy early and stays that way.

Complete with bottomless drink menus both Saturday and Sunday, the brunch features American-based fare with flair, such as Chicago-Style Steak and Eggs and the “Hangover,” a colossus of a meal consisting of Turkey Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, White Cheddar and Maple Hollandaise between a French Toast Challah Bun!

Located just down the street from Las Olas and on the edge of downtown Fort Lauderdale, “Tap”, as its called locally, has also spread to neighboring areas in Boca Raton and Miami for those just outside of Lauderdale limits. Go hungry, stay long and take a cab. Trust me.

Il Mulino

You probably want this.

Type: Italian

Mention Italian food in Fort Lauderdale, and Il Mulino is bound to come up. Located on N Federal Highway next to one of our favorite theaters, The Gateway Theater, Il Mulino serves classic Italian dishes in a warm and inviting setting.

I, quite honestly, have a very hard time recommending what to get at Il Mulino. Why? Everything is outstanding. You want pizza in Fort Lauderdale? The good stuff they make in the old country? Go to Il Mulino. You want pasta? Il Mulino. Flatbread Rustico? Il Mulino.

Just go to Il Mulino, the best Italian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

Moonlite Diner

If you romanticize the 1950s like we do, sometimes nothing is more quaint and fun than an American classic – diners.

Type: Diner

Tracy and I are absolute suckers for diners. Put one in an Airstream bus or other silvery, shiny exterior mimicking an Airstream, and we go fully unglued into nostalgia for a time forgotten in America. Fort Lauderdale is like any city – it needs a great diner.

Don’t get fancy, just stay with the diner classics for a cool, romantic experience and a taste of Americana – split a chocolate shake, for example. Two straws, please!

Perhaps you and your love need a base-coat after a fun night out? You can’t go wrong with off-the-griddle hash-browns and a couple of eggs, sunny-side up!

Galanga

Tom Kha Gai? Yes, please.

Type: Thai Fusion

Galanga is a Thai-Sushi location in the Wilton Manors area in northern Fort Lauderdale, about 2 miles from downtown and only 3 miles west of the coast. We frequent here when we need an international fix, as Galanga serves up one of the best Red Curry dishes in all of South Florida.

The interior is soft and ambient, providing an ideal mood-setting spot that is incredibly relaxing. Best of all? Two entrees and a bottle of wine will get you out the door for under $40!

This is absolutely one of our favorite places in Fort Lauderdale, and it comes highly recommended.

Shuck n’ Dive

The Fried Green Tomatoes are excellent.

Type: Cajun

Shuck n’ Dive serves up Louisiana Cajun like no one else in Fort Lauderdale, including nightly specials coming both in plates and bottles! Shuck is a place we go to often when we’re looking for a relaxing outdoor setting where we can have a casual conversation or possibly take in a ballgame. Cajun may not sound like the ideal centerpiece for a date night, but it absolutely is.

The popular Cajun classics are on point – from Jambalaya to Crawfish, and we’ve probably eaten our body weight in oysters here. Very cool, very laid-back spot that’s great to pass a few hours and down a few buckets.

Nuevo’s Cubano’s

When is a Cubano ever a bad idea?

Type: Cuban

Want authentic Cuban? Want a real Cubano? Guava Pastelito? Empanada? Come here as soon as your plane lands and get the best Cubano in Fort Lauderdale.

Nuevo’s Cubano’s is a local fixture that stands on its own in a city full of great Hispanic food and tradition. Nuevo’s is exactly how you want a place to look when having one of the best sandwiches you’ve ever had – small, roadside, tight parking, fast service, cheap (under $10) and delicious.

With the location only three miles from the beach, it’s a great spot to sit down for a day-break, maybe even split a meal (they’re filling) and head to the beach. Wash it all down with a delicious Cuban Coffee for the road, and off you go!

Tom Jenkins BBQ

Type: BBQ

You can smell it when you drive by. It’s as though the scents reach into your car, grab the wheel, and pull you in. It’s good. It’s really good, and (as un-beachy as BBQ may be) you’ll do yourself a service to get the good stuff anywhere you can, anytime you can.

Tom Jenkins is by far the best BBQ in Fort Lauderdale, but that isn’t a disservice to the rest of the BBQ joints in the city because Jenkins is the best BBQ restaurant in most cities.

Listen, is BBQ a romantic food? No, of course not. But it’s a great way to find out if you have the right one with you. “You don’t like BBQ? Maybe I don’t like you.” There’s possibly no better love than someone that can help you take down a pound of brisket – let’s be honest.

Homemade food. Homemade sauce. Do it.

The Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown is possibly the best brunch spot in Fort Lauderdale.

Type: Brunch

Unquestionably a top-five brunch spot in Fort Lauderdale, The Foxy Brown is a personal favorite. It’s a place that feels somehow less than Floridian, and more in line with what one would experience in a Charlestonian breakfast or brunch. It has a bit of Southern Charm that is equal parts relaxing, delicious and intoxicating.

The small, warm environment includes a somewhat secluded seating area outdoors, and generally is full after about 10am on the weekends. They have an excellent choice of frittatas and benedicts, but I’m partial to the Hangar Steak Hash- a lead cut with 2 eggs and a chimichurri hollandaise that is somewhere lighter than it should be, and so good. A place where Tracy likes to go traditional, try the Patty Melt as well – it did, after all, inspire the rest of the menu!

La Bamba

Type: Latin

More of a fusion restaurant than purely Mexican, intertwining with classic Spanish dishes, La Bamba is a great location for couples looking to have a few margaritas and unwind.

A small, comfortable and traditional restaurant, the lines at La Bamba are often long – with good reason. Worth the wait? Without question. The traditional Ropa Vieja is outstanding, and I highly recommend the Costillas de Puerco – two seasoned pork chops topped with sauteed onions served with white rice, black beans and fried ripe plantains.

Date Night Special: Mod Wine Lounge & The Gateway Theater

Type: Neighboring establishments – Wine Bar & traditional 1950s movie theater

One of our favorite date night plans involves two neighboring locations.

Start your night at Mod with a bottle of wine and charcuterie plate, perhaps mixing in an elegant country pate in a quaint, beautiful bar with a 1960s flair. Reasonably priced given the quality, we’ve loved going to Mod and sitting outside on yet another impeccable Fort Lauderdale night and watching the city go by. Frank and Chad are the owners, and if you have an opportunity to speak with these two you’ll fall in love with their love for wine, for providing a first-class experience, and their sheer kindness and hospitality.

After you’re finished, walk the ten steps next door to the Gateway Theater, a traditional movie theater opened in 1951 that is as much Fort Lauderdale as the beach, itself. The Gateway hearkens back to a pre-AMC homogenized era where theaters had a sense of character while offering films not commonly shown in your run-of-the-mill chain theaters, including art films and foreign new releases not available anywhere else!

It’s easy for us to pick out a few of the best, ones that we’ve frequented and loved, but it’s hard to go wrong in Fort Lauderdale. With the ocean as your backdrop, the sound of the gulls as your soundtrack and the smell of salt and fresh catch in the air, it’s easy to find the right choice.

 

 

 

 

, , , , ,

Much Ado About Munich


There are some cities that remain as ambiguous after visiting as before, perplexing locations that seem to possess something hidden. Something complicated, something beyond label is just beyond the ability to define.

I suppose it was an ancestral want, the children of hundreds of years of American product that had previously called lands in the Netherlands and Germany home. We are children of sort of diaspora, where our Viking forefathers left colder Nordic lands in search of more fertile climate and better weather in neighboring Southern countries. We both wanted to see Germany, a place where the good, bad, ugly and the utterly abhorrent of history had all been present.

Cold? Yes. Worth it? Unquestionably.

Even now,  I look back in strange reflection of Munich, even upon planning a return trip. Who’s city is Munich, anyhow?  Does it belong to history, the namesake of 12th century Monks (Munichen, in old, high-German) who started a for-profit brewing practice that became synonymous with the city and the world’s largest annual celebration of beer and its brewing? Does it belong to the now-elderly generation of the 1930s and 1940s, who for more than 60 years have dealt with the reputation of being native to the city that flowered a ruthless dictator? Does it belong to the victims of that time? Does it belong to the tourist, who flock here each fall to revel in the Leiderhosen and bier? Or, does Munich simply belong to time herself?

Munich must belong to no one, a seemingly ancient Bavarian relic whose very existence is a watermark of human existence and the duality of human conscious potential – a city full of historical brilliance and madness, full of creativity and stagnation, of progress and death, of consciousness itself and the utter loss of it.

Munich is the capital of the old Bavarian world, positioned and re-positioned as the home for kings and even the Holy Roman Empire for hundreds of years scaling from the 12th century until the brink of war at the beginning of the 20th. A city currently just over a million-and-a-half people, Munich sits only 20 miles away from the Austrian border and is home to Oktoberfest, a yearly beer-making festival that you would have to live under a rock to not heard of. Each year, more than six million tourist spill into the city between the end of September and the first week of October, quadrupling the city’s population and making an otherwise quaint and quiet city quite the opposite.

Munich isn’t a city that is typically on one’s travel itinerary for the other eleven months out of the year. It’s a small-feeling, large city that retains its cultural roots in its food and architecture. However, Munich has seen many changes. It has gone from Bavarian stronghold and the site of religiosity in the middle ages, only to become the wellspring from which sprang the Beer Hall Putsch, the first overthrown attempt of Hitler’s fledgling Nazi party in 1923 that resulted in an arrested, wounded Hitler and a culturally divided Munich. The Munich people suffered much in the years to come, as their city was demolished by more than 70 air raids in the 1940s, leading to a rebuild of much of the city.

In recent years, however, Munich is experiencing a sort of renaissance. There are countless things to do in Munich, and its residents enjoy a high standard of living amidst the silent cornerstones of her dark and tumultuous history, with Munich ranking consistently in the top ten in European lifestyle rankings. Strong economy, great food, better beer and killer leiderhosen. Was it that which was on our mind when we first booked to visit this beautiful city in the plains? Strangely, no.

It was Sam Smith.

Planning a surprise birthday present, one finds it hard to resist cheap tickets in Europe to see your wife’s favorite musical artist – so, I bit. The first thing on our itinerary wasn’t a booked hotel, nor was it a seat on Lufthansa. Oh, no, friends… it was silky-smooth Sam. Engage brownie-points for the husband!

Any excuse to book a trip – even a surprise gift to see Sam Smith 5,000 miles away!

After purchasing the concert tickets at the Kesselhaus (which was subsequently moved to Zenith, a slightly larger club next door to the Kesselhaus), we booked the trip around the concert. In total, it was a 10 night affair split between London, Munich and Venice.

Upon arrival in Munich, we made our way to the city center via the U-Bahn, one of Europe’s more futuristic, clean and efficient public transit mediums. We checked into the Hotel Daniel, a slightly older, boutique hotel which is the kind of hotel we love to find in any great city. Hotel Daniel is clean, quaint and optimally located to the Karlsplatz in downtown Munich as well as the primary economic and tourist center. The staff was welcoming, the hotel was more than affordable, and it’s certainly a location you should check out.

The city is still rich with Bavarian culture, and by Bavarian we’re talking about something far older than the events of the last 100 years in Germany. The beer that was brewed by Monks more than 600 years ago has birthed the “big six” breweries, upon which is built the Oktoberfest celebration. These breweries include Paulaner, Lowenbrau, the famous Hofbrauhaus, Augustinerbrau, Hacker-Pschorr, and Spaten, all of which will give you a taste of the real Munich, and all of which still exist within a small, some say walkable area of the original city.

The beer that is synonymous with Munich bier culture, however, is and always will be Hofbrauhaus. Founded in 1589, it’s the Hofbrau beer that is most commonly shown in those pictures of head-sized frosted mugs flowingly freely. It’s good. It’s very good, and beyond the actual beer is a building and brewery that carries perhaps more of Munich’s history than any single entity or structure. The structure itself is the original, despite having been rebuilt due to bomb damage incurred during World War II, yet the original recipe, original music and original dress is very much alive within its walls. As touristy as it may be, you owe yourself a visit to Hofbrauhaus before moving along to less common ventures.

Proof of awesome seats at a great show!

Munich is a city that does, in fact, own its history and has learned from the good and bad they’ve experienced. We took part in a free walking tour of the city, lasting only a few hours and possessing great historical information about much more than the events of the early 20th century. There are more corporate city tours, but the one we prefer is by InMunich Tours , as the groups were smaller, more personable and the hosts were incredibly educational and helpful. Along the way, you’ll hit more than two dozen locations synonymous with Munich and Bavarian culture including the Englischer Garten, Marienplatz, Odeonsplatz and a sampling of the famous Hofbrau beer. It’s a definite must-do. And hey, what’s better than free?

It’s very clear that America, and certainly Southern America, derives much of its cuisine from German-inspired classics. The one thing you must have, if you only eat one meal, it’s the Weiner Schnitzel at Ratskeller in the city center. Schnitzel is the predecessor of the American Country Fried Steak, where German immigrants substituted their classic recipe requiring veal for a simpler ingredient to find in the new world – beef. It’s a simple, delicious, satisfying dish made with thin strips of veal battered and fried, typically paired with either poached or mashed potatoes.

Oddly enough, Munich’s location makes it more culturally diverse as a food destination than one might think. A short drive to both Austria and even Italy, Munich borrows much from its surrounding neighbors. One great place to experience the relative eclecticism is Limoni Ristorante, perhaps one of the best Italian restaurants serving local, Bavarian draught beer. Limone serves predominantly Venician cuisine, yet caters to the local flavor by adding a unique Munich cheese menu, which is center to Bavarian culture.

For your more adventurous food tastes, Munich is a great city to experience more adventurous dishes such as blutwurst (or, blood sausage), which are sausages filled with blood that are cooked or dried and mixed with filler and seasonings until thick enough to solidify when cooled. Strange as it may seem if you haven’t had it, it’s delicious and far less adventurous or strange tasting as you may imagine.

Munich is, however, much more than just sausage and beer. One of the true artistic landmarks in all of Europe, Munich benefits much from it’s ancient, Bavarian heritage, which is on display and wonderful museums such as the Munich Residenz directly in north-central Munich or the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of technology, covering more than 50,000 square meters and displaying 17,000 artifacts. If you’re a museum buff, also check out the Bavarian National Museum, founded in 1855 by King Maximilian II.

Munich offers great cafes around virtually any corner.

Lastly, one final artistic must is the Glypytothek in Koningsplatz. The Glyptothek – a name derived from the Greek “glyptik,” meaning sculpture – is the oldest museum in Munich. Completed in 1830, this Neoclassical building houses one of Europe’s foremost collections of sculpture, much of it assembled in the early 19th-century by King Ludwig I, a great lover of ancient art. Being the oldest museum takes its influence beyond simply the Bavarian, as the museum contains much of central Europe’s Roman, Greek and Etruscan history.

Yet, Munich really is known first-and-foremost for the beer. We had it early, had it often, and had it always. We had it upon our first lunch, and we had it before heading to the Zenith alongside hundreds of rowdy Bayern-Munich fans, whom accompanied us along our path on the U-Bahn. It goes with everything. A cool frosted mug goes with the weather, it goes with the clothing – it seemingly goes with walkingIf you make it to Munich, you absolutely have to find yourself on a drinking tour of the city. These are most often historical, most often educational and always fun. It’s the type of trip that helps break down walls, and by the end of which you’ll find yourself having made friends.

While Munich starts and ends and beer, there’s clearly more. There’s clearly more aside from Oktoberfest. There’s wonderful food, helpful people and perhaps one of the cleanest cities in all of central Europe. It’s safe, fun, quiet most of the year and incredibly easy to enjoy oneself in. Perhaps it’s one of the greatest unknown sentinels of historic elegance in all of Europe, and perhaps you should find yourself there.

So, who really owns Munich? Well, perhaps the locals. Perhaps the tourists. But most importantly, perhaps you should go, claim your own piece and call it your own.

 

7 Delicious & Simple Beer-Based International Recipes


For all of our fellow beer lovers out there traversing the world, here are a few recipes that are simple, delicious, and just a bit boozy! We also love to cook, so what better way to incorporate our favorite things than trying out a few international recipes and cooking with beer! Try a few of these at your next dinner party, and pair them with a couple pints of your favorite beer for an international, tasty and festive good time!

  1. Irish Cheesy Chive Guinness Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 12-ounce bottle or can of Guinness (or other Irish stout beer)
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese to mix with bread
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese to top bread
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375° F. Line one 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, or alternatively, coat with butter.
  • In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Slowly pour in the Guinness and mix until the dough is consistent. Fold in the 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese and the chopped chives.
  • Spoon the batter to your prepared pan. After spreading evenly, pour the melted butter over top of the dough.
  • Bake about 30 minutes then sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar over the top. After you’ve added the cheese, bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes a toothpick inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
  • Serve warm (with additional butter, if desired) and enjoy!

  1. German Cream Cheese Beer Dip (Super Easy!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup German beer of choice
  • 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  • This one is so simple – In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat the cream cheese, beer and dressing mix until smooth.
  • Once thoroughly mixes, stir in the cheddar cheese.
  • Serve with pretzels or twisty baked bread sticks and enjoy!

  1. Bavarian Beer Mac N Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups macaroni pasta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Amber Ale or Pilsner
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbs Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Panko breadcrumbs for topping

Instructions:

  • Cook the pasta until just al dente. Rinse, strain and set aside. While the pasta cools, melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat, then add garlic and stir.
    Slowly mix in the flour, continuously whisking for one minute. (The roux should be golden brown.)
  • Next, whisk in the milk and beer of your choice, then bring the pot to a boil until the mixture has thickened. Reduce heat and add in the cheeses, stirring until melted.
  • Now that the cheese mixture is ready, add your noodles and stir well. Use salt and pepper to taste.
  • After stirring, transfer the noodles into a baking dish and top with breadcrumbs to taste.
  • Bake your dish at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  • Top with bacon bits or hot sauce if you’d like! Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy your Bavarian beer mac n cheese with a fresh pint of Pilsner!

  1.  Scottish Crock Pot Beer & Barley Brisket

Ingredients:

  • 2-2.25 lb. Beef Brisket
  • 3 large Potatoes
  • 2 Onions
  • 1 large Carrot
  • ¼ Turnip
  • ¼ cup Barley (Pearl Barley preferred)
  • 2 cups Dark Ale (like Guinness or a London Porter)
  • 2 cloves Garlic – crushed
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Instructions:

  • Thinly slice the potatoes and onions and layer them alternately in the bottom of the crock pot. Place the brisket on top of this base.
  • Peel and cube the carrot and turnip and add them along with the barley to the slow cooker around the sides of the beef in the pot.
  • Crush the garlic and rub it over the top of the brisket, then season it with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the dark ale over the vegetables around the meat. Mix together the Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce and spoon over the brisket.
  • Set your crock pot to low and simmer for 8 hours.
  • Once done, enjoy this meal on it’s own or on a slice of bread as a sandwich! This particular recipe keeps well in the fridge for leftovers as well.

  1. Canadian Bacon and Beer Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 pound Canadian bacon, diced
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen cut green beans, thawed
  • 1/3 cup beer (Molsen or other Canadian beer)
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 3 tbs white vinegar
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp grated onion

Instructions:

  • In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the beans, beer and butter to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until beans are crisp yet tender.
  • Place a layer of paper towels on a plate and move your cooked bacon over to drain/soak. Next, move beans to separate bowl with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
  • In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, cornstarch and onion, whisking until blended.
  • Stir the sugar mixture into the original bean saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.
  • Add beans to the mixture and heat through, then simply sprinkle with bacon!

  1. Spanish Crock Pot Beer Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lb. chicken, quartered or skinless breasts
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Garlic salt to taste
  • 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 3/4 c. Spanish beer (6 oz.)
  • 1 sm. jar stuffed olives with liquid
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Mix your spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Wash the chicken pieces and season with the mixture of salt, pepper, paprika and garlic, and place in crock pot. In a separate bowl, mix the tomato paste and beer together and pour over chicken.
  • Add olives and liquid to the pot, and any cayenne pepper for spice (always to taste!), then cover and cook on low 7 to 9 hours.
  • Serve over rice or noodles!

  1. German Beer and Cheddar Fondue

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (16 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Stout German beer
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Pretzel sticks and sliced smoked sausage to dip

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl, combine cheese and flour, mixing well. In a small saucepan, heat the beer, garlic, mustard and pepper over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pan.
  • Reduce heat on the saucepan to a medium-low; add a handful of the cheese mixture to start, stirring constantly, using a figure-eight motion, until almost completely melted.
  • Continue adding cheese mixture, one handful at a time, stirring well and allowing the cheese to almost completely melt between additions.
  • Keep warm and serve with pretzels and sausage, or any other dipping treat you’d like!

Cheers to all the delicious and boozy foods from around the world!

, ,

Pass the Chips: Exposing the Myth of Bad British Cooking


London’s culinary heritage is as old as the city itself, and just as diversified despite the commonly (and incorrectly) assumed notion that British food essentially begins and ends at Fish and Chips. British cooking is, in equal parts, (admittedly) bizarre, creative, bold, diversified and, above all, delicious.

As with most places, London’s traditional cooking history is a reflection of what the early settlers had available and what the landscape offered. England enjoys relatively short summers, and gives way to a generally cool, wet weather throughout most of the winter months. This created the need to properly preserve what they could find through methods such as curing, brining, pickling and smoking both meats and what vegetables the terrain offered. These dishes were perfected into tradition, passed along family to family over centuries and now exist as a part of the national identity.

Many traditional English chefs have popularized a trend called “snout-to-tail” dining, wherein there lies a concentration of using all parts of the animal, literally from snout to tail. One such chef is the famous Fergus Henderson, a British culinary legend and the founder of St. John on St. John Street in London. He has published three books on the topic of snout to tail (or, nose-to-tail) cuisine and is considered one of the preeminent expert chefs on the subject.

In fact, London has become a sort of a hotbed for the “celebrity chef” movement that really started with Marco Pierre White who moved to London in the late 70s and began his classical training as a commis with Albert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche. White trained or inspired many currently famous chefs, such as Gordon Ramsey, while becoming the first British chef to earn three Michelin stars (having done so by the age of 33!).

What many who haven’t been to London don’t realize is that there’s another element to British cooking that has become as much of the national fiber as the traditional, country dishes. The foundation of the East India Company in 1601 opened trade between England and India, bringing in not only Indian migrants but the traditional recipes they possessed. Today, in fact, England’s national dish isn’t Fish and Chips, but rather Chicken Tikka Masala!

Britain’s national dish- Chicken Tikka Masala.

Yet, if you think Anglo-Indian cooking is all about Chicken Tikka Masala, you would be quite wrong. Apollo Banana Leaf, located in Tooting in South London, is well-known among British culinarians for recipes that range from classic to the simply creatively stunning in Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine. You should also try Chai Ki in Canary Wharf, a magnificently-styled restuarant that serves a more casual from dining area to a three-course concentrated back area with convictions in more high-end Indian classics.

London offers much to the senses, and we’ve narrowed down a short list of dishes you simply must try on your next visit if you’ve never been. If you’re inexperienced with the brilliance of British cooking, you can’t go wrong with most of the traditional dishes. There are spins on the old classics, and we’ll point you to where you can get a great modern dish as well as where to find some of the Anglo-Indian classics that add to the texture of the London culinary culture.

  • Fish and Chips- Fish and Chips is a hot dish, that everyone knows, of English origin consisting of fried battered fish (typically cod) and hot chips (fries, in America). It’s often served with a side of slaw made from cabbage, and is a common take-away or pub food that can be found virtually anywhere in London. You really can’t go wrong finding a good Fish and Chips in London. Generally rule of thumb is that if you see a decent number of people at a pub in a somewhat busy part of town, get the Fish and Chips if it’s on the menu.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala- Chicken Tikka Masala is chicken tikka, which are chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt that is then baked in a tandoor oven and served in a masala (spice mix) sauce. Delicious! A tomato and coriander sauce is common, but there are many derivatives. The sauce usually includes tomatoes (frequently as a purée), cream, coconut cream and various spices. The sauce or chicken pieces (or both) are colored orange using foodstuffs such as turmeric powder, paprika powder or tomato purée. Punjab in Covent Garden is an absolute must if you’re looking for creativity and tradition in Indian cuisine.

    A tradition- Bangers and Mash should be on your list if you’ve never had this dish.

  • Bangers and Mash- Bangers and Mash, also known as Sausages and Mash, is a traditional British Isles dish made of mashed potatoes and sausages, the latter of which may consist of a variety of flavored sausage made of pork or beef or a Cumberland sausage. It is often topped with an onion gravy, or paired with fried onions, baked beans or peas. You can get this virtually anywhere in the city, and it will excel in the same type of pub that will give you that great Fish and Chips.
  • Sunday Roast- The Sunday Roast is a traditional British main meal that is  served on Sunday. The dish consists of roasted meat, roast potato, and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and onion gravy. Vegetables such as roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, runner beans, broccoli are included and can be cooked in different styles; for example, cauliflower or leeks accompanied by a cheddar cheese sauce are popular, in addition to the onion gravy. Blacklock in Soho makes a Sunday Roast that is absolutely stunning.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding- Sticky toffee pudding is a steamed dessert consisting of a very moist sponge cake, made with finely chopped dates, covered in a toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream. It’s fairly dense and normally a large enough portion when ordered to necessitate sharing. It’s very traditional and common, but the one at Hawksmoore Knightbridge in Brompton is probably the best we’ve ever had.
  • Bubble and Squeak- Bubble and Squeak is  made with the shallow-fried leftover vegetables from a roast dinner. One trend you will see is that the English are very wise with their ingredients and make plenty of use from the leftovers, and Bubble and Squeak is no different. The main ingredients are potato and cabbage, but carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, or any other leftover vegetables can be added. The chopped vegetables are fried in a pan together with mashed potatoes or crushed roast potatoes until the mixture is well-cooked and brown on the sides. The dish is so-named because the cabbage makes bubbling and squeaking sounds during the cooking process. Keep this one traditional, and get it at any pub with a decent crowd in the city center.
  • Scotch Eggs- A Scotch Egg consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried. It’s often served with a curry mayonnaise sauce, and is a popular appetizer or small dish for pub food. There aren’t many derivations on this classic, but we’ve rather enjoyed The Ginger Pig as the source for the sausage is local, and the restaurant itself has an on-site butcherer.

    Scotch Eggs, while simple, are a “must” and one of our favorites.

  • Yorkshire Pudding- Yorkshire Pudding is  made from batter consisting of eggs, flour, and milk or water. It is often served with beef and gravy and is part of the traditional Sunday roast as a side or dessert. Check out Reform Social & Grill in Marylebone to find a great rendition.
  • Meat Pies- The English enjoy a variance of pie recipes, but not the sweetened dessert pies we often think of in America. Rather, these are denser, dinner pies typically made with a combination of meat and other savory ingredients such as mashed potatoes, cream, onion gravy and cheese. Variances include Steak and Kidney pie and Shepherd’s Pie, which is a popular dish consisting of beef, potatoes, peas, onion gravy and often cheese. You can get these simply anywhere from the more working-class areas, to four-star restaurants and even the God-forsaken Tesco, which we’ve found ourselves strangely fond of using for a quick snack.
  • Full Breakfast- Also called the “Full Load,” a full breakfast is a breakfast meal, usually including bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, black and white pudding (a mixed fried cake consisting of blood and oatmeal) and a variety of other cooked foods, with a beverage such as coffee or tea. Any pub worth its salt will have a great Full Breakfast, but so should your hotel. The Breakfast Club in Soho does a great job of staying mostly traditional with this fatty, delicious dish.

You will need something to wash this all down with, and while a British Ale or Lager is always a good idea, you might want to go with a traditional Builder’s Tea. Builder’s Tea is a British English colloquial term for a strong cup of tea, and takes its name from the inexpensive tea commonly drunk by laborers taking a break in the midst of a long and difficult work day. A Builder’s Tea is typically brewed in a mug with a teabag (as opposed to loose tealeaves in a teapot), with full-fat milk and two teaspoons of sugar.

The Breakfast Club is a great London spot, with multiple locations, where you can enjoy a great traditional breakfast.

A proper cup of tea is just as British as the Queen herself, and Londoners certainly have an appreciation for it. You should too. The best way to enjoy your first cup on your next trip is preferably outside, patio-side watching the day move past you. Pick an area that has a little bit of traffic near a historic landmark. You could be all posh with it and go to the Savoy, but you’ll seriously be making a mistake if you do.

Too many people go to London and almost immediately order a Guinness, which is all fine and well, but it’s not exactly a compliment to your thoughts on British brew. British beers have a bit more variety than their Irish counterparts, and run nearly across the entire scale when it comes to all that there is to offer in Stouts, Ales, Lagers or even Bitters. If you’re in the mood for more of a Stout, something to replace the Guinness and get truly British, go with something like a Young’s Double Chocolate or a Harvey’s Imperial. For something a bit milder, a wonderful British bitter is Boddington’s (say that three times, fast) and a great golden lager is made by Fuller’s, which can be found at virtually any pub in the city center. In fact, most of the previously mentioned brands make a bit of something for everyone, especially Fuller’s and Young’s, while Boddington’s stays primarily with it’s core product, the bitter.

As you can see, any previously conceived notion that British cooking is, in any way bad, is hopelessly outdated. The traditional dishes have indeed taken on a life of their own and are not nearly as intimidating as most of us “yanks” might believe. In fact, think about much of the cooking along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Think about the meals your grandmother made. How much more British could it have been? These are far from foreign classics, but rather human classics that have followed American migrants over from our motherland hundreds of years ago.

It’s a short stretch to go from Bangers and Mash to the Sausage and Potatoes breakfasts I had growing up as a child, and it’s really no stretch at all to conceive of Chicken Pot Pie coming from a multitude of popular British Pie dishes. Food has a way of tying together people, and loose ends. It has a way of reminding us where we’re from, and in many ways where we’re going. Whatever you’ve heard about British cooking, whatever you think you know, think differently. Britain, and London specifically, stands culinarily proud on its own, and comes second to no one. Not even New York. Not even Paris.

So go there. See it, taste it, experience it for yourself. Sit outside. Watch the city pass you by and immerse yourself into the awesome culinary tradition that is London.