Tag Archives: Restaurant reviews

Family Fun in Myrtle Beach From Two Perspectives

We recently vacationed in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with our close friends, Jeff and Terry. Between us we have four kids ranging in age from 8-10 years old. This was our third visit together to Kingston Plantation and, once again, a great time was had by all.

Those of you with young children know that life is much easier when you take them to eat at places where they want to go. However, that doesn’t always result in the adults getting decent food. Luckily, I have a couple of recommendations that kids of all ages should like, from two perspectives.

Kid Perspective

Ultimate California Pizza Sports Zone  (959 Lake Arrowhead Rd, Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29572) was right up the road from our condo and where we went our first night. I have to admit I was not expecting much from this place, and anticipated cardboard-tasting pizza in a loud place (it has an arcade, which is the main attraction) that was sure to bring on a headache before I left. But they do serve alcohol and since it’s all about the kids anyway, off we went. And I was pleasantly surprised, enough to go back a second time later that week.

I thought the food was good – especially the pizza, and was happy that a number of vegetarian specialty pies were on the menu. I tried the personal size Santa Cruz  pizza and it was quite tasty, with artichokes, black olives, red onions, feta, roma tomatoes, and mozzarella. The crust was nice and chewy. While it’s not on my top-5 favorite pizza list, I’d certainly eat it again. The rest of our group, including the kids, ordered various pizzas and said they were all good.

The restaurant has full ABC permits and the beer selection is pretty decent. A number of flat screen TVs are in the restaurant/bar area, showing various sports.

What makes this place great for the kids is the arcade, of course. Lexi hit it big our second visit and won 1,000 tickets on a machine – she was just too happy for words. I decided to try my luck as well, and had a great time. Gabe was happy since he was on the receiving end of the majority of my tickets (and I won quite a lot!) and to no surprise “Mr. I’m the funniest boy in the world” redeemed some of them for a mega whoopie cushion.

Overall, Ultimate California Pizza Sports Zone is a great place for the kids, and not bad for the adults!

Adult Perspective

Now, to switch gears a bit. The kids always want to go to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (1114 Celebrity Circle, Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29577 ) whenever we’re in Myrtle Beach for a number of reasons, including the hurricane blender  -

the balloon-making guy on stilts -

and the proximity of the carnival rides less than two minutes away.

BTW – the adults do not mind to oblige, because it’s always five o’clock somewhere.

Kudos to Margaritaville’s brilliant marketing and management teams for making this place appear to be suitable for kids. Think about it – is a restaurant named after an alcoholic beverage and a song by a crazy musician known for some of the most drunken concerts I’ve ever been to really appropriate for children? Well, of course it is – at least that’s what we can tell ourselves as we suck down our margaritas and beers while the kids are entertained with balloon animals and hurricane shows. As long as the kids can score something at the gift shop and go on the rides when we leave then they are happy, which in turn makes us happy.

I’ve eaten at other Margaritaville locations  and the food is consistently good – the nachos are superb and I’ve been saved by many a cheeseburger in Key West and Las Vegas (before kids, of course.) On this trip I had the Jumbo Lump Crab and Shrimp Salad, which was a blend of shellfish tossed with rotini pasta, olives, tomatoes, carrots and lemon-herb vinaigrette served atop a bed of mixed greens. It was tasty and fresh and I would definitely get it again, but to be perfectly honest I would have ordered a cheeseburger had I not been in vegetarian world. Just because. For some reason I forgot to take pictures of the food, so I’ll show you a picture of my 5 o’clock Somewhere drink ;)

The next time you visit Myrtle Beach with kids in tow, keep both of these places in mind – they are fun for young and old alike!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Restaurant Review: Mura – Raleigh, N.C.

We recently had an unexpected night away from the kids and decided to go to Mura at the last minute. This is becoming one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh. Located in the once again trendy North Hills shopping center off of Six Forks Road, Mura is a beautiful Japanese fusion restaurant, serving Kobe beef, a variety of steaks, seafood, mixed cuisine and the finest grade sushi. It has won a handful of “best-of” awards since opening in 2008.

This was my third (or fourth) visit to Mura, and it keeps getting better each time!

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Restaurant Review: Solera – Minneapolis, Minn.

Those of you who have been following my blog know that I recently was in Minneapolis on a business trip. It was my first visit to this city, and I would love to go back. My hotel was in walking distance to a number of great restaurants in the heart of downtown and I was able to dine at four great ones while I was there: two for lunch, two for dinner.

A couple of the places that I have already reviewed  – Crave and Zelo -  I stumbled upon on my own. I found Hell’s Kitchen, also reviewed earlier, on the Internet and my hotel staff whole heartedly gave it their blessing. This final restaurant review is on Solera, which a colleague (and fellow foodie) highly recommended at a meeting my last day in Minneapolis. I am so glad I took her advice – a fantastic way to end my trip!

Solera (900 Hennepin Ave) is cheerful on the outside and that spills over to the inside as well. I decided to start at the rooftop bar- why not, my meetings were over! Even though it was overcast, it was still pleasant up there.

If you peeked through a few of the buildings facing out from the left of the bar, you could see a sliver of Target Field, home of the Twins. From the right, you could see Crave’s rooftop bar. The background music was some techno dance mix, which was cool. One of the bartenders told me that on Sundays during the summer, Solera and Crave throw big parties and have music blasting and are packed – quite a fun and festive scene! (*Note to self – go back in the summer on a Sunday.)

I ordered one of Solera’s specialties – the signature sangria ($12.00.) Cocktails are only served in plastic cups (ick) on the rooftop, some type of city ordinance I’m sure. This sangria was good. It was made with Castano, Courvoisier and Lazzaroni, topped with Coca-Cola and  small bits of orange and green apples. I must admit I prefer my own sangria, but I wouldn’t turn this one down. The service was good and the bartenders were nice.

I went downstairs after finishing my sangria to order some dinner. I wound up sitting at the bar, which I often do when I’m dining alone, especially when I’m out of town. Usually the bartenders are friendly and I learn more about the city I’m visiting.

Upon Graham’s (the bartender) recommendation, I ordered a glass of the Codorniu Brut Rosé from Spain ($8.00). It was refreshing and had nice strawberry and cherry flavors. I love bubbly, and will occasionally switch to a less traditionally rosé every now and then. This one did not disappoint.

Solera is known for its tapas, but also offers platos fuertes (main entrees) with choices of fish, chicken, steak and paella. I decided to sample some of the tapas, and started with the piquillo peppers ($5.00) These had herbed goat’s milk cheese and spicy garlic butter. The combination of the flavors exploded in my mouth. Yum!

Again on Graham’s advice, I ordered the beluga lentils ($7.00), mainly because I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients. It came with a poached farm egg, frisée, truffle oil and grilled bread and was excellent! This was my favorite of the three tapas I tried. OMG – the egg was perfectly cooked and it was just a wonderful symphony of flavors throughout the dish. Get this if you go. Seriously. Get this.

Lastly, I got the Tortilla Espanola ($5.00), which came with roasted shallots, potato, arugula and manchego aioli. This had a wonderful texture and was quite tasty! It would be great as a breakfast/brunch entree.

While I was eating my tapas, I noticed Graham making what looked like a mojito, but saw him adding white wine as the base. When I asked what he was making, he replied it was Solera’s S&M sangria ($9.00), which consisted of Verdejo (a white wine from Spain’s Rueda region), strawberry and mint. So, for all purposes, it is a mojito disguised as sangria, or visa versa.

Of course I had to try one, especially since I love mojitos and sangria, as mentioned in my earlier posts on both of these drinks. Okay, I have to admit I liked the name of the drink, and bonded with it well. It was wonderful – light and refreshing – another re-create at home as soon as my mint starts taking off!

I loved this place and will be back. The service was casual and friendly, and Graham was a great bartender with funny stories and full of tidbits about the city. The food was reasonably priced and good – plenty of choices for vegetarians and pescatarians.


  • Price:   Great         Price is right, both drinks and food.
  • Service: 4.75         Great overall (5.0 in restaurant bar.)
  • Food:   4.75           Tasty, fresh, innovative.
  • Recommend:        In a heartbeat!
  • Kid friendly:         Maybe, depending on the kid’s tastes. Mine
    wouldn’t get it at this point.

1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb

Eat, drink and be merry!

Restaurant Review: Zelo – Minneapolis, Minn.

I had the pleasure of eating lunch at Zelo on a recent business trip to Minneapolis. Located at 831 Nicollet Ave South, it was just a couple of blocks from my hotel. When I walked by, most of the outside seating was full, and since it was quite windy, I decided to get a table inside. It was very crowded, which I took as a great sign, but I only had to wait about five minutes to be seated. Zelo appears to cater to the business crowd, at least at lunch – I had the feeling it was a place to see and be seen. But as crowded as it was when I first arrived, it quickly cleared out when lunch hours were over. Of course, I was more interested in the food, and was happy to see a number of “best restaurant” awards displayed.

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Restaurant Review: Crave – Minneapolis, Minn.

I wound out up at Crave after an adjustment to my original plan to go to 112 Eatery to check out Isaac Becker’s cuisine (I recently mentioned him in my Top Tips from Food Network Magazine blog). Luckily, the walk to 112 Eatery from my hotel room was only about 15 minutes. Unluckily, when I arrived there was a flyer on the door that it was closed for kitchen renovations and would reopen the next day. Sigh, major sigh.  Especially walking with plantar fasciitis. However, a cool looking place, Crave, was right across the street from my hotel. Thank you, renovation gods, what a great experience I had at Crave!

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Restaurant Review: Mesa Grill, Las Vegas, Nevada

I love Bobby Flay – from his “show-downs” and other shows on Food Network TV to his cookbooks and products, he has it going on. As I mentioned in my Vegas blog: “The Great”  whenever we’re in Vegas, we always go to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill for lunch. I love this place, especially the margaritas and the Mesa burger. Since I wasn’t eating meat on this last visit, I branched out and got something different meal-wise – smoked shrimp tacos – Wow! But I did stay with my tried-and-true delicious cactus pear margarita – always a treat!

This was the first time Dan and Wanda (Brad’s parents) tried Mesa Grill, and I think they’ll be back. It’s a cool, eye-catching yet inviting space right next to the sports book in Caesar’s Palace.

We started with a round of drinks – Dan had a beer  (some sort of microbrew ale) and the rest of us had the cactus pear margaritas  ($13.00 ea.) These are made with Corazon de Agave Blanco tequilla, cactus pear syrup and fresh lime juice. Refreshing, and not too sweet. You just don’t find these margaritas elsewhere. They are awesome and one of the reasons I insist on coming back to Mesa Grill each visit to Vegas. Check out my upcoming blog on marvelous margaritas – this one makes the cut!

After we ordered our meals, our server (who was attentive, knowledgeable and funny) brought us a fresh basket of assorted bread. I tried the jalepeno cheddar bread- yum. Just enough heat, and the texture was great. Wanda loved the corn muffins.

Wanda had the Cremini Mushroom Quesadilla ($14.00), which she raved about. It was made with Fontina and ricotta cheeses, and came with a fried egg on top. If I’m in veggie world next Vegas visit, I will probably get this.

Brad and Dan had the Mesa burgers. Brad knew what to expect, and it is the one thing on the menu that’s hard to resist. Dan had a look of surprise when his burger arrived – he couldn’t believe how big it was! At $16.00 for a burger (served with double cheddar cheese, grilled Vidalia onions and fries on the side) it’s actually a good deal considering all of the food you get. They both loved their burgers, and I was jealous, but it turned out that I shouldn’t have been.

I ordered the Smoked Shrimp Tacos Plus Salsas ($22.00). These rocked! The shrimp were perfectly grilled and the accompanying salsas and guacamole were fresh, tasty and perfect. I was served six spicy shrimp and two flour tortillas, plus plenty of sides, and by the time I was through I was quite the happy camper. A bit pricey for lunch, but ooooh, ooooh, so good!

Other mainstays on the menu that I can recommend from previous trips to Mesa Grill include the Cornmeal Crusted Chile Relleno and the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. All great. I’m ready to go back now!


  • Price:   4.5 - Pricey, especially for lunch, but worth it!
  • Service: 4.75   – Consistently good on numerous visits.
  • Food:   4.75      Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum.
  • Recommend:   Yes, I will keep coming back for more!
  • Kid friendly:   I guess, but Vegas is no place for kids. Don’t get me started.

1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb

Viva, Las Vegas!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Restaurant Review: Coquette Brasserie, Raleigh, N.C. – Ooh La La!

“A coquette is like a recruiting sergeant, always on the lookout for fresh victims” – Douglas Jerrold

Located in Raleigh’s North Hills shopping area, Coquette Brasserie is a great French restaurant owned by Kevin and Stacey Jennings of the Urban Food Group. It is in the same location that was originally Savannah Restaurant and then South. I was sad to see South close (I had some of the best fried chicken ever there), but was excited see another restaurant from the Jennings, who also own Frazier’s Wine Bar and Porter’s City Tavern on Hillsborough Street as well as Vivace, also in North Hills.

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Hello world!

Welcome to Kel’s Cafe of All Things Food (and drink, of course!) I hope you will visit often to read and comment on my posts that will include recipes, restaurant reviews, wine recommendations and just about anything pertaining to great food and spirits.