Barnyard. The Monster supports his Venice. He watched from his office virtually across the street as the lame Benice (Venice local hangout place since 1985…so the sign proclaimed) was transformed into a hip, hopefully destination dining venue.
His luck proves on as he scores an invite to opening night friends and family. The front room bar and back “patio” are Venice chic, the crowd Venice beachy/arty, the buzz immense. So, how does the evening unfold…?
Somewhere on his food peregrinations The Monster heard Salvemini’s had some of the best pizza in the valley. It’s not everyday one finds themselves in Sherman Oaks starving to death and only minutes from perishing (hyperbole, but close to truth) but this proves one of those days for The Monster. And so Salvemini’s it is.
Not much to look at, this is a few tables inside and out. It appears delivery must make up a lot of the business because the restaurant isn’t terribly crowded at lunch. On this day an Israeli is having an animated conversation with someone across the restaurant about the state of Israel, the holocaust and El Al Airlines. It lasts the entire time The Monster is eating. Awesome.
A blink and you miss it storefront (currently with no sign) on Santa Monica is newcomer Tacos Punta Cabras. With a few tables inside and out and counter ordering, this is a fast (if they aren’t busy) and inexpensive (at least for the westside) option for tacos, tostadas and cocteles. Along with Mexican soda that’s pretty much the whole of the menu.
Bring cash and an appetite because the seafood and veggie-centric menu will have you wanting to try more than your stomach will allow.
McCormick & Schmick’s at Easton in Columbus. Another chain. The Monster is getting tired of chain restaurants in Ohio. And yet he keeps ending up at them. His fault, not Ohio’s.
This seafood and steakhouse operates in almost half the states in the US and has been operating since the 70’s. Quite a feat indeed. Now owned by Landry’s, one can expect an ever-changing menu printed daily of pleasing enough fare in a friendly enough environment.
The Monster grew up in Ohio. He loves Ohio. He often wears a t-shirt that says Surf Ohio. See, that’s a joke. You can’t really surf in Ohio. Granted, it’s not a funny joke. But the t-shirt is cool. He’ll tell you why Ohio is the “heart of it all.” He can proudly spout off many wonderful attributes about Ohio. How Wendy’s, White Castle, Zantigo, Arthur Treacher’s and TGIFridays all started in the Buckeye state. Ohio does dirty-greasy-awesome-fattening-cholesterol-killing-heart-attack-inducing-food as well as anywhere in these fine fifty states. That’s why he was so excited to hit Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern.
And boy was he…
Brio Tuscan Grille…
Holy chain Italian food…
This ain’t the worst though.
Imagine thirteen college friends, many reconnecting for the first time since college over fifteen years ago, all meeting at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico called Secrets Capri in Playa del Carmen for Super Bowl weekend. Because this happened. And The Monster was there. And he lived through it. Barely.
It was a Northwestern reunion over the long weekend. It involved drinking. Too much drinking. Way too much drinking. And some eating. But not as much eating as drinking. And the eating was bad. Really bad. So that necessitated more drinking to wash away the evil taste.
The last meal in New Zealand for The Monster is a true tribute to Papa Monster. Having spent his life working in the beer and wine industry, the decision is made to have lunch in the majestic wine country of NZ in his honor.
The iconography of the land is breathtaking. Rolling hills, verdant meadows, wildflowers blooming. One could almost forget the sad truth of why they have traveled to this idyllic land.
On the marina…
A sunny day by the docks…
Eating some chowder.
The Monster spent one day in New Zealand. And while he didn’t want to be there under the circumstances that he found himself in, he did discover a country of unspeakably beautiful countryside and a people both warm and kind.
The first meal The Monster has after a twelve hour flight is in the small town of Whangarei. The northernmost city in New Zealand, this is the last place one would expect to find a place like The Fat Camel. An Israeli restaurant modeled after a typical Tel Aviv Café, The Monster knows that Papa Monster would have approved.