Out to Lunch

Russell Chatham in his iconic restaurant. I really miss the place.



a short culinary tour

A reader commented that he thought it was too bad that I didn’t like more restaurants. I thought about that for a while, because truly I am a fan of going out for lunch. And dinner. And breakfast. I’m not a fan of people presenting less than their best efforts and expecting that to be “good enough,” though another friend counseled (from the kitchen) that it’s a tough act. It was also suggested that perhaps I wouldn’t like eating in restaurants anymore because I am keeping such close tabs on what I eat. (That’s a good theory, but not applicable here. One of the reasons I have not engaged in a conventional diet is that I want to find a way to keep “social eating” in my life. Frankly, life is too short to eat diet food.)

So I thought, in fairness, that I should give a nod to some of the establishments that have provided me with an excellent meal or two or ten. I do have some very longtime favorites that I am not including here because I haven’t eaten there in five years or more (like the fantastic Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta, Georgia or the excellent Charco-Broiler in Fort Collins, Colorado.) Others, like Ann Sather in Chicago (oh my God, those cinnamon rolls) and JB’s Fish Camp in New Smyrna Beach, Florida; the fabulous Stellina in Watertown, Massachusetts or Wintzell’s Oyster House (in Mobile) haven’t seen me in twenty years or more, but that’s all a matter of geography. If I was in town, I’d go there.

Perhaps my very most favorite restaurant of all time, Russell Chatham’s Livingston Bar and Grille, in the former “Bucket of Blood” saloon, is one I miss the most. Chatham created an oasis in Montana, lush with fine grass-fed beef, fresh oysters and mussels (flown in from Prince Edward Island) local trout, arctic char, exquisite presentations, top shelf cognacs and silky flans. It couldn’t last I suppose, and it didn’t. I’m just damn glad that I was there when it was.

Nonetheless, there are still some places that make me an enthusiastic diner, and some particular dishes that it seems I always order. Like the goat cheese and sweet potato empanadas at the amazing Momocho’s in Cleveland. The lobster rolls from Kelly’s Roast Beef on Revere Beach, Massachusetts. Fried chicken and “the best vegetables you ever put in your mouth” from the Triangle Restaurant in Johnston, South Carolina.

My favorite spot for sushi is Sushi En stuck way the heck out in a shopping plaza north of Columbus. Fantastic food, so fresh. Another Columbus favorite is Moy’s– downtown on High Street, across from OSU. If you go there, order the superb scrambled eggs and shrimp. A little closer to home, we almost always enjoy an evening in the old schoolhouse that houses Las Piramides in Centerville. I wouldn’t recommend it on Friday nights, though, when all the suburban moms stop in to get wasted on Margaritas. Any other time is fine though– they have a great bacon and shrimp dish (Camarones rellenos), or the mountain of grilled meats, (La Parillada), enough to feed a family of four. (And yes, Dayton friends, I think it’s better than Taqueria Mixteca.)

And of course, there’s always the best Chinese food in Dayton, Ohio– the New Asian in Trotwood. We went there tonight (at my husband’s suggestion) and it was wonderful: a special lo mein, beef, ginger and bok choy, hot and sour soup to start and watermelon to end, a remarkably perfect meal for a summer evening. While we were there, a City of Trotwood police officer stopped in to get dinner. He asked them to make him “whatever’s good tonight.”

To be honest, there are still places to try, too. My friend the chef encouraged me to visit the new incarnation of The Meadowlark. The first time I went to the old location was the last time, but you never know, things change. I’ve been wanting to try the Vietnamese restaurant Little Saigon for years. Neither my husband nor son are fans of Vietnamese food, so I’ve had to pass it by too often– I think I just need to find a lunch date.

There’s a new restaurant downtown in the Oregon district too– “Roost: Modern Italian.” It looks beautiful from the outside, and the online reviews so far are excellent, with the exception of one asshat who gave them a single star (even though they thought the food was great, because the restaurant was busy: the conversation of other diners made it impossible to converse with his or her date.) One star, rolleyes. Perhaps the Roost will turn out to be a new favorite. We’ll have to try it and see.

Target number 54. Steps 1461. Breakfast: Oatmeal with blueberries. Orange juice. Egg McMuffin Lunch: three scrambled eggs, half an ounce of cheese, in a warm tortilla. Two peaches. Dinner: bok choy with beef and ginger, one cup. One cup of house lo mein. Small bowl hot and sour soup. One cup of cubed watermelon. Fortune cookie: a gift not fully given is a gift not fully realized.


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