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Unforgettable Restaurant Experiences

What was one of your most memorable dining encounters you've had? Feel free to share any you deem fit. They can be incredibly lovely, wonderful, delicious-OR-horrible, appalling-even downright terrifying. O=:)

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  1. Just last week we had a fabulous dinner in Mendocino, California at a restaurant called Cafe Beaujolais. They served a homemade truffle butter over a grilled fillet that absolutely melted in your mouth. They also served a "ham and egg" appetizer: grilled Black Forest ham slice served over a piece of toasted rye bread and topped with a mini fried egg. To die for wine list, too.

    1. A couple of years ago we were visiting Paris with friends. Our first night we dined at a Michelin two star restaurant (Les Ambassadors) and were naturally blown away by both the food and the bill. (I knew the cost would be high, but not twice what I paid for my first car in college.) The next evening I selected a humble restaurant called "Paprika". (Via a referral from a food resource I trusted.) The menu had been translated from Hungarian into French which, of course, made it completely indecipherable in English. Nothing was remotely recognizable. The owner saw our dilemma from the kitchen, came out and said in broken English: "Let me make you dinner". We gave him our menus and our trust and said "Go ahead". It was the most memorable meal of our trip. In addition, his brother played the violin for us while the family dog worked the table for handouts and the kids helped in the kitchen. By the end of the evening we were virtually family and have memories we'll never forget.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Walters

        Can you describe any of the dishes you had? thanks.

        1. re: conniemcd

          Connie, Dinner started with a "cold sour cherry soup" with cream. I've searched cookbooks and web sites and never found anything like it. The initial taste was incredible. Dinner finished with rounds of Slivovice which is a Hungarian prune brandy I sincerely believe is derived from Sterno. I've traveled a lot and I've never experienced the true warmth and hospitality we received that night. It was magic.

          1. re: Walters

            That sounds like the fabulous cherry soup at the late lamented Cafe Budapest in Boston.

            1. re: dfan

              And one we used to get at a place in Hollywood, also called "The Paprika". That was the best meal deal in town for college students in the early '70s.

            2. re: Walters

              I think it's called Meggyleves. I bet you could find the recipe, it gets 14 thousand hits on Google, sites such as http://www.recipesource.com/ethnic/eu... and

              http://www.epicurious.com/members/mem... One website that each family has its own recipe, so you might never find one exactly as good as what you had... but you might!

          2. re: Walters

            Wow, I love experiences like that! How very coooool!! That's what I love about "Mom & Pop" establishments. Sadly a lot are losing out to the chains, etc...

          3. We went to Can Fabes outside Barcelona and had an unbelievable tasting menu. Each course was delicious and each came with a different type of bread. Dessert was a festival with many extras. I can't wait to get back to Barcelona one day.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ztarsh

              Funny you should mention Barcelona, as we also had one of our most memorable meals there. It was Los Caracoles (The Snails). Not haute cuisine, but really good traditional spanish food. Very popular restaurant, with many beautiful rooms, gorgeous wood carved snails on the stair cases. It is known for their snail dishes (obviously) and pig roasts, which I had. It was a feast for the senses all around, warm and cozy, and filled with people having a great time. It was everything I expected to find in Barcelona and more.

              I too, hope to get back to that city one day. It was without a doubt, the best trip my husband and I ever took!

              1. re: sivyaleah

                I had a memorable dinner at Las Caracoles in the fall of 1951- they've been around a while. Our group was told by the French wife of the U S Naval Attache who was showing us around that it was considered one of the top ten restaurants in Europe.

                1. re: MikeLM

                  We didn't know that :-)

                  We stumbled upon it one night while walking the streets in the area. It looked so appealing - it had a spit with chickens roasting on the street level and the smell of them pulled us closer to take a look. It just had the most appealing feeling to it and we figured we'd take a chance, after all, isn't that what traveling is all about?

                  We were led upstairs to one of the topmost levels so we were able to peer down and have a great view of all the other diners. It really was a wonderful experience and of course, the food was wonderful too.

                  Always nice to hear about someone else sharing a similar experience, expecially in a place that has been around for a long time!

              2. re: ztarsh

                Great restaurant. El Raco de Can Fabes, about 45 mins outside of Barcelona, is one of the few 3 star Michelin restaurants in Spain. Wonderful place. Wasn't it amazing to find a place like this in the little village its in? Unlike El Bulli, you can go to Can Fabes once or twice a week (if you lived there and had the money). Great choice.

              3. EL BULLI!!! Can Fabes was good too, just not blown away good - but at least I was much fuller after that meal than at EB! Barcelona rocks.

                3 Replies
                1. re: torta basilica

                  El Bulli (another 3 star) is one of the toughest reservations on the planet. Just getting there on the winding roads is an adventure (but a great one). I like El Bulli very much and just gave kudos to Can Fabes above. For those that haven't been... these are 2 completely different places. El Raco is more traditional, earthy fare. El Bulli is a wild adventure. Unusual, intellectual fare with combinations, textures, flavors etc. that you've never had before. This guy, Ferran Adria is an amazing guy that never stops pushing the envelope. Each year he comes up with a new menu after closing for 5 mos or so to develop them in his food lab. So, the type of place that you only need to go once each season. Doesn't matter, can't get a table anyway. Can Fabes you can go to many many times... and want to. BOTH GREAT.

                  1. re: WineTravel

                    Then there's Cellar de can Roca in Girona to further complicate things...

                  2. re: torta basilica

                    I am sorry to report that, since this post, El Bulli has closed to the public. The owner has decided to turn it into a private thinktank.

                  3. Recently I was reminiscing about places my precious Mommers and myself used to visit and the restaurants we ate at. I remember one time my Mom taking me to this (what I thought was posh) French restaurant. Besides teaching several different subjects at the local college, she also taught French, so it was fun to hear her speak the language like a native.

                    I remember being so amazed how our waiter kept our table spotless using this "little metal thing" to scrape crumbs off our table-seemingly every 5 minutes. It felt like he was at our side constantly, treating us like we were the only customers there. It was such a treat to be spoiled! We laughed and laughed and had such a grand 'ol time feeling like royalty! We went for lunch, instead of dinner (I imagine the cost for dinner was exorbitant!) but I didn't care, I had my Mom all to myself! Being a community college professor, my Mom didn't make a ton of money, but she always liked to expose me to the "finer things" in life. She took me to musical, artistic and cultural events and to various restaurants and eateries. She truly taught me how to appreciate all that life has to offer.

                    A couple things I remember most that day:
                    1) Sweet potato soup with creme' fraiche on top
                    2) Pousse-Cafe' (Barely 21, I was enthralled!)
                    3) AMAZING bread and pastries
                    4) Spending time with her...priceless!

                    Going places with my Mother always made everything that much better...

                    1. once when I was a kid we were at a local Japanese Rest (similar to benihana) and the waitress filled up our water glasses with vinegar instead of water. of course I was the first one to take a drink (and promptly spit it out). It was quite a shock to my taste buds.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: amopdx

                        Yeow! That made me laugh!! O=;)

                      2. When Mrs Jfood and I were first married she worked the graveyard shift (8pm-5am) as an artist and I worked 5am-midnight in NYC. Rarely saw each other. We actually needed to coordinate schedules for a friday night "date."

                        We had little money and went to a wonderful little cafe in Chatham NJ owned by a couple in their twenties, just starting out as well. They had a little "make your own salad bar" (they were busy in the kitchen) with all absolutely fresh ingredients and a wonderful homemade honey french salad dressing. The Jfood's ordered the chicken ($10) and on a special occassion ordered the steak ($14) when we had a little extra money. For dessert they offered a sliced banana with homemade vanilla ice cream and home made caramel sauce for $4. When we ordered we split it because we could not afford two of them. Time stamp 1980-1982.

                        The two of us sat there for hours bleery-eyed, talking and catching up. It may not have been the best food we ever ate (we had no idea if it was or wasn't we were so tired) but it was the most memorable meals we ate and truly strengthened us as a couple.

                        So that has my favorite.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jfood

                          I agree, usually we don't recall the food (quality) as much as the love spent with someone special. Sometimes even if food isn't "up to par", those precious memories sure are!!
                          (BTW-Love the hat!! Is Mrs. jfood also a Lab? I had one for over 18 yrs...what a Luv! O=;)

                          1. re: Mermazon

                            As they say, the hat makes the outfit. it was her james bond burberry addition.

                        2. Mistra in Venice the first time I went, delightful food and really nice owner and chef, we got to chatting and didn't leave until 2am. We crossed St Marks Square at 3am and were two of the six people in it. I will never forget. (I won't forget the bass either - yum)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ali patts

                            I love it when you're in a restaurant (Cafe', Bistro, etc.) and the employees don't "throw" you out, but let you stay until "whenever" you decide to leave!! I recall y e a r s ago meeting up with a friend at a great Cajun restaurant in Baton Rouge. (Funny, I can't recall the name, just that the food was delish and the staff was very kind and patient!) We hadn't seen eachother for quite a while. He was there on business, while I was coming from NO. I had taken a long weekend from college in FL to visit family, (him) and also, to see the World's Fair.
                            (BTW-do they even have those any more?!?).

                            Any way...we chatted for about 3 hours (before even ordering), and then took about another 3 hours talking all throughout dinner, dessert and coffee! It was nice to not get jeers or leers from the staff. Matter of fact, I think they gave us a bottle of wine! O=:)

                          2. The one that pops to mind first is one that happened at a local pizza chain, Oregano's. We were sitting out on the patio, enjoying the lovely weather, when I noticed a faint whiff of something burning. It didn't smell like burning food, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I related a story to my friend sitting there about another incident of smelling something burning while waiting a bit longer than usual for the pizza (and yes, in that case, it was the pizza that was burning) Then, I glanced over my shoulder at the server stand and noticed that there were several crew members standing around the server stand, staring at the computer... That's when I realized what I smelled. Electrical fire! The computer is burning! One of the crew members grabs the fire extinguisher and brings it over. She's wrestling with it, apparently trying to squeeze the trigger and pull the ring out at the same time. Eventually, she pulls the ring out... just as she was pointing the nozzle upward and squeezing the trigger. FWOOSH, a cloud of white fire extinguisher stuff drifts over the patio. I have a feeling the apologetic manager would have comped most of the meal if we weren't doubled over in hysterical laughter.

                            1. Staring the suckling pig in the eye at a Sunday brunch place outside of Albany, NY called the Jamaica Inn, around 1965. My first fine dining experience.

                              1. Freiburg, Germany, 1983. My folks took us to nicer restaurant than we had eaten previously on the trip, and ordered fondue. It came in an earthenware crock. When it was about 2/3 done (and we were completely full), the crock spontaneously split, and the cheese started to flow through the crack like lava. My dad clapped the two halves together to prevent spillage while my mom tried to flag down the waiter without making a scene (she spoke about 10 words of German). The waiter, being rigidly proper from a previous generation, would not respond to a woman, so he pretended not to see her furtive waiving as he walked through the room. The entire restaurant finally was watching the pantomime going on at the Americans' table. Another gentleman diner twitched his finger at the waiter, who glided over to him immediately. The diner explained the predicament we were in. The waiter swooped down, aghast, and returned .. with a fresh pot of fondue.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: thinks too much

                                  Ha! That's great! Or should I say that was a "gouda" story?!? (Cheesy, I know! O=;)

                                  1. re: Mermazon

                                    I was just hoping that no one would accuse me of telling an Emmentaler tale.

                                2. I may have told this story before, but oh well......It was unforgettable in the sense that it gave me one of my favorite tag lines. A group of us college students ended up after a night of partying in some dive in a neighborhood where students don't often hang out. We stuck it out despite our better instincts. One of our group had his hamburger come out undone. When he complained to the waitress, she crossed her arms over her chest and declared "Honey, I don't cook 'em!...." then walked away. "I don't cook 'em" is still my buzzline for any situation where I really SHOULd take responsibility but don't want to.....

                                  1. 1979: Sitting with my mom, sister and family at a table in a wine cave in Frascati. Eating from a platter of locally-made antipasti, including tiny whole marinated artichokes with a clove of garlic and sprig of basil stuffed into each, mopping up the garlicky oil with the tag ends of our prosciutto e formaggio sandwiches, drinking cool Frascati wine from liter pitchers drawn from taps in the wall. Discussing with mom how we can maybe move there and still maintain our incomes...

                                    1991: At a table on a swept-gravel yard, in the shade of the plane trees, across the plaza from the cathedral at Chartes. Tania's family, including her brother, and her sister-in-law whose home town this is, and sister-in-law's mom, and me of course. Tania and I are eating the most amazing pig's feet: simmered whole, then boned, and re-stuffed with their meat and some sausage, then coated with mustard and crumbs, drizzled with butter, and grilled. The day is gorgeous, the cathedral magnificent, all of these people are delightful beyond words, and I'm so helplessly happy there's nothing to do but have another bite.

                                    1. Wow....your description of the day in Chartres was wonderful. When I went there it was waaayyy too cold for an alfresco lunch...

                                      But your memories made me wonder: Does time spent in a restaurant where you actually didn't eat a meal count? Because one of the most wonderful days of my life involved a long, warm afternoon on the patio of the Awahnee Hotel, sipping cocktails and nibbling on appetizers, talking with old friends, and watching the sun play on the cliffs of Yosemite...

                                      (We were waiting for some other friends who were hiking down Yosemite Creek, and decided it was the perfect way to pass the time....).

                                      1. nice to see this thread revived. Best small scale experience: 49 years ago, in NY, at a wonderful little italian restaurant called Il Faro's, where the wine came up out of the cellar, and the patrons brought in fish they had caught in Sheepshead Bay for the chef to grill "for whoever wants some." Introduced me to artichokes and Venetian liver and onions. I learned so much from the wonderful people who ran that place. Best "mega bucks experience": first Michelin 3 star meal at Cote D'Or in Saulieul. Each course was a revelation, the little town was enchanting, and our evident pleasure in our meal was rewarded by the maitre d" who had no pretensions and simply enjoyed our enjoyment. At the end of our amazing meal he asked us if we had ever had Epoisse, because he had an especially wonderful one he'd like to share with us. Frankly, I doubt I've ever tasted anything that stunned me more immediately with it's remarkable unforgettable idiosyncratic taste.

                                        1. After 16 years of cohabitation, my husband and I married five years ago when on vacation in the Smokies. There was a huge thunderstorm that morning - a good omen, for storm lovers! - and we went to the license place and filled out the form and got a list of county representatives licensed to perform the ceremony, then sat in the car in the rain calling down the list. The third one answered and was fairly close, so we went to his store - a kind of bait shop/general mercantile - and he married us by the counter, between the popcorn machine and the arrowheads. Then we went back into town - Gatlinburg - and had breakfast. I don't think either of us had ever had crepes before, and they were marvelous. The coffee was good. And every so often one of us would look up and announce "You're a *husband*!" or "We're SPOUSES!" and get the giggles.

                                          I think Husband got "tropical" - crepes with pineapple? - and I would have gotten either cherry or peach - but who cares? Best meal ever. Then we went for a lovely scenic drive with some hiking mixed in.

                                          1. Not mine, but for a retirement celebration my parents went around the world. While in Paris they asked the doorman where they should go for an unforgettable experience. He called them a cab and gave the driver directions. Remember that my mother was BFF with Julia, so she was purposly ignoring the higher end "everybody knows....".
                                            Long story short, they had as mom puts it "A meal to remember" in a very small (10 table) place well off the beaten path. They did take credit cards, and thinking that the bill would be in the hundreds, my father gave them the card and pre-signed the receipt - he did not want to ruin the evening by knowing how many weeks he put in at the office for it. When the statement came in for the two of them, with a no-name bottle of wine, the total was $50 plus a $25 tip that was added on (dad did say to tip generously!) . To the day they died this place was brought up in conversation. I wish that they had pictures from it.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: exvaxman

                                              In 1980, after three years in West Germany, and no porterhouse, or any recognizable (American cut) steak, I wanted steak for my first meal. Mom and Dad and their friends took me to Fatti Gatti's in Canonsburg, PA. Down the road from the All-clad factory.

                                              This was my introduction to over the top, can't eat it all portions. 2 lb veal chops, 3+ lb porterhouse, salads that seemed to take a whole head of lettuce, and a small side of spaghetti was served on an oval platter. I loved it. Every time I visited, we had to go there. It was also the first restaurant I knew of that used styrofoam containers for leftovers.

                                              Segue to my birthday dinner at Le Mediterranee in Metz, France. We had been there many times in the eighties. Now in 1992 we were returning with our three year old daughter. If you have ever been to France, you know that a pitbull is far more welcome in a restaurant than anybody under the age of 12. No highchairs. They used a box from the pantry. Our daughter calmly sat for over two hours, eating what we ate, while we indulged in way too much seafood. The ray with burnt butter is still memorable. While we dawdled over cognac and coffee, the owners took her into the kitchen for over half an hour and entertained her with chocolats and bottles of Coca Cola. I will always have fond memories of that meal and pride for my daughter.

                                            2. Ariel Sands in Bermuda...dinner on the beach by the light of a full moon.
                                              I have no idea if it is still there.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: nancyl126

                                                I have many but 3 are outstanding:

                                                Windows of The World...not the greatest food, but the experience was uforgettable
                                                River Cafe in Brooklyn
                                                Breakfast on top of the Seattle Space Needle

                                                1. re: randyjl

                                                  Ten years ago in Philadelphia. Late August. Long strech of very hot and humid weather pushed out by a two day thunderstorm. Friday night, and the city was on vacation or at the shore. Lotsa parking spaces. Legendary restaurant recently opened after being cloes for a decade. We walked in around eight, and the room was empty. I recall only two occuped deuces in the entire room. Great secluded table; we had perfect martinis. The menu was fabulous, we ordered. Wine arrived just before our appetizers. They were excellent. Just finishing my app, I glanced over my gal's shoulder and did a double take. Along a shelf was a rat the size of my shoe (12E). I did a lot of blinking, and said we must move. My gal got up and found uor server chatting up the kitchen crew. I explained, handed her a $20, and left. What could have been a fantastic meal, was a nightmare. Nothing like this happens to me, so I thought I'd share.

                                              2. 16 years ago at The Hartstone Inn in Camden Me. Off season. Owner at the time was a chef and they had a 4 course dinner for $25 a head byob. Ordered the entree when making room reservation. Long story short, we were the only people eating dinner that night. The dining room was set with just one table in front of a fireplace. I'm not the most romantic guy in the world but... come on, 1 table for two, candlelight, nice jazz (I bought a nice bottle of wine) and a great meal - on top of that - all for $50

                                                Worst experience: 1975, Oneonta, NY visiting my brother in college. 4am at a dinner. Me to the waitress... "excuse me but there seems to be some kind of dried food stuck to my fork". She takes the fork and scrapes the food off with a fingernail and places it back in front of me. 36 years ago. I'm sure I was drunk and it's still my most vivid dining moment of my life.