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Dec 7, 2012 05:52 AM

Personal "go to" place shares.

I have been pretty depressed lately. With food, that is. The other night I tried the (new?) delivery service from The Butcher Block. I had lamb and chicken on skwers and penne Bolognese. A little salad. As I was poking around the utterly disappointing penne I was overcome with a feeling of "just HOW can a place contrive to make such a simple "can't fail" type of dishes, FAIL? Well, it's simple: don't season, under-portion (the skewers), use ersatz cheese and some un-thought-out type of cream agent in the ghastly sauce. Salad that is all about how it looks versus how it tastes. OK OK maybe ordering pasta for delivery is a mistake anyhow. But if eating out were a State of the Union Speech, then "the stateof the Union is NOT strong."

This got me thinking again about where in Chowhound we state our favorite all-time restaurants. These choices cut across all borders of political correct underseasoning etc. and cut to the chase of salty fries cooked in goose grease etc. etc. at places which "make us happy - reliably, almost every doggone time we go." Places that feature in the sentence "We could try out the new Southern Italian place . . .or we could just go to [X].

So on mine is Brown's in Oxford UK. McSorley's in NYC (for leg of lamb sandwich), Black's Oyster Bar in Abbeville LA used to be on there (but was struck), as was Sherlock's Home.

I was wondering, instead of focusing on the best "this" or superior "that" whether TC Hounds might share places the find themselves frequenting, not necessarily because they do things the best (or might even be embarrassing to admit!) but because they purvey an afterglow of "feel good."

My TC choices would be:

Mancini's (for chewy sirloin and veteran "help")
The Dubliner (Guinness)
Mickey's Dining Car (breakfast)
Jimmy's (nordeast) Bar (Las Vegas shrimp cocktail)
Glockenspiel (two of the 3-ways herring and German black lager)
Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter (quiet patio herring)

. . . and that's about it in terms of places that leap to mind. Again, these are not necessarily the best at anything they do, but they are the best in terms of making Yours Truly stagger out feeling a little more pleased with the state of the Union/universe.

Would anyone care to contribute their top five or six GoTo places for overall "mood improvement" versus "belly fillment" or "check-out-the-hot-new" venues.? A friend swears by the Monte Carlo is another that I have heard great things about but not sampled in a full meal context. Basically, the places most frequently frequented not simply for the purposes of hunger assuagement.

I'd be most interested. Thanks a lot.


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  1. I'll play. :-)

    Cheng Heng (never been disappointed there and I love the family feel of the place)
    Fasika (always "hopping" and eating off the same injera makes the meal more social)
    Broder's deli (always been a little oasis for me)
    Tanpopo (another oasis; excellent food and presentation)
    Barbary Fig (never been disappointed there, either, and dining on the patio is a treat)

    Hmm ... heavily slanted to the St. Paul side. *shrug* It's what *I* like....

    1. Trying to think about this was a great reminder of why I'm not exactly what you would call "lean". I go right for the comfort foods (does that mean "belly fillment"?) and two places immediately come to mind:

      The Nook - I don't care what my ills are, a Nookie Supreme makes me forget not only everything outside of a 2-foot radius of my body for a while, but also whatever was spinning around in my head.

      Stockmen's Truck Stop - If the Nook isn't open, then I go here. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you're going to get satisfying food served by someone who reminds you of your favorite aunt. Bonus that when I'm in a sulky mood and don't know exactly what I want to eat, I know I'll find something there. They probably have 300 different things to choose from -- everything from steaks to old school spaghetti and meatballs to pancakes to chicken noodle soup. Bottom line: I am always "at home" at Stockmen's.

      1. Massaman Curry from a Thai joint. I don't really have a #1 favorite place at the moment, but that's my favorite dish. Hard stop. Period. +1.
        Blackbird Cafe. Favorite brunch in the cities.
        Los Ocampo. Love me a Huarachazo. It will fill you up for a day.
        Dosa King. All vegetarian South Indian cuisine. Hole in the wall of an out of the way strip mall, but the food slays.
        World Street Kitchen. Sure it's brand new, but it's in my head. I've had 4 dishes, and they were all jaw-droppingly good.
        Travail, especially dessert.

        3 Replies
        1. re: american_idle

          Karta Thai on Central, just south of Lowry has excellent Massaman Curry. The owners family all own restaurants in Thailand and she grew up making this food. Anything you might have eaten over there, but don't remember the name of the dish, describe it to Sandi and she will tell you what it was. Furthermore, she will make it for you if you want. Ask to have the Massaman curry made the way they do if Thailand if you go there.

          1. re: Lilbug

            Is that place relatively new? Across from Laughing Cow (I can never remember the Spanish name)? If so, I've been in there once, but went with something new. I've been trying new dishes lately when I eat Thai.

            1. re: american_idle

              It is almost directly across the street from a Mexican restaurant which is next to another Thai restaurant, Sen Yai Sen Lek- Big Noodle Little Noodle. I go to both the Thai restaurants, but have yet to try the Mexican. I heard it is good too.

        2. W. A. Frost is maybe my clearest example of this. I always leave feeling peaceful and satisfied, having had delicious food, attentive service, and a quiet and beautiful place to eat.

          The St. Paul Cheese Shop achieves this too, but based purely on service, since it's not actually a good place to eat - just a sandwich counter and no real tables.

          Oh, and in the vein of Mickey's - The Convention Grill. You leave surrounded by a glow of nostalgia. And the smell of french fries.

          3 Replies
          1. re: gildeddawn

            W. A. Frost is a great place. I've only ever eaten in the bar and had snacks and drinks in The Lounge. Love it. Super cozy.

            For just a bar, The Muddy Pig is my favorite for First Date Drinks.

            1. re: gildeddawn

              To clarify - when I said St. Paul Cheese Shop wasn't a good place to eat, I meant it had no dining room. The food is spectacular.

              1. re: gildeddawn

                I should have added W A Frost to my list for memories of when first in the TC's (1982-1984) when it was a civilized outpost in what was then quite a wild and wooly neighborhood. The Fathers from the Cathedral would come in for a quiet drink. They sold French beer in large bottles from a cooler which I developed something of a taste for. Also, it didn't hurt that I was 24 years old!!! For a while it seemed to go downhill with a pervasive odor in the bar of what (to me) overwhelmingly reminded one of, unfortunately, vomit! but was probably mostly Italian cheese. For some reason, I could not get beyond the former olfactory impression for some years. (Perhaps it was a brand of cleaner also?) That has now turned around and the downstairs restrooms and "comfy chairs" let alone the legendary patio are quite unique. So yes I will add this to my list also.

              2. These are the places I got for a pick-me up and because I know I'm getting quality eats. Some are fancy, some are dumps. But all make a point to care about the food and serve a quality meal and that is what matters.

                Gopher Bar - Coney Dogs
                Mancini's - Garlic Toast
                Loring Pasta Bar - Artichoke Dip
                The Nook - For all the reasons MSPD says below
                JD Hoyt's - When I need pork chop, nobody does em better and that buddy bowl is fantastic too.
                Mickey's - Best hash browns of any all-night breakfast joint I know in the country
                Kincaid's Saint Paul - Great Late night HH, 1/2 price crab dip is worth the trip alone
                Modern Cafe - Pot Roast that you think is like your Mom made, but it's actually better.