Spencer’s Restaurant – Palm Springs, California

Dean Beck: What do you have against preachers? Clay Spencer: It’s what they preach against I’m against. Dean Beck: I’m afraid I don’t understand? Clay Spencer: They’re against everything I’m for. They don’t allow drinkin’ or smokin’, card playin’, pool shootin’, dancin’, cussin’ – or huggin’, kissin’ and lovin’. And mister, I’m for all of them things. ~Spencer’s Mountain In the family-centric 1963 movie Spencer’s Mountain, hard-drinkin’, hard-lovin’ Clay Spencer (brilliantly portrayed by Henry Fonda) dreamed of building his wife…

Cheeky’s – Palm Springs, California

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is widely credited with the aphorism “England and the United States are two nations divided by a common language.” My Kim and I had no idea just how different the Queen’s English is from the English spoken by the colonists until we were assigned to Royal Air Force Fairford. As part of the newcomers orientation, we were required to attend a course in which those vast differences were explained. Many of those differences were rather…

Sherman’s Deli & Bakery – Palm Springs, California

Not everyone appreciated my friend Bob’s stark honesty as much as I did. For nearly twelve years, Bob was my most trusted source for information on the Santa Fe dining scene. He was also a huge advocate for my writing, even when his reaction to one of my particularly “long way around” missives was “what?.” From a style perspective, he was a “get to the point” guy while your humble blogger sometimes (okay, okay, always) takes a circuitous, raconteur’s route…

Lulu California Bistro – Palm Springs, California

How many times have you heard a transplant to the Land of Enchantment say it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without snow? Some of you expats dream of a white Christmas, just like the ones you used to know back when you lived in Siberia, the North Pole, Greenland and other similarly snowed-in states that aren’t as beautifully balmy in winter as is New Mexico. It’s not enough for you that winter temperatures across the Land of Enchantment occasionally drop…

Jake’s – Palm Springs, California

“Now i lay me down to sleep And pray the Lord my soul to keep If i die before i wake, feed Jake He’s been a good dog My best friend right through it all If i die before i wake, feed Jake.” ~Pirates of the Mississippi “On one hand,” my Kim tells me, “you’d make a great politician.” “You maintain a perfect deadpan expression while telling the biggest whoppers.” She had just watched me convince a gullible millennial that…

Butters Pancakes & Cafe – Scottsdale, Arizona

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away And take the snow back with you Where it came from on that day So, little snowbird take me with you when you go To the land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow.” ~ Anne Murray Every autumn, gaggles of geese, flocks of ducks, kettles of hawks and constructions of cranes begin their long, arduous migration from the continent’s northern regions to warmer climes in the South. They fly in formation…

The Turquoise Room – Winslow, Arizona

The concept of “fast food” had a far different connotation during the Southwest’s Frontier days than it does today. This is especially true if one traveled via railroad through hundreds of miles of desolate, open country. In the more densely populated and genteel east there were often several cities between most destinations. This allowed for frequent rest and refreshment stops. Passengers rode in relative comfort in Pullman cars with dining cars. In the wide open west, only twenty minutes were…

Geoffrey’s Malibu – Malibu, California

The walls at Geoffrey’s Malibu are festooned with copies of whimsical framed “doodles” created by Hollywood celebrities and movie stars who have dined at the posh seaside restaurant. Most are tongue-in-cheek self-portraits which probably speak volumes about the glitterati themselves–and not just whether they lack or are blessed with an artistic talent beyond their particular medium. Thematically, all the portraits include a heart. That’s because Harvey Baskin, the restaurant’s previous owner asked the artists to donate originals for publication and…

La Super Rica Taqueria – Santa Barbara, California

Truly legendary restaurants, those which can legitimately be called institutions–and there are very few of them–don’t just inspire return visits; they inspire pilgrimages. Institutions have generally stood the test of time by remaining consistent over time, thriving even against the onslaught of more polished and pristine interlopers. Institutions are beloved beyond the communities they serve, their fame and acclaim growing with each satisfied visitor, many of whom make pilgrimages from hundreds of miles away. One restaurant which has earned the…

Norton’s Pastrami & Deli – Santa Barbara, California

“I flew too close to the sun on wings of pastrami.” ~George Costanza January 14th has been designated “National Hot Pastrami Sandwich day.” The fact that a day has been designated to honor the greatness of the “most sensual of all the salted and cured meats” is wholly unnecessary for many of us. True pastrami paramours in the mold of Dagwood Bumstead, Shaggy Rogers, Joey Tribbiani and my friend Bill Resnik, don’t need a special reason or designated day to…

Opal Restaurant and Bar – Santa Barbara, California

We’re all familiar with premise of Iron Chef America in which accomplished chefs are pitted against the veritable pantheon of culinary giants who have earned the title of Iron Chef. Can you imagine if one of the vaunted Iron Chefs, or even one of the challengers for that matter, failed to present the judges a variety of ways in which the “secret ingredient” is used? How, for example, would the oft-haughty judges react if during “battle rice” Iron Chef Morimoto…

Trattoria Mollie – Montecito, California

In its three best-selling editions–published in 2006, 2008 and 2012–National Geographic’s “Passport to the Best” has enthralled, excited and educated connoisseurs of matters of taste across the globe. With top ten lists in dozens of categories studded with savvy tips and inspiring imagery, this wayfarer’s bible invigorates investigative yearnings for exotic travel, if for nothing else to confirm or refute the opinion of the authors. Still, when the “Passport to the Best” recognized Trattoria Mollie in Montecito, California as “one…

Butcher & Bee – Charleston, South Carolina

I’m not a sandwich store that only sells turkey sandwiches. I sell a lot of different things. ~Lady Gaga You might expect that a restaurant selected for inclusion on a list of “The 21 Best Sandwich Shops in America” would have a signature sandwich, its chef d’oeuvre. Pittsburgh’s Primanti Brothers, for example, is known for its pastrami and cheese sandwich. The Darwin Cafe in San Francisco is famous for its roast beef sandwich. Every sandwich shop on the list exalting…

EVO – North Charleston, South Carolina

America is a pizza obsessed nation. Ninety-three percent of us consume at least one slice of pizza per month and collectively, we each eat some 46 slices of pizza per year. According to Pizza Magazine Quarterly, the pizza industry’s number one business magazine and web site, there are nearly 70,000 pizzerias in the United States (or about as many pizzerias as Santa Fe, New Mexico has residents) to sate our love of pizza. Almost two-thirds (or about 46,000) of those…

Gullah Cuisine – Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (CLOSED)

No culinary tour of South Carolina’s Lowcountry would be complete without sampling Gullah cuisine at least once. In the Lowcountry, Gullah represents several things: people, culture and language. As a people, the Gullah represent a distinctive group of African Americans living along the island chains and coastal plains which parallel the South Carolina and Georgia coast. The Gullah people are directly descended from the thousands of slaves who labored on the rice plantations in the moist, semitropical country bordering the…