Stone’s Cove Kitbar: Meeting My First ChefTender

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RESTAURANT:  Stone’s Cove Kitbar

DATE OF VISIT: 5/30/17 #TacoTuesday

ADDRESS: 2403 Centreville Road Herndon, VA 20171 (Two Locations)

GENRE: Several Seafood Inspired dishes, burgers, steak

PARKING: Plenty of parking around the restaurant and in neighboring lots

AFFORDABILITY: Entrees are in the $10-$20 range and are fairly large and filling. You are definitely partly paying for an experience, which I will describe below.

VENUE: The restaurant itself provides a really cool experience. It is a self-dubbed “KitBar” meaning that the restaurant “combines the design of a kitchen and a bar to create a large communal table that surrounds the kitchen”. Essentially, a majority of the seating is alcoves of bars surrounded by the kitchen, which is in the center. Your hosts are “ChefTenders” i.e. Chefs and Bartenders. Not only fully trained to provide you your drinks but they also cook all your meals in the center of the restaurant for you to watch. This isn’t a Hibachi-style restaurant, it’s just literally that the seating is around a bar/kitchen that is in the center of the restaurant. I went with a group of five and will admit the bar seating, although shaped in alcoves, can still make it a little bit hard to hear. But this is definitely a fun venue for large groups and I do recommend trying out the KitBar experience at least once!

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: This is definitely a versatile restaurant. A decent variety of options that is the perfect spot for a group of co-workers to grab lunch or for family or friends to visit in the night. The service was phenomenal. Although you start out with one main ChefTender they all come and check on you and they were all ridiculously friendly and thorough that it made for such a pleasant experience. The KitBar experience is a ton of fun and it is a great restaurant for sharing food (plenty of sharing plates within arm’s reach and both the Flatbreads and Appetapas – meals that double as entrées or appetizers (if I’m not mistaken) – were great for sharing). It was also a cute touch how the menus doubled as placemats.

THE FOOD: I ate the Soup of the Day (a Corn-Tortilla Soup), Mackinac Roasted Flatbread, and the Fish Tacos.

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The soup of the day, which of course varies per day, was a Corn-Tortilla soup for me. I am typically not a huge fan of soups of this style, but this one was delicious! It had a perfect amount of sour cream in it and none of the flavors were too overbearing. The crackers were the perfect addition to the soup to add a bit of crunch and it wasn’t overloaded with beans. Definitely would order again. The quantity was a little bit low for a $4 soup, but it was still a decent amount.

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The Mackinac Roasted Flatbread is bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, onion, and cheddar with jalapeno mayo (optional additions of chicken, steak, or shrimp). The entire platter (not pictured) is shareable with five people (or more if you are okay with portions less than pictured). Overall, it was a really good appetizer. Lots of flavor from the jalapeno mayo (wasn’t spicy, don’t worry!) and it was easy to place in your mouth. The bacon provided the perfect amount of crunch.

My main entrée was the fish tacos. Three sizable fish tacos for $12 bucks are definitely filling – good bang for your buck. Now this was my first time ever having fish tacos, and honestly I think they were really good. It was a little bit of a weird sensation for me because the soft tortilla and the fish at the bottom of the taco was really warm, but the jicama green apple slaw and chipotle lime cream cold, like ice-chilled. That bothered me a little bit, but maybe that’s how fish tacos are? Maybe not the biggest fan of fish tacos in general, but it was filling, had good flavor, and I think was really awesome for a fish taco; I just don’t think fish tacos in general are for me (not with the varying temperatures at least).

I think the next time I go I will order the Margarita Crab Wraps for myself. I had been eyeing them for a while. I strongly recommend the Island Hopper Tacos too. I almost ordered them myself – I thought the combination of flavors may have been a bit too sweet or tropical for me at the time, but my ChefTender and my colleague who ordered them had lots of praise for them! Seems like a really good bet (and again, three pretty large tacos for $12!)

ACCOMODATIONS: Did not seem to have a ton of vegetarian options beyond salads (a lot of dishes have seafood with them). There are two really delicious looking flatbreads that are vegetarian and I bet it would be easy to make the other flatbreads or some of the other items without the meat.

OVERALL: Filling meal with a great experience, from awesome ChefTenders to an overall unique dining experience. Definitely do recommend trying out the KitBar at least once, you arrrrrrghonna have a great time (okay the restaurant isn’t pirate themed but like it’s the sea and the word “Cove”). But in all seriousness, the service and the experience at Stone’s Cove Kitbar made up for me not completely falling in love with my entrée, and even then I still did enjoy the experience of eating my entrée.

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Fry’s Spring Station: UVA Gem on JPA

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RESTAURANT: Fry’s Spring Station

DATE OF VISIT: 5/1/17 and 5/12/17

ADDRESS: 2115 Jefferson Park Avenue (corner of JPA and Alderman, near the Jefferson Scholars’ Foundation Building) right on the Inner/Outer Loops

GENRE: “Industrial-styled” Pizza and Italian Eats

AFFORDABILITY: For the amount and quality of food, it definitely is on the affordable end for college students looking for a great sit down restaurant to bring family, friends, dates, etc. Entrees in the $10 to $15 range with a great amount of food.

PARKING: Free parking along parts of JPA and also across the street at the other shopping complexes.

VENUE: Casual, great for families, but can also be fancy. Does offer a fine drink selection with wine and beer for those interested and fancier options.

GENERAL: Fry’s Spring Station is definitely one of those gems near grounds that I think is super underrated. I had always heard amazing things about their brunch, but was super excited to go for dinner there twice in early May. A fire station turned restaurant definitely gives the restaurant a cool look. It was pouring rain both times I went, so I couldn’t eat outside, but they open the “garage” doors when the weather is nice giving the restaurant a cool indoor/outdoor feel. The staff is super friendly and both times the food arrived fairly quickly. Also cool that they have some high tables with board games making it for a fun time with friends depending on what you are looking for.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

THE FOOD: For Appetizer, I strongly recommend the Angry Grandma. Cheese curds (or wings) smothered in a sauce, topped with radishes, cilantro, scallions, fried chili crisps, and a great ranch dipping sauce. Cheese curds are absolutely delicious and were a great way to start the meal (how can you go wrong with fried cheese?) The radishes provided the perfect complement with a great sour taste that somehow my friends and I could not get enough of.

The first time I went I ordered the Funghitown pizza (Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, White Sauce, House Mozzarella, Arugula) and the second time I ordered a Margherita (Housemade Mozzarella, Crushed Tomato, Basil, Olive Oil).

The Funghitown was definitely delicious. I had to take a little less than half home because it was so filling. There is a lot of Arugula on top, but easy to pick-off if you are not a fan. The caramelized onions provided the perfect balance of sweet with the savory of the scrumptious white sauce. The mushrooms were a flavorful addition that definitely helped make it a filling meal.

The Margherita was a lot sweeter than I expected, but was definitely a solid gourmet pizza and I would eat it again. The homemade mozzarella was super fresh and the olive oil was not too overbearing.  Don’t expect to take leftovers because it is a lot less dense, which was a little bit disappointing after having eaten such a filling Funghitown the week before (I love leftovers!), but still a tasty option that I would eat again.

For dessert both times I ordered the Fried Pizza Dough. Essentially glazed strips of donuts made from pizza dough (definitely have a taste difference from donuts though so don’t think you’re just ordering classic Krispy Kreme’s or something like that); they were absolutely delicious. Warm and fresh from the fryer, they came with a silky mocha-nutella dipping sauce that complemented it super well. Honestly, I think I’m probably just going to order the Fried Pizza Dough to-go whenever I want a sweet bite because it is so good.

I think next time I go, I definitely want to check out their drink selection. What’s cool is, even though they have a ton of alcoholic drinks, they have a fairly sizable and somewhat-unique non-alcoholic beverage section. I’m looking forward to trying some of those out! Also I hear a lot about their brunch selection, so I definitely want to check that out as well.

OVERALL: You’ll most definitely find something you’ll want to eat and leave with both your stomach and wallet happy. Again, a well-kept, versatile place to just eat a decent meal at a decent price with friends or loved ones. Super close to grounds and honestly a much better ambiance than many places on the corner (also probably easier to find free parking nearby).

Via Brasil: Tastiest Adventure on Little Brazil Street

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RESTAURANT:  Via Brasil 

DATE OF VISIT: 5/14/17

ADDRESS: 34 West 46th Street New York, NY 10036 (A short walk from Times Square on “Little Brazil Street”)

GENRE: Brazilian Food

AFFORDABILITY: Entrees are on the expensive side (high teens but mostly higher) but are extremely filling!

VENUE: The restaurant itself is really nice, spacious New York eatery! Great environment to bring friends for a fancy time or family for a great family-meal in the city.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: My friends and I had no plans for dinner after 9pm on a Sunday night and were just walking around Midtown and we stumbled across this restaurant. We were super indecisive, but I am so glad we decided to stop at Via Brasil! The service was fast and the menu was super expansive. Beyond the large regular menu, there were several specials, which was super great.

THE FOOD: I ordered Chicken Milanesa off the specials menu which was a breaded chicken dish with mashed potatoes. I honestly did not expect the serving to be so large – it was a great portion size. The potatoes were creamy and silky smooth and I absolutely loved them. The chicken was tender and cut easily, but has a great flavor to it. It was expertly breaded and overall delicious dish.

My friends ordered beef dishes and loved them as well. I think the next time I go I would definitely order Fried Yucca!

ACCOMODATIONS: Has some vegetarian options and appetizers, but a strong majority of the cuisines include meat.

OVERALL: Although slightly on the more expensive side, the food was filling and absolutely delicious. Definitely recommend if you want authentic Brazilian food! It’s a great time with family or friends and short walk from the Theater District and Times Square.

The Kati Roll Company: A Taste of the Streets of India in NYC

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RESTAURANT:  The Kati Roll Company

DATE OF VISIT: 5/15/17

ADDRESS: 49 West 39th Street New York, NY 10018 (Four locations in Manhattan)

GENRE: Indian Food

AFFORDABILITY: I personally think the tastiest roll is the most affordable, so it worked out well for me. Can get a little bit pricey, but eating two or three rolls plus a drink would be very filling and come out to a good price for Manhattan.

VENUE: The restaurant itself is your standard New York eatery. Definitely makes you feel like you are in a more rustic, South Asian place with themed murals on the wall, etc. There is some seating if you want to stay and eat, but it’s also super easy to grab some rolls to go.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. There was a gender neutral restroom.

GENERAL: A group of friends I was with kept saying we had to go here. What is a Kati Roll? In India you’ll find Kati Rolls as street food. They are basically flatbread wraps with an egg (“Anda” or spelled at this restaurant “Unda”) covering and with various fillings. They are sort of comparable to tacos or burritos. At the Kati Roll Company the egg is not included unless mentioned. All the rolls are made with Paratha (a flatbread cooked with ghee i.e. clarified butter) unless you request Roti (normal flatbread). The former in my opinion is much tastier, but both are great.

The service was decently fast. There were a lot of orders coming in so there was a bit of a wait, but definitely couldn’t have been more than seven or ten minutes. The parathas were made fresh, which you could watch happening, so that was very cool. I did not try any of the drinks, but the lassis (think milkshakes but made with a yogurt base instead of milk) looked super fresh and they also had chai (Indian tea), among beer and other beverages.

THE FOOD: I ordered two rolls: The Aloo Masala Roll and the Chicken Tikka Roll.

The Aloo Masala Roll was absolutely delicious. Essentially a roll with potatoes and spices. Reminded me a lot of the type of potatoes you would get ordering a Masala Dosa at an Indian Restaurant. The roll didn’t fall apart and the potatoes were spiced just right – honestly I could just keep eating those. The paratha was nice and crispy and I definitely appreciated that. I will be ordering lots of these in the future.

The Chicken Tikka Roll was a bit of a disappointment. I am definitely a bit harsher when it comes to critiquing Indian food since I grew up in a household with such great Indian cooking, but I just was not as impressed with this roll as I was with the Aloo Masala Roll. The Chicken Tikka Roll kept falling apart and the chicken itself, although the flavor was evident, was not anything too special. I think the size of the pieces and especially the texture and consistency of the chicken also hurt the overall experience with this roll. Though I did save half the roll for the next morning and it did still taste flavorful for breakfast.

ACCOMODATIONS: Has several excellent vegetarian options. Also very cool how you have the option between Paratha and Roti for your bread. I’m sure you could request some other changes if needed.

OVERALL: Definitely do recommend checking this place out! Two to three rolls are affordable, and I strongly recommend making at least one of them an Aloo Masala Roll! I do plan to come back soon!

Fuji Sushi: Seafood Udon of My Dreams

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RESTAURANT:  Fuji Sushi

DATE OF VISIT: 5/17/17

ADDRESS: 238 W 56th St New York, NY 10019 (Not too far from Central Park and Times Square)

GENRE: Japanese Food

AFFORDABILITY: I found the restaurant reasonably priced for the serving sizes and quality of food.

VENUE: Standard sit down New York restaurant. I sat with a friend by the window so that was really nice. The restaurant seemed to have a lot of seating and a good atmosphere to bring family or friends.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: The service was fast and attention was great! My friend and I had time to kill before our train and it was a great spot for that! The menu is large and expansive covering a variety of Japanese food, which was really awesome. The server checked to see if I needed a fork to eat my Udon, and I appreciated the concern.

THE FOOD: I ordered Seafood Udon Noodles. It was affordable and the serving was huge – I couldn’t even finish it! It comes with salad on the side, but I instead asked for Miso Soup. The Miso Soup was delicious. The Seafood Udon Noodles came with a variety of Seafood like scallops, squid, and more. Some pieces were a little bit rubbery, but it was still satisfying. I definitely appreciated the quantity food. Quality Udon! I definitely recommend!

I think next time I visit I would order some sushi. My friend did and he received a ton of food and it looked delicious.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Does have vegetarian options.

OVERALL: It was a pretty good restaurant! For the price and location, I think it is definitely a good bet if you’re looking for a variety of Japanese food options!

K-Bap: Little Piece of Korea by Trump Tower

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RESTAURANT:  K-Bap Korean Cuisine

DATE OF VISIT: 5/17/17

ADDRESS: 62 W 56th St New York, NY 10019 (A block from Trump Tower and a few blocks away from Central Park)

GENRE: Korean Food

AFFORDABILITY: Most dishes are around $10

VENUE: It was a cute little Korean eatery with a nice ambience. Mostly a grab’n’go but had some sit down spaces.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: I was just walking around New York looking for a quick lunch in between obligations and this place looked appealing. It was a nice little eatery with a variety of Korean food options. There was a decent amount of seating for a restaurant of its small size and it seemed to have free miso soup as well which was pretty cool. If you don’t choose the to-go option like I did, there is really nice dishware.

THE FOOD: I ordered a Dumpling Ramyun. I’m not sure why I did, since there were so many other great Korean options and it was really hot that day. It was on the spicy side, and tasted fine for Ramen, but it was literally just Ramen. I don’t think there was really anything special about it except for the vegetables included (and I guess the broth had lots of flavor). The dumplings were tasty, but a lot larger than expected.

I think next time I visit I would order a Bento Box or Bibimbap or Dukbokki. I really do think the food is pretty good here, just that the Ramen was just nothing special in my opinion. Or just a really bad thing to crave on such a hot day (probably perfect for a cold winter day).

ACCOMMODATIONS: Does have vegetarian options.

OVERALL: Decent portions and has some of the more affordable prices for Manhattan. I wasn’t particularly blown away with the Ramen but I think a lot of the other dishes I mentioned above have more potential (other people looked like they had very tasty dishes). Definitely not a bad option and worth a visit!

Melt Shop: Meeting Grilled Cheesus

So this is my first review. I haven’t read many professional reviews nor do I know what these should even look like. I love to eat and always love trying new foods and always have lots of thoughts. So I thought it would be fun to start casually writing about them!

RESTAURANT:  Melt Shop

DATE OF VISIT: 5/16/17

ADDRESS: 877 8th Avenue New York, NY 10019 (Eight Locations Nationwide, mostly in New York)

GENRE: “Comfort Food” (Sandwiches, Tater Tots, Milkshakes, etc.)

AFFORDABILITY: A sandwich is $5-$10 which isn’t too bad for Manhattan. Decent portions that are fairly filling.  

VENUE: A short walk from Times Square in the Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen area. The inside reminds me of the inside of a lot of new, trendy grab’n’go restaurants you find in cities like DC or NYC: sleek and modern. A few tables and high chairs for seating but you probably won’t find a seat during peak rushes.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Had a single gender-neutral bathroom with an entry code given to customers (pretty standard for city restaurants like these).

GENERAL: If you are looking for sandwiches in NYC and don’t want to go to a random deli, this is definitely the place for you. A good variety of tasty options that can be taken on the go if need be. The staff was super friendly, patient, and worked fairly fast. The food was made fresh so that was really nice.  The restaurant itself was clean, nice, and sleek; a great place for tasty food after a long bus ride into the city.

THE FOOD: I ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich, Shop Tots, and a Chocolate Truffle Milkshake.

 The Fried Chicken Sandwich was absolutely scrumptious. My biggest concern when ordering it was that the chicken would be soggy, but it was nice and crispy. I’m also not usually a big fan of slaws, but the tangy red cabbage slaw and melt sauce went perfectly with the crispy, hot piece of fried chicken and sourdough bread. Great combination of contrasting flavors – I definitely do recommend!

I ordered the shop tots because how could you not order something called “shop tots” (it’s just so fun to say!). They were your standard tater tots. Not disappointed (but I wouldn’t say they were mind-blowing. if you like tater tots you most definitely will love these shop tots!)

I ordered the Chocolate Truffle Shake just because “Chocolate Truffle” sounded so good. The consistency of the shake was amazing: nice, thick, and creamy. It was too chocolatey for me, but at least the chocolate drizzle around the cup made it look really nice. 

I think next time I go, I would definitely order one of the other four shakes because I feel like there is less chance the flavor would be too strong. And I would definitely order cheesy tots or loaded tots – you can’t go wrong with “Tots covered with stuff”.

ACCOMODATIONS: Vegetarian options available and sandwiches can be substituted with Gluten-Free Bread.

OVERALL: Scrumptious meal with a decent serving size at a decent price (for Manhattan). I could see this being one of my favorite lunch places – I would definitely come back! I strongly recommend The Melt Shop if you’re watching a Broadway show or are visiting Times Square and want a filling meal with a variety of options!