Saturday, August 11, 2012

Restaurants Remembered (1)

Since our group was dining out for quite a while before I started my blog, I will from time to time write about some “Restaurants Remembered”. One that stands out is Ciccios/Water. Here you get two restaurants in one. Ciccio’s California Cuisine and Water Unique Sushi. These two restaurants (owned by the same group) adjoin each other and share a kitchen that happily serves either menu to either side. So diners truly get the best of both worlds.
Our group arrived at 6pm (yes we’re seniors but we’re not looking for the early bird special!). We like to do a social activity AFTER dinner so that’s why we dine at 6pm. (yes we’re seniors so we start getting tired about 10:30pm – don’t judge us – you’ll get there some day).
We ordered from the Ciccio’s menu and quite a few of us tried the California Bowls – yum. And the Penne with Italian Sausage garnered some rave reviews. Everyone was quite happy with their meals. The wait staff was young, attractive and very professional. They gave us lots of attention and when the manager came by to ask how everything was we complimented the food and service.
I mentioned that it was our first time at Ciccio’s and that we were a Dining Out group that met monthly and he chatted with us good naturedly for a while. In a move that proved his marketing genius he sent over a gigantic platter filled with a sample of every sumptuous dessert they offered – on the house! Now that’s classy – and smart.
We will definitely go back to Ciccio’s – it was a great experience. And on our way out it was lovely to see the place now filling up with young, beautiful people. The parking lot was abuzz with valets and limos – it promised to be a lively fun night at Ciccio’s – and we left feeling satisfied and catered to and I’m sure we ended up at a Dunkin’ Donuts somewhere to sip a coffee and recall our more youthful days of partying into the wee hours and wearing fabulous clothes and dancing all night without our feet hurting. Billy's Stone Crab Seafood on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ella's Folk Art Cafe

This weekend our gang of eight headed off to Ella’s Folk Art Museum….errr…Cafe. Confused? Me too, at first. We followed our GPS directions to Seminole Heights, not your typical fine dining neighborhood we thought, as we passed a myriad of used car dealers and Popeye’s Chicken stores. Let’s keep in mind that the mandate of our Great Escape Group is that members can pick ANY restaurant their heart desires. That includes a hot dog stand if it pleases them. So we were ready for anything.
I’m always amazed at how easily a neighborhood can transition from depressed to avant garde at any given turn. In this case Ella’s Folk Art Cafe rose up out of the debris laden establishments surrounding it and presented itself as a big gaily painted harlot. The 2-story terra cotta stucco façade was beautiful and welcoming. Some really cool metal sculptures dotted its landscape and the lawn was edged with rows of half buried bowling balls in every color of the rainbow. Delightful! A side patio with more crafty iron works provided for dining al fresco when the weather cooperates. Inside was a variety of folk art paintings, art installations, sculptures that drew the eye up and down and around. Very entertaining.
When their small parking lot fills up you'll want to find something within a block given the less than desirable neighborhood. We were there on a quiet Saturday but they feature live music on Fridays and Sundays. In a nod to our vintage past, they also offer Wax Wednesdays where a DJ spins classic vinyl records. Remember them? They’re making a comeback!
The room filled up quickly with a nice mostly youthful crowd proving that old adage “if you build it they will come”, no matter what neighborhood you’re in. Service was very friendly and efficient – sometime a challenge with a party of eight. And for the most part everyone enjoyed their food. Delicious and generous salads. Sandwiches and entrees to suit any appetite or budget. Hubby regretted not ordering the special when he watched jealously as a waitress delivered a Neanderthal sized short rib platter to a nearby table. An excuse to go back. And I would definitely return, maybe on a musical night.
They offered some awesome looking desserts but we opted to head back to one of our homes where we partook of drinks, coffee and donuts, swapped stories and shared some laughs. Another successful escape plotted and executed. Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe on Urbanspoon