Well, what a long, strange trip its been. My wife and I had planned a trip to Florida carefully. We were going to leave home in Western KY, travel through Chattanooga, Atlanta, Gainesville, and Sarasota and on to Key West. We were going to return through Tallahassee, Birmingham, and then home. I had really studied the chowhound site, and had reviewed several books I purchased. In addition to the old chowhound messages, I had received some great recommendations from specific posts on this site. I had restaurants picked for each lunch and dinner location.
Our plans were dramatically changed due to a funeral and a car accident. A death in the family caused us to leave early, and routed us through NW Arkansas. After the funeral, we continued on to Florida. While in Florida, we received word that our son and daughter-in-law were in a serious car accident. We immediately left for the Columbus/Cincinnati, OH area.
We left home on Jan 31 and returned yesterday. Following is our chowhound report. I dont have good notes for this trip. And, there are a few places where I just cannot recall the name of the restaurant. Nevertheless, I really enjoy the site, and would feel guilty if I did not post. Ive noted the places more or less in the order they occurred.
OConnells Pub in St. Louis. Really great pub. Had a great burger and a good roast beef sandwich. Burger was cooked medium rare as requested. Roast beef was not as rare as would have liked, but still very good. Onion rings were decent. Local ale (cant remember name) was very good. We smelled a bit smoky when we left, but somehow I expect that in a good pub. We had to wait for a table at 1:30 PM, deservedly very popular place. Service rushed but decent.
Sims Bar-B-Cue in Little Rock. Had read about it in Southern Belly. Very good pork sandwiches. Fries were decent. Place was almost deserted on a rainy Monday night. Very friendly service. Beer choices limited, but somehow the (very) large bottles of Bud seemed just right.
Wintzells Oyster House in Mobile. Some of the best fried oysters and best sea food gumbo we have ever had (and we have had a lot of each). The gumbo was made with a brown roux; rather similar to the chicken gumbo we make. We bought a container of the seafood gumbo to carry to a brother-in-law in Sarasota. My wife also loved the West Indies salad (lots of crab meat). I was surprised that no interesting local beers were offered.
Market Street Pub in Gainesville. Went here because they make their own sausage. The particular sausage this night was too spicy for us. We are originally from Louisiana, and use a little red pepper in everything. But, this was just too much. Oddly enough, we loved the chicken wings. Not something we normally order. The burger was cooked a bit more than ordered, but still had a good flavor, and was not dry.
Leverocks in Bradenton. Hmmm. Not bad but not that great. There were five of us, and we all had seafood. I cant remember which specific fish I ordered. I think Mahi Mahi. No problems, just not memorable food.
Hurricane Joes in Key West. Between the four of us, we had three different types of snappermutton snapper, yellow tail, and mangrove. We all agreed that the mangrove was the best (and it was excellent). Two of the other fish were fried, and one was blackened. All were good, just not as good. Of course, we cannot determine if the difference was the type of snapper or the preparation. The service was less than admirable. The downstairs was crowded and rowdy. We went upstairs, which clearly upset the waiter. He didnt have much to do until we came up. I had to work to get him out of his bad mood.
Alonzos, Key West. Great raw oysters on the deck and some interesting drinks. Had decent local ale and music earlier in the day at an outdoor bar. The name is gone from my mind.
Cocos Cantina, Cudjoe Key, MM 21.5. Great neighborhood bar atmosphere. All four of us had whole fried yellowtail snapper. I found it too heavy. The other three in our group loved it. I would return and order something else.
Murrays Food Mart, Summerland Key, MM 24.5. Great little food store. Picked up various dipping oils and some good steak.
Fanci Seafood, Cudjoe Key, MM 22.5. Purchased mangrove snapper and shrimp. Wanted oysters but the truck was late. Great meal, sautéed the fish in olive oil (plus a little sundried tomato olive oil) garlic, and onion.
Islamorada Fish Company, Islamorada Key. Had planned on eating in the restaurant, but we were too early. So, we purchased food from their market and had a lovely picnic overlooking the water. We had lobster salad, squid salad, and jerked shrimp. What interesting lobsters they have in the keys.
Canoe in Atlanta. Wonderful, wonderful meal. Generally, I find the appetizers most interesting. In this case, the entrees were the stars. Our appetizers were wild mushroom soup and arugula salad. The salad was good. The mushroom soup was perhaps too subtle. The entrees were a pan roasted wild striped bass and a slow roasted Carolina Rabbit. I loved both, but preferred the rabbit. That surprised me. My wife loved both equally. We also had several nice wines by the glass, and a lovely soufflé. Would love to go back in the daytime when we could see the river.
Azalea, Louisville, KY. Wonderful bottle of Incognito Red wine. Appetizers were spinach salad and tomato soup. Both good. The whole fried catfish with ginger and wasabi and other stuff was excellent. The Mahi Mahi was good, but not outstanding.
Max & Ermas in Cincinnati. Excellent burgers, onion rings only so-so. Would not order the chowder again. Beer selection okay, but not very interesting. Sam Adams was as about as exciting at they got. I dont normally think of chains as having good burgers but these were.
I realize that this is a food board. Hopefully I am not out of line in saying that our son, daughter-in-law, and unborn baby are doing well. Lots of rehab left, but we are keeping them happy with home cooking and their favorite take-outs (especially supplies from Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati). We will be taking them out to restaurants soon.