Thursday, May 17, 2012

Newark, New Jersey


Newark, NJ –

Date of trip May, 2012. 

Overall Notes:  Once a month we go to Newark on business, and over the years, although the theme is change and transition – Newark seems to be a city that is moving in the wrong direction.  The graffiti and trash in the streets is sad.  If you didn’t know better, you could be in a part of the world that is on TV asking for help to feed the children.  It is a town steeped in history – the old buildings and churches had to be amazing in their day.  Now they stand with broken windows, boarded up entries, people sleeping in doorways.  Sad, really sad.

Hotels:  The Hilton at Penn Station is nice. You can walk over to the station and taste all kinds of food from the vendors.  The hotel is clean, the staff is always polite.  The parking is in a parking garage, and the rate is $21.00 per night.

Entertainment:  The best thing about Newark, is it is a short train ride into New York.   So much to do in New York, but that is a different blog post!  To be fair there are outdoor concerts and live events in Newark.  I went to a Journey concert there last year.  The concert was fun and amazing, but leaving was scary to say the least.  It was a long dark walk to the car.  Better safe than sorry.  Newark, is not a place to be at night by yourself.

Note:  If you do visit Newark Penn,  be prepared to have homeless people asking for your scraps of food and for money.  During all times of the year, they can be seen sleeping and begging in and around Penn Station.  During the winter they sleep under stairwells in groups trying to keep warm.  It is a sad, sad thing to think this happens in our incredible country.

Tampa, Florida


Tampa, Florida –

Date of trip May, 2012. 

Overall Notes:  Tampa, Florida is a must visit.  The entire bay area, which includes cities like Clearwater, Brandon, Bradenton, St. Petersburg , is incredible.   Be sure to visit Busch Gardens, a unique blend of zoo habitat, and thrill rides.  There is always something to do in the bay area, from indoor and outdoor concerts, to professional baseball, football, arena football and hockey.  And for you gamblers, yes there is even a Hard Rock Casino, and a dog track in the area.  Tampa bay is amazing for the young and the young at heart.  From Skate board parks to golf courses – Tampa Bay has it all.

Beach Area:  The best beach area has to be Clearwater Beach, FL.  Public parking is available just steps from the beach.  They have activities all year round, with giant blow up slides for young kids to FREE movie night in the park (every Friday).  You can parasail, ride jet skiis and do normal things found on a lot of beaches; however, at Clearwater beach you can also ride on a pirate ship, go deep sea fishing for a day or a half a day.  Ride on a jet boat, go on a dinner cruise.  All from within walking distance from the beach.  There are also multiple bars and restaurants within walking distance and some right on the beach.  Chairs and cabanas are available to rent, or you can even bring your own.   The white sand is always clean and well kept. 

Hotels:  There are several really nice hotels in the TB area.  Choose a hotel  close to your activity, you do not want to spend your time in sunny Florida on the highway in traffic.  Dale Mayberry near the baseball and football arena is always jammed with traffic and accidents.  This is also the strip club area, and one I choose to stay away from!!  If you want a luxurious experience while in Tampa Bay, rent a house on the bay or beach!  There are several mansions available for weekly rental at very reasonable rates. 

Entertainment:  Too much to do to list it all. The beach, as mentioned above is amazing.  Tampa’s Ybor city is a fun place to see.  Stop by during the day and visit all the shops, restaurants, cigar factories, incredible movie theater, and so much more.  At night be sure to visit the comedy club, where some big names tend to stop by and do a show. 

Downtown Tampa near the forum is nice as well – great food, and if you like bowling, an alley like no other.  The trolley will take you from Ybor to Downtown, as well as to the forum and the aquarium.

Orlando is about an hour drive, but if you only have a week or two – stay around Tampa Bay – you will not get bored.  Orlando is another trip, another week!

Sports:  Baseball – Tampa Bay Rays and spring training for the Yankee and Phillies.  Hockey – Tampa Bay Lightning!  Football – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Arena Hockey – Tampa Bay Storm. 

Kobe Japanese Restaurant - Bentonville, Arkansas

Location: Kobe Japanese Restaurant – 1311 S Walton Blvd. Bentonville, AR  72712

Overall Notes: Simply the Best Sushi and Hospitality you will find in Arkansas and the best we have found anywhere in the United States. There is a uniqueness to the art of making Sushi that the Owner/Operator and Head Sushi chef (Jay) provides that is incomparable. The fish is flown in and served fresh – every time. There is no question that the food you will be served is of the highest quality and that the skill and pride put into every dish will make you come back for more.

My wife and I are in the area about once a month and make this a “must stop” every time. On top of the best Sushi and Sashimi dishes you will ever eat – Jay and his wife treat each and every individual as if they are old family friends. From the friendly welcome when you walk in the door – to your personal chopsticks (once you have become a frequent diner) and the hearty thank you when you leave. There is something truly special about the experience.

The only thing that might throw you is the location; the restaurant shares a building with a gas station. To us this is just another thing that makes this place so special. No one would ever think that this level of hospitality or quality of food would be in a building with a gas station. The location may be why the quality of food is so spectacular and the prices are so reasonable.

Trust me this place is amazing – stop by and see for yourself !! You will become a fan on your first visit.

Kobe Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Red, Hot & Blue Resturant - Herndon, Virginia

Herndon, Virginia –  Red, Hot and Blue 

Date of trip May 2012. 

Overall Notes:  Really cool atmosphere.  The drinks come out in a plastic pitcher a little smaller than the standard pitcher.  The kicker is the pitcher is your glass.  I ordered Iced Tea and Water and about fell over when I saw how giant these ‘glasses’ were!  No more empty glass for me. 

Red, Hot and Blue had blues music playing, not too loud, not too low. You could easily carry on a conversation, and enjoy the music.  Maybe I was just in the mood for some Bonnie Raitt, maybe it was the music, food and atmosphere combo, but I had an amazing time at Red, Hot and Blue, and it was 3p.m. in the afternoon. 

The outside seating overlooks a fairly busy intersection.  Strangely, it didn’t seem loud at all.  There are TVs outside, and plenty of flowers to add to the scenery. 

The food – YUM.  Although the fried okra was kind of your standard fried okra that you get at a restaurant.  They can out super-hot.  The loaded baked potato was truly loaded.  One of their signature salads has beef and chicken.  Big portions.  The Ribs are available in dry, wet and sweet.  They have a variety of their own sauces available on the table.

 Live entertainment nightly.  Great Service.  Perfect Atmosphere.  Good Food.

Red Hot & Blue on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

First Choice BBQ – Brandon, Florida

First Choice BBQ – Brandon, Florida. 10113  Adamo Drive (SR 60) Tampa, FL 33619   Phone: (813) 621-7434 Fax: (813) 621-7378

First Choice is a must try if you are in Brandon, FL (or anywhere in the Tampa area and have a craving for real southern BBQ and all of the traditional sides).  This is not a fancy restaurant with a romantic ambiance – it is a simple little joint in a strip mall that will keep you coming back over and over again. There is one focus for the employees and the customers – the food, nothing more nothing less. In fact, it may be a bit intimidating to yell your order over the glass to the man that will chop and/or pull your pork, beef, or turkey while you watch. Don’t worry though, after you take that first bite you will know that the only thing that really matters is the explosion of flavor in your mouth.

My Favorite – Pulled Pork Sandwich, Greens, and Spicy Macaroni. The fries are fresh cut and all of the other sides will blow you away as well.

We don’t get to the Tampa area much anymore but when we are, this is our favorite spot for lunch. There is also a location in Plant City, Florida that we have not been to; however, it will likely blow you away as well. First Choice Southern BBQ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bradenton, FL – GIO Fabulous Pizza & Martini Bar

GIO Fabulous Pizza & Martini Bar - Bradenton, FL


Date of trip:  April, 2012

Overall Notes:  If you are visiting the Tampa, Florida area, type 4805 Cortez Road West in your GPS and head over to GIO’s.  On a scale of 1 to 5, the food is truly a 5+.  Each time we have been there, the food has been unbelievable.  One problem, the service.  It’s always slow.  Not terrible, not bad, just slow.  Perhaps relaxed would be a better word.  If you go with the thought of hanging out and savoring the night out, this is totally your kind of place.  If you are in a hurry, but want great food – save Gio’s for another night.
Our favorites: 
Spaghetti Frutti di mare - Perfectly spiced with the right amount seafood and the noodles are served perfectly cooked.  

Lobster Ravioli – some might think this is a small portion; however, the flavor cannot be beat.  The lobster ravioli is served in a vodka sauce and is absolutely amazing.

The pizza – Naples style pizza.  Super thin crust and amazing cheeses and just the right amount of sauce.
Other info: 
Enjoy the free bread and olive oil, but don’t forget to try some of their appetizers.  The mussels and calamari are both favorites of ours.  You can also order a small prosciutto pizza if you have a group. Perfect!

Come in shorts and a t-shirt or dressed for prom.  All are welcome.

Visiting Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon, Bradenton, St. Pete – head over to Cio’s!. 

GIO’s website:  

Gio Fabulous Pizza & Martini on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charlotte, NC - Must eats!

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse - Bar Lounge on Urbanspoon
Charlotte, NC – Two great Restaurants!
Date of trip April, 2012. 

Overall Notes:   WOW!  This is our first trip to Charlotte, NC and we had absolutely no idea how incredible this city was – we fell in love with it in 24 hours.  The city is clean.  Even in the older parts of town, it is clean.  We loved it.  There is so much to do here.  On this one day alone, we could have gone to a play, a movie, a car show in the center of the Charlotte Speedway, a music feasible downtown and so much more.  They have an amazing downtown area.  Family friendly and yet, cool, hip, safe and inviting. 


Chima Brazilian Steakhouse – 139 S. Tryon Street

The Chima is a MUST stop if you are in Charlotte!  The atmosphere is perfect for a romantic dinner, or fun for a group.  The wait staff is insane.  They are all rushing around – but not enough to annoy you – just the perfect amount to ensure that you are taken care of 100%.  You don’t have to ever ask for drink refills.  They bring you clean plates from time to time.  They fold your napkin each time you get up to get something from the salad bar.   Speaking of the salad bar, it is a large array of soups, salad, and unique items not often found on a normal salad bar, such as Mozzarella Balls, Hearts of Palm and so much more.  This is standard for a Brazilian Steakhouse, but the staff that takes care of the salad bar are constantly bringing out fresh additions and ensuring the bar is clean and perfect.  As will all Brazilian steakhouses, the meat just keeps coming until you flip over your ‘token’ and tell them to stop, the difference at Chima is one sever realized we really liked the lamb chops, and made it a point to watch to see if we had eaten ours, and swing by to ask if we wanted more.  He was amazing.  We had a great time; we had great food, and an outstanding staff.  Don’t miss Chima when you are in Charlotte, NC. 

 Fujo – 301 S. College Street

A better than average sushi bar.  The sushi and sashimi was fresh.  The service was excellent.  Our drinks never even got close to empty.  The restaurant was a little slow; however, it was almost 8:30pm when we went into eat.  It is located in a building with Wells Fargo, and several other businesses and with food that taste that great, we are sure that they are most likely busy for lunch.  The staff was friendly, and very laid back and yet very attentive.  If you are in Charlotte and in the mood for some great sushi, stop by Fujo!

Fujo Uptown Bistro on Urbanspoon