November 24th, 2004


Lately I've had a bizarre sleep schedule problem. I fall asleep around ten pm, wake up around 2:30am, then fall asleep again around daybreak and don't wake up for hours. It happened again this morning, which is why I'm awake now.

Well, what do you do when you can't sleep? Post! :)

So the next posts will be from the huge and growing backlog of restaurant listings.
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Montrose Spa

infinitehotel brought up the subject of Cuban sandwiches, and mentioned that Montrose Spa was right down Mass Av. I get obsessed easily, so I dragged bedfull_o_books down there the next day. We were prepared to be disappointed because it was a Sunday, but it was open anyway.

Montrose Spa
1646 Mass Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
tel: +1.617.547.5053
daily: 0700-2100 (deli hours; store stays open until 2300)
T: Harvard or Porter (pretty much halfway between)

Montrose Spa is an old-fashioned corner grocery with a deli. It just happens that they do a great Cuban sandwich: pork, ham, mortadella, swiss, pickles, and mustard, on french bread, pressed flat on their grill. The sandwiches are pretty good value for $5.95.

They do a variety of other sandwiches, none of which I've tried yet.

In nice weather, you can sit at one of the tables outside.

La Fuente Restaurante

We'd passed this place on the way to Ichiban. It looked interesting, so I sort of filed it away in the back of my mind as another place on University that I'd like to check out sometime. Fortunately, La Fuente is open 19 hours a day, so when we happened to be in the neighborhood one morning before going to the zoo, we stopped in.

La Fuente Restaurante
1227 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
tel: +1.619.295.6447
M-Th: 0800-0300
F-Su: 0900-0400
Free delivery if you order at least $20 24 hours in advance.

(second location:
34 3rd Ave.
Chula Vista, CA 91910
tel: +1.619.422.6976
daily: 0800-2200)

(last visited January '04)

"Restaurante" is a bit grandiose for what is actually a stand. True, there are some tables in the back but this is the sort of place where you walk up to the front window to place your order. It's a lot like ubiquitous taco stands ending in "berto's" you find all over San Diego. The food is cheap and service is fast. Burritos start at $2.08 for bean and top out at $3.69 for shrimp, with most around $3. All the tortas--beef, chicken, carne asada, carnitas, chorizo, machaca (shredded beef), fish, and ham--are $3.20. Tacos are between $1.49 (ground beef, carne asada) and $2.04 (taco de papa, pollo asado, carnitas, al pastor, shrimp, and fish). They do tostadas, enchiladas, and quesadillas, as well as some special plates and combinations (including rice and beans) in the $4-6 range.

If you're there before noon, as we were, you can get breakfast. Huevos rancheros, cheese or ham omelet, chorizo con huevo, machaca, ham con huevo, bacon huevo, chilaquiles rojos, chilaquiles rancheros, and huevos divorciados (eggs on tortillas with two salsas) are each $4.29.

The usual soft drinks are available, as well as horchata or jamaica ($0.95 small, $1.35 large). They serve menudo (tripe) Friday to Sunday.

Service is quick and friendly.

As we were ordering, a passerby said, "Hey, you can't eat there now! You can only eat here at two AM when you're drunk!"

The food was fine anyway.

Pommes Frites

rosminah had a couple of food places she really wanted to try when she was in New York. Pommes Frites was one of them, so we went.

Pommes Frites
123 2nd Av. (between 7th St and St. Mark's Pl./8th St.)
New York, NY 10003
tel: +1.212.674.1234
Subway: Astor Place (sorry, no 2nd Avenue subway yet)
Su-Th: 1130-0100
F-Sa: 1130-0200

Pommes Frites is a straightforward kind of place. Everything on the menu is fried potatoes, Belgian-style, except for the poutine, which is fried potatoes, Quebec-style. Belgian fries come in three sizes: regular (pretty big) $4, large (really big) $6.25, and double (how could you possibly eat that much?) $7.25. We got a large and didn't finish it between us. There's a wide variety of sauces, including the traditional frites sauce (mayonnaise), tartar, dijon mustard, sweet chili, russian dressing, roasted garlic mayo, rosemary garlic mayo, pesto mayo, dill lemon mayo, smoked eggplant mayo, sweet mango chutney mayo, tandoori mayo, green olive mayo, horseradish mayo (one senses a theme), curry ketchup, honey dijon mustard, curry (hot or mild), peanut satay, parmesan peppercorn, blue cheese, dijon garlic mustard, Hawaiian pineapple mustard, barbecue sauce, sambal olek (a hot chili paste), Mexican ketchup, and cheddar cheese sauce.

The frites are served in the traditional paper cone, with sauce on the side. They're served good and hot, but the portions are so big that by the time you get to the bottom they can get kind of soggy.

You get one sauce for free. Additional sauces are 75¢ each, or 3 for $1.75. Also, you can get any of: ketchup, yellow mustard, Tabasco, malt vinegar, chopped raw onions, or sliced jalapeno for free.

I haven't yet tried the poutine, which is $3.50 for a small and $4.50 for a large. Depending on how big the portions are, this may be a good deal.

And what is poutine? To quote their website: "Poutine is a French-Canadian dish made from a combination of French fries, chicken gravy, and curd cheddar cheese.
"The cheese and the gravy are imported especially from Quebec to give our customers the most authentic and enjoyable experience."

I'm pleased to see that I can get poutine in New York--somehow, this isn't surprising--but Montreal is nearly as close for me nowadays, and I know I can get good poutine there. It's a great snack on one of those cold winter days they do so well up in Quebec.

Juyoh Hotel

When W heard I was stopping over in Tokyo on my way home he recommended the Juyoh Hotel as a cheap, pleasant place to stay. He was right, and I've since recommended it myself. Thanks, W!

Juyoh Hotel
2-15-3 Kiyokawa
Tokyo 111-0022
tel: +81.3.3875.5362
fax: +81.3.5603.5775
Subway and commuter rail: Minamisenju (Hibiya or JR Joban)
check-out 1000, check-in 1600, curfew at 0100.

The Juyoh seems like a low-end Japanese hotel that discovered they could fill rooms with foreigners, too. It still has a number of Japanese quirks but seems to cope okay with foreigners. The older guy who is often at the front desk doesn't speak English, which is okay because one of the younger people does, though he's not available a lot of the time.
The older guy was a lot nicer to the three Irish girls than he was to me, but that's no surprise, either. In any case the staff do manage to reply to email reservations promptly, and in English.

Singles are ¥3200, and the web page has a 10% discount coupon. Twin rooms--of which there are only three--are ¥6200. The 73 single rooms are all three-tatami mat sized (i.e., snug) with TV, air-conditioning, and fridge. There's a futon and a buckwheat pillow, as well as comforters and sheets.

Facilities are on each floor. There are also a couple of shower rooms on various floors, and a Japanese-style bath on the top floor.

There's free net from a couple of computers in the ground floor lounge. There's also a weird safe deposit machine in the lounge which I had to ask the cleaning staff how to use. Fortunately, they speak Mandarin (I suspect they're all from China).

Getting here is pretty simple. It's about ten minutes walk in a straight line from Minamisenju station. There's a bus from Minamisenju but it'd be a waste of ¥200 to take it unless you really had a lot of gear with you. The 46 bus stops right outside on its way to Ueno for the Keisei Skyliner train to Narita airport, which is the way I got myself to Narita the morning I left.

The neighborhood is quiet and unfashionable, but as safe as anyplace in Tokyo. There are a variety of restaurants and convenience stores nearby.

Aside from the 1AM curfew this place was perfect for a three-day layover.

Shalom Backpackers

One of V's co-workers--I think it was ET--from McMurdo mentioned she was staying here. I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about the place I'd been staying so I moved. I liked it so much I got to be a bit of a regular.

Shalom Backpackers
69 Bealey Avenue
New Zealand
tel/fax: +64.3.366.6770

Why does a Japanese owned and operated backpacker hostel in New Zealand have a Hebrew name? Who knows. I didn't particularly notice many Israeli backpackers there. In fact, I'm not sure I met any.
It doesn't matter much, though. The place is homey and restful. Dorms are NZ$17-18 (US$12-13), the single is NZ$29 (US$21), and there are also twins and triples. Bathroom facilities are down the hall, there's a kitchen you can use, and there's a sauna which I never got around to using.

Not a particularly social place but very nice for peace and quiet. And it's cheap.


bedfull_o_books mentioned to me she'd gone to this all you can eat sushi place with happyfunpaul and friends. So I picked a weekday lunchtime and tried it out.

1282 Worcester Road (Rt. 9 East, in the Sherwood Plaza, across from Natick Mall)
Natick, MA 01760
tel: +1.508.647.0495
lunch: M-F 1130-1430, Sa-Su 1130-1500
dinner: M-Th 1800-2200, F-Sa: 1730-2200, Su 1700-2100
(last seating 30 minutes before closing)

(Other locations: Little Ferry, NJ; Carle Place, NY; Manhattan; and Parsippany, NJ.)

Minado is one of a growing number of these big Japanese seafood buffet places. It's not much for ambience, and the selection at lunch is pretty much just okay, but the high turnover means that the fish is pretty fresh. I'm told they do handrolls to order, also.

The cafeteria-like setup includes a wide and changing variety of salads as well as hot and cold Japanese and Asian dishes, including gyoza, shumai, yakisoba, and fried rice. But you came here for the sushi.

The usual favorites are there: tuna, salmon, red snapper, though I was surprised not to see any yellowtail on my visit. The fish is reasonably fresh. There are also a variety of gunkan sushi, like seaweed salad and spicy tuna. As I said, not bad, considering it's lunch.

I would like to try the dinner selection sometime but it'd better be a lot wider for the extra $10.

Weekday lunch is $13.95, weekend lunch is $15.95. Dinner is $23.95 on weekdays and $25.95 on weekends.

Joe Grate's Bar-B-Que

We kept passing this place everytime we went up Dixwell on our way north from campus. We'd heard rumors they did good barbeque, and we kept meaning to try it, until one fine summer afternoon when we finally did. Should've gone sooner.

Joe Grate's Bar-B-Que
1559 Dixwell Ave.
Hamden, CT 06514
tel: +
fax: +
Tu-Sa: 1100-2100
Su: 1100-1800

I described Joe Grate's to myrt_maat as the best barbeque in New Haven. Naturally, she was sceptical, because it is Connecticut, after all, and she's had her share of good barbeque back home in Oklahoma. When I went on to mention that it was one of those places run by an old black man that used to be a garage in a neighborhood that wasn't the greatest, she nodded and said that those were good signs. (Dixie's, in Bellevue, WA, is another bbq place that fits that description. I think Dixie's was a truck and RV repair shop.)

Well, the barbeque--as well as the rest of the homestyle cooking--is pretty good. It's easily the best in New Haven, which in this case isn't damning with faint praise. He started out with a smoker in a parking lot, and the place is still as unpretentious, with checked tablecloths over card tables and friendly staff. You can have the BBQ pork ribs, the BBQ chicken, the chopped BBQ. They also do whiting fillet, smoked beef brisket, and smoked or fried pork chops. All dinners are $8, and include two sides and cornbread. The sides can also be ordered separately for $2, and include potato salad, hash and rice, collard greens, candied yams, mac and cheese, baked beans, and string beans. Desserts (peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, or banana pudding) are also $2.

They also cater, and they say they smoke whole turkeys to order.

We need to check if they're still there as a Chowhound post says he was "closed all summer after a car ran through the front of his restaurant" but he has still been doing neighborhood parties. So we'll see.

Which now reminds me I should write up Dixie's.