Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Update: CLOSED :(

It’s become obvious over the past five months I’ve been writing this blog that Urbanspoon is an invaluable tool for foodies.  Though we’ve been known to give it a “shake” on the iPhone if we’re feeling indecisive in our own neighborhood, the real value and purpose of Urbanspoon is when you are traveling and want to find out where the locals are eating, and what they recommend.

We’ve been to Pittsburgh a handful of times, but this time was special.  Instead of our usual road trip to Ikea, followed by a quick meal in the vicinity, or an occasional jaunt downtown (and blindly trying a restaurant), this time DZ had bigger plans.  He surprised me with a trip to Fallingwater and asked me to marry him there!  It was a beautiful, romantic day, which he had carefully planned and calculated down to every detail.  Except for one: where to have dinner.  But of course that’s where I come in!  So on the drive from Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA back to Pittsburgh where we were staying for the night, I scoured Urbanspoon for something that would fit this special occasion perfectly.  It didn’t take me long to find out that Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen is what Pittsburghers are talking about, and that’s just what we were looking for.

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Alleia Restaurant | Chattanooga, TN

I’m still not entirely comfortable revealing to just anyone that I’m a food blogger. Sometimes it seems like a strange thing to bring up in conversation.  So when dining with people I don’t know well, I skip my typical nerdy blogger routine, which includes photographing not only my food, but everyone’s at my table as well.  This process is saved only for those “special” family and friends, who recognize my food obsession and tolerate me anyway.

When I went on a trip to Atlanta and Chattanooga recently for business, I somehow managed to restrain myself for most of our meals.  Except for one.  By the end of the three-day trip, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and snap some pics for this blog post.  (Who even has to know I’m taking pictures?  That’s why the iPhone is the best camera ever – nobody needs to know you’re not texting or checking email!)

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Bricco | Akron, Ohio

For the first ever Downtown Akron Restaurant Week, we decided to hit Bricco, one of our favorite spots.  Akron’s Restaurant Week was structured much like San Diego restaurant week, whereby participating restaurants offer a “fixed price” menu with three to four selections for each course – typically, appetizer, entree, and dessert.  (BTW, this seems like such an ideal way to attract new business – I wish Canton would do this to encourage people to dine downtown!)  In any event, we started with cocktails:

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Rico’s | Brimfield, Ohio

For as long as I can remember, my dad has been recognized by somebody almost everywhere he goes.  People always just walk up and start talking to him; you’d think he knows everyone.  He’s been telling me about this Italian place in Brimfield (on Rt. 18, east of 43) for a while.  Apparently his friend’s son is running it, and using family recipes straight from Italy.  So when my dad and I stopped into Rico’s recently, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see my dad’s still schmoozing like always, even now that he’s in his eighties.  The owner stopped at our table, greeted my dad as “Mr. Otterman” and was more than hospitable to both of us.  (Even told me he went to visit my dad in California with his father when he was 21- which he decided must have been 30 years ago.  No doubt I could hear some stories about my dad from this guy.)

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Jojutlas | North Canton, Ohio UPDATE: CLOSE

There is a new Mexican restaurant in town that’s totally different than all the rest, and not just because nobody knows how to pronounce its name.  Jojutlas (Ho-HOOT-las, located on Portage Street, near the intersection of Frank Road) just opened, and is bringing a little authentic Mexican food to northeast Ohio.  (Don’t worry, I’m not knocking our friends at El Rincon – this is just a completely different style.)  Finally, a delicious fish taco has arrived in Canton.  And served on a homemade tortilla, no less!

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Muggswigz | Canton, Ohio

As much as we all adore a pumpkin latte in the fall, sometimes one needs a break from Starbucks.  It’s getting hard to remember what life was like before Starbucks; it’s so familiar and predictable (translation: boring and overpriced).  Enter Muggswigz.  In case you are one of the many Cantonians who never ventures downtown, let me be clear: if you have not had coffee at Muggswigz, you are missing out.  Muggswigz is unquestionably the best place in town to get coffee.  And tea, we can’t forget the tea.  Of all the great downtown Canton restaurants that thrive for a minute, then quietly disappear, you might think our city’s little downtown is practically lifeless.  That is, until you step into Muggs.

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The Rail | Akron, Ohio

Not surprisingly, there are few things that excite me more than 1) the prospect of a new (original) restaurant, and 2) a great burger.  Thanks to one of my readers (never thought I’d be saying that), I heard about a cool new burger bar in Akron.  The Rail at Summit Mall is creating some buzz and has the potential to carve out a niche for itself in the Akron food scene.

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BBQ for Two | Our Backyard

It just so happens that some days, there is no place you would rather be than home.  We had one of those days on Labor Day, which turned out to be a peaceful and obligation-free day off together.  With a fridge full of food, including some fresh veggies from a very local garden (thanks Dave and Carol), we decided to head outside for a late summer backyard BBQ, for two.

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Mulligan’s Pub | Canton, Ohio

There are few culinary creations more satisfying than a delicious bowl of lobster bisque.  It is not often that one has a chance to indulge in lobster, so lobster bisque, while still a luxury, makes the the experience a little more frequently obtainable.  I give full credit to my good friend Melissa for turning me onto it some years ago.  We were at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in La Jolla, California when Melissa got noticeably excited to see lobster bisque on the menu, (a dead give-away of a true foodie: spontaneous mood change at the mere thought of certain dishes).  While it turned out that Sammy’s bisque fell slightly short for Melissa (she remains partial to Bon Vie in Columbus), all was not lost, because for me, a new obsession was born.  Now, like Melissa, a smile comes to my face when I see lobster bisque on the menu.  And that is one of the main reasons why Mulligan’s Pub in Canton is a must try.

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