Restaurants refusing to open

This weekend, many places across the country are just now starting to re-open their economies.

Certain businesses like fitness centers, bowling alleys, barbershops, and restaurants are re-opening their doors to the public and some are thrilled, while others are very worried.

In fact, some are refusing to join in on re-opening. 

More than 120 restaurants in Atlanta have come together to form the #GAHospitalityTogether initiative which includes award-winning chefs Ford Fry, Anne Quatrano, Hugh Acheson and Mashama Bailey. 

The group put out a statement and stated, “We agree that it’s in the best interest of our employees, our guests, our community and our industry to keep our dining rooms closed at this time.”

They affirmed that public safety is their top priority and that they stand united to “emerge stronger, safer and more steadfast than before.”

Restaurants are not allowed to completely open up right now in places like Georgia. There are many restrictions put in place such as only allowing them to open up 50% in capacity.

That restriction alone will keep some restaurants closed because it may not be economical to run at half capacity.

Servers rely massively on tips and with only half of the patrons inside, those tips will also be cut in half and may not be enough for some to risk their health. 

In fact, some servers may be much better off relying on unemployment benefits assuming that they can get them (the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC) provides an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting unemployment).

As for when they will open up, Fred Castellucci, CEO of Castellucci Hospitality Group and one of the restaurant owners leading the initiative, told Business Insider, “It’s what we feel is best for the safety and health of our restaurants, our teams and our customers right now, and as we see cases drop to a low enough number, we’ll evaluate the risk factors and begin to implement our reopening plans.”

Crazy enough, I’ve seen reports of some restaurants actually doing better during these times, which is another angle to consider.

Some places have been able to still get takeout orders going on a constant flow and with a smaller crew, they have seen better profits.

So some establishments will not be running to reopen based not only on the health concerns but on profitability.

Overall, it feels like places should not be opening up until they have had a steady decline in cases which is not what is happening in some of the states that are re-opening.

But perhaps these measures they are putting in place to enforce greater social distancing and better sanitation will result in a better outcome than many expect.

I just hope that the states have plans to return to a lock down quickly if another major surge is on the horizon.


Coronavirus themed foods around the world

Everywhere around the world people are trying to find ways to cope with the reality of facing a global pandemic like this for the first time in our lives. Some people are resorting to more creative ways of coping and trying to cheer others up in their locales.

One way that people are doing this is with food creations. Here’s a look at some of the innovative food creations that are making the rounds around the world.

Coronavirus-themed burger

In Hanoi, Vietnam, a chef at Pizza Home created a coronavirus-themed burger. These green tea steamed buns have little crowns on them to look like the microscopic version of the virus. The idea with something like this is to take the fear out of the disease by making it more of a joke (that you can eat).
Coronavirus Easter eggs
In France, pastry chef and chocolatier Jean-François Pré created coronavirus Easter eggs to bring some humor to people after he was just flat out tired of hearing about the coronavirus 24/7. He started to sell these at his shop a few weeks before France went into lockdown.

Toilet roll shaped cakes

This one might be my favorite. In Germany, the Schuerener Backparadies bakery added biscuit versions of the face mask emoji and toilet roll shaped cakes.
These cakes have been an instant hit with locals and they have been making at least 200 per day.  They even claim that these toilet roll cakes are what is helping them get through these difficult times.
Like many places, restaurants and cafés are not open to sitting customers but they can still serve takeout and delivery so many of these places are able to stay alive by attracting takeout orders. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci donuts

In hard hit New York, a donut shop has created a special donut in honor of infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.

He has emerged as one of the leaders in the battle against coronavirus and many have respected his straight talk at a time when it has become difficult to get accurate information from some of our leaders.

These donuts have also been a huge hit with locals and they have sold thousands of these which are buttercream frosted.

Is this wrong?

Some people might take issue with others trying to make light of the coronavirus (and cashing in), since after all thousands of people have died from it and many more will succumb to the disease in the future.

But I think the intentions are pure in these cases and it seems to be giving people a reason to smile or even feel a bit more lighthearted about the situation. Obviously, it’s still a serious disease but there is something to be said about companies doing things like this.

It’s sort of a way for people to feel like we are all in this together and to have a little laugh at the same time, so I don’t feel offended by any of this.

Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson Ultimate Guide

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to try local specialties. Sometimes these are special cafés that serve up unique dishes like the fluffy pancakes in Tokyo or they could be things like local regional delicacies. So when I recently ventured into Tucson Arizona, it was necessary for me to try the Sonoran hot dog.

In this article, I will talk about what the Sonoran hot dog is and where you can find them in Tucson. (Full disclosure: so far, I have only tried one Sonoran hot dog but I will update this article as I try out more locations.)

What is a Sonoran hot dog?

A Sonoran hot dog is a special hot dog popular in southern Arizona that comes grilled, wrapped in bacon, and served on a bolillo bun (a variation of the baguette).

But the fun doesn’t stop there, these bad boys are also topped with pinto beans, fresh onions, chopped tomatoes and sometimes additional condiments like guacamole, shredded cheddar, mayonnaise, mustard, and jalapeño salsa. A roasted chile güero (a pale pepper) may be served on the side.

Unlike a Chicago dog which is pretty standard in make-up, the ingredients can vary depending on where you go and many places will put their own twist on the Sonoran dog.

Where did the Sonoran hot dog come from?

If you are like me, you might be curious about the history of the delicacies that you are trying out when you travel.

According to, a traveling circus may have first brought hot dogs to Sonora, Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century and eventually these dogs evolved into the modern day Sonoran hot dog in the city of Hermosillo — the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora.

There’s debate about the evolution of the hot dog (like who first wrapped the dog in bacon) but by the 80s, the dog had exploded in popularity and you could find them all over Universidad de Sonora. And then shortly after, Sonoran hot dog carts started showing up in Mexican neighborhoods in Tucson. The rest is history. 

Is the Sonoran hot dog good?

Taste is a pretty subjective experience so it is impossible for me to tell you whether or not you will like the Sonoran hot dog.

However, I was a little bit underwhelmed with my first Sonoran hot dog experience (I hate to admit).

It wasn’t horrible but given all of the toppings on it and the bacon, I thought that it would be bursting with flavor but I found the hot dog to be a bit bland. So when I try my next Sonoran hot dog, I will be sure to load it up with other flavorful condiments like jalapeño salsa.

One thing I will say is that these dogs get messy real quick. So be prepared to contain overflowing condiments — either with a napkin or your mouth.

Where to get a Sonoran hot dog

It is estimated that you can find a Sonoran hot dog at over 200 places (hot dogueros) in Tucson. That’s right, you could choose from around 200 places to get a Sonoran hot dog and that is only in the Tucson area. Remember, you can also find these in other cities like Phoenix. 

With that said, there are some places that are more popular and I will list some of those restaurants below.

In addition to the restaurants below, remember that food trucks and food carts can be popular places to get the Sonoran hot dogs so don’t feel like you have to step foot inside of a restaurant to enjoy this local delicacy.

If you drive around the city of Tucson and keep your eyes out you will surely find a couple of these carts located on street corners or in parking lots.

List of places to get Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson

So here is a list of locations to check out:

Aqui Con El Nene

  • Address: 4415 N Flowing Wells Rd, Tucson, AZ 85705

Aqui Con El Nene is known for Being one of them most authentic places to get a Sonoran hotdog and it stands out with its chipilón with melted cheese into the bun. Another recommended dish is the Taco Yaqui (two tortillas filled with a roasted green chile and stuffed with carne asada, mushrooms, and cheese.

Boca Tacos y Tequila

  • Address: 533 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705 

Boca Tacos y Tequila is located close to the university of Arizona and takes a taco centered approach on the Sonoran dog with the “Taco Dog.”

BK Tacos

  • Address #1: 2680 N. 1st Ave. Tucson, AZ 85719
  • Address #2: 5118 S. 12 Ave. Tucson, AZ 85706

If you do any research on the Sonoran dog you will undoubtedly see that BK tacos is one of the front runners when it comes to the best Sonoran dog in Tucson. The location on 12th Ave. is close to El Guero Canelo, another front runner for best Sonoran dog so you can often stop by both to see which one is most deserving of the crown.

El Güero Canelo

  • Address #1: 5201 S. 12th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85706
  • Address #2: 2480 N. Oracle Rd. Tucson, AZ 85705
  • Address #3: 5802 E. 22nd St. Tucson, AZ 85711

As stated, this is often considered the top spot to get a Sonoran dog. This is actually the place that I tried my Sonoran dog at. They have a total of four locations so you can find them all over the city.

El Perro Loco

  • Address #1: S. Country Club Rd. & E. 36th St.
  • Address #2: W. Valencia Rd. & S. Cardinal Ave.
  • Address #3: 1285 W. Ajo Way

El Perro Loco is known for its toasted buns loaded with garlic powder which many rave about. The extra crunch from the toasted bun makes a big difference and that is how I am going to try my next Sonoran dog. 

El Sinaloense

  • Address: 1526 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712 

Another location that will toast your Sonoran dog bun is El Sinaloense. Grilled onions and sour cream make the list of condiments that others have raved about and reviews and I will definitely be giving this place a try in the future. Just be prepared, this place is located in the middle of a vacant lot (which probably either excites you were turns you off).

Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones

  • Address: 1140 S 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701

Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones is another cart location that has great reviews and is yet another spot where it’s all about the toasted bun but they offer a buttery spin on their buns.

Other places to look into include:

  • Karamelo King
  • La Carreta Del Rorro
  • Saguaro Corners
  • Taqueria Jason
  • Mr. Antojo

If you have a favorite spot for Sonoran hot dogs you can list it in the comments below and I will add it to the list.

Final word

Overall, I was not overly impressed with the Sonoran hot dog on my first attempt. I’m not a huge fan of pinto beans so that could be a major factor but I also think that I just need to try the Sonoran dogs at a few more locations before I come to my final verdict. Regardless of my experience, I think that you owe it to yourself to at least try out the hot dog on your first visit to the area since it is a unique dish.

Why Food Tastes Different on a Plane and What Airlines Are Doing to Fix It

If you haven’t noticed, your in-flight dining experience might not always come with the most flavorful foods and drinks. Sometimes this comes down to poor dining options, but there’s actually a lot of factors (some very surprising) that affect your taste buds while flying at altitude. Here’s a look at the multitude of factors that re affecting your taste while in the sky.

What happens to our sense of taste?

When you’re flying at 30,000 feet or higher, your taste buds and sense of smell are one of the first things impacted according to Russ Brown, director of In-flight Dining & Retail at American Airlines. Specifically, he sates that, “Flavor is a combination of [sense of smell], and our perception of saltiness and sweetness drop when inside a pressurized cabin.” But interestingly, sour, bitter and spicy flavors go almost completely unaffected.

British Airways First Class
British Airways first class dining.

But what specifically causes this? 

Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, states three main reasons for why our senses are affected:

  • Lack of humidity
  • Lower air pressure
  • Background noise

According to BBC, at about 30,000 feet, humidity is less than 12%, which is drier than most deserts. With less humidity, passengers become thirsty more quickly as there is less moisture in their throat, which also slows down the transport of odors to the brain’s smell and taste receptors. (In case you didn’t know, up to 80% of what we consider to be “taste,” is actually smell.)

So the effect is like having a cold and being deprived (to a degree) of taste/smell.

In fact, that dryness combined with the low pressure can reduce the sensitivity of your taste buds to sweet and salty foods by 30%, according to a 2010 study conducted by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, commissioned by Lufthansa.

Singapore Suites First Class A380
Dessert on Singapore Airlines first class.

It didn’t surprise me to find out that cabin pressure and dry air could affect our taste buds, but the one factor that really took me by surprise was background noise.

According to BBC, “A study found that people eating to the sound of loud background noise rated food as being less salty and less sweet than those who ate in silence… [and] those surrounded by noise, food surprisingly appeared to sound much crunchier.”

But sound doesn’t affect our tastes equally, For example, “seasonings like cardamom, lemon grass and curry taste more intense in the sky than salt or sugar.” And that savory “fifth” taste known as umami, also intensifies with more background noise. This is said to be the reason why so many people prefer tomato juice or Bloody Marrys while flying.

The source of the umami intensification might be that background noise raises an ancestral instinct of danger or struggle. During those times, savory-tasting umami foods may have prompted dollops of saliva, “in order to get the energy to fight or flight,” according to the New York Times.

So there’s a trifecta of factors — including one very unexpected one perhaps rooted in your early survival instincts —  working to hinder your ability to satisfy your in-flight appetite.

But that’s not all you have to take into consideration.

British Airways First Class
First class cheese spread on British Airways.

The packing process

Remember, at the end of the day you’re being served a meal on a moving vessel flying though the sky. In case you weren’t aware, open flames are not allowed on planes. Instead, airlines rely mostly on convection or steam ovens to heat up their meals, although you might find rice cookers, skillets, or toasters on some airlines like Cathay Pacific.

Most airplane food has to be first cooked on the ground (especially true for economy passengers). The actual cooking is often done by third party catering providers. The largest of these is a subsidiary of Lufthansa known as LSG Sky Chefs, which partners with more than 300 airlines around the world, including American Airlines and Delta. However some airlines like Emirates take care of their own catering.

United dining is catered by Houston-based subsidiary, Chelsea Food Services. (Tastes much better than it looks.)

The cooking generally takes place about 10 hours before a flight but meals are not cooked all the way. Chicken is said to be cooked at about 60% of the way while steaks are only cooked about 30% of the way. After that the food is packed, blast-chilled, placed in a special refrigerator, and then re-heated in the air. Sometimes if flights are delayed food can spoil and entire batches have to be thrown out to avoid passengers becoming sick.

That’s a lot of steps and then considering all of the the other factors that are working to alter the taste of the your meal, it’s a wonder that anything comes out edible, to be honest.

Singapore Business Class A380
Singapore Airlines business class dinner.

What are airlines doing to improve their food?

To combat flavor loss, airlines incorporate stronger spices and more seasoning into their meals. For example, caterers on Lufthansa add more salt to bread rolls. But adding heaps of salt and other salty ingredients can make many foods which are already on the less healthy side, even more unhealthy.

That’s why some airlines like British Airways and Emirates have gotten creative. According to, a spokesperson for British Airways said that its chefs turn to those umami-rich ingredients like mushroom and tomato to flavor the food and avoid increasing salt quantities too much.

But those seasoning adjustments and substitutions have to made my someone who knows what they’re doing in the kitchen. So over the past few years, there’s been an increased focus in delivering higher quality dining on planes,

Some airlines like Etihad have gone on hunts to recruit chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants all around the world to service their “five star restaurant in the sky” for their first class product (their coach meals aren’t too shabby either).

Etihad First Class Apartment
Etihad five star dining.

In addition to the recruiting award-winning chefs, airlines like Singapore Airlines work in conjunction with their in-flight catering providers and utilize simulated aircraft cabins like the one at Singapore Changi Airport. There, they cook and test their meals under similar low-pressure conditions to replicate the effects of altitude on their dishes.

Many airlines focus on keeping their dining experience fresh by frequently changing up their menu. For example, Air France has their chefs completely overhaul their menu selection every eight months and offer a selection that rotates every 10 days.

Other efforts may involve psychological elements, such as when airlines provide you with heavy cutlery, and plates, which is proven to make the food taste better. In fact, Delta will soon be implementing new china and Alessi silverware in its premium class. British Airways’ even has an interesting “synesthesia” approach where they’ve supplied soundtracks that you can listen to on your noise-cancelling headphones to bring out certain flavors.

Etihad First Class Apartment
Etihad first class cutlery.

And more recently, we’ve seen airlines go out of their way to deal with the effects on drinks. British Airways actually worked with Twinings Tea to create the perfect tea blend that tastes just right served at altitude when heated to 89ºC, since water can’t safely reach a true boiling temperature on an airplane.

Wines can be tricky because liquids expand and contract according to atmospheric pressure and as a result it’s common for wines to thin out and become much more acidic. To combat this airlines may go to great lengths to choose their wines. For example, Qatar Airways provides wines specifically chosen through blind taste-tasting from world-renown wine masters who might narrow down over 100 options down to just three.

The focus is often on wine selections with lower acidic contents, but given the high acidity of drinks like champagne, this isn’t always easy. This is why it’s often recommended to have your champagne and wine during pre-departure.

Etihad First Class Apartment

Cathay Pacific just got creative and announced their new beer specially crafted for drinking at altitude, although Scandinavian airline SAS has been doing this for years.

It’s interesting the lengths that airlines are going to in order to provide a quality dining experience, especially for premium cabins. I’ve been absolutely blown away by the quality of dining from first class and business class experiences on Etihad, Singapore Airlines, and even British Airways. It’s pretty amazing what some chefs are capable of doing given the many limitations they face, and I’m sure we’ll only see the effort from airlines increase to deliver quality dining options in the future.

The Best Food Tour in Miami

I’ve done food tours in different corners of the globe and have grown to love them the more I do them. When we recently ventured to Miami, it seemed like an ideal spot to try out a food tour given that Miami is such a vibrant place with so many different types of cuisine to offer. So we went with, and spent an evening exploring South Beach, learning about Miami Beach’s history, and of course, trying out different eateries and restaurants.

Why I’m a fan of food tours

Food tours are one of my favorite things to do for several reasons.

Great pre-arranged culinary experiences 

First, you get to experience a rich and diverse culinary experience without having to do all the work yourself. You often get to eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and try foods you’ve probably never even heard of. In other words, it’s an oppurtunity to eat and drink like a local (or at least like someone who’s done a lot research).

Insight into the history and culture

These tours are also great because you get to learn about the culture and history of a new place. You discover all sorts of interesting facts about the neighborhoods you stroll through and about the architecture that you marvel at between meals, often finding out little tidbits here and there that you would have otherwise missed.

Passionate and helpful tour guides 

And on top of that, food tour companies often hire passionate and knowledgable guides that help bring out the most of your experience. They can help answer all kinds of different questions about not only the cuisine, but the area in general. Our Guide, Gabriel, was exceptional in this regard and left us with so much info on Miami Beach that we could barely even digest it.

Tip: Consider planning your food tour at the beginning of any trip, so you can learn the layout of the area and get some inside info on places to check out.

Our Miami food tour

We did the SoBe Tour des Forks route (but with the Swoop Ride Card discussed below). It’s a three hour tour that starts at either 11:00 am or 4:30 pm and makes the following stops (note: destinations may be subject to change).

  • The Café at Books & Books — New American cuisine
  • Bella Cuba — Traditional Cuban restaurant
  • Chalan on the Beach — Family owned traditional Peruvian cuisine
  • The Frieze Ice Cream Factory — All natural, super-premium Kosher ice cream & sorbet made fresh daily in the shop.

Book and Books

The tour kicks off under the blue umbrellas at the Café at Books & Books, where your guide will likely be sitting at one of the outdoor tables waiting for you. The Cafe is a neighborhood place meant to bring food and book lovers to gather in creative fashion, and it prides itself on its carefully curated mix of literature and local fresh ingredients. Not a combination you run into everyday. 

At Book and Books we started with a platter of different foods, including avocado salsa, hummus with tahini, Florida sweet corn salsa, and yuca fries, which is a crispier, creamier cousin to french fries often found in Latin America. Each of these items were equally fresh and delicious.

Miami Food Tour
Platter at Books and Books.

Their “avocado salsa” also known as guacamole is made with Florida avocados, which are much larger than the Hass avocados and differ in that they have a much lower fat content. Although the texture is a little different, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The house made hummus, topped with olives, also hit the spot. Overall, the appetizers were a great warm up for our next stop.

After Books and Books, we ventured down the famous Lincoln Road to explore more of this pedestrian only, mile-long mall. This bustling street is lined with restaurants, designer shops, and local vendors selling all sorts of creations but tucked away behind those stores is a lot of fascinating history that you’ll learn about as you stroll past the many fountains, gardens, and sculptures that enliven the area.

Miami Food Tour
Lincoln road.

Miami Food Tour

If you’ve never been to Miami, Lincoln Road is a great place to relax and walk around, partaking in a little bit of shopping and people watching (although there’s no time for shopping on this food tour). Around 5pm, we caught a nice breeze as we strolled through the streets and nearby Soundscape Park, where we chatted for a bit under the shade of dozens of palm trees. Considering, this was mid-January, and temperatures were around 72ºF, I couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Miami Food Tour
Soundscape Park, Miami Beach.

Bella Cuba

After a quick stroll, we arrived to my favorite destination: the Cuban restaurant, Bella Cuba.

Miami Food Tour
Bella Cuba, Miami Beach.

It’s a cozy yet lively restaurant that recently underwent renovations, featuring a new ceiling and wood panels. It’s decorated with a bit of nostalgia inspired street scenes and various art pieces featuring Cuban musicians and other works. You’d never guess it, but the owners of the restaurant (who are husband and wife) originally opened up a Bella Cuba in Ireland (the first Cuban restaurant in the country) before coming to Miami to open up this location. Bella Cuba gained a lot of notoriety overseas, and it’s easy to see why when you try their menu.

Miami Food Tour
Inside Bella Cuba restaurant.

Our first item on the menu was a famed Cuban drink: the Mojito. We learned a secret for intensifying the fresh minty flavor of the mojito, and it’s a simple trick (I won’t spoil it for you). We first drank virgin mojitos since we were filming and thankfully I eventually got that memo because I could’ve sworn I felt a placebo-induced buzz coming on for a second. Anyway, these minty mojitos tasted about as fresh and delicious as I could hope for them to be and a are a must-try!

Miami Food Tour
Mojito at Bella Cuba.

Right after that, our server brought out a beautiful platter of Cuban delicacies.

Food tour

On this plate we had Havana meat pies, Cuban egg rolls, Cuban tamales, and plantains. It’s a mix of home-style cooking and fusion with a Cuban twist.  All of these were delicious, but I think the Cuban meat pies (empanadas) were perhaps the best (though the egg rolls come in a close second).

Miami Food Tour
Cuban platter at Bella Cuba.

After finishing up our meal, it was time to take a ride in our Swoop Ride cart. These “swoop” rides are a lot of fun and you can see what kind of options Miami Food Tours offers here. You cruise around the breezy streets of Miami Beach, checking out the many iconic sights while you’re driver play some tunes and your guide points out all sorts of different interesting information. It’s a unique and exciting way to cover ground and it’s always nice to give your feet a little rest, too.

Miami Food Tour
Suite Ride and our guide, Gabriel.


Before we sped off to our next dining destination, we took the scenic route and took in some of the views of the Art Deco District and of course had to make a stop on the beach. We learned a lot about Art Deco architecture and the history behind the efforts that individuals like Barbara Capitman took to preserve all of the beautiful buildings that make up the Art Deco District.

Miami Food Tour

On the beach we just walked around for a few minutes before running into 64 year old Robert “Raven” Kraft. He’s a famed local who runs 8 miles everyday up and down the beach and now attracts other joggers to run alongside hime. In fact, he’s kept up that running routine since 1975! I can’t even process how he’s been able to do that but I truly admire the dedication.

Miami Food Tour
South Beach, Miami.

Finally, it was time to make it tour our next eating stop.

Chalan on the Beach

The final restaurant is Chalan on the Beach. This is a Peruvian restaurant that is obviously a hot spot since they were packed when we arrived.

Miami Food Tour
Chalan on the Beach

We enjoyed two main platters here. The first was a ceviche mixto with corvina (sea bass) and shrimp that came marinated with lime juice, ginger, red onion, cilantro. Interestingly, it was paired with two types of corn. The first was a large steamed corn kernel called “choclo” and the smaller edition was a crunchy roasted corn called “cancha.” The smaller cancha variety tasted similar to corn nuts, while the larger choclo — with kernels the size of legos — had more of a starchy taste, in true Peruvian fashion. Together the corn complimented the tangy ceviche in a way that worked unexpectedly well. 

Miami Food Tour
Ceviche mixto with corvina (sea bass) and shrimp.

The next dish was another highlight of the tour.  It’s called “Lomo Saltado.” and consists of marinated angus sirloin sautéed with red wine, soy sauce, onion, peppers, and tomatoes. It was served along with long grain white rice and papas fritas. 

The angus sirloin was one of the most tender pieces of meat that I’d ever tasted in my life. They take their time at Chalan on the Beach to tenderize their meat to the point of perfection, and I mean absolute perfection. Accompanying the meat were french fries, which actually have a long history dating back to Peru — the home of the potato (who knew?).

Miami Food Tour
Lomo Saltado.

The Frieze Ice Cream Factory

After filling up at multiple restaurants, we had just enough room left over to make one more stop at the Frieze Ice Cream Factory.

Miami Food Tour

This is a place that has produced its own ice cream and sorbet without any artificial additives or preservatives for over two decades. They’ve got a lot of the standard varieties you’d find at any ice cream parlor, but then they’ve got their own unique blends that will blow you away and come with names like Sassy Strawberry, Perfect Pistachio, and Get Down Boogie-Oogie Cookie.

After taking a hand full of free samples, I finally narrowed down my selection to Vanilla Decadence. It’s a creamy vanilla loaded with chocolate cake, fudge, and chocolate chips and we took it in a cake cone, which I believe was a cone packed with cake. It’s a delicious duo and the end product is scary good.

Miami Food Tour
Vanilla Decadence. Photo by The Frieze Ice Cream Factory.

Final word

This was one of the best food tours I’ve ever done. It came with a little bit of everything: great food and drinks, fascinating insight into the history, culture, and architecture of Miami Beach, a terrific guide, and an overall great vibe that made for one of my more memorable travel experiences. I’d recommend this tour to any food-lover heading to Miami, especially if they’re interested in learning more about the amazing place of South Beach, Miami.

Tsukiji Fish Market Tour and Sushi Making Class Review

On our recent visit to Tokyo, we wanted to take part in memorable experiences unique to Japanese culture. So we booked a green tea ceremony, a food tour through the streets of Tokyo, and decided to try out a sushi making class and tour of the Tsukiji Fish Market. As I’m not a true sushi-eater I was a bit hesitant to go forward with the sushi class, but after giving it a try, I had zero regrets. Here’s a review of our experience and what you can expect if you book a Tsukiji Fish Market tour and Sushi making class in Tokyo, Japan.

The tour begins 

Our day started with being picked picked up at our hotel in a large bus at around 8:30 AM. From there, we were taken to Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal where different tour companies congregate and begin their tours. Inside the bus terminal, it’s a bit of a mad house with a frenzy of people running around trying to make it to their busses and many others trying to find which table they need to sign-in at.

Despite the chaos, our bus driver introduced us to our tour guide who soon rounded us all up and led us to the subway station where we quickly travelled about 3 stops over to the Tsukiji fish market. Navigating the subway stations and narrow market alleys with throngs of people isn’t easy when you’re trying to keep a group together but our guide led us flag-in-hand making it easy to keep up. It felt a little awkward playing follow the leader through a major metropolitan area but other groups were doing the same thing and it seemed to be working so I couldn’t complain.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
Following our tour guide down into the subway.

Our guide took care of our subway tickets so there was no need to purchase any tickets and we simply fed our tickets into the machine and went on our way. If it’s your first day in Tokyo, this can be a nice introduction to the subway system, which has to be one of the easiest I’ve ever navigated due to their simplified numbering system. 

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
Boarding the subway.

Once we made it to Tsukiji Station, it was time to explore the famous Tsukiji fish market. If you don’t now, it’s one of the biggest fish and seafood markets in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. It’s a huge market and after its upcoming relocation to more modern facilities, it’s going to be even bigger

Our tour took us on the “outer” fish market (the inner fish market is restricted to wholesalers, I believe). The outer market consists of  a few long alleys of stores selling various seafood, produce, groceries, and other random things like cooking supplies and even traditional Japanese swords. It’s not quite as smelly like you might think, but it can be very crowded and some of the alleys are more narrow than others, so you need to be ready to navigate through herds of tourists and locals. If you can, try to only carry a small bag with you instead of a large backpack that will surely be getting knocked into by everyone.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
Starting our Tsukiji Fish Market tour.

Our guide gave us an option of exploring the market on our own or following her around and we opted to follow her in order to find out more about the market.

As we wandered through the narrow alleys, we discovered all sorts of different produce, raw fish, food stands, and restaurants. Some of the vendors allow you to sample their products for free and so we ate a few things along the way which were quite tasty, although I’m still not sure exactly what some of them were.

You can also opt to buy a few things to munch on while you’re exploring the alleyways but you’ll want to make sure that you’re saving plenty of room for later, since you will have plenty of sushi to eat.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

After around 30-45 minutes or so it was time to leave Tsukiji fish market. We walked about 5 to 10 minutes to the kitchen of a well-known sushi restaurant, where we would receive instruction from a sushi master. After slipping off our shoes and trying our best to stuff our feet into pairs of undersized slippers, they ushered us into the classroom where we had name tags and stools set up for us.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
The “class room”

As soon as we got situated, we pulled up our stools to the front of the class where it was time to start to receiving instruction from the sushi master.

Our guide translated all of the instructions for us into English and it was surprisingly easy to follow along. While there are a number of steps involved, it’s not as difficult as you might thing to properly make sushi rolls.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

You begin by spreading the rice along the seaweed in an even layer, leaving just enough space on the end of the seaweed to allow the sheet to come together.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

Next, you spread a bit of wasabi in a specific way (exact amount based on your personal preference) and sprinkle sesame seeds in the roll.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

After sticking in your cucumber or whatever else is given to you, it’s time to roll up the sushi roll. They will teach you how to use the roll mat (made out of bamboo) to properly create a tightly rolled sushi roll. It’s not particularly difficult to do so but it does require a little bit of touch and technique to create that perfectly sealed roll without smooshing your roll or allowing the contents to spill out. If you ever forget a step or can’t seem to replicate what your sushi master did, there are a couple of assistants (along with your guide or sushi-making partners) who should be able to help you.

After you create the rolls, you’re taught how to create a hand wrap, which resembles a cone of seaweed and is stuffed with rice, (imitation) crab meat, and a few other ingredients. The hand wrap requires a bit more skill to execute since it involves forming a tightly wrapped cone, but it’s still not too difficult.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
Paying close attention to our instructor

Once you’ve rolled it all up and allowed it to sit out for some time, it’s time to cut the roll into small, eatable pieces. I definitely cut mine up into pieces way too big and while they tell you there’s really no wrong way to slice up your roll, I suggest going with the 6 section method rather than cutting it into thirds or fourths. Also, pay attention to the method they show you for slicing through the roll, as you can ruin your sushi by trying to cut through it the wrong way. 

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

After creating the sushi rolls and the hand wrap, we moved on to making the seafood sushi dishes (Nigiri), with salmon, tuna, eel, squid, scallops, shrimp, and a couple of other pieces of raw fish I can’t recall.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

Creating these pieces required mastering the rice molding technique that allows a small serving of rice to stay packed under each piece of seafood. This is accomplished by a series of repeated squishing and patting methods that eventually results in a brilliant piece of sushi. It takes a few attempts to get the patting routine down but once you do, it becomes much easier to pack the rice in and mold it to fit into the seafood. 

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
Glazing the eel with teriyaki sauce

As you complete each sushi creation, you place them on your wooden board until you’ve got a beautiful display of sushi filled with enough pieces to completely satisfy your appetite.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
Mu sushi creation.

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour

Sushi Class Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
Beautiful sushi rolls.

Once you’re finished, they’ll bring you out some chopsticks, green tea, and soy sauce and you’re finally able to taste test your final sushi product. I found the sushi to be an unexpected delight. Remember, I didn’t even consider myself a fan of sushi, but I still enjoyed eating it all (*maybe not the eel so much*). So even if you’re not crazy about sushi (or you just think you aren’t), this tour can still be a great way to experience Japanese cuisine and culture.

To conclude our tour, our guide made sure that we knew how to get to our next destination, which was very nice since our next destination required about 5 transfers on Tokyo’s subway. Our guide mapped out our changes that we needed to do and made getting to where we needed to be an absolute breeze. We finished around noon so the tour took a little bit more than 3 hours total. 

Final word

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this tour to anyone looking for a uniquely Japanese experience while in Tokyo. How many people can say they’ve eaten sushi prepared by themselves… especially while in the heart of Tokyo? Not many. After this tour, I’m definitely much more open-minded about going out for sushi and for my sushi-loving partner, that makes him very happy.  

Where to Get the Giant Fluffy, Jiggly Pancakes in Tokyo Everyone Is Talking About

If you haven’t heard, there’s a place in Tokyo serving up giant fluffy pancakes that people are going crazy for. They’ve been featured on all sorts of different media outlets and I first heard about these jiggly pancakes in a Business Insider video and once I found out they were in Tokyo (where I was headed in just a few weeks), I decided I’d have to give them a try.

After trying them out first-hand, I can attest that these are some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had and although the cafe only produces a limited amount each day, it’s not too difficult to get your hands on them. Here’s everything you need to know about the famous pancakes of Cafe Gram in Tokyo.

Getting to Cafe Gram

Let’s start by getting to the restaurant. The restaurant is located in a shopping and entertainment area on Takeshita street. This area is full of souvenir shops, department stores, toy stores, crêperies, ice cream eateries, and of course, Cafe Gram. It’s aimed at the younger crowds (I feel so old writing that), but it’s got a little something for everyone and makes for a nice little stop while in Tokyo.

An easy way to get there from central Tokyo is to head to Harajuku Station via the JR Yamanote Line. (Harajuku Station is one stop over from Shibuya Station, the site of the famous crosswalk where mayhem ensues.) Once you arrive at Harajuku Station, you’ll walk through the Takeshita Street gate where you can catch yourself on a ribbon board running across the gate, just watch out for incoming traffic if you opt for a pic.


You’ll follow this main street until you see a 7/11 and then you’ll take a right, as shown in the map below. It’s about a 4 to 5 minute walk from the station, so it’s extremely easy and convenient to get there.


Once you turn right from the main street, it might not look like there’s anything there but just keep walking down the street and then you’ll see the little green cafe on your left! (In case you’re wondering, there’s a little bit more room in the cafe than what what it looks like from the outside.)

Cafe Gram Tokyo

Making sure you get your pancakes

As stated, Cafe Gram only serves these “premium” pancakes 3X a day and they only make ~20 servings at each serving time. These serving times are at 11am, 3pm, and 6pm. Moreover, they only allow a couple of people to have their pancakes at certain 15 to 30 minute increments. Thus, for the 11am slot, they may only allow a couple of people to eat at 11am, then 11:30am, then noon, and so on. For one serving, it will cost you about $10 USD.

I recommend going for the 11am slot as that’s what time the cafe opens, and I’m not sure how far in advance they take reservations for the 3pm and 6pm slots. Although the cafe officially opens at 11am, there are workers inside who will occasionally pop out of the cafe before 11am and take your name down for a reservation. Therefore, I recommend you arriving there 30 minutes to an hour before 11am and trying to get the attention of a staff member who can then take down your name and give your your pancake “tickets” (it’s pretty serious over there).

Cafe gram pancake tickets!

Once you have your premium pancake tickets you can then wander around the area, checking out all of the shops to kill some time before your reservation. If you don’t have data on your phone you can slip into the McDonalds nearby and take advantage of their free wifi.

The pancake experience

We entered the cafe about 10 minutes before our reservation time and were seated promptly. They give you a chance to order other items if you’re hungry but considering how big these pancakes were, we decided to save as much room in our appetite as we could for them and just waited for them to arrive. After about 15 minutes, the servers delivered our two fluffy pancake towers to us.

They come topped with butter and powdered sugar, some form cream on the side, and a small container of maple syrup (though you could probably ask for other helpings).  I think everyone else who ordered the pancakes watched the same videos that we did as everyone’s first instinct seemed to be to give their plate a shake and watch these pancakes jiggle a bit.


After playing around with the pancakes stacks a bit it was time to try them out.

Cafe Gram’s famous fluffy pancakes in Tokyo

To be honest, I had somewhat low expectations for the pancakes as I’ve found that “gimmicky” foods don’t always pack the best flavors and I wasn’t crazy about the meringue used in the recipe. However, I decided to douse the stack with some syrup and see how it worked out.


So how did they taste? 

I can honestly say the pancakes blew me away!

They were creamy but still resembled the texture of “real” pancakes enough to enjoy without trying to get used to something foreign hitting your palate. It might be a challenge for you to get all the way down to the last pancake and finish it, but with enough willpower you can do it! And if you fail, I think you’ll enjoy every second of your attempt so go for it anyway!

I’d never experienced pancakes quite like these before but I’m very glad that we gave them a try. Not only are they a novelty, but they’re a tasty novelty at that. Cafe Gram is so easy to access that if you’re in Tokyo and interested in trying these, you should definitely give them a try. Just remember to show up at least 30 minutes to an hour early to put your name on the list and you should be fine.

The Food Report: Four Places to Eat in Chicago

We recently had the privilege of trying some of the Chi-Town classics like deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs on our latest trip to the Windy City. I’d never tried deep-dish pizza or a Chicago dog before so I couldn’t wait to be officially introduced to these novelty foods while in Chicago. While there, we also stopped by a famous BBQ place and a little donut shop that still leaves my mouth watering just thinking about it. So here’s the Food Report for some places to eat in Chicago.


Giordanos, along with Gino’s East, is one of the places that you must go to for Chicago deep-dish style pizza — you’ll find their names on just about every list of deep dish pizza restaurants in Chicago. (We wanted to try out both restaurants to compare the two but it just didn’t happen.)

The one and only Giordano’s!

Giordanos will almost certainly have a long wait if you are visiting Chicago on a weekend or during a holiday but you can reduce your wait time by doing two things. One, try to arrive in between lunch and dinner around 3 to 4 pm, and you’ll likely beat the evening crowds. Second, you’ll want to pre-order your pizza after you check-in. This will save you the time it takes to be tended to by your waiter later on (which can sometimes be a long time.)

We arrived about 3:45 and had to wait about 30 minutes to get a table and considering it was Memorial Day weekend, I didn’t think that that was too bad. However, if you have a bigger party, odds are you’ll be waiting a bit longer as I heard some folks mentioning over an hour wait time. 

Chicago pizza
Giordano’s deep dish stuffed pizza.

We ordered a deep dish stuffed pepperoni pizza and while I enjoyed it there are a few things I have to say about it. For one, the deep dish pizza is put together like an upside down pizza (at least here it is). For example, they place the “toppings” on the bottom of the pizza and then cover them with a thick layer of cheese and then layer tomato sauce on top of the cheese. It was completely different from any pizza that I’d tried but I guess that’s how a “stuffed pizza” is properly done. 

Tip:  if you’re a pepperoni fan, you may want to tell them 2X on the ‘roni because there weren’t very many “stuffed” in our pizza.

Stuffed pizza slice.

The second thing I have to say about the pizza isn’t so positive. That’s because when we were served our pizza, it was barely even warm (first world problems, I know). I wasn’t sure if that’s just how they do it in Chicago but by the time I worked through my first slice, everything else was already cold. The odd thing is that when we ordered delivery from Giordano’s the next night (everything else was closed around 10pm Sunday night), that pizza actually arrived hotter than the one we ordered inside the restaurant!

Consider getting delivery or even take out.

Thus, my suggestion is that if you don’t want to hassle with the lines, just order delivery. It’ll be just as good and might even be warmer. Plus, while it’s a cool experience to dine inside the restaurant, there’s nothing particularly unique about it (compared to a place like Gino’s).  

Gold Coast Dogs

We had to try a Chicago dog while there and we ended up trying one from Gold Coast Dogs. (Had I realized there was a Gold Coast Dogs in the airport at MDW, I would’ve probably tried another place and saved Gold Coast for right before we departed Chicago.) In any event, the Chicago dog didn’t disappoint.

Authentic Chicago dogs.

I’d never tried one before since I’m not really a hot dog person and always thought Chicago dogs just looked ridiculous because they had a little too much going on with all of their toppings slopped all over the place. However, I was very pleased with our char dogs from Gold Coast and am now officially a fan of the Chicago dog without question. 

So many toppings!

It’s hard to pin down the flavor with so many things happening in your mouth but the sport peppers, mustard/lack-of-ketchup, and relish gave it a unique blend of tastes with just the right amount of kick that makes you feel satisfied, despite choosing a lowly hot dog for your meal. They also did a great job of charring the dog just the right amount of “char.” If your stomach’s really rumbling you may want to go with two of them or a single jumbo dog.

Smoque BBQ

I’d read about this place having the best bbq in Chicago. And while I don’t know if that’s the case, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. As a native Texan, I know (and of course respect) quality BBQ and Smoque BBQ got a big two thumbs up from me.

Chopped brisket plates.

We went with the chopped brisket with a side of the St. Louis style ribs along with macaroni and cole slaw. I’ve never cared for cole slaw so I didn’t dig into it too much but everything else was completely delicious. They brought out different bbq sauces and I loved all of them. I didn’t even realize the sauces were different until after I had mixed both together by drizzling them all over my meat so I’m not exactly sure what each one tastes like — I just know that they combined forces to produce one heck of a hybrid BBQ sauce that this Texan couldn’t get enough of. The only knock I had was that they didn’t have potato salad but the macaroni made up for that for me.

Brisket sandwich loaded to the max.

St Louis style ribs.

Before the restaurant even opens there’s a line forming outside but you can get around that by showing up about 15 minutes before they open. We got the “insider” tip from our Uber driver and just walked right in to the restaurant before they officially opened. Apparently, nobody else got the memo because we had already ordered, sat down, and filled up our drinks when a long trail of people entered, gawking at us two confusingly.

Although this place is about a 20 minute drive from Wrigley Field (with traffic), it’s on the north side so it’s a perfect place to load up with a heavy lunch before heading over to the Wrigley Field area, especially if you’re going to indulge in some adult beverages as many do.  

Glazed and Infused

We visited the Glazed and Infused locations tucked away inside the Raffaello Hotel, but there are several other locations around Chicago. The location we visited may be a bit smaller than the other shops so they might not have offered as many options as we could’ve found at other locations. 

Glazed and Confused at the Raffaello Hotel.

Their donuts are very rich and if you’re not very fond of sweets you might not be able to finish some of them. We had one of their chocolate donuts which was even more rich and chocolatey than expected. I’d put it on par with those ultra-sweet lava cakes they serve at restaurants that are infused with many forms of chocolatey goodness. 


The red velvet donut was something I’d never had or even heard of for that matter. It’s topped with cream cheese, sprinkled with red velvet crumbs and is definitely one of the most memorable breakfast items I think I’ve ever tried.

Red velvet donut.

I took turns alternating biting into each donut — a chocolate bite here and red velvet bite there. About midway through, I could feel the sugar coma becoming imminent and it was time to put the donuts away. Perhaps next time I’ll go with the mini donuts. 

Final Word

Obviously, Chicago has tons to offer in the food department and I can’t wait to get back to try out more places and properly experience the culinary scene. If you’re wanting to knock out some of the must-eat foods like deep dish pizza and a Chicago dog, I really don’t think you can go wrong with the above!