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New York City’s 7 best old-school steakhouses
Before most US cities could even build a steakhouse, the island of Manhattan was serving up some of the country’s most prime cuts. Their steaks were so good and service so sublime, several of those classic eateries remain in full swing today, serving up dry-aged perfection to discerning diners. Then with the 20th century came a wave of steakhouses that mastered their own strips and styles, too. And while new beefy restaurants are always cropping up, there’s still a special, refined handful that have thrived over the decades, serving steaks that are simply a cut above the rest. 1. Delmonico’s Deep in the Financial District is one of America’s great all-time restaurants. Delmonico’s opened its corner-lot doors in 1837, when Andrew Jackson was president and California was 14 years away from statehood. But for polished New Yorkers, the restaurant was an instant staple, becoming the first to use white tablecloths and printed menus. Today, diners can find themselves in the same timeless dining room where chandeliers and original artworks hang, and career servers cater to every wish. Likewise, Delmonico’s menu remains classic, showcasing its divine Delmonico signature boneless rib-eye steak, prime New York strips, and on-the-bone beef dry aged up to 60 days. The menu reads like a culinary time capsule with dishes like brandied mushrooms and creamy Delmonico potatoes, with tempting modern specialties too. The restaurant also invented a few famous dishes – including baked Alaska, so be sure to leave room for dessert. 2. Smith & Wollensky In terms of vintage restaurants, it may be one of the newer steakhouses. But Smith & Wollensky established its elite reputation as soon as it served the first prime rib back in 1977. Its iconic green-and-white building is parked on the corner of Third Avenue and East 49th Street in Midtown, where inside its wood-lined walls, diners choose from a succinct classic menu and seasonal specials. The seafood is outstanding, but it’s the beef that built this cosmopolitan house. The classic, 26-ounce prime rib is the juicy go-to; though it’s rivaled by the Colorado rib steak and boneless or bone-in filet mignon, both seared to perfection. Sirloin, veal, lamb, and other steaks do indeed dazzle, just be sure to round out your meal with indulgent steakhouse sides like hash browns and creamed spinach. 3. Old Homestead Steakhouse Since 1868, Chelsea has been able to enjoy flavors of cattle country at the Old Homestead, where a cow sculpture hangs over the entrance as if marking an Old West eatery. The family-run restaurant has been turning out USDA prime for more than a century and a half, claiming to be “the King of Beef” in a city populated by steak lovers. Within its clubby dining room, you’ll find a robust menu of seafood, burgers, and tempting sides – and more importantly, a selection of expertly prepared chops and dry-aged steaks that span Japanese Wagyu, filet mignon, porterhouse, New York sirloin, and the mouth-watering, 24-ounce Gotham rib steak on the bone. 4. Sparks Steak House A stone’s throw from Grand Central Terminal is this legendary house of steak, where the old-school menu of chops, strips, and filets has endured since 1966. Spacious Sparks still draws a steady crowd, who pack in for memorable dining and suave service, plus a dose of NYC-mafia mystique. (A Gambino family mobster was shot outside the restaurant in 1985.) Above all, though, Sparks prepares an unrivaled, signature prime sirloin that’s considered one of the city’s best cuts. 5. Keens Steakhouse For a mashup of timeless décor, service, and food, reserve your spot at Keens Steakhouse. Open since 1885, the Herald-Square restaurant is a throwback to the days of checking your pipe at the door – in this case, hand-carved, long-stemmed pipes that now line the ceiling. Though the mutton chop is the signature here, you’ll find a mighty assortment of seafood, serious prime steaks, plus the rarely seen, super-tender Chateaubriand-style steak for two. 6. Gallaghers Steakhouse It began as a speakeasy, but today, Gallaghers is one of Manhattan’s top steakhouses, with its always-stocked meat fridge visible from the sidewalk on West 52nd Street. The restaurant has sated Times Square’s theatergoers since 1927, and these days has a modern look and 21st-century menu, thanks to a mid-2010s renovation. Still, the legend lives on with Gallaghers’s unique hickory coal–grilled steaks, including a 12-hour slow-roasted prime rib, which you can call in advance to order. 7. Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse Don’t be fooled by the understated entrance of Frankie & Johnnie’s. Just up a flight of stairs is an elegant dining room that’s one of the Theater District’s oldest and best. When the joint opened back in 1926, it was a speakeasy that hosted luminaries and mafioso outlaws, from Frank Sinatra to Bugsy Siegal. These days, it’s a go-to wonderland of seafood, pasta, old-school dishes like chicken livers and scampi – and flawless steaks. Bring a friend to share the tomahawk rib eye for two, or porterhouse for two or for three. If you’re catching a show, the three-course theatre menu is a daily bargain (except Sundays).
Historic Wineries Near You: From Napa to New York
Thomas Jefferson, America’s founding oenophile, was onto something when he tried to plant vitis vinifera—the European grape vines of which he was so fond—in Virginia. But he wasn’t the only one to make a go of grape-growing in the United States. While today, you can find producers growing grapes and making vino in every single state of the union, there are a few that have been doing it as far back as the early 19th century. Next time you’re thirsty for a little history, pop into one of these seven wineries where they pour out the past as well as the pinot. 1. Brotherhood Winery: Washingtonville, New York Although it didn’t start labeling wines under the Brotherhood name until the 1890s, original owner, Jean Jacques, first began producing wine from vines on his duo of Hudson Valley estates in 1839. Brotherhood marks that date as its launch into the world, making it the oldest continuously operating winery in the U.S., a designation that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historical Places. Book a tour through the hand-excavated cellars—some of the largest and most elaborate in the country—to hear about all the underground secrets stashed away here. Learn more about Jacques and the second owners, the Emersons, who kept the winery alive during Prohibition via sacramental wine. Or simply sip a glass of Brotherhood bubbly on the stone patio and take in the stately old stone buildings and beauty of the Hudson Valley. 2. Wente Vineyards: Livermore, California If Brotherhood gets the nod for oldest continuously operated winery, Wente wins for being the oldest continuously operated winery owned by the same family, now in its 5th generation. Carl Heinrich Wente came to America seeking his fortune in 1880, got a job working for another vine-minded German immigrant, Charles Krug (see below), and by 1883 bought land in Livermore, establishing the Wente Bros. Winery. Like Brotherhood, the family kept the operation going with sacramental wine during Prohibition. But what you really need to know about Wente is that they make spectacular chardonnay—so good that in the early 20th century, the vineyard cultivated its own award-winning clone (that is, a vine re-created over and over from the cuttings of grapevines that have particularly alluring qualities, be they anything from hardiness to aromatics). In 1936, Wente became the first winery in the United States to put the name of a grape variety on its labels—meaning that today, when you buy a bottle of sauvignon blanc or cabernet at your local store, you have Wente to thank because before that, it was just “wine”—which is not so conducive to figuring out what goes best with your wild-caught salmon or Tomahawk steak. 3. Charles Krug, St. Helena, California (Courtesy Charles Krug) Napa Valley is famed for its highfalutin wineries (and equally nose-bleed inducing prices), but once upon a time it was just lots of land and acres upon acres of pioneering spirit. Like that of Charles Krug, a German-born newspaper man who became so entranced by California’s “purple gold” (you know, grapes) that he founded his eponymous winery here in 1861 on land from the dowry of his American wife, Carolina Bale. His much-renowned Bordeaux-inspired reds earned him an unofficial but well-deserved title, the Father of Napa Wine, and he was a marketing visionary as well, establishing the first tasting room in California wine country. Today, Charles Krug is owned by the Napa wine giant, C. Mondavi & Family, and it’s become a posh and popular stop on the Napa wine circuit. The original buildings that Charles Krug constructed are listed with the National Register of Historical Places, and well worth a visit. 4. Val Verde Winery, Del Rio, Texas (Courtesy Val Verde Winery) Frank Qualia didn’t mean to stay in Del Rio, Texas, a few miles from the border of Mexico. But in 1881, as he made his way from Milan, Italy, he happened upon a plot of land where some Lenoir grapes were growing by the San Felipe Springs-fed creek. By 1883, Qualia officially established his 14-acre Val Verde Winery, marked by its foot-deep adobe walls and strong Italian winemaking traditions. Now, some 130 years later, his original plot of land is still the site of Val Verde’s Texas-grown (they never substitute grapes from out-of-state places) winery and tasting room. Today, the spot is run by Frank’s grandson, Thomas, whose own son, Michael, has learned the trade himself, and is primed to take on the family mantel. Be sure to pay close attention to the cool photos and heirlooms, like Frank’s passport and naturalization papers, and even some old winemaking gear. (Serious wine geeks will want to pop into to the nearby Whitehead Memorial Museum to see some of Qualia’s original equipment). For a taste of the past, check out the Val Verde Sweet Red, a blend similar to the sacramental wine that got the company through Prohibition. 5. Renault Winery: Egg Harbor City, New Jersey Necessity is the mother of invention, or certainly the father of New Jersey “champagne.” Hailing from the famed Reims area of the Champagne region of France, Joseph Renault fled the storied home of bubbly in the mid-19th century after a nasty little aphid known as phylloxera wiped out almost all of Europe’s vineyards. Precious vine clippings in tow, he sought out the warm, sunny growing conditions of California, but phylloxera was there, too. Word of problem-resistant native vines on the East Coast lured him 3,000 miles back to the Garden State, where the winery he established in 1864 would go on to become the largest distributor of American sparkling wine in the country. Although it’s remained in business continuously, Renault has been bought and sold numerous times over the years, and now the winery has become a resort destination complete with a hotel, spa, 18-hole golf course, and 5-mile hiking trail through the New Jersey Pine Barrens. 6. Buena Vista, Sonoma, California (Courtesy Buena Vista) If you can make it in Sonoma, you can make it anywhere—even if you have to embellish your family's ties to aristocracy to do so. “Count” Agoston Haraszthy immigrated from Hungary in the 1840s, seeking thrills and fortune in the great American West, and though he had no real claims to royalty, his fake-it-‘til-you-make-it attitude landed him a multitude of diverse roles, among them: self-titled Count (he actually had no ties to royalty); founder of Wisconsin’s Sauk City, the state’s first official town; sheriff of San Diego; ore analyst for the U.S. Mint. He also pioneered Sonoma winemaking with the establishment of Buena Vista Winery in 1857, which quickly became one of California’s largest land-owning wineries. But grander and grander ambitions, trouble with the law, money-making schemes, and financial issues infused Haraszthy’s life in Sonoma with such turmoil, that he left (some say fled) to Nicaragua with his family in tow, apparently in search of prosperity in the rum business, before disappearing without a trace. The mark he left on Buena Vista, one of California’s most important wineries, however, endures. And what a tour it makes for. 7. Adam Puchta Winery: Hermann, Missouri Hailing from the Bavarian city of Oberkotzau, Adam Puchta was only 7-years-old when he and his family emigrated to Missouri in 1839, dreaming of fertile lands and Gold Rush riches. Fourteen years later, thanks to a stint in California, the latter helped Adam earn enough to get serious about winemaking. He returned to Missouri and bought a portion of the family’s then 80-acre farm and get serious about winemaking, establishing his namesake winery in 1855, and growing wine grapes and other crops to keep the money flowing. His kids managed to keep the winery in the black after Puchta died in 1904, but they couldn’t withstand the pressures of Prohibition, which put the Show Me State’s prolific producer out of business—but not for good. In 1990, Adam’s grandson and great-grandson re-established the Adam Putcha Winery, adding a tasting room for visitors, and realizing Puchta’s dream of becoming one of the most important wineries in Missouri. For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.
6 Family-Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts We Love
Think of it as a one-stop shopping spree through paradise. All-inclusive resorts stay true to their name—throwing in food, drinks, entertainment, and activities for one price. Little wonder they’re such a popular choice with families. A simple way to help ease the burden of non-stop helicopter parenting, these resorts provide supervised care for younger children as well as daily activities and clubs for teens and tweens. And, because almost everything is built into the initial rate (spa treatments, high-end activities like wave runners, expensive bottles of wine, and other luxuries often come as add-ons) and there’s no tipping and no signing bills, you won’t give a second thought when your kids want to order extra sodas, ice creams, or smoothies. (Well, there is the calorie factor, but that’s a whole other story.) And let’s face it, more freedom for the kids equals more relaxation for you. The only downside? Because of the sweeping size and scale of most of these resorts, you likely won’t get the most personalized, customized experience. And exploring outside the property’s grounds may take a backseat to your already-purchased comfort. Most properties, however, offer excursion desks to help you plan at least one family adventure. But if you’re devoted to finding a laid-back way to enjoy family time, here are our choices for the best all-inclusive resorts to visit right now. 1. Reflect Krystal Grand Cancun, Mexico Reflect Kristal Grand Cancun, Mexico. (Courtesy of Reflect Kristal Grand Cancun) Just under a year old, the Krystal Grand Cancun resides on the southern tip of Punta Cancun, walking distance of downtown. Some of the nearly 400 rooms and suites provide kid-friendly features like bunk beds and step stools for sinks. Almost every room has ocean or partial-ocean views of Bavaro Beach, and the resort’s Unlimited-Luxury philosophy offers 24-hour room service and a constantly restocked minibar. There are four pools to choose from, including the adults-only infinity pool and a kids’ pool. If you’re restless, join in the daily beach volleyball and soccer games. Or check out any one of the number of classes, from cooking and mixology to Mayan history and astronomy. The supervised Explorer’s Club for kids between 3 and 12 affords you well-deserved “me time” and the Core Zone Teens Club, is equipped with a pool table, air hockey, foosball, and videogames. In addition to the six dining options on site, your rate offers inclusion (reservations needed) to the Hacienda El Mortera Mexican restaurant, which is a five-minute walk from the hotel and included in the hotel’s price. (reflectresorts.com/en_us/resorts/mexico/cancun.html) 2. Melia Caribe Beach Resort, Dominican Republic Melia Caribe Beach Resort, Dominican Republic A tropical paradise with access to Punta Cana’s Bavaro Beach, in addition to beachside and pool-facing rooms, this sweeping resort offers The Level suites with access to private spaces and upgraded services. The Caribe Tropical offers a vast assortment of activities for kids and adults, including eight tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. Horseshoe tournaments, beach volleyball, and even candle workshops are among the mix of daily activities. Or take advantage of the resort’s beachside locale with kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing. What makes this destination stand out, though, is its interactive waterpark, Splash Island and the children’s Adventure Park, The Kid’s Club offers supervised care for ages 8 months to 4 years old, 5 to 8 years old, and 9 to 13 years old, with each day culminating in family Olympics on the beach. Dining is auspicious, with two buffets and 11 a la carte restaurants to choose from. (meliatropicalcaribe.com) 3. Mohonk Mountain House, New York Mohonk Mountain House, Ulster County, NY. (Courtesy Mohonk Mountain House) This relaxing lakeside sanctuary sits in a secluded mountain preserve in the Hudson Valley. It’s just a two-hour car ride from Manhattan, but with its sweeping views of the Shawangunk Mountains and glacier-formed Lake Mohonk, it feels worlds away from urban life. More Victorian castle than rollicking resort, the rooms, suites, and small cottages—many with private balconies—are low-tech affairs designed for inner peace. But it’s the daily activities that make Mohonk stand out. To wit: archery, rock-climbing, biking, ice skating, fishing, cross-country skiing, tennis, snowshoeing and—for the brave—tomahawk throwing. That’s to say nothing of the 85-plus miles of the grounds’ hiking trails. There’s no shortage of water activities, too. Take a boat out on the lake, dip in the indoor pool, schedule a forest bathing session, or relax in the Spa’s eucalyptus steam room and dry rock saunas. (Treatments are not included in the all-inclusive price). A Kid’s Club, which has morning, afternoon, and evening sessions, accommodates children from 2 to 12 years old. The Teen Program includes guided rock scrambles, disc golf, tennis clinics, and hikes for kids aged 13 to 17. At night, the older kids can mingle in the Teen Lounge to play video games, watch movies or just hang out. Dining options are plentiful with a buffet available for all three meals. You can also picnic al fresco for lunch and make a reservation in the Lower Dining Room for the nightly three-course, farm-to-table dinner. (mohonk.com) 4. Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Florida The original all-inclusive resort, Club Med is still going strong after all these decades. Geared towards active families, it sits on the St. Lucie River, midway between Orlando and Miami—making it a perfect stop if you want to spend a few extra days in Disney or South Beach. Waterskiing and wakeboarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, and group boating lessons are just a few of the ocean activities. You can also sign up for surfing, tubing, and sea scooters on the river for an extra cost. Staying active on land is no problem here. Daily activities include volleyball, tennis, golf, and even trapeze school. When you’re ready for a break, there are three pools on the property, including one for adults only. There are programs for kids between the ages of four months to 17 years, though only the Mini Club and Cub Med Passworld,(ages 4 to 17), are included. The restaurants are limited to the pool-front Marketplace buffet and the Riverside Grill & BBQ, where reservations are suggested. (clubmed.us/r/Sandpiper-Bay/y) 5. Blue Waters Resort & Spa, Antigua Blue Waters Resort & Spa, Antigua. (Courtesy Blue Waters Resort Spa Antigua) This posh resort on Soldier’s Bay, situated in the northeast corner of Antigua, feels wonderfully secluded, but it’s only a short drive from St. John’s, the island’s capital. A family-run business for 25 years, it retains its storied elegance while projecting a youthful, modern enthusiasm for all types of families. The staff at the Blue Waters is especially noteworthy, many of whom have been at the resort for decades and make it feel extremely personable. The 17 acres of tropical gardens are enticing, but the beach, known for its powder-soft sand, is the star here. Nine different pools are scattered around the property, including one for adults only and a beachfront pool with views of the Caribbean. Four of the others each coincide with block of hotel rooms and suites. Water sports include snorkeling, windsurfing, and kayaking. And for landlubbers there’s tennis, a dedicated yoga pavilion for when you need to unplug, and a PGA-rated golf course. The Creche Kids Club is for children between 14 to 47 months and costs extra, but the Blue Waters Kids Club, for 4- to 12-year-olds, is complimentary and includes a line-up of daily activities. The Spa at Blue Waters offers high-end treatments for adults but also provides mini bathrobes and non-toxic manicures for little divas-in-training. The food is high-quality at the three restaurants with a more casual dining experience at the beach pool for lunch. (bluewaters.net/resort) 6. Beaches Turks & Caicos Miles of sandy white beaches and the third-largest barrier reef in the world, Turks & Caicos is better known for trendy luxury than family fun. The Beaches property on the island’s north shore, however, bridges this divide with a 75-acre resort featuring five different villages, each with their own unique accommodations. Not only can you swim and splash in the glimmering turquoise of Grace Bay, water sports like kayaking, windsurfing, hydrobiking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling are also included in the price. The resort houses six different pools, including one which is strictly for adults, but it’s the massive, 45,000 square-foot Pirate Island waterpark with swim-up smoothie bars, waterslides, and a surf simulator, that the kids will be talking about weeks after they get home. The youngest in your crew will also appreciate the Sesame Street partnership, which includes shows, parades, and treasure hunts. While the Kid’s Camp offers supervised child care from certified nannies, teens and tweens can duck into the well-stocked game room to play foosball, air hockey, and basketball. They can also dance the (early) night away at the under-21 Club Liquid, before it turns into an adults-only bar for late-night partying. There are a dizzying 21 different restaurants to choose from and 15 bars. With everything from pizza and burgers to pate and lobster on offer—not to mention food trucks parked at the waterpark—nobody will find any reason to complain. (beaches.com/resorts/turks-caicos/)
Vancouver: Tim Zagat dishes travel tips
In synch with the Winter Olympics, Zagat has released its latest Vancouver guide. The 2010 Vancouver survey covers ratings and reviews for 298 of the area's finest restaurants, hotels, nightspots, and attractions, including locations in Vancouver, Whistler, Vancouver Island, and Victoria. As usual, the guide shows the cost of each establishment, spotlighting the best values. I recently interviewed via e-mail Tim Zagat, cofounder with Nina Zagat of Zagat Survey. He shared the latest travel recommendations for Vancouver. What's new to eat in Vancouver? According to surveyors, Maenam, a reasonably-priced Thai restaurant located on the West Side is the top newcomer. Other exciting fresh faces include the affordable French Au Petit Chavignol, Downtown's Cibo, West End's Nook, and Les Faux Bourgeois on the East Side. Vancouver surveyors also report a revival by Spanish-style tapas specialists like Mis Trucos and Café Barcelona. What are Zagat's top bang for the buck restaurants in Vancouver? In order: 1. Nat's New York Pizzeria 2. Pajo's 3. Go Fish Ocean Emporium 4. Vera's Burger 5. Tomahawk Barbecue 6. Café Medina 7. Saravanaa Bhavan 8. Nuba Restaurant/Café 9. Vij's Rangoli 10. Gyoza King Where are the most affordable excellent restaurants in Vancouver? The West Side has become the focus for not only new restaurants, but for great values. While some top restaurants have opened affordable "siblings" on the West Side—including Trattoria Italian Kitchen (sibling of Italian Kitchen)—meanwhile, Fuel, has scaled back to re-open as refuel, with a more moderately priced menu, joining a trend among some other eateries. Biggest change in a Zagat rating for any one property/restaurant, that's eye-catching, from a previous edition? Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar appears to have made a prominent jump into the Top 10 on our Top Food list and Top 5 on our Most Popular list for Vancouver restaurants. Has there been any overall trend in how people have been rating restaurants? The current state of the economy has certainly left surveyors more focused on how to get the best meal at the best value. But, in terms of categories, we've continued to see service as an industry weak-link, with 79 percent of surveyors making it their top restaurant complaint. We've found that more surveyors are voting via their mobile phones, too. Any other must-see sights in Vancouver, beyond the Olympics? Perhaps some of the Olympic venues post-Olympics? According to surveyors, the most popular attractions in Vancouver include: 1) Stanley Park 2) Vancouver Aquarium 3) Museum of Anthropology at UBC 4) Capilano Bridge 5) Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden ZAGAT is offering free access to the Vancouver book through the microsite zagat.com/olympics MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL My Town: Vancouver Canada's Secret Slopes
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