Ezy Reading:
Four U.S Cities, Four Dining Highlights
Evan Kanarakis


We here at The Cud aren't saying these restaurants in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City are one-hit wonders when it comes to their diverse menus (far from it). But what we are suggesting is that if you do find yourself in any of the following four cities and are after just one dish in a restaurant where you know they can do no wrong… then we recommend you stop agonizing over choice and choose this as the dish to sample.


Croque Madame at Mission Cheese (736 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA)
Okay, we get it ‒ the main reason one should run, not walk, to Mission Cheese in San Francisco is to sample one of their expertly-curated, ever-changing cheese and charcuterie ‘flights’, a sure ticket to bliss when served alongside crusty baguette slices and their moreish, house-brined pickles (the sandwiches aren’t half bad either). And yet if you’re ever in the neighborhood during the brunch hours of 11-1 on Saturday or Sunday we have to recommend Mission Cheese’s rendition of the Croque Madame, served up hot in a cast iron skillet with rustic bread, ham, an assortment of gooey melted cheese (when we recently dined it definitely contained Alpine-style Everton cheese), and finished with a fried egg on top. Yes, this is decadent, rich fare that will demand an extended stroll along Valencia Street post-meal, but some dishes simply demand your occasional indulgence ‒  just be sure to get there before the special is no more.


The Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel (8358 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA)
Housed in the iconic confines of the art deco Sunset Tower Hotel, the Tower Bar offers ample old Hollywood charm in a cozy, low-lit 80-seat room dressed in wood-paneled walls and set to a soundtrack of relaxed, live jazz. Celebs often frequent the venue, though maître d’hôtel Dmitri is arguably more a Hollywood institution than some famous diners may like to think they are. From the fireplace to the stunning views of the adjoining terrace, the restaurant is high on atmosphere without ever feeling stuffy, and this is reflected in a varied menu with dishes like sliders and pizza set alongside filet mignon and Alaskan halibut (and keep an eye out for nightly specials). For us, though, the grilled salmon remains the absolute highlight of Tower Bar’s menu. Yes, salmon may seem a somewhat ordinary dish to cite as standout, but we’ve been here several times now and the grilled salmon is consistently delicious, each and every time. For a dish that is so often treated by kitchens as an afterthought and overcooked, it’s refreshing to find a successful marriage of top-notch ingredients and perfectly-delivered technique. Pair with sides of grilled asparagus mashed potatoes to seal the deal.


Slow-roasted Prime Rib at the Top of Binion’s Steakhouse (on the 24th floor of Binion’s Gambling Hall-128 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV)
This decidedly old school restaurant lends diners a break from the chaos of downtown and Fremont Street with sweeping views of the Las Vegas Valley. There are no shortage of superior steakhouses in this city (and Binion’s Black Angus beef aged a minimum of 28 days is nothing to scoff at), but keeping with the Old Vegas vibe we can’t pay a visit to Binion’s without ordering their much-loved, slow-roasted Prime Rib. Available in a 16 oz ‘Benny’s Cut’ (after the casino’s namesake, Benny Binion) or 24 oz ‘Binion’s Cut’ and served with vegetables and your choice of potato or rice, this is the same meal, unchanged, that your grandfather used to rave about ‒ right down to the accompanying horseradish sauce. On a recent visit, the most voracious of my fellow diners struggled to get through the generously portioned 16 oz cut, but if you’re feeling up to it, be our guest and order the 24 oz. If so inclined, one can even spring for Alaskan king crab legs or Australian lobster tails to accompany your meal.


The Crispy Calamari Salad at Asia de Cuba (415 Lafayette St near E. 4th St, New York, NY)
In the late 90’s and early aughts, Jeffrey Chodorow’s Asia de Cuba restaurant was quite the go-to celebrity spot in an expansive space at Morgans on Madison Avenue. Since then the restaurant has closed, moved south and re-opened into modern digs in the East Village, but the focus on Asian-Latin fusion cuisine remains. Much of today’s innovative menu has been updated from the old location, but one notable holdover ‒ thankfully ‒ is ‘The Crispy Calamari’ salad. We get it ‒ fried calamari and banana sound like an insane food pairing, but in this salad it surprisingly works. This flavorful specialty is enriched further with the addition of cashews, lettuce, hearts of palm, chayote fruit and an orange-sesame vinaigrette that keeps things light and fresh on the palette without getting too sweet (even better when paired with a glass of crisp Chardonnay). If we had one complaint it would be to double the portion size on this wholly addictive, less-than-ordinary salad.


Ezy Reading is out every month...